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A/N: This story takes place on the same visit as “Partners in Crime” and was inspired by yet another of Golden’s wonderful bunnies. For Pearl Took on her birthday!
“I can’t believe you’re hugging that stupid stuffed pig again,” Sancho Proudfoot sneered at Pippin as the youngster skipped past him on his way to the big kitchens in Brandy Hall. Although they were both just six years old, Sancho stood a full three inches taller than the diminutive Took.
“Tulip isn’t stupid! And don’t call her names, you’re going to hurt her feelings!” Pippin clutched the soft, plump piglet to his chest protectively.
Sancho rolled his eyes and gave a rude snort. “I’m going to get something to eat.” Dismissing him with a childish toss of his head, Sancho shoved past the smaller hobbit, nearly causing Pippin to lose his footing.
Pippin glared after him as Sancho sprinted away. He soothed Tulip’s bruised feelings and tucked her inside his shirt before heading off in the opposite direction, his thoughts of a snack now forgotten. Pippin brushed a tear from his brimming eyes and failed to stifle a sob. He hurried to his room and slammed the door, then threw himself on the bed, pulling Tulip from his shirt and hugging her close. It was the third time since his family had arrived at the Hall to celebrate Aunt Esmie’s birthday that Sancho had teased him about his toy. It wasn’t fair. All of the other children had their own favoured companions, every one of them… except Sancho. Pippin thought this over, still sniffling. Perhaps Sancho thought himself too grown up for a stuffed toy? Most likely. Well, he could do whatever he liked. He was probably jealous because he didn’t have a good friend like Tulip. Surely that must be it.
“Isn’t that right, m’lass?” Pippin held his beloved piglet at arm’s length as he chattered on. “Sancho’s simply envious because I have such a splendid friend and he doesn’t!” Pippin emphasized the last word with a disdainful sniff and scrubbed his nose on his sleeve. “That’s why he says all those nasty things to us, and pushes me and calls me a ninny hammer. I know! It isn’t really a very nice thing to say, but he isn’t being nice to us either. I’m sorry Tulip, all right? I just get so sad and hurt when he does that, and I really do think he envies me for having you.”
Tulip clucked at him in her gentle voice and he raised an eyebrow in surprise and pulled her closer. “You don’t think so? Whatever do you mean? And no, I don’t think I’m being defensive at all!” Pippin listened, his eyes widening. “But, if he wants to be our friend how come he keeps teasing me? And he makes fun of me, and you too! Aren’t you annoyed, Tulip?” Pippin sighed and rolled onto his back. “Well, I am. And I don’t know why you don’t understand.” Pippin sighed again, more loudly this time. “When will I be old enough then?” He sat up and squinted at her. “What? You’re starting to sound like Mum again.”
He wiped his eyes and sniffled one more time before sliding off the bed. Tulip reminded him that Auntie Esmie was baking, and perhaps they should go see what she’d made for them? Pippin considered. Thoughts of his aunt’s strawberry and cherry tarts set his mouth watering and he decided he didn’t need any more urging from Tulip.
“All right, I suppose it’ll be worth it even if we have to see Sancho.” He brightened. “Race you to the kitchen,” he chortled to the piglet and set off as fast as he could go holding Tulip out at his side. The race ended up as a tie. Piglet and hobbit lad both sniffed appreciatively at the inviting aroma tickling their noses as they dashed into the kitchen, very nearly colliding with Pippin’s younger cousin, Goldenrod, who was still just a wee faunt.
“Ah, there’s m’lad at long last—oh! Be careful, Pippin. You almost pushed Goldie off her feet!” Eglantine chuckled as Pippin’s eyes lit up when he spied the pastries she and Esmeralda were icing.
“They’re still warm,” Vinca said, closing her eyes as she savoured the taste and licked the icing off her fingers.
“We’re hungry,” Pippin declared, waving Tulip in the air and ignoring the noisy snort that came from Sancho’s direction.
