Title: A Bird in the Hand
Tulip’s Egg, by Pearl Took http://www.storiesofarda.com/chapterview.asp?sid=5782&cid=25009
Author's Notes: In my corner of the Shire Pippin is equivalent to a six year old boy in most of my Tulip tales. This is a silly story, but I hope you enjoy it!
Summary: How a knitted piglet and a goose formed an enduring friendship, and a small hobbit lad was not disappointed.
Word Count: 3,593
“A Bird in the Hand”
You may not know me but I am a fixture around Farmer Paladin’s barnyard. If it weren’t for me there would be no order amongst the chicks, hens, cows and other assorted creatures I am forced to share my space with. My name is Pansy and I am Missus Eglantine’s most favourite goose. Of course, the other occupants of the farm have a difficult time accepting that I am in charge; I am the one who keeps the chickens and roosters in line and chases the goats from the vegetable garden. I’ve been known to chase a saucy lass or lad and I will nip a toe or finger when I think it’s called for.
I even keep one naughty hobbit lad out of trouble by getting after his tail whenever he gets too close to things he has no business getting into. I once bit him on his bum when he got too close, and since then he has learned to respect me a little better. It was inevitable actually. After all, I am the ruler of the farmyard and I am proud of what I do. That time when Pippin lost track of his knitted piglet I led him to her. Tulip was visiting the hen house and had crawled beneath the biggest hen that lives there. Fat chance he would have found her without my help no matter how much she called to him! But did he thank me? No. As a matter of fact, the very next time he saw me he was aiming that catapult of his at my tail feathers. But I got back at him, I did! He didn’t care for being trapped inside the outhouse the other evening. And the shriek of surprise he gave when he saw my eye spying on him through the knothole. . .mercy! Of course, it was after dark but I can’t say I’m regretful that my big shiny eye got such a start from the lad. Good thing he was in the privy at the time! I really should try that trick again. It was quite amusing when he tried to avoid me as I chased him back to the farmhouse, honking and scolding, my feathers flying and Pippin’s breeches falling down about his knees!
Now, Tulip scolded me soundly for that one, but even she couldn’t help chuckling at the prank herself. Not that she’d ever admit that to her lad. After all, she’d had a fine view of the event from the windowsill where he’d left her. But I don’t think she’s ever totally forgiven me for running off with Missus Eglantine’s knitting needles that time, and getting young Pip in trouble. I reminded her that at least the Missus got them back, and a new pair to boot because Mister Paladin took her into the village to shop that very afternoon. For that matter, Pippin owes me a thank you as well, because while the Took’s were shopping in Whitwell his da bought him cream buns! Imagine, getting rewarded with cream buns after filching his mother’s knitting needles to make a blanket for his cat. I’d fancy a cream bun myself, come to think of it. I didn’t get one, you know, not a bite. But Tulip did, and she’s now fatter than ever, though I shan’t tell her so because she is one ornery piglet whenever anyone suggests she could stand to shed a few pounds.
Oh, my! I remember the time young Sancho Proudfoot called her fat. I heard all about it when Pippin came into the barn trying to soothe poor Tulip’s feelings. That piglet certainly can get her snout out of joint, and quite easily, I might add. But I never liked that Sancho lad very well so I can easily sympathize with Tulip. Sancho called me a crazy goose once and pitched a stone at me, so I sneaked up on him later and bit him on his bum just like I do to all those folks who don’t mind me. And, I might add it was a rather substantial bum, at that. Hmph! Talk about needing to drop a wee bit of weight!
I confess I am digressing from my tale so I shall pick up where I left off. This is the story about how an abandoned chicken’s egg helped make fast friends out of Tulip and me, and created an uneasy truce between Pippin and myself. It was Tulip that found the egg outside the henhouse, you see, but she needed her lad’s help to move it. She and Pippin hatched a plan - you will be pardoning my pun no doubt. Sometimes I get carried away with my own wit, but I come by it honestly after spending so much time listening to Mister Paladin. Anyway Tulip wanted to keep the egg and brood a chick. Well, I probably don’t have to tell you that a hobbit lad and a knitted piglet know next to nothing about tending an egg. Certainly, the lad feeds and cares for the chickens and collects the eggs, but I know for a fact he’s never sat a nest. Or Tulip either, for that matter. You’ll understand why I’m taking a moment out from the telling of my tale to chuckle at the very thought!
