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Fic: Making the Best of It

This is for the "new beginnings" challenge!


Rating: G
Summary: Pippin tries to fit in at the Great Smials.
Author’s Notes: In my Shire-universe, Thain Ferumbras III abdicated the Thainship to Paladin the year that Pippin was 15. Concerned about the unpleasant atmosphere at the Great Smials that had prevailed in the years that Ferumbras’ mother Lalia was the Took, Paladin and Eglantine sent their children to live with relatives while they settled into the Great Smials and began making some changes there. One year later, they brought the children there to live. In this story, Pippin is 16, which is the equivalent of a 10 year-old among Men. Also, there are references here to some of my other stories, particularly "Consequences of a Fall", “The Dwarf Dagger”, “Moving Day”, and ”A Sight to Remember”.

Making the Best of It


Pippin stepped out of the coach after his father had assisted his mother and sisters down. He stood for a moment and gazed at the Great Doors of the Great Smials, and shook his head. This was supposed to be a homecoming, but it did not feel like one. He had never been anything at the Great Smials but a visitor. Now he was going to have to live here.

His parents, Pearl and Pimpernel started up the steps, but Pervinca turned back. "Come on, Pippin!" she snapped.

He sighed. But he did not say anything. Pervinca was no happier about this move than he was. He followed her reluctantly.

A servant waited by the huge doors, and flung them open on his father's approach, and the family went inside. The servant took his father's cloak, and then those of the rest of the family. "Thank you, Timmon," said Paladin with a smile. Timmon smiled back, and then smiled at Pippin as he placed Pippin's cloak on a hook by the door.

Pippin nodded, and said "Thank you,” as well, though his own smile was somewhat tentative.

He turned with surprise to see his father leading them towards the South Wing of the Smials. That wasn't where the Thain's apartments were, he thought. The Thain's quarters had always been in the West Wing.

But his father was explaining as they walked. "Your mother and I decided not to use the traditional Thain's quarters. The rooms Mistress Lalia used as The Took will need to be completely refurbished before anyone else lives there and we've had no time to do so. And Cousin Ferumbras continues to live in the rooms he always kept." When Ferumbras had abdicated as Thain, he had become rather reclusive. His health was not what it had been, and he seldom left the rooms he had always occupied before and after he had become Thain.

Pippin felt relieved. He had not been looking forward to living in the rooms where Mistress Lalia had always been. They were crowded and stuffy and musty, and filled with her presence. He supposed that his parents must have felt the same way. And his mother and father had been here a whole year now-- surely if they had any intention of moving into those rooms, they would have done so by now. He noticed Pervinca and Pimpernel exchanging a glance of relief as well, while Pearl leaned over and kissed her father's cheek. "Thank you, father," she murmured.

If anyone had any reason to be glad not to have to stay in those rooms, it would be Pearl. Pippin gave a shudder, as he remembered that summer when he was twelve, and Pearl had witnessed the horrible accident that led to Mistress Lalia's death.*

The corridor down which they passed now was lit from above by a series of skylights. There were a number of doors to either side, and Pippin recalled that this had led to the guest rooms for those visitors who seldom visited. It seemed that was no longer the case. At the far end of the corridor was a door larger than the others, and Paladin opened it wide, stepping back to allow Eglantine and the lasses to preceded him. He turned, smiled, and gestured for Pippin to enter as well.

Pippin looked about, puzzled. He thought he knew the Great Smials fairly well-- he'd spent many of his childhood visits seeking out places to hide, after all, to escape from Mistress Lalia's gimlet eye. But this spacious apartment did not look at all familiar.

However, the two upright figures on the settee by the hearth were very familiar. "Aunties!" cried all four Took children, as they rushed over to embrace their father's older sisters.

Pippin managed to squirm his way between the two elderly hobbitesses, and leaned against his Aunt Peridot's side. "Auntie Peri! Auntie Prim! I've missed you so!"

Aunt Primrose patted his head with a chuckle, but Aunt Peridot pulled him closer and dropped a kiss on top of his head. "I've missed you, as well, Pippin."

After the reunion with the aunties, Pippin would have been content to stay in Auntie Peridot's comfortable embrace, but Eglantine said, "Come now, my chicklets! Don't you wish to see your new home?" and both the aunties got up to accompany the family, as Eglantine showed off the family quarters: the sitting room; the small family kitchen, for when they were in the mood to prepare their own meals; a small sunny room where Eglantine could write her own letters at her own desk; and a rather goodly sized dining room, for the times when the family wished to have their meals in privacy. And there was a large bedroom, clearly meant for the Thain and his Lady. The four children exchanged glances, and then Pervinca asked, “Where do we stay?”