“Sit here Pip,” Merry called and patted the chair next to him. All around the big table hobbit children of all sizes had come to sample the tarts that seemed to be pouring out of the oven like leaves tumbling from a tree on a windy harvest time day.
Pippin tossed a look at Sancho who was seated between Teriadoc Brandybuck and Holly Took. Sancho was obviously enjoying being the center of attention while Holly, being a typical Took, chattered away in his ear asking him all manner of questions and tugging on his shirtsleeve while she talked. Pippin thought his cousin might choose whom to sit with a little more carefully. Not that it mattered to him, of course. He slid into his chair and pointedly ignored Sancho, placing Tulip on the table in between him and Merry.
“Where have you been, Pip?” His older cousin grinned and then whispered in his ear. Pippin giggled into his hand and glanced at the pair across the table from them.
Sancho grimaced. “Mum, Pippin is making fun of me!”
“Oh, stop being so suspicious. No one is making fun of you,” Merry told him. “I was only telling Pippin something amusing.”
Sancho stuck his tongue out. “It’s rude to whisper in mixed company.”
“It’s rude to stick your tongue out, too,” Merry reminded him.
“Sancho, that will be quite enough,” his mother warned him with a frown. “Merry is right so kindly keep your tongue inside your mouth, lad.” Sapphire Proudfoot bustled about the kitchen taking a tray of the iced tarts from Eglantine. “You are a guest and you will conduct yourself with a little more care please,” she called over her shoulder before heading into the cook’s room just off the kitchen.
The other children sniggered and Sancho blushed. He may have liked being the center of attention, but not when his mother was admonishing him. He glared at Pippin. The little Took made a face back at him and stuck out his tongue for good measure. Sancho folded his arms crossly and muttered to himself.
“What did you say?” Teriadoc asked him with a snigger.
Sancho turned and scowled at Teriadoc, which only caused the youngster to laugh harder. That Brandybuck was a little troublemaker who always seemed to get away with things, just like Pippin. Maybe it would be a good idea just to keep away from him. Sancho didn’t like the way Teriadoc listened in on conversations, and repeated things told to him in confidence. He sighed, wishing he hadn’t told him his secret earlier. Oh well. If Teriadoc told anyone Sancho would know whom to blame. And who to corner later.
That evening as the fire burned low in the big fireplace, family and guests gathered to relax before bedtime. Paladin was tapping his pipe stem against his lip as he considered Saradoc’s question, while the quiet buzz of several conversations took place around them. “I think it’s going to be a fine harvest this year. Yes, I certainly do, and I like the idea of a barn dance. I like it a great deal, as a matter of fact!”
“Well, and what better way to celebrate the harvest? I think a party is a lovely idea,” Esmeralda nodded. “I can bring my fiddle and we can make some music to dance to, eh Pad?” She nudged her brother with her elbow. “And gather a few more folk to join us in a wee round or three of lively music-making and kicking up our heels.”
“And don’t forget the story telling,” Merry cried, getting into the spirit. “And I shall be the one to tell the very first scary story of the evening.”
Pervinca rolled her eyes at her cousin. “Oh Merry, you always want to be the first one to tell a story.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that, Vinca,” Nell admonished her younger sister. “Merry is a very good story teller, after all.”
“I think I tell a very fine tale myself,” Merimas reminded them. “Perhaps we’ll need to flip a coin to see who’ll have the privilege of going first?”
Frodo winked at Bilbo and spoke up for the first time. “You’re all forgetting we have the master storyteller and adventurer among us. Cousin Bilbo should be the first one to tell a tale at the festivities.”
“Oh, now it’s fine with me if Merry or Merimas has that privilege,” Bilbo said with a modest chuckle. “Indeed, it will be excellent to simply sit back and enjoy the festivities without doing any of the work for a change!”
The gaiety was contagious and plans were eagerly continued, each one putting in his or her ha’pence to the idea of a harvest celebration. Hobbits loved an opportunity for some good quality merrymaking, after all. And a party at the Took farm was always particularly fine.
