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Chapter 96. We consider names and books and things
As we walk on, for we have not yet found a satisfactory resting place, I cannot help the occasional shudder of skin, even though Fear passed over without seeming to notice us. I cannot help wondering if Fear is like the birds flying over the valley of the forgotten Elves, circling and flying away, only to return again and again. Or might Fear be like the hawk, wheeling in the sky high above our meadow, my dam’s and mine, soaring in lazy circles and watching the ground until – suddenly, it folds its wings and stoops, seeming to fall out of the sky, surely to its death... but in point of fact, it falls to the death of a small creature in the grass, a sharp cry, suddenly cut off, and then the hawk spreads its wings and springs again into the air, carrying a poor, limp body, legs dangling...
‘What’s got into you, Bill!’ my Samwise says, and he jerks at my rope. But no, I was the one who jerked at the rope, it seems.
But it is so dark. So very dark now, with the Moon having set behind us, and the Sun not yet throwing her promise into the sky ahead. Perhaps She is hiding behind the Mountain before us... perhaps Fear has set Her to trembling, and so we will have no light this day.
I cannot imagine a world without light, and yet... in this moment, perhaps I can.
Youngest speaks from my other side. ‘All is well, Bill,’ he says. ‘All is quiet now. It’s gone.’
‘What’s gone?’ my Samwise says, sounding as close to impatience as I have ever heard him. But then, I have cruelly jerked his arm. Yet he has offered me no harm, no punishment in return. Such is my hobbit. I rub my head against his shoulder in silent apology.
But Youngest does not answer; perhaps he cannot. Perhaps he has the same unsettled feelings, yet cannot put a name to them? I turn my face towards him and sigh, blowing a warm breath over him. He lifts his hand and strokes the side of my face. ‘There, there, old fellow,’ he says.
And then as if he is changing the subject, he says, ‘Frodo?’
‘Yes, Pip,’ the Master answers, his tone infused with the infinite patience that he assumes when Youngest begins a long string of questions.
‘Have you ever thought about writing a book?’ Youngest says.
‘A book!’ determinedly-Merry echoes from where he walks beside my Sam. ‘Pip, have you lost your wits?’
‘No, but you said,’ Youngest goes on, still addressing his words to the Master, who is at the moment walking on his far side. ‘You told the Bree-hobbits that you were writing a book about history and geography, that we were collecting as much information as we might about hobbits living outside the Shire, especially in lands to the east of the Shire...’
I hear Master chuckle under his breath. ‘That was just a story,’ he says, ‘as you must have known very well at the time, to give them something to think and talk about besides what other business we might have in Bree. You must know, of course, that I am not planning to do anything of the kind!’
‘Well they told you enough, there in the common room of the Pony, that you might have written several chapters on the spot!’ Youngest insists. ‘And I’ve been thinking...’
‘You? Thinking?’ determinedly-Merry says. ‘Be careful, Pip! You never know where such a thing might lead!’
‘Why, there in Bree, we met Heathertoes and Appledores, Mugworts as well, but also Bankses (my own mother is a Banks!) and Brockhouses, Longholes, Sandheavers and Tunnellys – as well as Underhills! All names I’ve heard in the Shire...’
‘Yes, Pip, we certainly did,’ the Master says indulgently as if he is humouring Youngest. Which I imagine he is. As well as the other older cousin most likely is doing. After all, if Youngest is talking easily and not out of breath, then he is not overdoing himself.
And determinedly-Merry has Master talking into the bargain! I do not know how he managed it, but there you are. He manages to prod the conversation onwards, however, with a question of his own. ‘Those are indeed all names we’ve heard in the Shire. I wonder if they have relatives there who don’t know of their existence?’
‘I wonder,’ Youngest echoes. ‘And there’s one other thing I wonder...’
‘Only one?’ determinedly-Merry goads.
‘One will do for the present,’ Youngest says, almost cheerfully. ‘I shall have the whole day to think up more questions to wonder about...’
‘I should hope you’ll be sleeping some of that time away,’ the Master says. He is trying his best to sound stern, but if I can hear the smile in his voice, I’m sure Youngest can hear it as well.
‘Certainly some of the time,’ Youngest agrees. ‘But I’ve been wondering...’
‘What then have you been wondering, Pip?’ the Master says obligingly.
‘Why are there no Tooks in Bree? Why no Brandybucks or even Oldbucks?’ Youngest sounds aggrieved now. ‘Not even any Ba-Buh...’ He yelps at a sharp poke from my Sam, right under my nose, but finishes his thought, ‘not even any of your relations, unless you want to count the Underhills!’
And as he mutters under his breath about people poking other people, of a wonder, I find myself wondering about Master’s last name. I don’t recall hearing any besides Underhill, there in Bree. Ba-Buh sounds quite unusual for a hobbit name. I wonder if it is perhaps commoner in the Shire than in the Breeland?
‘I’m that sorry, Mr. Pippin, but you hadn’t ought to say that name, not even out here in the Wilderlands where there’s no body to hear,’ my Sam says.
‘Especially out here in the Wilderlands,’ suddenly-grim-Merry affirms.
So I have the distinct impression that the name of Ba-Buh is not to be mentioned. I am glad, for once, that I am not able to speak words as my companions – Hobbit, Elf, Dwarf and Man – lest I should let the name slip in an unguarded moment. The Master is all I need to know, and good enough for me.
Youngest seems to think the silence has gone on long enough. ‘So I was thinking, Frodo,’ he says just as if there has been no pause for thinking of names and Wilderland terrors and dangers and all.
‘What were you thinking, Pip?’ and of a wonder, the patient tone remains undimmed.
‘I think that – if you happen to write a book, that is – if you should write about us, here, now, I mean...’
‘Yes, dearest of cousins?’ the Master says, sounding somehow amused.
‘I was thinking, it might be such a good idea to write, Nothing further happened that night.’
‘Nothing further happened that night?’ the Master says, sounding mystified.
‘Yes,’ Youngest says in his firmest tones. ‘Definitely. Nothing further happened that night. I was thinking, you see, that if you planned it so...’
‘It might happen...’ suddenly-wistful-Merry says. ‘If you were to plan to write that, it might happen,’ he says to the Master, adding to Youngest, ‘is that what you’re saying, Pip?’
‘Exactly,’ Youngest says.
And instead of chiding him for his nonsense, as the older cousins so often do, wistful-Merry says, ‘I’d say that makes perfect sense...’
‘I will plan to write exactly that, Pip,’ Master says in the same vein. ‘Exactly.’
‘So you are going to write a book, then?’ Youngest says brightly.
‘Pippin,’ somewhat-Merry says in a pained tone.
But Youngest only laughs as we walk on.
Some thoughts here are derived from “At the Sign of the Prancing Pony” and “The Ring Goes South” from The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien.
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