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If I had a Hammer  by Grey Wonderer

As everyone knows by now, these are not my characters.  They belong to J.R.R. Tolkien and I am just borrowing them.  The hobbits in this story are not mine and neither is the Shire.  I do, however, lay claim to the hammer that is involved.  Hope you enjoy this one and thank you for reading.

G.W.     09/04/2005

Oh, in case you want to know, Pippin is 17, Merry is 25, Sam is 27, Frodo is 39 and Hamfast Gamgee is just plain old.

Part 1

Merry looked at his younger cousin and sighed.  “Are you going to let me see it or not?” he asked in exasperation.

Pippin nervously twisted the hem of his shirt and continued to stand in front of the object, blocking Merry’s view.  “It’s a bit rough and it isn’t completely finished yet,” Pippin explained.  “I still need to paint it and I might need to sand it some.  The edges are-”

Merry groaned interrupting Pippin’s litany of excuses.  “Did you or did you not insist that I come out to the barn so that you could show me something?” Merry asked.

“I do want you to see it,” Pippin said though he didn’t sound completely sure that this was what he wanted.  “It’s only that you have to understand that it still needs some improvement before it’s ready.”

“What needs improvement?” Frodo asked as he entered the barn munching on an apple. 

“I don’t know,” Merry shrugged.  “Pippin won’t let me see it.  He just keeps prattling on about the thing.”

“I was only explaining,” Pippin objected.  “It wouldn’t be fair to show you something and have you expect too much.  I just want to make sure that you understand that it isn’t completely finished.”  Pippin shifted a bit to one side so that he could also block Frodo’s view.

Merry was losing his patience but Frodo just looked at Pippin thoughtfully and asked, “Is this what you’ve been working on all week?”

Pippin nodded.  “Only it may not have turned out exactly like it was supposed to.”

“I doubt that Frodo or I will ever know because you don’t seem to be willing to let us see it,” Merry pointed out.  He moved a step closer to his seventeen-year-old cousin and folded his arms over his chest.  When Pippin made no move to step aside Merry turned and begin to walk out of the barn.

Frodo looked at Pippin.  “Well?”

“It isn’t really ready,” Pippin said twisting his shirt in both hands.

“Then I think I’ll go out and have a pipe,” Frodo smiled.  “You can show it to me when you have it completed.”  He patted Pippin on the shoulder encouragingly and left the barn.

Pippin watched Frodo leave.  He wanted to call him back but he just couldn’t do it.  With a heavy sigh Pippin turned to look down at the object he’d been concealing from his older cousins.  He bent down on his knees and looked at the lumpy shape that was covered with an old pony blanket.  He took a deep breath and squeezed his eyes shut.  “Please let it look better than I remember when I remove the blanket,” he whispered.  He opened his eyes and instead of removing the blanket be focused his attention on the strip of white cloth that was wrapped around his left thumb.  He worried the edge of the cloth and wondered if his thumbnail would fall off.  He’d heard of that sort of thing happening to hobbits who had smashed a thumb.  In fact, his cousin Berilac Brandybuck had told him that if your thumbnail did fall off that it hardly ever grew back.  Pippin had meant to ask Merry if that was true but he’d never got the chance.

_____________________________________________________________

 

“How bad do you suppose it is?” Frodo asked Merry.  The two of them were leaning on the trunk of the party tree enjoying a smoke.

“It’s terrible,” Merry said without any hesitation.

“Have you seen it?” Frodo asked.

“No,” Merry said around the stem of his pipe.

“Then how can you be so certain?” Frodo asked.

Merry turned and looked at Frodo in the way that one might look at a rather slow child and blew a puff of smoke.  “It’s terrible,” Merry repeated only this time he said it slower.

“It never occurs to you that you might be wrong once in a while, does it?” Frodo asked in amusement.

“Only because I so rarely am,” Merry said with a smile.

“He’d smashed his thumb I think,” Frodo said.  “I thought I saw a bandage on it.”

“He also had a large bruise on the top of his right foot,” Merry said.  “I suspect that he might have dropped a piece of wood on it or maybe even dropped the hammer on it.”

“I wish he’d have let us help him,” Frodo said.

“I offered,” Merry said sinking down onto the grass beneath the tree.

“I remember that,” Frodo snorted.

“What?” Merry asked, looking up at him in annoyance.  “I did offer.”

“I remember,” Frodo chuckled.  “You looked over at Pippin and you said, ‘Why don’t you just let me build it for you and save some time?  You can tell Tobias that you built it and no one has to know that you didn’t.’  Yes, I remember that generous offer.”

“What’s your point?” Merry asked.

“My point is you could have been more tactful about it,” Frodo said.  “You could have offered to help him instead of letting him know that you didn’t think he could build it.”

“I did offer to help,” Merry repeated.  “How much more help could I be?  I offered to build the entire thing for him.  That is as helpful as anyone could want.”

“What if Pippin actually wanted to learn how to build it himself?” Frodo asked.

“Why would he?” Merry puzzled furrowing his brow.

“You know how,” Frodo said.  “Maybe Pippin wanted to learn to build something on his own.  That is the point of it all.  Pippin is supposed to be learning some basic carpentry skills.  He can’t do that if you build his project for him.”

“Frodo, Pippin is never going to be a carpenter,” Merry said.  “He is going to be the sort of hobbit who hires folks like Tobias Tunnely to build things for him.”

“He certainly won’t be a carpenter if he isn’t given the chance to learn,” Frodo said.  “It is one of his lessons.  He is expected to be able to build something on his own by the end of the summer.  This is supposed to be his special project.”

Merry looked up at Frodo and frowned.  “Do you actually think that Pippin wants to be a carpenter?”

“Pippin is only seventeen,” Frodo reminded Merry.  “I doubt that he knows what he might want to be.  That isn’t the important part of this.  The important part of it is, Pippin is supposed to learn something about building and repairing things.  Those are proper skills that most hobbits have.”

Merry muttered something under his breath and then laughed.

“What did you say?” Frodo asked glaring down at him.

“I said, you don’t know how to build anything,” Merry grinned.

“How would you know?” Frodo asked. 

“I have never seen you build anything more complicated than a stack of hotcakes,” Merry said.

“I have built many things,” Frodo said stiffly.

“When?” Merry asked standing up.

“When you were too little to notice such things,” Frodo said turning and walking briskly back toward Bag End.

“Well, that’s been quite a while, cousin,” Merry said running to catch up.  “Why don’t you show me some of these things that you built when I was not more than a faunt?  I’m sure that you must have kept a few of them.”

 “Piss off, Merry,” Frodo growled and he kept walking.

_________________________________________________________

Sam stood in the doorway of the barn and frowned.  Master Pippin hadn’t noticed him yet.  The lad had a hammer in one hand and he was holding a nail in the other hand.  He also had several nails held between his lips in the manner that some folks did when building something.  Sam had seen his Gaffer with a mouth full of nails many times.  It was one thing that his father did but refused to allow any of his sons to try.  Sam guessed that Master Pippin’s father was less strict about such matters.

Sam watched as the lad set the nail against the wood and raised the hammer.  Whatever Master Pippin was building it must not be anywhere near finished because Sam couldn’t have guessed what it might be by looking at it.   The wood was unpainted and there were two long poles stretching out behind it that might be handles of some kind.  It also seemed to have at least two wheels.

“”Ouch!” Pippin yelled, breaking into Sam’s thoughts.  “Tarnation and bother!”  Master Pippin was clutching the hand and swearing.  The nails that had been in the lad’s mouth were probably scattered all over the barn floor.  The hammer must have dropped onto the lad’s foot because he was jumping about as he continued to swear.

Sam walked over being careful not to step on any of the nails that Master Pippin had dropped and put a hand on the lad’s arm.  “Let me see that hand,” Sam said.

Eyes watering with pain, face flushed with embarrassment, Pippin extended his injured hand out to Sam and stood still while Sam examined it.  “Looks like you’ve gone and smashed two of your fingers with that hammer,” Sam observed.  “Don’t look like you broke ‘em but I bet it hurt.”

Pippin swallowed hard.  “I missed again,” he sighed.  “I don’t think the tops on these nails are as big as they need to be.  They’re too hard to take aim on with the hammer.”

Sam suppressed a chuckle.  “These nails with the small tops need to be got up off the barn floor or someone is likely to step on one or two,” Sam said.

Pippin knelt down on the barn floor and began to search for the nails.  “They came out of my mouth when I yelled,” he said.  He was scrounging about and collecting the nails with his uninjured hand.  Sam noticed the bandage on the thumb of the hand with the newly smashed fingers.  Whatever Master Pippin was building he wasn’t having much luck with it. 

Sam knelt down next to the lad and collected a few of the nails.  “You know, it might be a good idea not to put them nails in your mouth like that,” Sam suggested.

“Mister Tunnely does it,” Pippin said looking at Sam.  “He’s been giving me instruction and he keeps a mouth full of nails the entire time that he’s working.  He even talks with them in there and he never drops them.”  Sam could tell how very impressed Master Pippin was with this last by the look in the lad’s eyes.

“Well, I suspect he does do that, but he’s been buildin’ things and workin’ with nails longer than you or I have been drawin’ breath in this Shire.  He knows how to keep from yellin’ out and scatterin’ nails all over his work area and how to keep from swallowing ‘em,” Sam said letting this last sink in.

“Swallowing them?” Pippin asked wide-eyed.

“I suspect that if you was to take a sudden breath you might suck one or two of them nails right down your throat,” Sam said.  “I don’t know if they’d get stuck in there or not, but I suspect that it would hurt a bit more than just banging your finger with a hammer if you take my meanin’”

“Sam, if you smash your thumb nail and it falls off, does a new nail grow back?” Pippin asked suddenly.

Sam was a bit surprised by the sudden change of topic but Master Pippin was always doing that sort of thing.  “Course it’ll grow back.  Takes a bit of time and sometimes if you’ve done it several times, it grows back a might lumpy lookin’ but it grows back,” Sam said.

Pippin heaved a sigh of relief and smiled.  “I won’t put the nails in my mouth anymore, Sam.”  He took the handful of nails that he had gathered from the floor of the barn and dropped them into a large tin of nails that was setting next to his project.  He sat down and began to examine his foot thoughtfully.  “I don’t think I’ve broken it but it’s turning blue on the top where I bruised it.  Now it matches the other one,” Pippin said.   He stretched both legs out in front of him and began to compare the bruises.

Sam sighed.  “I got something that’ll help with that if you’re interested,” he offered as he stood up.

“What’s that?” Pippin asked.

 Sam walked over to one of the stalls in the barn and retrieved something.

_________________________________________________________

“One more word out of you, Meriadoc and you’ll sleep in the Gaffer’s tool shed tonight,” Frodo threatened.

“Well, as I recall you slept in there on one occasion,” Merry grinned.  “You and that rabbit of Pippin’s.  Remember?”

“I remember nothing of the sort,” Frodo said with a wave of his hand.  He suspected that he would never live that one down.  “Now go away and let me drink my tea in peace.”

Merry laughed and sat down at the table across from Frodo.  “How long are you going to let Pippin fiddle about in the barn?” Merry asked.

“He isn’t fiddling about, as you put it,” Frodo sighed.  “He’s doing his project for Mister Tunnely.  He has to have that finished before the end of the month.  I think it’s admirable that he is taking this seriously and working so hard on it.”

“I think it’s pointless,” Merry said.  “I don’t know why Uncle Paladin is insisting on this.”

“Because Pippin lives on a farm, Merry,” Frodo sighed.  “He needs to know how to make repairs to things.  Most lads Pippin’s age take some sort of carpentry instruction or they learn carpentry from their fathers.”

Merry snorted.  “Uncle Paladin will likely be Thain one day and Pippin is probably not going to need to know which end of a hammer hits a nail.  He’d do better to have Pippin take lessons in Shire history or Shire law than to try and make a carpenter of him.”

“First, we’ve no way of knowing that Paladin will be the next Thain,” Frodo said.  “Second, even if Pippin doesn’t wind up living his life out as a farmer, it won’t hurt him to know how to do a few useful things such as carpentry, and third Pippin has studies with a tutor for Shire history, reading, writing, and the other basic lessons that young hobbits have just as you once did.”  Frodo took a sip of his tea and frowned at Merry.  “You didn’t tell Pippin that he shouldn’t bother with his carpentry lessons did you?”

“No, but I’m sure that Pippin knows that his father could well be Thain at some point,” Merry said pouring himself some of the tea from the kettle.  “He’s not daft enough to think that the current Thain is suddenly going to produce an heir at his age.  Everyone knows quite well that the Thain will pass on childless and that the Thainship will fall to someone else.  That someone else will most likely be Uncle Paladin.”  Merry stirred some cream into his tea.

“I believe that will be the way of things, Merry,” Frodo agreed.  “All the same, it’s not the sort of thing that a hobbit can sit back and count on, is it?”

“No, I suppose not,” Merry said.

 “So, Pippin needs to continue on with his lessons just like every other hobbit lad in the Shire does,” Frodo said.  “Now, drink your tea and leave well enough alone.”

“Did you have lessons, cousin?” Merry asked smiling cheekily.

“I did,” Frodo said.  “Your father taught me a bit about carpentry when I was fifteen or so.”

“And how did that go?” Merry prodded.

“It went just fine, thank you,” Frodo said.

“Is that when you built all of those fine things that I’ve never seen, cousin?” Merry asked.

“Piss off, Merry,” Frodo growled.

____________________________________________________

“They look kinda funny, Sam,” Pippin frowned looking down at his feet.  “What did you say they were again?”

“They’re foot-guards, Master Pippin,” Sam said.  He looked down at the leather covers that were now shielding the tops of Master Pippin’s sore feet.  They were rather ingenious devices if you thought about it.  They were made of soft leather and they had a strap that went around the ankle and one that went under the arch of the foot to hold them on.  They covered the tops of your feet and protected them.  They weren’t as cumbersome as the boots that the hobbits sometimes wore when forced to work in the mud.  They let the air get to your toes and you could still feel the earth beneath your feet.  All they did was help protect the tops of your feet while you were working with heavy things that might cause injuries to your feet.

Pippin walked about in a small circle looking down at his feet and grinning.  “Wonder why Mister Tunnely didn’t tell me about these?” Pippin asked.

“He’s been doin’ this sort ‘o work so long that I don’t suspect he needs these,” Sam said.  “Those are a might big on you but I don’t think they’ll trip you up.  That pair is the Gaffer’s.  He keeps them for when he’s settin’ stones for walls or walkways.”  Sam chuckled.  “He got this pair after I accidentally dropped a stone on his toe whilst I were helpin’ him build a wall at the edge of our little garden.  You shoulda heard him holler that time!”

Pippin grinned.  “Like me a minute ago?”

“He yelled a lot louder,” Sam said.  “Lot longer too and no wonder as the stone what I dropped broke the Gaffer’s big toe.”

Pippin looked down at the foot guards and then smiled at Sam.  “I’ll put them right back when I’m finished with them,” he said.

“What are you building’?” Sam asked.  He turned and took a long at the object behind him.

Pippin walked over and took hold of the long handles that Sam had noticed earlier and held the thing up on one end.  Sam walked around it slowly and studied it.  There were three wheels on it, one large one in the front that leaned slightly to the right and two smaller ones on the back on either side.  Each of the back wheels was leaning out a bit too only in different directions.  Master Pippin had the two back wheels off of the ground now.  The two long handles came off of the back of the contraption.  One of these was slightly higher than the other and the lower one was slightly longer.  Sam was sure that this hadn’t been intentional.  The main part of the thing was sort of triangle-shaped.  It was the most crooked triangle that Sam had ever seen, but it was a triangle.  One side of it was higher than the other two and again Sam didn’t think this had been done on purpose.  The three boards that made up the sides were unevenly cut and had been nailed together crookedly so that they didn’t fit properly against one another.  If Sam looked into the bottom of the triangle he could see the barn floor through a space between the bottom and the side.  He walked around the object and looked at it intently. 

Suddenly it dawned on him what the thing was supposed to be.  “Is that a wheel barrow?” he asked.

Pippin’s face split into a wide grin.  “So you can tell!” he said excitedly.  “Then at least some of it looks like it’s supposed to though sometimes it’s hard to know which parts those are.” 

“But why does it have three wheels?” Sam asked scratching his head.

“Oh, that was my idea,” Pippin beamed.  “Sometimes when you have something heavy in a wheel barrow it’s hard to lift the back off of the ground and so I figured if I put a couple of extra wheels on the back of it then if it was too full to lift it could just be rolled along.”  Pippin sighed as he sat it on all three wheels.  “At least that’s what it’s supposed to do but the wheels don’t work properly.  I think one of them must not be lined up quite right,” Pippin said.

One of them?  Sam couldn’t see that anything at all was lined up properly on this contraption.  Two extra wheels?  Wasn’t this almost a wagon now?  “Has Mister Tunnely seen it yet?” Sam asked ignoring the problem of the extra wheels for the moment.

“No,” Pippin said looking embarrassed.  “I think he wanted to give me some time to work on it without him.”  The little hobbit was staring down at the foot guards again.  “For instructing purposes Mister Tunnely might want to get some of these foot guards.”

“Did you drop a hammer on his foot, Master Pippin?” Sam asked.

‘No,” Pippin said.  “I nailed his sleeve to a board, dropped another board on one of his feet, accidentally spilt some of that grease that you use on wheels down the front of his shirt, and sawed a small table in half.”  Pippin cleared his throat.  “I think he was doing a good job of being patient with me until I dropped the hammer on his head and then he had a very hard time keeping his temper.  That’s when he said that I should work on my project by myself for a week.  He said that he would come by and see how I was managing after that.”  Pippin looked at Sam and continued.  “Do they make some sort of foot guard that fits on your head?  Maybe like a helmet?”

“I don’t recall ever seein’ one,” Sam said.  “Have you talked to Mister Merry about helping you with your wheel barrow?”

“Merry offered to build it for me,” Pippin said disgustedly.  “I know he doesn’t think that I can build one and that’s why he offered, but I want to do it myself.  I wouldn’t mind a bit of help but I don’t want Merry to build it.  Mister Tunnely would never believe that it was my work if Merry built it.”

“No, I don’t suspect that he would,” Sam said.

“This one isn’t very good and it doesn’t roll properly, but you can tell that I did it by myself can’t you?” Pippin asked.

“I can tell that all right,” Sam agreed.

“I almost asked Frodo to help today, but-“ Pippin faltered.  He didn’t want to say anything that might sound unkind about Frodo and especially not in front of Sam.  Sam and Frodo were great friends and Sam never took kindly to even the slightest criticism of Frodo.

“No, I don’t suspect that you should ask Mister Frodo for help with this,” Sam said trying not to grin.  “Mister Frodo is a fine gentle hobbit and he’s sharp as a tack about Elves and book-learnin’ and business matters, but he doesn’t know very much about buildin’ things.”

Pippin shook his head.  “One time, Frodo and I were riding in a cart hauling some potatoes and flour back to Bag End and a wheel came off of the cart.  I figured that Frodo would just get out and put the wheel back on, but instead, we left the cart right there in the road, pony and all.  We walked to the smith’s in town and Frodo hired him to come out and fix it.  If that had been Merry, he would have had the wheel back on in no time at all.”

“Some folks are good with their hands and some are better with their heads,” Sam said.  “Mister Frodo is more of a thinker then a builder.”

Pippin looked at the wheelbarrow that he had worked on all week and sighed.  “I guess I must be a thinker too because this doesn’t look very good, does it?” Pippin asked.

“It needs a bit of work and that’s sure,” Sam said trying to be tactful.  Mister Pippin had worked hard and he’d done all of this, whatever this was, on his own after he’d frightened Mister Tunnely off.  Sam knew that he was probably taking a big risk but he said, “I don’t suppose you’d mind some advise on this would you?”

______________________________________________________

Frodo walked into the barn and found Sam putting a blanket over Pippin who was sound asleep on a bed of straw.  Some distance behind Sam there was something else underneath a blanket.  Frodo suspected that this was Pippin’s carpentry project.  Obviously his little cousin was still keeping that under wraps for the time being. 

Sam looked up and smiled.  “I was going to wake him and point him toward the smial but I thought he could use a bit ‘o rest first.”

Frodo smiled back.  Sam had placed a blanket over Pippin but his little cousin’s feet were sticking out from underneath the blanket.  Frodo peered intently at Pippin’s feet.  “What is he wearing?” Frodo whispered.

“Them are the Gaffer’s foot guards,” Sam explained.  “They’re for protectin’ the tops of your feet from things such as fallin’ hammers.”

Frodo sighed.  “I am guessing that Pippin has inherited my lack of skill with tools then?”

Sam blushed a bit and nodded.  “Well, Mister Frodo the lad is a might awkward just now and it is his first try.”

Frodo smiled.  “So you are saying that, unlike me, he might have a chance of improving with practice and instruction?”

Sam stammered a bit and then finally said, “You never had much call to build nothing, Mister Frodo.  I’m sure that if you had that you-”

“Would have done just about as well as Pippin is doing now,” Frodo sighed looking at his sleeping cousin.

“I wouldn’t like to say, sir,” Sam said.

“I wish that I could help him a bit, but I’m afraid that I wouldn’t know where to begin,” Frodo sighed.  “Merry is the member of the family that seems to have a natural talent for this sort of thing.”  Frodo glanced behind himself as if expecting Merry to turn up suddenly and then said, “Don’t tell Merry that I said that, Sam.  That Brandybuck is insufferable enough as it is with out praise.”

“He’s at that age,” Sam said and Frodo had to try not to smile.  Sam was only two years older than Merry was.  “Course it ain’t my place to say nothing about Mister Merry’s behavior.”

“Merry could help Pippin with this if he’d simply help and not do the entire thing for him,” Frodo said.  Frodo was trying to build up to something and Sam was fairly sure that he knew what it was.  “I don’t suppose that you might be able to give Pippin a few instructions.  You know, look at his work and offer suggestions as to how to make it better?”

Having seen Master Pippin’s labors Sam suspected that almost anything would make it better but he didn’t think that would be a very helpful thing to say.  Mister Frodo was only trying to find some help for the lad and to be perfectly fair, Mister Frodo hadn’t seen the contraption that was underneath that blanket just yet.  “I suppose that I could help him a bit if he doesn’t mind,” Sam said slowly.  “But won’t Mister Tunnely but put out if I happen to teach Master Pippin something in a different way from how he thinks it ought to be done?”

“I believe that Mister Tunnely would be grateful for the help,” Frodo said remembering the old gentleman’s expression as he had sat on the sofa in the Bag End parlor with a cold cloth on the lump that was growing on the top of his head.  Frodo glanced over at Pippin.  The lad was the picture of innocence as he slept.  It was hard to imagine that this little hobbit had made patient Mister Tunnely so angry in one short afternoon.  Frodo sighed as he remembered the grease on Mister Tunnely’s shirt and said to Sam, “Anything that you might be able to teach Pippin would be appreciated by myself and Mister Tunnely.”

“Mister Frodo?” Sam asked.

“Yes, Sam?”

“You don’t suppose that old Mister Bilbo had anything laying about like a helmet do you?” Sam asked.

Frodo thought for a moment.  It was a rather odd question for a practical hobbit like Sam Gamgee, but Frodo supposed that there was a reason for the question.

Part 2

The next morning at first breakfast Pippin couldn’t seem to sit still.  He was anxious to return to the barn and work on his project.  Sam was going to meet him there and give him some advice on how to make his wheel barrow more like a wheel barrow.

“You’re eating too fast even for a Took,” Merry teased.

“I have to hurry so Sam doesn’t think that I’m not coming,” Pippin said between bites.  “I don’t want to keep him waiting for me.  Besides, the Gaffer could decide that he needs Sam’s help for something and then he’ll have to go off.”

“So Sam is going to help you with your project?” Merry said, frowning a bit.

Pippin nodded while shoveling in more of his breakfast.

“Just what are you building out there in the barn anyway?” Merry asked still frowning.

“It’s not ready yet,” Pippin said taking a drink of his milk.

“I gathered that much yesterday, but what will it be when it’s finished?” Merry asked.

Pippin grabbed several scones off of the plate on the table and stood quickly.  “You’ll see once it’s done,” he said and limped toward the door.

Merry scowled.

“You should have helped him when he asked you to,” Frodo said.

“Piss off, Frodo,” Merry grumbled.

_________________________________________________

Sam was in the barn when Pippin arrived.  Sam was standing over the wheel barrow with his hands on his hips and shaking his head.  Pippin stopped just inside of the barn and watched.  Sam was clicking his tongue and muttering to himself.

“I guess that would be the best thing,” Pippin said in a small voice.

Startled, Sam spun around and saw the young hobbit looking at him.  Master Pippin’s face was a study in disappointment and Sam knew at once that the lad had over heard his mutterings.  “If you’d come on over here I can show you why we need to start over,” Sam said gently.  There was no use in trying to deny that he’d been saying as much when Master Pippin came in. 

Pippin nodded and came over to join Sam.  Pippin had the last bite of a scone in one hand but he made no move to finish it off.  He just stood there looking sadly down at the wheel barrow.  “So it’s all completely wrong then?” Pippin asked.

“Well it ain’t completely wrong,” Sam said trying to soften the blow without telling an out right lie.  “We can use most ‘o these parts but some of it needs to be measured a bit closer.”

“Like the handles?” Pippin asked.  “I was worried about them to start with but I never could get them to come out the same.  That one kept getting shorter and shorter and I was worried that I might cut too much off of it and so I just lined them up the best that I could and quit sawing on them.”

“Don’t feel too bad Master Pippin,” Sam said putting a hand on the lad’s shoulder.  “Getting’ the measurin’ right can be a might tricky until you’ve done it a few times.”

“So we have to start completely over?” Pippin asked.

“Well, what we need to do first is see how much of it we can save,” Sam said.  “Some of it might be all right if we just work on it a bit.”  Sam watched the disappointment wash over Master Pippin’s face.  “Think of this as good experience.  You have an idea of how a wheel barrow ought to be built and you’ve had a try at it.  Now, what you’re goin’ to do is take the best parts of this one and make a second try at it.”

“So how do we take it apart?” Pippin asked.  “I used lots and lots of nails on it to make it sturdy for hauling things.”

“First thing you do is you go over to that stall and get them foot guards,” Sam said.  “Then you are going to start takin’ this thing apart.”

“By myself?” Pippin asked finally popping the rest of his scone into his mouth.  “I thought you were going to help me, Sam.”

“I am,” Sam said.  “But if I took your meanin’ right last night, you told me that you wanted to build this on your own.  You said that the reason that Mister Merry weren’t helpin’ you was that he wanted to build it for you.”

Pippin nodded.  “I do want to build it on my own, but couldn’t you help me un-build it?”

“Get the foot guards,” Sam said avoiding answering the question for the moment.

__________________________________________

“Will you either sit down or just go on out to the barn, Meriadoc?” Frodo sighed losing his place in the book that he’d been trying to read.  Reading was very difficult with Merry skulking about the place.  Ever since Pippin had left the breakfast table to go out to the barn, Merry had been irritable.  Frodo sighed again.  It was going to be a very long day.

“Just read your book,” Merry growled.  “I have no intention of going out to that barn.  Pippin and Sam can build an entire wind mill out there if they want.  I have no interest in this project at all.”  He stalked over to the front window in the parlor and said.  “Why don’t’ you and I go into town for a while?”

Frodo was sorely tempted to tell Merry that he had no interest in going to town just now but he suspected that he might as well go.  Merry was in a foul humor and it would hardly be fair to turn a grouchy Brandybuck loose on Hobbiton without someone going along to smooth things over a bit.  “I suppose we could go and see what we can locate for our dinner.  I haven’t planned that meal out just yet.  I’ve enough provisions for second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon and-“

“Fine,” Merry interrupted.  “Let’s just get to it then, shall we?”  He started for the door and Frodo got up, reluctantly putting his book down on the chair.  Yes, it was going to be a very long day.  Someone was just a bit jealous.

___________________________________________________

“Are you all right, Sam?” Pippin asked in a rather panicked voice.

Sam was laying flat on the barn floor with his hands over his head.  He peered up at Master Pippin and said, “I think so.  I didn’t know I could move that fast.”

“I-I-I didn’t hit you, did I?” Pippin asked his voice thick with a combination of embarrassment and worry.

Sam got to his feet and began brushing the straw off of his trousers.  “No, it was just like I said.  I was faster than I thought and I managed to duck a’fore that hammer came sailin’ over top of me,” Sam said.  “What happened?’

Pippin was rubbing his palms on his trousers.  “My hands seem to be a bit sweaty,” he said.  “I think that while I was pulling out that last nail the hammer just flew out of my hands.  That last nail was in there very deep.  I must have done an uncommonly good job of driving that one in.”  In spite of the results, the little Took actually seemed to be taking pride in having put one nail in securely.

Sam rubbed the top of his head and frowned.  “Well, I suspect we ought to try and find the hammer before we do anything else,” he said looking behind him.

Pippin nodded.  “I think it hit the far wall,” he said and started awkwardly over in that direction.  The Gaffer’s foot guards were more than a little too large on the lad and Pippin walked a bit like a duck in them. 

Sam watched Master Pippin dig through the straw in search of the hammer and wondered exactly what he’d let himself in for when he’d agreed to help out with this.  So far Master Pippin had been eager to follow all of his instructions but the lad was simply an accident waiting to happen.  This was the second time this morning that Sam had nearly been hit by that hammer.  “Found it!” Pippin crowed and held the hammer aloft.

Sam quickly took it from him and said, “I think we need to get some gloves on you so this don’t happen again.”

“Gloves?” Pippin asked.

Sam walked over to the work table and found a pair of old leather gloves that he often used when digging in the garden.  “These gloves are a great way to avoid blisters when your diggin’ and I think they will help keep the hammer from slippin’ out ‘o your hands,” Sam said.  He handed the gloves to Master Pippin and watched the lad examine them.

“But Sam,” Pippin frowned.  “The fingers are all cut out!”

“That’s right,” Sam said.  “Slip ‘em on, Master Pippin.  Them gloves will give you a good grip on the hammer but they’ll still leave your fingers free so that you can still pick up nails.”

Pippin slid the gloves on and held his hands up to admire them.  “This is a great idea,” Pippin said.  “Did you think of it, Sam?”

“No, I can’t take credit for the idea,” Sam said.  “Lots ‘o folks do this with their gloves.”

Pippin grinned and reached for the hammer.  “I’m ready to try pulling some more nails out now,” he said.

Sam reluctantly gave the lad the hammer and backed away to what he hoped was a safe location.  He really did wonder if Mister Bilbo had any helmets put away in Bag End.  Buildin’ things with Master Pippin was dangerous work.  A good sturdy metal helm like the ones that the Dwarves wore for the Battle of The Five Armies in Mister Bilbo’s tales would sure come in handy about now.  Come to think on it, a shield might be nice.

“These are awfully nice gloves, Sam,” Pippin said as he pulled out another nail.  Sam only smiled and backed up another step.

____________________________________________

Merry had made up his mind after a long talk with Frodo to go out to the barn and see what Pippin was working on.  He was being silly about this.  Frodo was right.  Pippin wasn’t trying to exclude him from anything.  Pippin had just turned to Sam for help when Merry had been a bit, well, oh fine, he could admit it.  He’d been a bit too smug about his own carpentry talents and a bit less than encouraging about Pippin’s efforts.  Frodo had made him see all of this while they’d been in Hobbiton getting food for the dinner meal.

Frodo was inside putting the provisions away and fixing a second breakfast.  Merry would just go into the barn, see how the work was coming along, offer some encouragement and the stay to help out.  Pippin would be pleased and Merry was very sure that Sam would welcome the help.

Merry reached the barn and noticed that the door was shut.  There was a rather large sign tacked up to the barn door.  Merry frowned as he read it.

Pippin’s Carpentry Project!

Keep out, except, of course, for Sam Gamgee. 

