The Tea Party
A/N: The character of KnittedMerry and his adventures are the property of Llinos and it is very gracious of her to allow me to use him in these little tales.
To see the smallest member of the Took clan wandering round with a scowl on his normally permanently cheerful face was a very unusual sight in the Great Smials. It was after he had stomped through the second parlour and slammed the door in his wake that Eglantine decided to see what was wrong with her youngest.
She caught up with Pippin marching purposefully towards the library with a face like a miniature thundercloud.
“Where are you off to sweetie?” she called.
“I’m looking for Vinca,” Pippin announced. “She’s having a tea party.”
“That’s nice of her to invite you dear.”
“I wasn’t invited,” said Pippin and the thundercloud seemed to grow even more ominous. “I am going to stomp on her tea party and kick all of her dolls and then pull Vinca’s hair, and then I will take the teapot and pour tea all over …”
“Pippin!” Eglantine was really quite shocked. Mischievous Pippin might be, but never deliberately destructive or violent. “What ever has Vinca done to deserve such a horrible thing?”
“She took KnittedMerry!”
“And she got jam on him. And then she said he was going to marry her dolly. And he is not, no way, and he does not want to play with soppy dollies. He only wants to have proper tea parties. With sausages and mushrooms. And then he wants to climb trees.”
“And where is KnittedMerry now?”
“He’s gone to bed with a headache,” said Pippin. “And Dr Milo won’t let me have any willow bark tea for him.”
“I see,” Eglantine reached out and took her little lad’s hand. “Now don’t you think it might be nice if we took care of KnittedMerry first – before you stomp on the tea party?”
Pippin considered that. “All right. But how?”
“Well, said Eglantine. “I have a special supply of willow bark tea in my little sitting room, and I also have some other very good cures for KnittedHobbits with headaches. Do you think you could fetch KnittedMerry for me and tell him that I am inviting him to my parlour? And assure him that there are no dolls in my parlour.”
Pippin considered very seriously for a while and then his brow cleared a little and he nodded. “I will ask him. But I can’t make any promises.”
Eglantine curbed a smile. “I will go and brew the tea in case he decides he can come.”
Eglantine watched her little lad trot off in the direction of his bedroom and she followed him, turning off into her own little parlour where a little fire was burning in the grate. She moved her little kettle over the flames on its hook and carefully set out the tea things on the little table by her favourite easy chair.
The little room was Eglantine’s own personal sanctuary. At first it had been made for her to come and get away from it all, to read or sew in peace. Pal had suggested that she ban the children from the room altogether but she could not do that. Her children were all the world to her. So it had become a very special place to them. A place they could come to with all their little hurts and problems and lay them on her lap.
The walls had been decorated with pictures and collages. The shelves were full of pottery mugs, bits of birds’ nests and toys to be mended. Pippin always took it upon himself to make sure there was always a decoration of flowers in the blue vase by the coalscuttle. Today there were branches of pussy willow and Eglantine gently stroked one of the little furry buds as she waited for the kettle to boil.
When the little kettle began to sing she poured boiling water into the pot and swirled it around. She carefully emptied it again and added two spoonfuls of tealeaves to the pot before pouring in water again. She set the pot on its little trivet on the table and sat down to await her son.
Sure enough Pippin was not long in arriving. He carried in his arms a blanket wrapped form. “The light hurts his eyes,” he said as he climbed carefully up onto his mother’s lap.
“Let me see,” said Eglantine. Ever since Esmie had sent the KnittedHobbit to Pippin, to make up for a missed visit when Merry had been ill with a cold, the small likeness of his cousin had been Pippin’s constant companion. Carefully Eglantine removed the blanket and rested the KnittedHobbit against her bosom.
Really the little figure was a work of art. The detail in the features and the clothing was beautifully worked. It seemed the more Pippin owned the doll the more lifelike it became. Eglantine could almost see the disgruntled look on the knitted face and fancied it was frowning at her. She half expected it to talk.
“I can see the problem.” Indeed there was a nasty smear of jam down the yellow knitted waistcoat. Vinca had been rather careless. It would take some careful washing to get the stain out. Or maybe it would be easier just to knit a new waistcoat.
But no, that would take too long, and Pip was upset now.
Carefully Eglantine held the KnittedHobbit close as she leaned over to pour tea into three cups. To two of them she added milk and honey. Warning him to be careful she handed one cup to Pip and picked up the other sweetened one. She moved KnittedMerry around so he was sitting on her lap and carefully she offered him the cup of tea. “This will soon cure his headache,” she promised, being very careful herself not to actually touch the knitted face with the liquid.
Pippin sipped his own tea. “He likes it.”
“Good.” Eglantine set the cup down and picked up a napkin to blot the knitted mouth and whilst she did so she carefully pushed the wool a little to one side and KnittedMerry seemed to be smiling again. “I think he feels better already.”
Pippin set down his own cup and picked up his KnittedHobbit. A smile broke out over his face. “Yes, he is. Thank you Mum,” and he hugged his mother. “But what about his waistcoat?”
Eglantine tapped Pippin’s nose. “Now I have an idea about that. Do you remember the story about Mr Badger and his friend Ratty and Moley and how they had a boat trip on the river?”
“Yes,” Pippin nodded. “What does that have to do with KnittedMerry’s waistcoat?”
“Well,” said Eglantine. “Do you remember what Mr Badger used to wear?”
“A dressing gown and slippers.”
“And when he went out?”
“A jacket and… a waistcoat.”
“Yes. When Pearl was about your age she had a Mr Badger. He is old and retired now and lives with me in this parlour. He doesn’t like to go out much so mostly he wears his dressing gown and slippers. And I know where his waistcoat is. If we ask him I am sure he would let KnittedMerry have it.”
“Do you think so?” Pippin’s eyes lit up. “Can we ask him?”
“Hop down then,” Eglantine helped Pippin slide to the floor. “He lives in my workbasket.”
Pippin trotted by his mother’s side to the workbasket and peeked in as she opened the lid. There were all sorts of exciting things in the wicker depths of the basket and it took a moments sorting and turning over pieces of cloth before she came across Mr Badger and his spare wardrobe. She shook out the bright yellow waistcoat. It really was in remarkably good condition. Actually the toy had not been much played with. Pearl had preferred the more adventurous figures of Ratty and Moley for her games.
Eglantine carried the waistcoat back to the armchair and knelt by it as Pippin sat KnittedMerry down.
“Will he mind if I help him on with it?” she asked,
“Not at all,” replied Pip. “He likes you.”
The little buttons on KnittedMerry’s green jacket and the stained waistcoat were quite fiddly but eventually Eglantine managed it. Soon KnittedMerry was sitting on the armchair in his new waistcoat.
“He is a very magnificent KnittedHobbit,” Eglantine said sitting back to admire.
“He is,” said Pippin. “And he said I should probably not stomp Vinca as it was an accident.”
“I am sure it was.”
Looking at Pippin's smiling face she thought to herself, that this proved the old adage, a badger in the basket is worth two in the burrow.