Sancho sat off by himself listening, taking turns with Pippin in sticking out his tongue and making faces at each other. Tiring of the game at last, Pippin tucked Tulip underneath his arm and got up. He took his time choosing a book from the huge stacks the Brandybuck library boasted. His choice in hand at last, he trotted back and offered it to his father, interrupting the party planning.
“Will you read us a story, Da?” Pippin crawled up into his lap without waiting for an answer. The other children looked up hopefully. Pippin made himself comfortable and pulled Tulip out of his nightshirt.
Paladin gazed down at his son as if surprised to suddenly have a lapful of wiggly Took. He laughed as Pippin put his head back and looked up at him with a cheeky grin.
“Yes Uncle Pad, read us a story, please?” Holly Took added her pleas to Pippin’s and hopped up and down clapping her tiny hands in glee, while Teriadoc Brandybuck placed two fingers in his mouth and whistled his opinion raucously. The other children chimed in.
“Since you put it that way, and owing to the fact that you’ve all banded up on me like a gaggle of gooses, I suppose I’ve no other choice,” Paladin chuckled good-naturedly, making them all laugh. Even Sancho inched a little closer and looked ready to give up his pout.
He took the book from his son and looked at the title, raising his brow slightly. “This is what you want to hear, m’lad? Are you sure it won’t give you a bad dream? There’s a big, nasty troll in the tale.”
“I’m not afraid of trolls! I want to hear this one.” Pippin gave a firm nod of his head and leaned back against his father’s shoulder, placing Tulip on his knees and folding his arms.
Paladin shrugged and began, “Once upon a time there were three billy goats gruff and a huge, ugly troll that lived under a bridge…” He made all the proper voices of the characters with an expert twist as he read, weaving a compelling tale and keeping the children well entertained until their eyes began to droop.
“Ah, I see quite a few wee ones who are ready for the sand-hobbit to visit them,” Eglantine nodded knowingly at the other mothers.
“Yes indeed,” Esmeralda agreed as she rose from her chair. “Come, I’ll help get everyone tucked in.”
Pippin yawned as his father kissed the top of his head and set him on his feet. “G’night, Da,” he mumbled as he trailed after his mother and the other children, Tulip clutched in his arms. “Merry? Will you sleep in my bed with me?”
Merry grinned and ruffled his cousin’s curls. “As long as you promise to keep your cold feet off me.”
Sancho was last in line and Paladin watched him with a curious eye. The lad hadn’t said much tonight. Perhaps he missed his father? Olo had been unable to come with his family for the first few days, but planned to arrive for the party. Sancho seemed a little sad and Paladin made a mental note to keep an eye on the youngster.
Pippin’s wails filled Brandy Hall the next morning bright and early, waking any of those who weren’t already up. Tulip had gone missing!
“TUUUULIP! Where are you?” Pippin darted about in a frantic search of the parlour.
“Whatever is wrong Pip?” Pearl was the first to rush in at the sound of her little brother’s cries. Close behind her was Merry, a concerned look turning to one of surprise when he heard what the problem was.
“Where did you last see her?” Merry glanced around the big room, poking behind some of the cushions on the couch and peeking behind it.
Pippin was sobbing again as he tried to answer. “She was in bed underneath the quilt in between me and Merry. That’s where she likes to sleep all night because it’s nice and warm. I got up to go to the privy and when I came back she was gone!”
“Pippin,” Pearl placed a comforting arm around his shoulders and knelt in front of him. “Are you certain that’s where you put her when you went to bed? Or perhaps you thought she was tucked in snuggly but she fell out from under the covers. I know that’s happened before. Did you look under your bed?”
“Of course I did!” Pippin sounded insulted. “That’s the first place I looked because I thought she was playing a game with me, trying to fool me, or maybe she wanted to play hide and seek. But she wasn’t there.” Pippin began wailing again and Pearl scooped him up in her arms. “He did it! Sancho took Tulip, I know he did!” Pippin pointed as the other boy came around the corner.
Sancho stopped, mouth dropping open, eyes widening in apparent surprise. “What? What are you talking about?”