Their parents laughed, and led them back to the door to the corridor. They went out, and opened the first door on the right. “These are your rooms, Pearl,” said Paladin. There was a sunny little sitting room, and an open door that led into a bedroom. Pearl gave an exclamation of delight, and stepped inside.

The next door down was Pimpernel’s room. It was just a bedroom, but a very spacious bedroom, with a large window looking out over the East Garden. Next to it was a similar room for Pervinca. Past it was the family bathing room, and then Paladin opened the door to the room that he designated for Pippin. Pippin entered with his eyes wide. There was a comfortable bed, a spacious wardrobe, a washstand, a comfortable nightstand and an armchair next to the bed. Beneath the large window was a spacious desk. Beside it was a set of bookshelves, still empty. “All mine?” Pippin asked in astonishment. Back at Whitwell, he and Pervinca had shared a room.

“Across the hall are several guestrooms. Your mother and I thought you might like the one directly across from you to be Merry’s room when he visits.”

Pippin looked up at his father with a grin. “Merry told me he’d visit. And so did Frodo!”

“Do you like your room, Pippin?”

Pippin looked at it with shining eyes. It was a bright sunny room, and he could easily imagine filling it up with his things. A room like this might even make having to stay at the Great Smials worthwhile.

Two weeks later he was well on the way to revising that opinion. Yes, the room was wonderful, and when he could sit back upon his bed and daydream, or maybe play on his fiddle as a light breeze stirred the curtains and the sound of birds outside his windows accompanied him, he could forget about the other things for a while.

But when he went out into the rest of the Smials, it was not nearly so pleasant. There were his lessons for one thing. At Whitwell, he’d had his earliest lessons from his sister Pearl, and then for the last couple of years, he’d had lessons from his father. When he stayed at Brandy Hall he had lessons from Merry’s own tutor, Uncle Dinodas. Best of all was visiting Bag End and having his lessons from Frodo. But now that he was living here, his father was too busy to be his teacher. So two hours after luncheon, everyday except Trewsday and Highday, he went to one of his adult Took cousins for lessons. Each of those days except Hensday, he was to have lessons with Cousin Isembrand; on Hensday, it was with Cousin Fortinbard, who taught sums and figuring. He was Fortinbard’s only pupil on that day, and he always felt dreadfully dull and witless, though usually he was pretty good with numbers, after luncheon they seemed to put him to sleep. But it was his other lessons he dreaded most, because he was not the only pupil, but he was the only lad. What made it even worse, two of those lasses were his cousins Opal and Garnet. Opal was the same age as he, and never looked at him without an expression of snide amusement. Garnet, who was somewhat older, completely ignored him, even when common manners meant she should speak to him. The other two lasses in the class were older still, and thought all of the rest of them mere babies. Cousin Isembard seldom chided the lasses for whispering or giggling together, but often reprimanded Pippin for inattention, reminding him that he needed to pay attention if he was “going to be Thain one day”, a phrase Pippin was quickly learning to loathe.

The only lad anywhere near his own age was Ferdibrand, who was two years older than Pervinca. Ferdibrand spent a lot of his time with the town lads in Tuckborough. Most of the rest of the lads at Great Smials were several years younger than Pippin. And the working lads, many of whom were Pippin’s age, were too busy most of the time to play with, and when they weren’t would never think of including Pippin, who was the Thain’s son! Pippin thought enviously of Frodo’s friendship with Sam, and with the easy ways of Brandy Hall, where not so much was made of the differences between gentry and working class.

Then there were mealtimes. The Thain’s family often took first breakfast, elevenses, and tea, in their own quarters. But second breakfast and luncheon, as well as supper, was usually taken in the main dining hall. At second breakfast, people came and went, getting their food from one of the several sideboards around the room. It wasn’t so bad. Pippin would slip in early, sometimes with Pervinca, they’d quickly eat and leave. But at luncheon, Pippin found himself at the children’s table—a table filled with giggling lasses and younger children. He was the oldest lad, and there was no one to talk to, as his sisters were all at the tween’s table. But supper was worst of all, for then he had to sit at the High Table with his parents, under the eye of everyone in the hall, and worry about whether his manners were holding up to inspection.

