|About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search|
"Unca Merry! Unca Pip! Auntie 'Stella!" she called out, laughing.
Pippin hopped down from the driver's seat, and Merry clambered down from the other side and began to assist Estella to alight, taking his tiny daughter in one arm, and helping her to step down holding their infant son. Pippin had started to turn to help as well, but was halted by Elanor's little body slamming into his legs. Pippin winced; his knee was stiff from sitting so long.
Pippin bent down and swung her up and around, making her squeal with laughter. "Well, now, how's my little Miss Elanor today?" he grinned. He settled her atop his shoulders, where she gripped his curly hair tightly.
"I'm very good, Unca Pip! But put me down! I want to see the babies!"
Sam chuckled, as Pippin, crestfallen, set her on the ground, and she darted over to where Merry and Estella stood, and began to coo over Wyn and little Perry.
"Ah!" said Pippin dramatically, putting his hand to his heart, "rejected by my best lass for a couple of smelly babies!"
"Your best lass is it?" said Sam in a tone of mock sternness. "And what would Miss Diamond say to that?"
Pippin blushed sheepishly, but laughed all the same. "Since Miss Diamond is as foolishly fond of the fairest little lass in the Shire as I am, I think she would understand." He bit his lip. "We stayed the night at Budgeford, and I'd hoped to convince her to come along on this little expedition, but once again babies were my undoing. Seems several of the pesky things are scheduled for imminent arrival in the village over the next few days, and Mistress Lavender would not spare her."
Sam laughed and clapped him on the back. "Ah, well, M--Pippin, that's what you get when you set your sights on an apprentice Healer!" He turned to the others. "It's good to see you again, Merry! And Estella, I know Rose is very much looking forward to having your company for a few days!"
Merry stepped up and gave Sam a quick one-armed hug and slap on the back, as he was still holding little Wyn in the other arm. "It's good to see you, Sam! It's been far too long!" He turned to Pippin. "Pippin, would you mind seeing to the ponies?"
Pippin soon joined the others in the kitchen, where Rose had set out a very nice luncheon. There was fresh-baked bread, vegetable soup, a salad of tender greens, cold sliced meat, and fried potatoes. They set to as soon as the little ones had been settled.
For a while, they talked of the food, as hobbits usually do, and then Rose and Sam asked how things were in Buckland.
"Things are going quite well, actually," said Merry. "In fact, last month, I persuaded Da to take a couple of weeks off, and I saw to things for him. He's not getting any younger, you know! Mum talked him into going off with Uncle Mac on a fishing trip. But," he added with a smile, "he was almost offended when he returned at how well things went without him."
Pippin laughed. "I know he was pleased that you hadn't any problems, Merry. But I think it made him feel a bit like a spare wheel on a sound waggon."
"Well, your mother was very pleased," put in Estella. "She'd been after him to take time off for years."
Elanor, who had been engrossed in her meal up to this point, interrupted. "Unca Pip! Unca Merry! We have new kitties!"
"Do you indeed, Miss Elanor!" exclaimed Pippin.
She nodded vigorously, nearly spilling her cup of milk. "They are out in the garden shed! Do you want to see them?"
The garden shed was a new one, built to replace the old one, which had been torn down during the Troubles. It was an improvement over the old one--larger, with several windows and a potting bench, and racks and sturdy shelves for storage made it less cluttered than the old rickety shelves and crates which had cluttered the original shed. But it was built in the same location, just below the vegetable garden, a few feet from the well. The path that led there had been restored, and seemed the same as ever it had, and Elanor had led the way, sometimes skipping ahead, and sometimes running back to take her "uncles" by the hand and urge them to greater speed. Sam followed far behind, at a good deal more leisurely pace, smiling as he watched his golden child spread her sunshine.
In the shed door, a panel had been cut out, and a piece of heavy canvas had been attached at the top to make a sort of flap, so that the cats had easy access into and out of the building. But most of the cats had taken up residence in the newly built stable a bit farther down on the property.
Elanor could barely reach the doorknob. Pippin reached over her little head and swung the door inward. There was an inquisitive mew, as if to say "Who has come to call?"
Elanor tiptoed over to a low box which lay in a patch of sunshine from one of the windows, and sat down upon the floor. Pippin and Merry came up behind her. Merry grinned. "Hullo, Strawberry, old girl! We've come to see your new family."
Pippin bent down and lowered his hand. The little mother lay upon her side, nursing four squirming kittens. She raised her head, and bumped his hand just slightly, closing her eyes in pleasure as he rubbed her head gently. She was mostly white, although she had a ginger-coloured patch on one back hip, and another, the shape of a ripe strawberry on her forehead.
Sam had come up behind. "There's three little males and one female. Elanor's managed to name 'em all."
Elanor smiled up at her father, and then began to point: "That's Tater, and Turnip, and Tomato, and Truffle." Her hand stopped on the fourth one which was all white. "Truffle is the lass."