All others will please knock.

~~~Peregrin Took

Merry’s brow furrowed and his frown deepened.  “All others, please knock?  So I am ‘all others’ now?  Well, I’ve no need to see anything in that barn,” Merry muttered.  He looked around and was sure that no one could see him so he pressed his ear to the door to listen for a moment.  All he could hear was the sound of hammering.  Angrier than when he and Frodo had left for town, Merry stormed back toward Bag End.   He had no idea why he had bothered to listen to Frodo about this to begin with.

____________________________________________________

“Hold still, Master Pippin,” Sam said between gritted teeth.  “I almost have you loose now.  Just this one more nail.”  Sam pulled back using the claw end of the hammer to remove the last of the nails and Pippin, who’d been leaning a bit too much, fell to the floor.

“I think I’ve ruined my shirt this time,” Pippin signed as he sat on the floor and examined his sleeve.  He was able to poke one thin finger through one of the holes in the material.  “I don’t know how I did that,” Pippin frowned.

“Well, you might want to roll your sleeves up before you start again,” Sam said.  He couldn’t believe that the lad had actually nailed his own shirt to the practice board.  Once Pippin had finished taking apart that contraption that he’d called a wheel barrow, Sam had wanted a bit of time to examine the pieces and to see if any of it was at all usable.  He hadn’t wanted Master Pippin in the way for this and so he’d suggested that Master Pippin practice driving some nails into an old board.  He figured that the youngster could use the practice.  Sam had been about half way through the pile of wood and wheels that Pippin had disassembled when Pippin had called to him in a near panic.

“Sam!  Help!  I’ve nailed my shirt to this board and I can’t get loose!” Pippin had shouted.

Master Pippin had driven not one, not two, but eight nails into the sleeve of his shirt and another one into the tail of it.  Sam had made the mistake of laughing a bit at the lad’s predicament.  This had caused Master Pippin to say, “You’re sounding just like Merry!  You don’t think I can do this, do you?”

That had put a stop to Sam’s laughter.  He had even apologized and had patiently freed the lad by pulling out all of the nails while Pippin squirmed and made it all the more difficult with his eagerness to get free.  Sam seemed to recall that Pippin had told him that he’d nailed Mister Tunnely’s sleeve to a board too.  Sam had already rolled his own sleeves up but he turned them up another notch just in case.  The thought of Master Pippin using a claw hammer to free him gave Sam a shudder.  No wonder Mister Tunnely had turned tail and run!

Master Pippin, looking red-faced with embarrassment and still poking his finger through the hole in the tail of his shirt, asked, “You won’t tell anyone, will you?  I mean when we go in to second breakfast you won’t tell Merry that I nailed myself to a board will you?”

“Course not,” Sam said. 

‘After all, it was an accident and almost anyone could have done something like it,” Pippin said brightening a bit and rolling up his sleeves.

“Nobody I know,” Sam muttered.

“What?” Pippin asked frowning.

“I was just sayin’ we should give it another go,” Sam said.

___________________________________________________

“A sign of all things!  That little twit has posted a sign on your barn door forbidding anyone to enter without knocking,” Merry said.  “Oh, except Sam.  That knocking rule doesn’t apply to Sam Gamgee, just to the rest of us regular hobbits!  ‘All others’ it said.  All others indeed!”

“Merry you are behaving like a jealous child,” Frodo said.  “Now go on out to the barn and knock on that-“

“I refuse to knock on the barn door!” Merry shouted.  “No one knocks on the door to a barn.  That’s preposterous.”

“Fine,” Frodo sighed.  “You finish setting the table and I’ll go knock and let them know that second breakfast is on the table.”  Frodo turned and left the kitchen and a very out-of-sorts Merry Brandybuck behind him.

_____________________________________________

The Gaffer was enjoying his breakfast at the Ivy Bush.  His daughter was staying with the Cottons for a few days and Sam had clearly had his hands full this morning so Hamfast had decided that he’d simply have his breakfast at the Ivy.  Willow, who worked the kitchen at the Ivy, was a fine cook and she knew exactly how the Hamfast liked his eggs.

Hamfast was just finishing up the last of his bacon when he noticed Tobias Tunnely coming in.  Hamfast raised a hand and called out, “There you are, you old coward, you!”

“I beg your pardon, Gaffer,” Tobias frowned.  “It’s a might early in the day for guessin’ games so I will ask you to explain that remark.”  Tobias sat down at Hamfast Gamgee’s table and peered over at him.

Hamfast chuckled.  “Peregrin Took,” he said with a twinkle in his eyes.

Tobias went slightly pale and frowned.  “Do not mention that name to me or I’ll need several ales just to get through my breakfast without cryin’.”

Hamfast threw back his head and laughed as Willow set a mug of hot tea down for Tobias and refilled Hamfast’s own mug. 

“Laugh if you want, you old goat,” Tobias said.  “But that lad is a danger around any sort of tool.  As close as you live to Frodo Baggins I’m surprised you don’t know that.  I know that the Tooks wisely leave the child there as often as they can.”

“They don’t leave ‘em there,” Hamfast said gruffly.  “He likes it there.  Mister Frodo sets a fine table as did Mister Bilbo before ‘im and that little one has quite the appetite.  Besides, Master Pippin is quite close to his older cousins and right fond ‘o my Sam.”

“I’m sure he’s a nice enough lad, but they’ll have to threaten to cut off my ale and kidnap my missus a’fore I’ll go anywhere near him again,” Tobias said.  He picked up his tea in two shaky hands and took a long drink.

“I thought I understood Mister Frodo to say that you was due back directly to check on the lad’s progress,” Hamfast frowned.

“If I left the Baggins lad with that idea then I’m sorry,” Tobias said.  “I don’t have no intention of seein’ if Master Peregrin Took has progressed or not.  There’s not enough gold buried in the hill at Bag End to make me go anywhere near that one.  I put what his father paid me for the lessons into a package and sent it back to Whitwell as soon as my nerves allowed it.”

“You mean to say that you let one small Took scare you off’n your job ‘o tutorin’?” Hamfast asked.

“That one small Took managed to nearly kill me with a hammer!” Tobias objected.  “Why I was hit in the head so hard I saw stars for two days!  He ruined my best work shirt with grease, nailed me to a board, spilt a whole can ‘o red paint into my tool sack, broke one of my best saws off at the handle, and sawed my best work table in half.  As to the damage to my tools and my table, you can be sure that I kept what was owed me out ‘o Mister Paladin Took’s money and no mistake on that!”

“Holy Stickle bats,” Hamfast murmured.

“Bring me an ale, will you, Willow dear?” Tobias called out.  “Now you’ve gone and done it, Hamfast.  I’m shaken’ like a leaf in a high wind.  I’m going’ at have at drink my breakfast just to settle my nerves.”  He paused and looked at Hamfast who was now slightly pale himself.  “What’s wrong with you?”

“My own Sam is over to Bag End right now, trying’ to help Master Pippin with his building’,” Hamfast confessed. 

“Willow, better bring the Gaffer an ale too and keep ‘em coming’” Tobias called out.  He reached across the table and patted Hamfast’s arm.  “Least you got other children, Gaffer.  I only had that one work table.”

Part 3

Frodo had been very amused by the sign on his barn and even more amused when Pippin refused to allow him to enter.  Pippin had said he wanted the project to be a surprise and that he and Sam had a great deal to do before it would be ready for folks to see.  Pippin had said all of this in a very nervous chatter with a smile plastered on his face, which looked less than convincing.  Sam’s face had been unreadable for once.   Frodo almost always knew what Sam thought of something but as they walked across the garden to Bag End, Pippin chattering away, Frodo had not been able to figure out what was on Sam’s mind.

On the other hand, Frodo had very little trouble figuring out what was on Merry’s mind.  When the three of them entered the kitchen, all Frodo needed was one look at Merry’s scowl to know that second breakfast was not going to be a cheerful meal.  Merry was still angry over Pippin’s sign, Pippin was nervous, and Sam was, well, Sam was unreadable.

“It’s about time the three of you made it here,” Merry said, his voice reflecting his irritation.  “I had thought that I might have to start without you if I wanted to be finished in time for elevenses.”

“We’ve been ever so busy in the barn,” Pippin rattled as he sat in his usual seat next to Merry.  “There’ s a great deal to do and some of it takes quite a bit of time.  Carpentry is very hard work.”  Pippin stole a glance at Sam and then quickly looked at Merry.  “What will you be doing today?”

“Well, it won’t be carpentry and that is for certain,” Merry said.  “I had to do quite enough of that when I was your age.”

Pippin frowned.  He hated reminders that everyone else had already been through their lessons.  It was a sore trial to be the only one still required to take instruction.  Frodo sighed.  Merry always knew exactly what would annoy Pippin.  Pippin shifted a bit in his seat, sat up as straight as he could, but said nothing.

“I didn’t really enjoy it all that much at the time,” Merry said and took a bite of his toast.  “But everyone does have to learn how to use a hammer in case the need should arise.  It was simple enough and rather dull.  I’ve no desire to repeat the experience.”

“I kind of like building things,” Pippin said and he looked quickly at Sam again.  Frodo wondered what it was that Pippin thought Sam might say.  The lad was worried about something and it seemed to involve Sam.

“So how is the project coming along?” Frodo asked hoping that his interest might take Pippin’s mind off of whatever was making him nervous.

“Oh!  Just splendid, isn’t it, Sam?” Pippin said quickly and he looked at Sam eagerly.

“Things are movin’ right along,” Sam said easily. 

Merry snorted and said, “Have your hands full, do you Sam?”

Pippin blanched a bit but Sam said, “Master Pippin is doing right well and I always did enjoy workin’ with my hands a bit.”

“Well, don’t do it all for him or Mister Tunnely will notice for sure,” Merry advised with a slight smile.

“Master Pippin is doin’ all the work, Mister Merry,” Sam said calmly as Pippin looked down at his plate.  “I’m just givin’ him a pointer or two.  He’s a fast learner.”  Pippin’s head came up and he looked very grateful.

“Well, you’ve always had more patience than the rest of us, Sam,” Merry smiled.

“And more manners than some of us,” Frodo said, glaring at Merry who ignored him completely.  “More jam, Pippin?” Frodo asked, turning to look at his younger cousin.

“No thank you, Frodo,” Pippin murmured.  “I don’t think I really wanted any second breakfast.  I’m just going back out to the barn for a bit.”  He got up from the table and started for the door.  Frodo could see Sam tense as Pippin started out.

“I’ll be along directly, Master Pippin,” Sam assured him.  Frodo got the feeling that Sam wanted to say something more but held back.

Pippin looked at Sam as if he also expected there to be more but his thoughts were interrupted.

“Better eat something, Pip,” Merry said, although his own plate had hardly been touched.  “You’re in for a very long day.  Not as long as Sam’s, but long enough.”  Merry winked at Sam as if the two shared a jest of some sort and Sam’s frown deepened.

“Piss off, Merry!” Pippin shouted and slammed the door behind him so hard that the china rattled in the cabinet and Frodo’s own plate clattered a bit on the wooden table.

“Well, I wonder what’s got into him now?” Merry sighed, looking the picture of innocence.

Frodo and Sam both glared at Merry now.

“What?” Merry demanded returning their stares.

“Did you have to do that?” Frodo asked.

“Do what?” Merry asked.

“Tease him,” Frodo said.  “I have a feeling that he isn’t very sure of himself just now and it might have been important to him for you to show a bit of interest in his project rather than making nasty comments.”

“If he wanted me to show an interest in it, he could have let me see it earlier,” Merry said.  “Besides, he has Sam here to help him build whatever it is.  He doesn’t need any more support.”

“He always needs your support,” Frodo said with an angry edge to his voice.  “Sometimes I don’t understand why, but Pippin always values your opinion.”

“I offered to build it for him and he wasn’t interested in that,” Merry said becoming defensive and looking slightly guilty. “I’ve done all I can.  I’ll not hold his hand.  He’s not a faunt, you know.”

Sam stood and looked at Frodo.  His face was tight with the control that he was struggling to maintain.  “Mister Frodo, if it’d be all right, I’d like to fix up a basket ‘o food and take it out to the barn.  Master Pippin and I might just decide to work on through elevenses.”

“Of course, Sam,” Frodo agreed.  He stood and began to lay some toast on a clean serviette.  “The basket is on the bench in front of the window.  If you’ll get it then I will be happy to help you gather up some things for a small feast.”

“I guess that would be best, Sam.  Then you and Pippin wouldn’t have to bother with the rest of us,” Merry snapped as he stood quickly and left.  He went into the parlor muttering about how Sam was babying Pippin. 

“That one could do with a good, swift kick if you’ll pardon my sayin’ so, Mister Frodo,” Sam said as he retrieved the basket and placed it on the table.

Frodo smiled at his friend.  “I’ve thought as much myself, Sam,” Frodo agreed.  “He’s just a bit out of sorts.  He isn’t used to Pippin refusing to show him anything.  I believe he’s a bit jealous just now.”

“Well, all the same, he could use a good swift kick,” Sam said again. 

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Frodo said as he helped Sam pack up the basket.  “It may just come to that before the day is over.”  Frodo looked at Sam and asked, “How is Pippin doing, Sam?”

“He’s doin’ just fine,” Sam said evenly.  He wasn’t one to lie and especially to Mister Frodo, but he felt that he should keep Master Pippin’s troubles to himself for the time being.  After all, the lad had asked him not to tell that one incident with the nails and Sam certainly didn’t want to let Mister Merry over hear that there was any sort of trouble.

Frodo could tell that Sam was holding something back, but he let it go.  Sam was, very generously, helping Pippin with his project, and Frodo had no desire to interfere.  “Try to get Pippin to eat a bit more if you can,” Frodo said as he handed Sam the basket.  “I’ve put several boiled eggs in there and Pippin really enjoys those.”

 Sam took the basket and nodded.  “I’ll see to it,” he said.

_______________________________________

“You are acting like a spoiled child, Meriadoc,” Frodo said sternly as he entered the parlor.  He had cleaned up the breakfast mess so that he might calm down a bit before facing Merry.  He didn’t want to say anything in anger, well, at least not that much anger.  It had been a very long time since he’d been this upset with Merry for anything.  Merry was usually so supportive of Pippin.  In fact, sometimes Merry was the only one who could see past some of Pippin’s disasters to the true effort that had gone into them.  Pippin’s intentions were nearly always good but the results of his labors weren’t always pleasant.

“Oh you think so, do you?” Merry asked as he paced the length of Bag End’s front parlor.  “You think I’m acting like a spoiled child, do you?”

“That is exactly what I think and it is what I am likely to think until you quit pouting over this business with Pippin’s carpentry project,” Frodo said wishing Merry would stop pacing.  It was difficult to make your point with eye contact if the eyes weren’t ever in the same place.

“Think what you like, Cousin,” Merry said as he passed.  “I’m not the one barricading the barn shut and hiding things in it like a guilty five-year-old.”  Merry paused and looked at Frodo.  “Has it occurred to you that Pippin has mucked up something in the barn and is trying to fix it before you see it?”

It hadn’t occurred to Frodo until Merry brought it up, but now it began to gnaw at the back of his mind.  After all, there was something that Sam wasn’t saying about all of this.  Frodo had put that up to manners.  Sam hadn’t wanted to tell Merry what he thought of his behavior at second breakfast or maybe Pippin had sworn Sam to secrecy about something.  Now Merry’s idea was taking hold and pushing the others out of the way.  “I am sure that if anything were amiss with my barn, Sam would let me know about it,” Frodo said.

“Why are you putting up with this?” Merry asked.

“With what?” Frodo asked.

“Well, why are you letting Pippin take these lessons here?” Merry asked.  “Shouldn’t Uncle Paladin deal with the damages?”

“I am allowing Pippin to take lessons here for three reasons,” Frodo said.  “First I didn’t want him to have to spend his entire summer at home on the farm.  I wanted him to be able to enjoy himself a bit.  I knew if he were at home he would have only his sisters for company and when he wasn’t taking lessons, he would most likely be doing chores.”

“That might not hurt him,” Merry snorted.

“Second,” Frodo said, ignoring Merry’s interruption.  “Mister Tunnely lives here in Hobbiton and this is more convenient for him.  He isn’t as young as he used to be and I suspect that Paladin wouldn’t have been able to lure him out to Whitwell for the summer.  This was easier for Mister Tunnely.”

“Uncle Paladin must have thought so too,” Merry said.  “His barns are safe.”

Frodo clenched his fists and continued.  “And third, I thought that both you and Pippin would enjoy each other’s company when Pippin wasn’t busy with his lessons.  I thought it would please both of you.”

Merry frowned and turned quickly away from Frodo.  This had struck a nerve.

“I actually thought that you might be good for Pippin’s self-confidence,” Frodo said.  “The lad seems a bit shaky this summer.  I suspect it’s the lessons since I am also tutoring him in writing, which isn’t coming along as well as his father might have wanted.  He probably feels as if all of us are criticizing him about everything these days even though all we are doing is helping him with his education.  I thought you might be able to ease the sting of it all by providing some encouragement or, at the very least, some companionship during the time that Pippin isn’t studying.”

“Why does everyone always expect me to hold his hand?” Merry demanded but Frodo could see that Merry felt a bit guilty about his behavior.  No one else would have noticed it, but Frodo knew Merry quite well and he knew the signs.  “I am not his keeper.”

“No, you are his older cousin and he adores you for some odd reason,” Frodo said.  “You are also responsible for this misconception on the part of others, Merry.”

“How?” Merry asked.

“You’ve led everyone to believe that you are very fond of Pippin,” Frodo said softly.

Merry sighed.  “He grows on you,” Merry said leaving all pretence behind.  “I don’t know why exactly, but he just does.”

“Younger cousins have a way of doing that even if you don’t intend it,” Frodo said smiling at Merry and remembering a certain tiny Brandybuck who had charmed a certain young Baggins many years ago.  Even now, Frodo found it difficult to be as angry at Merry as he should be.  After all, this was Merry, his adored younger cousin.

_________________________________________

 

Sam sat the basket down on a barrel in the barn.  “I fixed us a picnic for the rest ‘o the mornin’,” Sam said. 

Pippin was lining up some nails on the worktable as if this were something that needed doing.  He didn’t look up.  he just continued to make a long, neat, row of them.  “Thank you for not telling them,” he said.

“Not telling them what?” Sam asked.

“How terrible I am at all of this,” Pippin said as he placed the next nail in the growing line.

“You asked me not to tell Mister Merry that you’d nailed your shirt to the table and so I didn’t,” Sam said.  “And I wouldn’t say you were doin’ terrible at this, Master Pippin.”

“That’s only because you’re too nice to say that sort of thing,” Pippin said.  Another nail joined the others in the long row.  “You’re always nice.  How do you manage that?”

Sam chuckled at the question.  “I ain’t always nice but I do try not to make trouble around here.  I do work for Mister Frodo and he’s always been nice to me.  He’s even been a friend to me and I don’t want to do anything to spoil that if you take my meaning.”

“Oh, you could never spoil that,” Pippin said looking at Sam.  “Frodo is always talking about what a great friend you are.  I don’t believe that he thinks of you as someone who works for him at all.  I think he just likes having your friendship.”

Sam blushed and looked at his hands.  “That’s a right nice thing to say, Master Pippin, but all the same, I am Mister Frodo’s gardener.”

“And his friend,” Pippin said stubbornly.  “And you’ve been a good friend to me today too, Sam.”

Sam blushed brighter and said; “Mister Frodo put some boiled eggs in that basket just for you.  You might want to have one or two so’s he don’t worry that you’ve not eat proper.”  He really did need to change the subject before his embarrassment got the better of him.

“I’m too angry to eat just now,” Pippin said returning to his nails.

“What are you angry about?” Sam asked even though he knew the answer.

“I hate Merry,” Pippin said.

“I don’t suspect that you hate him, Master Pippin,” Sam said gently.

“Well, you’d be wrong about that,” Pippin said.  “Merry thinks he’s perfect.  He thinks he knows how to do everything and that he never needs help or makes any mistakes.  He thinks he’s so much smarter than me!”

“He thinks that, or you think that?” Sam asked.

Pippin swallowed.  “Maybe I think it sometimes but only because he’s older,” Pippin said taking his hand and messing up his line of nails on the table.  “He’s just older is all.”

“You can’t measure yourself against others, Master Pippin,” Sam said.  “My Gaffer says that everyone is different and all ‘o us just have to be the best at what we’re able to do and leave the rest to others.”

“Then I had best sit down in a corner and leave everything to everyone else,” Pippin sighed.  “I’m not terribly good at anything.”

Sam sighed.  Teens were so emotional and so sensitive.  Master Pippin’s feelings were hurt.  “You can’t be good at things unless you work at ‘em and you and me are goin’ to work at makin’ you a good carpenter.”

Pippin smiled a bit.  “You still want to help me with this?”

“I do and I expect this to be the finest wheelbarrow in the Shire when it’s done,” Sam said.

“Then maybe I will have an egg or two before we start again," Pippin grinned.

Part 4

Merry had decided to go back into Hobbiton for lunch but wound up walking a bit further.  He knew that Sam and Pippin would soon come into the Bag End kitchen for luncheon.  He didn’t think Sam had taken enough food out to the barn in that basket to get much past elevenses.  He decided to avoid another confrontation by eating in town.  Though he usually favored The Green Dragon or getting something from the town’s wonderful baked goods shop, he found himself making the longer walk to the Ivy Bush. 

The Ivy Bush was often populated by the older citizens of Hobbiton and Bywater.  It was a nice enough place and Merry had to admit that the food was excellent but it wasn’t the most exciting place in the Shire.  Old Gaffers sat around and gossiped all day long with little thought to what they were saying or who might over-hear.  Merry remembered that his own father had once told him, “If you want to find out exactly what’s going on in the Shire all you need to do is have a drink at The Ivy.  Just mind that you don’t believe everything you hear in there.”

Merry wasn’t after news.  He just wanted to be left alone.  He would probably be the youngest hobbit in The Ivy Bush and therefore he would be of very little interest to the locals.  Save for a few ‘hellos’ and ‘how do you dos’ for the Master of Buckland’s son just out of politeness, he would most likely be left alone.

The nice older serving maid who worked The Ivy most days came over immediately and took Merry's lunch order the moment he sat down.  That was hardly any surprise, as most of the patrons didn’t seem to be ordering anything.  They had either all eaten earlier or they hadn’t started.  Merry noticed Sam’s father, Hamfast Gamgee sitting at his favorite table with a draught board in front of him.  Another old hobbit sat across from the Hamfast and the two were engrossed in a game.  Merry didn’t know most of the hobbits in The Ivy and so he was able to order his lunch and sit back in his chair and sulk about the state of things back at Bag End.

______________________________________________

 

Pippin had picked up the hammer again and was waving it about as he spoke.  “What should we, er, I do now, Sam?” Pippin asked.  “I’ve taken my first wheel barrow apart so how do I start the second one?”

Sam wanted to say that the first one had not exactly been a wheelbarrow but he was more concerned with that hammer just now.  Pippin often waved his hands about when talking but the lad didn’t usually have a hammer in one of them.  Sam came carefully over to join Pippin at the worktable and took hold of Pippin’s wrist.  “You’ll want to put that hammer down on the table for a bit, Master Pippin,” Sam suggested.  “I think we might start with something else this time.”

Pippin complied.  “What should we start with?”

“Well, if you’re goin’ to build somethin’ it’s good to have a plan for it,” Sam said.  “What you need is something to go by whilst you build your wheel barrow.”

“I know!” Pippin crowed excitedly and he turned and hurried off toward the far end of the barn.  Sam watched the lad go, scratching his head and wondering what Master Pippin was going after.

Still walking a bit awkwardly in the foot guards and wearing the gloves without the fingers, Pippin came back pushing Mister Frodo’s old wheel barrow.  “This should help,” Pippin smiled.  “I can look at this one and then build mine to look like it,” the lad said as he pushed the wheelbarrow over one of Sam’s feet.  “Oh, sorry, Sam,” Pippin said backing the wheelbarrow up and going over Sam’s foot a second time.  “Sorry,” he said and Sam reached out a hand to stay the wheelbarrow.

“Good thing that isn’t full ‘o rocks or somethin’” Sam said.

Pippin bit his lower lip.  “I should have looked closer.”

“Didn’t hurt none,” Sam lied.  “Now this here will give you an idea ‘o what a wheelbarrow looks like when it’s done, but you might need a bit more than that.  Can you think what I mean?”

Pippin puzzled a bit and then his eyes lit up.  “You want me to take this one apart too!  Then I can see what it looks like in pieces.”

“No, that ain’t what I was thinkin’ you should do, Master Pippin,” Sam said quickly as the lad was already reaching for that darned hammer again.

“What then?” Pippin frowned.

“You and me are goin’ to draw us a plan for your wheelbarrow,” Sam said.

“I can’t draw,” Pippin admitted.

“Neither can I,” Sam smiled.

“Then how will we do it?” Pippin asked, confused.  “Are we going to have Frodo draw it?  He’s very good at drawing.  Merry’s fairly good but Frodo is better at it and I don’t think Merry will want to help.”

“We won’t be needin’ either o’ them,” Sam said.  “We’re going to take some charcoal and draw this plan out on our own.”  Sam pulled a piece of charcoal from his trouser pocket and got a piece of parchment out from under the worktable.  There was a small shelf underneath the table and Sam knew that Mister Frodo always keep some parchment there.  Sam spread the parchment out on the table top next to the dreaded hammer and handed the charcoal to Master Pippin.  “Here.”

Pippin looked at the charcoal as if he’d never seen any before and frowned.  “I can’t draw anything Sam,” he said.

Sam ignored that and said, “This don’t have to look like a real wheel barrow on paper.  It’s what they call a rough draft.  All we’re doin’ is getting’ a plan set in our heads for the way this project ought to come about.  Now what do you think is the most important part of the wheel barrow?”

“The wheels?” Pippin asked.

“That’s fine, but there’s only one wheel,” Sam said and he pointed to Mister Frodo’s wheelbarrow that sat beside of the table.

“I know that one only has one wheel but the one I want to make is going to have three wheels,” Pippin said brightly.

“Wheelbarrows are only supposed to have one wheel,” Sam explained patiently.  “Two wheels is for an upright push cart, four wheels is for a wagon, and one for a wheelbarrow.”

“But look, Sam,” Pippin said, his eyes gleaming as he spoke.  “Say you have your wheel barrow full of stones and you have to take it up a steep hill to where you are working.”  Pippin put the charcoal down on the paper and drew a line to represent a hill.  “It’s a long way up and the stones are heavy so it’s hard to balance the load,” Pippin continued and he drew a small triangle with a circle at the bottom of it.  Sam knew this must be the wheelbarrow.  “You have all of the weight on your arms and this one wheel,” Pippin said.  He then took the charcoal and drew two smaller wheels at the back of the triangle.  “Now, if you had two extra wheels on the back you’d be able to balance the load a bit easier until you got to the top of the hill and all of the weight wouldn’t be on your arms,” Pippin said.  “You could roll it up the hill using all three wheels and then when you got to the top you could lift the handles and raise the two back wheels off of the ground again.  You make them smaller so that they aren’t in your way when you don’t want them to touch the ground,” Pippin said.  “This way you can haul more in one load even if you aren’t that strong because the small wheels in the back take some of the load.”

Sam thought this over and then asked, “When you get it to where you’re goin’ how do you keep it from rollin’ off?  With Mister Frodo’s wheelbarrow here, you just sit it down on those back braces and it don’t roll back down the hill.  How do you came a thing like that steady while you unload it?” He pointed to Pippin’s drawing.

“You put those little bars on that lock the wheels in place like they have on baby carts,” Pippin said.  “When you get it up the hill, you just lock up the wheels and there you are.”

“Where did you get this idea?” Sam asked.

“I got it from watching my father on the farm,” Pippin said.  “And from trying to move too many stones in a wheelbarrow one time myself.”  Pippin blushed a bit.  “I got the thing all loaded up and then I couldn’t move it because it was too heavy so I had to unload it right there, push half as many stones as it would have held up to where we were working and then make a second trip.  If the thing had only had two more wheels I could have moved it fine and saved a trip.  I even told my father that we ought to put extra wheels on ours but he just laughed and said I’d get stronger when I got older.”

Sam bent down and looked at Mister Frodo’s traditional wheelbarrow.  Pippin’s feet shifted a bit and he said, “I guess you’re going to tell me that I’ll get stronger later too or that I’m just plain daft for wanting to put extra wheels on.”

Sam stood up and grinned at Pippin and then patted him on the shoulder.  “No, I ain’t goin’ to do no such thing as that,” Sam said.  “I’m goin’ to let you put them extra wheels on your wheelbarrow because sometimes I’ve seen my old Gaffer struggle a bit to push a load ‘o potatoes up to the smial after diggin’ in the garden all day and him with a bad back at his age.  If he had extra wheels on his wheelbarrow then he’d not have such a struggle and bein’ a stubborn old hobbit, he’d never ask for no help nor take half ‘o the load out and make a second trip.”  Sam grinned at Pippin and said, “I think you got a right clever idea here, Master Pippin.”

“Really?” Pippin asked.  “Mister Tunnely didn’t think so.  He told me that I should just do it the way it was always done and behave myself.”

 “Just between you and me, Master Pippin,” Sam said in a low tone.  “Them what does the teachin’ don’t always have all the answers.”

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“Well, don’t tell me Mister Frodo nor my Sam didn’t cook up any lunch today,” Hamfast Gamgee said as he walked over to Merry’s table.  “Would you mind some company?”

Merry couldn’t help but smile at the Gaffer.  He’d always liked Sam’s father.  “Have a sit, Gaffer,” Merry said.  “I was just filling up my corners with some of The Ivy Bush’s famous apple cobbler.  Would you like me to have some brought over for you too?”

“I’m way ahead ‘o you lad,” the Gaffer grinned as Willow came over and sat a warm dish of cobbler in front of Hamfast.  She filled up Merry’s glass with more cold milk and sat down a mug of ale for Hamfast.

Merry grinned.  “This is the best cobbler in the Shire.”

“That’s right enough since my dear Belle passed on,” Hamfast smiled a bit sadly.  “When she was alive this was the second best cobbler in the Shire.  Now, I suspect it does hold first place.  So, how come you ain’t takin’ your lunch at Bag End?”

“How come you aren’t eating some of Marigold’s fine cooking?” Merry asked.

“She away for a few days and I’m fendin’ for myself,” Hamfast grinned.  “Well, me and Sam are fending for ourselves, but he’s right busy today.  I don’t want to put more work on ‘im.”

A slight scowl passed over Merry’s face.  “He’s busy all right.”

“I was forced to drink my breakfast thanks to Sam,” Hamfast chuckled.  “Course I suspect I was worryin’ for nothin’ anyways.  Some folks is just sensationalist is all.”

Merry’s scowl was replaced by a confused look.  “Drink your breakfast?”

“I had lots ‘o ales with that old goat, Tobias Tunnely is what,” Hamfast said taking a generous bite of his cobbler.

“Mister Tunnel was in here for breakfast?” Merry asked eating a bite of his own cobbler.

“He was and he was goin’ on and on ‘bout that cousin ‘o yours,” Hamfast said around a mouthful of cobbler.  “Talkin’ bout Master Peregrin like the lad was some sort ‘o jinx or somethin’.  Even had me a might worried for my Sam.”

Merry looked up from his cobbler and frowned.  “What did he say about Pippin?”

“Told me the lad almost killed ‘im whilst he were tryin’ to learn ‘im carpentry,” Hamfast said.

“Pippin didn’t almost kill him and he is not a jinx,” Merry objected becoming defensive.  “He’s just a bit accident prone, that's all.”

“Well, the old goat told me that Master Peregrin hit him a'top the noggin’ with a hammer,” Hamfast said as he shoveled more cobbler into his mouth and chewed noisily.

“That was only an accident,” Merry said starting to feel angry on Pippin’s behalf.

The Gaffer chuckled.  “That’s what I think but between you and me and this here table when Tobias got done with his sensationalizin’ I was a might worried about poor Sam.  I was afraid that my lad might get his skull dented if he helped Master Peregrin with his buildin’.  That’s why I drank my breakfast.  Had more than a few ales to calm my nerves, I did.”

“Pippin wouldn’t hurt anyone and especially not Sam,” Merry said his cobbler forgotten.

“Course not.  Least not on purpose,” Hamfast said as he took the last bite of his cobbler and washed it down with a large gulp of ale.  “Course accidents do happen and I hear tell they happen more than not when Master Peregrin’s about.”  He winked at Merry.  “You goin’ to finish that.” He pointed to Merry’s uneaten cobbler.

Merry pushed his bowl over in front of the Gaffer and said, “Well, I just hope that Tobias Tunnely isn’t going all over the Shire talking about Pippin because if he is than I am very sure that Frodo or Uncle Paladin will have something to say about it.  In fact, I suspect that one of them will fire the old wind bag.”

“No need,” Hamfast said as he set to work on Merry’s cobbler.

“Why’s that?” Merry asked.

“Old goat told me hisself that he weren’t never goin’ near your cousin again,” Hamfast said.

“You mean to say that he told you he’d quit?” Merry asked.

“More than quit,” Hamfast said as he licked some stray cobbler off of his own chin.  “Says that Mister Frodo’d have to kidnap his wife a’fore he’d go back to teachin’ Master Peregrin carpentry and just between you and me and this here table, I don’t think that’d do it.  Tobias Tunnely don’t exactly cherish that sore old wife ‘o his to begin with.”

“But Uncle Paladin paid him,” Merry said.

“I’m sure he did,” Hamfast said as he finished the last of the cobbler and waved to Willow to bring another bowl.  “But old Tobias sent the payment back, or so he told me.”

“Well he told Pippin to work on his project for a week and then he’d be back to see how it was progressing,” Merry said.  “Pippin thinks that Mister Tunnely will be coming back to see how he’s doing and to finish teaching him about carpentry.”

Willow sighed and sat another bowl of cobbler in front of Hamfast.  “Aren’t you ever goin’ home, Gaffer?” she asked.  “You’re eatin’ and drinkin’ us clean out ‘o business today.”

Hamfast chuckled and swatted her on the rump.  “I’m one ‘o your best customers and don’t you pretend that you ain’t noticed it.”  He lifted his spoon again and started on the fresh cobbler.

Willow snorted and walked away muttering, “That girl ‘o his better get herself home before we have to toss her father out ‘o here on his ear.”

“Gaffer, Pippin thinks-“

“He may think it but I know it ain’t so,” Hamfast interrupted.  “You ought to get yourself another dish ‘o cobbler, Mister Merry.  Finest apple cobbler in all the Shire now that my Belle’s gone.”

Merry just sat there and watched the Gaffer eat.  It seemed as it they had a very big problem.  It was starting to look as if Pippin wasn’t going to be taking carpentry lessons this summer unless they could find a braver hobbit than Tobias Tunnely for the job.

  TBC

Before you start to read part 5 of this story, I would like to thank Topaz_Took for doing a bit of research for me on antique tools.  She has helped me a great deal by suggesting some tools that the hobbits might have had access to in the Shire.  (Lucky for Sam, there were no power tools.)  Her help is greatly appreciated.  Any tools mentioned in this, and the chapters that follow, are thanks to her research.  The hammer was my idea but the rest are thanks to Topaz_Took.

_GW

Part 5

“So, we won’t be using the hammer?” Pippin frowned looking longingly at the tool.

“Not just now,” Sam said. “I’ve decided that we ought to make them wheels ‘o yours first.” He would avoid giving Master Pippin that hammer for as long as was possible. They had finished drawing out their plan for the wheelbarrow and Master Pippin had done a much better job than Sam had been expecting. While Master Pippin had been working on the drawing, Sam had decided that the wheels would come first. True, they would be the last things put onto the wheelbarrow, but it was a quiet beginning without the hammer.

“Well, I already have wheels,” Pippin said, pulling two almost round pieces of wood out of the pile of pieces that had once been his carpentry project. He handed one to Sam and grinned. “They’re pretty good don’t you think?”

Sam looked at the wheel in his hands and sighed. There was nothing for it but the truth. The lad wouldn’t learn anything if Sam lied to him. “Master Pippin, I’m afraid that this wheel is lopsided,” Sam said.

“Only a wee bit,” Pippin argued.

“If you had this on your own wheelbarrow and you loaded that wheelbarrow with stones and then you was to push it up that hill we talked about before,” Sam paused as he watched Master Pippin’s expression change.

“I guess it wouldn’t go too smoothly, would it?” Pippin said looking at the wheel in his hands. He ran a thin finger over the edge of the little wheel and then looked at Sam. “This isn’t a proper wheel, is it?”

“No,” Sam said. “That’s why we have to make three new ones.” He patted Master Pippin on the shoulder and asked, “When you made these wheels, what tool did you use?”

“I took a thick piece of wood so that it would have a sturdy edge and then I drew the closest thing that I could to a circle on it and I took a saw and cut it out,” Pippin said.

“You used a saw?” Sam asked.

“They sort of came out more square than I wanted them and so I had to take a knife and whittle the sides down until they were round,” Pippin explained. “The saw won’t cut in a circle very well and also it’s hard to draw a circle. I had several blisters on my fingers from the whittling which took a long time, but I decided they were round enough after a while.” He looked at the wheel again. “I guess I was just tired of whittling on them and my fingers hurt so I decided they were just fine.”

Sam grinned. “Let’s start with that circle you drew. How’d you do it?”

“Well, like anyone would I guess,” Pippin said. He picked up a piece of charcoal and started to draw a rather wobbly circle. Sam sighed and reached over and stopped Pippin’s hand.

“Didn’t that Mister Tunnely tell you anything a’fore he set you on your own?” Sam asked.

“He told me that I probably wouldn’t be able to build a box without killing someone,” Pippin said weakly. “That I don’t pay attention to instruction and that of all the hobbits that he’s taught carpentry to over his long years in the Shire I am the bottom of the barrel.” The lad looked down at the foot guards he was wearing.

“I meant didn’t he tell you nothin’ about carpentry,” Sam said gently.

“Carpentry, my lad, is hard work and it takes skill and talent that most folks simply don’t possess,” Pippin began reciting. “Most folks think that they can just give me their lads for a few short months and that I can turn them into carpenters and woodworkers but that simply can’t be done. If you don’t have a talent for this sort of thing then I cannot instill it in you. Carpentry is-”

“Anything useful about carpentry,” Sam broke in.

“Not that I remember but I am told that I don’t always pay attention,” Pippin reminded Sam in an embarrassed tone.

“Well you seem to have paid enough attention to his speech on carpentry and his opinion ‘o your talent,” Sam said in a controlled voice. “If there’d a been any important information like the proper way to hold a hammer or how to measure out a proper circle, I suspect you might ‘o heard it.” Sam fished around in his trouser pocket and brought out a small ball of string. “Now, watch and learn,” Sam said. “This is how you draw a circle.”

Pippin leaned over the table and watched as Sam stretched out a piece of the string and placed his finger against it in at one point. “Now, you decide how big you want your largest wheel,” Sam said. “How would you do that?”

Pippin looked lost for a second and then he said, “Can I measure the wheel on Frodo’s wheelbarrow and use that?”

Sam grinned. “Do it.” He handed Pippin the string. “Hold the ends tight and measure the wheel from the center to the edge.”

“Not the whole wheel?” Pippin frowned.

“Trust me,” Sam said.

Pippin bent down and used the string to measure half of the wheel. He then stood up and extended the length of string to Sam. Sam took it, put his finger on one end of it and then wrapped the other end around a piece of charcoal at just the point where Pippin’s measurement stopped. Sam held the string in place on the board with his finger and then moved the charcoal in a circle around his finger being careful to keep the string taut. Pippin’s eyes widened as Sam finished. “You made a perfect circle!” Pippin crowed.

Sam grinned and moved over on the board with his charcoal and drew a lopsided circle without the aid of the string. “And that’s how it would look if I didn’t use the string,” Sam said.

“That one looks like mine did,” Pippin said.

“You can’t build nothin’ if you don’t know how it’s done,” Sam said. “Now, how ‘bout you measure that wheel again and you draw a circle?”

Before Pippin could do this, Sam reached underneath the table and pulled out some sort of tool. “Here, you can give this a try now that you have an idea of how to do it the old fashioned way,” Sam said, handing Pippin a slightly heavy, metal tool.

Pippin studied it intently. It was circular in shape with a long bar that extended from its center and which would move in a circle. Pippin looked up at Sam and said, “What is this?”

“That there is called a wheelwright’s traveler,” Sam said. “Not every hobbit is lucky enough to own one, but as it turns out, this one here belongs to Mister Frodo.”

“This is Frodo’s?” Pippin asked. “How do I use this?”

________________________________________________________

“Put down that book, Cousin,” Merry ordered as he stormed into the parlor.

Frodo groaned. “I thought you’d gone to town for your lunch.”

“I did and you aren’t going to like what I heard in town,” Merry said.

“No, I suppose that I won’t,” Frodo said in a resigned voice. He laid his book aside and looked up at Merry. “Sit down, Merry.”

“But Frodo I-“

“Sit down,” Frodo said sternly. “I am not going to try and talk to you while you pace again. Now, if you have anything to say to me, I suggest you sit down this instant.”

Surprised by Frodo’s sharp tone, Merry sat down in the rocker by the fireplace. “Excellent beginning,” Frodo said. “Now, please tell me what you heard in town that has you worked up yet again.”

“Yet again? I was fine when I left for town,” Merry objected.

Frodo looked at the ceiling of the parlor and sighed deeply. “Just get on with this, will you?”

“I will and you aren’t going to like it,” Merry said.

“I suspected that much,” Frodo said.

“Tobias Tunnely was in the Ivy Bush this morning and he had breakfast with the Gaffer,” Merry began. “Seems that old goat-“

“Meriadoc!” Frodo said sternly. “You do not refer to your elders as old goats.”

“He’s quit as Pippin’s instructor,” Merry said ignoring Frodo’s lesson on manners. “He told the Gaffer that he wasn’t coming anywhere near Pippin ever again, that he’d sent Uncle Paladin’s money back to him for the lessons and that he was through with the entire business.”

Frodo stood and looked down at Merry. “Who told you this?”

“I got it from the Gaffer himself over apple cobbler at The Ivy,” Merry said.

“That old goat!” Frodo exclaimed.

“I don’t think you should talk about Sam’s father like that,” Merry objected.

“I meant Tobias Tunnely!” Frodo roared.

“Oh,” Merry nodded. “But what do we do now?”

“That old fraud lied to me,” Frodo said as he paced the parlor.

“Frodo-“ Merry tried as he watched his older cousin pace back and forth.

“He said that he was allowing Pippin to work on his own as a learning experience,” Frodo muttered to no one in particular. “Said it would be good for the lad to work unhindered without someone looking over his shoulder at every turn! Said that he felt his presence was making Pippin nervous. Too much pressure working with someone of his advanced skills on the lad’s first attempt!”

“Well that’s certainly arrogant of him,” Merry said in disgust.

“He said that he’d be back in a week and if I didn’t mind, would I allow the lad full access to my barn and all of the privacy that I was able to reasonably give him,” Frodo said, ignoring Merry.

Merry was becoming a bit dizzy now but he continued to follow Frodo furious path with his eyes as he listened to his older cousin rant.

“He actually told me that Pippin showed some minor potential for carpentry in spite of everything!”

“Pippin?” Merry gaped.

“Minor potential that needed nurturing but might just be worth the time,” Frodo shouted. “He said to leave Pippin to work on his own and he’d be back to inspect the results in a week!” Frodo stopped in his tracks and looked at Merry intently. He was just recalling an earlier remark of Merry’s that had completely slipped by him. “Did I hear you say that Tobias Tunnely is arrogant just a minute ago? You of all hobbits, called someone else arrogant?” Frodo said as if this was the only thing he’d heard all day of any consequence.

Thinking quickly and knowing he needed to refocus Frodo’s anger again, Merry said, “That old goat called Pippin a jinx!”

___________________________________________

“And then we took this tool that Sam showed me how to use called a “spokeshave” and you can trim things with it like the handles if one needed any handles that is,” Pippin enthused as he tried to tell Frodo some of the details of his work with Sam without giving away exactly what he was working on. “But first we used this thing called a “wheelwright’s traveler”. I didn’t know you had one, Frodo.”

“I suppose that Bilbo has a great many tools out in the barn though I’m not altogether sure what he did with them,” Frodo admitted. He did not admit that he had no idea what a wheelwright’s traveler was. “I never actually saw him make anything.”

“Well, Sam says that this “wheelwright’s traveler” is the very sort of tool that a good carpenter has in his tool selection,” Pippin continued. “Oh, and you can measure with it too!” Pippin had barely taken a breath since he started telling Frodo about his work in the barn. “Sam showed me how to cut circles in the wood. Not crooked circles, but real ones that are actual circles and then he got out this “wheelwright’s traveler” and showed me all over again. He said it was good to know how to do it proper and to also have more than one way to do a thing if possible because not everyone has a “wheelwright’s traveler”, but they really should.”

Frodo smiled at Pippin. “You seem to be enjoying your lessons with Sam,” Frodo said trying not to think about his earlier conversation with Merry about Tobias Tunnely.

“Sam has really helped me,” Pippin grinned. “We spent all afternoon working on the wh-“ Pippin stopped and grinned up at Frodo. “I almost said what it is that we are building and I do want it to be a surprise after all but there is so much to tell about it that it’s getting hard to keep it a secret.”

“You really should eat your dinner you know,” Frodo smiled. Pippin had been sitting at the table in front of a big dish of mushroom stew for nearly ten minutes now and had yet to take a bite of it. That was some sort of record for Pippin. “That is one of your favorite dishes isn’t it?” Frodo asked, grinning.

Pippin grinned back at him. “You know it is, Frodo. I didn’t know you’d be making this today but I’m glad you did. I figured since we had it last night that I’d not get it again for several days.” He leaned over the bowl and began to eat.

Frodo hadn’t planned to make mushroom stew again this evening, but after his talk with Merry he began to worry about how all of this might effect Pippin’s self-confidence and he’d found himself making the lad’s favorite meal. He watched as Pippin began to eat with the same energy that he had given to his description of his work with Sam. Frodo wondered how Merry’s conversation with Sam was going.

Merry had insisted on being the one to talk to Sam and Frodo had thought that was a good idea. After all, there were things to be worked out between the two lads and this latest development with Tobias Tunnely might just make that easier. Merry had insisted that Sam let him buy him a drink at the Green Dragon while Pippin ate his supper. Sam had been a bit reluctant, but had finally agreed.  Pippin had been washing up for dinner and so he had no idea that Sam had gone off with Merry to The Green Dragon.  It was probably just as well, Frodo reasoned.  Pippin had been rather touchy lately and he might mistake Merry's invitation to Sam for interference.

__________________________________________________

Merry sat the two mugs of ale down on the table and then pulled up a chair. Sam was sitting there frowning at him. He wasn’t looking forward to this and if Mister Frodo hadn’t insisted that he go he wouldn’t be here. This sort of meeting could lead to trouble and Sam wasn’t sure if he would be able to hold his tongue.

Merry pushed one of the ales over to Sam and cleared his throat. “We have a problem,” Merry said feeling a bit uncomfortable.

“We don’t have no problem, Mister Merry,” Sam said trying to head off the trouble that he was sure was coming his way. “I do think that maybe you and Master Pippin have a problem but you don’t have no problem with me.”

“Yes, I do,” Merry said embarrassed. “You see, I’m afraid I haven’t exactly been fair to you the last couple of days, Sam. I know you’ve noticed it even if you are too nice to admit it.”

Sam took a drink of ale and then said, “Did you ask me here so’s you could tell me to stop helpin’ Master Pippin with his buildin’ project? If you did then, beggin' your pardon, I suspect we do have a problem. I wouldn’t like for it to come to that, but I would have to disagree with that if you was to ask me not to help Master Pippin.”

Merry’s eyes widened. “No, I don’t want you to stop helping Pippin. That isn’t it at all. I have two reasons for inviting you here. First of all I want to apologize to you.”

Sam hadn’t expected this. Mister Merry hadn’t been all that friendly the last couple of days but he hadn’t really said anything to Sam that would have required an apology. “It’s not my place to say so but the one you owe an apology to is your little cousin, Mister Merry,” Sam said. “You ain’t said nothin out of line to me.”

“All the same,” Merry said. “You’ve been nice enough to help Pippin and I, well, I haven’t been nice to anyone. I feel like I owe you an apology for the things I’ve been thinking almost as much as for not supporting your efforts to help Pippin.” Merry looked into his mug and then said, “I was a bit jealous.”

Sam was startled again. “Of what?”

“Of you,” Merry smiled. “I was jealous of the way you just stepped in and knew exactly what needed to be done to help Pippin. You see I know I didn’t offer to help him in the proper way, but lately he’s been pulling away from me for some reason. He doesn’t seem to want my help with anything even when I offer to help him in a nice way.”

“You don’t need to be jealous of me, Mister Merry,” Sam said blushing a bit at the very thought that someone like Mister Merry Brandybuck might actually be jealous of him. “Master Pippin looks up to you and you’re his older cousin and his friend. Nothin’ that I do will change any o’ that.”

“I never thought that you were trying to change things between me and Pip,” Merry smiled. “The trouble is that things have already changed and I don’t know what happened or how to fix it. I think Pippin is angry at me for some reason.” Merry cleared his throat again. He hadn’t meant to say this much and so he quickly changed the subject. “The other reason that I asked you to join me here is that I wanted to let you know about a conversation that I had with your father at lunch today.”

Sam frowned. Now what could the Gaffer have to do with anything? Sam didn’t have to wonder about this for very long because Mister Merry got right to it.

“It seems Tobias Tunnely told your father that he has no intention of finishing Pippin’s carpentry lessons,” Merry said grimly.

Sam sat his mug down on the table and looked at Merry for a moment. “Well, I don’t like to say nothin’ about folks without I know it for a fact, Mister Merry,” Sam said. “The thing is that if you was to ask me, I’d say that Mister Tunnely never started Master Pippin’s lessons.”

Merry furrowed his brow. “What do you mean by that?”

“I mean that it don’t seem to me as if Mister Tunnely gave your little cousin any instruction at all,” Sam said. “Seems to me that he just turned him loose without so much as a single lesson.”

“I know that Pippin probably isn’t very good at carpentry, Sam,” Merry said. “But surely Mister Tunnely tried right up until Pip hit him with that hammer.”

“The only thing Mister Tunnely done was to criticize Master Pippin.” Sam said allowing his anger to surface. “Why if Mister Frodo or Mister Paladin Took knew the things that Mister Tunnely told that lad I don’t suspect they’d be too pleased about it.” Sam finished off his ale and leaned forward so as not to be overheard by anyone else. “That Mister Tunnely is right full ‘o himself, Mister Merry. Master Pippin would do better with someone else as his teacher. You'll pardon my sayin' this Mister Merry but Master Pippin is better off without the likes ‘o him.”

to be continued.....

GW     09/09/2005

Part 6

“When you dip the quill into the ink, don’t put it so far in,” Frodo suggested as he and Pippin surveyed the large ink blot on the parchment. “If you get too much ink on the quill then it makes it almost impossible to keep it from leaking onto your work.”

Pippin only nodded. He continued to look at the large blot in the middle of the word he’d been writing. “I don’t think I can finish this letter just now,” he said making to get up from his chair.

“Oh, no you don’t,” Frodo said placing a hand on his younger cousin’s shoulder. “I realize that these lessons are not as interesting as the lessons that Sam has been giving you, but they are ever bit as important.”

“But I can’t do this,” Pippin sighed looking at Frodo and frowning. “I always ruin it.”

Frodo took the ink-covered quill from Pippin’s ink-stained hand and wiped it with a cloth. He then handed Pippin a fresh quill and replaced the parchment on the desk with a new piece. “You can do this,” Frodo said reassuringly. “It just takes practice. You’ve been writing for some time now. All you need to do is to perfect your technique and you can start by learning not to plunge the quill into the ink. Just dip the end of it into the ink well gently. That will solve one of your problems.”

Pippin sighed deeply and accepted the new quill with a long-suffering look. “I don’t write letters and so I don’t know why I need to know this,” Pippin complained.

“You need to know this so that you can write letters,” Frodo said. “When you are in Whitwell and the weather has turned too foul for you to come and visit me then it would be nice if I received a letter from you once in a while telling me how you are and what you are doing. It would cheer me on cold afternoons when I am all alone here at Bag End with no cousins for company.”

“You like to be alone,” Pippin pointed out. “Sometimes I get on your nerves and so does Merry though not so much because he’s older. Sometimes you probably wish we’d both go home so you could sit and read.” His tone of voice was flat and matter-of-fact and Frodo laughed.

“Yes, sometimes I do enjoy being alone,” Frodo admitted. “But that hardly means that I wouldn’t enjoy the occasional letter. It would give me something more to read, and as you pointed out, I do enjoy reading.” Frodo chuckled again and then pointed a finger at the parchment. “Now, if you hope to get to bed any time soon, I suggest that you begin your letter to Nell again and this time, with less ink.”

Pippin started to dip the quill into the ink well and then stopped and looked up at Frodo. “Do you think that I will ever be good at anything?” he asked.

“Pippin, you are very good at a great many things,” Frodo said surprised by his younger cousin’s question.

“Not this,” Pippin said glumly as he dipped the quill into the ink slowly and deliberately. “I don’t like to write.”

“That is part of the reason that you are having trouble doing it,” Frodo said. “It is always more difficult to for us to do things that we consider a chore rather than a pleasure. I don’t like to build things but I do enjoy writing.”

“I didn’t think that I would enjoy building things either,” Pippin said forgetting the quill and letting it sink into the well. “Then Sam started helping me and it’s different now. I like it when Sam helps me.”

Frodo watched the fresh quill sink into the ink well as Pippin became distracted by the topic of carpentry. “Did you ever build anything with Sam?” Pippin asked. “If you don’t enjoy building things then maybe if you got Sam to help you, you might like it more.”

Frodo smiled and sat down next to Pippin at the desk. “I am dreadful when it comes to building things,” he said. “Oh, and if you should breathe a word of this conversation to a certain Brandybuck cousin of ours then I promise you that I will make you recopy several large volumes of Elvish poetry in payment.”

Pippin grinned. “I won’t tell,” he said. “How dreadful are you?”

Frodo was amused by this. Pippin seemed a bit too pleased about Frodo’s failure. “Your Uncle Saradoc began my carpentry lessons himself when I was sixteen. He started off by trying to teach me to build a set of book shelves. He thought that if I were to work on something of that sort that I might be interested enough to do a good job.”

“That seems reasonable,” Pippin said eyes twinkling with mischief.

Frodo knew that the little imp thought that he’d managed to get out of his writing lessons. Frodo would allow him to believe this long enough to tell him this story and then he would put the child back to the task. “It does seem like a sound idea,” Frodo agreed. “Unfortunately, I didn’t want to build something to hold my books, I wanted to forget the entire business of building and read my books.”

Pippin laughed. “Did he give up and let you read instead?”

“He did not,” Frodo said. “Uncle Saradoc was determined that I would learn proper skills just like all of the other lads my age. He took me, as I complained every step of the way, into his workshop near Brandy Hall and began to try and teach me how to build a set of shelves.”

“Did you build a set of shelves?” Pippin asked.

Frodo looked at his little cousin and grinned. “What do you think?”

“Well, Uncle Doc can be very stern if he wants to be so I suppose that he made you build the shelves even though you didn’t want to,” Pippin said.

Frodo nodded. “He did.”

“Where are the shelves now?” Pippin asked.

“Well, the shelves are in one of the storage rooms at Brandy Hall,” Frodo smiled. “You see, after a great deal of effort, I managed to build a small set of shelves. It was only about as high at your shoulders and it was only four shelves. It took me three weeks of building and re-building while your Uncle Doc gave patient instructions and helped me take apart the efforts that were less than perfect.”

“He helped you take it apart?” Pippin asked surprised. Sam had made him take the first wheelbarrow apart on his own. “How did you get him to do that?”

“I think he felt sorry for me,” Frodo said. “When it comes to carpentry, I am all thumbs. I made a terrible mess of things several times before finally finishing my set of shelves.”

“Why are the shelves in a storage room instead of in one of the parlors full of books?” Pippin asked.

“Well, after I finished my shelves, I decided to give them to Esmeralda as a present on my seventeenth birthday,” Frodo said.

“Didn’t she like them?” Pippin asked looking insulted on Frodo’s behalf.

“She liked them very much,” Frodo said smiling at the memory of her smile. He remembered how she had praised his efforts and had hugged him as he imagined his own mother might have if she had been alive to receive this sort of gift from him. “She even found a special place for the shelves in the corner of her sewing room and she filled them with all of her sewing things.”

“You must have felt very happy about that,” Pippin said.

“I certainly did,” Frodo said. “I was very proud of myself right up until the shelves collapsed.”

Pippin’s eyes became wide with surprise. “They fell?”

Frodo laughed. “They certainly did. They just weren’t strong enough to hold the weight of a certain chubby three-year-old Brandybuck who had climbed up on top of them while trying to see out the window.”

“Merry broke your shelves?” Pippin snickered.

“He did just that,” Frodo said. “You see, your Aunt Esme is a very clever hobbit. The minute that I gave her those shelves she could see that they would not hold up under the weight of books. They were just too flimsy. I had taken them apart and put them back together one too many times.”

“But they would hold material and thread,” Pippin said seeing his Aunt’s wisdom at once.

“They would,” Frodo nodded. “So she made a very big fuss over how sturdy they were and then put them in her sewing room where she claimed to need them the most.” He smiled. “Unfortunately, the shelves were not sturdy enough to hold the weight of her darling little lad, Merry.”

Pippin grinned. “I wish I’d seen Merry when he was little. I always hear stories and everyone knows what I looked like when I was little, but I didn’t get to see anyone else be little.”

“Merry was all Brandybuck even then,” Frodo said recalling his cousin as a faunt. “He was as solid as a sack of grain and his head was a mass of blond curls that were so light in color they were nearly white in the sunlight. He had serious-looking grey eyes and chubby cheeks and he was not afraid of anything. Not long after he began to walk, he began to climb and that is how he ended up on my shelf project.”

Pippin grinned broader. “Did anyone see him do this?”

“Actually, your Uncle and I had heard noise coming from the sewing room and so we thought that we’d go see what was happening in there,” Frodo said. “Your Aunt Esme was working on a quilt in there and she had fallen asleep in a rocker. Merry was quite a busy lad at that age and he had kept the entire smial awake the night before because he had been full of energy. He had been running and playing half the night.” Frodo could still heard the sounds of Merry’s laughter and he scampered from one adult to the next playing at his favorite game which at that age was ‘catch Merry”. “He would run almost to me and then he’d turn, laughing and run away saying, “Catch Merwy!”

Pippin laughed. “Really?”

“Really,” Frodo said. “Your poor Aunt was exhausted from playing “Catch Merry” until the wee hours of the morning and so she had fallen asleep. That left Merry to do a bit of exploring in a room filled with things that he wasn’t allowed to touch such as knitting needles, yarn and darning needles and scissors.”

“He could have hurt himself,” Pippin said in concern.

“And he did,” Frodo said. “The little scamp climbed up on to his older cousin Frodo’s shaky shelves, stood up on his furry little toes and began trying to look out of the window. Your Uncle and I came in and had an instant to take in the situation just before Merry turned to smile at us. He waved at us and then there was a loud crack.”

“Oops,” Pippin said.

“The shelves collapsed and Merry fell with them,” Frodo said. “Uncle Doc rushed over and picked him up out of the wreckage. Merry also had a very good set of lungs at that age and he was screaming at full volume.”

“Was he badly injured?” Pippin asked.

“No,” Frodo smiled. “He had several bruises and a little knot on his forehead but he wasn’t hurt badly. In fact after scaring all of the adults and his older cousin half to death, he whimpered and whined and managed to get a very large bowl of pudding out of his mum with which to calm himself.”

Pippin smiled and then he suddenly looked worried. “Were you upset that Merry had broken your shelves?”

“Not really,” Frodo said. “I suppose I always knew that those little shelves weren’t very well made. I may have felt a tiny bit upset, but I was just relieved that Merry was all right.”

“So that’s how your shelves wound up in storage?” Pippin asked.

“That is the entire story,” Frodo said. “Now, I believe that you have a letter to write to Nell, don’t you?” Frodo tapped the parchment with another fresh quill.

Pippin suddenly yawned and began to rub his thumb. He still had a bandage around it from having smacked it one too many times with a hammer. “My thumb hurts,” he said between large yawns.

Frodo eyed him intently. “You weren’t the least bit tired just a minute ago,” Frodo said. “Now take this quill and write the letter, Peregrin Took. You’ve managed to distract me long enough.”

Pippin looked at the quill and frowned. “But I don’t have anything to tell Nell, Frodo,” he complained.

“Yes you do,” Frodo said, plucking the other quill out of the ink well and quickly wrapping it in a cloth so as not to allow the ink to drip all over the desk. “Why don’t you tell her how you nearly tricked your older cousin into allowing you to skip your writing practice?” Frodo arched an eyebrow at him.

“It would have worked on Pearl,” Pippin sighed. “And I’m tired of lessons. No one else has them.

“I am not Pearl,” Frodo smiled. “And all of us had lessons when we were your age. Now, a nice long letter to Nell, if you please.”

With a very deep sigh, Pippin dipped the quill into the ink and wrote, Dear Nell.

///////////////////////////////////////////

“I don’t know what Frodo plans to do but he’ll have to do something,” Merry said looking over at Sam as the two of them sat in The Green Dragon ignoring their empty mugs in favor of conversation.

“Well, beggin’ your pardon, Mister Merry,” Sam said. “But I don’t know what Mister Frodo can do. He can’t force Mister Tunnely to give your cousin lessons.”

“No, but he can sure give that old goat an earful,” Merry said. “That old hobbit took Uncle Paladin’s money and he said that he would teach Pippin carpentry. He should be made to honor his word.”

“At least he gave back the money,” Sam said trying to calm Mister Merry down a bit. “And it ain’t like he was actually teachin

Master Pippin anything. Like I said, Mister Tunnely wasn’t doin’ a very good job of it even before he quit.”

“You mean before he ran out,” Merry said. “He didn’t even have the consideration to quit properly. Why if your father hadn’t told me what Mister Tunnely had said to him, none of us would have known that he wasn’t coming back.”

“That wasn’t proper,” Sam agreed. “He owed Mister Frodo that much.”

“He certainly did,” Merry said. “I have a mind to go up to Mister Tnnely’s smial, knock on his door and tell him exactly what I think about his treatment of my cousins.”

Sam looked alarmed. “I don’t think you ought to do that, Mister Merry. I think you ought to let Mister Frodo handle it being as how he is the one that was dealin’ with Mister Tunnely on Mister Took’s behalf.”

“I just don’t want that old goat to get away with this,” Merry said. “Not only did he quit without notice, but he is going around talking about Pippin and calling him a jinx. He can’t do that.”

“I don’t suspect that Mister Frodo will let him by with nothin’” Sam said. “I’m sure Mister Frodo means to have a word with him.”

“If you ask me, Frodo should do more than have a word with him,” Merry growled. “Frodo should knock some manners into him.”

“Maybe you and I ought to be getting’ back to Bag End,” Sam said. He was a bit worried about the turn that the conversation had taken. He didn’t want to have to try and keep Mister Merry from taking out his anger on Mister Tunnely. There was a right way to handle this mess. Mister Frodo would know what was to be done. “We might better get back in time for you to say good night to Master Pippin.”

A dark look crossed Merry’s face. “Pippin doesn’t have much to say to me these days,” Merry said.

“Well, maybe you ought to speak up first,” Sam suggested.

Merry stood and put on his jacket. “I don’t think it will help,” he said. “Pippin hasn’t wanted to have much to do with me all summer. This started even before I offered to help him, well, before I offered to build his carpentry project.”

Sam frowned. “Do you know what’s wrong?”

“No,” Merry said. “But no matter what I say to him, Pip seems offended by it. I know I can say the wrong thing now and again and I do tease him, but I’ve always teased him. He never minded it before.” Merry suddenly brightened as they walked out onto the street. “Sam, maybe you could talk to Pip for me while you’re helping him with his project tomorrow. Maybe he’d tell you what is wrong.”

“I don’t like to interfere in other folks business, Mister Merry,” Sam objected. “I think, if you don’t mind my sayin’ so, that you ought to talk to Master Pippin about it yourself.”

