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This was first posted on Silk Screen Views.
PART FOUR – PERRY’S FAMILY
“Right, that’s him sorted, mother,” Perry said as he walked into the kitchen. “Please allow me to make proper introductions. This is Tamsyn Moriarty, from the Westmarch. Tam, this is my mother, Esmeralda Took.”
“Pleased to meet you, Mrs Took,” Tamsyn said, keeping her eyes demurely lowered like she imagined a proper hobbit girl would.
“Call me Esme, dear,” the woman said, taking her arm and pushing her gently but firmly into one of the chairs by the table. “Would you like a cup of tea? I can’t imagine what you’ll have gone through, losing everything like that. Did you carry a lot of mathoms for your kin? Peregrin, go fetch that apple pie out of the larder, will you? There’s a good boy.”
She whittled on for a little longer, which was just as well, since it took Tamsyn some pained digging into her memory for what on earth a mathom was. A small keepsake, she finally recalled, and said, “I would love some tea, Mrs… Esme. And I haven’t lost much, thankfully. You know what it’s like, most of them weren’t much use anyway.”
Esme shook her head. “And you running into our Peregrin like that, I can’t imagine. I hope he’s not been a bother?”
“No, on the contrary, he’s been a complete gentleman,” Tamsyn lied stonefacedly.
At that point Perry returned, carrying the biggest apple pie she had ever seen. He raised an eyebrow at her and she winked, causing the corner of his mouth to twitch. He quickly turned away and put the pie on the table. Esme, meanwhile, stared at her son with open mouth.
“A gentleman? Peregrin?” she said. “Well I never… I’m dumbfounded, I’ll say that.”
“Amazing,” Perry commented. “Not many people are able to make my mother shut up. You must be an exceptionally talented woman.”
Tamsyn bit away a grin as Esme lunged towards her son and swatted at him with her big wooden ladle. He avoided it with clear and easy practice, ducking down and stepping close to her, then pinning her into an embrace. “Just kidding, mother, you know I love you really,” he said, giving her a resounding kiss on her cheek.
“Oh, go away, you impossible boy,” she muttered, but she was blushing and smiled at her son, and Tamsyn suddenly could see how much the two loved each other, for all that they were exasperated with one another. Then Perry plunked into the seat next to her and grabbed a knife to start cutting up the pie.
“I can see now how you move so fast,” Tamsyn whispered to him while Esme busied herself with the kettle, and he grinned.
“It’s a very useful skill to have. Apple pie?”
“Don’t mind if I do!” Tamsyn said. If she was stuck here for the time being, she might as well enjoy the famous hobbit cuisine.
Esme placed a cup of tea in front of her, and Perry pushed a plate towards her with nearly an eighth of the pie on it. Tamsyn eyed it dubiously, then shrugged and took a bite. She had intended to mind her manners, but after the second bite the taste registered, and she wolfed down the rest as if she hadn’t eaten in two days.
“That’s the most delicious pie I have ever eaten,” she said in wonder as she swept up the last crumbs with her fingers, and both Perry and Esme beamed.
“Have another piece if you want, my dear,” Esme said, refilling her cup. “You look like you could use it, you’re skinny as a rake, just like my boy here.”
“Mother,” Perry said warningly.
“Don’t you ‘mother’ me, Peregrin. She’s a lovely girl, but she needs some flesh on her.” Esme turned away and started rummaging with her pots and pans, and Tamsyn glanced at Perry. He rolled his eyes at her and she grinned, then tugged at her dress with two fingers, giving him a significant look.
Perry nodded. “Mother, do we still have that big chest of Diamond’s old clothes?”
“Yes, I think it’s in Donna’s room. Why?”
“I think they might fit Tamsyn,” he said, shoving his chair back to get up.
Esme turned around, clutching at her head. “Oh, poor child! I’m so sorry! I completely forgot, you must be dying to put on something clean.” Then, without warning, she bellowed, “Donna!”
“Aww, mother! I can show her, you know,” Perry sulked.
“You’ll do no such thing!” Esme said indignantly. “I can’t imagine what’s got into you!”
“It’s not like I’d watch her change,” Perry muttered, with a sideways look at Tamsyn that said that he would quite like to. She bit her lip not to laugh, then startled when Esme’s ladle sailed past and clouted Perry on the ear. Perry had been too intent on Tamsyn to notice it coming, and he yelped in pain.
“I heard that, you impossible boy,” Esme said sharply. Tamsyn, who had been about to say that she didn’t mind Perry showing her where to go, instead decided that it would probably be best if she remained quiet.
At that moment a girl entered the kitchen. She looked to be a little younger than Tamsyn, and was the spitting image of Esme, though her figure was more slender and youthful. “What is it, mother?” she asked, giving Tamsyn a curious look.
“This is Tamsyn… What did you say your name was, dear?” Esme said. “I don’t think I’ve heard it before.”
“Moriarty,” Tamsyn replied. “We’re only a small family, not well known outside my village.”
Esme nodded. “She’s from the Westmarch. Your brother met her out on his wanderings somewhere, her clothes have been washed away in the river. Can you show her that chest of your sister’s old clothes in your room?” Then she turned to Tamsyn and said, “This is my second daughter, Belladonna.”
“Hi,” the girl said with a shy wave, and Tamsyn smiled at her. “Come,” Donna said, beckoning. “I’ll show you.”
“I can’t believe your cheek, Peregrin,” Tamsyn heard Esme mutter behind her as she left the kitchen. “Showing a girl as polite as her to a change of clothes!” Perry gave a response, but by then Tamsyn was too far away to understand what he said.
