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“This Little Piggy Went to Market”
“The only thing that really worries me about this is how will we explain it to Mum?” Pippin pursed his lips into a thoughtful pout as he held Tulip at arm’s length and confided in her. The pout deepened. “I know I have to explain it, not you! And I’m not trying to come up with a way out of it.” Pippin settled back on his heels and considered his dilemma. “At least, I don’t think I am.” He winced at Tulip’ s haughty tone of voice as she scolded him for getting them both into yet another fine mess.
“Anyway, you won’t be the one getting grounded. Well, I suppose you will, in a way -- yes! I know that whatever I do affects you too! Just help me sort out this mess, will you?” Pippin shook his head, disgusted with himself for his shortsightedness. “And, it’d be nice if I didn’t wind up getting the seat of my britches warmed, too.” Pippin listened intently and then sniffed. “What do you mean, I probably deserve it? I thought you were going to stick up for me?”
“Come on, Pip!” Pervinca waved impatiently at him as she hurried after Pearl. ”He’s talking to his piggy again,” she giggled tossing a knowing look at Pimpernel.
“Coming!” Pippin scrambled to his feet and ran after his sisters. His mother came hurrying out the door and looked around, spying him quickly.
“Oh, there you are.” Eglantine gestured for her youngest to come to her and gave him a quick once over. “Good. Your hair is still neat and you didn’t get any dirt on yourself yet. Let’s go then.” She steered him towards the waggon.
Pippin could see that his father was already seated on the driving bench awaiting them. Paladin hopped down and hoisted Pippin up to sit beside him, then scrambled back into his seat. “I see you have Tulip all settled in for the ride,” he remarked with a twinkle in his eye. Pippin answered with an enthusiastic nod. “Is everyone ready?” Paladin called over his shoulder.
“Yes, dear, we’re all settled in back here,” Eglantine replied. “Pippin, you be careful up there. Don’t squirm around so much, and mind your da.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Pippin said with a firm shake of his head, and a wink at Tulip. The knitted piglet sighed and crawled inside of her lad’s shirt to take a nap. Riding in the waggon always made her sleepy. And trying to help figure out a way to get her lad out of trouble was always dreadfully bothersome. She needed forty winks and a chance to think…
The trip was not a long one, as the family was only headed into Whitwell to do some shopping. The lasses all wanted cloth for new frocks, and Eglantine needed to restock her knitting basket, while Paladin was happy for the opportunity just to have an afternoon off from the tasks of running the farm. Pippin reached into his pocket and withdrew a small bag containing his pennies. He shook them out on his lap and counted them, dropping them back into the pouch one by one. Paladin watched him from the corner of his eye. The pennies had been burning a hole in his lad’s pocket for days, ever since he’d been given them in anticipation of the trip into the village. He grinned at the memory of being Pippin’s age and doing the same thing.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Pippin tilted his head to look up at his father after he finished dumping the coins back into the bag.
Paladin laughed. “Just remembering something, m’boy, that’s all. Come,” he gestured for Pippin to climb onto his lap and when he had, he settled the youngster in between his knees and placed the reins in his hands while still guiding them with his own. “I think it’s time you learned to drive the waggon.” Pippin squealed with glee, grasping the reins between his fingers. Inside his shirt, Tulip clucked her tongue in mild distress. How dare Paladin give her lad his first driving lesson while she was travelling with them?
“It’s all right, lass,” Pippin soothed, speaking into his open shirt collar. He grinned up at his father. “Tulip is a wee bit worried about my driving, Da.”
“Ah, I’m certain you’ll do fine.”
A groan could be heard from the back of the waggon and Eglantine shushed her youngest daughter. “But Mum, I’m older than Pippin and I haven’t been allowed to drive yet!”
Pippin twisted around and gave his sister a smug grin.
“Hmph.” Pervinca sat back and folded her arms. “You better not put us in the ditch, Pip.”
“Don’t be a worry wart, Vinca. Your brother’s doing fine,” Paladin reassured her. “And I’m holding the reins too.” He winked at his son and Pippin giggled. In truth, the youngster was urging the ponies on all by himself, and was feeling more grown up with each passing moment.