Merry was quiet on the rest of the walk back to Bag End. Sam wasn’t sure if he had offended Mister Merry or if the lad was just thinking things over. Either way, it was a long walk back and Sam was glad when they arrived. He left Mister Merry at the gate to Bag End and headed for home. Maybe things would sort themselves out in the morning.

/////////////////////////////////////////////////

“There you are,” Frodo smiled as Merry came into the study. “I was wondering if you’d lost your way.”

“No, I just spent a bit more time at The Green Dragon than I meant to,” Merry said.

Pippin looked up from his writing. “You got to go to The Green Dragon?”

“I just went to see who was there and to have an ale or two,” Merry shrugged.

“No more than two, I hope,” Frodo said.

“Two exactly, Cousin,” Merry grinned. “You don’t need to worry about having a drunken Brandybuck on your hands. I held to your limit.”

“You mean you held to your father’s limit,” Frodo reminded Merry.

Merry ignored this and looked at Pippin. “Finish your lessons?” he asked.

“No,” Pippin said sullenly and turned his back on Merry. He gripped the quill in his hand and dipped it into the ink.

“Well, I thought maybe you’d like to have a snack in the kitchen with me when you’re through,” Merry offered looking hopeful.

“I won’t be through for ages,” Pippin said flatly. “You go ahead.”

Merry looked at Frodo hopefully and Frodo smiled. It was just too much work to fight them both. “Pippin, I think you’ve earned a rest. Why don’t you quit for the evening and we can work on your letter some more tomorrow after dinner.”

“I want to finish it now,” Pippin said. “If I don’t then I will have to work on it tomorrow. Besides, I’m not hungry.” Pippin’s stomach growled in protest of this lie.

“You sound hungry to me,” Merry teased.

“Well, I’m not,” Pippin said. “My stomach just does that. If I ate ever time it growled then that’s all I would get to do.”

Merry looked at Frodo questioningly. Frodo shrugged. “I guess Pippin will be a while longer, Merry,” Frodo said. “Why don’t you start making the snack and we will be in later?”

“Fine,” Merry said though Frodo could tell by the look on Merry’s face that it wasn’t fine.

“Don’t make anything for me,” Pippin said. “I’m going to bed when I’m finished. Unlike everyone else around here, I have more lessons tomorrow.”

Merry started to reply but Frodo ushered him out of the study quickly and closed the door behind them. He put an arm around Merry’s shoulders and started walking him in the direction of the kitchen. “He isn’t angry at you, Merry,” Frodo said gently.

“No?” Merry frowned. “He certainly is doing an excellent job of making it look as if he is angry at me.”

“He’s feeling a bit sorry for himself just now,” Frodo said. “Pippin is extremely tired of being the youngest right now. He’s feeling a bit picked up because he still has lessons and we don’t. He’s taking it out on you, I’m afraid.”

“Why me?” Merry asked as they reached the kitchen.

“Because, my darling Merry, he is jealous of you,” Frodo said.

“Why would he be jealous of me?” Merry asked.

“Because you spent the evening at The Green Dragon having a couple of ales while he did the writing lessons that he hates,” Frodo said. “Because if you wanted to you could go out to that barn and build something without any help at all and he can’t. You’re older and that would be enough in itself just now.”

“How is any of this my fault?” Merry asked.

“It isn’t,” Frodo smiled. “It’s just part of growing up, Merry lad. Pippin will get over it but you will have to be patient until he does.”

“I wish he would get over it quickly,” Merry sighed. “I never thought I’d say so, but I actually miss his company.”

“He misses you too,” Frodo said.

“Then why is he being so stubborn?” Merry asked.

“Because he’s a Took and because he’s seventeen,” Frodo said. “Now, I need to know if you filled Sam in on what has happened?”

“I did,” Merry said with a sigh. “What are you going to do about that?”

“I plan to go and see Mister Tunnely tomorrow while Sam is helping Pippin with his carpentry,” Frodo said.

“I’m coming too,” Merry said.

“Only if you can keep quiet and let me handle things,” Frodo said sternly.

Merry scowled. “You mean I can’t tell him what I think?”

“You most certainly can not,” Frodo warned. “If you can’t keep still and allow me to do what is necessary, then you will be staying here.  Do you understand?”

“Very well,” Merry said. “It sometimes seems to me that I don’t fit in anywhere around here. Pippin isn’t speaking to me because I’m older and you won’t let me handle Mister Tunnely because I’m not old enough! There ought to be something that I’m the proper age for.”

“There is,” Frodo said. “You are old enough to follow my instructions and you are old enough to fix your own snack while I finish with Pippin’s lesson.”

Merry made a face at Frodo as his older cousin left the kitchen. He shouldn’t have let Sam talk him out of going to see Mister Tunnely tonight. If he’d already taken care of things then Frodo would not have been able to keep him out of it. Now, if he said anything he’d be going against Frodo’s wishes. He’d done that before, but he wasn’t’ sure if he should do that just now.

Part 7

Merry was tossing and turning. Something wasn’t right. He struggled to hold onto sleep as he burrowed under his covers and shifted to what he hoped would be a more comfortable position. He twisted again, tossed the covers off of his shoulders and turned over on his face. He buried his face against his cool pillow and sighed. Little half dreams flittered through his mind and he reached out for them.

"Are you asleep," he heard a tiny voice which sounded so far away ask. "Are you asleep, Merry?"

Merry shifted on the bed and kicked out with one foot. "Who’s there?" he asked in a sleepy voice.

"Are you asleep, Merry?" the little voice asked again.

"I’m trying to be," Merry said crossly, not opening his eyes.

"Can I sleep with you if I lay really still?" the little voice asked.

"Is that you, Pip?" Merry asked interested but still half asleep.

"Are you asleep, Merry?" the little voice asked.

Merry was confused. The voice was too high and too tiny for Pippin’s voice. Pippin’s voice was still rather high and still could sound terribly young but this was wrong. Merry thrashed about on his bed and wished he hadn’t eaten that extra plate of sausages before turning in for the night.

"Are you asleep? If you are, I can be quiet. I just want to sleep in here with you," the tiny Pippin-voice said again.

Merry moaned and tossed about until one arm hung over the side of the bed. "Pippin?"

"You aren’t asleep are you, Merry?" again the voice asked.

Merry sat up in the dark, quiet bedroom and looked wildly about. "Pip?" he murmured. There was no one there. He sat staring into the darkness for a minute or two more and then with a deep sigh he lay back down and closed his eyes. Pippin was probably sound asleep in his own room and his younger cousin’s voice hadn’t sounded like that in a while now. He missed Pippin. "Go to sleep, Merry," he told himself.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sam frowned at the sight that met him when he walked into Mister Frodo’s barn early that morning. He had just finished a large breakfast at his smial in the cozy kitchen with the Gaffer and he had thought to get a bit of a head start on organizing things for today’s building. He had a rough night’s sleep and he suspected that he was up so early because of that. He couldn’t seem to put his conversation with Mister Merry out of his head. All night long bits and pieces of it had disturbed his sleep. He had finally woke up at four am and decided to get an early start on breakfast. The Gaffer, who is an early riser by his very nature, had joined him at about 4:30 and they had passed the morning in pleasant conversation over a wonderful meal.

Now, Sam stood in Mister Frodo’s barn looking down at the small form that was curled up on the floor under a blanket and sighed. He wondered if Mister Frodo knew that his youngest cousin was sleeping out in the barn.

Master Pippin had one of Mister Frodo’s fine goose-down quilts over him. The lad was curled up in a tiny ball, his head completely covered. Only one arm stuck out from beneath of the quilt. Sam smiled as he noticed that the bruised fingers were holding that damnable hammer. Sam shook his head. It would be best not to startle Master Pippin awake. One might just get hit with that hammer if the lad were surprised while he slept.

Sam eased away from the sleeping Took and walked over to the barn door that opened facing Mister Frodo’s smial. There was a faint light coming from the kitchen already this morning. It seems as if no one was doing much in the way of sleeping and them that were sleeping were doing it in the wrong places.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Frodo smiled as Sam entered the kitchen. "I was just making a pot of tea and warming up some scones," he said. "Please join me, Sam."

"I didn’t mean to disturb your mornin’ Mister Frodo," Sam said as he reluctantly closed the kitchen door behind himself. "I just thought you ought to know."

Frodo laughed gently. "Relax, Sam," Frodo said. "Please sit down and join me. I do believe that just lately Pippin is seeing more of you than I am. I’ve missed you."

Sam blushed and sat down at the table as Frodo poured them each a cup of tea and sat a warm tray of scones on the table. "I guess I have been a bit busy just lately," Sam said reaching for a scone. He’d had a very large first breakfast but he suspected that he had room for a scone or two. It did seem as if it would please Mister Frodo if he ate something.

"I am guessing that you’ve been extremely busy and I am afraid that it is my fault that so much of your time has been taken," Frodo said.

"It hasn’t been no trouble," Sam said.

"All the same, I know that you have things to do," Frodo said. "I suppose that the Gaffer might be less than pleased with the fact that I’ve taken so much of your time."

The Gaffer had mentioned the fact that there were gardens to see to and that Sam would have to take time away from the favor that he was doing for Mister Frodo this very afternoon. "Well, Mister Frodo," Sam began. "I will be needin’ the afternoon off today. My Gaffer says that I need to get to a few of the garden jobs that we have a’fore things get ahead ‘o us too much. I plan to help Master Pippin until luncheon and then I’ll have to be away for the rest ‘o the day. I’ll be back in this evenin’ if you’d like me to do anything here around supper time, though."

"What I would like is for you to take this evening for yourself, Sam," Frodo said. "Spend some time with some of your friends or read a book or do something that you enjoy. I won’t need anything this evening."

Sam smiled. Only Mister Frodo would think to say that Sam ought to take time out and read a book. Most folks wouldn’t think that Sam ever read for pleasure but Mister Frodo knew better. Ever since Mister Bilbo had seen fit to teach him to read, Sam had enjoyed it. The Gaffer thought it was all right for practical purposes, but he didn’t understand how a hobbit could just sit down and enjoy reading for pleasure. Mister Frodo understood. "It might be nice to have an evening to myself," Sam said.

"Splendid," Frodo said taking a drink of his tea. "Then you do that. I’ll be wanting to speak to you tomorrow morning though after I’ve had a chance to speak with Mister Tunnely."

"Then you’re goin’ to see him today?" Sam asked.

"I am indeed," Frodo said removing a scone from the tray and putting a bit of jam on it.

Sam wanted to ask what Mister Frodo intended to say to Mister Tunnely but he knew that wasn’t any of his business. He suspected that he’d hear soon enough. Word of such things did seem to get around.

"I do appreciate all of the help that you’ve given Pippin," Frodo said. "The lad has been so excited about his project since you began helping him with it."

"Oh, I clean forgot about what I come to tell you," Sam said.

"What was that?" Frodo asked.

"Well, I don’t know if you know this or not, Mister Frodo. Master Pippin is sleepin’ in the barn," Sam said. "I seen him out there when I was comin’ over to get a few things ready for his lesson today."

"Pippin is sleeping in the barn?" Frodo frowned. "I saw him go to his room after he and I had finished his writing lesson last night. I wonder when he went out to the barn?"

"Well, he seems fine," Sam said not wanting to worry Mister Frodo any. "He has one ‘o them big quilts ‘o yours over him and he just looks as if he’s doin’ a bit ‘o campin’ out is all. I just thought you ought to know where he was in case he’d not told you."

"He didn’t tell me," Frodo said with a sigh. "Pippin is not exactly having one of his better visits this time. "I am not entirely sure that I did him a favor by having him come to Bag End this summer. I may have made things worse than they needed to be. He might have been better off staying at Whitwell and having his lessons there."

"I’m sure Master Pippin will be fine once all ‘o this business with the carpentry is over," Sam said. "I think he’s just a bit worried about his project and what Mister Tunnely’ll say. He might even be relieved once he finds out old Mister Tunnely has quit."

Frodo frowned. "Well, don’t say anything to Pippin about that just yet, Sam," Frodo said thoughtfully. "You and I will talk again about that subject in the morning."

"Yes, Mister Frodo," Sam said and he stood up from the table. "I best go out and wake Master Pippin so’s we can get started, since I’ll not have any time this afternoon to work with him."

"Good idea," Frodo agreed. "I’ll fix Pippin a quick breakfast. You can just send him here to eat and that will give you time to organize things for the day."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Master Pippin had been a bit sulky after his breakfast and Sam wondered what Mister Frodo might have said to the lad about sleepin’ in the barn without permission but he didn’t ask. The lad would talk about it if he was of a mind to. Master Pippin always spoke his mind. The lad was standing near the work table waiting for Sam to tell him what he ought to do next. Master Pippin had on the foot guards and the gloves. He was ready to begin. Sam walked over to the table and asked, "What do you know about measurin’ and sawin’?"

"I did lots of measuring when I was making my first wheelbarrow," Pippin said. He glanced over at the pile of wood that had been the first wheel barrow and frowned. "I don’t think I measured some of it as well as I measured other parts of it because somehow it didn’t seem to fit together like this wheelbarrow of Frodo’s." He looked at the wheelbarrow sitting beside of the worktable with admiration. "How long do you suppose it takes someone to get good enough to build one like that?"

"Well, I don’t know where Mister Frodo got that one," Sam said. "I suspect that he bought it from some hobbit who does that sort ‘o thing for a livin’. I guess it might take a while to get that good."

Pippin dug a toe into the dirt on the barn floor. "I don’t suppose mine will look anything like that."

"It won’t look like nothin’ a’tall unless we get to work on it," Sam said. "Now, I want you to measure the side ‘o Mister Frodo’s wheelbarrow with this measuring line. As we’ve got Mister Frodo’s wheelbarrow here, we’ll just use it for a pattern."

Pippin grinned and took the line from Sam. He knelt down next to Frodo’s wheelbarrow and began to try and measure the side of the wheelbarrow. Sam watched and he was instantly aware of why Master Pippin’s measurements had not been quite right before. "Master Pippin, you want to put the very end ‘o that line on the edge ‘o the board," Sam said.

Pippin looked up confused. "What do you mean?"

Sam bent down next to Pippin and took the younger hobbit’s hand and placed it on the edge of the wheelbarrow’s side. He put the very end of the measuring line in Pippin’s hand. "Line up the edge ‘o this with the edge ‘o the wheelbarrow’s side next to the top ‘o the board and then stretch it out to the other end of the board. You want to keep the line tight so’s it don’t bunch up," Sam instructed.

"Why do we want to measure at the top?" Pippin asked as he carefully pulled the line tight against the wood.

"Because that’s the longest part on this wheelbarrow. See how the front ‘o the board slants down and gets smaller at the bottom?" Sam asked.

"Oh, right," Pippin grinned. "I guess I have to measure my board to the biggest size and then saw off the bottom to make it smaller since you can’t saw something and make it bigger, can you?"

Sam puzzled on that for a minute and then managed to sort it out. "No, you can’t," he said.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Now, remember, I do all of the talking this time, Meriadoc," Frodo said firmly. "You are allowed to come with me, but I will be doing the talking, understand?"

Merry sighed. "I understand, but I don’t like it."

"Well, if you don’t think that you will be able to abide by the rule on this then perhaps you had better wait for me outside," Frodo said. The two of them were standing in front of The Ivy Bush. Frodo knew that Mister Tunnely was having his second breakfast there because the Gaffer had said that Mister Tunnely always had second breakfast at The Ivy. Frodo planned to surprise Mister Tunnely. He didn’t want the old carpenter to have any warning about this conversation. He also didn’t want Merry making things worse.

"I can be quiet," Merry said quickly. "I just hope that you can be firm enough about it all."

Frodo frowned at him. "What do you mean?"

"Well, sometimes you are entirely too polite, Cousin," Merry said.

"When you are older you will realize that you can catch more flies with honey," Frodo said. "It is best to be polite in such matters if you expect to get anywhere. I don’t like what Mister Tunnely has done and I don’t think that he has dealt fairly with us, but if I walk into The Ivy Bush and begin to yell at him then I most certainly won’t get anywhere at all."

"Just don’t let him push us around," Merry warned. "You have to be stern too. Let him know who’s in charge."

"I am not in charge of Mister Tunnely, Merry," Frodo said. "I hired him to do a job on behalf of Pippin’s father but I am not in charge of him. He may chose to take the job or not as he sees fit. Now, he took the job and so I have a right to expect him to complete it but I am not in charge of him."

"When folks work for you, you are in charge," Merry said. "Doc says that if you let folks see that you aren’t keeping an eye on them, they’ll slack off. Folks will get away with what they can if you aren’t firm with them."

"You just let me handle this," Frodo said. "This is a bit more delicate than that."

Merry shrugged and followed Frodo into The Ivy Bush. He wished his father were here now. Doc would handle Mister Tunnely. He doubted that Frodo was up to the task. Frodo would be entirely too nice and Mister Tunnely would go right on talking unkindly about Pippin and would probably even manage to get more money to do the job of teaching Pippin carpentry. Merry wished that he’d have gone to see Tunnely himself instead of allowing Sam to talk him out of it.

Mister Tunnely was indeed having second breakfast. He was sitting at a table near the back of The Ivy with several full plates in front of him. He had his back to Frodo and Merry and so he didn’t notice them as they approached his table. That much was good, Merry thought. They’d at least surprise the old goat.

"Good morning, Tobias," Frodo said when they reached the table. "You are just the very hobbit that I wanted to see."

Mister Tunnely choked on a mouthful of potatoes and Merry tried not to smile. At least the old goat felt guilty enough that he wasn’t happy to see them. Maybe they would at least ruin Mister Tobias Tunnely’s second breakfast. That was something anyway.

"Frodo," Mister Tunnely said regaining some of his color and wiping his mouth off with a serviette. "What are you doing here at The Ivy this morning?"

Frodo pulled out a chair and smiled. "If you don’t mind, may we join you?" Frodo asked.

Mister Tunnely looked as if he minded very much but he smiled tightly and said, "Of course. Please sit down. Did you let Willow know that you’d be wanting breakfast?"

"Oh, we’ve eaten all ready," Frodo said pleasantly.

"Well, it wouldn’t hurt to eat again," Merry said looking at Mister Tunnely’s breakfast longingly. The Ivy put forth a very tasty breakfast.

Frodo tried not to show his annoyance. "Why don’t you go over and order something then, Merry. Mister Tunnely and I will be here talking."

Merry grinned in anticipation of a third breakfast and quickly went off to find Willow. Frodo thought that maybe this was best. He was doubtful that Merry would have been able to hold his tongue for this little meeting. He turned his attention to Mister Tunnely and said, "I heard a most unsettling rumor yesterday and so naturally, not being one to take much stock in rumors, I decided that I would simply ask you myself,"

Mister Tunnely sipped at his tea. His composure had returned and said, "Well, I am certainly glad that you did come directly to me, Frodo. How can I be of service?"

"Well, someone is spreading the rumor that you have decided to quit tutoring my cousin, Peregrin at carpentry," Frodo said.

At this point Merry appeared with a large cup of milk and a plate stacked high with toast. "She’s bringing the rest over when it’s ready," Merry said as Frodo eyed him. "This is just to start on."

"Wouldn’t you be more comfortable eating at another table?" Frodo asked.

"Oh, no, I’ll be fine here," Merry said taking a bite of his toast and then talking around it. "You and Mister Tunnely just go on with what you were talking about and I’ll just have my breakfast." He shot Mister tunnely a toast-filled smile and then returned his attention to his plate.

Frodo struggled to keep from losing his temper with Merry. He pasted his smile back on his face and looked at Mister Tunnely again. "The lad has quite an apatite," Mister Tunnely said approvingly.

"Yes," Frodo agreed and then he turned the conversation back to the matter at hand and away from Merry’s meal. "I did want to address the issue of that rumor with you, Tobias."

"Well, I’m afraid that isn’t a rumor at all," Mister Tunnely said.

"You don’t mean to say that you’re quitting do you?" Frodo asked trying to look surprised while Merry continued to stuff toast into himself.

"I am sure that you must realize the extent of my injuries at the hands of your cousin," Mister Tunnely said rubbing the top of his head. "You were there when it happened and so I know that you are aware of it."

"I do know that you took quite a blow to the head and I was very upset about that," Frodo said. "I did think that since it was a very unfortunate accident that you, having had experience with many a young hobbit learning carpentry, would understand that it was not intentional."

"Oh, I don’t think that the lad meant to injury me," Mister Tunnely chuckled as Willow sat down several plates in front of Merry and refilled Mister Tunnely’s tea cup. "No, the problem is hardly one of intent, Frodo. I simply can’t allow myself to be put into a situation as risky as that."

"I don’t believe that I am understanding what you mean," Frodo said even though he knew exactly what Mister Tunnely meant.

Merry forced himself to ignore the conversation and began to eat his eggs and bacon. If Frodo wanted to handle this then there wasn’t anything he could do about it.

"Why Frodo, surely you realize that your cousin shouldn’t be allowed to use tools after what happened to me," Mister Tunnely said and he rubbed the top of his head again. "That lad is too clumsy to be a carpenter. He could injure himself or anyone that he comes into contact with. His father must have known this."

Frodo frowned. "What do you mean that his father must have known it?"

Mister Tunnely chuckled as if he and Frodo were having a laugh together even though Frodo wasn’t smiling now, much less laughing. Mister Tunnely winked at Merry who had a mouth full of tomatoes and eggs. "Well Mister Paladin Took’s no fool," Mister Tunnely said. "He wasn’t about to risk his own health teaching the lad carpentry. He hired me to do the job. He must have known that the lad was dangerous."

Frodo’s hands fisted in his lap and his stiffened slightly but he maintained his control. "You are highly recommended as a carpentry tutor and so I am sure that Paladin’s reason for hiring you was simply because of your expertise and had little to do with anything else," Frodo said.

Frodo certainly was doing a splendid job of handling his emotions in all of this, Merry thought as he slathered a piece of toast with blackberry jam and continued to eat. It was easier to keep from saying anything if his mouth was full of food.

"Perhaps you’re right," Mister Tunnely said smiling. "I am known for my skills and maybe Mister Took was only seeking the best possible instruction for the lad, but even so, I simply cannot continue to take his money when I know already that the lad has no talent for carpentry. The child must be suited for something that requires less skill." He took a sip of his tea. "I’m sure that the Tooks will find something that the lad can do eventually but it is best that they be aware that it isn’t carpentry."

"Do you really think that one week’s worth of instruction is enough for you to decide that?" Frodo asked, his voice still remarkably level.

"Oh, yes," Mister Tunnely said. "Why I’ve never in all of my years as a skilled carpenter and tutor had a more inept and more hopeless student. That lad is dreadful." Mister Tunnely must have noticed the anger growing in Frodo’s eyes because he quickly continued. "Oh, the child can’t help it and so I don’t blame him. He is simply too awkward and careless to learn carpentry. He lacks coordination and he doesn’t concentrate well. Is he normal?"

Now it was Merry who was choking on his toast.

"I mean is he perhaps a bit slow?" Mister Tunnely asked in a lowered voice.

Frodo was suddenly on his feet and seemed to tower over the table in a way that Merry hadn’t realized was possible. Both of Frodo’s hands were flat on the table and he glared at Mister Tunnely, his usually bright blue eyes now cold with anger. "Are you suggesting that my cousin is less than intelligent, Mister Tunnely. Surely that isn’t what you meant to say," Frodo said in a tight voice.

"I know sometimes the family has a hard time admitting when one of their own turns out to be less than normal though it happens in the best of families and especially with the Tooks," Mister Tunnely said sitting back in his seat so that he was as far away from Frodo’s angry stare as possibly without getting up. Merry had stopped eating now and was watching Frodo.

"If my cousin were, as you say, less than normal, then I would be willing to admit it though I would still consider it the height of rudeness for anyone to bring the subject up," Frodo said. "However, for your information, Peregrin is extremely bright. He is a normal, intelligent young hobbit and if you have been unable to instruct him in the skill of carpentry then I would have to assume that the fault is yours and that you are not so talented a tutor as we were led to believe."

Merry’s mouth dropped open. He had completely forgotten his breakfast now. Frodo was angry.

"My skill as a tutor is not in question here,’ Mister Tunnely objected.

"It most certainly is," Frodo said a bit louder. "You claim to be able to teach young hobbits how to work as carpenters or at the very least to instruct them on the rudimentary skills that will allow them to make simple repairs to items on their farms and in their smials and yet after only one week’s worth of instruction you have quit a job that was offered to you in good faith. To me that speaks volumes about your so-called skill as a tutor!"

Merry watched as Mister Tunnely’s face began to turn a vivid red and a small vein began to throb in the old hobbit’s temple. Many of The Ivy’s patrons were now sitting and listening to the exchange going on between Frodo and Mister Tunnely. They could hardly help but hear it since Frodo was now practically yelling.

"You can ask anyone in Hobbiton!" Mister Tunnely shouted back and now he was standing also. "I am a well-respected tutor!"

"You are a fraud!" Frodo said. "You failed to teach my cousin anything at all while you were supposed to be instructing him. From what I gather, all you managed to do was insult him and to get yourself hit over the head with a hammer!"

"That child is a menace!" Mister Tunnely said.

"You are supposed to teach children how to use a hammer properly before you give them a hammer to use," Frodo said. "You didn’t do anything at all to teach Peregrin about carpentry. You took Paladin Took’s money and failed to hold up your end of the bargain!"

"I cannot teach that lad carpentry without risking my own life and I gave back that money," Mister Tunnely shouted.

Frodo laughed which made Merry and Mister Tunnely very uneasy because it was not a pleasant laugh. "You mean to say that you are afraid of one small seventeen-year-old hobbit?" Frodo laughed again. "You mean that you are incapable of doing your job because you are afraid of your student?"

Several patrons of The Ivy laughed at this. Frodo was certainly providing them with a fine show at second breakfast. "You are going to stand there and let everyone in this room know that you can’t control one student?"

"I can’t teach that lad carpentry!" Mister Tunnely shouted his face dangerously red now. "I doubt that there is anyone in this entire Shire who can and that is precisely why you are here now! You need me!"

"I don’t need you for anything," Frodo said in a voice that resembled a low growl. "In fact, I plan to let everyone that I have dealings with know exactly how worthless you are, Tobias. If anyone should ask me then I will be more than pleased to inform them of how you failed to do the job for which you were hired and how you failed to come to me and resign. I will let them know that I found out that you had quit from a third party because you were too cowardly to come to me and inform me on your own. I will tell anyone that asks that you have been caught telling shameless and hurtful lies about my cousin, for which, if you continue to do so, I shall see to it that you are run out of Hobbiton with nothing more than the clothing on your back!"

Mister Tunnely was staring at Frodo now. "I did not say anything that-"

"You had better stop right there, Tobias or I will be forced to send for a Shirriff," Frodo said and now Merry stood up. He moved over next to Frodo and glared at Mister Tunnely. "If I ever hear that you have said anything at all about Peregrin Took then I will indeed send for a Shirriff and have you brought up on charges. You will not be permitted to spread rumors about my family as long as I draw breath," Frodo said.

"You won’t be able to find anyone who will tutor that child," Mister Tunnely said backing up a step from his chair and nearly tripping over it. "There’s no one in all the Shire that can teach that child how to pick up a hammer much less build anything." He moved further away.

"That ain’t exactly so, Tobias," Hamfast Gamgee said from his seat near the front door of The Ivy. Frodo and Merry hadn’t seen him come in and they were both startled when he spoke. "My Sam’s havin’ quite a bit ‘o luck with the lad."

Mister Tunnely turned to look at Hamfast. "You mean to say that you are allowing your son to instruct that child in carpentry? You son is a gardener! What does he know about carpentry?"

Hamfast grinned. "He knows enough to know that you got to do more than talk about it to your student in order to teach him a thing or two. My Sam says that all you done was talk about how fine a carpenter you are to the lad and that you didn’t spend no effort showin’ him what was what."

"I’ll have you know that I did my best to teach the child what I know about carpentry!" Mister Tunnely said.

Hamfast shook his head. "Well, then I’ll wager that your best weren’t good enough

cause my Sam has been havin’ to teach that lad everything from the ground up if you take my meanin’."

"Gaffer, do you think that Sam would take on the job of teaching Pippin carpentry formally if I were to offer it to him?" Frodo asked and Mister Tunnely turned around and started at Frodo in shock.

"You can’t mean to let a-a-a-a gardener teach your cousin carpentry!" Mister Tunnely sputtered.

"I would have offered Sam the position to begin with if it had been entirely my choice," Frodo said calmly. "I just didn’t dare to hope that Sam would have the extra time for it. He’s very much in demand for his gardening skills and I know that Hamfast relies on him to be available for other jobs. Paladin and I talked it over and decided that Sam simply wouldn’t have the time to work Peregrin’s lessons in with everything else that he has to do and so we settled for you."

There was a collective snicker that filled the room now and the Gaffer leaned back in his chair and looked as if he were deep in thought. "Well, o’ course Sam is very busy this time ‘o year Mister Frodo but seein’ as it’s you and seein’ as how you been left in a lurch so to speak, Sam might be able to work somethin’ out. He is quite fond ‘o Master Peregrin and he told me that the lad was in need of proper teachin’ as he didn’t get it a’fore."

"I hadn’t wanted to impose on Sam but Peregrin has responded so well to Sam’s teaching in the short time that Sam has been working with him," Frodo said smiling at the Gaffer. "If you think that there is even the slightest chance that Sam would be able to tutor Peregrin then my worries are over."

Hamfast rose from his seat and started over to Frodo. "Why don’t we talk about this over some apple cobbler, Mister Frodo? I don’t speak for my Sam, but I can let you know what all he’d have to work around as I know about his other jobs."

"Splendid!" Frodo grinned.

Mister Tunnely stood there looking as if he’d been hit hard in the stomach. All of the bright red anger had drained out of his face now. He stared at Hamfast Gamgee and Frodo Baggins as the two sat down at the table.

"I’ll go let Willow know that we need cobbler, Gaffer," Merry said and he started across the room. As he passed Mister Tunnely and leaned over and whispered so that no one else could hear him. "If you say anything else to anyone about Pippin, I’ll find you and I’ll black both of your eyes. That’s how we do things in Buckland." He then smiled broadly and said in a normal tone of voice, "Looks like everyone got what they wanted, Mister Tunnely. We get Sam for Pippin’s tutor, Pippin learns carpentry from someone who knows what they’re doing, you get plenty of spare time to sit around here at The Ivy and Sam will get all the money that you would have made." Merry walked over to Willow and said, "We need three orders of apple cobbler and some milk please."

Mister Tunnely quickly left The Ivy with a very nervous look at Merry before doing so. Those Bucklanders were queer folk and that lad probably would do exactly what he said he would if that mad Baggins over there with the Gaffer didn’t beat him to it. Frodo was at least half a Brandybuck after all.

 

 

 

Part 8

Pippin tried not to seem disappointed but he was. He hadn’t realized that Sam was going to have to work somewhere else after lunch but he really should have known that Sam couldn’t just quit doing his other job, he’s real job, and spend all of his time in Frodo’s barn.

"I’ll be able to help you some tomorrow," Sam had said apologetically. "The Gaffer says things will be a bit slower then if I get us caught up today."

"Can I help you?" Pippin had asked. He really did want to do something to help Sam. "You’re behind because you’ve been helping me. I wouldn’t mind if you want me to. I’ve helped my father with our garden before."

"Oh, I couldn’t let you do that, Master Pippin," Sam had said. "This is a job that I get paid for and I ought to be the one doin’ it. I’m not behind by much so it will be easy to catch up. It’s a fine day for gardenin’ and for bein’ out. You ought to spend some time doin’ somethin’ that you like if Mister Frodo don’t have any other lessons for you."

"All right then," Pippin had agreed though he had no idea at all what he might do until after Sam had left. He looked over at the work table and that was when the idea hit him. He’d surprise Sam by doing some more work on the wheelbarrow. Sam was only supposed to be helping Pippin. It was Pippin’s responsibility to build the project and to have it ready for Mister Tunnely. Pippin realized that he only had two days left to finish before Mister Tunnely would return to see how he was doing. Sam might not be able to work on it this afternoon but he could. Nothing was stopping him. Frodo and Merry weren’t even home right now. They had gone to town on some sort of an errand. Frodo had told him to not wander off so he supposed that working on his wheelbarrow would be fine. Now, all he had to do was decide where to begin.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"So, that’s how it’s done, is it, Cousin?" Merry asked with a grin at Frodo as Willow sat three large bowls of apple cobbler down on the table. "That’s your version of catching more flies with honey and not losing your temper?"

Frodo looked up from his bowl of apple cobbler and frowned at Merry. "I’ll admit that this didn’t go exactly the way that I had planned," Frodo said.

The Gaffer chuckled. "Seems as if it went ‘bout the way you could expect bein’ as how old Tobias got right insultin’ about the young Master and all." He spooned some of his cobbler into his mouth.

"I wasn’t expecting that either," Frodo agreed. "It’s true that Pippin can be quite a handful but sometimes that’s the result of him being a bit too clever for his own good. The lad is very intelligent. He just doesn’t always think things through."

"That’s true ‘o most young folks and some ‘o the older ones," the Gaffer snorted. "I don’t suspect that old Tobias was thinkin’ too clear when he spoke out ‘o turn to you about your cousin. I wonder that you didn’t say more to him than you did."

"Frodo has amazing restraint," Merry said sarcastically and grinned .

Frodo sighed and looked over at Merry. "You aren’t going to allow me to live this one down are you?"

"Not right away," Merry said happily filling his mouth with cobbler.

"But I was proud of you," Frodo said.

"Of me?" Merry asked looking puzzled. "Whatever for?"

"Well I did have my doubts that you could remain silent and allow me to handle things, but you certainly proved me wrong," Frodo said. "You kept your word and remained quiet in spite of the things that Mister Tunnely was saying about Pippin."

Merry shifted slightly in his seat. "Well, you did say that I couldn’t come along if I didn’t keep quiet," Merry said.

"I did but sometimes when it comes to defending Pippin you don’t always follow my instructions," Frodo reminded him. "Frankly, you behaved far better than I did today. Maybe the next time there is something important to attend to I should allow you to do the talking."

Merry was struggling with whether or not to admit that he had threatened Mister Tunnely but the Gaffer interrupted before he could decide. "You know, this place needs bigger bowls," he said shaking his head. "A’fore you hardly get a taste of it, the cobbler’s gone."

Seeing his chance, Merry stood quickly. "I’ll go see if Willow will bring you another bowl of it Gaffer."

As he disappeared, Frodo leaned forward and spoke to the Gaffer. "I don’t know when and I don’t know how but I am quite sure that Merry must have said something to Mister Tunnely. He wouldn’t let what was said about Pippin go unchallenged."

"Maybe he thinks you done enough defendin’ for the both ‘o you this time," Hamfast suggested.

Frodo smiled. "When it comes to protecting Pippin, Merry always has to directly involve himself. He never thinks that anyone else can do it as well as he can." Frodo took another bite of his cobbler. "Come to think of it, Merry seldom thinks that anyone can do anything as well as he can."

Hamfast chuckled. "Well, that goes to bein’ young and full ‘o yourself. He’ll out-grow it as soon as he runs up against something he can’t handle."

"More cobbler," Merry said sitting down a tray with three bowls on it. "Willow said it was on the house."

"Why is the cobbler on the house?" Frodo asked.

"Never question free cobbler, lad," the Gaffer advised as he removed a bowl from the tray and began to eat.

"Merry?" Frodo frowned noticing Merry’s overly wide smile.

"Willow says that there hasn’t been a bigger or better fight in The Ivy all month long," Merry said. "She says that everyone here was pulling for you to tell Mister Tunnely off the minute that he started saying those things about Pippin." Merry laughed. "Willow called you a fire-brand. Said that your eyes flash when your angry." Merry winked at Frodo who was now blushing to the roots of his dark hair. "She said that-"

"I think I’ve heard quite enough of what Willow said," Frodo hissed.

Merry snickered.

"Eat your cobbler, Meriadoc," Frodo said in a warning tone.

"Best eat up," Hamfast agreed. "Ain’t every day that you get free cobbler." He then looked over at Frodo and smiled. "Sometimes it pays to be a might angry if you can get your eyes to flash."

Merry, his mouth full of cobbler, snorted, covering his mouth with his hand so as not to spit cobbler on the table.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pippin had worked for over an hour now sanding all of the wood just so. With Sam’s help earlier he had measured the boards for the sides and bottom of the wheelbarrow and had actually sawed them. He had been a bit awkward with his sawing in the beginning but Sam had quickly shown him the proper way to hold the saw and how to support the board so that it wouldn’t slip while he was sawing.

Pippin ran a hand over the freshly sanded board and smiled. Sam would be pleased. The boards were all smooth and ready to be painted or stained. Sam had said that it would be best to paint them before putting them together. When Pippin had questioned this, Sam had explained. "If you paint them before then you can get a good coat all over them and lay them out flat. That way the paint don’t run and drip so much. Also you get the paint all over the wood. If you nail them together first then it’s hard to get the paint in the cracks and corners."

Pippin was impressed with this bit of knowledge. He smiled at the freshly sanded boards and wondered if he should try anything else on his own. He supposed that he could paint them. He’d painted a few times before though not very much. It wasn’t hard really. He wondered if Frodo had any paint. If he did then Pippin supposed it would be out here in the barn or maybe in the Gaffer’s garden shed. It wouldn’t hurt to look for some.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Gaffer, I’d like to ask your permission to offer Sam the job of completing Pippin carpentry education over the summer," Frodo said once the second round of cobbler was completely gone. "I know that summer is a busy season for you and for Sam and so I will try to find someone else if you can’t spare him."

"Well, how much time to you figure on the lessons takin’?" Hamfast asked.

"Mister Tunnely was supposed to work with Pippin for the next two months," Frodo said. "He was going to evaluate Pippin’s progress at that point and then advise Paladin if Pippin should continue lessons next summer."

"What do you expect Mister Paladin Took would think ‘o your offerin’ the job to my Sam?" Hamfast asked. "Sam don’t normally teach buildin’ and such so Master Pippin wouldn’t be learnin’ his lessons for a real carpenter. Don’t take me wrong on this, my Sam’s a fine hand at buildin’ things and all, but Mister Took might want someone with credentials."

"I can, of course, write to Paladin and see what he would like," Frodo agreed. "But I would hate for Pippin to lose the time on his lessons while I wait for a response. Would it be all right for Sam to continue instructing Pippin at least until I hear from Pippin’s father?"

"That’d be fine as long as you know that Sam’s still goin’ to be busy with his gardenin’," Hamfast said.

"Oh, I do realize that," Frodo said. "In fact I am wondering if maybe this would be too much of an imposition with all Sam has on his plate all ready. That is why I wanted your leave to ask Sam."

"You have it," Hamfast said. "My Sam seems to be enjoyin’ the work and he says the lad is startin’ to pick it up. He told me that your little cousin is a quick learner if you can keep his attention."

"That is the entire trick to teaching Pippin anything," Frodo agreed. "He can learn but you do have to keep him interested and focused and Sam has done a marvelous job of that. Pippin seems to be enjoying his carpentry lessons with Sam. He wasn’t enjoying them with Mister Tunnely. I think he has learned more from Sam the past few days than he did from Mister Tunnely."

"I can’t spare Sam more than three mornings a week," Hamfast said. "‘O course if we have rain then he’d have more time and what Sam does with his spare time is of his chosin’."

"Thank you, Gaffer," Frodo smiled. "I’ll write to Paladin and see what he wants done, but until I hear from him, I will see if Sam is interested in continuing as Pippin’s tutor. I think after hearing the entire situation, Paladin will be more than happy to have Sam as Pippin’s tutor."

Merry frowned. "What are you planning to tell Pippin about all of this?"

"I suspect that since everyone here heard the loud discussion that I had with Tobias Tunnely that I will have to sit him down and try to find a way to tell him the truth of it all," Frodo sighed. He looked over at the Gaffer. "Do me a favor and if you see Pippin, don’t mention any of this to him until I’ve had a chance to talk to him, will you?"

"I’ll not say a word," Hamfast promised.

"Merry, you and I should be heading back to Bag End," Frodo said, standing. "I have a few stops to make on the way. I want to pick up some flour and some tea but then I suspect I had better get back and have a word with Pippin."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The search for paint turned up nothing. Pippin was disappointed to find that even the Gaffer’s garden shed didn’t have any old stain or shellac or paint stored in it. A quick trip down to Bag End also proved pointless. Merry and Frodo still weren’t back yet. As Pippin leaned against the kitchen table eating a wedge of cheese, he decided that he’d go into town and get some shellac. He was sure that the grain and supply store would have shellac. He would have liked to make some paint for his wheelbarrow but he really had never made paint before and just now he wasn’t feeling like waiting. He wanted to shellac the boards so that they might dry and then he and Sam could put the wheelbarrow together tomorrow. He would surprise Sam.

Pippin got parchment and charcoal and left Frodo a note. He doubted that going to town to get building supplies could be considered running off as long as he left a proper note. He had enough money for the shellac and he might also find something for lunch while he was gone. His stomach was beginning to rumble.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The baked goods shop’s door opened just as Pippin passed it on his way to purchase his shellac and the smell of freshly baked bread over-powered him. There is nothing like the smell of warm bread. Grinning and pulling out a hand full of coins, Pippin decided that his stomach needed filling before he could purchase any shellac.

He walked into the inviting shop sniffing the air and was rewarded by delectable aromas too numerous to mention. He was studying one of the lovely glass cases filled with breads and cakes when a voice asked, "Can I help you?"

Pippin looked up and saw one of the shops owners, Mister Burrows looking down at him from behind the counter. Pippin smiled and in spit of his original plan to buy some warm bread he announced,  "I’d like a pie."

"What sort of pie?"

"What sorts do you have?" Pippin asked.

"Well there’s cherry and that’s fresh from two hours ago, apple which was made this morning, raisin which is still good, but was made yesterday afternoon, there’s some poor-hobbit’s pie just out of the oven, and then there’s some plum pie, but that’s near to two days old now," Mister Burrows advised. "Course the plum is half price on as it’s that old."

Pippin fairly bounced on his toes as he tried to decide. The plum was the right price and buying that would leave him more than enough for some milk and his shellac, but fresh cherry pie was hard to pass up and then the poor-hobbit’s pie had always been a favorite of his. His Aunt Esme, Merry’s mum, made the best that he’d ever tasted.

"I’ll have the poor-hobbit’s pie," Pippin decided.

"A slice or an entire pie?" Mister Burrows asked.

"A whole pie if you please," Pippin grinned.

"Be right back with it," Mister Burrows smiled.

Pippin watched him leave to get the pie and entertained himself with thoughts of the delicious pie. It would have a warm, flaky crust, and inside would be lots of milk, butter, eggs, a touch of cinnamon and maybe some maple syrup. Poor Hobbit’s pie was so named because it contained no fruit and the filling just covered the bottom of the crust in a thin layer. Pippin could eat three of them without stopping for breath because they were so thin but he dearly loved them. He looked at his change and sighed. He might be able to eat three of them but if he wanted the shellac one would be all he could afford today.

Mister Burrows came back carrying his pie and sat it on the counter. "You want a sack to put it in?" he asked.

"No, I think I’ll just eat it as I walk," Pippin smiled.

"You can eat it here at the counter if you want," Mister Burrows offered. "I can get you a cup of milk to go with it."

"Thank you," Pippin said placing his change on the counter top. "Will this cover the cost of the milk too?"

"It will indeed," Mister Burrows smiled.

Pippin was already breaking off pieces of the pie and eating it when Mister Burrows returned with the milk. He watched the lad eat and smiled. "So, where are you off to after this?" he asked.

"I need to buy some shellac,"Pippin told him. "I’m building something and I need to paint it."

"So I’ve heard," Mister Burrows said. "I was sorry to hear about what old Tobias done to you."

Pippin frowned. How did Mister Burrows know about his carpentry project and what was he sorry about?

"That just wasn’t right," Mister Burrows continued. "He shouldn’t be able to call himself a tutor if he doesn’t plan to stick to the job. A fella ought to finish what he starts even if the job isn’t what he’d thought it would be. Not everyone takes to building right off. Don’t you give it another thought, Master Took. I’m sure your cousin will find you a proper tutor."

What was Mister Burrows talking about? Pippin had a tutor and as a matter of fact his cousin Frodo had found the very tutor that he did have. Oh, his father had suggested Mister Tunnely but it had been Frodo who had hired him. Pippin chewed another bite of his pie as Mister Burrows went on sympathetically, "I don’t think Mister Tunnely had any call to spread those rumors around town about you almost killing him with a hammer. I’m sure that anyone with any sense at all would have to know that was an accident. Still, it sure must have been quite a hit to the head that you gave him if it left him dizzy for several days like he says. I never cared for carpentry myself and so I didn’t make my own lads learn it. They can all bake of course. I taught ‘em myself. Easier to teach your own than to have someone else to do it."

Pippin blinked, took a sip of the milk and tried to puzzle Mister Burrows’ words out so that they made sense. Mister Burrows refilled Pippin’s mug with more milk and continued talking. "I think your cousin was quite right to tell him off the way he did in The Ivy."

"Merry?"

"No, Frodo Baggins. It’s all over town that Frodo told Mister Tunnely off for quitting," Mister Burrows said.

"Mister Tunnely quit?" Pippin said barely above a whisper.

"You’re better off without him, lad," Mister Burrows said patting Pippin on the shoulder. "The way that old hobbit was talking about you was disgraceful. I don’t care what you hit him with he has no call to tell folks that you’re a few eggs shy of a dozen. We can’t all be carpenters. Who’d make the bread and shoe the ponies and farm if we were? Just cause you got no talent for building things it don’t mean that your slow-witted."

Pippins’s fingers slipped from the handle of the cup and milk poured onto the counter.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Poor-Hobbit's pie is actually Poor Man's pie and contains  a custard like mix in the bottom of a pie crust.  It is called a poor man's pie because it is usually made with left-over dairy products from your kitchen and the filling only covers the bottom of the crust.  My grandmother used to make them when I was growing up.     _     G.W.

 

 

Part 9

From his vantage point high in the old apple tree, Pippin watched Merry approach the barn door. He suspected that Merry was probably looking for him but he didn’t care. He sat very still on the high branch hidden among the thick crown of leaves that covered the tree. Merry wouldn’t think to look for him here. This had been his hiding place when he was little and now that he was older he very rarely hid up here. He listened as Merry knocked on the barn doors and called, "Pippin? Pip, Frodo would like to see you in the kitchen for a minute." Merry paused and then knocked louder. "Pippin? Are you in there, Pippin?"

Pippin waited to see if Merry would ignore his sign that was still hanging on the barn door and go on in. He frowned. Pippin hadn’t remembered to cover up his work this time when he’d left. He’d been too excited about getting some shellac and finishing the painting as a surprise for Sam and so he was sure that he hadn’t remembered to cover up the work area. If Merry did decide to go in then he would probably see what Pippin was working on. A few hours ago this would have caused Pippin to scramble down from his hiding place so that he could keep Merry from entering the barn but now it really didn’t seem to matter much. Pippin had already decided that he wasn’t going to finish the wheelbarrow anyway so there would be no harm in Merry seeing what there was to see.

"Peregrin Took, are you in that barn?" Merry’s voice rang out. "Either answer me or I am coming in and get you myself! Frodo wants you in the kitchen right now." Merry kicked the door with his foot and waited.

Pippin reached into his trouser pocket and removed the tiny, perfect wheel. He had put the little wooden wheel in there before leaving for town. He thought that he might be asked about the sort of wood that he was wanting the shellac for and so he had brought the little wheel that he and Sam had made with the wheelwright’s traveler as an example of the wood. Well, that wasn’t strictly true. He had brought the little wheel because he liked it and because he’d been proud of the way that it had turned out. He had also been pleased that Sam had agreed to his plan to put two extra wheels on the wheelbarrow. This tiny wheel was one of the extra ones and Pippin had imagined himself in the shop in town asking for the shellac.

"I’d like to purchase some shellac please."

"Well, what are you planning on finishing with it," the shopkeeper would have said. "It can make a difference. I’d need to know what kind of wood you’re using and what you’re building if I’m to get you the proper sort of shellac for the job."

That would have been Pippin’s opportunity right there. He would have reached into his trouser pocket and pulled out this little wheel that he now held in his hand and laid it down on the counter in front of the shopkeeper. He would have let the shopkeeper admire it for a minute and then he would have said, "I’m building a wheelbarrow and it is made from the same wood as this wheel. I need something that will protect the wheelbarrow from the weather as I plan to use it a great deal and I want it to last a very long time."

The shop keeper would have held the wheel up and said something like, "This is a fine wheel. If the rest of your wheelbarrow is a finely crafted as this little wheel then this must be an amazing wheelbarrow."

Pippin had envisioned himself grinning proudly and thanking the shopkeeper for his praise. "It is actually the first thing that I’ve ever built but it is going quite well. In fact, I do believe that I have a natural talent for carpentry. I’m taking instruction from Mister Tunnely. Maybe you know him. He’s taught all of the best carpenters in this area."

But now, Pippin wasn’t being instructed by the famous Mister Tunnely anymore. Now, Mister Tunnely thought that he was a hopeless cause. Mister Tunnely didn’t think that Pippin was bright enough to build a wheelbarrow or anything else. What was it Mister Tunnely had told him? Ah, yes, he remembered now. "You couldn’t build a box without killing yourself!" That was it. Natural talent for carpentry indeed! Pippin didn’t have any natural talent at all unless it was a natural talent for disaster. He had that all right.

Far below the tree Pippin could see Merry heading back toward Bag End. Merry hadn’t gone into the barn or even opened the door a tiny crack. Merry probably wasn’t all that interested in what Pippin was building to begin with. Whatever Pippin managed to build, he knew that Merry could build one twice as good in half the time. Merry wouldn’t have needed any help at all. Merry was good at everything. That was what it came down to. Merry was just good at everything.

Pippin ran a finger over the edge of the tiny wheel and sighed. There wasn’t anything that Merry couldn’t do. Pippin could remember everyone bragging on Merry’s writing. Merry didn’t have to have extra practice with Frodo or anyone else. Merry was even asked to help with lettering on things that needed to look especially nice. Merry never had to spend hours and hours of his summer trying to keep from getting ink blots on his parchment!

Pippin frowned down at Merry who was walking underneath the tree and tried to think of something that Merry couldn’t do well. Nothing would come to him and Pippin guessed that this was because Merry was really good at everything. The only hobbit in the Shire more talented at more things than Merry was Frodo!

Pippin let a tiny sigh escape as Merry moved out of view. Why didn’t he have any clumsy, unintelligent, older cousins? Why was everyone in his family talented except for him? Even his older sisters were talented. In fact, Nell had always been faster at running and able to throw better than Pippin. She was a lass! Pervinca was considered to be one of the finest seamstresses for a hobbit of her age. Folks came by Whitwell to ask if Pearl would embroider things for them and they actually paid her to do it! No one ever came by the farm and asked Pippin to do anything for them except, "Lad, would you see if your father is home?" or "Get out of the way, Pippin. We’re busy here." or "Help me carry this out to the cart, Pippin." Maybe that was his lot in life. Maybe he would just be the sort of hobbit that carried things for more talented hobbits. Someday when he was grown he’d probably be lucky if Merry or Frodo kept him around to load their wagons for them.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

"He wasn’t in the barn, Frodo," Merry said as he entered the parlor. "I threatened to come in and look around and so I know if he’d been in there, he would have answered me in order to keep me out." Merry sighed and shook his head. "I can’t get used to Pippin not wanting me around but I suppose it comes in handy when I am trying to locate him. He would have been quick to answer just keep me from seeing his secret project."

Frodo was sitting in his favorite reading chair by the fire. He looked up at Merry and wordlessly handed him a piece of parchment. Merry took it and unfolded it. He read it.

Frodo,

I’m hungry and you aren’t here and so I am going to the bake shop in Hobbiton and get something to eat. I won’t be gone long. Keep Merry out of the barn while I’m gone. Oh, and I don’t think this will count as wandering off, which you told me not to do, because I’m not wandering at all. I know where I am going and so I won’t be wandering around any. Also this note tells you where I am so you won’t worry.

Besides, I’m old enough to go to town on my own now.

Pippin

Merry groaned. "You don’t think anyone said anything do you?"

Frodo looked up at his younger cousin and said, "Merry, what do folks in Hobbiton enjoy doing almost as much as they enjoy eating?"

"Spreading the news," Merry said glumly. "They all enjoy telling what they know and where and how they heard it."

"I suspect that Pippin has heard everything that went on in The Ivy Bush from several folks by now," Frodo said. "I would also venture to guess that Pippin has heard things that didn’t go on in The Ivy Busy. You know how folks love to put in little touches to make the story more entertaining. By now, there is probably a version of what happened that has me beating the daylights out of Mister Tunnely while you held off several concerned town’s folk and the Gaffer sent for the Shirriffs."

"That was the version that I was hoping for," Merry said.

Frodo frowned. "That would not have solved anything at all, Merry."

"I think I would feel better," Merry said. "It might have solved that problem."

"Well, there are more pressing matters just now," Frodo said. "I have to figure out what I am going to say to Pippin and exactly how to say it."

"You’ll have to find him first," Merry said.

"Maybe I should give him a little time to come back on his own," Frodo said considering things. "Pippin might need some time to himself."

"Well, there are only a couple of places that he might be anyway so it won’t be too hard to locate him when you decide that it’s time," Merry said looking down at the note in his hands. "He’s fairly easy to find because he always hides in the same places."

"Well, we’ll just give him some time on his own," Frodo repeated. "Maybe he will think things through and come in on his own."

"Maybe," Merry said. "But don’t count on that one."

Frodo looked up at Merry again. "Sit down, Merry. I think that you and I had better have a talk before Pippin comes back."

Merry sat down on the sofa. "What do you want to talk about, Cousin? If you are wanting to tell me to be supportive when we talk to Pippin then you need not bother. I know that already. I will be very supportive."

"That isn’t exactly it, Merry," Frodo said.

"What then?" Merry asked puzzled.

"I want to ask you to do me a favor," Frodo said.

"What’s that?" Merry asked still not sure what was coming.

"I think that it might be best if I talked to Pippin alone this time," Frodo said.

"Why would you think that?" Merry frowned.

"Because Pippin is most likely going to be embarrassed and hurt by what has happened and it might be better if you weren’t around," Frodo said gently.

Merry scowled. "I’ve been looking out for Pippin for ages! I wouldn’t say anything to upset him. How can you think that? I think that what Mister Tunnely did was terribly! I wouldn’t say anything to hurt Pip."

"I don’t think you would say anything to hurt him," Frodo said trying to defuse Merry’s growing anger. "But I think that Pippin would prefer that you not be present for this discussion."

Merry’s mouth fell open and he gaped at Frodo. "Pippin may be a bit put out with me just now but when someone hurts his feelings or upsets him, he always comes looking for me. How will it seem to him if I just go off?"

"Merry, Pippin is going through a rather difficult time right now and sadly, you are part of the problem," Frodo said quietly.

"I’m part of the problem?" Merry objected. "How do you reason that one out?"

"Pippin looks up to you, Merry," Frodo said. "He wants to be like you and he is trying very hard to grow up this summer. You are older and you are very good at all of the things that Pippin is struggling with. I think Pippin is feeling a bit resentful."

"How can he resent me for being good at something?" Merry demanded. "Would he like me better just now if I were a complete failure?"

"Just now, I think that he would," Frodo said with a small smile. "I think he would like it just fine if you were a bit less perfect about now."

Merry stood up. "What am I suppose to do about that?" he asked.

Frodo tried hard not to smirk as Merry stood there looking as if there was no way to find a single flaw with himself. "You are supposed to let me handle this so that Pippin won’t have the additional embarrassment of having his, nearly perfect older cousin around while we discuss this recent set back with Mister Tunnely."

"So, I am just to act as if I don’t care that Mister Tunnely treated Pippin badly?" Merry asked.

"Of course not," Frodo said. "But it would be good if you were to make yourself a bit scarce while I talk to Pippin."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Maybe I’ll get my pack and go off adventuring like Bilbo did, Pippin thought. Maybe I’ll just find a good walking stick, load my pack and trudge off in search of new places. Pippin sighed deeply. That would work out really well until I got hopelessly lost and someone, probably Merry, had to come and find me.

Pippin held the tiny wheel up and let the sunlight filter through the spokes. He remembered that Merry had built a perfect cart one summer when they had both been little. They had been at Brandy Hall and Merry had just simply decided to build a cart. He’d just made up his mind to build it and then he had built it! No one showed him how. No one helped him. Merry had just built it. Pippin remembered how the older lads had been afraid to ride in it thinking that it wouldn’t make it down the hill. Pippin had been proud of Merry’s cart and he had not been afraid at all. He had known that the cart would work because EVERYTHING that Merry built worked.

Merry had taken the cart up on a hill above Brandy Hall and had offered the other lads a chance to ride down with him. When they had all turned cowardly, Pippin had quickly jumped into the back of the cart as it rolled down the hill. Merry and the others had thought that he was too little to ride, but he hadn’t listened to them and he had ridden down the hill in the cart with Merry. It had been glorious! Pippin looked at the little wheel that had been so difficult to make even with Sam’s help and sighed. Merry had made four perfect wheels and put them on that cart all by himself!

Pippin could hear a door slam and then he heard someone moving through the grass. He sat very still and waited. Someone was coming. Suddenly Merry came into view again. Frodo must have sent him back to the barn to try again. Pippin watched as Merry walked over and sat down at the base of the tree. Pippin gripped the little wheel tightly so that it wouldn’t slip from his fingers and fall on Merry. Below him he could hear Merry talking to himself.

"I think you should make yourself scarce, Merry. I think that it would be best if I talked to him alone, Merry. Get lost, Merry." Merry leaned his back against the tree and pulled up a handful of grass. "Just who was it that decreed that Frodo Baggins was King of the Shire? Who put him in charge? Why is it that he calls all of the shots and makes all of the decisions?"

Pippin found this one-sided discussion very interesting. So interesting that he was forgetting to feel sorry for himself for the moment. He leaned forward on the branch a bit and settled himself so that he might hear better.

"You can come with me to see Mister Tunnely, Merry but you are not to say anything. Let me, the great and powerful Frodo Baggins, do all of the talking! Don’t say anything at all, Merry because whatever you say, it is most likely that it will not be as important or as wise as the words that spring from the mind of Frodo the Great!" Merry said tossing an apple core away from the tree in the direction of Bag End.

Pippin wondered what Merry was so angry about. It sounded as if it had something to do with Mister Tunnely but it mostly seemed as if Merry was angry at Frodo for some reason. Pippin wondered what Frodo might have done. Merry certainly was upset.

Merry picked up a second apple core that was lying near his feet and said in a mocking tone, "I will handle everything because I am older, wiser, and far more intelligent. Who knows? I might have to speak a bit of Elvish to get the job done and we both know that you can’t speak Elvish, Merry. I can though. I can speak several different dialects of Elvish. I can also write in Elvish, Merry and so naturally, Mister Tunnely will respect me more than he will respect you."

Pippin wrinkled his nose a bit. Why would Frodo want to speak Elvish to Mister Tunnely? Did Mister Tunnely speak Elvish? Did Frodo have long conversations in Elvish with Mister Tunnely and was that why Mister Tunnely had agreed to try and teach Pippin carpentry? What was a dialect?

"Merry, you just get out of the way for as long as possible and I’ll speak to Pippin too. Maybe Pippin would like to hear me recite some poetry while I am explaining to him what happened to his carpentry lessons! Yes, that might ease the blow of losing his instructor! I’ll read him a poem that I wrote myself and that will make everything right. You go on outside and lurk about there, Merry so that you won’t be in the way or say the wrong thing." Merry hurled the second apple core off toward Bag End again and reached over and picked up a third one.

Pippin didn’t think that he would feel any better about Mister Tunnely quitting or about Mister Tunnely thinking that he was an idiot just because Frodo read him a poem. Was Frodo thinking of doing that? What poem did you read to someone who had recently been branded the village idiot because of an incident involving a hammer? Was there a poem for that? Was it in Elvish? Do Elves have hammers?

Merry tossed the apple core away and said in a humble voice, "I’ll get out of your way, oh great and powerful Mister Frodo Baggins! I wouldn’t want to mess anything up for you. I know I’m not as intelligent as you are and that I only speak one language and that I don’t even speak that language as well as you do. I’m not fit to grovel at your feet."

Pippin bit his lip to keep from snickering. Merry was very amusing when he ranted and especially if he didn’t know that anyone was listening.

Merry stood and kicked an apple core away from the bottom of the tree and said, in an exaggerated impersonation of Frodo, "Don’t worry Merry. Not everyone can be as clever as I am. It isn’t your fault that you aren’t me. Not everyone can be me. You just go outside and I will take care of everything just like I always do! Pippin will listen to me and he will understand everything. He will actually be grateful that I ran you off before I talked to him about this matter. I have a much better understanding of what younger hobbits need to hear than you do."

Pippin’s eyes were twinkling and he was having trouble trying not to laugh. He also hoped that Merry was not going to go away. This was rather entertaining. It was almost like spending time with Merry the way he used to before things had got all muddled up. It was like it used to be but wasn’t anymore.

Merry bent over, picked up an apple that only had one bite gone from it and tossed it into the air and caught it. In a spot on impression of Pippin, Merry said, "I’m so glad that you ran Merry off, Frodo! I have never liked talking to him. He’s not as intelligent as you are and he’s a bit of a snot just lately. He never knows how to solve my problems or says anything helpful. If it weren’t for you, Frodo, I would have no one to count on. I might have to spend all of my childhood sitting up in your apple tree eating all of your apples and listening to Merry whine."

Pippin gulped and nearly fell from the branch. Below him, Merry looked up and their eyes met. "You didn’t finish this one," Merry said holding up the apple. "Is there a worm in it or something?"