Ah yes, where was I? Oh. Well, the piglet thought she’d take the egg and sit on it herself, and my word! Pippin agreed, even though he knows it takes twenty-one days to hatch a chick. And I should know because I am an authority on the matter, after all. Now, a goose egg on the other hand ---yes, yes I realise I am getting a bit away from my story again, but listen for this is important. A goose such as myself is capable of sitting a nest for the thirty days it takes and I have little chance to take any time away when I am so preoccupied, let me tell you. And that’s why I was knitting a blanket for my nest with the Missus’s knitting needles. What else does a lass have to do with her long day when she’s brooding, I want to know? Can’t go calling on your neighbors, can you now? Can’t rely on the old gander to give you a break either, eh? Lads! You’d think you were asking for their last grub or worm, instead of just a wee breather from the doldrums of sitting all day on scratchy straw. It’s stiff and dreadfully coarse, and sometimes I get a rash in the most unpleasant of places. . .ahem! Well, you don’t need to know about that. Where was I? Oh. Yes. So, I took up knitting. I’d heard Pippin saying he enjoyed it so when the opportunity presented itself I gave it a go myself. ‘Twasn’t easy, either, sneaking away with those knitting needles and as it was, Tulip saw me but all she did was wink. I’m guessing it was her plan to teach her lad a lesson about paying attention to the items he filches from his mum.
That ill-behaved pair even managed to get the say so from Mister Paladin and Missus Eglantine to go ahead and hatch the egg and they immediately set about fashioning a nest for it. I’m really not very surprised. The lad is indulged in his every whim, which is why he is so impossible at times. Certainly, he does have an endearing smile and a charming twinkle in his eye, but rest assured, he is really quite a terror of a hobbit lad. It’s a good thing I’m here to keep him from getting too big for his breeches. But he’s going to be very let down when that egg fails to produce a chicken.
Oh! Yes, the story. Thank you for reminding me. Well, here is how it happened. . .
I knew that high in the rafters of the barn the miracle of birth was taking place at this very moment and I began to wax nostalgic. I couldn’t help myself; I am a very sentimental goose, though no one seems to appreciate that about me. The pair of owls I share the barn with are good friends of mine and I am pleased to hear the gentle crackling of shells as the newborn chicks emerge. The sudden shout followed by laughter drew me out of my musings with a start. I had a good view of just who had interrupted my thoughts of my soon to arrive children. I honked to show them my irritation with their commotion. I thought it quite rude to disturb a mother-in-waiting upon her clutch of eggs, and I let them know of my displeasure in no uncertain terms. Farmhands! I settle back into my nest after they are suitably chastised and allow my thoughts to drift into comfortable nothingness. A nap sounded most inviting. . .
Merry was nearly bowled over by the whirlwind that was his young cousin. Pippin had just come tearing out of the barn, a huge grin on his face. “Merry, you’re here at last! Come with me!” Pippin grabbed Merry’s hand and tugged him along, all the while carrying on a breathless prattle. Merry caught something about Pansy the goose and Tulip, and a little about a tale of haunted eggs, or was it hunted eggs?
“Pippin,” Merry tried to halt the youngster and disentangle himself from Pippin’s grip. The ten-year-old stopped, but still he bounced up and down on his toes, the picture of impatience.
“Why, Pip? What’s wrong?”
“I want you to see what Tulip is doing!”
Merry rolled his eyes. The ever-present knitted piglet his cousin was so attached to. Of course. He should have noticed right away that the toy was not in its usual spot on Pippin’s shoulder.
“Come on, Merry!” Pippin yanked on his cousin’s arm and Merry gave in, allowing himself to be dragged along. A moment later it was all he could do to keep from bursting out with laughter. The serious look on Pippin’s face told Merry this was a monumental event in Pippin’s estimation, and he wouldn’t hurt his little cousin’s feelings for anything. Instead, Merry chewed on the inside of his cheek to stifle the laughter that still threatened.
Pippin pointed at his knitted friend with pride. The piglet was ensconced upon a nest of straw in the corner of an empty stall. Merry took a step forward and heard an angry squawk. He turned to eye Pansy, his aunt’s big goose. Pansy was sitting a nest of her own in the opposite corner of the barn, her nest partially hidden beneath his uncle’s worktable. Pansy squawked again and flapped her wings. A few feathers floated into the air and drifted towards them. Always wary of the temperamental goose, Merry took a step backwards, pulling Pippin with him. “Pip, I don’t think it’s wise to be playing so close to Pansy, especially when she’s on a nest.”
Pippin pulled away and placed his hand on his hips, frowning up at Merry. “I am not playing!” He glanced at the goose. “And Pansy has been behaving herself lately, so as long as I don’t disturb her, she’s fine. What’s important is that Tulip is going to be a mother!” Pippin grinned at the thought and this time Merry did not stifle his laughter.
“A mother? How can a knitted toy become a mother?”
