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JAM AND PUNISHMENT  by Grey Wonderer

“Knock, Knock!”

“Who’s there?”

“Dis”

“Dis who?”

“Dis is da disclaimer dat’s who.”

“Pippin, that is the worst joke I’ve ever heard,” Frodo groaned.

“Well, then you think of one,” Pippin said.  “This is supposed to be a disclaimer with a joke included and that’s all I’ve got, really.  What do you have?”

“Never mind,” Frodo sighed.

“You don’t have anything, do you?”  Pippin grinned.

“No,” Frodo admitted in annoyance.

“Very well, then we'll just have to use mine,”  Pippin said importantly.   “If this story offends you, sounds familiar, seems to have characters in it that belong to someone else, isn’t amusing, isn’t properly formatted, doesn’t make sense on any level, is riddled with poor spelling and grammatical errors, has no plot, gives you nightmares, makes you break out in hives, sends you screaming from the room, causes your computer to crash, makes you hungry, or offends your sensibilities in any way, the author cannot be held responsible.  That is because we’ve posted this disclaimer and that covers everything.”

“You’ve left something important out,” Frodo objected.

“Me?  Right?  I’m not yet featured in the prologue,” Merry said.

“No, that’s not what I meant,” Frodo frowned.  

“Then what did you mean, Frodo?” Pippin asked.

“You left out the portion of the prologue in which you inform the reader that the author isn’t making any money on this story,” Frodo said.

“I would think that part would be obvious,” Merry objected.

“How so?” Frodo frowned.

“It’s not worth the time it took to type it.  Who’d pay for it?  Anyone with half a brain knows that no one made a single penny on this,” Merry said.

“I suppose that’s true,” Frodo agreed.

“It may be true, but I still have to include that part,” Pippin said.

“Why?” Merry asked.

“Because, how do we know that the folks reading this have half a brain?  For all we know, the only folks reading this are, well, you know, less-than clever shall we say?” Pippin pointed out.

“Good thinking, Pip,” Merry said.  “Go ahead and do the part about the money because you just never know who is reading this sort of thing.”

“And so, in conclusion,” Pippin said.  “It is my responsibility to let you know that no one, especially the person that wrote this, is making any money at all for it.  The entire thing was written and posted for free, which when you think about it, seems completely mad.”

“Try not to think about it, Pip,” Merry frowned.  “Just get on with it.”

“Right,” Pippin nodded.  “That’s it, really.  No one got paid.  We aren’t responsible for anything that goes wrong with anything and the characters in the story weren’t created by the so-called author that posted this.”

“You should mention the name of the author that did create the characters,” Frodo suggested.

“Don’t people know that already?” Pippin asked.

“Some folks don’t read the classics, Pip,” Merry sighed.

“That’s terrible!”  

“But it’s true,” Merry said.

“Fine,” Pippin frowned.  “For any of you unfortunate folks that haven’t had the time or made the effort to read the *real* book and have been living under a rock somewhere and won’t really know this; the characters, including me, in this story are borrowed, and I use that term loosely, from the works of J. R. R. Tolkien.”

“I think that does it,” Merry smiled.

“Splendid.  Now all of those folks out there that haven’t read the real book, turn off your computers now, get up from your chairs, and go to the book store or the library and get a copy of J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” and read it instead of wasting your time on this kind of stuff,” Pippin advised.  

“Well said,” Frodo smiled.

“I knew you’d approve of that,” Merry said rolling his eyes.  “You’re in the real book much more than you are in this story.”

Frodo continued to smiled.  “That, Meriadoc, is why the real book is considered to be a classic.”


GW           05-24-2009


Jam and Punishment

Paladin Took sighed.  He was resigned to others doubting his claims on the current subject.  Most folk had to experience it themselves before they could understand.  As he looked at the doubtful expression on his brother-in-law’s face he knew that his words had failed to have the desired impact.  

“I suppose every parent in the Shire finds it difficult to discipline their children.  It isn’t at all pleasant,” Saradoc said avoiding eye contact with Paladin and choosing instead to gaze at the sticky mess that had been the tidy, Brandybuck kitchen a few hours earlier.  “With Merry, I often have to remind myself that I’m doing it for his own good.  I don’t enjoy taking privileges away from the lad or giving him extra tasks to perform around the smial but I know that if I don’t he’ll be the one to suffer for it later.  A sense of responsibility is an important thing for a hobbit to have in life.”

Paladin nodded absently and gave a silent thank-you to the fates that his wife and three daughters had not accompanied him on this visit to Buckland.  This had been a Father and son outing and so only he and Peregrin had come to Buckland.  It would be less difficult to take Peregrin in hand without the lasses here to step in and defend the little imp.

“I try to give Merry a sense that his actions have consequences and to impress upon him the need to consider others,” Saradoc was saying.  “I’m not always as successful as I’d like but I think Merry learns something from each instance.  Oh, sometimes I have a hard time getting a punishment past his Mother.  Your sister isn’t as firm with the lad.”

“I resent that, Sara,” Esmeralda Brandybuck said.  “I happen to think that you are the one that gives in to Merry the most.  You don’t always see through his tricks.  A mother knows when her child is lying.  I can always tell.”

Saradoc gave Paladin a long-suffering look and then said, “What do you plan to do to punish the lad for this?”  He waved a hand about as if to encompass the entire mess.

Paladin cleared his throat nervously.  He’d always been a throat-clearer.  It seemed that whenever he was put on the spot his voice just went away.  “Well,” he began a bit hoarsely.  “I will, of course need to speak with him and see what his explanation is for this.”

“How does anyone explain this?” Saradoc asked.  He picked up a jam-coated spoon and frowned.  “Further more, how does one tiny hobbit lad eat four full jars of jam?”

“He didn't eat *all* of it, Sara,” Esmeralda grimaced.  “There’s more than a little of it coating our kitchen.  I’d say on the whole, Peregrin managed to eat two and a half jars of jam and he decorated our kitchen with the rest.”  She was holding a damp cloth in one hand ready to begin the task of cleaning up but she seemed unable to decide where to begin.

“I am to blame really,” Paladin sighed.  “I shouldn’t have allowed him to wander off.  I know full well that I should keep him within sight while visiting but when you and I went out for a pipe, Sara, I lost track of him.”

“You can’t blame yourself, Paladin,” Saradoc said peering into an empty jam jar that was sitting on a chair.  “You have to allow Peregrin to shoulder the blame for his mistakes.”

“Well, he is only eight,” Paladin begin.  “And he hasn’t been visiting too often.  The few times that he has, it's been with other family members.  He isn't very well traveled just yet.”

“Nor will he be welcome when he does visit if you don’t do something about this,” Saradoc frowned.  “That used to be a loaf of bread.  Now, it is half gone and what is left is sticky and appears to have been twisted into a knot.”

“We don’t allow Peregrin to use knives and so I suspect that he has used his hands to break off a piece of the bread for his jam,” Paladin reasoned.

“I see,” Saradoc said but it was clear that he didn’t.

“His Mother and I don’t want him cutting off a finger or worse,” Paladin explained further.  “The lad isn’t good with knives just yet.”

“He won’t learn unless you show him and allow him to use them,” Esmeralda said.  “You’re coddling the lad, Paladin.”

“Perhaps,” Paladin said.  “Still the very idea of Peregrin wielding a knife of any sort makes me break out in goose flesh.”  He felt the disapproving eyes of his younger sister and his brother-in-law upon him and he wished that he had kept Peregrin close at hand.

“I’m going to take Merry into Bucklebury with me if that’s agreeable,” Frodo said as he entered the kitchen.  The adults had been in here for some time now.  It seemed to Frodo that a trip away from Brandy Hall might be a good idea.  Something was wrong and it was best, whenever possible, not to be caught in the middle of things.  Bilbo had taught him to avoid trouble whenever possible.

“Yes, I suppose that would be fine,” Saradoc said distractedly.

“Is Peregrin with Merry?” Esmeralda asked.

“No,” Frodo said his eyes now focused on a large smear of raspberry jam that ran down the side of one table leg.  Just below the smear was a healthy-sized dollop of jam on the floor.

“Do you have any idea where he is?” Esmeralda asked.

“No,” Frodo said quickly.

“Follow the jam,” Merry suggested pointing to one sticky foot print.  

“Merry, I didn’t see you come in,” Esmeralda said looking at her sixteen-year-old son who was grinning from ear-to-ear.  Merry often found the misbehaviour of others amusing.  It was something that Esmeralda needed to speak with the lad about but hadn’t yet done so.  This time, she settled for frowning at him until the grin faded.

“I think the lad’s reasoning is sound,” Saradoc said.  “I suspect that if we follow the trail of jam we will eventually locate Peregrin.”

“So, he’s Peregrin today, is he?” Merry said the grin returning.  His younger cousin was only referred to as Peregrin when he was in trouble.  Most of the time the little child was just Pippin or Pip even.

“Meriadoc, this is not your concern,” Esmeralda said firmly.

“You asked me where he was,” Merry objected.

“No, I asked Frodo where Peregrin was,” Esmeralda corrected.

“I thought you were asking both of us,” Merry countered.

“Do you know where he is?” Esmeralda asked pointedly.

“No, but-”

“Then your part in this discussion is at an end,” Esmeralda said.

“But I can find him,” Merry objected.  “You’ll spend hours just looking for him.  I can find him right now.”

“Then do so,” Esmeralda said.

Merry cupped his hands around his mouth.  Frodo, knowing exactly what was about to happen, covered his ears and stepped back from Merry.

“PIP-PIN!  PIPPIN!”  Merry shouted.

All three adults looked startled and were about to begin taking Merry to task for his actions when suddenly a far off response was heard.  “IS THAT YOU , MERRY?”  a high-pitched voice shouted back curiously.

Merry grinned at the less-than-pleased adults and shouted, “WHO ELSE DID YOU THINK IT WAS?”

“WHAT DO YOU WANT?”  Pippin shouted back.

Merry opened his mouth to reply and his Father placed a hand over Merry’s mouth and said, “Tell Peregrin to go to my study and wait there and then quit shouting.”

“I found him, didn’t I?”  Merry pointed out.  He then shouted, “GO TO DOC’s STUDY AND WAIT IN THERE, PIP!”

“WHY?”

“BECAUSE I SAID TO!”

“BUT WHY?”

“BECAUSE IF YOU DON’T I’LL-”

Saradoc put a hand over Merry’s mouth again.

“PEREGRIN?” Saradoc shouted.

“YES?”

“GO TO MY STUDY NOW!”

There was a slight pause and then the high-pitched voice responded.  “OH, AM I IN TROUBLE?”

“NOW, PEREGRIN!  AND NO MORE SHOUTING!” Saradoc yelled.

Silence followed and Saradoc uncovered Merry’s mouth.  “That wasn’t at all fair,” Merry pointed out.  “You covered my mouth for shouting but you were shouting too.”

Saradoc glared at his son.  “Would you like to spend the evening alone in your room writing a list of reasons why you think my actions were unfair?”

“No, sir,” Merry said quietly.

“Splendid,” Saradoc said.  “Now, let’s not hear any more about it.”

“I suppose I should go to the study and deal with Peregrin’s misbehaviour,” Paladin said clearing his throat again and looking as if he might be the one about to be punished.

“I have an excellent idea,” Esmeralda said placing a hand on her older brother’s shoulder.  “Why don’t you allow Sara to speak to the lad?  You said that you found it difficult to punish Peregrin.  Why don’t you and I watch while Sara does it?  He’ll take a firm hand with the child and it will give you a chance to see that it can be done without harming the lad in any way.”

“Are you going to punish Pippin?” Merry asked his Father with interest.

“Meriadoc,”  Saradoc said sternly.  “Didn’t your mother tell you that this was not your concern?”

“I just wondered,” Merry said innocently.

“Why don’t you and I go on to Bucklebury like we’d planned, Merry?” Frodo said.

“I think we should stay here,” Merry said.

“I don’t know if it would be a good idea for me to shirk my responsibilities as a parent and let Saradoc do my job with Peregrin,” Paladin said as if he didn’t hear the conversation going on between Frodo and Merry at all.

“Just this once, Paladin,” Esmeralda said gently.  “It might help you to see that Peregrin can be disciplined just like any other child.  You seem to think that no one can manage that.  It might be good for you to see it done and then the next time it must be done, you will be better suited to the task.”

“It seems as if I am avoiding the unpleasant part of parenting,” Paladin objected.

“Not at all,” Saradoc assured him.  “You will have the task of making the lad carry out the punishment.  You’ll have to do that so that he knows that you approve of it and support my actions or it will all be for nothing.”

Merry glanced around the kitchen and then said, “Well, if someone doesn’t go to the study and do something soon, there will be a big mess in there too.  If the Pip Squeak has as much jam on him as he got on the kitchen then the study will be just as sticky as this room in no time at all.”

Saradoc glared at Merry but he started walking toward the study and all of the others, including Merry and Frodo, followed along.

“Meriadoc, you and Frodo go on about your business,” Saradoc said stopping just shy of the door to the study.  

“But I might have children some day and I need to see how you punish them,” Merry objected."You can show me while you're showing Uncle Paladin."

“I can show you exactly how I punish children right now,” Saradoc offered.  “Keep doing exactly what you’re doing now, and you will get a first-hand example of my methods that you can use on your own child one day.”

Merry backed up a step.  Frodo placed a hand on Merry’s shoulder and gave a firm tug on the lad’s braces.  “Come on, Merry.  Let’s go to Bucklebury.”

Merry followed Frodo down the hall and away from the Master’s study but he turned a corner and began to run up another hall rather than going toward the door that would lead the two of them outside and to safety.

“Where are you going?” Frodo hissed hurrying after his younger cousin.

“There’s a little room that Doc holds meetings in that is right next to the study.  If we go this way and go in there, we can crack the door between the rooms and listen while the Pip Squeak is getting in trouble,” Merry said.

“Merry, that will get us both in all sorts of trouble,” Frodo objected.

“Not if we don’t get caught,” Merry said.  “So be very quiet in here.”  With that, Merry hurried into the room and silently made his way over to the adjoining door.  Frodo stood in the doorway to the room and watched nervously as Merry quietly opened the door just a crack and sat down with one ear to the opening.

Meanwhile, Saradoc was giving instructions to Paladin and Esmeralda.  “The two of you stay here in the hallway out of sight until I have Peregrin facing my desk.  Then you can come in and listen and observe.  It would be best if Peregrin didn’t know you were watching but if you are going to learn how this is done, you’ll have to watch.”

Esmeralda nodded and put a hand on Paladin’s arm to keep her brother from following Saradoc into the study and spoiling the entire thing.  

As Saradoc walked into the room he saw, much to his relief, that Merry’s dire predictions had not come to pass.  His study was not coated in jam.  Peregrin was just standing there with his back to the big desk looking at the doorway.  As Saradoc entered the room, his very best serious Father-face in place, Pippin looked up at him and said cheerfully, “Hullo, Uncle Doc.”

“Peregrin, turn around and face the desk.  I am going to sit in my chair and I want you to stand right here and pay close attention,” Saradoc instructed.  

The small eight-year-old lad nodded and turned to face the desk.  The child had both hands behind his back and was standing with his feet slightly apart.  His jam and freckle-coated face was turned toward Saradoc with an expression of interest.  “Is that where you sit when you send folks off to be hanged for their crimes?” Peregrin asked.

“What?” Saradoc wasn’t certain that he’d heard the child correctly.  Did Peregrin just ask him if he sent folks to be hanged?

“You know,” Pippin said brightly.  “When someone thieves something from the Hall or steals farm animals and you have to hang them.  Do you tell them about it in this room?”

Saradoc could see Paladin and Esmeralda standing in the doorway looking as surprised as he felt by the question.  

In the other room off of the study Frodo frowned at Merry who was grinning broadly.

“Peregrin, I do not send folks to be hanged,” Saradoc said.

“Do you hang them all by your own self?” Peregrin asked looking slightly nervous.

“No one hangs anyone in Buckland,” Saradoc said.  “We have laws and sometimes I have to settle disputes or give someone a stern talking to but no one in Buckland has ever been hanged for any offence.”

“Oh.” The child looked somewhat disappointed.

“Did Merry tell you that?” Saradoc asked knowing that was exactly what had happened.

“If he did, then I’m not suppose to say that he did,” Pippin said.  “I’m not a tattle-tale and Merry says if I am a tattle-tale that I’ll get warts all over me and no one will play with me.  Folks don’t like warts.”

“Perhaps we should let Merry punish Peregrin,” Paladin whispered softly to Esmeralda.  

She folded her arms over her chest and looked at her feet, embarrassed.

“I’m not going to ask you to tattle,” Saradoc said.

“Good, cause I don’t want warts,” Pippin said.  

In the other room Frodo was also thinking that perhaps Merry should be the member of the Brandybuck family selecting the punishment.  He found himself listening at the door along with Merry.  He felt guilty for it, but Merry was right.  This was more interesting than a trip into Bucklebury any day.

“Peregrin, do you know what manners are?” Saradoc asked hoping to get away from the subject of warts and hangings and back to the matter at hand.

“Manners is what you have if you put your surviette in your lap and don’t talk with your mouth full of potatoes or belch at the table,” Pippin said brightly.  

“Yes, that’s part of what manners are,” Saradoc said.

“I left out not coming to first breakfast without brushing your hair, not throwing food at Pervinca even if she’s being mean, not reaching across the table and getting food out of the bowls with your fingers, not eating things off other folks’ plates, not running in the kitchen, not coming to luncheon with a frog in your pocket, not letting milk come out of your nose when you laugh, not-”

“Yes, yes,” Saradoc broke in.

“Not interrupting folks when they’re talking is a good one too,” Pippin said frowning.

Merry and Frodo struggled very hard not to laugh at this one for fear of giving themselves away.  Esmeralda, on the other hand, left the doorway and hurried into the hall where she could allow herself a small chuckle.  Paladin, who was used to the sort of things that Pippin said, was able to remain silent without too much effort.

“Well, yes, that is a very good one too,” Saradoc agreed slightly flustered.  “But I need to get back to the matter at hand just now and you’ve shown me that you do know exactly what manners are.”

Pippin smiled.  “I’m only eight but I know all kinds of important things.”

Before the child could lead them off down the garden path again with a display of his eight-years' worth of knowledge, Saradoc said, “Were you in the kitchen earlier today?”

“Ye-es,” Pippin said slowly.  He rocked on his heels a bit and Saradoc could tell that the child knew they were getting to the heart of the discussion.

“And did you, perhaps fix yourself a snack of some sort?” Saradoc asked.

“I might have,” Pippin said quietly.

“You might have, or you did?”

“I did,” Pippin whispered.

“What did you have?” Saradoc asked.

“Jam.”

“Just jam?”

“Well, I had some bread too and I had some milk because I didn’t want to choke to death and die,” Pippin explained.  “Pervinca says that sometimes if you put too much food into your mouth and you don’t chew it up and you don’t have anything to drink close by, you can choke to death before you can get something to wash it all down.  Lots of children choke to death.  Especially the ones that eat all of the biscuits without sharing.  Pervinca says they have it coming to them for being selfish.”

Frodo wondered how the child ever managed to go to sleep at night between the things that Merry had told him and the things that his sister, Pervinca had told him.  Frodo saw Merry frowning now.  Apparently, to Merry’s way of thinking, it was all well and good for him to lie to the child, but Pervinca shouldn’t do so.  Frodo smiled.

“So you had some milk and some bread and some jam?” Saradoc prodded.

“I was hungry,” Pippin said.

Esmeralda nodded her head and nudged Paladin in the side to draw his attention to the half empty jam jar in Peregrin's hand.  The child was holding a jam jar behind his back just out of sight while talking with Saradoc.  “Must have taken a bit of jam for later,” she whispered.  Now, Paladin looked embarrassed.

“Why didn’t you ask someone to get something for you?”  Saradoc asked.

“I didn’t want to be any bother,” Pippin said.  “Mum says that sometimes guest come to the smial and just sit on their lazy bums and make you wait on them like they were the King returning to the Shire to rule.  Is there one?”

“Is there one, what?”

“Is there a real King?”

“There was a King a very long time ago,” Saradoc said.

“But the Thain tossed him out of the Shire and told him never to come back again,” Pippin said.  “Pervinca told me about it.  Sometimes she lies to me but I think since you know about it too then it must be true.”

“The Thain threw the King out of the Shire?” Saradoc frowned.  

“You haven’t heard that part?” Pippin asked and then hurried forward.  “Thain Gerontius didn’t like the King messing about in Shire affairs and so he sent him packing.  He called a Shire Muster and set the archers on the old King and they chased him all the way to the bounds and he’s never coming back again.”  

Esmeralda smiled.  “Perhaps when you get home you may want to give your youngest daughter a history lesson,” she whispered.

“I can do so while you are teaching Meriadoc want does and does not cause warts,” Paladin whispered back.

“Pervinca says that if it weren’t for the Thain and the Tooks the Shire would be over-run with big folk,” Pippin said.  “But we Tooks ran them all off with our archers.  Some day I’m going to be an archer for the Thain and go to the bounds and shoot big folk and dragons and keep the Shire safe.”

“Yes, well, that seems like a fine idea for later,” Saradoc said.  “Right now, I’d like to speak to you about my kitchen.”

“Oh, my yes!”  Pippin said happily.

Saradoc was confused by this reaction but he continued all the same.  “Peregrin, when you were having your snack in the kitchen earlier, did you notice anything at all about it?”

“It’s the biggest kitchen that I’ve ever been allowed in,” Pippin said grinning ear-to-ear.  “The one at the Great Smials is big but they don’t ever let you just come in there on your own.  You have to have someone go in there and get things for you.  Here in Buckland at Brandy Hall the kitchen is all friendly.  Anyone can go in there and get something and no one says anything to you at all.  You have lots of fine jams and you have fresh bread and everything is just out where anyone that’s hungry can get it.  At home, because they’re afraid that I’ll make a mess, I have to ask if I want milk.  I can’t go and get that myself.  I can get something out of the biscuit tin if it’s not too near supper or I can have an apple from the bowl but I’m not supposed to plunder.  Everyone says I plunder too much but if you don’t plunder then how are you supposed to find anything?”

When Saradoc failed to respond Pippin continued.  “At home I’m not allowed to plunder.  If mum and papa aren’t home then I have to ask Pearl or Nelly to get my milk.  I’m eight so I should be allowed to get my own milk but they won’t let me.  That’s why I like it here in Brandy Hall.  You let me get my own milk.”

Esmeralda’s eyes had widened and her mouth had fallen open.  It was very clear to Paladin Took that his sister and his brother-in-law were beginning to see the difficulty with punishing Peregrin.  Paladin chanced a look at Saradoc and he could see that the Master of Buckland was at a complete loss for words now.

Pippin, on the other hand, was having no trouble at all with that.  “And you have the finest jam in all the Shire!  No one has jam as good as the jam that you keep here in Buckland.  I wish we had that kind of jam.  The jars are a bit tricky but the jam is splendid!”

“That sneaky little imp,” Merry hissed.

“What do you mean?” Frodo whispered.

“He’s laying it on thicker than the coat of jam he left on our kitchen,” Merry whispered back.

“I don’t think he realizes what he’s doing, Merry.”

“Of course he does.  No one else realizes it but he knows,” Merry insisted.

Meanwhile Pippin was going on and on about the jam.  “It spreads easy too.  I can’t have a knife because Mum says I’ll slice off a finger or two with one so I have to put jam on bread with a spoon and some jam doesn’t spread out right but the jam you have does, Uncle Doc.”

“You did leave the kitchen in a bit of mess, Peregrin,” Saradoc said recovering his voice.

“I know,” Pippin said.  “Frodo always says that if you leave a mess when you eat, it shows you enjoyed it and I really enjoyed it so I left a very big mess.”

Merry looked at Frodo.   Frodo frowned as if trying to recall saying that.

“One time, me and Merry were having pancakes at Bag End and I spilled syrup all over Uncle Bilbo’s floor.  I was only little then.  I was six,” Pippin said as if that had been ages ago.  “I started to cry because I thought everyone would be upset and that’s when Frodo told me that no one would be upset at all.  He said for me not to cry because the bigger the mess, the more it showed your host how much you’d enjoyed the meal.”

In the little room off of the study Merry smirked at Frodo.  “Maybe *you* should be the one to clean our kitchen.”

“He was crying,” Frodo hissed.  “He was little and I just wanted him to stop crying.  I didn’t think he would remember that and take it as a rule to live by.”

“So, Frodo told you that making a mess was a sign that you’d enjoyed the meal?” Saradoc said.

Pippin nodded.  “He told me to please not cry anymore.  He said that Bilbo would like it that I’d spilt the syrup.”

Saradoc was starting to wonder if anyone ever told this small child the truth about anything.  Merry was lying to him about warts, Pervinca was trying to scare him into sharing biscuits, and Frodo was lying to him in order to keep him from crying.  Who, exactly, was the little lad to trust?

“Today, when we left the Inn and started here, Papa told me that if I was extra good, that when we started home, he’d let me drive the waggon some of the time.  I think if I try real hard, I might make it,” Pippin said.  “I have a hard time being good.  I try but I mess up a lot.  Merry says I’m an accident waiting to happen so I guess that’s why.  Pervinca just says that I *am* an accident.  I don’t know exactly what that means but I think she means I’m lots of trouble.”

Paladin was blushing now and Esmeralda was grinning again.  “Out of the mouths of babes,” Esmeralda whispered.

Saradoc got up from his desk and came around to the front again.  He looked down at Pippin and said kindly, “I can appreciate you wanting to make a good impression and I realize that it is important to let folks know when you’ve enjoyed a meal, but here in Buckland we consider it enough if you just tell us how good the food was.  You don’t have to go to the extra effort of making a mess just to impress us, Pippin.”

“Oh, it was no effort,” Pippin grinned.  “Messes just sort of happen all around me.  I don’t even have to try.  Trying to not make a mess is the hard part but that would be rude too.”

“How so?” Saradoc asked.

“Well, Mum says that even if you don’t like something that you’ve been served it isn’t polite to say so,” Pippin said.  “I’m supposed to lie and say it was very good even if I hated it.  So, I guess I’d need to leave a mess even if the food was awful so folks would think I enjoyed it.”

“Paladin, you realize that you will never get this child straight on exactly what the truth is, don’t you?” Esmeralda whispered.

“Apparently not,” Paladin sighed quietly.

“I’m very glad that you enjoyed the jam, Pippin,” Saradoc said with a sigh and an embarrassed look at Paladin.  

“I always enjoy everything here in Buckland,” Pippin said and with that he threw his arms around his Uncle and gave him a sticky hug.  

When Pippin released him, Saradoc noticed that one of Pippin’s hands was inside of a half empty jam jar.  “Pippin, why do you have your hand in that jar?”

Pippin scowled at the jar.  “It’s stuck.  I put my hand in there to get out more of the jam because the spoon got too sticky and then I couldn’t get my hand out again.  The hole in the top of these jars is too small, Uncle Doc.  You have good jam in Buckland but you need better jars.”  Pippin tugged at the jar with his free hand and it didn’t budge.  “See?  My hand is stuck in there and it’s blocking me from getting any of that jam out.  I was going to try and break the jar but that would just get glass in the jam.”

Saradoc took hold of the jar with one hand and Pippin’s wrist with the other and gave an experimental pull but the child’s hand was tightly wedged in the jar.  “You do seem to be stuck.”

“It’s a waste of good jam,” Pippin observed holding the jar up to peer into it.  He looked longingly at the jam.  He didn’t seem at all troubled by the fact that his hand was stuck, only that he was unable to get the remaining jam out of the jar. He turned the jar up so that the jam slid over his trapped fingers and wiggled them about in the jar studying the way they looked.  "It feels all sticky."

Esmeralda hurried over and smiled at Pippin.  “Why don’t you and I see if some soapy water will help your hand slide out of the jar?”

“Won’t that get soap in the jam?” Pippin asked concerned.

Merry, unable to stand it any longer, came into the study followed by Frodo.  Frodo hadn’t planned to follow Merry but when Merry pulled the door open, Frodo had fallen into the room anyway so it was pointless to pretend that he hadn’t been listening.

“Aren’t you going to punish him for destroying our kitchen?” Merry demanded.

Paladin smiled at Saradoc knowingly.

“Hullo, Merry,” Pippin said cheerfully.  “I have my hand stuck in a jam jar.  Wanna see?”  Pippin held the jar up.

“He’s putting on an act for all of you,” Merry frowned.  “I hope you all know when you’ve been taken in.”

“Honestly, Meriadoc,” Esmeralda sighed.  She grasped Pippin’s sticky hand in hers and began to lead him from the room.  “Let’s get that jar off of your hand and get you cleaned up for supper, Pippin.”

“He’s getting away with this?” Merry objected.

“You should be concentrating on how you will convince me not to punish you and Frodo for eaves dropping rather than worrying about what I might or might not do to Pippin,” Saradoc advised.

Merry spluttered and looked at Pippin who was being led from the room now.  “But he ruined our kitchen and ate most of our jam!  Are you really just going to let that go?”

Pippin turned his head around and looked back at Merry, smiling as he left the room with his Aunt.  If asked, Merry would have sworn that Pippin winked at him.

The End


GW            05/24/2009

 
 





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