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More of Tulip's continuing adventure!



“Pig-Napped!”
Chapter Two


It seemed like they had turned the entire Hall upside down and there was still no sign of a pink knitted piglet. They had looked in every room, searched every closet, looked under all the beds, and even turned out the pockets of every lad who looked the slightest bit guilty. This delighted young Teriadoc to no end, and he in turn had insisted Pippin do the same. Last of all, Pippin asked his father to hold him up so he could look inside the Grandfather clock that stood inside the entrance to Brandy Hall. Again, they did not find Tulip.

Pippin refused to stop searching and begged Merry to accompany him into the far reaches of the older section of the huge smial. Eglantine was about to put her foot down, but was persuaded to allow Pippin to go as long as Merry’s older cousins accompanied them. The older parts of the Hall were vast and it wouldn’t be difficult for little ones to lose their way. Some of the children had turned the search into a game and enthusiastically shouted out their discoveries to one another as they hunted, and kept up a game of ‘Hide and Seek’ along the way.
***
Sancho lay on the bed alone in his room, alternately crying and sulking at the accusations Pippin had made. No one believed him, not even his own mother. He wished his father would arrive soon. Surely he would believe him? While it was true he had thought about taking Tulip, just for the purpose of teasing Pippin, he actually hadn’t ever got around to it. So, who had done it? He turned the recent events over in his mind and kept coming back to the same conclusion. Teriadoc. Why that little. . . Of course, it made perfect sense. He was the only one Sancho had told his secret. And now Teriadoc was using it against him. Well, he’d show him. Sancho sat up on the bed and looked around the room, frowning. But first he had to get permission to leave his room. He flopped onto his back with a grunt and curled into a ball just as a knock came at the door.

“Dear?” Sapphire Proudfoot peeked in. Her only answer was a sigh. She perched on the foot of the bed, watching her son as he pretended to ignore her. “Sancho, did you take Pippin’s toy? You certainly have been teasing him about it a great deal.” She reached out and brushed a tear from her son’s cheek with a soft sweep of her fingers.

“I told you I didn’t. Why don’t you believe me?”

Sapphire gazed at him. “I do believe you.”

Surprise lit up his face. “Really? You do?”

“Yes.” She touched his unruly curls, brushing the hair away from his eyes. “So, what do you think happened to Tulip?”

Sancho scrunched up his face. “If I tell you something, will you promise not to be angry?”

“What are you talking about? Do you know where she is?”

“No, I promise I don’t, Mum. But I think Teriadoc took her. And I think he did it because he wanted Pippin to think I did it, and he wanted to get me in trouble.”

“And just why would Teriadoc want to get you into trouble?”

“Because he’s a little horror.”

“Sancho,” his mother reproved. “That isn’t a kind thing to say.”

“Well, he is.” Sancho crossed his arms and fell back into the pillows. “I told him a secret because I thought he was my friend. Now I don’t think he’s going to keep it. He’s using it to torment me and get me in trouble too.”

“What secret?”

“I don’t want to tell.”

“Why do you think Teriadoc wants to tell the secret you shared with him?”

“He’s a tittle-tattler. He likes to tell things he hears or he sees just to find out what will happen. He likes to get other lads in trouble, and lasses too, sometimes. I knew I shouldn’t have trusted him!”

Sapphire tried again. “But dear, you don’t know for certain that he’s doing any of those things. I think much of it is only in your imagination.”

“It isn’t!”

“Can you prove that Teriadoc took Pippin’s toy? You didn’t see him do it, did you?”

“Well. . .No. But I know he did it.”

“Well, we can’t accuse him of it. Not without proof. Think about how you felt when Pippin accused you. We mustn’t do that to anyone without good reason.”

“Why not? Pippin didn’t have a good reason,” Sancho huffed, annoyed.

“No, he didn’t. But he was upset and he didn’t take time to think about it. But we can’t make that right by doing the same thing. Perhaps you could help Pippin look for Tulip? Then the two of you could make up your differences.”

Sancho shook his head. “No, I won’t help him look for his stupid toy.”

“Why not?”

“Because he doesn’t like me. And he yelled at me and said I took it and he wouldn’t believe me when I said I didn’t.”