~~~~~~~~

 The story that Pippin remembers about the time that Merry built a cart is from a chapter in "Trust a Brandybuck and A Took" called "The Cart" (original title isn't it?).  Here's the link to that one if you're interested.  _GW      09/24/2005

http://www.storiesofarda.com/chapterview.asp?sid=2364&cid=9533

Part 10

Pippin peered down at Merry. He was suddenly embarrassed at being caught listening and said defensively, "I was here first!" The moment he said it he regretted it. It sounded so childish and he could see Merry smiling up at him and shrugging.

"So you were," Merry agreed. "I guess this tree is a popular location today for hobbits who are feeling sorry for themselves."

"How did you know I was up here?" Pippin demanded leaning over the branch a bit further.

"Well, I didn’t when I first sat down but after I picked up the third apple core I began to have my suspicions," Merry said. "Then when I found this one apple with only a bite gone, I was pretty sure that you were up there." Merry wiped the apple in question on his sleeve and took a bite out of it. "Waste of a good apple."

"I dropped it by accident," Pippin said. "I have accidents all the time in case you haven’t heard.  It's all over town."

Merry finished chewing his bite of apple and swallowed. "Some of us aren’t supposed to discuss the matter," Merry said remembering what Frodo had said about this.  He wasn't supposed to discuss this with Pippin.  Frodo was planning to handle things. " Frodo wants to talk to you."

"I know," Pippin said. "I heard you when you were over by the barn earlier."

"So, are you coming down or should I tell him that he will need to climb up?" Merry asked and took another bite of the apple.

"Don’t tell him anything," Pippin said. "I don’t want to talk to him or anyone else."

"Well, he’ll find you even if I don’t say anything," Merry said tossing the apple core onto the ground.

"He might not," Pippin said.

"Everyone knows that you like to hide up in this tree," Merry grinned. "He’ll think to look for you here sooner or later. Besides even if he doesn’t think of it, you’ll have to come down eventually."

"Not until I’m ready!" Pippin said and sat back up on the branch and looked up at the leaves overhead.

"Or when it rains," Merry said a bit too cheerfully. "It’s supposed to rain sometime this afternoon."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Frodo had been a bit annoyed with Merry’s childish behavior earlier. Why couldn’t Merry see that Pippin needed to be handled gently at the moment? Why had Merry become so irritated with him? Why had he ever thought of inviting both of his younger cousins to spend the summer with him? Bilbo had been right. Guests, even adored cousins, were enjoyable only if you didn’t let them stay too long and wear out their welcome. Merry and Pippin were beginning to get on his nerves. Why were both of his younger cousins so touchy lately? He didn’t remember being that touchy when he’d been that age.

Frodo sighed and walked over to the kitchen window. He wondered where Merry had stormed off to and where Pippin might be. He found himself hoping that both of his cousins would stay gone for a while. This made him feel slightly guilty.  All things considered, he really did need to talk with Pippin. Maybe Pippin would return while Merry was off sulking.  That way, Frodo would be able to speak to Pippin without Merry being present. Then once he had talked with Pippin, he would be ready to deal with Merry.  One cousin at a time.

He looked out the window and frowned. Merry was talking to the apple tree. No! Merry had found Pippin. That was the only explanation for it.  Why hadn’t Frodo thought to look in that tree?  Hadn’t he told Merry that he would handle this business with Pippin and Mister Tunnely? Now, from the look of things, Merry had forged ahead against Frodo’s instructions. Merry had walked out of the smial and gone straight to where he’d known Pippin would be after Frodo had instructed him not to discuss the matter with Pippin.

It was rather comical looking.  Merry was standing under the big apple tree looking up into the top of it and waving his arms about as he spoke.  For a minute, Frodo considered going out there, confronting Merry and ordering Pippin out of the tree. Then he had decided to let things take whatever course they would. He’d let Merry give this a try and see what happened. Maybe his younger cousins needed to have a talk just now.  Things had not been too peaceful around Bag End lately with both lads arguing all of the time. 

He walked away from the window, leaving the rather strange looking sight of Merry talking  to his apple tree, behind. Imagine, a hobbit talking to a tree. What would folks passing by think? Frodo half hoped that Lobelia Sackville-Baggins would pass by and spot Merry yelling up at the apple tree. That would keep the old bat away for several weeks at least. She’d be too busy spreading the gossip that the Master of Bag End’s Brandybuck relation had lost his wits and was standing about talking to trees. Frodo chuckled a bit at this notion.  He supposed, however that Hobbiton had enough to discuss thanks to his own antics in The Ivy Bush earlier.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"So you can tell when it’s about to rain now, can you?" Pippin said.

"No, but the Gaffer claims to be able to feel it in his bones and he says it’ll rain this afternoon," Merry said calmly.

"You mean that someone actually knows more about something than you do?" Pippin asked feigning amazement.

"Just exactly what is it that I’ve done to you?" Merry asked starting to get annoyed. He rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. He was getting tired of looking up. "You’re as prickly as a thorn bush these days."

"Well, whatever you’ve done, I’m sure it was done perfectly," Pippin said. "Everything you do is perfect."

"Look, if you want to have this discussion then climb on down here and we’ll have it!" Merry said pointing to the ground with one finger. "I refuse to stand here and yell up at you until my neck aches. Congratulations, Pip! You’ve actually become a pain in the neck."

"Just go somewhere else and be perfect, Merry," Pippin said. "I didn’t want to talk to you anyway. You started this by talking to me!"

"Sorry to have bothered you in all of your misery," Merry said and he turned to walk off.

"You wouldn’t understand anyway!" Pippin shouted and suddenly there was a loud crack of thunder and the rain began to pour down.

"Cloud burst!" Merry shouted turning to look up into the tree. "You'd better climb down before the branches get too slippery."

"Why do you always have to be right about everything?" Pippin grumbled as he started to climb down. "It wasn’t raining until you showed up and said it would and so now it’s raining! Don’t you get sick of being right about everything?" All around him the rain pelted the leaves of the tree and attempted to reach him. The summer leaves were so thick that Pippin was barely getting wet at all. Merry was still standing underneath the tree when Pippin jumped down from the bottom branch. The ground at the base of the tree was still dry.

"This tree’s a bit like an umbrella," Merry observed holding out a hand to check for rain drops. He ignored the comment about his always having to be right in favor of a discussion about the weather.  There was quick flash of lightening and the rain became steadier.

Pippin leaned against the tree trunk and tried to decide if he wanted to make a run for the smial or the barn. Both were far enough away so that he would be soaked by the time he reached them. He supposed that it didn’t really matter much. Both also held something that he didn’t want to face. Frodo was in the smial and that wheelbarrow was in the barn. He ran a hand over his pocket.  He had put the little wheel in there before climbing down.  He had been proud of his work on the wheelbarrow but now he was just embarrassed about everything.

"Since we’re stranded here for a minute or two, why don’t you tell me what’s wrong?" Merry suggested without looking at Pippin.

"You wouldn’t understand," Pippin said. He tried to change the subject. "Why are you angry with Frodo?"

"Because Frodo thinks that he can boss me around just because he’s older than I am," Merry said.

"He can," Pippin said pulling at the bark on the tree.

"No he can’t," Merry objected  turning to face Pippin.

"Yes he can," Pippin said stubbornly as he snapped a piece of bark off of the tree.  He looked at Merry with a very serious expression on his face and said, "Everyone who is older than you can boss you around all they want to and you can’t do anything about it. I should know. Everyone tells me what to do all of the time."

"Well, I’m older than you," Merry reminded Pippin. "I’m twenty-five now and Frodo is going to have to realize that I can make my own decisions and that I don’t always have to do what he says."

"You do too.  Being older than me won’t help you any," Pippin said almost sympathetically. "Frodo’s still older than you are and so he’s in charge."

"Well I don’t have to like it," Merry said sticking his hands into his pockets and grinning at Pippin.

"At least you don’t have lessons," Pippin sighed and sank down onto the grass.

Merry came over to the tree trunk and sat down next to him. "I used to have them when I was your age," he said.

"I hate that saying," Pippin grumbled.

"What saying?" Merry asked watching Pippin pick at the grass.

"When I was your age," Pippin said. "No one is ever my age now, they just remember when they used to be my age. I hate being the youngest all the time. I hate having lessons that no one else has and I hate it when someone says, ‘when I was your age’ to me. That always means that a story is coming that is supposed to make me feel better but it never does."

"I won’t tell you a story," Merry said gently.

"Then you’re going to try to be sympathetic aren’t you?" Pippin said looking over at Merry who was sitting across from him. "You’re going to pretend to understand how I feel when you can’t. You’re going to feel sorry for me."

"I don’t feel the least bit sorry for you," Merry said.

Pippin gaped at him. He wasn’t expecting that and he wasn’t sure that he liked it. He had wanted a bit of sympathy right now. It seemed as if Merry wasn’t going to cooperate.

"Everyone has to do lessons at your age," Merry said. "You aren’t the only one and you may not enjoy it but it won’t hurt you. I don’t feel sorry for you."

Pippin looked down at the grass and as if mirroring his mood, the thunder cracked again. "I knew you wouldn’t understand," Pippin said.

"Explain it to me," Merry said. "I can’t understand if you won’t explain."

Pippin looked up at him with tears forming in the corners of his dark green eyes. "I’m not good at any of it! I can’t do anything right no matter how hard I try. Mister Tunnely is right about me. I am an idiot," Pippin said. "Now do you understand?" He wiped his eyes.  He was not going to let Merry see him cry.  Things were bad enough without that.

Merry resisted the urge to reach over and hug his younger cousin. Instead he said, "You mean to tell me that you are going to let that old goat have the final word on this?"

"He’s right," Pippin said. "I can’t learn to build anything and I did almost kill him with a hammer."

"He isn’t right," Merry said tightly.  "That old goat doesn't know anything about you.  I'm sure that you're doing a fine job."

"How do you know? You haven’t seen anything that I’ve built. I thought you agreed with him," Pippin said softly. "You didn’t think I could build anything either. You thought you’d have to build it for me."

"I was wrong," Merry said embarrassed. "I shouldn’t have done that. I was just showing off a bit and trying to impress you."

"You don’t need to show off," Pippin said. "You can do anything that you want to do. No one has to show you how. You just do it and it turns out perfectly."

"Where did you get that idea?" Merry asked.

"I’ve been following you around for years, Merry," Pippin said. "I know."

"You’ve always thought that I could do anything but that’s just because I’m older and I make it look that way," Merry said smiling.

"You do think I’m an idiot, don’t you?" Pippin said. "I’m not that stupid. I know when someone is good at something and you are good at everything!  You always have been."

"So you’re angry at me for that?" Merry asked surprised.

"I might be a little angry with you for it.  It is annoying," Pippin said. "I’m trying my hardest to build something with the help of an instructor and I still can’t get it right.  I remember that little cart that you built when you were only fourteen. You built that without anyone’s help at all.  You didn't need an instructor."

"As I recall, you helped me with that cart," Merry said smiling at the memory.

"I got in your way like always, but you managed to build that cart anyway," Pippin said.

"You painted it," Merry said.

"I painted it, myself, you, and half of Uncle Doc’s workshop," Pippin said. "You built a cart while I made a mess."

"You were only six. Besides, I built a cart without any brakes," Merry laughed. "I almost got us both killed.  You seem to be forgetting that part of it."

"It didn’t have any brakes did it?" Pippin said looking slightly cheered by this thought. He had forgotten about that.  Merry hadn't given the cart any brakes.

"No, it didn’t," Merry laughed again. "You and I went hurdling down the hill in it with no way to stop and if it hadn’t been for that little fort that the other children were building I might have crashed us both into a tree or something. That little fort slowed us down when we ran into it. We were lucky to get out of that alive."

"Well, maybe that's true," Pippin said. "But you did build that snare that time and that worked."

"That worked too well," Merry groaned at this. "I hung us both by our ankles in the barn as I recall. You still have a little scar across your ankle bone from that wonderful idea." Merry reached over and ran a finger across the tiny white scar. "We hung there like that for most of the night and if Frodo hadn’t woke up and gone in search of us then we’d have been there until dawn. As it was, your ankle bled and you wound up with that scar and I had a head ache for two days from hanging upside down for so long."

"But everything you do turns out right eventually," Pippin said still clinging to his original impression of things.

"Pippin, I have managed to get us into more trouble with my ideas than you ever have," Merry said exasperated. "Why earlier this summer, I stained you green."  He watched as Pippin paled a bit at the mention of that incident.  "If it hadn't been for Sam, you might still be green."  Merry paused for a moment to allow Pippin to think that over.  "In the past I have hung you upside down, ridden you down a hill in a cart without any brakes, rolled you down a hill in a barrel, got your head stuck in a bucket-"

"I did that last one myself," Pippin objected. "You were only trying to teach me to walk on my hands.  I'm the one that fell head first into that bucket."

Merry smiled. "It seems as if the two of us together are a great deal of trouble."

"I won’t argue with that," Frodo said and both of them looked up at him in surprise.  "Is this a private conversation or may I join you?"

"We were just waiting out the rain," Merry said.

"Well, the rain has stopped," Frodo said smiling.  He hoped that this conversation between his younger cousins meant that there had been an end to their fighting. "It was only a cloud burst."

"I don’t remember it stopping," Pippin said. He and Merry had been so caught up in their discussion that neither of them had noticed that it was no longer raining. Pippin suddenly looked uncomfortable.  "Are you angry with me, Frodo?" Pippin asked suddenly catching Frodo off guard.

"Why would I be angry with you?" Frodo asked.

"Because I ran Mister Tunnely off," Pippin said looking miserable.

"I’m not angry with you, Pippin," Frodo said. "I am angry with Mister Tunnely, but I am not angry with you."

"Why are you angry with Mister Tunnely?" Pippin asked tilting his head to one side.

"Because, from what Sam has to say on the subject, Mister Tunnely wasn’t a very good instructor," Frodo said. "Sam tells me that Mister Tunnely didn’t show you much of anything about carpentry. He says that Mister Tunnely just left you to figure it out by yourself."

"Mister Tunnely probably did that because I hit him on the head with a hammer," Pippin sighed.

Frodo smiled. "You didn’t mean to do that. It was an accident. Mister Tunnely was supposed to teach you to use a hammer in the proper fashion so that things like that wouldn’t happen."

"Well, he doesn’t have to worry about it now," Pippin said. "He thinks I’m too stupid to learn carpentry, doesn’t he?"

"What he thinks doesn’t matter," Frodo said firmly. "We know better than that, don't we? You are learning carpentry now. Sam says that you are doing very well.  I think that you simply had the wrong teacher."

"Sam’s just being nice," Pippin said. "He’s always nice."

"Sam is also always truthful," Frodo said. "If Sam didn’t think that you were learning anything then he would tell me that. In fact, he might even tell you that. What Sam did say was that Mister Tunnely was not a very good teacher and I believe Sam."

"Frodo will I ever be good at anything?" Pippin asked desperately.

"Pippin, you are good at a great many things already," Frodo said. "Don't you know how proud Merry and I are of you?  You mustn't let anything that Mister Tunnely has said make you feel insecure."

"But I can’t write proper and I’m rather dangerous with tools. I don’t spell very well, I can’t whistle, and I don’t pay attention well. I can’t sit still, I say all the wrong things, I can’t ride a pony very well, I can’t-"

"You’re just letting that old goat Tunnely get to you," Merry said feeling his anger rise at the thought of Tunnely. "You’re good at all sorts of things."

"What things?" Pippin asked. "You probably can’t name anything.  You're just being nice so I won't feel bad."

"You are the best tree climber in all of the Shire, you can memorize things quickly, you tell a story better than most, you can swim, you can read anything that you want to read, you can sneak into a room without anyone hearing you, you can make me laugh any time that you want to, you have wonderful aim with a sling shot, and you can put more grapes into your mouth without swallowing than anyone I know," Merry declared.  He paused to study the look on Frodo’s face.

"We counted," Pippin said, also noticing Frodo’s expression.

"It was a contest," Merry explained. "And Pip won it."

"I even beat Merry. I think that’s the only time I’ve ever won anything," Pippin said thoughtfully.

Frodo hoped that he looked properly impressed rather than startled but he was very much afraid that he simply looked confused.

"Pippin even managed to beat Fredegar," Merry said with a touch of pride.  It wasn't easy to beat Fredegar Bolger at anything that involved food.

"Well, that is something," Frodo said trying to school his expression so that he would look impressed.

Merry and Pippin studied him for a minute and then laughed at him. "You look so funny just now," Merry said. "You should see your face, Frodo!"

"Well, it isn’t the sort of thing I was expecting anyone to mention," Frodo said.  "It just came as a surprise." 

"I guess I’m not good at any regular things," Pippin said frowning again.