Merry laughed. "I see she takes after her Uncle Pippin! He always named his animals after food too. At least until we got home from our journey, when he decided to name some of them after Elves." For Strawberry had been born at Crickhollow, and her father had been named Haldir.
Pippin picked Truffle up gently. "Well, lass, I see you take after your grandda!" He stroked the mewling little thing for a moment, but when she began to try and nurse his little finger, he chuckled a put her back in the box with her mother. "I think you will get more nourishment in there, Truffle."
"Well, we need to go back to the smial," said Sam.
"Oh, Daddy! Can't I stay with the kitties a little longer?" Elanor turned her wide brown eyes upon her father, and bit her lip.
Sam shook his head, but said "Well, Elanorelle, if you will be *very* careful of them. But keep your ears open for your mother to call you in--no dawdling then!"
She flashed a brilliant smile. "Oh *thank* you, Daddy!"
The three adults left the shed, listening to Elanor chatting to Strawberry as though the cat could understand every word.
"Goodness, Sam!" said Merry, "She's got you fairly wrapped around her little finger!"
Sam just gave a rather sloppy grin, and said "Yes, she does, doesn't she?"
Pippin laughed aloud. "You're a fine one to talk! Look at the way you dote on Wyn! As soon as she learns to talk, she will be telling you to jump, and all you will do is ask her 'how high?'"
Almost at the same instant, both Sam and Merry said "Just wait until *you* have a daughter, Pippin Took!"
Laughing, they entered Bag End's back door.
"Do you want to get a look-in at that strongbox now?" Sam asked.
Merry and Pippin looked at one another, and nodded vigorously. Both of them had their Tookish curiosity fairly aroused.
Sam led the other two back to the mathom room. It had very nearly been emptied, but the strongbox stood against the back wall, right in the centre, the brass key sticking out of its lock.
"That's just how I found it, just as Mr. Frodo left it." He squatted down, turned the key, and threw back the lid. "Rose and me, we looked in it just a little bit, and when we figured out what all was in it, we stopped and locked it back up. That was right on top, as you see. You two may recollect that it used to hang above Mr. Frodo's dressing table in his room, but I hadn't realized he'd taken it down and put it away." Sam looked away. He had left Mr. Frodo's room just as it was, and never went in it, though Rose cleaned and dusted it dutifully every week.
Merry and Pippin looked in curiously. "Why, that's Drogo's and Primula's Wedding Document!" Every hobbit couple had a nicely framed copy of their wedding document, to hang on the wall of their smial. They were usually nicely written and illuminated as well, if the families could afford it. But this was larger and grander than most, and was beautifully illuminated, with gilding on many of the letters. The signatures in red ink stood out prominently, as did the seal of the Master of Buckland, pressed in silver sealing wax next to his own signature.
"Yes, I had forgotten about it, though. I never really thought about it much."
Pippin nodded his head in agreement as he admired the document. One of the finest scriveners in the Shire must have created it.
"What's this?" asked Pippin, as he reached in to pluck out a yellowed envelope tucked neatly into one corner of the frame.
Merry, who was lifting the document out, stood it next to the strongbox and took the envelope from Pippin. Sam had sat back on his heels, and watched Frodo's cousins anxiously. For all that they were good friends now, Sam never lost sight of the fact that they were Frodo's own kin, and he hoped they thought he had done right in summoning them.
Merry took the paper out of its envelope and opened it carefully. "Why, this is Drogo's and Primula's will!" he exclaimed. “It was written just after Frodo was born. Hmm… Grandda and Uncle Paladin were witnesses.”
He replaced it after glancing at it briefly, and then reached in to take some of the letters from the top.
"These letters were to Bilbo," he said. He opened one. "Oh," he said in a small voice.
Merry’s eyes filled with tears, and his hand trembled, as he looked at the paper he held. Frodo had kept all these things for a reason, and now it was painful to see. He bit his lip, and looked at Pippin, who silently held out his hand.
Pippin glanced down at the paper, and swallowed audibly. In a voice rough with emotion, he began to read.
Primula and I have the most wonderful news to tell you – we are expecting a child early this fall--possibly around the time of your birthday! We would have told you sooner, but we wanted to wait until the period of greatest risk was over before we told anyone. The healer seems to think that things are going well, and that there is every chance that this time our child will be born well and healthy.
As you can imagine, especially since we had not told anyone else our good news, Primula and I have been discussing everything imaginable about the baby – from what to name it to who it will resemble to what our child’s future will be like.
The more we talked about our child’s future, the more we realised that perhaps we should begin to make provisions for our child's future, in the event something should happen to one or both of us. To put it bluntly, we are contemplating our Will. Of course, if something should happen to only one of us, the other will be there to care for our child. But Primula has become adamant for some reason that we make provision in the unlikely event that something happens to both of us. I think perhaps this may be due to some disturbing dreams she has had recently."
