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Needle in a Haystack
Goldi sighed. It was tiresome, she thought, to arrive at the Great Smials, to be cheered well, actually they were cheering her father, the Mayor, though she thought of him as Dad and didn't understand what all this Mayor business was about, anyhow, except that it meant he was often away for some reason or other. Sometimes he'd take the whole family with him, and then there would be (lovely) good things to eat and (tiresome) speeches for young hobbits to fidget or doze through.
Her thoughts tumbled one over the other, rather like the chuckling Tuckborn stream that splashed and danced over rocks, sparkling in the spring sunshine. She'd like to be there right now, chucking stones in the stream to watch them splash, while her sisters gathered wildflowers and wove them into wreaths and garlands. All the while her Mamma would laugh with Mistress Diamond and her Dad would talk with the Thain in low, pleasant tones. There would be picnic baskets full of good things, and when everyone tired and sprawled on the blankets, the Thain would tell one of his stories...
But it was tiresome, Goldi resumed her thought, to arrive and be cheered by the Thain and all his many Tooks, and then to be whisked off to bed, pressed to the bosom of a bustling matron who kept exclaiming how weary they all must be, after that long journey in the waggon, and there were baths for the young hobbits if need no? Well, then, beds were ready for naps, then, and would Missus Gamgee care to join the Mistress in the best parlour, or would she rather rest and refresh herself first? (Meanwhile, the Thain had spirited Dad away who-knew-where? Not to a nap, Goldi was almost certain of that. Naps were for young hobbits oh how she chafed at youth! and for Mamma when she was feeling poorly and all were fussing at her to put up her feet.)
This was not one of those times, though. Mamma went off to join the Mistress, and Goldi was tucked up in a big bed with several other young Gamgees, tumbled together rather like puppies, all but Elanor and Frodo-lad, who were allowed to go and play.
It was tiresome, but Goldi was not tired. Not that kind of tired. Young Merry, Pip-lad, and Ham, Rosie-lass, Daisy and Prim, why, even little Bilbo in his cradle, soon all were sleeping under the minder's watchful eye. Soothing susurrus filled the room, but Goldi felt wide awake. She sat up from the bed, only to have the minder whisper to her to lay herself down, and would she like a drink, or...?
What she wanted was to bounce, but that would waken everyone and earn her a scolding. She'd learnt her lesson on an earlier visit to the Smials. She shook her golden head and curled herself once more, resenting the gentle hands that smoothed a coverlet over her. She was not sleepy.
She might have dozed, however, for she jerked sharply at a whispered summons.
She lay, blinking and wondering. A louder heavy breathing-half snoring had joined the young hobbits' sounds, and glancing cautiously at the rocking chair by the cradle, she saw that the minder's chin was on her chest and she was as peaceful as (most of) her young charges. So it was not the minder who had whispered. Who, then...?
The summons came again. Pip! Merry!
Raising herself slowly, she looked toward the doorway where a shadow hovered. The shadow was calling, she thought, and shivered.
Again came the call. Pip! It was a little louder, less whisper and more voice this time, and the voice was young, and familiar.
It wasn't a very large shadow, she mused, shrugging the tension from her shoulders. A moment later, her suspicions were rewarded by the sight of a small, tousled head that poked its way into the room for a quick glance at the sleeping minder, and then hastily withdrew. Pip!
Young Faramir had evidently eluded his own minder and come in search of his Gamgee playfellows. Pip-lad was only a year older than Farry, and as he and Merry-lad were all but inseparable, the three of them would go everywhere together when the Thain brought Farry to Bag End, or the Mayor brought his family to the Great Smials. It was as if they were three pieces in a pie, or three peas in a pod, or so Goldi had heard it often remarked.
Farry was due to be disappointed this day, however. His erstwhile playmates were sound asleep, and rousing them might well rouse the slumbering dragon in the rocking chair.
Goldi, however, was awake, and accustomed as she was to tagging after the lads, she saw no trouble in responding to the summons, even though her name had not been included.
She slid silently from the bed, as silent as a young hobbit accustomed to slipping away from an unwanted nap when an older sister's attention wanders, or perhaps an older brother, set to watch the little ones, falls asleep, or... In any event, she was well-enough practiced that her older sisters Elanor and Rose and brother Frodo had learnt to take better care when given her charge.
Pip! Faramir whispered again, while Goldi crept to the doorway, and then she pounced, rather like one of the roly-poly kittens she and Farry had admired, nestled in the manger of an empty stall, on the last visit made to the Smials by the Mayor and his family.
Hush! she warned, eyes gleaming in the half-light of the turned down watchlamp. Do you want to waken the Orcs?
Farry's eyes began to dance. How he loved a good game! He put a tentative hand up to Goldi's, and she allowed him to pull her hand away from his mouth. Holding tight to her hand, he mouthed, But Pip? And...
Strider'll have to take care of them, Goldi whispered back, and then squeezed his hand with solemn meaning. Don't you see? she added. It's the perfect time to slip away from the others! You know you don't want them to follow all the way to the Fiery Mountain!
Farry nodded slowly, his eyes shining. No, he whispered. No, of course not. He took both Goldi's hands in his and squeezed. No, he said. I must take It all the way to the Fiery Mountain. 'Twere best to go that way alone... He lifted his head, and his eyes looked to a place far away, and his young face tightened with resolve, giving a glimpse of the hobbit he would one day become.
Goldi shook her head so emphatically her curls swung back and forth and tickled Farry's nose. He stifled a sneeze, while she whispered fiercely, O no! You cannot go without me! Don't you leave him, they said, and I don't mean to. O no, I don't!
Farry began to shake his head, but then he stopped still, Goldi's hands still in his. Ah, Sam, he breathed. I wish you would stay with the others, in relative safety, but I must say, I am glad to have you with me...
...and hand in hand, the two shouldered their burdens and crept into enemy territory.
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