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Wee Ones  by cathleen

A/N: This chapter begins immediately where "Tulip's Tale" left off.

“Tulip’s Tale”

Part Two

 

Paladin joined them in the parlour after checking on his son. “He’s sleeping.”

“Tulip too?” Bilbo chuckled.

“His piglet is tucked in firmly beside him.” Paladin nodded as he sank into a chair and reached for a cup of the chamomile tea Bilbo had brewed. “I do believe I even heard her snoring. Did you lads have a good day? Pippin didn’t wear you out, did he?” The question was asked with a perfectly straight face.

“Oh my stars, Uncle Pad, Pippin wear us out? How could that possibly happen?” Merry snorted with a roll of his eyes and a chuckle.

“And he didn’t get into any mischief?”

“No Pad,” Frodo said, recalling how they’d scrambled to keep up with the youngster all day, trying to keep one step ahead of him.

Pippin had collected frogs in his pockets, but lost them all inside the smial. He’d filled a can with wriggly worms for fishing, and then abandoned them on the back step in favour of playing ‘hide and seek’ with Merry. Frodo grimaced at the memory of squishing them all between his toes as he’d hurried out the door when Pippin shrieked, certain the youngster was injured. But as it turned out, he was simply expressing his delight upon spying a pair of kittens in the garden.

And then there had been the blueberries. Pippin had gathered them enthusiastically, stuffing most of them into his mouth rather than his bucket. He didn’t want to think about the berries, but the result had not been pretty. Afterwards, he’d made some of Bilbo’s special soothing tea for upset tummies and spent the next hour coaxing the lad into drinking all of it. And oh, yes, he couldn’t forget about the bee’s nest. . .

Frodo coughed. “He was a good boy.”

“Yes, he was charming, as usual, Uncle Pad. Why, before you came home Frodo and I were saying how sorry we were to see the day end,” Merry smirked.

Paladin’s eyes twinkled. “Is that so? Then you may be pleased to hear that we’ll be staying for one or two more days. Perhaps you both would be kind enough to keep him entertained again tomorrow while Bilbo and I take care of a few tasks?”

Merry stared at his uncle in alarm. “Umm,” he shot a helpless look at Frodo, who shrugged.

Bilbo laughed at the looks being traded. “Oh, I’m so pleased you’ve accepted my invitation to stay. You know I love having company, and I keep telling you it will do you good to have a respite from all the hard work you do, Pad.”

Paladin chuckled. “Tina encouraged me to spend more than one day with you. I wonder if it’s because she and our lasses enjoy a break from us lads once in awhile?”

“Well, either way, I think it’s splendid!” Bilbo reached for the teapot and refilled their cups.

Pippin stared at Tulip with one open eye. The knitted piglet stared back, unblinking. They’d been tricked! Worse, neither one of them had realised it. Pippin opened the other eye and sat up in bed. “You’re right. We never did get our story. I think they fooled us on purpose.”

Tulip begged to disagree. It had been entirely his fault for failing to catch the mistake in time. He’d fallen asleep, hadn’t he?

Pippin frowned. “So did you.”

Tulip sniffed her indignation, giving a flip of her corkscrew tail.

“Well, what shall we do about it?” He listened intently as the piglet’s floppy grin became one of sly mischief, and then giggled into his hand. “All right!”

Pippin scooted off the side of the bed and met the floor with a soft thud.

Tucking his toy into his nightshirt he crept to the door and peered out. Cousin Bilbo was seated in his favourite chair talking quietly with Pippin’s father. Merry and Frodo were still up, and everyone was laughing over something that had been said. He wondered if they were telling a story now? Ever so cautiously he slipped through the crack. Dropping to his hands and knees he crawled into the parlour, pausing to shush Tulip when she chuckled over their plan.

Merry heard the creak of the door and waited to see where his cousin would pop up. The sound of scrambling feet and a low whisper made him stifle a laugh. No doubt Pippin was discussing his plans with Tulip and he’d soon be hiding in back of the couch again, listening to their conversation. Perhaps it would be fun to toy with him a little? Merry cleared his throat.

“Uncle Pad?”

“Hmm?” Paladin paused, his cup halfway to his lips.

“Is it true you don’t care much for owls?”

“What?”

“Merry,” Frodo warned, knowing exactly what he was up to.

“Owls,” he repeated, almost feeling a little twinge of guilt at the soft gasp from behind the couch. “You know, big birds that sometimes roost in barns?”

“Yes, I’m aware of what an owl is, lad.” Paladin looked puzzled. “I don’t have anything against them. Why do you ask?”

“What an odd question. What made you think of it?” Bilbo lifted an eyebrow.

“Well, what if there was an owl roosting in your barn? Would you be upset?” Merry laughed to himself, knowing full well that owls were of good use to a farmer.

With a squeak of alarm, Pippin bolted from his hiding place, flying straight into his father’s arms with a cry of protest. “Nooo! Please don’t hurt the wee owl, Da!”

“What on earth--” Paladin slipped his arms around his son to comfort him.

“Merry, that was wicked of you,” Frodo scolded. “You knew Pippin was hiding behind us.”

Merry tried to look innocent.