“Tulip is a real piglet, but she only talks to me,” Pippin sniffed with indignation. He considered. “And sometimes she talks to Cousin Frodo. And Cousin Bilbo.” He pondered a moment longer and then added, “I saw her talk to Gandalf the wizard once, too.”
“I’m sure she’s holding conversations with half the Shire by now, Pip. But she still can’t lay an egg.”
Pippin rolled his eyes. “I never said she laid an egg. I said she’s sitting on an egg and she’s going to be the chick’s mother when it comes.”
“Does Aunt Tina know what you’re up to?”
“Of course! Da knows too. He even helped me and Tulip make a proper nest for Tulip’s egg.” Merry wondered where his uncle had picked up a flair for nest making and piglet brooding? “How long has she been sitting on the egg? And, where did the egg come from, anyway? You took it from under one of the hens?”
“No, we found it! We were taking a walk in the strawberry patch and there it was.”
”How did it get there?”
Pippin shrugged and knelt down to pat Tulip’s head. “We don’t know, do we lass? Maybe it was meant to be.”
“Meant to be for a knitted piglet to sit on a chicken’s egg and be called its mother?”
“Stop making jests, Merry! This is very important. Da says there’s a great deal of responsibility in sitting a nest, and he knows about these things.”
Merry had to agree; his uncle certainly knew a great deal about farm animals. “You didn’t answer my question. How long has Tulip been sitting on her um. . .her chick’s nest?”
“Just since this morning.”
“She has a long way to go. Does she sleep out here in the barn?”
Pippin shook his head. “I’ll put her nest in a basket and bring her to my room tonight. Then we’ll come out here again tomorrow.”
“Why not leave her in your room?”
“Because Tulip says she likes the mood in the barn being around the other animals and it puts her in a motherly frame of mind while she sits on her nest.”
“Tulip said all that?” Merry rubbed his chin in thought. “And just how is Tulip going to go places with you when she has to sit a nest and then be responsible for her chick? Won’t that take the fun out of all your adventures?”
Pippin chewed on his lip as he considered Merry’s question. “Well. . .we haven’t worked out all the details yet. But Da said Tulip could leave her nest for a short time every now and then as long as we cover the egg to keep it warm. And, I have to turn the egg for Tulip because it’s too heavy for her to do it.”
Pippin tugged on his cousin’s arm again. “Come with me. I want to show you the new saddle Da got for me on his trip to Bree last month!”
Their voices trailed off as they walked away leaving Tulip and I facing one another in silence. We saw Mister Paladin came from behind the door where he had been listening; his face appeared red from suppressed laughter at his son’s antics. He stared down at Tulip, chewing his lip as he thought. It was plain he did not want to see Pippin disappointed. I found myself thinking the same thing and that gave me pause for thought, mind you. Perhaps there was a way to help.
Later that afternoon. . .
Miss Piggy, you do realise that egg is not going to hatch?
Tulip swiveled her ears in Pansy’s direction. I know no such thing! It will hatch.
Pansy gave a honk of indignation that would have sounded like a snort if she’d not been a goose. She looked down her long bill at the piglet. No. It will not.
It will so! Tulip stamped her hoof for emphasis.
Won’t. Pansy tossed her head, enjoying the way her white feathers fluffed out. She took a moment to preen, while waiting for the inevitable response from Tulip.
Most certainly will not.
Why must you be so mean? Tulip scowled.
Mean? I? Pansy considered. I am simply telling you the truth. Your lad will be all upset and start weeping and wailing when he doesn’t see that egg hatch and then you shall have to deal with him. I’ve no time for such nonsense. I’ve a real nest to attend, she said with a sniff.
I saw you take those knitting needles, Tulip shot back.
I needed them. More than Pippin did.
He almost got into trouble!
I heard you tell him it was his own fault. And you winked at me!
I can scold my lad if I like, but I shan’t allow you to.
Pansy rolled her big eyes. I was scolding your lad long before you came along.
Yes, I know. It’s a good thing he has me to look out for him now.
He does get himself into a great deal of mischief!
Tulip chuckled. She had to agree.
I heard about that little ‘to do’ involving Sancho Proudfoot. I dare say it must have been dreadful to find yourself in the corner along with those miscreants.
Tulip’s snout coloured a deep pink at the memory. It really was quite humiliating, she confessed. I was so upset with the two of them. Especially Sancho.
Yes, that Sancho is quite the terror, isn’t he?
Oh, yes! He gets my lad into dreadful fixes sometimes.
I know. And my dear, I heard he called you fa-
Don’t say it! Tulip interrupted with a moan.
“T’was very unkind of him. Pansy flapped her wing sympathetically in Tulip’s direction.
