2. Battered and Bruised
"Pippin! Oh my child, what have you been doing?" Pearl gasped in horror as Pippin climbed up into the pony trap in which she drove each day to Tuckborough to fetch her young brother. At twenty-two years old, Pearl acted more like a second mother to her baby brother and had always been very protective of him.
The little hobbit had tried very hard to disguise the damage done by his classmates, but it is extremely difficult to conceal a swollen nose when it is right in the middle of your face and his bruised, closed eye was still obvious, even underneath his brown curls, pulled down to try and hide the evidence.
"Pippin! Have you been fighting?" Pearl pushed back the curls from his face and looked at his eye in horror.
"No Pearl – really not." Pippin was completely confident that this was not a lie – after all he hadn't done any fighting. They did all the fighting; he just got hit a lot.
"Then how did this happen?" Pearl took hold of the scraped hands and turned them over and then inspected the grazed knees, taking in at the same time the large swelling on the small hobbit's foot – possibly a broken bone she thought. "Who did this to you? I shall go and bang their heads together at once."
"No Pearl – please, please. They'll laugh at me and call me a baby if you do anything. They'll say I get my big sister to fight my battles." A note of panic was in Pippin's voice. "Please, please, I beg you, please don't!"
"I'm not having you beaten about like a rat in a barn!" Pearl had taken her scarf and dampened it with water from a bottle in the trap, then folded it and placed it over Pippin's still bleeding nose. "I'm seeing father as soon as we get home and telling him that school is a torment and a punishment for you."
"No! Please Pearl – you mustn't tell Papa! I can't bear it." Pippin began to well up with tears again. "Don't tell him – I so want him to be proud of me – please say you won't. Please, please."
Pearl knew that she could not let this rest, but for the moment the most important thing was Pippin. "Come here my little love." Pearl put her arms around him and cuddled him close, "First we have to see to those bruises. Then we'll see what's to be done. Can't have my little brother coming home in this state."
Pearl could not carry out her threat to tell the Thain as soon as they got home, since Paladin had gone riding down to the bottom farm to see if the crop was ready to harvest. Eglantine was closeted in her chamber, suffering from a bad headache and Pearl decided not to burden her mother for the moment, it would only upset her if she thought Pippin had been fighting.
Her first task was to draw Pippin a warm bath and infuse some good herbs in warm water to ease his hurts. His clothes were carefully laid to one side, not for the laundry, she would wash and mend these herself. She did not want the servants gossiping about Pippin getting into trouble at school.
First she soaked him and soaped him clean in the warm bath, then wrapped him in a warm soft towel and gently treated the damaged child's injuries. She used elderflower and witch hazel for the bruising and lavender and rosemary to inhale for his hurt, bleeding nose.
That done, she put her little brother to bed. "Now you stay there and I'll bring a tray tonight for both your tea and supper." Pearl sat on the bed for a moment and looked critically at the bruised and closed eye again. "I still think you need a healer for that eye."
"But if you call the healer, Mamma will know and she'll tell Papa," Pippin was frantic that his parents should not find out about the beating. "Please can we just wait until morning? I promise it will be better. It hardly hurts at all. Please Pearl, please!"
"Well, we'll see." Pearl soothed Pippin's hair back from his face. "I can tell Mamma that you fell, we don't have to talk about any fighting."
"Yes, Pearl," Pippin jumped at the idea. "That would be all right. You're so clever."
"But tell me little one." Pearl was not going to let this pass, no matter what Pippin thought right now. "What were you fighting about?"
"I didn't," Pippin sniffed and pulled his arms around his trembling body as if trying to shield himself from the memory of the hurt. "The big lads were saying horrid things about me. About how Mamma and Papa didn't really want me and that Papa only got me because he wanted to be Thain. And that… that…" Pippin could not bring himself to tell Pearl the rest of the taunt. That they had said he was not their child and that they had bought him.
"There, there," Pearl drew him in now as the tears started again. She too had heard the rumours. Gossip, nothing but gossip she knew how folk liked to talk. And even if there were a grain of truth, Pearl was sure it was not quite as black as some would paint it. "Don’t you fret about that nonsense, of course Mamma and Papa wanted you."
"But why would they say that if it's not true?" Pippin sobbed in Pearl's kind embrace. He really did not understand why anyone would lie just to hurt. "Why didn't Mamma and Papa want me?"
Pippin's desperation cut into Pearl's heart and made her throat close up with anger and sorrow. Sorrow, as she realised that this time she could not intercede on her dear little brother's behalf, it could only make things worse. But that would not be the end of it – there would be something she could do. She would find evidence for the truth about Pippin's origins and make sure that his fears were laid to rest. First however, there were the bullies to deal with.
This was not the first time Pippin had been troubled by his new school. Pearl had heard him crying in his room and knew he was agonising over his letters. She had tried to help before, but Pippin lacked penmanship and in spite of all her attempts to teach him, he still made blots and muddled his letters.
His parents expected him to do well. She knew how much Pippin feared they would find out that he might fall short of their expectations and, although they would not have scolded him, little Pippin lived to please them.
Pearl also knew that he would have been embarrassed if she had offered to actually do his homework for him. That would have been cheating and, besides having his big sister do his writing out for him, would not boost Pippin's confidence.
But there was someone else that she had been able to guide in the right direction. It was no accident that young Meriadoc had gone to Pippin's room that night and forged his homework. Later when she had quizzed Merry about his final solution she was satisfied to discover how he had resolved the problem. Perhaps Merry could be the solution again.
*See Recaptured Continued Chapter 12/104 – In Dreams
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