And then there were the servants; everywhere he went they seemed to be around. Some of them paid him no mind, and some of them looked at him with pity, and others actually seemed to be afraid of him! Once or twice he’d offered to help with some small task, and had been looked at with horror. “Oh no! Master Pippin, that would not be proper at all, thankyouverymuch.”

One Sterday, after a particularly miserable luncheon in which he had found himself sitting across from Opal and Garnet, who kept staring at him and whispering behind their hands, he left before the meal was ended, and instead of going to his lesson, he found himself heading in the direction of his Aunties’ rooms. He simply could not face having to write an essay about the Postal Service in the same room with those two lasses. He was sure that Cousin Isembrand would report to his father that he’d missed his lesson today, but he was far too miserable to care.

He knocked on the door, and when Aunt Peridot opened it, he flung his arms around her waist in a fierce embrace. “Why Pippin!” she exclaimed. “Come in, dear! I am surprised to see you this time of day.” She led him into the small parlour and gestured for him to sit down on the settee. She sat down next to him. Pippin was relieved. Aunt Primrose might have sent him on to his lessons, but not Aunt Peridot. “Where is Auntie Prim?” he asked.

“She is helping your mother today. They are doing an inventory of the linens with Mistress Heather.”

“Oh.”

Auntie Peridot gazed at him intently, and Pippin squirmed under her scrutiny.

“You are unhappy, Pippin,” she said mildly.

He looked up sharply, and then his eyes fell, and he nodded, blinking away tears he had not realised were threatening. “I don’t like it here, Auntie! I’ve neverliked it here. I miss the farm! I miss Brandy Hall! All the time I was in Buckland, I missed mother and father and wanted to be home, but then I’d remember that home wasn’t home anymore. At least at Brandy Hall I was with Merry! And there were lots of other lads. There are nothing but lasses here,” he looked at his aunt as she raised one eyebrow. “Well, almost nothing but lasses." He bit his lip and slumped down. “I just don’t like this place. It is crowded and—and stuffy!”

"Peregrin," Auntie Peridot said softly.

Pippin looked into her eyes, startled. She rarely called him anything but Pippin unless she was very, very serious.

"Do you know why our family lived at Whitwell and not at the Great Smials?"

"Because that's where father was born. Grandfather Adalgrim and Grandmother Periwinkle lived at the farm and had their family there. That's where you grew up."

"That's not all the reason, though, my dear. You see, your Great-great-grandfather Gerontius was not well pleased with some of your grandfather's behaviour. Even though he had come of age, he still managed to get into the sort of trouble one expects from a tween. Even worse, he often led the younger cousins into trouble with him. The Old Took sent Adalgrim to Whitwell to get his influence away from the younger ones. But Adalgrim enjoyed the hard work of farming, and once he got married to your grandmother, who was an astonishingly respectable lass who did not stand for nonsense, he quickly settled down into being a responsible hobbit. He was told by his grandfather that he could return to the Great Smials now that he'd learned his lesson, but to everyone's surprise, he chose to remain on the farm.

Probably at some point, he would have retired and moved us back here. But the year that your father was three and your Aunt Esmeralda was born, something dreadful happened." She stopped for a moment, and got a faraway look in her eyes, a very sad look. Pippin patted her hand, and she smiled down at him wistfully.

"Do you know what that was?"

Pippin thought for a moment of his family history. "Was that the year Aunt Pearl died?"

Auntie Peridot nodded. "Do you know what happened?"

"She was thrown from a pony," said Pippin. He'd never heard more on it than that.

"She was. But there was more to the story than that. We were visiting here at the time, and Lalia, who at that time was not the Took, nor even the Thain's Lady, but merely his daughter-in-law, made some dreadful accusations and said some horrible things to Pearl. In her distress, Pearl tried to ride home by herself. That is when the accident happened."

"Oh. Why didn't father ever tell us about that?"

"He was only a baby. I don't think he ever knew all the details; our parents never spoke of that time to us." She reached over and smoothed the curls on his head. "But Primrose and I never forgot. Do you understand now why the family did not move back here? Why your grandparents never again set foot here?"

"Yes..." said Pippin, though he was puzzled. "But..." He was not sure if it would be right to ask the question that came to him now. After all, he didn't wish to make his Auntie feel badly.

But she surprised him. "You wonder why your Aunt Primrose and I live here now?"

He nodded.

