Politics of Arda
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When the King Comes Back (the Great Smials): 2. Chapter 2
Only his eldest sister Pearl was there before Pippin. Pimpernel and Pervinca and their husbands had children to tuck in , and of course
Paladin and Eglantine would wait until all their children were assembled before they entered.
“Pearl, I’m sorry. I heard about Falco.”
“It was very sudden and unexpected. The healer said he must have had a hidden problem with his heart from the time he was a babe.” She looked up at her brother and put one hand up to his hair. “Pip, I’m so glad you are back.”
Just then Vinca and Tanto, and Pimmie and Milo came in. Conversation became general as Pippin and Pearl asked after their little nieces and nephews. Tanto noticed the small cloth wrapped bundle Pippin had under one arm.
Pippin grinned. “Sorry, brother, that will have to wait until Mother and Father arrive.”
It wasn’t a long wait. Their parents came in only moments later. The Thain closed the door sharply behind them and greeted his children. Then he and Eglantine took their seats in the two large chairs by the fires. This was the signal for the rest of the family to be seated. Pearl sat on an ottoman next to her mother’s chair, Pimpernel and Milo claimed the settee, and newlyweds Pervinca and Tanto elected to share a large chair. Though there were a couple more large and comfortable chairs in the room, Pippin did not sit down. Instead he opened the bundle he held.
His face began to turn red. “Before we do anything else, I--I did a bit of shopping in Minas Tirith.” There were several little carved wooden boxes. He handed the three smallest to his sisters, and two slightly larger to his brothers-in-law. He felt a bit odd doing that, as one of them had been originally intended for Falco, but he felt he must give Tanto something, and he thought that Pearl would not mind. There were two boxes remaining. He leaned over and deposited one in his mother’s lap, along with a kiss on her cheek, and turned to give the other to his father. When Paladin did not move to take it, he gently laid it on the arm of the chair.
“Umm--there!” said Pippin, turning red to the tips of his ears. He sat abruptly on the floor and hid his face on his knees.
This alarming performance was greeted by gentle feminine laughter and Paladin felt his heart give a lurch. For the first time since Peregrin’s return, he felt like this grim faced stranger might actually be his own son.
For ever since Pippin was a small lad, all major gifting occasions had been greeted by such behavior. He was so torn between fear the gifts would not suit, a sincere wish to delight the recipient and a profound embarrassment at being thanked that he could not stand to face it. A chorus of gratitude caused him excruciating mortification. He would not look up at anyone until he was sure it was over.
The gifts for his brothers-in-law had not taken a lot of thought: nice silver pocket fobs and chains suitable for a watch, a knife or a purse, or just to hang upon one’s weskit. For his sisters he had gotten earrings : the two younger had their namesake flowers, wrought in gold and bright enamel, while the oldest had a pair of perfectly matched pearls in an exquisite silver setting. They oohed and ahhed.
Paladin became aware of his wife’s glare. So, she wanted to go last, eh? He picked up his box and lifted the lid.
There lay a gold pocket watch, the case engraved with the Tookish monogram, and inlaid with tiny vines and leaves of silver. He gasped in spite of himself, and was hit by a wave of conflicting emotions. He felt like hurling the gift, box and all, at his son, and asking him did he think he had to *bribe* his way back into the family. He felt sheer amazement that his son could have chosen for him something so profoundly perfect. And a third part of his mind was coldly wondering how much it had cost. Surely the boy had left the Shire with no more than a pocketful of coppers. What *had* he been doing?
Eglantine removed the lid from her box. Slowly she lifted out a bracelet. The links were gold and silver entwined, the clasp a golden leaf with silver veins. Dangling from the bracelet were four charms. Three of them matched his sister’s earrings, save that the flowers were set with colored jewels rather than enamel. The fourth charm was an exquisitely fashioned little peregrine falcon of silver, wings spread, talons outstretched.
“Oh. Oh my!” Her eyes were bright with unshed tears.
Pippin cautiously raised anxious eyes. “Do you like it?” he asked fearfully.
“Oh, my dear, it’s more than magnificent. But you know, son, you did not *need* to do all this…”
“I’m sorry, Mother, you’re wrong, I did need to, badly. We were so *horribly* homesick those last few weeks in Minas Tirith. Getting gifts for the family made us feel as though we really were coming home.”
There was a brief silence, broken by Paladin clearing his throat. “Well, that’s all well and good, but it’s not why we’re here tonight. You promised us an explanation--you *owe* us an explanation for all the grief you’ve put us through.”
“ You’re right, Father, and I’m prepared for that now. But I hope you’ll bear with me, because I don’t know any other way than to tell it all, and there are some things I still don’t understand myself. It’s a very *long* story.”
Paladin nodded. He’d expected nothing less.
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