"That’s my point," Merry smiled. "Anyone can be good at regular things. Not everyone can be good at unusual things like stuffing grapes into their mouth or making milk come out of their nose or making a noise like a cricket."

Pippin grinned shyly. "The cricket noise is a rather good trick and that thing with the milk always makes Pervinca gag."

"You are also very good with a song," Frodo said.  He did not blame Pippin's sister Pervinca at all for gagging at the sight of Pippin's milk trick. He’d seen Pippin make milk come out of his nose before and it was not a pleasant experience.

"I suppose that I can sing," Pippin conceded. "But it’s only that you and Merry are so good at everything that sometimes I feel rather like an idiot around the two of you." Pippin blushed a bit.  "I wish one of you would mess up once in a while." 

"We do mess up from time to time, Pippin.  No one is perfect.  We aren’t more intelligent than you are or more talented than you are. We are simply older than you are," Frodo said. "We’ve been doing these things longer and so we’ve had more time to practice. You need to stop judging your accomplishments by what Merry can do or by what I can do."

"This would all be so much easier if I were as old as Merry is," Pippin said. Both older cousins exchanged knowing looks.  This was a familiar topic.  Pippin had always wanted to be as old as Merry.

"Then you could be jealous of Frodo like I am sometimes instead of being jealous of both me and Frodo," Merry said with a small grin.  He looked over at Frodo. He hoped that this statement would do as an apology for his earlier behavior. "In fact, just lately I’ve been jealous of Sam."

"Why?" Pippin asked.

"Because he was getting so much of your attention.  He's been helping you with your secret project.  Lately, all you and I have been doing is fighting," Merry said. He stood up and reached out a hand to help Pippin get up. "I don’t enjoy admitting it, but I’ve actually missed you in spite of the fact that you’re a complete pest."

Pippin wrapped his arms around Merry and hugged him fiercely. "You really missed me?"

"I really did," Merry said. "But don’t tell anyone that I said so or I’ll deny it."

"I won’t tell anyone," Pippin said happily. "I’m the only one that really needs to know."

"Are we going to spend the entire day out here under this tree?" Frodo asked. "I don’t mind really but it would be nice to be inside where it’s a bit dryer." He stood up and brushed a few leaves off of his trousers.

As the three of them started to walk back toward Bag End, Pippin stopped suddenly. "What is it now?" Frodo asked.

"What’s my father going to say?" Pippin asked looking very worried. "Now I won’t be able to learn carpentry.  He may not understand about what happened with Mister Tunnely."

"Don't worry about your father.  I plan to write to him and explain everything.  You may want to worry about Mister Tunnely, though.  I doubt that your father is going to be very pleased with Tobias after he has read my letter," Frodo said.

"But who will teach me carpentry?" Pippin asked.

"I have an idea about that," Frodo said.

"Are you going to teach me?" Pippin asked looking slightly alarmed.  He was remembering the story about the shelves. Merry snickered.

Frodo shot Merry a nasty look and said, "No, but I have someone in mind for the job so don’t think that you will be getting out of your lessons that easily." Frodo noticed the frown that took over Pippin’s face.  He decided that a bit of a break was in order. "However, I don’t think we’ll be having any lessons today. I think we shall take the day off," Frodo said. 

"No writing lesson either?" Pippin asked looking hopeful.

"No writing lesson either," Frodo said. "But that is only for today. Tomorrow we will go back to work."

"But who is going to teach me about carpentry, Frodo?" Pippin asked.

"You let me worry about that," Frodo said.  "Today, let's just relax and enjoy ourselves.  We can do something just for fun."

"Hey, maybe today, Pippin can show you how to blow milk out of your nose, Frodo," Merry suggested. "That sounds like fun to me."

Frodo’s mouth fell open. How did Merry always know what would annoy him the most? "I think that I would rather attempt to beat both of you in that contest where we see who can put the most grapes into their mouth at one time," Frodo said quickly.  He was not about to blow milk out of his nose.  At least, he wouldn't blow milk out of his nose if he could help it.

"Really? Because I have to warn you, I’m awfully good at that one," Pippin said, his eyes shining with pleasure.

"Then you won’t mind a new challenger will you?" Frodo said giving a quick smile to Merry as the three of them reached the Bag End.

"As long as you don’t mind losing," Pippin said and for just a minute the lad sounded just like Merry.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Notes:

Merry mentions having dyed Pippin green once and that is in a story called "A Matter of Trust" and he also mentions having hung Pippin upside down and that comes from a story called, "A Nasty Turn of Events" and Pippin got his head stuck in a bucket in a story called, "Bucket" (another original title.) All of these are chapters in "Trust a Brandybuck and A Took". ~~~~~~   G.W.     09/25/2005 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 11

Sam had been very surprised when the Gaffer had told him that Mister Frodo wanted to see him over at Bag End first thing this morning but it was nothing compared to the surprise that he received when he was let into Mister Frodo’s kitchen. Sam’s eyes had immediately widened with shock as he watched Mister Frodo struggle to swallow something rather large that was filling up his entire mouth.

Mister Frodo’s cheeks were puffed out like a chipmunk’s in winter and his eyes were watering. Even more frightening was the fact that Mister Frodo seemed to be drooling. A clear liquid was trailing down Mister Frodo’s chin and onto his fresh, white shirt collar. He was supporting himself by leaning one hand on the table while waving the other at Sam. At first Sam just thought that Mister Frodo was waving him over to a chair but after a minute Sam began to think that Mister Frodo’s waving was for a more alarming reason.

"Mister Frodo? Mister Frodo are you all right?" Sam asked trying not to panic.

Mister Frodo seemed to grimace a bit and nod but the hand kept waving and tears were now streaming down Mister Frodo’s face. Remembering that time when Jolly Cotton had managed to get a piece of walnut lodged in his throat, Sam charged over to Mister Frodo and began to slap him hard between the shoulders. "Don’t worry, Mister Frodo! Cough it all up! You’re going to be just fine!" Sam shouted this as if Mister Frodo’s ears must also be plugged up with whatever it was that he was choking on and continued to slap Mister Frodo on the back.

Sam could remember poor Jolly turning a bit blue in the face and gasping. He didn’t remember Jolly doing any drooling, but then Mister Frodo might be choking on something that caused drooling. Sam pounded harder on Mister Frodo’s back. He didn’t hear any coughing and that was rather worrisome. There should be coughing if whatever Mister Frodo had lodged in his throat was coming back up.

Frodo struggled to swallow the contents of his very full mouth. He wanted to avoid spitting the entire mess onto his nice clean table if at all possible but Sam was not making it easy for him. He groaned as best he was able with a full mouth as Sam hit him between the shoulders for the fourth or fifth time. Sam certainly was strong!

Frodo was pressed against the table. Sam had leaned him over and was alternating between slapping him on the back and shaking him rather hard. This was ridiculous and it was going to be very embarrassing to try to explain if he were ever able to speak again.

"Just cough it all up, Mister Frodo!" Sam said in a cross between encouragement and a desperate plea.

Seeing that he was not going to be able to do otherwise, Frodo shut his eyes tightly and opened his mouth. He began to spit partly chewed grapes and sour juice all over the table while Sam continued to pound on his back. "That’s it, Mister Frodo!"

Frodo coughed and groaned and made a silent wish that all of this was a very embarrassing dream.

~~~~~~~~~

Something had caused Merry to wake up and he wasn’t sure exactly what it might be. He sighed and sat up in his bed. He wondered what time it was and who was making such a racket? Maybe Pippin had got up early in order to begin work on his, on his, well, on whatever it was that he was building out in Frodo's barn.

Merry still found it vastly annoying that Pippin was refusing to tell him what he was building or to allow him to see it. They had spent a lovely afternoon together yesterday once Pippin had come down from that apple tree but Pippin was still intent on keeping his project a secret.

Merry smiled and stretched as he remembered how happy Pippin had been when he had beaten both of his older cousins in the grape contest. Merry chuckled. Frodo had been a bit annoyed at his own failure. Frodo had denied it, but he had been less than pleased when both of his younger cousins managed to stuff more grapes into their mouths than he. Frodo had actually got choked twice. Merry would have to remember to tease Frodo some more about it today when he got the chance.

Whatever the noise had been, it had stopped but Merry was awake all the same. He decided to get up and go down the hall and see if Pippin was awake yet.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sam handed Mister Frodo a damp handkerchief and quickly threw a wash cloth over the mess on the table. He didn’t want Mister Frodo to look at it and get sick all over again. Sam watched as Mister Frodo lowered himself into one of the kitchen chairs and began to wipe his face with the damp handkerchief.

"Don’t you trouble yourself none, Mister Frodo," Sam said. "I’ll clean that up for you. You just sit there and rest up a bit."

Frodo sighed. "Don’t, Sam, it’s my mess and I will see to it in a minute."

"No trouble at all," Sam said with a smile. "I’m just glad that I was in time. You might ‘o choked to death." Sam began to wipe up the mess as he spoke. "If you don’t mind my askin’ Mister Frodo, what was you doin’ with all them grapes in your mouth? I know it’s none o’ my business but I can’t help but wonder if you understand me."

Frodo mumbled something and blushed slightly.

"Is your throat sore?" Sam asked. "Don’t try to talk if it is and I’ll make you some tea after I clean this up."

"No, Sam," Frodo said. "My throat isn’t sore." He could see that there would be no way around explaining this to his friend. He might just as well get it over with. "I was trying to improve my record and when you came in my mouth was so full that I wasn’t able to explain what I was doing. Also, that bunch of grapes was a bit too sour and so it was rather unpleasant."

Sam had finished with the table and was now looking at Mister Frodo and frowning. He was completely confused by this. "You were tryin’ to improve on what record?" he asked his curiosity over-coming his manners.

"Yesterday, Pippin and Merry introduced me to a new contest and it turned out to be more difficult than I had thought that it would be," Frodo said trying to make this whole business sound less inane than it did. "It seems as if Pippin can put a rather large amount of grapes into his mouth at one time without swallowing any of them or causing them to break open."

Sam’s mouth fell open a bit and he quickly closed it. He still wasn’t entirely sure what Mister Frodo was talking about.

"Oh, hang it all, Sam," Frodo blustered. "The idea of the challenge is to put more grapes into your mouth than anyone else. Pippin won every time and Merry came very close to winning on several occasions but I put in a dreadful showing. In fact, I actually managed to get choked a couple of times. It was humiliating for some reason."

Sam was trying not to laugh now. "You mean you weren’t chokin’ when I came in here?"

Frodo blushed and looked away. "No, I wasn’t choking! I was practicing!"

"Well, you should ‘a said somethin’," Sam grinned. "But then I don’t suspect that you could with your mouth stuffed full o’ grapes like that, could you?"

"No, Sam," Frodo sighed his humiliation complete.

"They beat you by much?" Sam asked.

"That isn’t the important thing," Frodo said in irritation. He stood up and went over to the counter to get the tea kettle. "But in order to make them happy, I thought that I should at least try to improve before the rematch."

"You’re plannin’ on tryin’ that stunt again?" Sam asked.

"I may have asked for a rematch last night," Frodo muttered as he filled the kettle with water.  "I don't know exactly why, but I think I suggested that we try again this evening."

"Was this why you wanted to see me, Mister Frodo?" Sam asked.

"What?" Frodo asked. "Oh, no, Sam. I didn’t want to see you about this silly contest, I wanted to talk to you about Pippin." Frodo was relieved for the change of topic. When he turned to face Sam his friend was trying not to smirk.

"That’s probably best, Mister Frodo as I don’t think I’ve ever stuffed grapes into my mouth a’ fore. I probably wouldn’t be no help to you a’ tall."

Frodo scowled.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Pip?" Merry called as he opened the door and stepped into the room. He’d knocked but when Pippin had failed to answer he had decided that his cousin was sleeping too soundly to hear him or ignoring him and so he had opened the door.

"Pip?" Merry called a bit louder. "You awake, Pip?" Merry suddenly gave a slight shudder as that had reminded him of his dream of the other night. Was that what Pippin had kept asking him in that dream? "Are you awake, Merry?" Merry frowned and shook it off. He stepped into the room and was met by an empty bed. Apparently Pippin was already up.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"You want me to be Master Pippin’s carpentry teacher?" Sam asked. He could hardly believe what he was hearing.

"I most certainly do, Sam," Frodo said placing a cup of tea into the young gardener’s hands. "Pippin has done so very well since you began giving him lessons and I would be grateful if you would continue."

"I ain’t exactly a carpenter, Mister Frodo," Sam said a bit hesitantly. "I’ve just been givin’ Master Pippin a few pointers is all. I never worked as no carpenter a’fore and I’ve never done no teachin’."

"I suspect that you have done plenty of teaching, Sam," Frodo smiled. "Didn’t you tell me that you had taught your nephew to read last summer?"

"Well, I did do that, but he’s my brother’s lad after all and it’s a might different helpin’ him to read than it is helpin’ Master Pippin with carpentry," Sam said.

"It will be different in one way, Sam," Frodo agreed. "I want to hire you for the job. I don’t want you to continue to do this as a favor to me or to anyone else. I would like to pay you what Paladin was paying Mister Tunnely."

Sam nearly fell over at that announcement. "Oh, Mister Frodo, I couldn’t let you do that," he said nervously. "I ain’t even a real carpenter. I couldn’t take Mister Took’s money nor yours neither."

"Sam, Pippin has learned a great deal from you in a very short time," Frodo said. "Even more important, Pippin is actually enjoying his lessons. Why even I can’t seem to make him enjoy the lessons that I am charged with giving him." Frodo smiled. "I love Pippin dearly but he can be very difficult to motivate. He will take advantage of any opportunity to get out of his lessons that he can find. He will change the subject, he will feign sleepiness, he will complain, and with the wrong instructor he will actually manage to get out of doing his work. I’ve seen it happen." Frodo looked at Sam and said, "Now, I will understand if you don’t want to take this on. I know it is an additional responsibility during a very busy time of the year for you. In fact, I assured the Gaffer that I would see to it that Pippin’s lessons did not keep you from your regular duties."

"What was his feelin’ on it?" Sam asked.

"He said that I could offer you the job, but that the decision was yours and I agree completely with that," Frodo said. "Don’t feel as if I will be upset if you do not want to do this. Also, I have not mentioned it to Pippin. If you turn it down, there will be no reason for me to tell him anything about it. My reasons for offering it to you are simply this; you have done a wonderful job and Pippin responds well to you. He pays attention to what you say and he is learning something which is the entire point of it all."

"He’s a good lad, Mister Frodo," Sam said. "He just gets a might distracted from time to time. If you stay on him, he listens and he’s quick to pick up what he’s interested in."

"And equally quick to ignore the things that he isn’t interested in," Frodo smiled. "He wasn’t interested in carpentry until you began to work with him. He was just frustrated by it."

"Don’t none o’ the family want to help him?" Sam asked still feeling a bit uncomfortable with the offer.

"I would love to help him, Sam," Frodo said. "But we both know that I can barely identify a hammer and I certainly can’t use one. Merry would do it, but I don’t think that is a good idea just now. Merry and Pippin have patched up their differences but I don’t think their relationship could tolerate Merry giving carpentry lessons to Pippin just now. Pippin feels a bit too competitive with his older cousin for that to go well."

Sam nodded. "Mister Frodo?"

"Yes, Sam?"

"Well, beggin’ your pardon but I was wonderin’ why you have all them tools out in the barn?" Sam asked.

"I don’t believe I understand what you are asking me, Sam," Frodo said.

"Well, I know for a fact that old Mister Bilbo couldn’t build nothin’ a’tall and you, well, you don’t do much o’ that sort o’ work yourself so," Sam let the sentence hang there and waited.

"No, I don’t do any building, Sam," Frodo smiled. "I might have actually been more knowledgeable about such things than Bilbo was. The tools were Bilbo’s but only because he inherited them."

"Oh, so Mister Bilbo’s father was a carpenter then?" Sam asked.

Frodo smiled. "Actually, the tools belonged to Bilbo’s mother, Belladonna Took Baggins. She was, from all I have heard, a gifted woodworker. She learned from one of the carpenters at the Great Smials when she was only a lass. In fact, it was Belladonna who made Bilbo’s writing desk."

Sam was completely surprised by this news. "You mean that Mister Bilbo’s mother owned them tools?"

"She did indeed," Frodo smiled. "She was an excellent hand with building furniture but unfortunately, Bilbo did not have her gift for it and neither do I."

"Well, don’t that beat all," Sam said shaking his head.

"If you’d like a chance to think about my offer before you decide?" Frodo asked.

"No, I don’t need to think on it none," Sam grinned. "I’ll be happy to do it for you, Mister Frodo but I don’t think you need to be payin’ me for it."

"I won’t allow you to do it unless I can pay you," Frodo said firmly. "I am very sure that Paladin Took would not want to take charity from anyone. The Tooks are proud that way, Sam. If you are going to do this, then you will have to agree to be paid for it."

"Well, I understand about not wantin’ any charity," Sam said. "I guess it will help out this winter when the garden work slows down and since the Gaffer did agree to it....I’ll do it." He extended his hand and they shook on it just as Merry walked into the kitchen.

"Hullo, Sam," Merry smiled. He then looked around the kitchen. "Where’s Pip?" 

Part 12

Pippin tried to avert his gaze. His eyes were still not used to the early morning sunlight. Sam had come into the barn, woke him up and ushered him outside where Frodo and Merry were waiting for him. He rubbed his eyes and yawned. "What’s wrong, Frodo?" he asked in a voice that was still thick with sleep.

"We were looking for you," Frodo frowned. "You didn’t mention to anyone that you would be sleeping in the barn."

"I guess I forgot," Pippin said yawning again. "Is it time for breakfast?"

"Don’t change the subject, Peregrin Took," Frodo said firmly. He watched as Pippin ran a hand through his hair and squinted at him. "You have a perfectly good bed inside of Bag End and yet I wake to find that you’ve spent the night in my barn and this isn’t the first time that this has happened. Now, I am naturally curious."

Pippin seemed to be trying to come up with a reply. He shifted his feet a bit and frowned as if thinking too hard. Then his eyes widened and he said, "I wanted to get an early start on my project. If I have to work on it all by myself now, then I want to have it done before too much longer. I slept in the barn so that I could be ready to begin as soon as I woke up."

"Didn’t I tell you yesterday that I would see to it that you had someone to work with? Didn’t I say that I had someone in mind to hire as your new tutor?" Frodo asked.

Pippin nodded vigorously. "You did, but I just figured that after Mister Tunnely got finished telling everyone about me that you wouldn’t be able to find anyone."

Frodo looked over at Sam and then back at Pippin. "You would be wrong, Pippin," Frodo said.

"There’s nothing unusual about that," Pippin sighed.

"I have, just this morning, hired someone to take on the job of tutoring you in carpentry," Frodo said ignoring Pippin’s remark.

"You have?" Pippin asked looking a bit nervous. "Someone very strict and proper I suppose." He twisted the his hands together and looked at his feet. "I suspect that my new tutor will want me to start my project all over again and this will make the third time." Pippin then looked at Frodo inquiringly. "Is my new tutor very old?"

"What do you consider old?" Frodo asked.

"Well, not old like you are old," Pippin reasoned. " Not that you are all that old, Frodo. But old like Mister Tunnely is or like my father or," Pippin sucked in a breath of air. "It isn’t my father is it?"

"No, I am planning to write to your father this afternoon and tell him that I have replaced Mister Tunnely," Frodo said. "At present, your father is unaware of the change in instructors but I am very sure that he will approve of my decision."

Pippin looked at Frodo again and asked, "So, my new tutor, is he very strict?"

"Well, I doubt that he takes a great deal of nonsense," Frodo said. "After all, he won’t have too much time for foolishness. He is doing me a favor by taking you on. He does have other responsibilities as well."

Merry was trying not to laugh. "This new tutor is a very busy hobbit," Merry said knowingly.

Pippin sighed. "Then I suppose that he has other, better students than me and that he will not be pleased with what I know about carpentry."

"Well, if your new tutor ain’t pleased with what you’ve learned this far, then I suspect he’ll have no one to blame but himself," Sam grinned.

Pippin turned to look at Sam and saw the smile on his friend’s face. "Why would you say that?" Pippin asked.

"Because, Mister Frodo has asked me to be your tutor and as Mister Tobias Tunnely didn’t bother teachin’ you nothing; anything you learned, you learned from me," Sam said. "If I don’t like how you’re comin’ along then I only have myself to blame don’t I?"

Pippin’s eyes lit up and he grinned at Sam. "You? You’ve agreed to keep helping me? You don’t mind? I promise to try not to injure you, Sam and I’ll do the best that I can," Pippin babbled happily. "You really don’t mind? I know I’m not very good yet, but I promise that I’ll try very hard."

Sam grinned. "That you will, Master Pippin. It ain’t exactly like it was a’fore. I’m bein’ paid to help you now and so both of us have got to do this right so that I can earn my pay and you can learn a thing or two about carpentry."

"I’ll just go eat and then I’ll be ready whenever you want to start, Sam," Pippin said excitedly. "This means that I don’t have to start over, doesn’t it?"

"No, you don’t have to start over," Sam said. "We got this far on things and I think we should keep goin’ like we are. You’ve done a good job to this point."

Pippin beamed at him and then looked at Frodo. "What are we having for breakfast?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pippin’s explanation as to why he had slept in the barn had not convinced Frodo but he decided to allow that to pass for the present. He didn’t want anything to spoil Pippin’s enthusiasm for his carpentry lessons with his new tutor. Frodo had all day to find out why Pippin was sleeping in the barn. He dipped his quill into the ink one last time and signed his name to the bottom of the letter to Paladin Took.

Frodo had come into his study to write the letter the first thing after breakfast. He had left a complaining Merry to clean up the breakfast dishes while Pippin and Sam went on to the barn. He wanted to get this letter to the post before the riders left for the Tooklands. He had been forced to make decisions about Pippin’s education without consulting the lad’s father. Frodo had not been left with any choice in the matter save to take Pippin to Whitwell and inform Paladin in person. He hoped that his letter would be enough to satisfy Paladin.

There was no doubt in Frodo’s mind that Sam Gamgee was the best hobbit for the job as Pippin’s carpentry tutor. Frodo hoped that this letter would convey as much to Pippin’s father. Paladin had been set on hiring Tobias Tunnely. Under the circumstances, Frodo didn’t know what Paladin might have done, but Frodo felt that he had made the best choice. He carefully folded the letter and placed it into an envelope.

With this task completed, he was free to concentrate on the mystery of Pippin’s recent sleeping arrangements.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"When did you get this, Sam?" Pippin asked looking at the large pail of shellac.

"I mixed it up this morning in the tool shed a’fore I went to see Mister Frodo," Sam smiled. "I didn’t know then who was goin’ to be your new teacher but I figured that you still might be wantin’ to finish the wheelbarrow that you were workin’ on. I noticed last night after I come back from my work in the gardens that you’d done the sandin’."

Pippin grinned broadly. "Did I do it right? I tried to do it like you showed me," Pippin said.

"You done a fine job on it, Master Pippin," Sam smiled. "Only I did notice that one of them little extra wheels was missin’."

Pippin pulled the wheel out of his trouser pocket and placed it on the work table. "I was looking at it and I just kind of like carrying it around," Pippin said.

"Well, you won’t be puttin’ any shellac on it no how," Sam said.

"Oh," Pippin said looking disappointed. "I guess now that you’re a real tutor my wheelbarrow is only going to have the one wheel." Pippin ran a finger over the small wheel and looked dejected.

"You’re still goin’ to use all three wheel," Sam said. "I thought it was a good idea a’fore and that ain’t changed. You just don’t put no shellac on the wheels. If you do, then they might not turn proper. You want them to move smoothly and shellac ain’t the best thing to put on them."

Pippin smiled up at Sam. "But we do put shellac on all of the rest of the wheelbarrow don't we?"

"That we do," Sam said. "I studied on it and we could use milk paint on the wheelbarrow but that won’t protect it from the weather like the shellac will. Also, the shellac will dry faster and we can put several coats on the wood for extra protection. If you was buildin’ a table or some shelves for inside o' the smial then you could use paint or stain."

"Could we stain the wood and then put on the shellac if we wanted to?" Pippin asked.

Sam grinned. "We could do that but after you stain the wood, you’d need to let it set for a while before puttin’ on the shellac. The trouble with that is that your wheelbarrow wouldn’t be done in time for the fair."

Pippin’s eyes widened. "The fair? You mean the one in town?" Pippin was surprised by this. He knew that there was a craft fair in Hobbiton every year, but he hadn’t expected his wheelbarrow to be included in it.

Sam nodded. "Don’t Mister Tunnely’s students usually put what they build on display at the fair?"

Pippin swallowed hard. "I think so. He did mention it, but he said that from the way I was going he didn’t think that my project would be good enough for the fair this year."

Sam patted Pippin on the shoulder and grinned. "That was a’fore you got a new tutor."

Pippin looked at Sam for a moment and then frowned. "Sam, if I put my wheelbarrow in the fair then won’t I have to sell it?" he asked nervously.

"No, you don’t have to sell it but if you get offered a good price for it then you might want to sell it," Sam said.

"I kind of have something in mind for it already," Pippin said a bit evasively. "If I don’t want to sell it, would that be all right?"

"It’s your wheelbarrow, Master Pippin," Sam said. "Or it will be once it’s finished. You don’t have to sell it if you don’t want to. Are you wantin’ to keep it?"

"I want to, well, I want to, I want to give it to someone," Pippin said nervously. "You don’t have to know who, do you?"

"No," Sam smiled. "If you want to make a present of it, then I am sure that whoever you give it to will be right glad to get it."

Pippin smiled. Sam found the little Took’s changeable moods amusing. One minute the lad seemed near tears and then next he was all smiled and sunshine. The lad changed moods from one minute to the next quicker than Sam’s own father could do away with a bowl of cobbler. "We best get you started on the shellac or you’ll never get this wheelbarrow together," Sam said.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"What are you looking for, Frodo?" Merry asked.

Frodo jumped and turned to face his cousin. "You startled me, Merry. I thought you were cleaning the kitchen," Frodo said. He hadn’t heard Merry come into the room.

"I finished," Merry said. "I do hope that this means that someone else will be cleaning up after second breakfast?"

"I does," Frodo said.

"So?" Merry asked looking beyond Frodo and into the bedroom. "What are you looking for?"

Frodo sighed. "I am looking for a reason for Pippin to want to sleep in the barn instead of in this room."

"Find anything yet?" Merry asked.

"No," Frodo said. "It seems like a perfectly good room to me." He walked further into the small bedroom and looked around. Merry followed him and sat down on the bed.

The room was a bit small but it was large enough to hold a wardrobe, a bed, a night table, and a small chest on which sat a basin and pitcher for morning washing. The room didn’t have a desk but Frodo had suspect that Pippin would rather not have any reminders of writing or studying in the room since the lad was spending so much time on his lessons just now.

The furniture was a dark walnut and had once belonged to Merry’s parents. Saradoc and Esmeralda had given this furniture to Bilbo when they had turned one of their old bedrooms into a small study for Merry. Bilbo, who at that time, had more bedrooms than beds, had been pleased to get the furniture. It was sturdy but it was a bit too large for the room.  It made things look over-crowded.  Frodo walked over and opened the wardrobe and peered inside.

The wardrobe held several extra quilts, an old pack which was empty and had been stored in the wardrobe until one of the straps on it could be mended, a couple of old coats that Frodo had worn several years back but had grown tired of and had meant to give to some deserving relation, two walking sticks, and a bag of peppermint candies which Frodo was sure Pippin had secreted away in the wardrobe for later.

"Anything?" Merry asked as Frodo shut the door to the wardrobe.

"No," Frodo said. "I really need to clean things out a bit. There are a few rather good coats in that wardrobe." He looked about the room at Pippin’s clothes which were tossed about on the floor and hung over the end of the bed. "Maybe I should have cleared out the wardrobe so that Pippin would have somewhere to hang his things."

Merry laughed at this. "Pippin’s things would still be right where they are now. His room at home looks like this and he has plenty of storage there."

"Maybe he’d rather have one of the rooms with a window in it," Frodo said. "I figured that he would like this one so that he could sleep in even after the sun was up. Maybe that was wrong and I should have given him one of the rooms with a window." Frodo smiled. "The truth of it all is that I never expected him to actually sleep in this room anyway. I figured that he would wind up in your room like he usually does. I guess he’s got too old for that."

Merry frowned. "He still comes into my room when he stays at Brandy Hall with us. Well, he did at Yule when he was there with his family." Merry was remembering his dream. Maybe this was the reason that he kept having it. He was used to Pippin coming into his room at night and climbing into bed with him. "Maybe he really is just sleeping in the barn to be near that darned carpentry project of his.  Maybe he thinks that one of us will go out there at night and have a look at it."

Frodo smiled. "It’s killing you that you don’t know what he’s building isn’t it?"

"I don’t care what he’s building," Merry snorted standing up.

"Yes you do," Frodo laughed.

"He can keep his secret if he wants," Merry said. Then he grinned at Frodo. "I don’t care what he’s building any more than you care why he’s sleeping in the barn."

Frodo groaned. "I liked it so much more when Pippin simply rattled off everything that was on his mind.  I miss those days."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Now, remember what I showed you," Sam said. "You always dip the brush into the shellac gently and don’t get too much on the brush at one time or the shellac will drip. Kind of rake the brush against the side o’ the pail and that’ll get some of the extra off of it."

Pippin nodded, brush in hand.

"Just do one side of the board and then let them dry ‘till after second breakfast and we’ll check ‘em." Sam didn’t think that Pippin would shellac one side of the board and then flip it over but he thought it best to cover everything just in case. The lad had a way of doing the most unusual things.

"What are you going to do while I put on the shellac?" Pippin asked curiously.

"I’m goin’ out to Mister Frodo’s garden and dig up a few potatoes for him," Sam said. "He’ll be needin’ more for today."

"I’ll do a really good job and I’ll be very careful, Sam," Pippin said as he lowered his brush into the shellac.

"I know you will, Master Pippin," Sam said. As he turned and left the barn he could hear Master Pippin humming to himself. Sam smiled and headed for the garden.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pippin fidgeted anxiously as Sam examined the nearly dry boards which would soon be the bottom and the back of the wheelbarrow. Both were laid out on the table and coated with a shiny layer of shellac. Sam was looking at them and checking to see that they were evenly coated while Pippin waited nervously, brush still in hand.

Sam bent down even with the table and looked at the boards critically. "I tried really hard and I didn’t get the brush too full of shellac, Sam," Pippin said quickly. "I raked it against the pail and I only painted one side of everything. I was very careful. Not like I usually am, but just like you said."

Sam raised up and smiled. "They look just fine, Master Pippin," Sam said. "How many of the pieces did you get done a’fore comin’ in for breakfast?"

"Oh, I did one coat on one side of all of them," Pippin said proudly. "I remembered what you said and I didn’t paint the wheels. I put them over there in the other wheelbarrow so that if I did spill anything, which I didn’t, that I wouldn’t spill it on the wheels." He grinned and waved the brush toward the wheelbarrow which belonged to Frodo that they had been using as a model for the one that Pippin was trying to build.

Sam glanced around the barn and then looked back at Pippin He scratched his head. "Well, you done a right nice job on these two pieces here that are on the table, but I don’t see the other pieces," Sam said. "I must be over-lookin’ ‘em. Where did you put ‘em?"

Pippin’s smile broadened. "There wasn’t room on the table to lay all of them flat and still have room for the shellac and so I had to spread them out," Pippin explained. "I put the ones that I was working on, on the table because it was much easier to paint them up here and then as I would finish with them, I would get them carefully by the edges and move them. I was ever so careful not to get any finger prints on them, Sam. I checked them good after I moved them."

Sam sighed. Sometimes the lad didn’t seem to get the full meaning of the question. "Where did you lay them?" he tried again.

Pippin grinned. "I fixed a spot just especially for them so that nothing would disturb them," he said proudly.

"Where?" Sam asked trying sound casual and not allow the frustration that he was beginning to feel to show in his tone of voice.

Pippin turned to face him suddenly and somehow managed to strike him right in the forehead with the paint brush that he had been waving about. Pippin let out a tiny squeak and let go of the brush in surprise. His eyes widened as the brush stuck to Sam’s forehead.

Sam reached up and pulled the brush off of his forehead and looked over at Pippin. "Best get me a rag from over in the rag box," Sam sighed.

"I’m sorry, Sam," Pippin said nervously. "I didn’t mean to hit you. Are you all right?"

"I’m fine," Sam said tying to smile. "Just hurry over there and get me a rag. I’ll wipe this off with a bit of terpentine and I’ll be right as rain. Now, go on."

Pippin turned and then stopped. "Sam?"

"What?"

"Where is the rag box?" Pippin asked. "I didn’t know we had one. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before. In fact I never would have thought to-"

"Master Pippin," Sam broke in. "The rag box is just over there where Mister Frodo keeps the extra oats for the pony." He pointed and was about to decide to go over and get them himself when Master Pippin hurried off in the correct direction. Good thing too because Sam could feel some of his hair sticking to his forehead. The sooner he got this mess cleaned up the better.

"Here’s a rag, Sam," Pippin said rushing over and extending it out to Sam. "I can get you some turpentine if you’ll tell me where it is."

"No, that’s fine, Master Pippin," Sam said taking the rag. He wasn’t going to risk Master Pippin pouring out the terpentine. The lad was in an excitable state because of his accident with the brush and would likely spill any liquid that he got hold of now.

Pippin nodded looking worried. "I guess I should have put the brush away, shouldn’t I?"

"Don’t worry," Sam smiled beginning to see the humor in it all. "I'll just go on over and get me some-" his voice broke off and he looked directly at Master Pippin for a minute. He had a feeling that if he looked down at the floor just now that he might lose his temper and he was trying very hard not to do that.

Pippin stared at him for a minute and then said, "Are you all right, Sam?"

"Master Pippin?"

"Yes, Sam?" Pippin asked.

"Exactly where did you put them other boards that you shellacked?" Sam said fearing that he knew the answer now but hoping that he didn’t.

"Well, I," Pippin stopped suddenly and then looked down at Sam’s feet. He swallowed hard and then said in a rather squeaky voice. "I put them down at the bottom of the table. I laid them flat so that the shellac wouldn’t run and I spread them out just so."

Sam nodded. "Master Pippin?"

"Yes?" Pippin asked cringing as if he’d been slapped.

"Am I standin’ on one of ‘em now?" Sam asked his eyes never leaving Pippin’s.

Pippin nodded.

"Then I suspect that you’ll have to get the turpentine because I think the shellac has finished dryin’." Sam looked down at his feet, both of which were stuck fast to one of Pippin’s freshly shellacked boards and sighed.

"Sam?" Pippin said in a very tiny voice.

"Yes?" Sam said tightly.

"Where do we keep the turpentine?" Pippin asked innocently.

TBC

GW   10/02/2005

Part 13

The kitchen was dark save the of light from the dying fire in the hearth. Pippin shivered a bit though the room was not at all cold. It was summer and so even after the fire had died out for the night, it was still quite warm. Pippin stood in the doorway to the kitchen clutching the large quilt to his chest and listening. He was sure that Merry was in bed because he had passed Merry's room on his way here and had heard his older cousin snoring softly. Still, he felt it better to be safe than sorry after that conversation with Frodo during his writing lessons.  He frowned a bit as he remembered their talk.

~~~~~

"What shall I write this evening?" Pippin asked. There was always the hope that Frodo would be unable to think of anything and that Pippin would be able to escape his hated lessons.

"Why don’t you write a nice long explanation as to why you are intent upon sleeping in my barn?" Frodo suggested, raising an eyebrow.

Pippin laughed nervously and said, "Really, what do I have to write?"

"I really would like for you to write out the reason or reasons why you are sleeping in the barn, Pippin," Frodo said. "Is there something wrong with your room?"

"No!" Pippin had nearly shouted. "No, it’s nice enough. Bigger than my room at home and I like it fine."

Frodo studied him intently. Pippin’s eyes were open too wide and he was playing with the quill in his hands, which fortunately, had not yet been dipped into the ink. Pippin was twirling it between his fingers as he talked.

"Pippin," Frodo sighed. "I won’t be offended if there is a problem with the room. In fact, I’d be pleased to know if anything is amiss. You and Merry are not the only company that I have, you know. I would hate to put someone in that room only to find that it was drafty or uncomfortable. If there is a problem, maybe I can fix it or at the very least, avoid putting guests in there."

"I’m sure that anyone else would love to sleep in there, Frodo," Pippin said quickly. "I love sleeping in there. It’s a very nice room with a very nice view of, well, not a view of anything really, because it doesn’t have a window but if you have the door open then there is a nice view of the hallway."

"Does it bother you that there isn’t a window?" Frodo asked when Pippin had stopped rattling on about the view.

"No, not at all," Pippin said. "I like dark rooms filled with dark furniture for sleeping in. My room has too much light in it at home and that other room that you usually put me in was just full of light!"

Frodo frowned. Pippin’s original room had not had a window in it either. "Pippin, be honest with me."

"I am being honest, Frodo," Pippin said as the spinning quill shot from his fingers and spun on the edge of the desk. Pippin reached over and grabbed it quickly so that it wouldn’t fall into the floor. "I like the room and it was ever so nice of you to move me into that one now that I’m older."

Frodo smiled gently. "Well, I did think that the room you were sleeping in might not work for you anymore. I seem to recall that you complained a bit last visit about sleeping in the little room off of Merry’s room. Something about not even having your own private entrance to the hall?"

"Well, this room has a view of the hall and a door of its own and everything," Pippin said. "What was that little room off of Merry’s room really supposed to be for? It wasn’t a nursery or anything was it?" Pippin looked embarrassed at the thought that he might have been sleeping in a nursery for all of those years.

Frodo smiled. "No, it wasn’t a nursery. It was a dressing room. Bilbo kept that room for guests that were planning on staying for a while. He said that the little room was perfect for keeping extra clothing or additional items that folks sometimes bring when they come to stay for a while," Frodo explained. "When Merry first began to come here, he was quite young and he always brought extra clothing and some of his favorite toys with him. That is why Bilbo began to put Merry in that room.  Merry used the little room like a play area."

"That seems reasonable," Pippin said grateful that he had been sleeping in a play room or a dressing room rather than some nursery. "So that’s why it’s Merry’s room then?"

"That’s why," Frodo said. "Then when you began to come to visit, you usually came with Merry and so it seemed a good idea to put you in the little room near Merry. Bilbo thought that you’d be more comfortable in there and I am afraid that I failed to realize, until this visit, that you’d out-grown the little room and would need a larger room to stay in. Something with a private entrance and room to move about in."

"The new room that you've put me in is a very nice room," Pippin said unconvincingly. 

"Then why are you sleeping in the barn?" Frodo asked.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pippin didn’t hear a sound anywhere within the smial. That was rather frightening to him as he stood there in the kitchen doorway listening. It might have been nice to hear a cricket or maybe the fire crackling, but there wasn’t a sound. He supposed that meant that Frodo was in bed too.

He thought again about his old room, the little room off of Merry’s room, and remembered how surprised he had been upon arriving at Bag End this summer for his visit with Frodo to find that the little room had undergone some changes.

He had never been allowed to stay for the entire summer before and he was feeling very grown-up because his parents were letting him do this. He had been excited and a bit nervous as well. The entire summer was a very long time to be away from home. He’d been clutching his pack to his chest and following Frodo into Merry’s room. He was thinking all the while that Frodo would then show him into the little room where he always stayed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pippin stood in the little room and stared at the writing desk, bookshelves, and large, comfortable chair. Where was his bed? "Frodo, how am I supposed to sleep in here?" Pippin asked.

Frodo chuckled. "Well, you aren’t supposed to sleep in there."

"But you invited me!" Pippin objected. "You said that I could come and that I could spend the summer with you and Merry. You said-"

"Calm down, Pippin," Frodo said gently, hearing the rising panic in his younger cousin’s voice. "I didn’t say that you were no longer welcome. I said that you wouldn’t be sleeping in that room."

"You’ve put me in with Merry?" Pippin asked. "Because if you have, I’m too old for that."

"Of course you are," Frodo said. "I’ve not put you in with Merry."

Merry, who had been sitting his own things down and ignoring them both, spoke now, "Good, because his feet are entirely too cold and he squirms about too much."

"I do not," Pippin said indignantly.

"You do," Merry said.

"I’ve arranged a room across the hall for you this time," Frodo broke in with the hopes of avoiding an argument.

"You have?" Pippin asked with a last, rather longing look at what had been his little room.

"I have," Frodo said. "Come on and I’ll show you so that you can get settled in before supper. Sam is making beef stew for us and I wouldn’t want you to be late to the table. You know how quickly Merry can finish a bowl of Sam’s beef stew."

"Take your time, both of you," Merry said, grinning. "I don’t mind if you’re a bit late."

Frodo laughed and led Pippin out of the room and across the hall.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sighing deeply, Pippin began to tip-toe across the kitchen floor toward the back door.

"Going somewhere?"

Pippin jumped and then tripped over the end of the quilt which was trailing about his ankles and sat down hard on the floor. Frodo quickly lit the lantern on the table and came over to help Pippin up. "Are you all right?" Frodo asked extending his hand to his cousin. 

Pippin accepted Frodo's assistance.  He now stood clutching the blanket and trying to regain his composure. Frodo hadn’t meant to startle Pippin that way. Pippin looked so very young just now and so frightened that Frodo wished he’d left the lantern lit.  He wished that he had been a bit more direct about this situation. He had hoped to catch Pippin sneaking out to the barn but he certainly had not meant to terrify the lad.

Earlier in the evening, after Merry and Pippin had gone to bed, Frodo had decided to wait here in the kitchen to see if he could catch Pippin leaving the smial.  After talking to Pippin during the lad's writing lessons that evening, Frodo had become convinced that Pippin had been lying to him.  Pippin had attempted to lay blame on Merry for the fact that he was sleeping in the barn.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"So you’re sleeping out in the barn to keep Merry from looking at your project?" Frodo asked skeptically.

Pippin nodded. "You know how sneaky he can be, Frodo and I don’t want him to see my whe-project until it’s finished."  Pippin looked a bit sheepish and said,  "Sam and I had a bit of trouble today and if Merry finds out about it, he'll be sure to tease me."

"What sort of trouble did you and Sam have?" Frodo asked.

Pippin blushed a bit and then suddenly grinned. "I have an idea!" he said brightly. "Instead of writing about sleeping in the barn, I can write about what happened today!" I’ll write about how Sam got his feet stuck to a board."

Frodo had known that Pippin was attempting to divert him from the issue at hand, however his curiosity about how Sam had got his feet stuck to a board had won out over his need to know why Pippin was sleeping in the barn. "That sounds interesting," Frodo said hoping that he didn't look too amused.

Pippin smiled. "It was my fault but Sam said it was only an accident and-"

"Write it," Frodo smiled putting a finger to Pippin's lips. "You need practice writing, you do not need practice talking, Peregrin."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"You startled me," Pippin said accusingly. "I thought you were asleep."

"I thought that you were asleep also," Frodo said. "Would you like to tell me what you and your bedding are in the kitchen at this hour?" When Pippin didn’t answer Frodo continued. "I know that you aren’t going out to the barn because you and I have talked this over, remember?"

"I know, Frodo," Pippin said. "I just want to be ready to start on my wh- a, project when Sam gets ready and Sam gets up very early so it’s hard to be ready when he is unless you get a head start and sleeping in the barn helps."

"I know that Sam doesn’t expect you to sleep in the barn," Frodo said. "Don’t try to lay blame for this on Sam. You have been turning up in odd places in the morning since you arrived for your visit. I have found you asleep in the front parlor four times.  I have found you asleep in Bilbo's study.  I have found you asleep at the kitchen table. You are not sleeping in the barn, Peregrin Took. I hope I am making myself clear on this point."