“Mercy, we could hear you all the way from the kitchen, Peregrin. What happened?” Eglantine was next to enter the room and looked around in confusion as the two youngsters glared at one another. Pippin struggled to get out of his sister’s arms and Pearl set him down.
“You took Tulip – give her back right now!” Pippin advanced on the bigger boy, finger poised to poke Sancho in the chest, his face turning red with fury.
“Whoa, hold on there a moment, lad,” Eglantine caught hold of her son’s arm as he stormed past and swung him easily around to face her. “Now, just what is this all about?”
“I didn’t take your stupid piggy!”
“Yes you did! You were threatening her yesterday, and teasing me and calling Tulip names and, and, and--”
“Slow down, young hobbit,” Eglantine said, giving her son a slight shake, “and catch your breath.” She looked from one youngster to the other. “Now, I want to know what happened.” Both boys started to babble at once and their voices rose until she was forced to place her hands over both ears. “Stop! Enough.”
Sapphire pulled her son close and knelt on one knee, looking him in the eye. “Sancho, are you responsible for Pippin’s missing toy?”
“NO! I already told him I didn’t take it!”
Sapphire laid a finger across her son’s lips. “Shh, now! Do not shout at me, young sir.”
“He did so take Tulip, I know he did!” Pippin lunged at Sancho and was hauled back smartly.
“I did NOT!”
“YES YOU DID!”
“Peregrin, stop that shouting this instant,” Eglantine scolded.
“And the same goes for you, young hobbit,” Sapphire told her son. “Give Pippin back his toy.”
“I didn’t take it, Mum!”
“Well, who else would? You don’t like her and you hid her away from me just to be mean!” Pippin struggled in his mother’s arms, earning himself a sharp swat to his backside. “Oww! What’d you do that for?”
“Oh my, you need to settle down right now, Peregrin Took! This is becoming ridiculous,” Eglantine scolded.
Sapphire sighed as she brushed the hair from her eyes and pointed at her son. “I said to give Pippin his toy, Sancho.” Her voice had grown sharp.
“But I didn’t take it!” he protested, and stamped his foot for emphasis.
Sapphire pointed again, her face stern. “Then you will go to your room and think long and hard about this and you shan’t come out until you’re ready to tell the truth.”
Looking like he was about to burst into tears, Sancho tore out of the room leaving his mother, Eglantine, and Esmeralda staring after him in dismay. Pippin continued to wail.
“I have to find her, Mum!” He tugged frantically on his mother’s apron. “You’ll help me, won’t you?”
“We’ll lend a hand too, Pip,” Merry reassured his little cousin, glaring in the direction Sancho had gone. “Come on, we’ll get the other lads to help us and we’ll organize a search party,” Merry soothed as he drew him along.
“Thank you, m’lad,” Esmeralda called after them.
“Well, I’m going to start the search in Sancho’s room,” Sapphire said. “And while I’m there I’m going to have a little talk with him. If he did take Pippin’s toy, I’ll bring it back to him shortly.” She laid a hand on Eglantine’s arm. “Tina, Esmie, I’m sorry for all this commotion my son has caused.”
“It’s all right, Sapphy,” Eglantine reassured her. “Children will be children, after all. Maybe your lad is telling the truth and he didn’t take Tulip.”
Eglantine turned back to Esmeralda when they were alone. “Och, and I’m afraid my lad won’t be any less than beside his wee self until he finds his knitted friend. Do you think Sancho took Tulip, Esmie? Perhaps he wants a stuffed toy of his own? I noticed he was the only one of the children who didn’t have one.”
Esmeralda pondered. “I don’t know,” she answered slowly. “If he did, surely he’d realise he’d be the first one Pippin would accuse, given the way he’s been teasing him about Tulip.”
“Hmm, well it’s a mystery and that’s for sure, Esmie. I’d best be joining the search myself, that is if I want to be having any peace of mind a’tall the rest of the day.”
“Aye, and isn’t that the truth? I’ll come with you.” Esmeralda followed, her brow wrinkled in thought.
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