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Wee Ones  by cathleen

“Tulip’s Tale”

Chapter Three

Paladin cleared his throat. “As I was saying, Cousin Milo had brought a surprise for Eglantine, all done up in his shirt tail, and when I opened the door he --”

“Am I in this story too, Da?” Pippin interrupted.

“Well, yes, but you were just a wee sprout at the time. Your cousin, on the other hand, may remember it.”

Merry noticed the gleam in his uncle’s eye and grew suspicious. “What do you mean? I don’t recall any story about Pansy that includes me.”

“Oh, perhaps it will come back to you as I tell it. Your little cousin here was just a babe in arms at the time,” Paladin jiggled Pippin up and down on his knee before continuing, “so that would have made you only around ten years old.”

“You were the same age I am!” Pippin crowed in delight.

“Yes, indeed, he was.” Paladin nodded.

“Why do I have the feeling I’m not going to find this story very flattering?” Merry frowned.

“Now lad, why would you think such a thing?” Paladin’s mouth twitched in amusement.

Bilbo laughed out loud, and a smile began to play about Frodo’s lips.

Merry eyed his uncle, his suspicion growing. “Because you have that look that adults always get when they know something I don’t.”

“That’s because he does!” Pippin laughed and held out his piggy. “Tulip says you have a funny look on your face and she wants to know why.” He held the toy up to his ear and then grinned. “Tulip thinks you did something naughty. Did you, Merry?”

“How should I know when I don’t even remember whatever it is Uncle Paladin is talking about?” Merry said with a roll of his eyes.

“I don’t understand how you could have forgotten. You were so excited at the time,” Frodo said, and ruffled his hair. Merry shrugged away and folded his arms in a defiant gesture, an uncharacteristic pout on his face.

“Oh, my dear boy, it’s not that bad,” Bilbo told him kindly, taking pity on the youth. “It really is an amusing story.”

Merry grunted. “Go ahead, then. Have fun at my expense.”

“It seems you’re able to tell tales on others, but you can’t take a little teasing yourself?” Frodo admonished him. Merry sat up a little straighter, tossing a frown at him.

“Certainly I can. Go ahead, Uncle Pad. What happened that involved Pansy and me so long ago?”

Paladin sat back with a chuckle, settling his son on his lap. “Well, as I was saying, Milo reached under his shirt with a flourish and presented Tina with an egg. Ah, I remember the look of surprise on her face. ‘Why, whatever are you doing carrying around such a lovely big goose egg?’ she asked him with a twinkle in her eyes.” Paladin laughed. “And Milo said, ‘Well, Tina, I knew just how much you’d been wanting a nice goose! So, when Iris told me the tragic story of how her Petunia simply flopped over and died quite unexpectedly, and whilst sitting a nest, no less, why, I decided to bring one of her eggs to you!’ And, oh! how Tina giggled when she took the egg from him--”

“Who’s Iris?” Merry wanted to know.

“Milo’s sister,” said Paladin. “You don’t remember her either?”

Merry shook his head and Paladin continued. “So, your aunt accepted the gift and tended to the egg lovingly, as is her way, and we all know that. And not long after, Pansy came along to join our family--”

“No wonder she only likes Mum! Mum hatched her!” Pippin started to bounce and his father quickly stilled him with a firm hand on each shoulder.

“Pansy followed your mother everywhere,” Paladin continued. “They say whoever a goose lays eyes on when its born is the one she becomes most attached to. I guess in this case it was certainly the truth. Pansy still follows Tina around thinking she’s her mama.”

“But, what does any of this have to do with me?”

“Be patient, Merry. Paladin will get to that part,” Bilbo told him.

“Not too long after Pansy joined us, Merry, you and your parents came to pay us a visit and a few of your cousins came along too. And, being the rambunctious lads they were, they immediately began looking for something to amuse them. Merry, you tagged along after Murdoc and Derimac like Pippin does with you. Anyway, they got to scheming--” 

“So it was Murdoc and Derimac who did something naughty? Not Merry?” Pippin looked disappointed.

“No one did anything truly naughty, lad. They were just having a bit of fun, that’s all.” Paladin chuckled at the expression on Pippin’s face, and tapped the youngster’s nose with his finger.

“Oh. All right. Then what happened?” Pippin settled into his father’s arm and waited.

“Well,” Paladin began, with a glance at Bilbo, “Frodo and Bilbo were also visiting us and--”

“That was a lot of guests all at once,” Pippin observed. He twirled Tulip’s corkscrew tail around his finger thoughtfully, considering. “Did anyone have to sleep on the floor? Or in the barn? What about breakfast? I bet you couldn’t get a word in edgewise, like Mum says, with all those people talking at once and-- ”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Pippin!” Merry exclaimed. “Will you let your father tell the story please?”

“I thought you didn’t want to hear it?” Pippin started to stick his tongue out and then thought better of it when his father cleared his throat.

“Yes, you’d better stop chiming in because it’s getting very late and you’re already up way past your bedtime,” Paladin warned.

“It’s past Tulip’s bedtime too,” Pippin waggled his toy in the air.

“It’s past all our bedtimes, Pip,” Frodo reminded him.

“But I only wanted to know if--!”

“Anyway! No one slept in the barn,” Paladin interrupted, placing a hand over his son’s mouth, “Or on the floor, either. And Cousin Bilbo told the children tales every night before bed. Problem was, the other lads began to ponder over some of dear Bilbo’s adventurous stories.”

Bilbo laughed. “Indeed they did. I believe they took role playing to new heights that week.”

