2. Granddaughters and Grandmothers
Willow inched into the kitchen, looking vaguely embarrassed and very obviously uncomfortable. Éowyn raised her eyebrows at her pretty granddaughter. She was not fooled a bit by the girl's quiet and self-effacing demeanour in the company of her elders. She had recognized the mischievous glint in the girl's eyes a long time ago. A long time ago in Edoras a tall and slender young girl with golden hair and brilliant blue eyes had been known for just the same streak of character: a propensity for subtle pranks and well hidden tricks. Blood will tell... For a moment Éowyn was tempted to ask, And what did you do now?
But the girl was growing up; although Willow was not yet a tween, she was farther along than her age mates. Not much, but enough for awkward moments now and again, when her friends were still blissfully unaware of certain undercurrents and tensions. So Éowyn settled for a friendly smile and simply asked, "What's the matter, Willow?"
The girl blushed even harder. Éowyn frowned. "Willow?"
"I – errr- grandfatherMerrysentmetohelpyouinthekitchen." Willow did not even try to hide her red face. Instead she lowered her head and intently studied the pattern of the tiles in front of her well-brushed feet. When she had been little, the now thick and curly hair on her feet had been so light and downy that Ivy had made her wear shoes when the snow was thick on the ground in winter. It was a matter of pride to her that now, as she was growing older, her hobbit blood won out. The hair on her feet was unusual in its softness and colouring and she spent a lot of time caring for it. Now she seemed to need the comfort of her pretty feet to sustain her.
"Merry sent you to help me in the kitchen?" Éowyn repeated patiently. "Willow? Look at me! What happened?"
The girl blushed even more and continued to evade her grandmother's gaze.
"Willow! Talk to me!"
"I – I – Gran, I..."
But before she got any further a blood-curdling scream interrupted their conversation.
"Peregrin Took, you filthy pig, for THIS I will KILL YOU!"
Éowyn started both at the volume of the scream and at the choice of words, but she did not miss the way Willow seemed to shrink and cower in her corner next to the kitchen door. Éowyn felt her eyebrows rise another inch. If Merry was that upset and if this remarkable show of temper had something to do with anything that her granddaughter had done, it would be wiser to have her out of the hole for a bit. "Why don't you go and visit Auntie Marigold? The old dear is always happy for a bit of company. But be back in time for dinner. And tonight we'll talk about what happened." She favoured her granddaughter with a stern glance. Willow nodded, and hung her head. "And now go!"
Éowyn hurried out of the kitchen, following the direction of her husband's scream. Hastening along the corridor, she was surprised to see the door of Ivy's and Pippin's bedroom open. She slowed down and – minding the lintel (while the ceilings were generally more than high enough to accommodate her height, the lintels were another matter) – entered the room. Merry was standing next to the bed, a worn book in his hand, his face purple with rage. At his feet pooled a purple silk scarf.
Éowyn looked at the scarf, the dark, neutral cover of the book, giving nothing away about its contents and again at Merry's contorted features. She inhaled deeply, forcing her voice to be calm and a little concerned. "What's the matter, dear?"
It was probably wiser not to mention Willow's embarrassed blush right now.
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