"I married. You never knew your Uncle Heribald; he died before you were born. I met him in Hobbiton, at one of Cousin Bilbo's famous parties. He was my third cousin twice removed. And he was a Took of the Great Smials. He knew nothing of farming-- he assisted the Thain with the accounts. He was willing to try, for my sake, but I knew he would be miserable. And so I moved here with him. But I was the one who was miserable. By that time, Lalia was the Thain's Lady, and she wanted everyone to know it. When I was expecting your cousin Heribert, I went home for a visit. I was very tempted to just stay. But I knew that I could not abandon my husband.

It was Primrose who decided she would move here to be with me and bear me company. Our parents were at first very much against it, but when they saw how much it would mean to me to have her support, they relented."

"That must have been an awful time, Auntie Peri," said Pippin sympathetically.

"Not so bad as you think. We made frequent visits to others, back to Whitwell, and also to Buckland, for as you know, Primula was our dearest friend, and her son Frodo was almost the same age as Heribert. When we were here, we mostly kept to our own apartment, and seldom went to dine in the main dining hall, or spent much time in the common areas. We tried to keep mostly out of Lalia's way, but when we did encounter her, Primrose gave no ground, and always gave her a look that reminded her that we knew of her cruel words to our sister. So she avoided us as well when she could, out of her own guilty conscience."

Pippin sat quietly for a while, leaning into her side and allowing her to smooth his curls. Finally he looked up at her. "I suppose that it is not as hard for me to live here as it was for you. I still do not really like this place, but my family is here with me. And it will be nice to see more of you and Auntie Prim." He sighed.

She beamed at him and hugged him close. "That's my Pippin!" she laughed. "I thought I might practice my lap-harp. Would you sing for me while I play?"

Pippin grinned. That he could do!

He felt much better after his talk with Auntie Peridot. She had gone back with him when he faced his parents to confess his truancy that afternoon. He’d been sent to his room to think about it, but he could hear her quiet voice speaking to his parents as he closed the door behind him. Later that afternoon, his father brought him his tea on a tray, and told him that they had arranged for his lessons with Cousin Isembrand to be changed. He would now have them after elevenses, and alone.

Still Pippin felt lonely and at loose ends. One day he had skipped luncheon to avoid sitting with the “jewelry” as Pervinca had labeled Opal, Garnet and their older sister Amethyst. He was feeling decidedly peckish, so he made his way to one of the kitchens. In early afternoon things should be quiet enough that he might manage a raid on the larder. He was sure a bit of bread and cheese and maybe some fruit would not be missed if he were careful. Of course, he knew he could simply ask one of the cooks for something, and they’d oblige, just because he was the Thain’s son. But for some reason that felt wrong—more wrong than a larder raid, at any rate.

He slipped in quietly, and stole along against the wall to the door that would lead to the larders. There were several servants and cooks in the kitchen, but most of them were having their own luncheon, while a few were washing up. But none were paying attention as he slipped through the door. The short passage led to the wine cellar and the root cellar on the right, and on the left were three larders. He went all the way to the back, to the smallest one. He put his hand on the door to open it, and realised it was ajar. At the same time he heard a small sound within.

For one brief terrifying instant, he thought it was a rat. But he soon understood what it was. With three sisters he was familiar enough with the sound of a lass weeping. He hesitated. After all, he had no idea who it was.

But she was weeping.

He opened the door. By her clothes, she was one of the servants, older than he was, but still very young—maybe a tween. She did not see him at first, huddled in her misery as she was. He took out his pocket handkerchief and held it out.

She looked up in panic, and when she saw who he was, her face went utterly white. “Oh! Oh, Master Pippin, I’m so sorry!” She scrubbed and her face with the back of her hand, ignoring the handkerchief, and backed up against the wall as if he were a goblin.

“It’s all right,” he said quietly, kneeling down beside her. He offered his handkerchief again, and she stared at it in confusion. “Here.”

She finally took it, and wiped her eyes, and then blew her nose. She started to hand it back to him, and then looked at it in dismay. Pippin chuckled and shook his head.

“I’m so sorry, Master Pippin!”

“Just give it to one of the laundresses and tell her you found it lying about. She’ll just think it fell out of my pocket.”

She gave him a rather watery and uncertain smile. “That’s very clever, Master Pippin.”

He gave a cheeky grin. “It is, isn’t it?” He sat down next to her. “It hardly seems fair, you knowing my name when I don’t know yours.”

“Thistle Sandheaver, sir.”

He sat down next to her. “I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Thistle.” He rummaged in his pocket, and pulled out a couple of toffees wrapped in twists of paper, and offered her one. She took it reluctantly, but then unwrapped it and popped it into her mouth as Pippin did the same with the other one. She smiled again, this one a bit happier than the first.