“Ah, yes. I’m sure they did. Most especially after the night you told the tale of the goose that laid the golden eggs!  Derimac and Murdoc came up with an idea for a prank they thought was too good to pass up. And they decided to include Merry in their mischief because they probably knew he would be easy to fool. After all, he was just a little lad, and he adored his older cousins.”

Paladin stopped and looked over at his nephew. Merry was obviously thinking furiously, and the first stirring of memory was evident on his face.

“Oh. . .”

“So, you do remember, eh?” Bilbo reached over and gave him an understanding pat him on the knee.

Merry groaned, his cheeks flushing. “Yes, sort of. I remember they tried to make me believe something that wasn’t true.”

“How were you supposed to know that a goose really couldn’t lay golden eggs?” Paladin laughed. “Remember, all of the younger children thought the same thing.”

“Yes, they were quite taken with my story, although,” Bilbo coughed politely into his hand, “I’m afraid they didn’t expect it to end the way it did. It was rather shocking for the other children. I recall that little Myrtle Took   even cried and had to be put to bed with her older sister that night.”

“I’m sure the ending only served to make the prank all the more enticing,” Frodo said.

“Yes, no wonder the youngsters didn’t sleep well,” Paladin agreed. “And especially poor Merry here! Esmie told me he crawled into bed with her and Saradoc after having a bad dream.”

Merry groaned and plunked his head into his hands. “They pretended they were going to do the same thing to Pansy,” he said from between his fingers.

“Yes, now that was rather thoughtless, wasn’t it?” Bilbo shook his head. “They really got everyone worked into a state.”

“Yes, it was wicked of them,” Paladin grinned. “Reminded me of something I would have done at that age.”

Pippin brightened. “Really, Da?”

“Now don’t you go getting any ideas of your own, lad,” Paladin warned with a shake of his finger.

“I remember I was frantic thinking they were going to slay Pansy to get all of the golden eggs, so I charged right over to them and tried to rescue her -and she bit me!” Merry held up his right hand, examining the small, crescent-shaped scar thoughtfully. “That was the last time I ever went near that goose. And she’s still terrorizing folk, even in her old age.”

“Yes indeed,” Paladin shook his head. “Nasty nip she gave you, at that. I remember how frightened you were, and how you still wanted your father’s reassurance that Pansy wasn’t going to lay a golden egg and be slain after all.”

“As if I had much of a care what happened to that goose after she nearly bit my hand off,” Merry grumbled.

“You probably frightened her.” Frodo slid down in his chair with a snicker. “Poor Pansy. It must have been awfully difficult keeping those golden eggs a secret.”

 “And away from the likes of Derimac and Murdoc,” Bilbo chuckled.

Pippin giggled. “Tulip thinks you’re funny, Frodo!” He waggled the stuffed piglet in his cousin’s direction. “Merry? Did you really think Pansy was going to lay a golden egg? That’s so silly! Tulip says that we know that doesn’t happen.”

Merry sniffed at Pippin’s teasing. “Derimac and Murdoc were very convincing, Pip. Anyway, I get it, Uncle Pad. The moral of this story is it’s not nice to prank your little cousin and make him cry.”

“Or, what goes around comes around, eventually, eh?” Paladin winked. “But it was quite amusing to watch the youngsters searching for golden eggs next day! The lads continued to get a rise from them, that is, until Gorminas stepped in and put a stop to their nonsense.”

“Yes, their father wasn’t awfully pleased with them by that time, upsetting all the younger ones like they had.” Bilbo rubbed his chin in thought. “But I seem to recall there was a surprise ending of some sort. Hmm, what was it, now. . .?”

“Oh, that was my part in the mischief.” Paladin jostled his son up and down once more, causing him to shriek with laughter. “Do you want to know why?”

“Why, Da? Tell us!”

“I found a few duck eggs and dyed them a lovely shade of golden.”

“Yes? So?” Merry tilted his head, a look of bewilderment creasing his brow.

Bilbo and Frodo started to laugh. “Whatever is so amusing?” Merry looked from one to the other.

“Well,” Paladin glanced over at his delighted cousins.

“I pretended to find them in one of the hens’ nests and gave them to Murdoc and Derimac in secret. Naturally, they gawked at the wondrous discovery that there really was such a thing as a golden egg after all! And then, I told them the eggs belonged to a uncommon kind of chicken and the hatchlings would be pure gold in colour.”

“They believed you?” Merry’s eyes were wide.

“Aye,” Paladin said, a twinkle in his eyes, “so I sent them home with two of the eggs and said they should watch closely for those colourful chickens to hatch. Gorminas played right along with me, of course. He thought it was quite the proper turning of the tables on his lads, for their mischief towards Merry and the other children. He told me later the boys spent the next week barely leaving the eggs alone while they tended and turned them, keeping them warm, waiting for the remarkable chickens to arrive.”

“I heard they were a very nice pair of golden ducklings though, eh, Pad?” Bilbo gave a snort of laughter.

Paladin nodded. “And I’ll wager those two know the difference between a golden egg and a yellow duck, now!” He set Pippin on his feet and then stretched and yawned. “Time for bed, lads.”

“Yes indeed,” Bilbo agreed, rising slowly from his chair and hoisting the lamp.

Paladin took his son’s hand and stopped in mid-step, listening. “Why, is that frog song I hear?”

Frodo smacked his hand against his forehead. “I thought we got them all!”

“PIPPIN!” Merry shouted in dismay.

Pippin simply giggled and dashed off with Tulip under his arm.

June 6, 2009





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