“Someone has to make the effort to put things to rights, my boy. I want you to talk to Pippin.”

Sancho’s scowl deepened and he shook his head. “No, I don’t want to! I think Pippin should come to me and say he’s sorry. Then I might think about it.”

Sapphire stood, her hands on her hips wondering just when her son had become such a stubborn youngster. “Then for the time being you will stay put and think it over.”

“What! I have to stay in my room? Even though you know I didn’t take Tulip?”

Sapphire drew her mouth into a thin line. Sancho eyed her expression, knowing he’d reached the limits of his mother’s patience. “If you decide you want to do as I’ve asked, you may come and find me. Otherwise, I want you to remain in your room for now and think things over. I hope you’ll decide to do the right thing and talk to Pippin.”

Sancho glared at the door as it closed behind his mother, but the expression faded quickly and he considered his mother’s words. He might as well do as he was told or else he was going to stay cooped up in his room for the rest of the day. Besides, he wanted to pay a certain lad a little visit. And find that stupid knitted pig! Everyone would be at lunch now so it was the perfect time to search Teriadoc Brandybuck’s room for the evidence. Sancho leapt off the bed and peeked out the door to make sure he was alone before setting off down the hall determined to expose the guilty hobbit.
***
“Well!” Eglantine watched the children trailing up the corridor towards her. “You’ve had a busy morning and it’s time for lunch. Come, all of you,” she gestured towards the kitchen. Pippin stayed rooted to his spot in the doorway while the other children passed him.

Merry coaxed, “Pip, we’ll look again after we eat.”

”Promise?” Pippin’s jaw was trembling although he was obviously trying to appear brave.

Merry draped his arm around the youngster’s shoulders. “Sure, it’s a promise.” Pippin sighed, but followed Merry to the table.

Teriadoc grinned and whispered in his younger brother’s ear as they watched Pippin slide into a chair. Little Roridoc giggled into his hands, peeking at Pippin from between his fingers.

“Cousin Del,” Pippin wailed at Teriadoc’s mother as she poured milk into their cups, “Teriadoc is saying something horrible about me!”

“Pippin, that’s enough,” Eglantine scolded. “You’re tired out and sorely in need a nap.”

“No! Not without Tulip!”

Delphinium patted Pippin on the head. “I’m sure Teriadoc doesn’t mean any harm, love.” She raised an eyebrow at her son and the youngster stopped his tomfoolery immediately and sat back in his chair. “I should think a nap would be just the thing for all this brood after they finish lunch. Don’t you, Tina?” She winked.

Pippin protested louder, “No, Mum, I don’t want to, please--!”

Merry interrupted, “I’ll take a nap too, all right Pip? I’m not Tulip, but perhaps I’ll do for now?” Pippin couldn’t help giggling at his cousin’s expression.

“There’s a good lad. I know Pippin will appreciate your company,” Eglantine was quick to pounce on Merry’s offer. Pippin’s sentiment for Tulip was starting to wear on her and she hoped the piglet could be located soon. “Or I’m going to need a nap,” she muttered softly, “and a very long one at that!”

“Right, and afterwards we can start the search again.” Pippin started to protest again but had to stifle a yawn. “You see?” Merry laughed. “If Tulip was here right now she’d insist you mind your mum and have forty winks, wouldn’t she?” Merry gestured at the other children seated around the table. “And she’d want everyone else to take one too.” Several of the mothers shared a quiet laugh at Merry’s words. The clever lad had just found a way to settle all the youngest ones for a while.

“Yes, well, I suppose she would. . .as long as it’s no longer than forty winks,” Pippin gave in with reluctance.

“Splendid! Everyone finish eating and then you can all be off to your rooms for a much-needed rest.” Esmeralda winked at her son.
“And then we can do the same, can’t we Esmie,” Eglantine teased.
***
Sancho crept down the long corridors to the apartment shared by Teriadoc’s family and slipped inside. He spent several minutes searching through the other boy’s belongings. Next, he tried the cupboard and then the closet. He even turned up the mattress and found a cache of pilfered hair ribbons. Sancho gave a snort of disdain. Teriadoc was always boasting about pinching one from every lass who visited the Hall. As for him, he could think of much better things to do with his time then collect lasses’ hair ribbons. He let the feather mattress fall back on the bed with a muffled smack and turned to the windowsill. He stood on his toes and felt along the window’s edge and pulled the curtains back for a better look.

