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2012 September Challenge story
So, "he was a kindly little soul", was he? Pippin was always embarrassed to overhear other people talking about him, especially when they were saying nice things.
But it was more confusing than embarrassing when the person saying the nice thing made it sound like something bad!
When he had heard them, he'd been sitting on a bench on the south terrace, minding his own business and looking at a book of songs from the Northfarthing. They were walking behind the shrubs that screened the bench from the wind, and could not have seen him sitting there, so he just kept quiet.
He couldn't see them, but he knew their voices: Cousin Rosamunda, who was here visiting, and her sister-in-law, Cousin Duenna.
"They have never truly settled well into the Great Smials, Rosamunda. Especially the youngest!"
"Paladin's children are very bright and well-behaved! I can't think why you say such a thing, Duenna!"
"They were brought up in a much more rustic setting, you know. They don't understand their rightful place. Why I saw young Peregrin the other day helping one of the housemaids carry the dirty laundry!"
Well, of course he had! The load had been much too heavy for her, and a good deal of it was his! He hunched down, his ears burning.
"I'm sure the child meant well," replied Rosamunda. "He is a kindly little soul!"
"Oh, he is! He is very soft-hearted! But how will that do when he is Thain one day and must tell people what to do? Why folks will eat him alive and walk all over him. But yes, of course, he is a kindly little soul!"
Once they'd gone, he got up and walked off, feeling embarrassed, hurt, confused and angry. A child! Why he was a tween-- nearly twenty-four! And he hated being reminded of his eventual Thainhood!
But why was being kind so awful? And was he really all that kind? Why, he guessed he could think up seventy-five ways he wasn't "kind" right now: One, he picked on his sisters; two, he went scrumping whenever he could-- he was sure that wasn't "kind"; three, he didn't like his Banks cousins; he talked back to his parents sometimes, and he disobeyed them, and sometimes he lied to them; he sometimes didn't do the lessons he was set by his tutors, and sometimes he made fun of them behind their backs; he -- wait, what number was that? He'd completely lost track. It was a long way from seventy-five, but he was sure there were a lot more things if he put his mind to it.
So what if he was kind? Why did it rankle so?
He wished he had someone he could ask about it. But Merry was at home in Buckland, and he would have just said, "See, I always tell you that you are too nice for your own good!" And he did not want to bother his parents with it---they had enough trouble running the Great Smials and all these Tooks without him bothering them with every little thing. Pearl would have become angry that anyone had been gossiping about him. Ever since that incident with old Mistress Lalia years ago, his oldest sister had very little tolerance for gossip. Pimmie and Vinca would have laughed and said they didn't know him very well if they called him "kind", and if they knew of half the things he'd done to plague his sisters, they'd never have said it. He could have talked to Auntie Peridot, but she was away in Michel Delving visiting her son. Aunt Esme would understand-- but she was, like Merry, in Buckland, which might as well be the Moon for all the good it would do him. Frodo would understand. Frodo was probably the kindest person Pippin knew-- but no one would ever walk all over him, not if he gave them his Look. Frodo was kind, but he never stood for unkindness in others! But Frodo was off in Bag End...
Lost in thought, he had paid little attention to where he was going, so he was quite startled to hear Frodo call his voice.
"Pippin!" Frodo was walking towards him up the corridor.
"Frodo?" Pippin was shocked; it felt as though his cousin had appeared by magic, just by his thinking of him! But, no, of course not. "Frodo! I was just thinking of you! What are you doing here?"
"I came to speak to your father about the upkeep of the Post Road between here and Hobbiton." The Post Road was supposed to only be used by the post riders, but everyone used it anyway, as it was a shorter way to Tuckborough than the road which ran through Michel Delving. But since it was not supposed to be a proper road, it was always full of potholes.
"What's wrong, Pip-dearest?" Frodo was almost as good as Merry in knowing when Pippin was bothered.
"Can we talk?"
"Of course; I was actually looking for you, for I have finished my business with your father."
They went to Pippin's room. Pippin flopped on his bed, after moving his clothes out of the way. Frodo carefully removed Pippin's fiddle from the armchair next to the bed, and sprawled in it. "So, tell old Gaffer Frodo what the problem is."
Pippin laughed. Frodo was far from Gaffer-like. No one would guess he was pushing forty-six. He didn't really look any older than Merry who would come of age on his next birthday, for all that he was fourteen years older than their Brandybuck cousin. Then Pippin sobered up again as he recalled his problem.
He sat up tailor fashion on the bed, and poured out the whole conversation word for word-- he had an excellent memory for anything he'd heard. He saw Frodo's eyes flash and his lips purse, and he remembered that Frodo was no keener on gossip than Pearl was. People sometimes said dreadful things about his parents' death, and some pretty horrible things about Bilbo as well, calling him "Mad Baggins" and worse.
"So why is it so awful to be a 'kindly little soul'?" Pippin twisted around and put his feet on the headboard and began tapping them in rhythm. Then he caught Frodo's amused look and stopped. It was very hard to sit still.
Frodo leaned forward and looked at Pippin earnestly. "It's not awful at all. I know that Gandalf has used that very same phrase to describe Bilbo, in fact, and he meant it as the highest of compliments."
Pippin blinked. "Really?" He sat up again abruptly.
Frodo nodded. "But of course, Cousin Duenna did not mean it that way, and you could tell from her voice that she thought that your kindness was misplaced and foolish. But trust me, it was not!"
Pippin looked at Frodo's eyes; he was very serious now.
"Pip, you are a kindly soul, and that is never wrong, especially when you are kind to the servants and those who wait upon you, for those people will always remember that. And there is nothing wrong with being kind to those who are unkind to you. Being kind, being nice, being courteous is never ever the wrong thing. But that does not mean that you must allow people to be unkind to you or those you love. You can learn how to stop people from that as you grow older."
Pippin grinned. "You are very good at that! I will never forget how you stopped that clerk at Brownlock's from being rude to me that day when I was little, but you never raised your voice at all-- you just stared at him."
Frodo laughed. "You can learn to do that as well, you know."
"But how?" Pippin had always wondered how Frodo's Look worked.
"When you know someone is in the wrong, they usually know they are as well; but they choose to ignore that little voice in their heart that tells them so. Just look at them and think about how you know they are being wrong-headed and rude and that they know it and that you know that they know it. Look at them as though you expected better of them, and are immensely disappointed that they have let you down. Look at them and think about how you cannot believe they just said or did something so wrong."
"Oh." Pippin mulled over the advice. "It sounds complicated."
"It's not. But the main thing, Pippin, is to be your own dear self. Those who find kindness to be a fault will someday be quite sorry. The day will come when they need a kindness shown to them."
Pippin smiled. "Now you make me feel sorry for them."
"There is nothing wrong with that, Pippin. As for me, I am very proud to know such a 'kindly little soul'."
Pippin grinned. Now a compliment from Frodo Baggins, that was a compliment indeed!
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