“What?” Pippin was distracted by a whisper and tilted an ear towards his collar. “What are you talking about?”
“Mum, he’s talking to his piggy again,” Pervinca said in a loud whisper.
“Why, I don’t think I’ll have any problems with it,” Pippin spoke into his shirt. “And how do you come up with these ideas?”
“Watch the road, lad!” Paladin grabbed the reins and steered the pair of ponies back onto a straight course.
“Maybe he’s going to give Tulip the reins?” Nell chuckled. “What do you think, Mum?”
“I’ll tell you what I think. I think our little brother is getting more daft by the day.”
“That wasn’t very nice, Vinca,” Pearl scolded.
“Now, Pervinca, I think if Tulip was asked to drive she’d do a fine job of getting us into Whitwell. After all, lasses can drive a waggon just as well as the lads! Isn’t that right, Pad?”
“Oh, yes indeed, m’dear. I couldn’t agree more wholeheartedly.” Paladin bobbed his head up and down.
“Well, Da, maybe we should see what kind of a driver Tulip is?” Pearl winked at her mother. “Why don’t you give her the reins for a few moments, Pippin lad?”
“Is it all right, Da?” Pippin’s voice rose in his excitement.
”Oh, I don’t see why not. Put her up here on your lap.” Paladin took the reins while his son scooped his toy out of his shirt and placed her in front of him. Paladin looped the reins around Pippin’s hands as they held the knitted piglet together. He coaxed the ponies to a brisker trot, and Pippin laughed.
“She likes it, Da!”
“Aye, so she does. I can tell. Perhaps we should have brought along Sammy Lambie? He’s missing out on all the fun.”
Pippin giggled. “Mum, Tulip’s driving the waggon! And she’s making the ponies go faster!”
“Yes, I see. My, but she is a fine driver, isn’t she lasses?”
Pearl poked Nell with her elbow and grinned. “Oh my, yes! What a talented piggy we have amongst us. Why, just for going to all the trouble of driving us in to town I’m going to purchase some cloth to make her a new sunbonnet.”
“And of course, you’ll need to embroider a tulip on the brim, Pearl,” Pimpernel told her with a straight face.
“Of course I shall, and perhaps she should have a wee parasol too, one with fine lace and frills--”
“What? No frilly parasols, Pearl! Tulip may be a lass piglet, but she’s not a fancy one.” Pippin sounded mildly disgusted. “See? Even Tulip says she thinks it’s not suitable for her,” he sniffed.
“Oh, very well. Just the bonnet, then?” Pearl had a mock look of disappointment on her face.
Pippin nodded his head firmly. “Aye, she says a bonnet is lovely, and she’d welcome it, but no lacey parasol!”
“Thank goodness. I don’t think I could keep from laughing if I saw Tulip carrying around a parasol,” Pimpernel whispered to her mother.
“What do you think Tulip would like to do?” Paladin asked his son in all seriousness. They had just left the lasses and were strolling around the little village square. “We have plenty of time. I’m sure it will take your mother and sisters at least an hour or two to decide on what they want at Miss Daisy’s fabric shop.”
Pippin nodded, slipping a small hand inside his father’s larger one. “And then Mum will have to pick out all her bits and bobs to go in her sewing basket and what colour wool she needs for her knitting.”
The simple gesture filled Paladin’s heart with warmth. He squeezed it gently as they continued their stroll down the busy village street, pausing every now and again to peer into one of the windows of the shops that beckoned their attention. They stopped at last in front of the one that boasted a colourful exhibit of every kind of sweet imaginable to Hobbit-kind. “Ah, me! What a fine selection Mr Chubb has for us today. What do you say we go in and take a look around, eh?” Paladin took an eager step forward.
Pippin hesitated, rattling the pouch of coins inside his pocket, his mouth watering as he studied the tasty display. Inside his shirt, Tulip wriggled, poking him firmly with one miniature hoof to remind him of what he needed to do. “I know,” he whispered. “Umm, Da? Wait for a moment?”
Paladin looked down, astonished. His lad? Resisting going into a sweet shop? “What is it, Pip? Is something wrong?”