Paladin calmed his child, drying his tears and settling him on his lap. Pippin clutched Tulip to his chest, his breath hitching. Paladin slipped a finger under his chin. “Now, what’s this all about, my lad?”

Pippin’s explanation came out in a rush and Paladin smiled, patting him on the shoulder. “Pippin, listen to me. A barn owl is a good thing for a farmer.”

“It is?” Pippin sniffed and then hiccupped noisily, causing them all to laugh.

“It is. They keep mice away. I wouldn’t hurt the baby owl. And, I’m aware it’s been nesting in the barn for weeks now.”

“You have?” Pippin considered his father’s words. “Tulip says she’s not afraid of the owl anymore.” He held the piglet up and Paladin patted her head. Pippin sank against his father’s shoulder and glared at his cousin, tucking the piggy back inside his nightshirt. “Merry said he wouldn’t tell, and he did.”

“Pip, I already knew an owl in the barn has a good purpose, and I knew Uncle Pad wouldn’t make it leave.”

“Oh.” Pippin frowned. “You were teasing me.”

“Yes, he was.” Frodo smacked Merry lightly on the back of the head.

“Will you stop doing that?” Merry shrugged away and settled into the corner of the couch.

“Did you give the owl a name yet?” Paladin’s eyes twinkled. He knew perfectly well that his son named all of the animals he befriended.

Pippin nodded. He tossed a look at Merry before he got up on his knees and whispered in his father’s ear.

“Ah, so we’re not going to tell anyone what you named the owl?” Paladin winked at them over Pippin’s shoulder.

“Well. . .we can tell everyone but Merry.” With that, he stuck his tongue out as his cousin.

Merry rolled his eyes. “Pippin, I’m crushed. Really I am.”

“Don’t stick your tongue out at others, Peregrin,” Paladin scolded. “That isn’t polite.”

Pippin frowned. “Even if it’s just Merry?”

“Yes, even if it’s Merry, and even when he’s just teased you.”

“Hmph.” Pippin tilted his head, listening, and then pulled Tulip back out of his nightshirt. “You don’t have to scold me too,” he told the piglet. Tulip said he could probably use two reminders and she was always happy to oblige. Pippin shook his head from side to side. “No, I don’t need to be told twice!”

“So, what did you name the owl, Pip?” Frodo asked, trying to coax the youngster out of his pout.

Pippin grinned, his sudden moping just as quickly forgotten. “HOOTIE!” he shouted right next to Paladin’s ear, causing his father to wince.

“Lad, you’re going to deafen me for sure if you yell like that again! Pipe down, now.”

“What an original name, Pip! However did you think of it?” Merry gave a roll of his eyes.

“Because he always makes hoo-hoo-hoo sounds, and I like it.” He waved the piglet at them. “So does Tulip. She told me so.”

“You know, I believe Hootie has guests in that nest of his,” Paladin said.

Pippin’s face brightened. “Really? More wee owls, Da?”

His father nodded. “I’m certain of it. Owls enjoy company, you know.”

“YAY!” Pippin screeched in his father’s ear once more, bouncing up and down with unbridled glee. One foot dug sharply into Paladin’s lap and he grunted, swinging his small son up before Pippin could stomp on him again. He gave the youngster a mock glare.

“Lad, someday when you have a son of your own you’ll understand just how much that hurts!” Everyone laughed, and Pippin looked puzzled. Shrugging, he gazed up at his father beseechingly.

“Da, tell us a story? Please?” He held Tulip up. “Remember, we never got one earlier like Frodo promised.”

Paladin’s heart melted at the impish grin, and he drew him close. “What story do you think we should have?”

“Do you know a story about owls?” Merry chuckled and ducked as Frodo’s hand came sailing his way again.

“Perhaps I’ll tell you the tale of a small lad and a great goose,” Paladin said with an air of mystery.

Pippin looked at him askance. “Pansy?” His father nodded.

“Tulip’s not certain she wants a story about Pansy,” Pippin murmured as he held the piglet up to voice her own opinion. “She still remembers what happened last summer after we lost Mum’s knitting needles and Pansy found them.”

“Oh, but this story is very amusing, and one I think you’ll both appreciate under the circumstances,” Paladin insisted, casting a meaningful glance at Merry. His nephew looked mystified.

“But then, if you’d rather not hear it. . .”

“Yes, I want to! So does Tulip!”  Pippin waggled his toy in the air.

Paladin grabbed the enthusiastic child just in time to avoid another kick from Pippin’s foot, and settled the youngster on his lap. “I’ll tell you the tale only if you agree to keep still while you remain on my lap! Is that a bargain?” Pippin bobbed his head in agreement and Paladin sighed in relief.

“All right then.” Paladin cleared his throat and winked at Bilbo. The old hobbit chuckled in understanding, nodding for him to continue.

“T’was not many years ago when my cousin Milo came to visit, bringing along something small that he’d tucked inside his shirt tail, and carrying it real careful like. I opened the door and found him standing there grinning at me like he had the most splendid secret to share with us! In he came, just as cheery as you please, and told your mum he’d been given a present, but he wanted her to have it instead. . .”

 

 

 

 





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