“Has my brother been making trouble again?” Donna asked.
Tamsyn looked at the girl, trying to decide whether her tone had been disapproving or not. Still, she liked Perry, so decided to continue to stick up for him. “No. He’s been very helpful, actually.”
“Really? Perry?” the girl said incredulously.
Tamsyn smiled. “Is that so hard to believe? Your brother seems a very nice man.”
Donna shook her head in doubt. “I don’t know, I suppose… I don’t hang around with him much, mother says he’s a troublemaker.”
“All mothers say that of their sons.”
“She doesn’t say it of Paladin. In fact, she’s always telling Perry he should be more like Pala.”
“Is Paladin your brother too?”
Donna nodded, opening a door and waving Tamsyn through. “Yes. He’s already married, and Perry doesn’t even have a girlfriend yet. There, that’s the chest.”
Tamsyn went to it, admiring the carvings in the woodwork before opening it. “How many siblings do you have?” she asked, curious about Perry’s family.
“Six,” Donna replied. “Perry’s the eldest. He’s supposed to be the next Thain, though father says he’s not sure he’ll ever be ready for it.” She blushed suddenly, as if she only now realised that she was badmouthing her brother to a total stranger.
“I’m sure your father is exaggerating,” Tamsyn said with a warm smile. “Perry seems a very capable young man. Who comes after him?” She started rummaging through the chest, pulling out a few dresses at random, and to her relief spotted what looked like several pairs of bloomers near the bottom.
“Paladin,” Donna replied. “He’s my other elder brother. He’s married, but he and his wife live here in the Smials. They have two children, Adalgrim and Eglantine. Then next is my elder sister Diamond, that’s her clothes in there.”
“Does she not want them anymore?” Tamsyn asked. She held up one of the dresses, expecting it to be worn or threadbare, but it was of excellent quality and craftsmanship, and looked to be as good as new.
“They won’t fit, she’s pregnant,” Donna said. “She married Saradoc Brandybuck last year, so she lives in Buckland now.”
“Oh, you must miss her,” Tamsyn said, narrowing her choice down to three dresses and spreading them out on the bed.
“Not really, we were always fighting,” Donna said, then blushed again and hastily added, “I’m the next. I’m thirty-two now, I’ll be old enough to get married next year.”
Tamsyn turned away, hiding her shock. She suddenly remembered that hobbits matured later, and realised that if she revealed her true age here, she would be considered a child, a teenager at most. Even this girl, who talked and acted like a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old, was five years older than her.
“Do you have someone in mind?” she asked, trying to divert the subject.
Donna blushed again. “Well, Freddy Bolger has always been nice to me,” she admitted shyly, and Tamsyn wondered whether this was cousin Fred of the frightened constitution.
“So that’s four,” she said. “Who else? And which dress do you think I should pick?”
“That one,” Donna said, pointing at a butter-yellow dress with red ribbons. “It’ll show off your hair really well. I’ve hardly ever seen hair your colour before, it’s beautiful.”
“Thank you,” Tamsyn said absentmindedly, examining the dress to find out how to get into it. Then the comment registered and she gave Donna a surprised look. “But Perry has black hair too, hasn’t he?”
“Yes, but it’s very, very rare. There’s no one else in Tuckborough and no one knows where he got it from. Father once joked that he’s not really his son, but that can’t possibly be true because they can be very alike. They look alike too, and no one else here has black hair.” This time she blushed crimson, and Tamsyn sensed the girl’s unease at again inadvertently blackening her brother’s name.
“Your other siblings?” she prompted to distract her.
“Oh, next is my brother Izzy, Isengrim. He’s twenty-six now. Then there’s my sister Petulia and my little brother Frodo. He’s only eighteen.”
“Frodo?” Tamsyn asked, surprised.
“A lot of people have a son called Frodo,” Donna said. “It’s been a very popular name ever since Frodo of the Nine Fingers. People would probably like to have a Peregrin and a Meriadoc as well, but it’s considered impolite to use those names unless you’re a Took or a Brandybuck, especially since so many Thains and Masters have had those names.”
“Don’t the Bagginses mind you using Frodo then?”
Donna shrugged. “I guess it’s different because Frodo never had any children, so there aren’t any direct descendants to complain. Don’t you have any Frodos in the Westmarch?”
“I don’t know any,” Tamsyn said truthfully.
“Strange. But I’ll leave you to get dressed,” Donna said, turning towards the door. “Just come back to the kitchen when you’re done.”
She left the room and Tamsyn was just about to undress when she heard the girl cry out. “Perry! What are you doing just standing there?”
“I was coming to check if our guest is alright,” he answered. “You two have been away very long.”
Tamsyn smiled as the voices moved away, flattered despite herself at his open interest in her. She pulled on one of the bloomers, which fit more snugly and comfortably than she had expected, then donned the dress. She hadn’t seen anything resembling a bra, but the ribboned bodice of the dress seemed to function as a type of corset, and she set to adjusting the lacing to her liking.
When she’d finished dressing she peered down at herself, wishing there was a mirror in the room. The dress fit well enough, though she had had to loosen the bodice considerably to make room for her breasts. Diamond may have had a similar figure to hers, but her bosom had clearly not been as ample. Tamsyn was showing considerable cleavage, and she hoped it wouldn’t shock Esme too much.
As for Perry… Tamsyn crooked a smile. He obviously had a reputation for being a troublemaker, and she wondered if she could encourage him in it. He seemed like he might appreciate some entertainment in his life, and she might just be the one to give it to him.
So why is Perry such a troublemaker? Why is his mother so exasperated with him? Find out in part five!