“Mum has to get new knitting needles,” he confided. “And a great deal more wool, I think.”
“Oh?” This information took Paladin by surprise. “And why is that? Your mother didn’t mention it to me.”
Pippin frowned. “Well…she probably didn’t bring it up it because she doesn’t know it…that she needs them, that is…umm, yet.”
Paladin glanced down at his son’s almost golden curls. The lad was staring at his feet now. He tugged on Pippin’s hand to gain his attention. “Peregrin? Why does your mother need more knitting needles? I thought she bought a new set last time we came into the village?”
“Oh, aye. She did.” Pippin bobbed his head in ready agreement, still contemplating his feet.
“I think she needs a new pair of the fat ones. You know, the kind she uses to knit a big blanket?”
“And, how come she needs to buy the fat kind used to make blankets?”
“Umm, well, because I may have borrowed them the other day and…”
“May have borrowed them?” Paladin’s eyes widened. “Aren’t you sure whether you did or not? And whatever for? Were you planning on doing some knitting yourself?”
Pippin scowled. “You don’t have to laugh at me. I was only trying to help.”
“What?” Paladin scratched his head, bewildered. “What are you talking about, boy? I wasn’t laughing at you. Why, I wasn’t laughing at all!”
“No, I didn’t mean you, Da.” Pippin gave his father a shy smile and a half shrug, and then crooked a finger at him to lean closer. Paladin placed his ear close to his son’s mouth and Pippin pointed inside his shirt. “Tulip hasn’t let me forget what I did,” he whispered. “She told me not to borrow them, and so now every time she’s reminded of what happened she has a laughing fit.”
“Ah,” Paladin said. “I see. Piggy has the giggles, does she? Well, why don’t you tell me what you did so I can join in, hmm?”
“Promise you won’t be angry with me?”
Paladin rolled his eyes. How well he remembered using the same plea with his own father. “Lad, you’re causing me to worry, now. Tell me what happened to your mother’s knitting needles.” Paladin led him to a bench and sat, pulling Pippin into his lap. Pippin relaxed against his father’s strong shoulder and sighed.
“Ah, such a long and heavy sigh for a young hobbit. What’s wrong, Pip?”
“I just wanted to make a coverlet for Lily. She’s going to be a whole year old soon, and she needs one because I gave Snowflake my new blanket last year when Lily and her brothers and sisters were born, but it got all dirty so--” Pippin took a huge gulp of air. “So now she needs a new one and Tulip said I couldn’t do it and that I shouldn’t try, but I was certain I could do it, so--”
“Wait a minute!” Paladin held up his hand to silence his son’s breathless speech. “All by yourself? Pippin, you’re only just learning how to knit. Not that it wasn’t a nice thing to do, to think of your cat and her comfort, but you really must ask your mother before you take her things. You know that, lad.”
Pippin nodded. “Yes, but…I wanted to surprise her with how well I’m doing. And I really did think I could manage it by myself. So, I took Mum’s things without asking, but now…uh…now they’re gone.”
“And just what happened to them?”
“Umm…” Pippin hesitated, twisting around to peer up at his father.
“Yes?” Paladin raised an eyebrow, bracing himself for any number of peculiar explanations.
“Well…I’d just put my needles and ball of wool aside while I—Tulip! I know, all right? You’ve told me that a hundred times today!”
Paladin bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing at his son’s antics. He spoke into his son’s open shirt collar. “Ahem. Do be quiet, Tulip, and allow Peregrin to speak. There’s a good lass, now! Go ahead, lad. Tell me the rest of the story.”
“I put them on a hay bale while I was feeding Lily and the other kitties, and when I turned around, well…are you certain you won’t be angry with me?”
“Lad, what did you do with your mother’s knitting needles?” Paladin kneaded his temples where a headache was promising to bloom.
“Well…it’s a wee bit of a confusing explanation, Da. I’m not sure why she did it…”
“Why who did what?”
“Or what she wanted it for, and I just didn’t know what to think--”
“I’m fast getting there myself, boy.”
Pippin sighed and turned back to face the road. “Pansy snatched them up, and the wool too, and then ran away with them in her mouth and now I can’t find them anywhere.”
