This was written for the 'Mother's Day' challenge at Henneth Annun.
A note to readers: Pippin in "The Return of the King" mentions that his Father farms in Whitwell, near Tuckborough, so
that is where this story is set. Tolkien says in the prologue, in "Concerning Hobbits", that many hobbits live in low lying
houses and not in holes or smials. As "The Atlas of Middle-Earth" shows Whitwell as being rather flat land, I have chosen
to have the Took home be a house.
A Mother's Day
A steady rain was pattering against the windows of the Took house in Whitwell. Eglantine looked out a window and thought to herself, 'The children will be in all day then.' and she sighed. Merry's visit had actually been nearly event-less this time. Perhaps because he was eighteen and starting to grow out of childhood into his tweens. Yet, Eglantine sighed again, she had a vague feeling of impending doom.
She left her sitting room and headed down the corridor that led to the kitchen, it would soon be time to start getting second breakfast ready. Before turning the second corner in the hallway she stopped, alert to anxious voices ahead of her.
"It will be alright. We can tell her one of the dogs got a hold of it. She won't know otherwise, Pippin." Said a voice she recognized as Merry's.
"But," said ten year old Pippin's higher pitched voice as he sniffed a bit, "I'm not sure a dog would do this to a shirt, Merry. And my chest and back hurt!"
Eglantine went around the corner to see the lads huddled together against the wall. Pippin was near to tears and Merry leaned over him clutching the front of the lad's shirt.
"Whatever are you doing, Meriadoc Brandybuck!" She yelled as it looked to her that he was holding Pippin by the shirt the way a bully will hold a smaller boy he is threatening.
The boys said together and Merry backed away. Now Pippin clutched at his shirt as though trying to hide something.
"Pippin! Your shirt!" She had walked up to him and could see that the shirt was torn. "And don't bother with the dog story." Eglantine turned and gave Merry a stern look. "I heard you talking." She heard Merry gulp as she turned back to her son and his ruined shirt. She took his hands away and surveyed the damage. It was then she noticed that Pippin had thin horizontal scratches on his chest and tummy. They were bleeding a little and some of the blood stained the shirt. While noticing the stains, she noticed that nearly every button had been ripped from the front of Pippin's shirt. No, a dog would not do that to a shirt nor put those sort of scratches on a boy's chest.
"Merry, Pippin; what is the truth about this?" Eglantine looked back and forth between her son and her nephew.
"Well, Aunt Eglantine we . . ." Merry started but never got to finish. A crashing noise came from the direction of the kitchen.
"Come with me." Eglantine ordered the lads as she started down the hallway.
There was no one to be seen in the kitchen but a white cloud of some sort was floating out of the pantry. Going to the pantry door, Eglantine found her youngest daughter, Pervinca, with a heap of flour mixed with broken crockery at her feet. Both the girl and the entire pantry were covered in a layer of flour dust. But how had Pervinca gotten into the pantry to begin with? The door had a special lock that needed a key to open it from the outside while the latch alone opened it from the inside.
A look of sudden understanding came to Eglantine's eyes. She looked at her daughter, then at her son and nephew, and then at the Cat's Crack. The Cat's Crack was in the wall just to the right of the pantry door. It was nearly two feet high and was eight or so inches wide. It was there to let air circulate in the pantry and to give mousing access to the house cats. It was clear to her how her thin little Pippin had gotten scraped and how his shirt got torn and lost it's buttons.
"Children?" Eglantine intoned.
"The lads were hungry Mum," Pervinca answered, "and I was in a mood to bake and so we decided that Pippin looked as though he would fit through the crack still. I mean, he did the last time Merry visited and he didn't look too much bigger." Pervinca stopped and looked sadly at Pippin's shirt and scraped chest. She reached out and gently touched one of Pippin's scratches. "He must have grown though as he got stuck half way. I pushed on his hip and Merry pushed on his shoulder and eventually he popped through. Then he worked the latch from inside." Pervinca slowed down at the end and hung her head.