Sancho glanced about the room wondering if perhaps Teriadoc had concealed Pippin’s toy elsewhere. He was still quite certain he was correct in knowing the identity of the thief. Finally, he got down on his hands and knees to look under the bed when he heard soft footsteps in the hallway. Sancho dived underneath the bed with a squeak of fear and scrambled up close to the wall. The intruder hesitated at the door before entering, and then seemed to be searching for something. He heard the closet being opened, and then the creak of the cupboard door. The same places he had looked! Sancho held his breath when the feet paused at the side of the bed as if the hobbit in question were contemplating where to look next. He was certain he was going to swoon when he heard a quiet chuckle.

“I know you’re under there, lad. I saw you ducking into this room. Come on out now and we’ll have a chat, all right?”

Sancho thought this over. The voice was calm, with more than a hint of amusement in it. But before he could decide what to do, the feet shifted and the person the voice belonged to knelt and peered under the bed. “Ah, so there you are!” Paladin Took’s soft green eyes studied him keenly, a little grin turning up the corner of his mouth. Sancho felt his apprehension easing. Still, he was embarrassed at being caught here and he brushed at the tears that threatened to betray him.

“Ah, come on out, m’boy. It’s all right. Things can’t be all that bad.” Paladin tugged on Sancho’s arm. The youngster relented at the gentle touch and allowed himself to be helped from his hiding place. Pippin’s father scooped him up and sat on the bed, placing him on his lap. “Now. What’s all this about?” He brushed at the tears that were spilling now, and offered him a handkerchief.

“Umm.” Sancho flushed and Paladin chuckled again.

“Were you looking for something under the bed?”

“Well. . .”

“Come, tell me what you were about. I promise I shan’t tell anyone.” Sancho sighed heavily and Paladin enfolded the youngster securely against his chest in an attempt to comfort. “Now, that was a mighty big sigh for such a wee scamp as yourself. Is everything all right?” Sancho shook his head. “What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?” Sancho nodded. “Oh well, that happens sometimes with young lads when they’re caught out at their mischief, aye? But it’s all right, boy. I think I know what’s going on but I need you to help me find Tulip. Will you do that?”

Sancho tilted his head back and stared upwards, wearing such a look of surprise that Paladin laughed aloud this time. “What? Are you surprised because I’ve figured it out all by myself or because I need you to help me finish solving the riddle?”

“You know where Tulip is?”

Paladin nodded. “I think so.”

“But why do you need me to help you?” Sancho was genuinely puzzled.
“You’ll see.” Paladin set Sancho on his feet and rose, offering him a hand. “Come with me, eh?”

“But I’m supposed to let my mother know I’m ready to talk to Pippin about what happened or I’m not allowed to leave my room.”

“Hmm, well that is a problem then.” Paladin appeared to think about this. “And tell me, lad – were you ready to go find Pippin and try talking it out with him? Seems like you must have been thinking that way else you surely wouldn’t have left your room after your mum told you not to. Am I right?”

“Yes sir.” Sancho’s voice had fallen to a whisper.

“So, weren’t you taking the long way around to the kitchen? How come you made a stop in Teriadoc’s room first?”

“Because he took Tulip.”

Paladin shook his head. “No, it wasn’t Teriadoc. Hmm, did you have any other ideas about who it might be?” Paladin led Sancho along by the hand as they left the room.

“I thought you knew who did it?”

“Aye, and so I do, but I was only asking for your thoughts on the matter. We wouldn’t want to point a finger at the wrong person, would we now?”

Sancho shook his head. “No, it hurts when no one believes you when you didn’t do something.”

“It certainly does. So we mustn’t blame the wrong person. I know it hurt your feelings when Pippin did that to you. Truth was, the lad was very distraught over his good friend gone missing. Not that it excuses his behaviour, mind! But it does explain it some, don’t you think?”

“I guess so.” Sancho glanced around, puzzled. “Where are we going? This isn’t the way to the kitchen.”

“You’ll see.” Paladin refused to tell him any more and together they went off down the dusty corridors into the oldest section of Brandy Hall.

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cathleen

September 2010

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