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Pippin stood staring at his wheelbarrow as it sat on display amid dozens of other carpentry entries. Sam was standing next to him. Sam couldnít 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. Shouldnít 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. ĎWheelbarrow, built by Peregrin Took under the instruction of Samwise Gamgee. This item is not for sale.í
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 hadnít realized that there might be entries from other parts of the Shire. Didnít 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 donít know," Frodo said slowly. "Iíve 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 wasnít an instructor listed," Merry said.
The rather rotund lad grinned. "Thatís because I didnít 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 youíve no idea what it is, do you?"
"Itís 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.
"Itís all right," he said. "No one knows what it is because there isnít 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 wasnít upset with them for not recognizing the item.
"Itís 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 youíve come in from a long dayís 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 Iím through with it, no smial will want to be without one."
"Impressive," Frodo said, marveling at the young ladís saleís 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 werenít 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 Merryís 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 doesnít seem overly proud of it or anything, does he?"
"Iím just right worried about what heíll do if he donít win, Mister Frodo," Sam said nervously.
"We canít do anything about that, Sam," Frodo said gently. "Iím sure that Pippin knows that he might not win. Itís a rather large contest this year and there are a great many entries."
"I know one that isnít going to beat him," Merry smirked. "I think that Pipís wheel barrow will win out over that jacket-chair-thing."
Sam looked puzzled and Frodo said, "It was a Coat-stool."
"Whatís 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. "Doesnít 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. "Iíve been in contests myself but Iíve 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 didnít want to bring that topic to the ladís mind if Pippin wasnít 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 sheíd made and it won an honorable mention. Another time there was this jam making contest and I remember that Pearlís strawberry jam won first prize. Nelly once made a lace table cloth that she entered in a sewing circle contest but it didnít win anything." He smiled at Frodo. "I thought it should have won something but Pearl said that Nellís 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, Iím 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 donít 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 didnít 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. ĎItís for storage and storage is very important you know,í 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 Frodoís books. There was a card in front of it that read, ĎWardrobe built by Holly Gladstone with instruction by her grandfather, Eldon Gladstoneí.
"Do you like it?" the young lass asked.
"Very much," Pippin said."I have one at my cousinís 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. "Itís very good. Is it the first thing youíve built?"
"No, I entered last year too," she said. "Iíve built lots of things with my grandfather, but this is the biggest thing that Iíve ever made."
"It is very big," Pippin agreed.
"Did you enter something?" she asked.
"I did," Pippin grinned. "Itís my first time and I was worried that it wouldnít 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. "Whereís Pip?"
"He is still looking at the carpentry projects," Frodo said. "I came over here to see the ponies but he didnít want to join me. I left him staring at his wheelbarrow and smiling."
Merry laughed. "Youíd think it was made of solid gold or covered with toffee."
Frodo eyed Merryís 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. Heís really worried about Pippin."
"Iím 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 didnít know you were here," Pippin said genuinely pleased. "No one said that you were coming."
"Itís a surprise then isnít it?" Pearl said. "Whoís your friend?"
Pippin blushed slightly and then said, "Pearl, this is Holly. Sheís in the contest too. Holly this is my sister, Pearl."
"Hello, Holly," Pearl said.
"Hello," the young lass said.
"Fine then, donít introduce me," another voice complained. "Iíll 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 couldnít come," Pearl said. "She sprained her ankle when she tripped over one of the barn cats and so she wasnít 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. "Itís only a sprain. Sheíll 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 havenít 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 youíve entered in this contest or are you saving it as a surprise?í
"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.
"Whereíd you get that, Merry-lad? Iíve 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. "Iíd 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 Pippinís 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 Pippinís moment with the judges.
"Is this your project, lad?" an older hobbit with grey curls and a bright red judgeís 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 donít let nothiní go wrong now." But Frodo couldnít 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) thatís him over there. He hired Sam to teach me.(points again and smiles) Thatís Sam."(waves at Sam.)
Judge 1: "And did Sam build this wheelbarrow for you?"
Pippin: "Oh, no sir. He wouldnít 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, itíll grow back. My cousin, Berilac lied to me and told me that it wouldnít grow back but Sam set me straight about that. (Merry has just noticed Berilac and gives him a glare while Pippin is speaking.) Samís 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.) "Iím 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. Thatís 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 canít lift it. The ones that only have one wheel wonít move if you canít lift them but this one will."
Judge 3: "Wonít it roll away while youíre 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 Iím 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.) "Itís very tacky when itís 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 theyíre very useful. You can haul most anything in them."
Judge 3: "Do you think that youíve 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 werenít 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 wheelwrightís 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. Samís very patient and he says things so that you donít feel stupid or get confused and if you donít get it right the first time, he doesnít yell he just shows you again and you start all over."
(Judges glance over at Sam and smile at him,)
judge 2: "If you wouldnít mind, could you show us your wheelbarrow?"
Pippin: "Iíd 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. Pippinís crowd of supporters where all very proud of him.
"One more thing," Judge number one said. "Why arenít 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 didnít want to ruin Pippinís day by beating the tar out of Berilac and he wasnít 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 donít 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."
"Thereís 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 Merryís 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. "Merryís lucky that lass isnít selling green apples or heíd 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. "Donít suppose any of you are in the market for a good milking cow are you?"†he asked. "Iím selling these three off as itís 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 Iíve not had a chance." He pointed to a large pile of cow dung just inches from Frodoís 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 cowís 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 havenít 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 donít 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 Pippinís 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 youíve done will cause someone else to become uncomfortable."
Merryís 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 didnít 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. "Isnít 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 heís been sitting in dung, donít 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.
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!
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