In which Pippin surprises Merry
"I wish he would just get on with it, now that we know what must be done," Pippin said from behind me.
I didn't answer. From my vantage point at the parlor window in the sparsely furnished Crickhollow house, I could see Frodo meandering about the small gardens, ostensibly to see how they would suit Sam. I knew well that what he really was doing was breathing deeply the Shire air and feeling the sun on his shoulders.
"It is just awful, this waiting," Pippin continued, coming up to stand beside me and peering out at Frodo. "Don't you think, Merry?"
"He does not want to go," I said softly. While Pippin was fretful with worry for Frodo, as evidenced by this chafing impatience, I found that I was simply sorrowful for my older cousin, who loved the Shire so.
Pippin snorted. "Of course he doesn't! But nothing has changed, and he must go, and this ridiculous charade about his money running out -- well, it's just no good for my taste. If we must leave, I say we should grab our packs and be gone. This waiting is interminable."
I turned to look at Pippin, frowning. I knew he was anxious, but there was nothing more we could do at that moment. "It is what he thinks is best, and the plan that he and Gandalf set upon. What would you have us do -- tell him we know of the Ring and then decree his next move? It is his burden, Pippin, not ours."
He waved off my concerns. "No, no, I don't mean that, and I don't begrudge Frodo a moment he gets to spend at Bag End and not on the Road. But the wait is agonizing once you have decided what course to take!"
I looked at Pippin hard for a moment and then turned back to the window. Frodo's body had disappeared from view, but I could spy the top of his head over some shrubbery. I heaved a sigh.
"I wish he were coming to live here, even if it meant giving up Bag End. So close to the Hall, among family and friends. We could practically live on the banks of the Brandywine next summer . . ." My voice trailed off at the thought of what could have been. What would never be, I feared.
Pippin made a noncommittal noise and I could hear him moving restlessly about the room. I could track him without turning almost as much by familiarity with his pattern of pacing as by sound. Always moving, that one, never able to sit still or be idle, until all the motion caught up with him at the end of the day in one fell swoop and he toppled into the deep slumber of the innocent.
My knuckles tightened on the edge of the window sill.
"Pippin," I said in a low voice.
"No," he said emphatically.
I did not turn to look at him, still following Frodo's path intently with my eyes. "Yes," I said firmly, knowing he understood my intent perfectly without further words.
"Meriadoc Brandybuck," he said in his clear, ringing voice, "I am going with Frodo."
I finally turned from the window to face the confrontation I had had been dreading. Pippin stood tall, legs apart firmly on the ground. He had on his most determined face, the one I had readied myself for, and I saw -- something, something new, flicker across it. I turned my gaze from that something new, resolute that I would not be dissuaded from my intent.
"Someone needs to stay here at Crickhollow and give the impression that Frodo is still about for a while," I said, looking at some point on the blank wall behind Pippin's shoulder. "They can tell visitors Frodo is ill, or working on some project, or something. We need to throw off anyone who might come looking for him with bad intentions for as long as possible."
"Fine. We will find someone to stay behind at Crickhollow," he answered steadily.
"I mean for it to be you," I said plainly.
"No," he said just as plainly.
I drew a deep, quivering breath and scrabbled together what determination I could find. I have never been able to deny Pippin anything. None of us has. It was no easier now than when he was a lad wanting one more story, or the last slice of cake, or to go traipsing about with the bigger children rather than staying at home with the children his own age. But this time, this time I was decided that Pippin would not have his way, not when it could mean his very life.
I looked him directly in the eyes. "I will go to your father, Pippin, and tell him everything, and then you'll not even be staying at Crickhollow, never mind going off into the wild with Frodo."
His lips pressed together into a thin line and the tips of his ears reddened. He didn't speak for several moments, and I knew he was holding back the stream of invectives I had anticipated would follow my ultimatum. When he did begin to speak, his voice quavered some, but it was still as clear as a bell.
"What would you have me say, Merry? What would you have me say when you and Frodo and Sam are overtaken on the Road and the Ring falls to the Enemy? What would you have me say when his armies come storming over Brandywine Bridge? What would you have me say when all we hold dear is wiped away? That I was afraid, so I stayed behind in safety? That I was young, so I let my dearest friends, those I love more than myself, go to face danger alone? That I didn't know what good I could do anyway, so I decided not to do anything? Is that what you would have me say, Merry? Is that the kind of hobbit you would have me be?"