Eglantine looked through the pantry's other door into the small kitchen beyond. The smaller kitchen was called the Company Kitchen and was only used when there was need for an extra oven and work space that the presence of visitors demanded. Eglantine could see baking supplies sitting on the counter and could feel the warmth from the oven. She turned and gave stern looks to the three youngsters.
"You all know the rules here." The children nodded. "You are not supposed to be in the pantry. You are not supposed to be in the Company Kitchen. You aren't supposed to do any cooking without an adult knowing about it."
"Yes, ma'am." the three rule breakers said together.
"Well, then, there should be no argument about your guilt."
Eglantine looked at the children. Pervinca, white with flour, still had her head down. Merry was chewing on his lower lip, looking everywhere but at his Aunt or his cousins, and Pippin looked at his Mother with large green teary eyes as he sniffed to keep his nose from running.
"You will all just have to miss second breakfast." she said as she looked at each one of them. "It will take you past it I'm sure to get this mess cleaned up." Sighs were heard as three sets of shoulders slumped. "And I mean cleaned, my dears. I don't want to see a speck of flour anywhere in the pantry or either kitchen." Three pairs of wide eyes stared at her in disbelief. "And my last word to you all is clean it up dry. Wet it and you'll have the most awful mess you can imagine!"
With that Eglantine walked away and the children turned to get brooms, dust pans and cleaning cloths from the
cleaning supply closet at the other side of the main kitchen.
Second breakfast had come and gone without Pervinca, Pippin and Merry appearing at the table. Eglantine had checked the children's cleaning job when Pippin had come to fetch her and had given it her approval, telling the children they were free to go. Eglantine then retired to her sitting room to write some letters. Two finished letters lay upon her desk when she realized that she no longer heard the rain and decided to open the window to let some fresh, rain washed, air into the room. As she turned from the window, a piercing scream came from outside.
"Peregrin Took!" A girl's voice hollered, "How could you!"
Eglantine ran for the nearest door to the garden. At the far side of the house she came to Pervinca's flower bed. In the middle of the once lovely flower bed there was now a large muddy bare spot and in the middle of the bare spot stood Pippin. His feet and legs and breeches, hands and sleeves and shirt front were caked in rich black mud. Even his face bore several streaks of the gooey stuff. On the grass in front of the flower bed lay many purple cone flowers and white cone flowers, white and yellow daisies. All Pervinca's favorites, all perennials . . . and all pulled up by the roots.
"Peregrin Took!" Eglantine's voice was tight with irritation. "You have ruined your sister's flowers and ruined your clothes. Two shirts in one day you have ruined!"
Pippin said nothing, he looked at the ground. Pervinca, rather oddly, also said nothing.
Eglantine walked over to the edge of the flower bed, reached out and lifted Pippin's chin. "You have nothing to say to Pervinca?"
Pippin's guilt filled eyes looked over at his sister. She ever so slightly shook her head. "I'm really sorry, Vinca, I truly am. Isn't that how one picks flowers?"
"No, Pippin." His sister replied while glaring at him. "It's not how one picks flowers."
Eglantine grabbed Pippin by the collar and dragged him out of the flower bed. She then picked him up at his waist
and toted him off toward the house. "I'll not have you tracking this mess through the entire house on your way to the
bathroom!" she told him firmly. She was starting to get a headache.
After his bath, Pippin was sentenced to eating alone in his room for elevenses, while Merry and Pervinca sat dejectedly at the family table and ate much less than usual. The time after elevenses passed quietly as the young people went to the playroom. When Eglantine looked in on them to tell them that luncheon would be ready soon, Merry and Pippin were sitting on the floor playing a card game and Pervinca was working hard at some sewing.
Luncheon went well as the children seemed to have their good humor and their appetites back. Everyone had a nice time and Eglantine thought she just might lose her headache before it was time for afternoon tea. Pippin, Merry and Pervinca asked to be excused and ran off together with Eglantine's "Behave yourselves!" following after them.