Paladin stared down at the top of Pippin’s head, his mouth twitching in amusement. “Your mum’s goose stole your knitting?” The curly head bobbed up and down. Father, son, and knitted piglet each sat in silence, considering. At last, Paladin offered an explanation. “Perhaps she wanted to knit herself a nest?”
Pippin twisted around and peered up at his father with a doubtful frown. A muffled snort drifted out of his shirt and Pippin swept Tulip into his arms, holding her snout against his ear. He listened carefully for a moment. “Tulip says she thinks you’ve gone ‘round the bend, Da.”
Paladin laughed heartily as he stood and set Pippin on his feet. “Oh, she does, does she? And you agree?”
Pippin gave his father a cheeky grin. “Aye!”
“Ah, well then. Where do you suppose she’s about to put those eggs she’s soon to lay, hmm?” Paladin draped an arm around his son’s shoulders and nodded towards the sweet shop. “Why don’t we go spend some of those pennies of yours before we head back to Miss Daisy’s and let your mother know she needs more knitting needles?”
Pippin giggled and waved Tulip in the air. “And more wool!”
“Aye, and more wool,” Paladin laughed. “Is there anything else your mum needs to know she has to purchase before we go home?”
Pippin tilted his head to one side, thinking carefully. “Well…Tulip says she’d be ever so pleased to have one of those big crème puffs we saw in the window of Mr Chubb’s shop, although she says we don’t have enough pennies for that and to get everything else we want.”
“It sounds like you both have a great deal of shopping planned.” Paladin led the way, sniffing appreciatively at the heady confectionary scents as they entered the store. “Perhaps I should treat everyone, what do you say? We can take them home to have tonight for afters.” Paladin winked and went to speak to the shopkeeper.
Pippin trailed after him. “We have to wait until then?”
“Yes, indeed you do. Now hush, Tulip says to mind your manners.”
Pippin frowned into his shirt. “I thought you said you were on my side?” Tulip stared up at him with an impish smile and a twinkle in her satin eyes.
“Oh! Pad, you must come and see this!” Eglantine ran into the barn later that evening after sending her two youngest to fetch their father for supper.
“What? Why Tina, you’re flushed! What’s the matter?”
“Come with me.” She tugged on her husband’s arm fairly bursting with excitement. Mystified, Pippin and Pervinca followed behind them. Stopping next to the shed near the kitchen door, Eglantine pointed. Still puzzled, Paladin stooped to look underneath the steps. A huge grin spread across his face and he threw back his head and laughed uproariously.
“What is it, Da?” Pervinca watched her parents shaking with laughter before dropping to her knees and having a look for herself. Pippin crowded her out of the way, squealing with delight. An indignant honk filtered out from the hiding place at the unwelcome disturbance.
“Back up children,” Eglantine warned. “You know how she is when she’s sitting a nest!”
Still laughing, they peered at the big goose sitting haughtily upon her clutch of eggs beneath the porch. Several layers of bright red wool lined the nest in sharp contrast against a background of white feathers. Pansy honked a warning again and flapped her wings for added effect.
“Well now, at least she has the beginning of a blanket there, thanks to Pippin!” Paladin shook his head. “You see, lad? I was right; all she wanted was to knit herself a nest. Why, ‘twas very fortunate that you just happened to be knitting your cat a blanket during Pansy’s hour of need!”
“She can be keeping it too,” Eglantine told them. “Because I shan’t be wanting it back. Oh my, I do wonder what she did with the knitting needles though? I don’t even want to entertain the notion of just what that goose might do with them if she were upset with someone.”
“Tina, surely she wouldn’t use them as a weapon?” Paladin raised an eyebrow at his wife.
“Oh, I don’t know about that, Pad. I wouldn’t put a thing past that goose. She’s a sly one.”
“Could be she’s hanging on to them for later.” Paladin glanced over his shoulder at Pippin and Pervinca and winked. “Who knows, we might find her finishing that blanket for Lily whilst she’s sitting her nest!”
Eglantine disappeared into the farmhouse ahead of them, the sound of merry laughter trailing behind her as the door swung shut.
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