Tulip sniffed a tear away. Yes. It still bothers me.
Of course it does, dear. Now, back to the matter we were discussing. The egg won’t hatch because there is no chick inside.
Tulip looked alarmed. What? How do you know?
My dear, I am an expert in the subject of eggs and hatching, and many other things as well, I might add. But no matter. Our concern is Pippin and how he will take this when he finds out.
Tulip began to worry. A tear wiggled its way from her embroidered eye and landed on the straw in her nest. But I thought you didn’t like Pippin?
Here now, none of that, that, that -- bawling. I shan’t have it in my barn. Pansy scratched the straw over her brood to keep it warm and waddled away from her nest to join Tulip.
I’m sorry. But I can’t bear to see Pippin so disappointed when my egg doesn’t hatch.
Well. . .perhaps we might come up with a plan, of sorts. By the way, I never said I didn’t like the lad. I said he was an indulged, mischievous, naughty, manipulative, scheming, wicked little. . .
That’s enough, Pansy! Or I’ll, I’ll. . .I’ll thump you on your bill with my hoof!
The big goose laughed. Oh my, you are such a little rogue! I like that! Now, about the plan—
What kind of a plan? Tulip eyed the goose in suspicion.
Now, don’t you worry your little pink head, dearie. Pansy patted the piglet on her snout with her wing. Once more, I am an authority in figuring out how to, shall I say, find the path of least resistance.
A goose and knitted piglet huddled together whispering in the dusk. A warm breeze filtered its way through the barn’s open door while merry laughter drifted from the corner as the new friends and conspirators planned.
Twenty-one days is a long time if you’re waiting for something wonderful to happen, especially if you are a small hobbit lad and a skeptical, older cousin. Pippin and Merry were still abed in the early morning hours when Paladin cracked open the door to his son’s room and crept in. He was about to switch the egg beneath Tulip for the fertile one he carried when he pulled his hand back and let out a cry of surprise as something brushed against his hand and cheeped. Pippin awoke immediately and catapulted himself from the bed.
Merry sat up and rubbed his eyes. “What’s going on?”
Paladin was already kneeling next to Tulip’s basket. With a wide grin he lifted the tiny duckling to eye level. “My chicken! Da, Tulip hatched a chick!” Pippin danced around the room. Paladin rocked back on his heels and chuckled.
“Well, my lad, I don’t think you can call this a chicken, but ‘tis a mighty fine looking wee duckling!”
“What? How?” Merry was sliding from the bed to join them.
“I don’t know how, lad, but here it is,” Paladin said, still cradling the duckling.
Pippin held out his hands to take the fluffy creature, grinning from ear to ear. “I don’t care if it’s a chicken or a duck. Tulip is a mum!”
“Yes, how about that?” Paladin ruffled his son’s curls before getting to his feet. He eyed the basket thoughtfully as he carefully pocketed the egg in his hand. At that moment Eglantine leaned into the room. Smiling, she said, “Lads! Pansy’s eggs are hatching! Come see!”
Pippin scooped up Tulip and tucked her into the pocket of his nightshirt before clambering after his father and Merry.
In the barn, Pansy was found proudly showing off her new family while giving a warning honk that no one except Eglantine could come near. After a suitable amount of time admiring the new babies they began filing out of the barn to the farmhouse, ready to prepare for the day ahead.
*Great-Aunt Pringle Took lingered.
“Coming, Auntie?” Eglantine called.
“In a moment, Tina.” She waved them away with a flick of her wrist, and then turned back to Pansy. When they were alone at last Pringle broke into a huge smile. “Good work, my lass! I think you and Tulip make a fine team. Thank you for helping care for my dear Pippin.”
I give Auntie Pringle a soft honk meaning ‘you are quite welcome!’
“Yes, I know. It was all in a day’s work for you, wasn’t it now? You are such a resourceful goose.”
I humbly protest that it was she who should have the credit, but she will not hear of it.
“But it was your plan, and a splendid one at that. I had no idea that Pad was going to go find that chicken egg, but I think one of my new ducklings will make a much better pet for our Pip. Don’t you?”
I honk my approval and close my eyes. It has been a very long day. I smile to myself as only a goose can as my dear Auntie Pringle continues,
“You are quite welcome, my dear. It was my pleasure. Thank you for asking me to join in with yours and Tulip’s little scheme.”
I open one eye and watch as Auntie makes her way to the door. Yes indeed, a long day. And now I must get some sleep because I’ve a feeling my children will be arriving quite early in the morning and a mother’s work is never done.
*My story “Great Auntie Pringle Took” is the first tale this OC appeared in.