Pimpernel (her middle daughter) and Eglantine spent the time before afternoon tea baking bread and doing the early preparations for dinner. Everything was soon well in hand and Eglantine decided she would take a bit of a nap to get rid of the last faint reminder of her headache. With a sigh she went off toward her room, savoring the prospect of her warm soft bed.
As she turned into the corridor leading to her room she thought she heard a short yelp and a splash from the bathroom just ahead. She went and knocked on the door. She received no answer but could still hear water being sloshed about in the tub. She opened the door.
Merry sat in the tub fully clothed and thoroughly soaked. At that instant Eglantine was assaulted by an overpowering stench. Her headache returned with a vengeance, joined this time by her stomach threatening to be sick.
"What . . ." she gaged a little, "what are you . . . doing Meriadoc Brandybuck!"
Merry smiled a sickly smile through the rivulets of water running down his face; he gaged a bit and held up a jar. Eglantine saw the jar was full of pink water with a layer of pink sludge at the bottom. It was all that was left of what had been a full bottle of her favorite bath salts.
"Get out of that water, out of those clothes and out of this bathroom before we both get sick, Meriadoc!" Eglantine sounded as furious as she could considering she was trying hard not to breathe.
"I'll see you in . . ." She was interrupted by a scream, a crash and someone crying "NO!"
Eglantine glared at Merry. "Get out!" She yelled and stomped off to where the sounds had come from; her sitting room.
She threw open the door. Pippin lay sprawled on top of what was left of the dainty wooden shelves that had held her favorite keepsakes. The shelves were in several pieces and her mementoes lay scattered about the floor. The frames on two of the miniature charcoal portraits of her children, done when each one was five years old, were broken as was the glass on one of the frames holding locks of their baby hair. She pulled Pippin to his feet to find the shattered remains of his baby cup where he had fallen on top of it. But something was missing. The porcelain doll that her dear Mother had given her when she had been very ill when she was eight years old was gone. She started to look around the room and her eyes came to rest on Pervinca. The doll hung by one arm, clutched in one of Pervinca's hands. The doll's broken off hand lay in Pervinca's other palm.
Eglantine gasped as her hands went to her mouth. Tears began to roll down her cheeks as she reached out and took the doll from her daughter. She examined the broken arm and then checked the doll for any further damage. She held the doll to her bosom and looked at her children. Merry, wearing a bathrobe, stood in the doorway.
"How could you?" Eglantine asked through her tears. "You know these are my special things, my special memories. How could you?" She stood there holding her broken doll and crying. It took a few minutes before she could speak again. The youngsters didn't move or make a sound.
"What has gotten into you three today?" Eglantine sniffed and wiped at her cheeks. "You will go to your rooms. Merry, you will move your things out of Pippin's room and into the south guest room. There will be no afternoon tea and no dinner for any of you." She paused and looked at them all one by one. "If, IF, you can manage to behave while you are separated, you may get a small supper, but still in you own rooms. Now go. I do not want to hear you or see you again for the rest of the day." With that, she turned her back to them.
Merry came into the room and put his arm around Pippin's shoulders and started walking him out of the room. Suddenly Pippin jerked away from Merry and ran back to his Mother.
"It's not fair!" Pippin cried out as he got to where his Mother stood.
She turned slowly around, her face pale and her eyes fierce. "How dare you say it isn't fair, Peregrin Took! You have been caught in the act on every single offence!"
"No, it's not that." Pippin whined.
Merry came and this time grabbed his little cousin by both shoulders and turned him toward the door.
"It makes no difference now, Pip." Merry said sadly. "Let's just go."
"But it wasn't like this when we did it for Aunt Esmeralda." Pippin wailed.
"Stop, Merry!" Eglantine said and the children all turned around.
Eglantine sat down in a chair. "Come here, Pippin." she said and motioned for Pippin to come stand in front of her. She looked deeply into her son's eyes.
"When you did what for Aunt Esmeralda?" Eglantines voice was suddenly quiet.