Pippin nodded.

"Would you like to sleep in one of the other bedrooms tonight?" Frodo asked gently. "I can move you down the hall in the room across from mine."

"No, I don’t need to move," Pippin said. "I’ll go back to bed now." He left the kitchen with the quilt in his arms.

Frodo watched him go. Why wouldn’t Pippin simply explain what was troubling him? What was this about? He’d given the lad every chance to discuss this and had even offered to move him into another room. It couldn’t have anything to do with sleeping alone because Pippin was actually willing to sleep in the barn by himself rather than sleep in his room.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Sam entered the kitchen the next morning he found Master Pippin sitting at the table sound asleep with his head resting on his arms.  The young Took was fully dressed as if he were about to go out for the day or had just returned home.  If the lad had been a bit older, Sam might have thought that Master Pippin had come home from a night of drinking and passed out in the kitchen. Sam reached over and gently shook the lad awake. "Are you all right, Master Pippin?"

Pippin’s head popped up and he blurted out the first thing that he thought of. "I wasn’t in the barn."

"I just wanted to see that you was all right, Master Pippin," Sam said, surprised by the lad’s response. "You was sleeping at the table when I come in to start breakfast and I thought you might be feelin’ badly."

"Oh," Pippin said meekly, rubbing his eyes. "No, I’m fine. I just woke up early and so I thought I’d wait for you here and I guess I fell asleep."

"Well, you best go on back to bed for a while, Master Pippin," Sam said. "Them boards are still a might tacky and I don’t expect that we will be able to put them together until after lunch."  Sam glanced down at his own feet as he thought about exactly why the boards were still tacky and blushed slightly.  Pippin was too sleepy to notice.  "I’m goin’ on over and do some work for the Gaffer in Mistress Slope’s garden this mornin’. It’ll give them boards some more time to dry.  I just thought I'd come over and start breakfast for Mister Frodo before I set to my other jobs."

Pippin nodded. "I’ll just sit here and watch you fix breakfast, Sam." He yawned and put his head back down. "Maybe I can help you."

"I suspect that you ought to just rest while I fix things, Master Pippin," Sam said softly. The lad was already sound asleep again.

Sam had just turned to get the potatoes out of the bin when he heard footsteps. He turned and saw Mister Merry standing there and looking over at Pippin. Merry sighed and asked in a soft voice, "How long has he been sleeping there?"

"I don’t know," Sam answered, also keeping his voice low. "I just got here and I found him at the table like that. I woke him up, but he fell on back asleep. He said he was up to get an early start on his carpentry."

Merry shook his head. "Are you starting this early?"

"No," Sam said. "It’ll be after lunch today a’fore we get to it."

They both looked at Pippin. "I’ll get him," Merry said. "He walked over to Pippin and gently took him by the shoulders. "Come on Pip, let’s go on back to bed."

Pippin stirred a bit and yawned. He lifted his head and looked at Merry. "I’m helping Sam with breakfast."

"Sam can get breakfast on his own," Merry said, pulling Pippin to his feet. "I think you should lay down for a while longer. I’ll wake you for breakfast."

"I don’t want to go back to that bed, Merry," Pippin said grogily. "Can I just sit here?"

"Why don’t you come into my room and sleep for a while?" Merry asked as he steered Pippin around the table by the shoulders. "I’m not sleepy and so I won’t be using it. It’s probably still warm."

Sam noticed that Mister Merry was still in his nightshirt. The young Brandybuck didn't look like he'd intended to stay up for the day, but Sam didn’t mention this.

"Maybe just until breakfast if you really aren’t *yawn* sleeping in it," Pippin mumbled.

"I’m not," Merry said and he winked at Sam and propelled Pippin out of the kitchen. Ten minutes later, Merry had settled himself under a blanket on the parlor sofa and drifted back off to sleep.

About thirty minutes later, Frodo passed through the parlor on his way to the kitchen.  He stopped when he noticed someone sleeping on the sofa.  He was surprised to see that it was Merry rather than Pippin.  Frodo leaned over and tucked the blanket up around Merry's shoulders and sighed.  Now, it seemed that both of his younger cousins were sleeping in locations other than their beds!  Frodo inhaled deeply catching the aroma of bacon cooking and took comfort in the fact that someone, most likely Sam, was making breakfast.  Perhaps things would seem better after he'd filled up his corners.  With a last glance at Merry, Frodo made his way to the kitchen.  Maybe he'd tease Sam about the incident involving the shellac.  Frodo grinned.  Maybe that would make him feel less embarrassed about getting caught by Sam with a mouth full of grapes the other morning but  first, he would have some of that bacon.

TBC

Part 14

Frodo had decided to let his questions go unanswered. He had eaten breakfast without questioning Merry or Pippin. Pippin had slept through first breakfast in spite of the fact that the entire smial was filled with the smell of bacon. Merry had done something very un-Merry-like and had come to first breakfast in his night shirt without his dressing gown or his trousers. Looking slightly uncomfortable, Merry had seated himself at the table and grinned. "This smells wonderful, Sam. In fact, I don’t think I’ll even take time to dress before eating. Frodo might get too far ahead of me."

Frodo had given Merry a questioning look but Merry had filled his mouth with bacon and looked away so Frodo had not pressed the issue. Sam had turned quickly to the door announcing that he would be back just after the noon meal to give Master Pippin his lessons. "If I might say so, Mister Frodo," Sam suggested nervously with a quick glance at Merry. "You might want to just let Master Pippin sleep in. He’s been workin’ right hard on his carpentry and that way he’ll get a fresh start. I put back a plate for him near the fire so it’ll keep warm ‘til he wakes." Sam had proceeded to hurry out of the kitchen and off to his morning’s work.

Again Frodo looked at Merry. "Fine. Don’t bother to explain," Frodo said picking up his knife and putting some jam on his toast. "Just tell me where Pippin is now."

"Asleep," Merry mumbled around a mouth full of egg.

"In the barn?" Frodo asked.

"My room," Merry said.

Frodo wanted to ask how this had come about but he could see that Merry wasn’t in a talkative mood just now so he settled for being grateful that Pippin wasn’t in the barn. This helped explain why Merry was on the sofa and also why Merry had not got dressed for first breakfast. Merry had not wanted to wake Pippin by going into his room and rummaging about for his dressing gown or his clothing. There were too many unanswered questions for this early in the day. Frodo sighed and took a drink of his tea.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sam handed the hammer to Master Pippin a bit reluctantly. He would have to get this over with sometime and now was going to have to be the time. He’d been dreading the point at which Master Pippin would be using the hammer again, but he’d run clean out of things for the lad to do that didn’t involve the darned tool! He gave Pippin the handle of it but held fast to the top and looked seriously at the lad. Pippin tugged a bit and then returned Sam’s gaze with a puzzled one. "What’s wrong, Sam?"

"Well, there’s a thing or two that needs sayin’ a’fore you start hammerin’," Sam said. "Why don’t you lay the hammer down on the table until I get finished?"

Pippin was reluctant to let go of what Sam suspected was his favorite tool, but the lad obeyed and put the hammer down. Sam let out a long breath and realized that he’d been holding it from the moment that Master Pippin’s hand had come into contact with the hammer. Pippin leaned his head to one side and gave Sam a very confused look but didn’t say anything.

Sam grinned, feeling foolish, and said, "Now, a’fore you and I started workin’ together, did Mister Tunnely teach you anything about how to use a hammer?"

Pippin instantly picked up the hammer and smacked it hard on the table. "Every one knows how to use a hammer, Sam," Pippin said looking a bit annoyed. "It’s easy." Before Sam could object, Pippin raised the hammer again and proceeded to bring it down on his own thumb with quite a bit of force. Pippin’s face drained of all color and his eyes watered. He let the hammer fall to the table top and sucked in a breath of air.

Sam walked over and took hold of the lad’s wrist and gently lifted the hand so that he could inspect the injured thumb. Master Pippin stood very still and tried his best not to cry. Sam examined the thumb. "Can you move it?" he asked.

Pippin nodded but made no effort to flex the thumb.

"I know it hurts, but let me see if you can move it, Master Pippin," Sam said again.

Pippin shut his eyes tightly and slowly wiggled the thumb. "Ouch," he said softly.

"Sit down on that crate over yonder and I’ll go and get something cold to put on your thumb," Sam instructed.

Pippin looked at the hammer for a minute and then moved over toward the crate. Sam was very tempted to take the hammer with him but he decided that Master Pippin could be trusted not to touch the thing just now. The lad was in too much pain to give that another go. As Pippin sank down onto the crate, Sam hurried toward Bag End trying not to think about the hammer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Frodo was standing in Pippin’s room again. There had to be a reason why the lad wouldn’t sleep in here but Frodo couldn’t see anything that would explain it. Pippin was not the sort that had to have company in order to fall asleep. Oh, naturally, as a tiny child, Pippin had crept into other people’s rooms looking for comfort and company, but he had out-grown that when he’d been about thirteen or so. Pippin had still slept with Merry from time to time. This was mostly because Pippin wanted to talk and tell stories rather than sleep. Pippin wasn’t afraid, he just wanted to stay awake longer. This visit had been different though. Pippin had not crept into Merry’s room for conversation. Merry had noticed it too and had even remarked on it to Frodo.

Frodo sighed. Merry had sounded rather hurt when he’d brought the subject up. "He doesn’t seem the same, Frodo. He never comes into my room any more. He just goes straight to bed."

Frodo’s eyes suddenly widened. He had gone straight to bed. That first week or so, Pippin had gone to bed in this very room and slept all night long. It had been Merry who had been displeased with things. It had been Merry who seemed upset because he’d lost his night time visitor, but Pippin had been sleeping soundly. Frodo scratched his head and tried to recall exactly when Pippin had started wandering the smial at night.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sam wrapped the cold cloth around Pippin’s sore thumb. "That should help things along," Sam said.

"At least the nail will grow back if it falls off," Pippin mumbled.

Sam smiled remembering that earlier conversation. "It will, but there’s no sense in testin’ the theory," Sam said. "What you need to be doin’ is avoidin’ smackin’ your thumb with that hammer."

Pippin nodded. "I guess maybe I don’t know how to use a hammer, do I?" Pippin asked, looking embarrassed.

"Everybody has to learn, Master Pippin," Sam said. "Hobbits aren’t born knowin’ how to do things. That’s why you get parents and older relatives, or it’s one reason."

"It looks like it’d be easy to do," Pippin said. "You just take hold of it and swing."

Sam winced a bit as he thought of Master Pippin swingin’ that hammer. "You don’t swing it, and you have to take careful aim at what you plan to hit so’s you don’t, well, so’s you don’t hit your thumb or anything."

"I didn’t mean to hit my own thumb," Pippin said a bit crossly.

"I know you didn’t, but you didn’t stop to look where you were hitting a’fore you smacked the table, did you?" Sam asked.

Pippin looked up at him unhappily. "No."

Sam walked over to the table and retrieved the hammer. "Now, I’m goin’ to show you a thing or two about this hammer while your thumb is recoverin’. Pay attention cause you’re runnin’ out ‘o thumbs."

Pippin looked at his hands and sighed. He still had a strip of white cloth around his left thumb from when he’d hit it before and now his right thumb was throbbing. It really was a good thing that the thumb nails would grow back.

"First off, which hand do you write with?" Sam asked.

"The right one," Pippin said hoping that Sam didn’t intend on giving him a writing lesson. He was getting enough of those from Frodo.

"Then how did you smack your right thumb?" Sam asked.

Pippin looked at his hands and then back at Sam. "I was using my left hand to swing the hammer that time. Does it matter?"

"If you’re right hand is the one that you use most often for things like writin’ and carvin’ meat and catching a ball and such, then you should always use your right hand to hold the hammer," Sam said. "You'll have more control that way."

Pippin looked at his hands again and shrugged. Sam was usually right about things, but Pippin had two sore thumbs and so he suspected that in his case, it really didn’t matter which hand held the hammer. Either way, he was likely to wind up with a sore thumb. He decided not to say this and listened as Sam continued.

"Next thing to know is that you don’t have to raise the hammer clean over your head in order to drive in a nail," Sam said. "You can get better aim and almost as much strength into your swing by raisin’ it from the elbow instead of usin’ your shoulder." Sam went on when Master Pippin didn’t say anything. It was always best to take advantage of Master Pippin’s quiet moments because they’re weren’t many of them. "You also gotta aim at what you plan to hit. Before when you were showin’ me how you could use the hammer, what did you aim for?"

"Well, I wasn’t aiming at my own thumb," Pippin said. "I meant to hit the table is all."

"That’s a mighty big target," Sam said.

Pippin blushed. "And I still missed."

"I don’t mean that as no insult, Master Pippin," Sam said. "I mean that you should have a point in mind when you aim. You shouldn't just aim at the whole table and hope you hit some part of it.  You know how it is when you try to skip a stone or throw a rock. Don’t you aim at a point a’fore you toss?"

Pippin nodded.

"Well, it’s the same with hammers," Sam said. "You have to aim. Walk over to the table and I’ll show you what I mean."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Merry," Frodo said hurrying over to his younger cousin who was sitting on the sofa reading. "Merry!"

"What?" Merry asked. Looking up to see Frodo standing in front of him. "You look like you’ve just discovered gold in the hallway or something. What is it?"

"I was just in Pippin’s bedroom and I have a question for you," Frodo said.

"What is it?" Merry asked. "If this is about this morning-"

"This is about when you and Pippin first arrived here for the summer, Merry," Frodo interrupted.

Merry lay the book aside as Frodo sat down next to him. "Ask away, Cousin."

"You remember that when you first arrived, I surprised Pippin with his own, larger room across the hall from yours?"

"Of course," Merry said. "Pippin seemed a bit confused by it all, but then he seemed pleased about it. He liked the idea after he realized that you had done it because he was getting older and might want a bit of privacy."

"Exactly!" Frodo crowed. "He liked the idea!"

Merry grinned at Frodo’s expression. "Why are you so excited by that?"

"Because," Frodo said. "Merry, my lad. Whatever happened that caused Pippin to quit sleeping in that room didn’t happen at the first of the visit. Pippin was sleeping in that room and enjoying it for the first three weeks of the visit and maybe a bit longer than that. Whatever made him stop sleeping in there, happened around the time that Mister Tunnely started Pippin’s lessons."

Merry’s eyes widened. "That’s right! Pippin liked his room before that."

"Now, all we have to do, is figure out what happened that changed things," Frodo said.

Merry’s smile faded. "Then aren’t we in the same place with this that we were when we started out?"

Frodo scowled. "No, we aren’t. We know that Pippin liked the room to begin with. We know that he was sleeping just fine in there at the start of the visit. We know that there isn’t anything wrong with that room. Something happened that changed Pippin’s thoughts on it all and all we have to do is find out what that was." Frodo smiled and patted Merry on the arm. "We are a bit closer to an answer, Merry."

"If you ask me, we are right back at the beginning, Frodo," Merry said. "We still don’t know a thing."

Frodo stood. "We know where to start now, Merry. All we have to do is try to remember anything different that happened at that time and that should give us our answer. So, instead of sitting there tossing cold water on my breakthrough, why don’t you try to remember anything that you can about that time."

Merry wrinkled his nose a bit and leaned back against the sofa cushions. "Well, Mister Tunnely started coming to teach Pippin carpentry."

"That can’t be it," Frodo said firmly.

"Why not?" Merry asked.

"Because Mister Tunnely is no longer giving Pippin lessons and Pippin is still not sleeping in his room," Frodo said. "If Mister Tunnely were the problem, then Pippin would be sleeping just fine now."

"You’re going to make this difficult, aren’t you?" Merry asked.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sam watched from the opposite side of the table as Pippin took what appeared to be careful aim at the nail and brought the hammer down to it. Sam had showed Pippin how to touch the hammer head to the top of the nail lightly and then raise the hammer back and then bring it back down onto the nail. Pippin had been practicing for a while now. Sam had the lad driving nails into a couple of old pieces of scrap wood in the hopes that Pippin would get the feel of it and start to have some control over the hammer. The last two nails had gone in without any trouble and a smile was starting at the corner’s of Pippin’s mouth.

Master Pippin had looked so grim when they’d begun. The youngster had been frustrated with his failure to hit the nails properly and Sam had been afraid that Master Pippin might give up. Now, after about an hour of practice, Master Pippin was starting to improve. Sam found that he was no longer holding his breath each time Master Pippin raised the hammer.

Pippin finished driving the last of the nails into the board and looked up at Sam. "It’s getting easier!" he crowed, grinning widely now.

"I thought it might if you’d give yourself time on it," Sam said returning the grin. "I think you might just be ready to try and put your wheelbarrow together."

Master Pippin looked so proud of himself that Sam thought that lad might burst. "I can really start putting it together?"

"I think that’d be a fine idea," Sam said encouragingly.

"I was beginning to think that all I would have was a pile of nicely shellacked boards and three wheels that weren’t attached to anything at all," Pippin said. "I’m really going to build this, aren’t I?"

"That you are," Sam smiled. "We got us a fair to get ready for."

Pippin shivered slightly but the smile didn’t leave his face. "Do you think it will be good enough for the fair?"

"Course it will," Sam said. "It’s already better then some o’ the things that get displayed at the fair and it ain’t even in one piece yet."

"Sam?"

"Yes?"

"What do you suppose Mister Tunnely will say when he sees it?" Pippin asked.

"I suspect that he’ll be too busy eatin’ his earlier words to say anything new," Sam said and Pippin laughed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After supper, Frodo took Pippin into the study for the hated writing lessons. So far, neither Frodo nor Merry had been able to figure out what was causing Pippin not to sleep in his room. They had both tried all afternoon to come up with something. Well, Frodo had tried all afternoon. Merry had given the matter some thought but had become distracted and taken a nice long nap instead leaving Frodo to puzzle it all out on his own. Now, Frodo was tempted to bring the subject up with Pippin, but he wasn’t sure how to begin. Instead, he got out the ink and the quill and sat Pippin down at the desk. Maybe something would occur to him while they worked.

"Frodo, I don’t think that I should do my writing lesson tonight," Pippin said breaking into Frodo’s thoughts.

"You don’t?" Frodo wondered what new excuse that his cousin had for him this evening would be.

"Well, it might not be a very good idea because Sam and I are to the point now where we are putting the wh-, er, my project together," Pippin said.

"What does that have to do with your writing lesson?" Frodo asked.

"Well, this is my hammer hand," Pippin said raising his right hand so that Frodo could look at it. "I might injure it writing and not be able to hammer anything tomorrow. I already have two sore thumbs and so if my hand cramps up from all of this writing then how will I hammer anything?"

Frodo rolled his eyes. Pippin might not have the best handwriting in the Shire, but he certainly was creative. Hammer hand indeed!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TBC

 

Part 15

"What are upset about?" Merry asked. He had come into the parlor and found Pippin sitting cross legged on the floor with his back to the sofa.

"Why do you think I’m upset?" Pippin asked without looking up.

"Because Frodo and I are in the kitchen having a snack and you’re still out here," Merry said falling onto the sofa so that he was lying on his stomach with his feet over one arm rest. "Because you’re too quiet." He reached out a hand and poked Pippin in the ribs. Pippin flinched but didn’t look at him. "Because you’re too still."

"Why can’t I be quiet and still without folks thinking something is wrong with me?" Pippin complained, leaning back against the sofa.

"Because you just can’t," Merry said with a sigh. "You aren’t quiet unless you’re sick or upset and I don’t think you’re sick." Merry rolled over on his back and looked up at the curved ceiling of the parlor. "You aren’t, are you?"

"I’m not what?" Pippin asked.

"Sick."

"No," Pippin said.

"Are you tired? Is Sam working you too hard out there in the barn?" Merry asked in a half-teasing tone of voice.

"No, I’m not tired, Merry," Pippin said too quickly and as if to prove this point he stood up and nearly lost his balance in the process. "I’m wide awake. Wanna play chess or something? Draughts? Maybe read something? Frodo has lots of books and we could sit and read something out loud like we used to do when I had to practice reading, remember that? Remember, Merry? We would get a book and we’d take turns reading so it would be fun instead of like studying and you’d be really patient when it was my turn to read because I wasn’t very good at it, but you’d never say anything nasty. You’d just sit there and wait for me to read my part and be all patient and just listen even though it must have been dreadful having to sit there and just listen to me try to sound out all the words. Remember? Wanna read something?"

Merry sat up on the sofa and smiled. "Easy, Pip," he said. "Why don’t you sit down here with me for a bit?"

"I’m not tired," Pippin grumbled. "I’m not, really, Merry. I could sit up for hours and hours yet." He sat down on the sofa, fidgeted a bit and then said, "We could get Frodo’s armies out and line them up. I know he still has them. I know we’re both a bit old for all of that but it still might be fun to line them up and have the Battle of the Five Armies for old time’s sack. I promise that you can decide where they all stand. I’ll just help you and you can be in charge of the whole thing, Merry."

"Why don’t we just sit here and have a talk," Merry suggested. "I think Frodo’s armies are probably packed away and it’s kind of late to be digging through the cupboards and storage areas looking for them now."

"It’s not that late," Pippin said sounding quite desperate. "I think I am hungry. Maybe we should go into the kitchen and get a snack. You said that Frodo was in there eating and we could go in there and eat something too."

"We could," Merry agreed but he made no move to get up.

Pippin shifted again. "Maybe we could have a pipe then?"

"You don’t smoke," Merry said stretching his feet out in front of him and putting his hands behind his head.

"Wanna go for a walk?" Pippin asked standing.

"No one is going for a walk tonight," Frodo said coming into the parlor. "It’s rather late for that."

"It’s not that late, Frodo," Pippin objected. "Bilbo always liked walking late at night and you like it too. We could go for a long walk and take our packs and everything. I don’t get to do much in the daytime because I’m always having lessons. We could go for a walk now, all three of us and you and Merry could smoke."

Frodo studied Pippin intently for a minute and then said, "All right. We’ll go for a walk, but we aren’t taking packs because we won’t be going that far. We’ll just keep to the main paths and walk into Hobbiton or something easy and relaxed."

Pippin’s face lit up and he hurried from the room. "I’ll get my pack anyway and we can put snacks into it or something."

Frodo watched him go and then looked over at Merry. "Stalling, isn’t he?"

"That he is," Merry agreed.

"Doesn’t want to go to bed, does he?" Frodo said in a low voice.

"No, he doesn’t," Merry said.

"Get up, Meriadoc," Frodo sighed. "It would seem that we are going for a walk and you and I will smoke if we want to."

Merry stood and stretched as if just waking up from a long nap. "I enjoy smoking," Merry smiled.

Pippin peered around the corner of the doorway and asked, "Do you think twelve apples is enough? I’m got a bit of bread and some cheese, but there’s still room in my pack for a few more apples if you think we’ll need them."

"Twelve should be plenty," Frodo said. "I’m not terribly hungry as I’ve only just had a snack."

"Oh, right then," Pippin nodded. "So just Merry and me will be eating most of the apples, then."

"I’ll just get my pipe," Merry said.

"Then you and Frodo can smoke and talk for as long as you like," Pippin said.

Frodo slung an arm about Pippin’s shoulders and smiled down at him. "And you can eat all of those apples."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Right late for you lads to be out ain’t it?"

Frodo looked up and saw Hamfast Gamgee standing there looking down at them. Frodo was leaning his back against the party tree and sitting on the damp grass, the tip of his pipe in his mouth. "A bit," Frodo agreed. "What brings you out so late, Gaffer?"

"Well, I was havin’ a bit ‘o trouble sleepin’," Hamfast explained lighting his own pipe.

"There’s been a lot of that going around," Merry said. He was seated next to Frodo puffing on his own pipe.

"Has there?" Hamfast asked arching his eyebrows and looking down at Pippin who was sound asleep with his head on Merry’s lap. Frodo’s coat lay across Pippin’s shoulders. One of Pippin’s hands was stretched out in front of him with a half-eaten apple still in it. Hamfast grinned. "The young ones can always sleep, though, can’t they?" He puffed on his pipe. "My bones are a bit achy this evenin’ and so I suspect it’ll rain directly. The aches keep me up."

"How directly?" Frodo asked wondering if they were in any danger of getting caught in the rain.

"Oh, not a’fore tomorrow mornin’," the Gaffer smiled. "I suspect we’ll likely wake up to it."

"It’s been dry this summer," Frodo said. "Just the occasional cloud burst or shower. Might be good if it rains all day tomorrow."

"Be good for the garden, but darned annoyin’ for my bones," Hamfast said with a chuckle. "I suspect that I may have to do a bit o’ medicatin’ tomorrow."

Frodo smiled. He could remember Bilbo talking about the Gaffer’s ‘medication’. Most likely Hamfast Gamgee would be drinking a generous amount of his home brew tomorrow.

"You lads best get the little one into bed," Hamfast advised nodding toward Pippin who moaned softly and dropped the apple as if he’d heard what was being said.

"I suppose we will be doing just that in a few minutes," Frodo said with a look at Pippin.

"My Sam’ll be right put out if that little rascal falls asleep during his lesson tomorrow," the Gaffer said.

Frodo grinned at the thought of Sam actually getting annoyed because Pippin was sleepy. "Pippin will be up and ready to work when Sam gets here," Frodo said. "Sam’s doing a fine job and Pippin is enjoying his lessons."

"My Sam’s a good lad," Hamfast said proudly. "And it were good ‘o you to offer him the job like you done."

"I was very pleased that he agreed to do it," Frodo said.

"You may have your hands full in a minute if you don’t get those lads off to the smial," Hamfast said with a nod at Merry and Pippin.

Frodo glanced over and saw that Merry was now leaning against the tree snoring softly. "I’ve had my hands full all summer," Frodo said, putting out his pipe and getting to his feet.

"Young bachelor like yourself ought to be out walkin’ in the garden with some sweet young lass instead o’ riddin’’ herd on a couple o’ cousins," Hamfast winked. "Nice young lass with a bit o’ sauce to her, but not too much, mind you."

"From what I’ve seen around the Shire, these two cousins of mine are far less trouble than the sort of young lass that you mean, Gaffer," Frodo said with a wink.

"Far less trouble maybe, but you ought to spend a bit of time spoonin’ all the same," Hamfast said and turned to stroll back toward the row whistling softly as he went.

"Come on, Merry," Frodo said, shaking Merry’s shoulder. "Time to go back to the smial.  I'm not about to try and carry you."

"What was that about spoons?" Merry asked yawning.

"Never you mind," Frodo said. "Help me get Pippin on his feet and let’s try to act like sensible folk for a change and go inside."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The walk back to the smial had woke both Merry and Pippin back up. Naturally, once they were back in the Bag End parlor again Pippin was in no mood to go to bed. "You can both go on without me," Pippin said trying to sound casual. "I think I’ll sit up and practice my writing."

Merry snorted and Frodo’s eyes widened. "Oh, you will, will you?" Frodo asked.

"I might do better if no one is watching me," Pippin explained. "I get nervous with you watching me sometimes, Frodo. Now would be the perfect time for me to practice on my own."

"I have a better idea," Merry said.

"What?" Pippin asked. "You want to stay up too and maybe play some chess?"

"Trade me bedrooms for the night, Pip," Merry suggested. "You sleep in my room and I’ll sleep in yours."

"Why?" Pippin asked looking a bit nervous now.

"Well, the light wakes me in the morning when it comes in through the windows," Merry said while Frodo stood there and admired his younger cousin’s inventiveness.  Merry had always been a quick thinker. "I would like to sleep in tomorrow for a change. You have to get up anyway so the early morning sun won’t trouble you."

"No, Merry," Pippin said too quickly. "I like my room. I’ll go to bed in a while. I don’t want to try and get used to another bed."

Frodo frowned. He’d thought that Pippin would be more than willing to trade beds with Merry. What was going on now? Merry seemed surprised by this reaction also. "You sure?" Merry asked.

Pippin nodded. He faked a yawn. "Maybe I’ll just go on to bed now. I’m sleepier than I thought I was," Pippin said and proceeded to leave for his room.

Merry and Frodo looked after him in confusion. They were still standing there when they heard Pippin’s door close a minute later.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Merry, are you awake?"

Merry rolled over on his side but didn’t wake up fully.

"Are you awake, Merry?"

"What is it, Pip?" Merry mumbled sleepily.

"Are you awake?"

"I’m awake. What is it," Merry asked his eyes still closed tightly.

"Merry?"

Groaning, Merry sat up opening his eyes and pushing a mop of curls off of his forehead. "What is it, Pip?" He stared out into the darkness of his room but didn’t see anything. "Pip?" He was alone. With a shiver, Merry snatched his dressing gown off of the foot of his bed and hurried out of the room. He was in the parlor before he realized where he was going. The fire was still burning brightly and there, sound asleep on the sofa, was Pippin. Merry stood there looking down at his younger cousin for a minute. Then he quietly went into the kitchen to get some milk and shake off the dream.

 TBC

Part 16

"This letter is from Paladin and he is in complete agreement with my decision to hire Sam," Frodo smiled looking over the top of the letter at Merry who was less than attentive. They were seated at the kitchen table and Frodo had been opening his mail. Frodo frowned. "Did you get any sleep last night, Merry?"

"What?" Merry asked jerking awake and nearly putting an elbow into his plate.

"Honestly, this is getting quit ridiculous," Frodo sighed. "First Pippin and now you too?"

"I keep having this dream," Merry said. He looked at Frodo and yawned. "It’s not really a nightmare, but it’s disturbing all the same." He yawned again. "Who’s the letter from?"

Sighing, Frodo put the letter aside. "Never mind the letter now. Tell me about the dream."

"There isn’t much to tell, really," Merry said. "I just keep thinking that Pippin is in the room talking to me."

"About what?" Frodo asked curious.

"Well, nothing really," Merry said rubbing at his eyes. "He just keeps asking me if I’m awake. It’s very odd. He asks me if I’m awake and when I sit up he isn’t there." Merry yawned again. "What do you suppose it means?"

"I suspect that it means that you are worried about Pippin," Frodo said gently."I don’t believe that dreams always have to mean something, but it sounds to me as if you are letting your worry over Pippin’s sleeping problems follow you into your sleep. It sounds as if you are going to bed at night thinking about Pippin."

"He’s little in the dream," Merry volunteered. "What do you suppose that means?"

"Little?"Frodo asked. He wasn’t sure if Merry meant that Pippin was younger than he is now or if Merry might be dreaming about a very small Pippin.

"Like maybe about six or eight years old," Merry said. "His voice is too high for now and he sounds as if he’s afraid. It’s the way he used to sound when he’d slip into bed with me because he didn’t want to sleep alone." Merry moved his plate out of the way and lay his head on the table. "Just ignore me and go on about your morning. I’ll just lay here and be exhausted. You were probably right the first time. Dreams don’t always have to mean something."

"Why don’t you go in your room and be exhausted," Frodo sighed. "I’ll wash up in here and I’ll wake you for elevenses."

Merry got to his feet to leave the kitchen. "Maybe I will sleep for a few hours. I don’t seem to have the dream when I nap. It only happens at night." Merry left the room looking as if he might go to sleep on his feet.

Frodo sighed and ran a hand through his dark curls. "Peregrin Took, you have got to explain this night time worry of yours to us before we all go around the bend," he said to himself.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was just before supper time when Pippin raced into the smial breathless and grinning from ear to ear. "Frodo! Merry, come see!" he panted his eyes shining and his face slightly pink from running all the way from the barn.

"Come see what?" Frodo asked.

"It’s finished! I finished it! My project is finished! Come see!" He charged over and took hold of Merry’s arm and pulled. "Come on, Merry!"

"I’m coming," Merry laughed as Pippin pulled him to his feet and began to tow him toward the door.

Smiling, Frodo followed the two of them as Pippin dragged Merry toward the barn chattering all the way. "I didn’t think I’d ever be able to finish it even with Sam, but I did and now it’s finished. It’s not like the first one at all. This one looks like what it is instead of looking like something else and all of the wheels roll!"

When they got to the barn door, Merry stopped and pointed to the sign which was still in place just where Pippin had put it. "Come on, Merry!" Pippin insisted still pulling on his older cousin’s arm.

"Are you sure?" Merry teased refusing to be moved any further.

"Merry!" Pippin shouted looking indignant and excited all at once. "Come on! The sign was just until it was finished and it’s finished now. Come on, Merry!"

Frodo laughed. "In you go, Meriadoc. It’s about time we had a look at this project," Frodo said giving Merry a slight shove.

Merry allowed Pippin to pull him the rest of the way into the barn. Once inside, they saw Sam standing by something draped with an old pony blanket. "Isn’t this what happened the last time?" Merry asked looking at the blanket and raising an eyebrow.

Pippin glared at him and quickly went over to where Sam was standing. "This is it," Pippin said and before Merry or Frodo could say anything, Pippin pulled the blanket aside and then stepped back.

Frodo and Merry moved over toward the now-revealed wheelbarrow as Sam stepped out of the way to allow Pippin’s older cousins a closer look. Pippin stood behind the wheelbarrow bouncing nervously on the balls of his feet and chewing on his lower lip.

Frodo ran a hand over the smooth surface of the wheelbarrow while Merry leaned over and studied the three wheels, grinning proudly. Sam schooled his own face to appear neutral. The truth of it was, he was almost as anxious to hear their reactions as Master Pippin was. After all, this was his first tutoring job.

"You built this?" Merry asked, straightening up and looking at Pippin.

"Sam showed me how," Pippin said in a nervous whisper.

"You done it all, Master Pippin," Sam reminded him. "I showed you how, but you done the work yourself."

Frodo lifted the handles on the wheelbarrow and rolled it forward on its front wheel a few feet. He then sat it down and let it roll on all three wheels. He was a bit puzzled by the design change and wondered how that had come about. "The extra wheels," Frodo said but before he could finish the question, Pippin came over and crouched next to the wheelbarrow.

"They’re in case you over-load it," Pippin said losing the nervous tremor in his voice and becoming bolder. "I do that all the time with ours at home. With the extra wheels, you can move stuff even if you can’t lift it. If you can lift it, then you can use it like any other wheelbarrow." Pippin reached down and pulled a small metal bar into place on one of the back wheels. "They lock so they won’t let it roll down hill while you’re unloading it. I think it makes it more practical."

"Pippin?" Merry said still studying the wheelbarrow.

Pippin stood up and looked across the wheelbarrow at his older cousin while Frodo continued to lock and unlock the wheels. "Yes, Merry?" he said in an anxious voice.

"This is the most amazing wheelbarrow that I have ever seen!" Merry pronounced. "It’s brilliant!"

Sam watched as Pippin’s face lit up brighter than one of old Gandalf’s fireworks. Well, nearly that bright anyway. Sam’s own face was splitting into a grin also.

"You like it?" Pippin asked. "You think it’s well-built and everything?"

"It’s wonderful, Pip," Merry grinned.

"You’ve done a great job on this, Pippin," Frodo said. "The extra wheels are a splendid idea."

Pippin could hardly contain himself as he basked in the glow of his older cousins’ praise. He had puffed out his thin chest and was positively alight with pleasure and pride. Suddenly, he looked over at Sam. Before Sam knew what was coming, Pippin lunged over and wrapped his arms around the startled gardener and hugged him. "It was Sam," Pippin said. "He let me try the extra wheels. He didn’t think it was a silly idea at all and he agreed to it right off. He showed me how to measure the boards and shellac it and make the wheels and everything!" Pippin stepped back from Sam, took hold of his hand and dragged him over to the wheelbarrow. "The first one was dreadful, wasn’t it, Sam? The wheels were all wrong and you could see through the bottom of it to the ground and the handles didn’t match up, did they Sam?"

"Well, you done the best you could without any proper lessons, Master Pippin," Sam said embarrassed to find himself the center of attention. Both Merry and Frodo were grinning at him now.

"Sam didn’t do any of it for me," Pippin said. "He made me do it. He even made me take the old one apart myself. He wouldn’t let me have any of it easy but he showed me how to do it and he didn’t even yell at me when I almost hit him with the hammer." Pippin smiled at Sam proudly. "I missed him on account of he’s much faster at ducking than Mister Tunnely was."

Merry and Frodo laughed at this and Sam smiled shyly. "I guess I am faster than Mister Tunnely," Sam said.

"And smarter too!" Pippin said. "And Sam is the best carpentry tutor in the whole Shire!"

Frodo watched in amusement as Sam turned a shade redder than he’d been before.

"And you are now officially the finest wheelbarrow-builder in all of the Shire, Pip," Merry said.

"You certainly are," Frodo agreed.

Pippin turned to Sam and asked, "Did I pass or do I have more lessons?"

"You passed," Sam said still looking embarrassed by all of the attention. "But if Mister Frodo or your father want you do have a few more lessons then you can always build something else."

"Can I?" Pippin asked excitedly. "Frodo, do you suppose I could build something else?"

"If Sam has time for a few more lessons, then it is fine with me if you build something else," Frodo said.

"Do you, Sam?" Pippin asked. "Because now that I can use a hammer properly, it might be good to practice." He looked hopeful.

"I think that I can get the Gaffer to let me give you a few more lessons," Sam said, pleased to know that he wasn’t going to be losing his only student just yet.

"Do you think I can build something else, Merry?" Pippin asked. "I mean do you think I’ll be good enough?"

"Pippin," Merry said also looking quite proud. "I believe that you can build anything that you want to build. In fact, I might just have to get you to show me exactly how you built such fine-looking wheels."

Pippin lunged at Merry now and hugged him tightly while Frodo and Sam smiled.

"Let’s all go to the Green Dragon for supper in honor of this unveiling of the finest wheelbarrow in the Shire," Frodo suggested. "I will personally see to it that everyone present has more food than they can possibly eat."

"I realize that you are very wealthy, Cousin," Merry said, his arms around Pippin holding the younger lad in place which was becoming very difficult. "But are you sure you can afford to feed us to our satisfaction?"

"Have you ever gone hungry while visiting me?" Frodo asked trying to look scandalized.

"Not yet," Merry admitted.

"Then let’s go before they run out of the good things," Pippin said.

Frodo laughed.

"Race you, Merry!" Pippin yelled and slid out of his older cousin’s grasp and ran.

"That’s cheating!" Merry yelled running after him.

"Come on, Sam," Frodo said. "You and I will walk."

"Oh, you go on, Mister Frodo," Sam said holding back "This here celebration ought to be for Master Pippin’s family. You and Mister Merry ought to celebrate with him."

"We wouldn’t be having this celebration if it weren’t for Master Pippin’s fine carpentry tutor," Frodo said reaching over and taking Sam by the arm. "Pippin will be disappointed if you don’t join us and so will I."

"Well, I don’t want to stick myself in where it’s not my place," Sam said still a bit reluctant.

"Samwise Gamgee, if I want to treat you to supper at the Green Dragon for a job well done, then I think it is your responsibility to allow me to do so," Frodo said pretending to be stern.

Sam grinned. "Might supper include an ale or two?"

"It most certainly will," Frodo said, putting an arm around Sam as they walked out of the barn. "Thank you, Sam. I haven’t seen Pippin that happy all summer long."

"He worked hard," Sam said.

"So did you," Frodo said. "Now, we better catch up to those two cousins of mine before they order more food than even a Baggins can afford."

~~~~~~~~~~~

Pippin was excited by the entire set of circumstances. At seventeen he had only been in The Green Dragon on a couple of occasions and those had been early in the afternoon. This was supper time and the place was starting to fill up with the regular nightly visitors. A good number of them knew Frodo and some of them knew Merry but it was Sam who seemed to be getting the most greetings. The older hobbits introduced Pippin to anyone that came by their table which increased Pippin’s enjoyment. Pippin was very social and so he was quick to acknowledge greetings. Frodo had ordered a round of ale for himself, Sam and Merry when they were seated. Pippin had frowned only slightly when he realized that he would not be getting any ale. His good humor did not wane for more than a second though, and he eagerly took the cold mug of ginger ale from their serving lass with a polite ‘thank you.’

Frodo then proceeded to allow Pippin to order the evening meal for everyone. Merry’s eyes widened in surprise and Sam looked a bit worried but Frodo only smiled as Pippin stood and began to tell the serving lass what he wanted. "We’ll have a big plate of cheese and crackers and some of those slices of cold ham to start off, if you please," Pippin said.

In a very low whisper, Merry said to Frodo, "I thought we’d be eating cake all evening."

Pippin continued, "Then roasted potatoes, mushrooms, the cooked carrots, beef stew, bread, cooked apples, and do you have any roasted chicken?" He looked hopeful.

The lass smiled. "We do, sir," she said and Pippin grinned even wider at being called sir in front of his older cousins.

"Then we’ll be wanting that and some peas too if you please," Pippin said.

Sam looked over at Mister Frodo to see if his master might be getting nervous about the size of the order but Mister Frodo was just smiling and sipping his ale.

"I’ll bring the cheese, crackers and ham slices right away," the lass said. "And if you think of anything else you can let me know when I return. I can always add it on."

Pippin was very pleased with this. "Thank you," he said and as she walked away to get their order he turned to the others and said in a low voice, "Are all of the lasses who work here as nice as that one?"

"They are," Frodo said.

"Think you ordered enough food, Pip?" Merry asked taking a sip of his own ale.

"Well, she did say if I thought of anything else that she would add it on," Pippin said taking a large gulp of his ginger ale. "I think she likes me."

"You Tooks," Merry sighed. "You think all of the lasses like you."

"Only because we Tooks are quite popular," Pippin grinned.

"And apparently quite hungry," Frodo said.

"It wasn’t too much was it?" Pippin asked.

"Not for a celebration dinner," Frodo said.

"Oh, and speaking of celebrations, I nearly forgot," Merry said and the other three looked at him as he stood up and gave a loud whistle through his front teeth. Everyone in The Dragon turned to look at him. He cleared his throat and said, "May I have your attention, please?" Everyone continued to looked at him. "I would like to make a toast," Merry declared raising his mug of ale to murmurs of approval from the crowd. Hobbits enjoyed good toasts for several reasons. One, it was an excellent reason to drink and two it usually meant that a celebration was in progress and Hobbits love celebrations. Merry reached over and pulled Pippin to his feet beside of him, cleared his throat again and said, "A toast, to my cousin, Peregrin Took who has just built the finest wheelbarrow that this Shire has ever seen!"

Pippin blushed slightly and everyone stood and drank as if Pippin had just been elected Mayor or something of that sort. There was a round of applause and everyone sat down just as the serving lass brought over the tray of cheeses and ham that Pippin had ordered. She smiled at him and said, "Congratulations on your wheelbarrow. I’ll have the cook to send out extra mushrooms with your meal."

"Thank you," Pippin said and as she walked off he looked over at Merry and gave a gloating smile.

Merry laughed and they all began to tuck into the food which didn’t stop coming for some time afterward. Several folks stopped by near the end of the celebration feast and congratulated Pippin on his wheelbarrow and some asked questions about it which pleased Pippin no end. He spent quite a bit of time explaining about the two extra wheels and praising Sam’s ability as a tutor. Sam spent most of the meal blushing. One of the Proudfoot family asked Sam if he planned to become a full-time tutor.

"Oh, no, sir," Sam said with a modest smile. "I like gardenin’ too much to do that. I just took on the job o’ teachin' Master Pippin because he is such a fine student."

Pippin nearly choked on the mouthful of peas that he was enjoying. Mister Proudfoot grinned at Pippin and patted him on the shoulder. "I look forward to seein’ this wheelbarrow at the fair, lad."

As Mister Proudfoot walked off Merry said, "How much money do you suppose you’ll get for it, Pip?"

Pippin swallowed his mouthful of peas and said, "I’m not selling it."

"You aren’t?" Frodo asked. He wasn’t entirely surprised. He had suspected that Pippin would want to keep the three-wheeled wheelbarrow, especialy after all that he’d been through to build it.

"It’s already got an owner," Pippin smiled. "I’m planning to make a present of it."

"Who’s the lucky hobbit?" Merry asked.

"That is a surprise," Pippin said and shoveled in another mouthful of peas.

"You and your surprises," Merry said. "It seems you’ve kept one secret or another all summer long."

Pippin just smiled at him. Frodo wondered who Pippin might be giving the wheelbarrow to but a glance at Sam revealed that the young gardener didn’t have the answer to that either. At least this secret was a pleasant one.

When they left The Green Dragon sometime later they were all completely full and Frodo’s money bag was considerably lighter. Pippin was still bouncing about as if he were on a wild pony. He chattered all the way back to Bag End and the smile that had been so often absent from his face this summer never wavered.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tobias Tunnely squinted at Mister Proudfoot. He wasn’t sure if he’d heard correctly.  He'd only had one ale this evening and had not been in The Ivy Bush long when Mister Proudfoot had sat down at his table to join him for a round or two. "The Took lad is doing what?" he asked.

"He’s entering his wheelbarrow in the fair," Mister Proudfoot said. "The lad was in The Green Dragon celebrating it with his cousins and Hamfast Gamgee’s son. "Seems they were all right pleased about it. That young Merry Brandybuck even offered up a toast."

Tobias paled slightly at the mention of Merry Brandybuck. That lad was trouble walking if ever he’d seen it. He frowned at Mister Proudfoot and said, "You mean to tell me that Peregrin Took has an entry for the fair?"

"Not just an entry, but the finest wheelbarrow in the Shire according to all accounts," Mister Proudfoot said.

"Who’s seen it?" Tobias asked warily.

"I hear tell several have seen it and that it’s a beauty," Mister Burrows, the town baker said as he joined them. "Word over to the Dragon is that It’s the biggest wheelbarrow anyone’s ever seen."

"How big?" Tobias frowned becoming more distressed with each bit of news. One of his students always won the first prize ribbon at the fair. In fact for the last three years in a row, his students had taken not only first place but second, third and fourth. Lots of lads and even a few lasses were taught carpentry at home by well-meaning friends and relations but only a scant few had managed to win so much as an honorable mention. It was always Tobias Tunnely’s students that took the awards. He tried not to think about the year that Bilbo Baggins had entered a beautiful wooden hope chest that Sam Gamgee had built in the competition. That had been a very dark year indeed for Tobias Tunnely.

"Don’t rightly know for sure, but I hear tell that you could put old Duff Hillstead’s oldest daughter in it and it wouldn’t tip over," Mister Burrows said.

This caused many a raised eyebrow because everyone knew that old Duff Hillstead’s oldest lass was, as the saying went, filled-out more then her share and more than someone else’s.

"It can’t be that big," Tobias said nervously.

"Might be a bit larger than that," Ned Greenholm said. "I hear you could put a couple of baby pigs under her arms and it still wouldn’t tip none."

"Probably ain’t a word ‘o truth to it no how," Mister Proudfoot laughed. "You know how folks talk."

"Still, I’ve watched that young Took lad work with tools and I find it hard to believe that he was able to make any sort of a wheelbarrow," Tobias said keeping his voice low. He certainly couldn’t let word of his comment get back to that Brandybuck lad.

"Oh, well, Frodo Baggins hired a tutor for the lad," Mister Burrows said. He frowned at Tobias and continued. "I hear that he managed to hire Sam Gamgee for the job."

"Now that’s a feat indeed if you ask me," Ned Greenholm said. "Why I hear that the Gamgee lad is goin’ into the carpentry business. Frodo was lucky to get him a’fore he got all booked up with jobs."

Tobias went a bit paler. His mind raced. Was it actually possible that Sam Gamgee was going to become a carpenter? Had any of this been due to his own rather unfortunate remarks about the Took lad? "Booked up? Is it official then?"

"Well, he tied to deny it earlier this evening when I spoke to him over to the Dragon," Mister Proudfoot said knowingly. "But I suspect that was on account of Frodo bein’ there and all. I think ole Sam didn’t want his employer knowin’ that he was going to be settin’ up shop and leavin’."

"But Sam Gamgee isn’t trained in carpentry!" Tobias objected a bit too loudly and everyone in the Ivy turned to look at him. He tried again not to think about Sam's hope chest. "Why he didn’t have any formal lessons. I know for a fact that his father and his older brother taught him. He didn’t have a proper tutor. How can he set up his own business? Why that would be like someone without any training startin’ a bakery or a black smith’s shop or something of that nature!"

"Settle down, Tobias," Mister Burrows chuckled. "There’s plenty of work about the Shire for more than one carpenter."

"I think Tobias is right to worry," said Ned. "Why once the Took lad wins the fair there won’t be no stoppin’ Samwise. He’s a real go-getter that lad is. Why I hear tell he was tendin’ gardens when he weren’t no more than six or so."

"Then you been hearing things that aren’t true," snorted Mister Proudfoot. "Sam was at least twelve a’fore he was workin’ a garden on his own."

"Only twelve?" Tobias murmured worriedly. "But surely he can’t mean to do this. What about his gardening job? Hamfast Gamgee is getting on and I suspect that he’s counting on Sam to step in and take over before too long. In fact, Hamfast has cut his own jobs back considerably over the last couple of years."

"Maybe Sam don’t want to follow in his father’s foot-steps," Ned reasoned as he downed his ale. "Some don’t you know. My own lad flat out refused to be a pig farmer like me, you know. He said he couldn’t stand the animals and he wasn’t spendin’ his life raisin’ ‘em."

Mister Proudfoot laughed. "Did he ever decide what he could stand to do or is he still livin’ out at your smial with his feet under your table?"

Ned scowled. "He’s just havin’ a hard time makin’ up his mind about things is all. I don’t want him rushin’ off to do somethin’ that he ain’t fond of."

"Like earnin’ a livin’ for himself now that he's forty?" Mister Proudfoot asked smirking.

Ned frowned. "We wasn’t talkin’ ‘bout my lad. We was talkin’ bout Hamfast Gamgee’s lad."

Before this could go any further another of the Proudfoot family walked over and grinned, "I hear tell you got competition this year for the fair, Tobias. Word’s out that Paladin Took’s lad has built a wheelbarrow with an extra handle on it that makes it easier to push when it’s full. The thing’s supposed to have an uncommon haulin’ room and some sort of a cover to keep the rain off of whatever you're haulin' in it.  Supposed to be uncommonly good for haulin' firewood."

TBC

G.W. 10/22/2005

Part 17

Pippin stood in the nearly dark bedroom and sighed. The small fire in the hearth was shedding some light on things but not nearly enough to suit him. He stood there in his nightshirt and his trousers with his arms wrapped about his chest and his back to the fire. He stared intently at the bed. It was so hard to believe that only a few hours earlier he had been in The Green Dragon with his cousins and Sam. He had felt so very grown up what with the serving lass calling him Sir and everyone bragging on his wheelbarrow and then there was that moment when Frodo and Sam were engaged in conversation and Merry had allowed Pippin a small, very quick, sip of ale. It had been a wonderful night. Pippin wished that he could crawl into bed, get underneath the blankets and drift off to sleep while thinking about the evening but instead he was standing here like a frightened child.

He shifted his feet uneasily and then studied his thumb nail for a minute. His thumb was still bruised but the nail had not fallen off. There was no way to know for sure if Berilac had been right about thumb nails not always growing back. Sam had assured him that they did but there was still a tiny bit of doubt remaining. Pippin sighed. Why did he have to believe everything that the older lads told him? In fact why did he have to believe everything that anyone told him? He never could seem to sort out the truth of things on his own.

He remember that one time Pervinca had told him that he wasn’t really a hobbit at all. She had told him that he was actually the child of an old dwarf woman who hadn’t wanted him and had left him in the Took’s barn at Whitwell. "That’s how we came to be stuck with you," Pervinca had said. "Now, if you aren’t good to me I will tell mum that you misbehaved and she will turn you out." He had believed her in spite of what his eyes told him. He looked like a hobbit but Pervinca had explained this away saying that dwarf children looked exactly like hobbit children. "You can’t tell the difference until the dwarf child is about twelve or so and then if it’s a lad, it begins to grow a long, thick beard and the foot hair falls out so that you can wear dwarf boots. That’s how you know," Pervinca had said. "When you’re twelve everyone will know and mum and papa will likely have to hide you in the barn so that no one will make fun of you."

Pippin had actually believed every word of this and had spent several nights awake tossing and turning and had cried himself to sleep. Finally, when he could stand it no longer he had asked Pearl about it all and it was she who had told him the truth. He’d only been six at the time but Pippin suspected that any other six-year-old would not have believed a word of it.

Pippin looked at his thumb again and then squeezed his eyes shut. He was going to go over there and climb into that bed and get some sleep. He would just ignore the entire thing. He would get under the covers and curl up and sleep. After all, even if it was true then these couldn’t be the same blankets, could they? Uncle Doc and Aunt Esme wouldn’t have given Bilbo a bed with those very blankets still on it, would they? The bed would have been taken apart so that it could be loaded into a wagon and delivered to Bag End. The blankets would have been taken off and probably disposed of. Pippin opened his eyes and looked at the bed. He was no closer to getting into it than he had been a minute before.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Merry, are you awake?"

Merry moaned and turned over on his stomach. He pulled his pillow over his head.

"Merry?"

Merry shifted a bit and tried to shake off the feeling that he’d done this before. He lay very still and listened intently until he heard it again.

"Merry, are you awake?"

He could hear one of the floor boards creaking.

"Merry?"

He listened as another board creaked but he remained still.

There was a long sigh.

"I guess you’re asleep already. Night, Merry."

This was different. Merry sat up and stared into the darkness trying to focus his sleepy eyes while his heart hammered in his chest. "Pippin?"

Silence.

"Pip?"

"Did I wake you, Merry?" Pippin’s voice asked from somewhere near the foot of the bed.

"Is that really you, Pippin?" Merry asked still unable to see in the dark room. "And don’t stand there nodding your head because I can’t see a thing."

Pippin stopped nodding and said, "I wasn’t doing that."

Merry let out a long breath and said, "Come over here and get into bed. I don’t fancy having you lurk about the room while I sit here trying to see where you are."

He listened as Pippin moved slowly around the bed and then crawled in beside of him. Merry put the blankets over both of them and relaxed against his pillows. "I’m glad it really was you this time," Merry said as Pippin’s cold feet brushed against his leg.

"What do you mean you’re glad it’s me this time?" Pippin asked confused. "Has Frodo been coming and getting into bed with you?"

Merry snickered. "No, you silly Took. He hasn’t. It’s only that I’ve been dreaming that you were coming into my room. I have been having the dream nearly every night. In my dream I hear you asking me if I’m awake and then when I sit up to answer you, I realize that I’m dreaming. This time I’m glad that I’m not dreaming."

"Me too," Pippin said softly. "Because if you were dreaming then I’d still be in my room instead of in here."

Merry laughed. "So, are you going to tell me why you’re here or do you just want to go to sleep?"

"I don’t really want to talk about it in the dark," Pippin said nervously. "Could you light the lantern? It’s too creepy to speak of in the dark."

"All right," Merry said and he got out of the bed, fumbled about in the dark for a minute or two and managed to light the lantern. He adjusted the flame so that it was a rather dim light and then climbed back into bed beside of Pippin. "Better?"

"Yes," Pippin said softly. "Only now you can see me while I’m talking. Do try not to laugh too much." Pippin was clearly embarrassed about something because he had rolled over on his side so that he wasn’t facing Merry.

"I will try very hard," Merry said. "After all, you didn’t laugh at my dream."

Pippin lay still for so long that Merry began to think that his younger cousin had drifted off to sleep. Finally, Pippin said, "When you and I first came here this summer I was actually feeling quite grown up for once. My parents were letting me stay the whole summer here without them just as if I were a tween like you and then Frodo gave me my own room with a door all my own just like I were a proper guest rather than a tag-a-long."

"You are a proper guest," Merry said.

"I suppose," Pippin said doubtfully. "But I never come on my own. I come with you or with my family but I don’t come on my own like proper guests do. I tag-along with you and until this visit I was always in the little room off of your room instead of in a regular guest room."

"I thought you liked the little room," Merry said. "When you started having trouble sleeping in the guest room that Frodo fixed for you I figured that it was because you missed your old room or maybe missed me or something."

"I was kind of sad that the little room wasn’t still a bedroom and I did miss you only that wasn’t the reason that I couldn’t sleep in my new room," Pippin said.

"But you can’t sleep in there anymore can you?" Merry asked when Pippin fell silent.

"No," Pippin said. "I don’t want to hurt Frodo’s feelings, Merry but I just can’t sleep in there now."

"Is that why you won’t tell us what is bothering you? Is it because you don’t want to hurt Frodo’s feelings?" Merry asked.

"I can’t tell Frodo why I can’t sleep in that bed, Merry," Pippin said. "It would upset him if he knew about the bed."

"If he knew what about the bed?"

"Well, I guess he wouldn’t remember it properly and I don’t suppose that Bilbo told him. Maybe Bilbo didn’t know either," Pippin said nervously. "I don’t see why your parents would have given that bed to Bilbo in the first place. It seems rather unkind to me."

"Unkind?" Merry was confused by this remark. How could giving Bilbo a bedroom full of furniture be considered unkind? "Maybe you’d should explain that to me a bit better, Pip. I don’t think I’m following you just now."

"Well, I should think that it might have upset Bilbo to have that bed considering what happened with it," Pippin said. "I know that it would upset Frodo if he knew. I can’t think that he does know because if he did then I think he would get rid of the furniture in a hurry."

"Pippin?" Merry sighed. "I don’t think you’re explaining this very well even for you."

"Well, you remember a few weeks ago just after we came here? We’d only been here for two weeks or so and we went into town to do some shopping for Frodo. It was that day that we ran into your father. Berilac and Merimas were with him," Pippin said. "Do you remember that?"

"I remember," Merry said. "We were in the bake goods shop getting bread for dinner and there they all were getting some things to eat on their way back to Buckland. They’d come in to Hobbiton to look at some ponies that the Greenholm’s were selling."

"You wanted to see the ponies that Uncle Doc had purchased and you went outside ahead of me, remember?" Pippin asked.

"I think so," Merry said. "But what does all of this have to do with Frodo and your bed?"

"While you were outside, Berilac and I were talking," Pippin said."We were waiting for Mister Burrows to finish getting the bread. Berilac asked me if I was still sleeping in the little room. He said it with that tone he uses when he wants to remind me that he’s older than I am. You know the one."

"I do," Merry said. Berilac Brandybuck was a nice enough hobbit but he did enjoy teasing Pippin and sometimes he went too far. Berilac liked Pippin but he also enjoyed picking on him because Pippin was so easy to fool and all of the older lads knew how sensitive Pippin was about his age. Merry could see that this was going to be one of those times that he wished Berilac had not talked to Pippin.

"Well, I told him about my new room," Pippin said. "Merimas seemed impressed by it. He said that now Frodo would probably fix that room up for me every time I came and it would be my special room. That’s when Berilac told me about the bed."

"What did Berilac tell you?" Merry said. He was sure that it couldn’t have been anything good.

"I told him all about the room and how the furniture had been some that your parents had given to Bilbo and that was when he told me," Pippin said.

"That was when he told you what?" Merry prodded.

"That I was ever so brave to sleep in that bed," Pippin said. "In fact he was surprised that Frodo had given me the bed." Pippin began to tell the entire thing now. He lay there in the bed next to Merry and let himself recall the his conversation with Berilac.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"It’s not a very big room, but the furniture is ever so nice," Pippin said. "I have my own wardrobe and the bed is extra large and very comfortable. Frodo said that the furniture once belonged to Uncle Doc and Aunt Esme but I don’t remember that. Frodo said that Uncle Doc gave it to Bilbo to make room for Merry’s studying room. You know, the room just off of Merry’s room that has the desk in it?"

"Not that furniture," Berilac said, eyes wide with surprise. "Surely you can’t mean the furniture that was in Merry’s study."

Merimas wrinkled his forehead in concentration as Berilac said this. He wasn’t sure where this was going but he could sense a prank of some sort. He would have to try and catch on quickly or he might spoil Berilac’s prank.

"That’s the very furniture," Pippin said thinking that Berilac’s reaction to this was because he was envious or impressed. "The large, dark furniture with the extra high headboard."

"Better you than me," Berilac said still wide eyed. He then looked over at Merimas. "You remember that furniture don’t you?" he asked Merimas who was still trying to decide what might be expected of him.

"I think so," Merimas said sounding uncertain and trying not to seem as lost as he felt.

Pippin was watching them both intently. "What about my furniture?"

"Well, I should think that either Frodo doesn’t know where that furniture came from or that he has forgot," Berilac said.

"It was Frodo who told me that it was from the Hall," Pippin said growing puzzled.

"Something’s not right here, Pip," Berilac said. "I remember that bed and there isn’t anything good about it."

"How can a bed have something bad about it?" Pippin asked obviously confused. "It’s a very nice bed."

"It might have been nice before there were dead bodies in it," Berilac said with a shiver.

Merimas’s mouth fell open and he hurried to close it before Pippin looked his way.

"Dead hobbits?" Pippin said. "You’re teasing, aren’t you?"

"No," Berilac said. "That was the bed that they put Frodo’s parents on after they pulled their bodies from the river. That’s why I’m surprised that Frodo would have it in his smial and I am definitely surprised that he would actually let you sleep in it."

Pippin had gone white and he was having trouble forming his words. "B-b-b-but, but Frodo wouldn’t, I mean-"

"I’ll bet he doesn’t even know about it," Berilac said. "I mean they say that when his parents were pulled out of the Brandywine that Frodo was in so much of a state that he could hardly be thought of as lucid. I’ll bet he either wasn’t allowed to see them until they were cleaned up or that he doesn’t remember this."

"H-h-how do you k-know this?" Pippin asked.

"I’ve heard Uncle Doc talking about it," Berilac said. "He said that was why he got rid of the furniture in the first place. He couldn’t stand to have it around and he certainly didn’t want it in the room next to his son."

"You’re teasing me again, aren’t you?" Pippin said in a rather squeaky voice.

"No, I’m not," Berilac said. "In fact, if I were you I’d be very nervous sleeping in a bed that had once been used to put bodies on. I hear that they pulled them from the river and brought them straight up to the Hall and laid them wet and cold and dead right on that very bed!"

Merimas wanted to interrupt but frankly he was far too shocked by this latest prank of Berilac’s to say anything at all. This was beyond wicked.

"So that bed-" Pippin began in a shaky voice.

"That very bed," Berilac said. "I just bet that Frodo doesn’t know that and if I were you I wouldn’t want to be the one to tell him. I can also imagine how scandalized Merry would be if he knew about it."

"Why should Merry be upset? He didn’t even know Frodo’s parents and he isn’t sleeping in the bed," Merimas said. He was starting to wonder if any of this might actually be true. After all, Berilac was certainly telling it as if it were true.

"Well, how do you think Merry would feel if he knew that his own parents had been thoughtless enough to give that bed to Bilbo and Frodo?" Berilac said.

"Here you go lad," Mister Burrows said and he handed several loaves of fresh baked bread to Pippin.

Pippin took the bread without saying anything and continued to stare at Berilac. As Mister Burrows gave Merimas his purchase, Berilac leaned over to Pippin and whispered, "I wouldn’t say anything about this if I were you. You’ve no idea how upset Frodo might get if he truly doesn’t know about that bed."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Merry was sitting up in the bed now and his expression was one of complete rage. Pippin had seen Merry look like this before and it always meant that someone was in very big trouble. Pippin looked up at Merry and then squeezed his eyes shut. "Berilac told me not to say anything and I tried not to say anything, honest, Merry," Pippin said. "I know your mum and Uncle Doc would never hurt Frodo. Please don’t be anger with me but I just can’t sleep in there and there is still a lot of the summer left."

Merry was trembling with rage but he managed to reach over and pat Pippin on the arm. "I’m not angry with you, Pip. It’s all right. However, I do hope that Berilac left the Shire after he told that great load of codswallop because if he didn’t then he is going to pay dearly for this one," Merry said darkly and his eyes narrowed. "I wouldn’t want to be Berilac Brandybuck right about now."

"You aren’t angry with me?" Pippin asked opening his eyes.

"Of course not," Merry said.

"Do you believe it?" Pippin asked.

"Believe what?" Merry asked.

"That the bed that Frodo has in my room is the one that they put his parents bodies on after they pulled them out of the river," Pippin said in barely a whisper. He wasn’t sure what he was hoping that Merry would say. If it wasn’t true, then he’d been gullible again and let an older lad trick him but if it was true then that was simply horrible.

"No, it isn’t true," Merry said kindly. "That bed used to belong to my father when he was a lad. He gave it to Bilbo to make room for my study when I became old enough for lessons. He thought that it would be easier to get me to study if I had a special room for it and because he wanted someone to have it that would take care of it, he gave it to Bilbo."

"It was Uncle Doc’s bed?’ Pippin said.

"It was," Merry smiled gently. "No one died in it or was put into it after they died. In fact I’ve slept in it with Frodo before when I was very small. Your sister, Nell has slept in that bed before while visiting at the Hall. I think the worst thing that has ever happened to the bed is one time, Lobelia fainted in the parlor here at Bag End and Bilbo and Frodo put her on that bed to rest until she came to."

Pippin squeezed his eyes shut again. "I’m an idiot."

"No, you aren’t," Merry said. "You are just far too trusting. You have to learn that not everyone is telling you the truth, Pip. Why didn’t you ask me?"

"Berilac said it would upset you if you thought that Uncle Doc and Aunt Esme had given Frodo a bed that his folks, well, a bed where something like that happened," Pippin said.

"Berilac certainly tied this one up in a grand fashion didn’t he?" Merry sighed. "You couldn’t tell Frodo for obvious reasons, you couldn’t tell me, and if you started coming in and getting into bed with me without telling me why it would just look as if you weren’t old enough for your own guest room."

"Maybe I’m not," Pippin said turning over on his side and facing away from Merry.

"Yes you are," Merry said. "And you and I are going to prove that."

"How?" Pippin asked sitting up and looking at Merry.

"We are going to go into that room now and sleep in that bed," Merry said firmly.

"Both of us?" Pippin squeaked. "Now?"

"Right now," Merry said getting up from the bed. "Come on but be quiet. We don’t want to wake Frodo."

Nervously Pippin followed Merry out of the room.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Now," Merry said as the two of them stood in front of the fire where Pippin had stood before. "We are going to get into that bed and go to sleep."

"But, Merry," Pippin said moving closer to his older cousin.

"What?"

"I know that they weren’t really in that bed now," Pippin said. "But I’ve thought of them in it for so long that I don’t think I can sleep in that bed."

Merry sighed. "That is ridiculous, Pip."

"It’s only that I have a very good imagination, Merry and I can sort of see them there now," Pippin said grimly.

"Stand here if you want but I am going to go over there and get into that bed and go to sleep," Merry said and he began to walk over toward the bed leaving Pippin by the fire.

Merry reached the side of the bed, pulled back the covers and then looked over at Pippin. "I’m going to do this," Merry said.

Pippin bit his lower lip and watched but he didn’t say anything.

"Berilac Brandybuck is not going to frighten me and if you’re thinking straight then you won’t let him frighten you either," Merry said still standing by the bed. "You’ll come over here and you’ll get into this bed with me and we will both show Berilac that he can’t ruin our sleep with a ridiculous story like that." Merry continued to look at the bed. He reached over and fluffed the pillow and adjusted the blankets again. "He is not winning this one."

"Merry, if you’re going to sleep in here, then can I sleep in your room?" Pippin asked.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Don’t say a word about this to anyone, you hear?" Merry hissed as they lay down in the bed in Merry’s room. "I mean it Pip, if you tell anyone about this I will hang you for certain. Are we clear on that?"

"Yes, Merry," Pippin said with his back to his older cousin. He was trying hard not to smile.

"Now, go to sleep and we’ll figure out what to do in the morning," Merry said sternly.

"My imagination is pretty powerful isn’t it?" Pippin asked in a sleepy voice.

"How do you mean?" Merry asked.

"It even frightens you, doesn’t it?" Pippin asked.

Merry groaned. "Go to sleep, Pippin. I don’t want to discuss it."

TBC

Part 18

"What do you think?" Frodo asked as Pippin and Merry stood and surveyed the room.

"I think you’ve emptied Pippin’s room completely," Merry said slowly. He and Pippin had left the smial just after first breakfast without telling anyone about their conversation of the night before. They had decided to discuss it in the light of day and then make up their minds what to tell Frodo. Neither cousin wanted to say anything that would upset Frodo and they both were very sure that Berilac’s story about the bed in Pippin’s room would be very upsetting indeed. They had returned in time for tea only to find that Frodo had been rather busy during their absence.

"What did you do with it all?" Pippin asked cautiously. He looked around the empty room with its bare walls and bare floors. Not even so much as a speck of dust remained.

"Well, I decided that we would start fresh with this room," Frodo said. "Sam and Jolly Cotton and Tom Cotton helped me get things moved out while the two of you were away."

"Why did you move it all out?" Merry asked.

"Sometimes I get in the mood to change things around a bit, Merry," Frodo said. "I’ve never been completely happy with this room. The furniture was a bit too large and I thought it might be nicer if there were smaller pieces in here. I have some things in mind but since Pippin is staying in the room I thought that I would wait until the two of you returned before I made the final selections."

"It’s still my room then?" Pippin asked taking a couple of steps into the empty room and looking back at Frodo.

"Unless you’d like a different room," Frodo said. "I thought this one would work well for you because it is right across the hall from Merry and not too far from my room but if you would rather pick another room since I am refurnishing this one then I don’t mind."

Merry looked at Frodo out of the corner of his eye. He found it rather a strange coincidence that Frodo had chosen to do this today of all days. He also found it odd that neither he nor Pippin had been asked to help empty the room. Frodo was up to something.

"If you want to give it some thought and let me know later that is quite alright, but you’ll have to sleep in with Merry again tonight unless we work quickly," Frodo said. "I would like to redecorate a bit this afternoon and so if you have any suggestions as to what might look good in this room, then I am willing to hear them unless they involve making the room look like the inside of the barn." He winked at Pippin and waited for a response.

Pippin bit his lower lip slightly embarrassed and then asked, "What did you do with the little bed that was in my old room?"

"I put that bed in Bilbo’s mathom room to store it," Frodo said.

"Well, I know it isn’t a very large bed and that it really isn’t the sort of bed that most guests might like, but it would certainly fit in here, wouldn’t it?" Pippin asked.

"It certainly would," Frodo agreed. "It will also be very easy to move. I think that the three of us could have that small bed in here and set up in no time at all, don’t you, Merry?"

"I believe that we could," Merry said. He looked at Frodo to see if he might be able to tell if his older cousin knew about his and Pippin’s conversation of last night but he saw no signs of this. Maybe it was a coincidence.

"You’ll need something to keep your clothing in so after we move the bed then I suspect that we should have a look about the smial for something suitable," Frodo said. "If we are careful then there might be room for a writing desk."

Pippin wrinkled up his nose at this suggestion and said, "I think that a nice, comfortable chair might be better."

Frodo laughed. "Well, I suppose that there is a chair in the smial somewhere that might fit in here." He rubbed his hands together and said, "Come on, lads. Let’s go and get that bed and move it in here. The quicker we get started the sooner we’ll be finished."

Frodo walked out of the room first and behind his back Merry and Pippin exchanged curious looks, a shrug or two and then followed him. Whatever the reason might be, Frodo had decided to refurnish this room and that certainly solved a great many problems. With any luck at all they wouldn’t have to tell him what had happened.

Merry and Frodo soon learned that Pippin’s decorating taste was quite interesting. After setting up the little half bed with the maple head board that had been Pippin’s in the old room the three of them had gone in search of a wardrobe. There was one in Bilbo’s mathom room that actually matched the little bed perfectly but Pippin walked right by it and selected the worst eye-sore in the room."Can I have this one?" Pippin asked looking up at a large wardrobe near the back of the room. It was painted with milk paint and was an odd-looking shade of blue-green. Its paint was scratched and scared and only one of the doors would close. The other door popped open and seemed to be slightly warped with age. The clothing rod inside of the wardrobe was still sturdy and so it was functional in that way at least. Merry expected Frodo to say no to this request.

Frodo looked horrified for about three seconds and then said, "You really want this one?"

Pippin smiled at it and nodded. "I used to hide in this one every time we played hide and seek when I was small, remember, Merry?"

"I do," Merry smiled. "I found you every time because you were always in this old wardrobe."

"It was a grand hiding place," Pippin said. Merry suppressed a chuckle because the wardrobe was anything but. The old thing creaked when someone was inside of it and since the door popped open it was easy to find whoever might hide in it. Everyone was aware of that and so the only one who ever hid in it was Pippin. Pippin continued. "It has lots of room in it and I have good memories of it." He stopped for a minute and asked suddenly, "Where did it come from?"

"Bilbo’s mother made it a long time ago," Frodo said with a smile. "I imagine that she used some of those tools that you and Sam used to build the wheelbarrow when she was building this. Bilbo told me that it was quite pretty at that time and that Belladonna used it to keep her blankets and linen inside of it.  You can still see the tiny flowers that Bilbo painted on the doors of it.  He told me that he used to decorate the things that his mother built."

Pippin smiled. "I want this one.  I didn't know that Bilbo painted those flowers on there.  That makes it more special."

Merry looked at Frodo and crossed his eyes but Frodo just smiled and said, "Then let’s move it into your room."

Soon the little maple bed and the blue-green wardrobe were joined by a comfortable, well-worn brown arm chair with tiny little gold squares running all through the upholstery, an old footstool that had a picture of a duck cross-stitched into its top, a small oak night stand which Merry had once carved his full name across the top of when he'd been about ten, and a small battered old kitchen table which was white with yellow trim. Pippin said that the table would be perfect to put his wash basin and water pitcher on or it could just be used to stack things on. Pippin finished this ghastly collection off by adding a big brown rug made of something that resembled bear fur in front of the fireplace, a large assortment of mismatched pillows and blankets for the bed and a painting for his wall of a large apple tree with a pony underneath it.

Having finished decorating, the three cousins stood back and surveyed their work. Pippin was grinning from ear to ear and pronounced it the finest room in the entire smial. Merry said that it made him slightly dizzy to look at it for too long and Frodo said that it was certainly the most original room in the smial.

"Finish putting your things back into the wardrobe and then wash up, Pippin," Frodo said. "Merry and I will wash up and start supper." He put his arm around Merry’s shoulders and led him from Pippin’s room. They left their young relative standing in front of the wardrobe deciding where to hang his things.

Once they were out of Pippin hearing, Merry said, "I can’t believe you allowed him to do that to one of your guest rooms, Frodo."

Frodo laughed. "I should have allowed him to that very thing sooner. I suspect that he will feel more comfortable in that room now and quit sleeping in my barn don’t you?"

Merry smiled nervously. He wanted to ask Frodo if he somehow knew about the story that Berilac had told Pippin but he couldn’t bring himself to do that and so he said, "I think he’ll sleep in there now."

"Then I am quite happy with the room as it is," Frodo said.

"Frodo?"

"Yes, Merry?"

"Not that it matters terribly much or anything, but what did you do with the other furniture?" Merry asked trying to sound casual.

"Oh, well I have loaned it to the Gaffer," Frodo said. "When Daisy got married he let her take a bed and wardrobe with her and since then they’ve had one empty room. I couldn’t see putting such nice furniture in the mathom room when someone could make use of it and I was sure that your parents wouldn’t mind if the Gaffer used it. He said that bed was larger than any that he had and that he was going to sleep in it himself."

Merry was glad that the Gaffer wasn’t related to Berilac. He also found that he was uncommonly glad that the furniture was no longer in Bag End. He felt silly about that but he was glad all the same.

"Now, lets see what we can have for supper without too much effort," Frodo said. "I’m starving but I am too tired to make anything that will require much work.  I can't believe that we worked through tea time without stopping for a bite.  I need to fill up more than a few corners tonight."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Frodo?" Pippin asked, looking up from his writing for the millionth time that evening.

Frodo frowned. "You’ll never finish that if you don’t keep at it and quit trying to distract me, Peregrin."

"I hate it when you call me Peregrin," Pippin complained. "It’s always said as if I’ve done something wrong."

Frodo smiled and arched his eyebrows. "You mean something like trying to avoid your lessons?"

Pippin sighed dramatically. "I just wanted to ask you a question."

"Then ask it and get back to your assignment if you please," Frodo said. It was easier to allow Pippin to ask about what was on his mind than to ignore the lad and have him lose all concentration. If Pippin had something other than his lessons on his mind then he would not be likely to finish properly any time tonight.

"Did you really want to move the furniture in my room?" Pippin asked.

"Pippin, since you have come here this summer, I have wanted you to be comfortable at Bag End just as Merry is," Frodo said. "Now, you can deny it all you want but I know that you have not felt comfortable in that room. I thought that if I allowed you to chose what sort of furniture was in the room that it just might help you to feel at home during you visit here."

"You allowed me to chose the furniture just so I’d feel comfortable?" Pippin asked, laying the quill down on the parchment on the desk.

Frodo ignored the growing ink blot on the parchment and said, "I want you to feel welcome here, Pippin. Sometimes I think that you believe that I only invite you because you’re so close to Merry, but that isn’t true at all." He smiled. "You are quite a bit younger than I, but you are very dear to me and I want you to know that."

Pippin’s eyes filled with tears and he leaned over against Frodo who was seated in a chair beside of him with a book in his hands and gave him a hug. "How did you know that I sometimes think that?" Pippin asked.

"Because I know you better than you think I do," Frodo said. "Merry Brandybuck is not the only older cousin who understands you." He returned Pippin’s hug.

"Thank you for my guest room, Frodo," Pippin said sitting back up straight at the desk. "And for letting me borrow Sam and for not making a fuss over my table manners and for being patient with me and for loving me."

"The table manners have been a bit hard to adjust to," Frodo teased. "But the rest has been my pleasure." Frodo reached over and removed the quill from the parchment and looked at Pippin. "Now, get another piece of parchment and write down your thoughts about the fair. You seem to have blotted this one."

Pippin wiped his eyes with a handkerchief that Frodo handed to him and sighed. "Why isn’t writing as much fun as carpentry?" he complained.

"It is for some hobbits," Frodo said. "Some hobbits prefer writing to carpentry." He settled back in his chair and looked at his book. "Do your lessons now, Peregrin Took so that you can go to bed in your newly decorated room. You will need to be well-rested for the fair tomorrow."

Pippin gave his dear older cousin a small smile and turned his attention to his parchment reluctantly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pippin was in his bed in his newly decorated room feeling warm and comfortable when he heard the door open. He raised up to see Merry slipping into the room. His cousin moved soundlessly to the bed and sat down. "Did Frodo say anything at all while you were having your lessons tonight? He certainly didn’t give us anything to go on during supper," Merry whispered.

Pippin smiled at the memory of what Frodo had said but he knew that this was not what Merry was asking about and so he shook his head. "Nothing and I asked him, sort of," Pippin whispered back.

"You did?" Merry looked worried even in the dark room. Pippin could be rather blunt at times and Merry did hope that Pippin had not come right out and said something like, ‘Say you didn’t hear Merry and me discussing some rubbish that Berilac told me about your parents, did you?’

"I just asked him why he let me decorate the room," Pippin hissed.

"Oh, and what did he say?" Merry asked.

Pippin smiled. "That he wants me to feel welcome and that he didn’t think that I was comfortable here." Pippin snuggled down into his blankets and said, "I think it’s all right now, Merry. I don’t think we will have to tell Frodo what Berilac said." He yawned.

Merry heaved a sigh of relief. "Good. Then let’s promise never to mention it to him."

"I promise," Pippin mumbled and he yawned again.

"Me too," Merry whispered. "Night, Pip. Get some sleep. You have a wheelbarrow to display at the fair tomorrow." He stood to leave his younger cousin’s room. He took a quick look around and discovered that Pippin’s room didn’t make him the least bit dizzy in the dark. In the dark, everything seemed to match perfectly. He crept silently from the room and into his own room. As he lay down on his own bed he realized that he was about to get a good night’s sleep for a change. Maybe Frodo had been right. Maybe he had simply been worried about Pip. Now that Pip was fine again, he would be fine too. Younger cousins were such trouble. They caused a hobbit so much worry. On the other hand, younger cousins, especially Pippin, were rather endearing at times. With that thought, Merry drifted off into a dreamless sleep and began to snore softly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Won’t do for you to spend the whole night pacin’," Hamfast Gamgee said as he came into the small kitchen and found Sam awake.

Sam stopped in his tracks and looked over at his father. "I’m just a bit worried about tomorrow," Sam admitted.

"What about it?" Hamfast asked as he walked over to the cupboard and removed a bottle of ale. He pulled out a second one and sat both of them on the table.

"Well, I ain’t too sure about this contest," Sam said, sitting down at the table across from his father.

Hamfast pushed one of the bottles of ale toward Sam and said, "Why are you worryin’ about a thing like that for?’

Sam took a long drink of the ale. "What if Master Pippin don’t win nothin’?"

"What if he don’t?" Hamfast asked squinting at Sam. "No disgrace in losin’ if you done your best."

"I just hope he don’t get too down hearted if his wheelbarrow doesn’t win," Sam frowned. "He worked real hard on it and he’s just startin’ to like carpentry. I don’t want him to get discouraged."

"I think Master Pippin will be just fine however it all comes out," Hamfast smiled. "Are you maybe just a bit worried about puttin’ your teachin’ skills up against old Tobias’s?"

Sam winced. "It might have crossed my mind that if Master Pippin didn’t do so well that it might be because I’m not a carpenter. I mean, I’m a fine gardener thanks to you, but I’m not a carpenter like Mister Tunnely. What if Master Pippin’s wheelbarrow winds up lookin’ shabby next to what Mister Tunnely’s students have entered?"

"Sammy, you worry too much and you forget to take credit for what’s owed you," Hamfast grinned. "I had a peek at that first wheelbarrow that the Took lad built." He made a face. "From what I seen, you done worked a miracle by teachin’ him to build a proper one. That one he’s built this time is first rate. You helped that lad and that’s what counts when you’re teachin’ someone."

"I suppose," Sam said a bit uncertainly.

"Course it is," Hamfast laughed. "Take Mister Frodo for instance. Now, when Mister Bilbo first left us, Mister Frodo might have starved to death if it weren’t for you and Marigold cookin’ for him and bringin’ him things. Now, he’s a right good hand in a kitchen and that’s thanks to you and your sister givin’ him a few pointers along the way. Mister Frodo might not ever take a prize in a cookin’ contest, but he’s improved more than seemed likely at first."

Sam grinned at the memory of some of Frodo’s less than successful efforts at cooking. "So you’re sayin’ that even if Master Pippin don’t win, he’s still learned a lot?"

"That is exactly what I’m sayin’, lad," Hamfast said, finishing the last of his ale and standing to leave. "And from all I hear, you’ve learned a thing or two about standin’ on freshly shellacked wood."

Sam blushed.

"Always good if the student can help out the teacher from time to time," Hamfast laughed. "But then everyone always tells me you got your feet firmly planted. This time, they’d have been right." He winked at Sam and as he left the kitchen he called out. "Put out the lantern and go on to bed, Sammy. No tellin’ what tomorrow will bring, but you don’t want to sleep through it all."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Frodo quietly opened the door to Pippin’s room and looked in. It took his eyes a minute to adjust to the darkness. The light from the fireplace danced over the walls. Frodo’s eyes rested on Pippin’s sleeping form stretched out on the bed on his stomach with one arm draped over the side of the bed and the other underneath his head. He could hear Pippin’s even breathing and he smiled. Another problem solved. He backed out of the room and went to check on Merry. The snores from Merry’s room brought another smile to his face. Both lads were sleeping peacefully.

He closed Merry’s door and headed down the hall to his own room. Tonight would be a restful one for the hobbits of Bag End. Maybe he’d read a bit before he settled in for the night. There was nothing like a good story to help him drift off to sleep.

TBC

 

Part 19

Pippin stood staring at his wheelbarrow as it sat on display amid dozens of other carpentry entries. Sam was standing next to him. Sam couldn’t help but look around at the other projects to see what sort of competition his one and only student would be facing but Pippin had eyes only for the wheelbarrow. It sat there in the fifth space between a rowboat, obviously a Buckland entry, and a group of hand-painted wooden boxes of all different sizes. Sam frowned at the boxes and wondered if it was exactly within the rules for the builder to have entered them all. Shouldn’t contestants be limited to one item?

Pippin moved a bit closer to his wheelbarrow and grinned down at the small sign posted in front of it. ‘Wheelbarrow, built by Peregrin Took under the instruction of Samwise Gamgee. This item is not for sale.’

Sam noticed that the builder of the rowboat was listed as having been instructed by Otto Greenhills of Buckland. Otto was a well-known boat builder and most of the boats on the Brandywine were built by Otto Greenhills. Sam frowned intently. He hadn’t realized that there might be entries from other parts of the Shire. Didn’t Buckland have its own fair? He looked over at Master Pippin who was still studying the wheelbarrow. It was as if the other entries held no interest at all for the lad. Sam scratched his head. He remembered when Mister Bilbo had insisted that he enter his hope chest in this very competition. Sam had spent a great deal of time going around and looking at all of the other projects just to see if his measured up. He remembered being extremely nervous, especially because his little sign in front of his project had not listed anyone at all as instructor. He had picked up most of his carpentry knowledge by watching his father and some of the carpenters in Hobbiton. He had built the hope chest unassisted for the most part.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Merry looked intently at the project in front of him and frowned. "What do you suppose it is?" he asked Frodo.

"I don’t know," Frodo said slowly. "I’ve never seen anything at all like it."

Someone near them cleared his throat and the two cousins turned toward the noise. A round faced young hobbit lad who could not have been more than fifteen smiled at them and said, "That one is mine. I built it myself."

"I noticed that there wasn’t an instructor listed," Merry said.

The rather rotund lad grinned. "That’s because I didn’t have an instructor," he said and proceeded to take a bite out of a toffee-covered apple that he was holding. He crunched loudly and then said, "Bet you’ve no idea what it is, do you?"

"It’s very well constructed," Frodo offered diplomatically.

"Looks like excellent wood," Merry said smiling and eyeing the toffee apple with perhaps a bit too much interest because the lad seemed to tighten his grip on the stick and move it closer to his chest.

"It’s all right," he said. "No one knows what it is because there isn’t another one like it in all of the entire Shire! I invented it." He took in their surprised expressions and said, "Want to know what it is?"

"Yes," Merry said glad that the youngster wasn’t upset with them for not recognizing the item.

"It’s a coat-stool!" he proclaimed proudly. He took another bit of his apple while Merry and Frodo studied the project still trying to fathom its use or purpose.

"It works like this," the lad said helpfully. "Say you’ve come in from a long day’s work in the cold and you have your jacket on and your feet and covered in mud." He front made his way over to the project. He picked up a jacket that had been laying near it and proceeded to hang it on the portion of his creation that looked like a long thin pole with several pegs sticking out of it. He then sat down quickly on the stool which was connected to the pole. "You hang up your coat and then you can sit down and clean your feet!"

"I never would have thought of that," Frodo said truthfully and Merry had to fight the urge to giggle.

"The only problem is you have to sit down rather quickly or the weight of the coat turns the whole thing over," the lad admitted. "It still has a few bugs to be worked out but once I’m through with it, no smial will want to be without one."

"Impressive," Frodo said, marveling at the young lad’s sale’s pitch. He noted the slate in front of the item where potential buyers could list their offers. If an item was for sale then it had a slate in front of it. The lad was actually planning to sell this thing!

"Can I ask you something?" Merry said.

"Certainly," the lad said standing up quickly and snagging the coat from the peg as the coat-stool teetered and nearly fell.

"Where did you get that toffee apple?" Merry asked.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Samwise Gamgee," a deep voice said and Sam turned to see that the speaker was none other than Tobias Tunnely.

"Mister Tunnely," Sam said neutrally.

"I see you managed to help young Peregrin finish his project," Tobias said and he shot a quick glance over at the wheelbarrow and Pippin who had not noticed him.

"He done it all himself, Mister Tunnely," Sam said firmly. "I only just taught him the proper way to use the tools."

"That must have been quite a challenge," Tobias said in a silky tone of voice.

"It weren’t as hard as all that," Sam said and he was spared from saying anything more when Mister Merry and Mister Frodo came up behind him. Sam noticed that Mister Tunnely took a step back upon seeing Mister Merry.

Merry, who was holding a toffee apple on a stick in one hand, shot that hand out toward Tobias Tunnely quickly and said, "You ought to get one of these, Mister Tunnely. Delicious!"

Mister Tunnely nearly fell backward. It was as if he had mistaken Merry’s gesture as some sort of a threat and was trying to get out of the way. Frodo gave Merry a slight glare knowing that Merry had intended to surprise Mister Tunnely. Tobias recovered his wits and said, "I think I will go and get a toffee apple now. Good day to you all." He hurried off without asking Merry where to get toffee apples and Merry grinned broadly.

"Meriadoc, why is Mister Tunnely afraid of you?" Frodo demanded.

Merry shrugged and quickly filled his mouth full of toffee apple.

Frodo sighed and turned to Sam. "Where is Pippin?"

Sam pointed over toward the wheelbarrow.

Frodo grinned. "Pippin doesn’t seem overly proud of it or anything, does he?"

"I’m just right worried about what he’ll do if he don’t win, Mister Frodo," Sam said nervously.

"We can’t do anything about that, Sam," Frodo said gently. "I’m sure that Pippin knows that he might not win. It’s a rather large contest this year and there are a great many entries."

"I know one that isn’t going to beat him," Merry smirked. "I think that Pip’s wheel barrow will win out over that jacket-chair-thing."

Sam looked puzzled and Frodo said, "It was a Coat-stool."

"What’s that?" Sam asked.

"Oh, Sam you have got to see this!" Merry crowed and began to drag the rather surprised gardener away. "We may be a few minutes, Frodo. I think Sam will want a toffee apple."

"You mean that yours is nearly gone and you will want another," Frodo laughed. "Mind your manners, Meriadoc!"

Frodo watched them go and then walked over to join Pippin who was standing in front of his wheelbarrow and smiling. "Enjoying the fair, Pippin?" Frodo asked.

"Oh, very much, Frodo," Pippin said. "Doesn’t it look splendid there with its name sign and all?" He pointed to the wheelbarrow.

"It certainly does," Frodo agreed.

"I never had an entry into a contest before," Pippin said. "I’ve been in contests myself but I’ve never made anything for a contest. This is the first time."

"Are you enjoying it?" Frodo asked. He had wanted to ask if Pippin might be nervous but he didn’t want to bring that topic to the lad’s mind if Pippin wasn’t thinking along those lines.

"Very much," Pippin said softly. "One time we went to a fair in Tuckborough and Pervinca had entered this dress that she’d made and it won an honorable mention. Another time there was this jam making contest and I remember that Pearl’s strawberry jam won first prize. Nelly once made a lace table cloth that she entered in a sewing circle contest but it didn’t win anything." He smiled at Frodo. "I thought it should have won something but Pearl said that Nell’s lace was rather crooked and that the stitches were a bit too lose for it to be a winner. All the same, I thought it was quite good enough to win something."

"Well, you are in a rather large contest this time," Frodo said. "There are quite a few entries."

Pippin nodded and looked at his wheelbarrow. "I know and right here in the middle of all of them is mine," Pippin said proudly. "I have something in the contest with my name on it and everything."

Frodo returned Pippin smile. He hoped that would be enough for his young cousin. "Pippin, I’m going to go over to the stable for a minute or two and see some of the ponies. Do you want to come with me? You have a while before they begin the judging," Frodo said.

"You go on, Frodo," Pippin said. "I want to look at my wheelbarrow for a while longer and then maybe look at the other projects."

"Very well, but don’t you wander off too far," Frodo said. He turned and left Pippin gazing at the wheelbarrow. The lad was certainly happy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pippin had been walking about looking at all of the carpentry projects for a while now. He had seen quite a few items on which Mister Tunnely was listed as the instructor but some of the projects didn’t list anyone at all as instructor. Those were the truly interesting ones as far as Pippin was concerned. He had met the lad with the coat-stool, had seen a set of lopsided shelves that a young lass had made, and had seen a lad who was proudly standing next to a large wooden box without a lid. ‘It’s for storage and storage is very important you know,’ the lad had explained.

He had also seen the row boat which was almost as nice as the one that Merry owned, a set of four chairs with carved high backs, a very solid set of shelves, a jewelry box, a rocking chair, a headboard with flowers carved into the wood, and a doll house. He was just coming to the last section of projects when he saw a young lass standing and looking up at a wardrobe. He stepped quietly over next to her and began to look at the wardrobe also.

It was painted white and had tiny pink ribbons pained on the doors as decoration. The legs of the wardrobe curved outward and the top of it looked like waves on the sea are supposed to look. At least that is what it made Pippin think about. He had seen pictures of the sea in some of Frodo’s books. There was a card in front of it that read, ‘Wardrobe built by Holly Gladstone with instruction by her grandfather, Eldon Gladstone’.

"Do you like it?" the young lass asked.

"Very much," Pippin said."I have one at my cousin’s smial in my room that used to be this nice."

"You do?" she asked, interested.

"Yes, a lass built it too," he said looking up at her. She was about an inch taller than he was with tight brown curls and small brown eyes.

"I built this one," she said quietly.

Pippin grinned at her. "It’s very good. Is it the first thing you’ve built?"

"No, I entered last year too," she said. "I’ve built lots of things with my grandfather, but this is the biggest thing that I’ve ever made."

"It is very big," Pippin agreed.

"Did you enter something?" she asked.

"I did," Pippin grinned. "It’s my first time and I was worried that it wouldn’t turn out. Do you want to see it?"

"All right," she said and she followed him past the rows of projects toward his wheelbarrow.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"How many of those have you eaten?" Frodo frowned as Merry approached him munching on another toffee apple.

"Not too many," Merry said evasively. "Where’s Pip?"

"He is still looking at the carpentry projects," Frodo said. "I came over here to see the ponies but he didn’t want to join me. I left him staring at his wheelbarrow and smiling."

Merry laughed. "You’d think it was made of solid gold or covered with toffee."

Frodo eyed Merry’s toffee apple and then asked, "Where is Sam?"

"The Gaffer convinced him to go with him to look at the flowers," Merry said. "Poor Sam is so nervous about this contest. He’s really worried about Pippin."

"I’m glad that he went with the Gaffer," Frodo said. "Maybe the Gaffer can calm him down a bit."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Surprise!" Pearl said as she walked over to where Pippin stood admiring his wheelbarrow again. The young lass who had come with him looked curiously at Pearl as Pippin grinned broadly and gave his older sister a hug.

"Pearl! I didn’t know you were here," Pippin said genuinely pleased. "No one said that you were coming."

"It’s a surprise then isn’t it?" Pearl said. "Who’s your friend?"

Pippin blushed slightly and then said, "Pearl, this is Holly. She’s in the contest too. Holly this is my sister, Pearl."

"Hello, Holly," Pearl said.

"Hello," the young lass said.

"Fine then, don’t introduce me," another voice complained. "I’ll just go right back to Whitwell."

"Nelly!" Pippin shouted and hugged her too.

"Another sister?" Holly asked.

"This is my sister Pimpernel, but I call her Nell," Pippin explained. "Nell, this is Holly." Having said this, Pippin peered around Nell and Pearl as if waiting for something.

"Pervinca couldn’t come," Pearl said. "She sprained her ankle when she tripped over one of the barn cats and so she wasn’t able to walk around well enough to come. She complained plenty that we were leaving her and so I know she wanted to be here."

"Is she going to be all right?" Pippin asked.

"Of course she is," Nell said. "It’s only a sprain. She’ll be up and about in a couple of days as if it had never happened."

"I have to be getting back to my project," Holly said. "They will start the judging soon and I promised my grandfather that I would meet him there, Pippin."

"Good luck," Pippin said.

"You too," Holly answered. "It was nice meeting all of you." She gave a quick wave and then hurried off.

"So, anything you want to tell us?" Nell asked arching an eyebrow and glancing at Pippin.

He blushed furiously. "I only just met her. She has the most amazing project," he said.

"Most lasses do," Merry said as he came up bringing several toffee apples with him. "Here Pip. You haven’t eaten since we arrived. Have a toffee apple." He saw Pearl and Nell and smiled warmly at them. "I still have one extra. Either of you interested in a toffee apple?"

Nell reached out and took it and then said, "Thank you, Merry." She took a small bite of the apple and then looked at Pippin. "Well, are we going to see what you’ve entered in this contest or are you saving it as a surprise?’

"Here, Pearl," Pippin said handing his toffee apple to his oldest sister. "Come with me." He lead them over to the wheelbarrow. Merry stayed where he was and ate his apple. He would let Pippin have some time with his sisters. He knew that although his little cousin complained about them, Pippin had missed them very much this summer.

"Where’d you get that, Merry-lad? I’ve been looking all over this fair for the toffee apples," Saradoc Brandybuck said, patting his son on the shoulder.

Merry turned and smiled at his father. "I’d be glad to show you. The hobbit selling them knows me well and I just might be able to get you a cut in price."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The judges were moving from project to project and questioning each builder in turn. Pippin stood fidgeting next to his own project and waited. Sam was standing with Pippin’s growing crowd of supporters because the instructors were not allow to stand with their students. The judges often asked questions and they did not allow the instructors to assist. They wanted the young builders to answer the questions themselves so that they might be able to find out if the students had learned anything. It was also a way to spot lads and lasses who had not actually built their own projects.

Frodo reached over and patted Sam on the shoulder reassuringly. The normally steady Sam was doing some fidgeting of his own at this point. On the other side of Sam, Hamfast Gamgee lit his pipe and seated himself on an old crate. Saradoc Brandybuck and Pearl Took were just behind the Gaffer talking quietly and catching up on family news. Nell was eating a second toffee apple and standing next to Frodo. Merry had moved off a bit from the others and was giving Pippin reassuring smiles. No one noticed when Berilac Brandybuck walked over and stood beside of Nell.

A bit further down the line, Frodo watched as Tobias Tunnely mouthed instructions to the lad who had built the sturdy wooden shelves. Tobias looked a bit nervous. Frodo smiled and wondered how the coat-stool had faired in the judging. He would have loved to have seen that but was afraid of missing Pippin’s moment with the judges.

"Is this your project, lad?" an older hobbit with grey curls and a bright red judge’s vest asked as he and two other judges approached Pippin.

Pippin cleared his throat and clasped his hands tightly behind his back so as to keep from waving them about. "Yes, sir," he said in a nervous voice.

Beside of him, Frodo heard Sam mumbling something that sounded rather like, "Please don’t let nothin’ go wrong now." But Frodo couldn’t be sure. He reached over and patted Sam on the shoulder again. All eyes were on Pippin now.

The three judges began to ask their questions.

Judge 1: "Did you build this wheelbarrow, lad?"

Pippin: "Yes, sir."

Judge 1: "On your own?"

Pippin: "Well, I built one on my own but it was dreadful and then my cousin Frodo,(points) that’s him over there. He hired Sam to teach me.(points again and smiles) That’s Sam."(waves at Sam.)

Judge 1: "And did Sam build this wheelbarrow for you?"

Pippin: "Oh, no sir. He wouldn’t even help me take the old one apart. He just told me what to do and I had to do all of it." (Holds up his left thumb.) "I smashed this thumb with a hammer three times and got the other one once. This one is still a bit blue but if the nail falls off, it’ll grow back. My cousin, Berilac lied to me and told me that it wouldn’t grow back but Sam set me straight about that. (Merry has just noticed Berilac and gives him a glare while Pippin is speaking.) Sam’s a fine instructor."

Judge 2 : "Why does this wheelbarrow have three wheels? Was that something that your instructor thought of?"

Pippin: "Oh, no, that was all down to me. I thought of it because it makes it easier to move it you over-load it." (General laughter from the crowd.) "It does." (Pippin says this looking at the crowd.) "I’m not very strong and sometimes I put too much in our wheelbarrow at home. My sister Nell says that I bite off more than I can chew. That’s her there." (Points to Nell who smiles and waves.) "I put the extra wheels on because sometimes I have had to unload some of the stones or wood from our wheel barrow because I can’t lift it. The ones that only have one wheel won’t move if you can’t lift them but this one will."

Judge 3: "Won’t it roll away while you’re trying to unload it?"

Pippin: (goes up to the wheelbarrow and bends down.) "I put these metal bars on the wheels so that I can lock the wheels in place when I get where I’m going." (Demonstrates how the locks work while judge 3 leans over and observes, nodding.)

Judge 2: "What sort of finish is on this?"

Pippin: "Three coats of shellac to make it hold up under bad weather." (Grins at Sam but does not tell the story of how his instructor got stuck to a board.) "It’s very tacky when it’s drying so you have to be careful." (Smiles at Sam who smiles back.)

Judge 1: "Why did you decide to build a wheelbarrow for your project?"

Pippin: "I like wheelbarrows. My sister Nell used to push me all over our garden in the wheelbarrow that we have at home." (Blushes) "I was just a wee lad then. Oh, and they’re very useful. You can haul most anything in them."

Judge 3: "Do you think that you’ve learned anything while working with your instructor on this project?"

Pippin: "All sorts of things. I learned how to measure things proper and how to make wheels that actually roll instead of the sort that I was making which weren’t really very good wheels at all. I learned how to drive nails into things without smashing my thumb or hitting anyone else in the head. I learned about shellac and about terpentine and about using tools like a wheelwright’s traveler and a plane and a saw and, well, and a hammer. I also learned that a good teacher has to have lots of patience and that he has to be willing to go slow on his instructions some of the time. Sam’s very patient and he says things so that you don’t feel stupid or get confused and if you don’t get it right the first time, he doesn’t yell he just shows you again and you start all over."

(Judges glance over at Sam and smile at him,)

judge 2: "If you wouldn’t mind, could you show us your wheelbarrow?"

Pippin: "I’d be most happy to."

Sam was blushing as he watched Pippin walk all around the wheelbarrow pointing out details and finally insisting that each of the judges push it on one wheel and then on all three to see the difference. Pippin’s crowd of supporters where all very proud of him.

"One more thing," Judge number one said. "Why aren’t you selling your project?"

"I mean to give it as a gift to someone," Pippin said looking at the judge rather than his audience so as not to give away the surprise.

"Thank you for your time," the third Judge said and with that they moved over to the lad from Buckland with the rowboat.

Pippin came over and joined his family and friends. "Did I do all right, Sam?" he asked.

"You did real good, Master Pippin," Sam said. "Them judges were impressed. I could see that."

Pearl leaned over and kissed Pippin on the cheek. "Very impressive, Pippin."

Now the hard part would be waiting until the winners were announced. After the judges finished with the last few entries they would confer and the prizes would not be given out for another couple of hours.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They were all over at the fruit and vegetable stands looking over the produce. They had walked around trying to make the time pass. In spite of his growing desire to throttle Berilac, Merry managed to hold his temper. He didn’t want to ruin Pippin’s day by beating the tar out of Berilac and he wasn’t sure how he would explain his actions to Frodo. Beating up Berilac would just have to wait.

Pearl had a full bag of fresh mushrooms in one hand and a full bag of apples in the other. Nell was selecting some potatoes. The two lasses had promised that they would make a celebration supper at Bag End this evening if Frodo would allow them to use his kitchen. Frodo had quickly agreed.

"What if I don’t win anything?" Pippin asked.

"Then we shall celebrate the splendid job that you did with the judges and the wonderful wheelbarrow that you built," Pearl said.

Pippin grinned at her. "And either way, we have to eat."

"There’s the toffee apple cart!" Merry grinned and he made his way through the vegetable carts over to the vender who was waving at Merry and smiling.

Catching site of the vender, Frodo chuckled. "So, that explains Merry’s sudden obsession with toffee apples."

"What?" Pippin asked. He turned to look and then he laughed too. "Estella Bolger."

They all watched as Merry went over to Estella Bolger and bought yet another toffee apple from the one lass in the Shire that always caught his attention. "Merry’s lucky that lass isn’t selling green apples or he’d been one sick hobbit by now," Saradoc observed.

"Look at the cows," Pippin said excitedly and he started over toward a young hobbit who had several cows tied to a post.

Everyone followed and as soon as they reached the cows the young hobbit grinned at them. "Don’t suppose any of you are in the market for a good milking cow are you?" he asked. "I’m selling these three off as it’s been a good year for calves. I have more than I can keep fed." Frodo took a step forward and the hobbit who was selling the cows put a hand on Frodo's chest. "Watch where you step, sir. I need to do a bit of cleaning up and I’ve not had a chance." He pointed to a large pile of cow dung just inches from Frodo’s foot.

"Oh, that was close," Frodo said and quickly backed up.

"I might be interested," Saradoc said, stepping across the dung and walking over next to the cows for a closer look.

"Are we buying a cow?" Merry asked coming over with his latest toffee apple in hand.

"Might be," Saradoc said as he ran a hand down the cow’s flank.

"You certainly wood if Estella Bolger were selling them," Pippin teased.

Merry ignored him and took a bite out of his apple.

Berilac stepped closer. "You just getting one cow?" he asked looking over at Saradoc.

"Well, I haven’t made up my mind as yet," Saradoc said. "These are fine animals you have here."

"Thank you, Mister Brandybuck sir," the young hobbit said. Everyone recognized the Master of Buckland even if they were not from Buckland.

Frodo moved forward and frowned. "I had thought of getting a cow, but I don’t think my little barn would be the proper place for a cow."

"Your barn is fast becoming a work shop," Merry said.

Berilac turned to look at Frodo and say something but he never got the chance. As Berilac turned, Frodo moved slightly and ran into Berilac knocking him to the ground. Berilac landed flat on his backside and a rather nasty squishing sound was heard. Pearl and Nell both covered their mouths and Pippin’s mouth fell open.

"Oh, dear, Berilac, I am sorry," Frodo said making no move to help Berilac up. "I believe that I must have run into you. Clumsy of me. I should pay more attention to my actions. You just never know when something that you’ve done will cause someone else to become uncomfortable."

Merry’s eyes were wide and he looked at Frodo intently to see if his older cousin had actually done this on purpose. Berilac wrinkled up his nose and blushed.

"I hope you have other trousers, Berilac," Pippin said trying very hard not to smile and failing.

Berilac groaned. "We only came into town for the day. I didn’t bring anything." He started to push himself up from the ground and proceeded to place his hand into a second pile of dung.

Frodo sighed deeply. "Isn’t that always the way? The more you stir it, the worse it gets." He smiled at Berilac.

Merry looked over at Frodo and watched as his older cousin reached a hand down to help Berilac to his feet. Berilac reached up with his clean hand and took the offered assistance. Just as Berilac was nearly to his feet, Frodo let go. "Oh, my," Frodo said. "I am sorry, Berilac. I guess I lost my grip."

Berilac glared up at Frodo and then slowly pushed himself to his feet with his clean hand. Everyone backed away and the Gaffer chuckled. "Seems a hobbit becomes right unpopular when he’s been sitting in dung, don’t he?"

Berilac was almost sure that Frodo had knocked him down on purpose but he would never be able to prove that. He accepted the nearly clean rag that the hobbit who owned the cows offered him and began to clean his hand off. Merry and Pippin exchanged looks, both of them trying to figure out exactly what had just happened. Finally, Merry moved over next to Pippin and whispered, "I think Frodo knows."

Pippin nodded and then smiled. Frodo ignored his younger cousins and scratched the nearest cow gently on her head. "You just have to watch your step," he said.

TBC

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There is only one more part to go after this one and I do want to thank you all for reading and for reviewing so faithfully throughout this little story. You have all been so encouraging and I thank you. The toffee apples were Pippinfan1988's idea and I do have to thank her for that. She wanted toffee apples at the fair and I must say, Merry enjoyed them very much. Again I thank Topaz_Took for helping me with the names of some of the older tools. Thank you all for reading and the last chapter will be posted soon!

G.W. 10/30/2005

Before I get on with the final chapter I just want to say thank you to a few folks who have helped me with this story.

Topaz_Took, who spent some time helping me with the names of some older tools that the hobbits might have had for building.

Gamgeefest, who has been keeping a watchful eye on my version of Sam. I don’t often write much with Sam in it and so I was a bit nervous about this, but Gamfeefest has helped me keep Sam on track and been very encouraging.

Pippinfan1988, who gave me the idea for the toffee apples at the fair which Merry enjoyed tremendously. PF is always so encouraging and so very dear. Thank you my friend!

Larner, who recently wrote a story that mentions Pippin’s carpentry lessons, called "Gifts and the Benefits of Scholarship" If you haven’t read it, you should. It is wonderful just like all of this author’s stories.

`````And finally, I want to thank everyone who reviewed and read this one. I do believe that I have gotten the best response to this story of any that I have ever posted! Thank you all for being so very generous and supportive!

And now, the final chapter

G.W. 10/31/2005

Part 20

After Berilac was cleaned up a bit, Frodo told him to walk up to Bag End and get a change of clothing but to be quick if he didn’t want to miss the judging. A rather contrite, and terribly smelly Berilac hurried off. Frodo noticed that everyone moved out of Berilac’s way as he hurried past them. The lad should have no trouble getting through the crowds.

They were all standing around in the market area, having left the cows behind in favor of more food shopping, while Pearl and Nell made their final selections when Estella Bolger joined them. "I thought you were working hard, Estella," Frodo said.

"I was, but you won’t believe it, Frodo," Estella said. "I’ve sold completely out of toffee apples and I haven’t any more apple in my supplies so I can’t make any more. It has been my best year ever."

There were snickers from the others as Estella looked puzzled and Merry flushed slightly. "I only feel sorry for anyone who didn’t get one of them," Merry said. "They were delicious."

"You would know," Nell grinned. "Our Merry is a fine judge of toffee apples."

Merry ignored her teasing and smiled at Estella. "If you’ve closed up shop then you can come with us to hear them announce the winners of the carpentry competition. We were just getting ready to go back."

Estella smiled, "Anything for my best customer of the day." She linked her arm in his and the entire group began to walk toward the carpentry exhibit.

They had not gone far when Fredegar Bolger joined them. He fell into step beside of Pippin and said, "Fine looking wheelbarrow you have in the competition, Pippin. If it had been for sale I had a mind to bid on it."

"Really?" Pippin said looking surprised.

"I did indeed," Fredegar said. "I could make good use of those extra wheels. I am not at all fond of heavy lifting."

Pippin grinned. "If I weren’t giving it as a gift then I would be happy to sell it to you, Freddy."

"Well, if you ever build another one, keep me in mind will you?" Freddy asked.

Pippin flushed with pleasure. Right now, with the exception of Merry, there was not a happier hobbit in all the Shire. Frodo gave Fredegar a smile.

"You’ll have to join us for our celebration supper, Fredegar," Pearl said. "Nell and I are cooking dinner at Bag End tonight and I am sure that Frodo wouldn’t mind if you and Estella joined us."

"That’s a wonderful idea," Merry said before Fredegar could answer.

"Can we?" Estella asked Fredegar.

"Why of course we can," Fredegar said. "Never let it be said that any Bolger passed up an invitation to a meal! As it happens I have purchased several lovely pies at the fair today that might just make nice additions to your feast. I have them over in the back of my cart."

"You have pies left?" Merry teased.

"After the way you polished off those toffee apples, I wouldn’t discuss anyone else’s eating habits, Meriadoc," Fredegar said. "I managed to eat several pies today but I still have a few left."

"That would be perfect, Freddy," Pearl said.

"Any blueberry?" Pippin asked hopefully.

"Two, as it is a special favorite and so I bought a great number of those," Freddy said.

"Right now, all o’ you best get your minds off your stomachs and onto the judgin’" Hamfast warned. "I believe they’re about to commence. Best get up there to your wheelbarrow, Master Pippin."

"Oh, right," Pippin said. He reached out and took hold of Sam’s arm. "Come on, Sam. The instructors have to stand with their students for this part."

A startled Sam allowed himself to be led by Pippin to where the wheelbarrow awaited their return.

"I think that there’s a prize of some sort for the instructor," Saradoc whispered to Frodo.

Frodo grinned. "It’s a good thing that Sam doesn’t know that or he’d really be nervous," Frodo whispered. "It would be wonderful if Sam were to win something."

Saradoc patted Frodo on the shoulder and grinned. "I saw a set of shelves that reminded me of your carpentry lessons."

Frodo sighed. "I saw those and my heart went out to the lad who was standing beside of them."

Saradoc chuckled. "I was thinking about that lad's poor tutor."

Frodo gave Saradoc a wry smile. Frodo looked over to the wheelbarrow and saw Pippin fidgeting while poor Sam tried not to look too anxious. Sam never enjoyed being the center of attention. It always embarrassed him, but Pippin seemed right at home. The lad was all smiles and he kept waving at Pearl and Nell who waved back fondly.

"Good luck, Pip!" Merry shouted.

Pippin grinned at Merry and shouted back, "I just want Sam to win!"

Sam’s eyes widened and the Gaffer chuckled. "Little Took could ‘a gone all day without sayin’ that."

"You don’t know our little brother very well, do you?" Nell grinned. "If it’s the wrong thing to say, then Pippin will probably say it at least once and maybe twice."

Sam was listening as Pippin explained about the prize that was given for outstanding work by a tutor and everyone watched as the color drained from Sam’s face. Just as the judges were making their way to the center area, Berilac returned in a pair of Frodo’s trousers that were too short by several inches and a bit too tight. He moved in next to Fredegar and whispered, "Did I miss anything?"

"They’re just starting," Fredegar said and he eyed Berilac’s clothing curiously.

"It’s a long, rather unpleasant story," Berilac sighed. "Please don’t ask."

One of the judges whistled and everyone looked toward the front. "Thank you all for coming," he began. "Now, I want to say that this was one of the finest competitions that we have had in some years and so it was very difficult to select the winners. Before we get started, I just want all of you to give a big round of applause for our contestants. I think they have all done a fine job this year!"

Everyone cheered and clapped and Merry snickered as Pippin bowed slightly. Sam was still in shock over the news of a prize for the instructors. Nell placed her fingers in her mouth and let go with a whistle that would have made any lad proud and Pippin grinned at her. Pearl elbowed her younger sister and hissed, "That is not proper behavior for a lass." Nell just smiled and repeated her performance as Pearl rolled her eyes.

"Now, we have a great many awards to give out today so I am going to start us off with the honorable mention," the judge said. "That prize goes to one of Tobias Tunnely’s students. Will Elmer Grubb please come forward and receive his ribbon for the lovely carved headboard that you see just over there."  He pointed to the headboard.

Everyone applauded and Elmer Grubb, accompanied by Mister Tunnely, came forward and received his ribbon and a small wooden plaque. "Congratulations, lad," the judge said.

"Thank you, sir," Elmer said.

"A fine student you have there, Tobias," the judge said.

"I suspect you’ll be seeing me up here several more times," Tobias said loudly. "All of my students were excellent this year.  Experience, you know."

"That’s my boy!" Mister Grubb yelled and he poked Hamfast in the ribs so hard that the Gaffer nearly lost his breath. "Did you see my lad up there, Gaffer?’

"I did," Hamfast grunted. "Congratulations." He rubbed his ribs and straightened back up for the next award.  Hamfast hoped that Mister Grubb didn't have any more talented children in the competition or he was likely to need a healer's attention.

"Now, in third place we have a new-comer to the competition and the only student entered by a brand new tutor, Samwise Gamgee. So will everyone join me in congratulating Peregrin Took on his win for that fine wheelbarrow?" the judge said and thunderous applause erupted as Pippin practically bounced over to the judge with Sam at his heels.  Sam was grinning in relief and Pippin was so excited that he was ready to pop.

Nell gave Pearl a look, Pearl nodded, and Nell whistled again. This time, she was joined by Merry and Saradoc. Fredegar and Pearl were clapping hard and yelling while Estella, Frodo and Berilac shouted ‘Way to go, Pippin!’ at the top of their voices.

Hamfast took the opportunity to return a favor and elbowed Mister Grubb in the ribs. "My Sam’s the lad’s teacher!" he declared.

Mister Grubb groaned and nodded.  "Good for you, Gaffer."

"Here you are, Peregrin," the judge smiled when the noise had died down a bit. He handed the ribbon and a slightly larger plaque to a grinning Pippin.

"Thank you!" Pippin said and he waved to his family and friends as he held up the plaque. "Look, I’ve won something!"

"Nicely done, Mister Gamgee," the judge smiled patting Sam on the back as Pippin charged over and began showing off his ribbon and his plaque. Sam followed him catching sight of a sour-looking Mister Tunnely who was clapping politely.  Sam couldn't resist giving the old hobbit a grin as he passed him. 

With difficulty, Pippin and his supporters quieted down so that the next award could be given. "Our second place winner this year traveled here from Buckland to enter," the judge began. "So give a fine congratulations to one of Otto Greenhills’ students for this splendid rowboat, Tolberic Brandybuck!"

"Hey, he's family too!" Merry shouted and he waved to Tolberic who waved back. 

Saradoc clapped also. "I thought we had another, less important, relation in this contest," Saradoc grinned, patting Pippin on the head.

"That’s a wonderful boat," Pippin said, clapping.

"Dang it all!" someone in the back shouted. "Givin’ a prize for somethin’ as queer as a boat! What is this contest comin’ too?"

Pippin and his group clapped harder and Saradoc glared back into the crowd and said loudly, "If you’re ever in water up to your ears you’ll wish you had a boat!"

There was laughter as someone else shouted, "You tell ‘em Saradoc!"

Beaming, Tolberic Brandybuck accepted his ribbon and plaque and thanked the judge and then went to join his parents. Otto Greenhills was no where in sight and so the judge explained, "Otto couldn’t be here today because his oldest daughter is giving birth to her third child."

Again, Tobias Tunnely was clapping with a sour expression on his face. Merry turned and waved at him. "Nice boat isn’t it, Mister Tunnely?" Merry called just as the applause died down.

Mister Tunnely nodded weakly and looked back toward the judges. "Behave, Meriadoc," Saradoc hissed but his heart wasn’t really in his rebuke.

"Now, for our first place winner," the judge said. "This year we had quite a time deciding on a winner but once we saw the work of this young contestant we simply had to award her the prize. Her grandfather has built half of the furniture in Hobbiton and so she has been well-tutored. Please give a round of applause to our big winner of the day, tutored by Eldon Gladstone, the builder of one of the finest wardrobes that I have had the pleasure to see, Miss Holly Gladstone!"

"Whistle Nell, it’s my friend," Pippin said breaking into wild applause.

Nell gave Pearl a slight shrug and whistled loudly as Holly Gladstone and her grandfather made their way over to the judges.

"Way to go, Holly!" Pippin shouted and the lass waved to him just before taking her ribbon and plaque.

"Congratulations on a fine job, Miss Gladstone," the judge said with a smile.

"Thank you so very much," she said. "There were so many lovely things entered this year. I am proud to win."

"A real talent you’ve got there, Eldon, as well as a very gracious winner," the judge said.

"That she is," he said and he turned and smiled at Pippin. "And I like the looks of that three-wheeled-wheelbarrow too." He winked at Pippin who beamed back. As Mister Gladstone passed Mister Tunnely he said, "Just not your year, Tobias."

Merry howled with laughter and Frodo nudged him in the back. "Ease up and be a better sport, Merry." Frodo was biting his own lip to keep from smiling too widely.

"Pearl, can I invite Holly and her grandfather to dinner too?" Pippin asked. "After all, she has something to celebrate too."

Pearl looked quickly at Frodo who nodded. "After the awards are finished then go over and see if they can come and you might also have Merry to ask that nice Brandybuck lad who built that rowboat."

"Now, calm down, folks because we have two more awards to give out so don’t go leaving on us yet," the judge said waving his arms for silence.

"Two?" Merry frowned.

Frodo shrugged. "I know there’s the one for tutor but-"

"Sam’s award," Pippin broke in confidently.

"Now, Master Pippin, I don’t think," Sam began, but the judge was calling for quiet again and so he didn’t finish.

"This next award is for the most inventive project in the competition," the judge said.

"That coat-stool," Pippin guessed with a knowing smile.

"Every year, we like to award our young builders, not only for the quality and workmanship of their projects, but also for any new innovation that might either make an item sturdier, make it more useful, or make it more practical," the judge said. "This year there was no question in our minds as to the clear winner."

Pippin nodded. "Coat-stool," he told Merry.

"What's that?" Estella whispered.

"I can't discribe it," Merry whispered.  "You really have to see if for yourself."

"We had one entry that had a new twist and I must admit when I first saw it I had my doubts but the lad who built it explained it so well and demonstrated its practicality  and I must admit that I was completely convinced that it should win this award!" the judge continued.

"Well, don’t keep us in suspense, judge!" someone shouted from the rear of the group.

"Give a big round of applause to a young lad with a big idea!" the judge said. "Come and collect your prize for the invention of a three-wheeled wheelbarrow, Peregrin Took!"

Pippin looked stunned, "Me?" He looked at Merry. "What about that coat-stool?" he whispered.

"According to the builder, it still had a few bugs," Merry whispered, grinning proudly at Pippin.

"Go on, Pippin!" Pearl said and she gave him a push forward.

Pippin hurried up again to thunderous applause and a whistle from Nell. The judge extended the plaque to him and said, "I expect that the Shire will be full of three-wheeled wheelbarrows by this time next year thanks to you. How did you come up with it?"

"Well, I just always over-loading our wheelbarrow at home so I figured this would be easier than unloaded it and starting over," Pippin said with a modest shrug.

"What did your instructor have to say on the subject?" the judge asked.

"He told me that he thought it was a good idea and that I could give it a try," Pippin said. "That’s him over there, Samwise Gamgee, the best tutor that there ever was!"

"Well, that makes it official then, because he’s our winner for the tutor of the year award! Come on up here Sam and get your plaque," the judge said.

The applause, whistles and shouts were actually making some of the projects rattle as Sam, blushing from ear-to-ear, made his way up to join an excited Pippin. Hamfast elbowed Mister Grubb again and shouted, "That’s my Sam! That’s my lad!"

Grumbling and rubbing his ribs, Mister Grubb moved a few steps away from the excited Hamfast and took a hold of his wife's shoulders and moved her to the space between himself and the Gaffer.

"Here you are, Mister Gamgee," the judge said handing Sam a large plaque. "For a job well done. Of all of the projects here today, your student was allowed the most creativity in his work and he spoke most highly of your teaching. We hope you’ll become a regular at the competitions. There is nothing harder to find that a good teacher who inspires his student in the way that you have."

Sam cleared his throat and looked at his feet for a minute and then he said, "Well, I sure weren’t expectin’ this."

"I was!" Pippin crowed patting Sam on the back.

"You can bet that Mister Tunnely wasn't expecting it either," Merry whispered to Frodo who choked back a laugh.

"I just want to thank you all for this and to thank Master Pippin here, for bein’ such a fine student," Sam said. "Any instructor would have been lucky to have him."

More cheers erupted and Merry, who had managed to move closer to Mister Tunnely elbowed him hard in the ribs and said, "You hear that? Anyone would have been luck!"

Tunnely coughed and rubbed his ribs and then looked solemnly at Merry. "I believe you’re right, Meriadoc," he managed.

Merry’s eyes were wide now and he watched as Mister Tobias Tunnely approached Pippin and Sam right in front of everyone. Mister Tunnely extended his hand toward Pippin and said, "I am very sorry that I misjudged your talent, Master Took. I can assure you that in the future I will not make that mistake again. Congratulations on your victory."

Pippin smiled at him and accepted his hand. "I awfully sorry I hit you with a hammer, Mister Tunnely."

Mister Tunnely rubbed his head. "It’s much better now, lad."

"Do you want to come to dinner at my cousin Frodo’s," Pippin asked. "We’re celebrating."

"Oh, no, thank you lad.  I wouldn’t want to intrude," Mister Tunnely said.

"No intrusion," Sam said from behind Pippin.

"Thank you, Samwise that is most generous of you," Mister Tunnely said. "I do think that this celebration should be for you and your student. You did the job that I should have done and did it admirably." He shook hands with a very surprised Sam.

"Still, in a way you’re responsible for it all," Pippin said brightly. "If you hadn’t quit then I never would have got Sam for my tutor." Pippin grinned up at Mister Tunnely completely unaware that his remark was in any way offensive. "You should come to dinner too."

Merry snickered. "I love it when he says things like that."

Frodo groaned, rapped Merry on the head and walked over to Mister Tunnely. "You are welcome to join us, Tobias and so is your student who built that fine-looking headboard. Come to dinner and let us bury the hatchet or in this case, the hammer."

"Very well, I would be honored to eat dinner with the carpentry instructor of the year and his award-winning student," Mister Tunnely said.  "Thank you for your gracious offer, Mister Baggins and you also, Peregrin."

"Splendid!" Pippin crowed. "I have to go see if Holly can come." He dashed off.

"That one has a very forgiving nature," Mister Tunnely said.

"That is just one of the reasons why we are all so protective of him and so very proud of him," Frodo said with a smile.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dinner was a huge success and Frodo had so many guests that they sat up tables in the garden and ate outdoors. This solved the problem of having enough room but it also brought about the problem of uninvited guests. Never have dinner in your garden unless you are prepared to feed anyone who should pass by!

Fortunately, they had enough food and all of the uninvited guests congratulated the winners and made a fuss over Pippin’s wheelbarrow so everyone was welcome. At one point in the proceedings, Berilac Brandybuck stood and offered the most unusual toast of the evening, "I just want to say that I am sorry for any trouble that I might have caused by my unfortunate remarks.  It was dreadful of me and I regret it more than I can say," he said a bit sheepishly. "I also want to thank cousin Frodo for inviting me to the dinner in spite of my behavior and for loaning me these trousers after I accidently sat in cow dung." This drew laughs from everyone as Berilac modeled his too small trousers good-naturedly.

Pippin’s new friend Holly sat next to him during dinner and they talked about carpentry as if both had been building things for years. During the meal, the lad who had built the coat-stool dropped by to deliver it to its new owner.  It seems that Pippin hadn't been unable to resist buying it.  Frodo watched as Pippin paid the lad for the strange contraption and then invited him to have something to eat.  The young inventor pocketed his money and sat down next to Pippin and Holly.  He promptly joined their conversation as Pearl sat a full plate in front of him. 

"That is the finishing touch to Pippin's new room," Merry told Frodo pointing to the coat-stool which was now sitting just behind Pippin's seat at the table.  "Aren't you glad that he was able to get it cheap?"

"I can't tell you how it makes me feel," Frodo said.  "I might just ask the lad to build one for your room."

"I don't think it will match anything in my room," Merry grinned.  "But it will fit in perfectly with Pippin's things.  In fact, I can't think of any room in the Shire that it would look good in *except* Pippin's."

Just as the meal was winding down and everyone was filling up their corners or lighting their pipes, Pippin jumped to his feet and went over to get his wheelbarrow. "If it’s all right with everyone, I should like to give my wheelbarrow to the hobbit that I have wanted to give it to since I started working on it," Pippin said. "Well, since I started working on it with Sam, anyway."

"Go ahead, Pippin," Frodo said.

Pippin pushed the wheelbarrow over and parked it next to a rather surprised Hamfast Gamgee. "Here Mister Gamgee, I want you to have this," he said.

"Me?" the Gaffer asked. "Well, what did I do to deserve this fine gift?"

"Well, I think you may be one of the reasons that Sam let me build it," Pippin grinned. "When I was explaining about the two extra wheels to Sam, he told me that he thought it would be good for someone with a bad back like yours. He said that you could use one like this and so now you have one." 

Hamfast looked over at Pippin and grinned. "It’s the finest present that these old bones of mine have got in some time, lad. I don’t know how to thank you."

"You already have," Pippin smiled.

"I have?’ the Gaffer frowned.

"You let Sam tutor me and that’s how I built this in the first place so my first wheelbarrow should be yours," Pippin said.

"Your first?" Merry asked.

"I’m thinking of building a couple more of them," Pippin grinned. "There’s more summer left and Sam did say he’d help me a bit more when he had time so I figure it might be a good idea to build more of them."

"I think that’s a fine notion!" Hamfast grinned and he gave Pippin a hug. "You and my Sam make a fine team."

Merry leaned over and whispered to Frodo, "Do you think the Shire is ready for all of these three-wheeled wheelbarrows?"

"I do indeed," Frodo said. "I can only hope that Pippin owns the only coat-stool, but more three-wheeled wheelbarrows will be welcome."

"Put me on your list, Pippin," Fredegar said. "There’s no hobbit in all the Shire who’d enjoy a wheelbarrow that’s less work than I would."

"I’ll put you down for the next one, Freddy," Pippin grinned.

Just then there was a loud ripping noise and everyone looked at Berilac who was backing up toward the smial and blushing. "I think I’ve ruined your trousers, Frodo," he said embarrassed. 

Merry laughed and came over to his cousin. "I think you’ve suffered enough, Berilac. Why don’t I loan you a pair of mine?"  He put an arm about Berilac's shoulders and helped him back into the smial.

"Here, Pippin let’s test this thing out," the Gaffer grinned. "Stack them dishes and things in it and we’ll wheel it to the kitchen for a quicker clean up!"

Pippin grinned and began to pile Frodo’s dishes in the wheelbarrow. "I’m on clean up!" he called out.

"You’re one of the guests of honor. You can’t be on clean up," Fredegar objected.

"The cooks are asleep and so I think someone had better step in," Pippin grinned as he looked over at his two older sisters who were sitting on the grass against a tree napping. "Looks like if I don’t help we’ll not have a Took in the kitchen." He put another plate into the wheelbarrow and grinned at the Gaffer. "This is a great idea, Gaffer. Maybe I should build a wheelbarrow that is made just for clearing dishes."

"Sam, I believe you’ve started something," Saradoc grinned. "The Shire really will be filled with three-wheeled wheelbarrows by this time next year."

Sam just grinned and lit his pipe. Master Pippin couldn’t have given him a better gift.  He wouldn’t have to worry so much about days when his old Gaffer was working alone. Now, he would know that the Gaffer wasn’t straining his back nearly as much because of the new wheelbarrow. As he watched his father push the wheelbarrow easily around the tables while Pippin and Holly loaded it up, he smiled.

"So will you be opening a carpentry business now, Sam?" Saradoc asked.

"No, sir, Mister Brandybuck, sir," Sam said. "I suspect that I’ll be helpin’ Master Pippin to build a few more o’ his special wheelbarrows, but I think I’ll be goin’ back to gardenin’. I don’t think I can go through any more o’ them contests."

"So, the finest carpentry tutor in all of the Shire will be giving up a promising career as a builder to continue gardening?" Saradoc asked.

"Yes, sir," Sam said. "I’m a gardener and I suspect that’s all I'll ever want to be. I like watchin’ things grow and helpin’ them on their way."

"I think you’ve spent the summer doing exactly that, my friend," Frodo said coming over and putting an arm around Sam’s shoulders. "Pippin looks a bit taller than when the summer started and he certainly is on his way."

The End

G.W. 10/31/2005





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