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We continue towards Weathertop
Harvestmath! In harvest-time, the cider flows and the apples shine.
The sun has not yet risen, and already the Man has roused the hobbits who were sleeping. My Sam has been awake with us, the Big Man and myself that is, these past two hours, for the Man had the hobbits take turns standing watch all through the night. I cropped the browning grass and dozed, but every time I wakened I saw the Man, standing in the shadow of one of the alders by the stream, staring out into the cold grey light of the waxing moon, during the early hours of the night, and later, into the darkness. I do not think he slept at all.
I frisk a bit as Sam loads me down once more. I can’t help it, with the touch of frost that is in the air, and the pale sky above. Even the hobbits seem refreshed, as if they’d slept the whole night through, rather than wakening by turns to watch for whatever it is they were watching for.
Young marsh-stinking hobbit capers in a little dance, ahead of us, and I prick my ears to hear the song he is singing to himself. Harvestmath! In harvest-time, the cider flows and the apples shine...
The Merry hobbit joins in pleasing harmony. He has grown enough used to the marsh-stench that he throws an arm about young marsh-and-mischief as they walk along, and they lean their heads together to sing. Harvestmath! In harvest-time, You’ll drink your mug and I’ll drink mine!
They make slurping noises and laugh. Even the Big Man smiles, just a little, to hear them, and the Master strides along as if his burden has grown suddenly lighter. He carries no burden that I can see, beyond his pack, and my Samwise bears twice as much, I’m sure, but sometimes these things are beyond the understanding of a simple pony. I know that all the others look after him, as if he’s someone of importance, but he bears himself as if he’s just anyone. He’s Master, and yet he doesn’t swagger about as my old misery did. I’d scratch my head, to help myself in my thinking, as my Samwise does, but I must be contented instead to shake my mane and swish my tail.
Harvestmath! In harvest-time, You’ll kiss your love and I’ll kiss mine! The song finishes with a great flurry of smacking noises on the part of the songsters, and then the Merry hobbit pushes the younger away. ‘Go on with you!’ he says. ‘I don’t think you’ll have any kisses from your love, smelling as you do! She’ll have to walk on my arm instead!’ So perhaps he has not grown so used to the reek as I’d thought.
But the Master is laughing, bent nearly double, seizing his knees, in point of fact. When he rises again, he has to wipe tears of mirth away. ‘Ah,’ he sighs. ‘That does a body good.’
‘That and all the fine exercise and fresh air you’ve been having!’ young marsh-and-mischief says, dancing closer to slap the Master’s shoulder. ‘You’re looking twice the hobbit you used to be!’
‘Very odd,’ the Master says, wrinkling his nose at marsh-and-mischief’s proximity, and tightening his belt. ‘...considering that there is actually a good deal less of me.’
The cousins laugh, thinking it a good joke, and thus encouraged, the Master continues. ‘I hope the thinning process will not go on indefinitely, or I shall become a wraith.’
But the Man does not seem to appreciate the joke; he breaks in on the jollity with surprising earnestness. ‘Hush! Do not speak of such things!’
I am sorry to see the Master lose his smile, for it lights his face and makes him altogether fair to see. Young marsh-and-mischief falls silent for only a few moments, and then looking at the Master out of the corner of his eye, he evidently decides it’s time for more cheering.
As I was walking by the Water, I chanced to spy the Miller’s daughter...
A/N: Some text taken from “A Knife in the Dark” from Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien, and woven into the narrative.
It is entirely possible that the Harvestmath song was inspired by one written by Pipkin Sweetgrass for her wonderful story, The Bee Charmer. I wondered at the time where I'd heard the term "Harvestmath".
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