My mouth hung open, so thunderstruck was I. Pippin's shoulders were back and his head was high. That something new I had seen in his face, glimmering behind his 'I want my own way' look, had covered over the old expression. His eyes flashed at me, and for a second, for a breath, I almost took a step backward.
"I just, I would," I faltered. I put a hand on the window sill and the feel of something solid beneath me brought me back to myself. "I would have you unhurt, and unthreatened, Pippin. I would have you alive." I choked at the end, barely able to even voice the idea that Pippin, he who could not be dearer to me were he my own brother, would be anything but alive, ever.
"Oh, Merry," he said, and it was a tone I had heard countless times, and when I looked at him, the fond, indulgent smile was one I had seen on his face countless times. "Oh, Merry," he said, my Pippin again, "of course you would. And you would have Frodo never leave the Shire except on a pleasurable ride to visit with Elves, and you would have Sam eternally cultivating the gardens at Bag End in busy contentment. And I do not believe you would choose this for yourself, either, cousin, and nor would I, but I don't think we get to choose. This is what is. The only choice that I see as I get to make is to do anything I can against the Enemy, or to hide here in the Shire and hope the Darkness never comes. For if it does, no one in the Shire will be unhurt, or unthreatened, Merry, and staying here would not guarantee my safety.
"I am going with Frodo, even if I am not any good to him. At least he will know I am there, and he is not alone in this," he finished.
So there it was, and I still have never been able to deny Pippin anything. This has always been his way -- to not only win the battle but to make you love him all the more in your losing.
I passed my arm across my stinging eyes and took a shaky breath. "Aye, well, I had to try," I said, my voice a mite unsteady.
"Of course you did," Pippin said cheerily. "But you should really know by now that there is no use trying to leave me behind -- I will follow you every time."
"I do know, Pip, I do," I said, and reached out my arms and then he was in them, and my face was buried in his curls and he was our dear little Pippin and this new person who was just emerging all at the same time. "Tell me, cousin, how can I have known you since the day you came squalling into this life and still have you surprise me so thoroughly?" I asked into his hair.
He laughed and I imagined I could feel the joy running through him and passing into me like a tangible thing. I wondered if he knew that he did this -- shared all that wonderful energy with anyone who came close enough to his glowing spirit.
"Well, I would hate for anyone to ever say, 'That Peregrin Took, now he was one you always knew what to expect from.' Can you imagine, Merry, me growing into a predictable hobbit?" He shuddered.
I stepped back to look at him, loosening my embrace but keeping my hands on his shoulders. "Pippin," I said seriously, "I assure you that so long as the sun rises and the stars shine, no one will ever call you predictable."
"I'll second that!" came Frodo's voice from the doorway. Pippin and I pulled apart and I quickly rubbed at my eyes with my sleeve again. "What's all this?" Frodo asked, catching sight of our flushed faces and my wet cheeks.
"Frodo," Pippin said gravely, "there is something we must talk to you about." I opened my mouth in horror, but there was no way to stop him without giving everything away myself.
"Well, speak up then," Frodo said, his face now serious and his brow furrowed with worry. My stomach fell down into my feet and flopped around a little in anxiety.
"Our dearest cousin," Pippin began, "we say this only because we love you and know what this means to you. You may try to stop us, and you may say it's rash, but, Frodo, dear Frodo," he paused dramatically and my heart stopped beating, "we simply must help you finish the last of the Old Winyards before the Sackville-Bagginses can get their hands on it."
Frodo and I both let out our breath in a gust and promptly began laughing with relief. My knees wobbled a little and I silently vowed that someday Pippin would get his for this behavior.
"Peregrin, my loyal cousin and friend," Frodo answered, "I will accept your help in that regard most willingly." Then he looked at me and tilted his head slightly, wanting to know if something was wrong. I shook my head slightly and quirked a smile at him. Frodo looked puzzled, but I knew he would let it rest for now.
"We hobbits must do what we must do," Pippin replied, his voice still solemn, though his eyes were twinkling. He clasped an arm around Frodo's shoulders and the two of them started back out of the house. "So what will Sam think of the gardens?" I heard him ask as they passed the threshold.
I stayed for a moment, looking out at the gardens again. Sam would have found them to his liking, I think, and though it wasn't Bag End, this was a nice little place and Frodo could have been quite happy here.
But we hobbits must do what we must do.
As I closed the door behind me, I realized what the something new I had seen on Pippin's face was. Courage.