“Thank you, Master Pippin.”

“IF you don’t think me too nosy for asking, Thistle, why are you in here crying?” His brows drew together sternly, “Has someone been unkind to you?” His tone of voice, had he only known it, sounded remarkably like his cousin Frodo.

“Oh, no, no, sir! Well, not to speak of. It’s just, well, I’ve only been here a few days. I don’t know anyone very well, and they don’t speak to me much, and I miss my family! But they were so pleased when I got this position. They said I would have a good future here! But it’s awful lonesome without my mam and dad and my brothers…”

“I know just how you feel, Thistle!”

“You, sir?”

“Since you are so new yourself, you might not know, but I’ve only lived here a couple of weeks myself.”

“Really?” She gaped at him. “But you are the Thain’s son!”

“Well, my father’s been Thain for a year, but I’ve been spending that whole year in Buckland with my cousin.”

“Buckland!” Thistle’s eyes grew wide. From her expression he could have told her he’d been living on the Moon.

He nodded. “My parents wanted to get settled and make some changes here before my sisters and I came to live here. I like it in Buckland; Merry is my best cousin, and there are lots of other lads in Brandy Hall. But I missed my mother and my father and my sisters dreadfully the whole time.” He patted her on the shoulder. “So I do know how you feel.”

She nodded. “I think you do, sir!” She sat forward, and put up her hand to tuck some of her hair back under the kerchief she wore. “I had better get back to the kitchen before they start to wonder where I’ve been.”

Pippin nodded. “That might be best.” He stayed where he was as she stood up. He gave her a smile and a wink. “I’ll stay here for a little while.”

“Oh, thank you, Master Pippin!” She smiled down at him. “Mayhap I will like it here after all.” She slipped out. Pippin waited till he heard the outer door to the passage close, and then he stood up to look through the shelves and see what he could find to eat. Ah! There were some pears.

Great Smials might not be the best place in the world, but it was where he lived now. He supposed he might as well make the best of it. He rubbed a pear on his sleeve and took a juicy bite.

*********


*Mistress Lalia's accident was documented by JRRT in one of his letters, Letter #214. The details and circumstances in this story are entirely my own invention.

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
claudia603
Jan. 30th, 2011 05:09 pm (UTC)
You amaze me with your use of obscure Shire history and weaving them into stories. This was really a lovely filler!
dreamflower02
Jan. 30th, 2011 05:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you dear! I'm glad you enjoyed it!
ceshaughnessy
Jan. 30th, 2011 05:27 pm (UTC)
A wonderful tale, I really enjoyed it! I recall the stories you referenced as well. Lol, I always feel like I've learned a lot when I read your stories!!
dreamflower02
Jan. 30th, 2011 06:10 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Sometimes I feel like I'm writing gapfillers for my own gapfillers, LOL! But I am so glad you enjoyed it!
ceshaughnessy
Jan. 30th, 2011 08:40 pm (UTC)
*Grin*
shirebound
Jan. 30th, 2011 05:53 pm (UTC)
Dear Pippin! I do feel that he made friends (and brought smiles) anywhere he went.
dreamflower02
Jan. 30th, 2011 06:16 pm (UTC)
So do I. He seemed to have a very sympathetic heart and a way of understanding people in addition to his unquenchable cheer! Look how quickly he became friends with Beregond and Bergil and Faramir!
grey_wonderer
Jan. 30th, 2011 06:22 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed this one very much. I always did like the aunts. they are lovely characters. : )
dreamflower02
Jan. 31st, 2011 02:02 am (UTC)
Thank you, dear! I'm pretty fond of the "Aunties" myself!
addie71
Jan. 30th, 2011 06:38 pm (UTC)
How like Pippin to comfort the new serving girl and make her feel welcome even when he wasn't feeling that way himself!
dreamflower02
Jan. 31st, 2011 02:03 am (UTC)
I think it is simply his way, and in the process, he makes himself feel better as well. Pippin has a very large heart!
mews1945
Jan. 30th, 2011 07:06 pm (UTC)
Pippin is such a sweetheart in this, if I didn't already love him, I'd love him now, for his bravery and kindness. It makes me think his parents brought him up well.
dreamflower02
Jan. 31st, 2011 02:04 am (UTC)
He is very brave and kind! And I am quite sure a good deal of that has to do with Paladin and Eglantine! (And Frodo and Merry as well! *grin*)
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )