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Happy Birthday, Dana! (And many more) Til Death Us Do Part
Bridgefields, S.R. 1395
It was the most exciting of times, and it was the worst of crashing bores. Weddings are like that. The mums and lasses dither about, concerned with frills and flourishes, ruffles and lace, superfluities and trimmings and trappings until the dads and tweens go out to smoke their pipes just in order to find a little peace and relief from the encroaching clouds of giggles and whispers and excited fluttering.
This wedding was one of the grandest social events of the decade: Dinodoc Brandybuck was marrying Odovacar Bolger’s youngest sister, Bellanora, and as Odovacar was The Bolger and Dinodoc was a grandson of Gorbadoc Brandybuck and Mirabella Took, it meant that there were Bolgers and Brandybucks, Tooks and Bagginses, and unfortunately even Sackville-Bagginses in attendance.
Most weddings run from one dawning to the next, but this was a three-day affair, and more, if you counted the day set aside for arriving and the day or three set aside for guests to take their leave. (This latter was rather flexible, depending on how much celebrating had been done, and how much time was needed to recover before setting off for home.)
The lads took advantage of the affair with prolonged and glorious games and races and wrestling matches, and the lasses gathered together to dress their dollies in their finest frocks, and pretend to “take tea” and gossip much as their elders did, though some privately thought these pastimes tiresome (stupid, even) and longed, rather, to run and play and climb trees with the lads. Life, however, is full of trials, and we must learn to endure them.
One of the games beloved of young lasses is “dressing up” and acting as if they were a score or more years older. How “fine” they look, tripping about in trailing gowns and gloves that come to their shoulders, and hats that keep falling over their eyes! Any adult coming upon them with the least amount of kindness inside would control twitching lips, saving the hearty laughs until out of earshot at the very least. Unkind adults would scold, and pronounce the children “Ridiculous!” but since they were unkind, the children would take no notice, standing meekly enough to endure the scolding and then returning to the game when Lobelia or some other crotchety aunt was safely away.
But by the third day, “taking tea” was growing stale, and the lasses were looking about for some other diversion. Pearl Took, Paladin’s eldest, hit on a most enticing idea. ‘Let us have a wedding of our own!’ she cried.
‘A wedding of our own!’ came the general cry, with little jumpings and clappings of hands. ‘How delightful!’
Young Estella Bolger rolled her eyes at the idea. Tea parties were stupid enough, but a mock wedding?
‘A wedding!’ Mentha Brandybuck said, eyes glowing. ‘But how?’
‘Easy enough,’ Pearl said, surveying the group with a considering eye. ‘We’ll need someone with thick, curling hair so that we can festoon her with ribbons, and Auntie Rosamunda has the loveliest gown that is just dripping with lace and pearls, and she told me we could use it for dress-up, and...’
‘And Cousin Ruby said we could use her parasol,’ a bright young Bolger said. ‘It’s got lace and real diamonds sewn in, so that it’ll sparkle in the sunshine!’
Estella started. She did so love sparkly things, and she had yearned after that particular parasol, and been told on several occasions to “put that down, dear, and let it be! It’s not for young hands to be handling.”
And so when Pimpernel said, ‘Who’s to be the bride, then?’ Estella was the first to raise her hands in the air, and the loudest at claiming the role.
And because she was the daughter of The Bolger, and the occasion was a Bridgefields wedding, well, everyone soon came round to agree, even young Pervinca who was quite put out at not having the opportunity, herself, to hold the sparkly parasol (though Pearl told her aside that surely Estella would share, just a little).
In no time at all, they’d scoured the closets and travelling trunks of residents and visitors, and all sorts of finery were heaped up and spilling over, and the older lasses were dressing Estella’s hair and working in fancy ribbons “borrowed” from sewing baskets (and some of these were decked with dwarf-glass that shone like diamonds and rubies, emeralds and sapphires, and really were not playthings for young lasses). It took some time, but after a goodly amount of preparation, Estella was ready. Several of the older lasses had raided the jewellery boxes in the guest rooms, and so she was bedecked with strings of pearls and other sparkly stones, including some bracelets that had to be doubled over her slender wrists, and she looked absolutely magnificent.
‘I don’t think the Queen could look any more wonderful,’ Pearl said, mumbling through the pins in her mouth as she pulled the grand dress a little tighter around Estella, and adjusted the drape.
‘Who’s the Queen?’ Pervinca said, looking up with wide eyes.
‘She’s someone married to the King,’ Pearl said, ‘whoever he might be.’
‘There’s no such thing!’ Pimpernel said in a know-it-all tone.
‘That’s right,’ Celandine piped up. She was among the littlest of the lasses there, for the younger ones were kept under the stern eye of governesses and tweens. ‘Dod asked Father when he could have a boat of his own, because grandfather just gave cousin Merimas a boat on his birthday, and Father said, “When the King comes back.” And,’ she added importantly, ‘That means never, you know.’
Pearl sobered briefly. Seredic had been the one to pull Primula, Frodo’s mum, from the water after she’d drowned. But she forced a smile for the little one’s sake, and said gently, ‘That’s right, dear.’
‘But if the Queen is married to the King...’ Pervinca said, still puzzling over the idea. ‘...we have the Queen, but... where’s the King?’
There was a general confusion then, for the lasses had not thought of this! But of course, for a wedding a couple was needed!
Mentha Brandybuck led a small hunting expedition. The lads were in the nearby meadow, playing their ball-and-stick game; at least the older lads were playing, and the younger were watching and whistling and calling raucous comments. Mentha ran an eye over the prospects. Pippin, she decided. He was the smallest of them, barely old enough not to be tied to his mother’s apron strings. He’d probably tagged after Merry, and Merry, attached to the little lad as he was, had been happy for his company. But surely Merry was tired of playing nursemaid by now. He likely wouldn’t even miss Pip, seeing how he was out in the field, squinting into the sun, standing ready in case the ball came his way.
‘Pippin,’ Mentha said in her best coaxing tone. ‘Your mum wants you.’
‘Aw,’ Pippin groaned. ‘She doesn’t, does she?’
‘Bad luck, old chap,’ Doderic said, from his lofty stance of six years, one year more than Pippin. ‘She must’ve noticed you were missing.’
‘Merry asked if he could bring me,’ Pippin said. ‘He did! And she said “yes” if he’d keep an eye on me.’
‘But he’s not keeping much of an eye on you,’ Mentha said in her haughtiest tone. ‘If he’s to watch over a faunt, that means watching the little one, not watching the sky for a ball that might or might not come his way!’
‘I’m not a faunt!’ Pippin shouted.
Mentha looked down her nose at him. ‘You might’ve fooled me,’ she said. ‘You’re little enough to be one.’
Pippin fought back angry tears, for they’d only prove Mentha’s point. ‘I’m not!’ he said, his little hands fisting at his side.
‘Well, come along anyhow, and perhaps your mum will let you come back again once she’s seen you’re all right,’ Mentha said, quite as if she were Eglantine’s messenger.
‘You had better go, cousin,’ Ferdibrand said. He was nursing a black eye, from a ball that he hadn’t seen coming at him, which was why it was Merry squinting into the sun at the moment, and not himself. ‘If you make her angry, Mentha will fill your mum’s ears with all sorts of tales about how she found you wandering near the Water, and Merry was too busy to watch you, and then she’ll never let you out of sight for the rest of your life.’
They were not far from the Water, in point of fact, but Pippin certainly wasn’t wandering. He was sitting in the shade of a tree, and he said so. Nevertheless, when Mentha extended a demanding palm, he sighed and put his hand in hers, and allowed himself to be led from the meadow.
But instead of coming to the wide and pleasant veranda where the mums were sitting and fanning themselves and taking tea along with a little gossip, Mentha led him to the summerhouse, where the lasses were playing. ‘Is Mum here?’
Mentha gave a noncommittal hum, and so Pippin, not yet suspicious, allowed himself to be drawn into the shadowy interior. Perhaps Mum had one of her head aches, and was lying down in the quiet dimness.
Mentha’s grip on his hand tightened, and he pulled away, but a moment too late as a burst of giggles came, seeming to surround him. And then lasses were coming out of the woodwork, or so it seemed, and clapping their hands in delight, and pulling the shutters open to allow in streams of sunlight, highlighting a glittering figure in one corner, that turned out to be... Estella Bolger, a most unbecoming frown on her face.
‘Is that the best you could come up with?’ she said, hands on her hips. ‘He’s still wet behind the ears!’
‘I am not!’ Pippin said, indignant. ‘I didn’t even wash behind my ears today!’
At the gale of laughter that washed over him, he tried again to pull his hand out of Mentha’s, to escape, to no avail. He was surrounded, and they were seizing him from all sides, and some of them had sharp claws, and he thought for a panicked moment of Bilbo and the goblins.
But there was no escape, and though he struggled as well as he may (hampered by Merry’s instruction that he must never hit a lass), he soon found himself stretched out on the floor, his hands tied together behind him, and when he looked to see who it was, tying his ankles together... ‘You, too, Pearl?’ he said in despair.
‘It’s just so you stay put a few moments, until we’re ready,’ she said with a practical smile. ‘And so we don’t mislay you.’
‘But...’ he said, desperate, and then inspiration struck, though he’d never have thought to use this excuse when he was with the lads. ‘But Mum wants me!’
‘Of course she does,’ Pearl said, to placate him, ‘but she said that we could borrow you for a bit, first.’
The pilfered jewellery boxes had been discovered, in part because Ruby had gone to fetch her lace-and-diamond parasol, now that the sun had come out, and found it gone, and at the resulting shriek quite a few of the mums and older lasses had come at a run... or rather, a discreet hurry, for running was something only little lasses did, and that when their mothers weren’t looking.
It didn’t take long to establish that the younger lasses had been playing “dress-up”, and had been seen traipsing away bearing heaps of purloined finery. They’d told the maids that they had permission, and since the maids had seen them in their grown-up finery over the past two days, they hadn’t imagined any difficulty.
‘They’re in the summerhouse,’ Rosamunda said, when the outrage was brought to her attention.
As valuable jewels had been taken, along with the rest, it was deemed that the fathers ought to be brought into the affair, and so the gaffers and dads and tween sons were disturbed from their stone-casting contest, to be dragged along.
And so it was, when they came, that they found Pearl officiating over a wonderful wedding, with many wedding guests in fantastic costumes, dripping with pearls and drooping feathers, gowned and gloved, powdered and studded with jewellery, all very “fine” to the eye.
The adults had come very quietly up to the summerhouse, as quietly as hobbits can go (and they go very quietly indeed). And so, as they peered through the windows, there were a number of grins as well as gasps.
Poor Pippin stood in the grip of two of the largest lasses, fixed in his place beside an astonishing creature that might have been of faerie origin, so fantastic was her appearance.
‘...until I've drunk the last drop in the cup, and no more days remain to me...’ Estella was intoning in a high, clear voice.
‘And that’s that,’ Pearl said, satisfied.
‘I didn’t say it!’ Pippin wailed. ‘I didn’t say it, and you can’t make me say it!’
‘That’s all right, lad, Mentha said it for you,’ Pearl said, and several of the fathers snorted.
‘Then Mentha may be married to Stella, but I won’t!’ Pippin shouted. Several of the mums snorted at this.
Odovacar nudged Paladin Took. ‘You know,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘They do make a striking couple.’
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