"We . . . we," Pippin sniffed and then wiped his sleeve across his nose, "we, Merry and me, we were talking, the last time I went to visit at Brandy Hall. I said how his Mum is like an extra Mother to me, a second Mum. Because, you know, she loves me and takes care of me and scolds me just as you do. And Merry, he agreed and said that he feels the same for you. That you're his second Mum and all. And I . . ." he stopped to catch his breath and sniff a few times, "I said that maybe we, Merry and me, should do something nice for Aunt Esmeralda while I was there and for you next time Merry was here since we," Pippin lowered his eyes and blushed, "since we love you both and all. And so Merry, he baked Aunt Esmeralda some custard tarts, as those are her favorite treat. And I picked her flowers, though Merry didn't tell me I'd done it wrongly, and Merry drew her a bath with her stuff to make it smell pretty as you Mums like. And she thought it was all so nice and she had herself a nice hot bath and ate some tarts and looked at the pretty flowers. Merry had put them in a vase so I guess he cut the roots off; and she was so happy."
Pippin looked back up at his Mother. His tears had started afresh and he looked miserable.
"This was to be your turn, Mum. This was to be your nice day and it all went wrong. Pervinca was going to make that carrot cake with the raisins and walnuts that you like, and I got stuck and ripped my shirt. Then Vinca dropped the flour crock. Then I was picking the flowers for you and didn't think about the mud and I ruined the flowers."
He turned and looked at his sister. "I am sorry about your pretty flowers, Vinca."
"And Merry," he said looking at his Mother again, "he was supposed to be getting your bath ready."
Merry broke in, "I lost my grip on the bath salts and when I reached to get the jar out of the tub, I slipped on the wet floor and fell in. I'm sorry Aunt Eglantine."
"And I had made a new dress for Miss Lilac." Pervinca said softly and nodded her head toward the doll her Mother was still hugging. "You had been saying her old dress was so terribly faded and that she needed a new one. But while I was trying to get the old dress off her, it got stuck somehow and I lost my hold on her. Pippin saw she was falling and moved quickly to try to catch her. I caught her, but by her hand and it broke off. Pippin missed because I had caught her instead and he lost his balance and fell on the shelves. I'm so sorry Mum." Pervinca pulled a now wrinkled doll dress out of her apron pocket and handed it to her Mother. The small dress was beautifully made out of a lovely lilac colored silk trimmed with white lace.
"You see Mother." Pippin said in a small tear choked voice. "It's not fair! Aunt Esmeralda got her nice day and yours went all horrid." He took a step closer to his Mother and leaned his face against her shoulder, his tears quickly soaking through her sleeve to her skin. "It's not fair."
Eglantine wrapped one arm around her small quaking son and opened her other arm to her daughter and nephew. Merry and Pervinca came over to her, and knelt down into her embrace. For a long time they all remained snuggled together. Eglantine kissed her daughter, who had no problem with being kissed my her Mother. She kissed Merry, who accepted the kiss even though he was at an age where he thought he was past getting kissed by Mothers or Aunts. She kissed her son, who claimed that all kisses were icky, but secretly still liked it when his Mum or his Aunt Esmeralda kissed him.
"Can you all forgive me?" Eglantine asked the children.
"Why, yes." Merry said, though he looked at her quizzically. "But more to the point, Aunt, can you forgive us. We've caused you to have the most terrible day, even though we meant otherwise."
Eglantine smiled at their hopeful faces. "My dear ones, this has been a wonderful day!" She laughed at the shocked
expressions that brought. "I will never forget that you all love me so that you would not quit trying to give me a nice day
even though at every step you were thwarted. Most children would have given up, at least after the incident with the
flowers." She smiled at them and then hugged them all again. "Rarely have I felt so loved!"
A bath was drawn in the guest bathroom for Eglantine Took when afternoon tea was over. At dinner a lovely bouquet of flowers graced the dinning table and her favorite carrot cake was served for desert. In her sitting room, on her desk, sat Miss Lilac, wearing a lovely new dress that had been ironed free of it's wrinkles. The doll's hand-less wrist was hidden in the folds of the new dress. And later that evening, Pippin, Pervinca and Merry were treated as honored guests at supper, with each one having their favorite food served on Eglantine's best dishes.