Pippin's voice trailed off, and he looked at the others. "Even then--Frodo's mum, she must have *known* …"
Merry sighed. "I don't think she *knew*. That would be unbearable. But she might have had a feeling about it. Remember some of the dreams Frodo used to have?"
"I think as you have the right of it, Merry," put in Sam. "She must've had a feeling about it, and wanted to do somewhat about it."
As if by common consent, all three of them drew a deep breath. Sam rose slowly to his feet.
“Ah! Here’s another letter from Drogo to Bilbo written on the day Frodo was born,” said Merry.
Pippin leaned in closer to Merry who began to read this one aloud.
22 Halimath, S.R. 1368
My darling Primula and I thank you for the finest birthday gift you could ever give us, our dear son, Frodo. For would you believe? The lad has inherited the Baggins’ stubbornness and insisted on being born on your birthday of all days!
Primula and the babe are both doing well, although Primula is exhausted, of course. I know we always say that we lads are strong, but Bilbo, believe me when I say that we are not nearly as strong as the lasses. My poor Primula was in labour for over thirty hours, but is resting comfortably now. I have never been more proud of my beautiful wife.
Can you believe it, Bilbo? I’m a father! I counted; Frodo has all ten fingers and all ten toes, and the bluest eyes you’ve ever seen. He’s a strapping lad – three pounds, six ounces, and is eleven inches tall. Dora says that she remembers me being just as noisy when I was born, but agrees with me that he is far more handsome a babe than I – I think he will favour his mother in his looks, which is most fortunate.
Now that your birthday is over, which you stubbornly insisted on spending at Bag End instead of here meeting the new byrding, won’t you please make haste to come to Brandy Hall? I insist that you meet my son straight away!
Do please hurry, Bilbo. We cannot wait to share our happiness with you!
“He probably enjoyed it,” commented Merry. “You know how much he loves Bilbo and always wanted to try to find the perfect gift for Bilbo on their birthday. I suppose all these years he’s been trying pointlessly to best the very first gift he ever gave Bilbo. Silly hobbit.”
“Well, it appears our cousin kept a lot of letters and documents that he did not tell anyone about. The silly hobbit – secretive to the last. I think this is going to take a while," said Pippin.
Merry didn't say anything. He was still staring at the letters.
"I think you're right M-Pippin," said Sam, almost stumbling into saying "Mr." "Mayhap we should just make a fresh start in the morning. Both of you are bound to be tired from travelling; we can take it up after second breakfast, maybe?" He looked at Merry, worried.
"Merry!" Pippin prodded his cousin.
"Oh, oh yes, Sam, you're quite right. A fresh start in the morning." He seemed to come out of his daze, and looked around the room. "But maybe we should take them into the study to work through. It's not very comfortable in here."
Sam replaced the items that had been removed, and locked it back up. Without being told, Pippin hoisted it up, and said "We might as well take it in there tonight. Then it will be there, ready for us tomorrow."
Sam followed Pippin. Merry hesitated briefly, and then he also followed, closing the door behind him.
“May I be of any help in the kitchen, Rose?” asked Estella, jugging little Perry over her shoulder.
“No, I don’t think so, Estella, but I thank you kindly just the same. I believe I have it all in hand, so to speak,” was Rose’s reply. Just then little Frodo-lad crawled over and began to tug at her skirts. “But mayhap you can keep me company while I feed this lad.”
Estella smiled. “I could do that. I do believe my own little fellow here is beginning to get a bit hungry as well.”
In one corner of the spacious Bag End kitchen Sam had taken away the large cupboard that had stood there all through Bilbo’s and Frodo’s time, and placed there instead two rocking chairs. The two young mothers made themselves comfortable for their nursing. “You have two chairs here now,” observed Estella.
“Yes. About the last thing Mr. Frodo did before he left was buy us these rocking chairs. He told Sam they was for the kitchen, so as we could be comfortable with the little ones in here. O’ course, we only had little Elanor then, but Mr. Frodo said there’d be more. Sam, he was not certain about moving the cupboard, but that was the only way the chairs would fit in here and still leave plenty of room for cooking. At first we just put the one chair here, and kept the other in our room. But since little Frodo-lad come along, and now with another on the way, I told Sam ‘twas time to move the other one in here, too.”
“Well, it certainly makes sense! I believe I’ll tell Merry we need rocking chairs in the kitchen at Crickhollow.”
After supper, Sam, Merry and Pippin went out front for a smoke, leaving Rose and Estella talking at the table. The two wives had a good deal of news to exchange. They were *still* talking when they heard the others coming back in a while later.
“Goodness, but it’s getting late! Here we’ve been chattering like a couple of chickens when there’s the little ones to be put to bed!” Rosie stood up abruptly. “Begging your pardon, Estella.”
“No, don’t be silly, Rose, I’m glad you noticed! It’s already past bedtime for my children. And Perry is so fussy when it comes to his bath and bedtime.”
While Rose went to round up her children, Estella went to find Merry. She found him in the study with Pippin leaning in next to Merry, speaking in a hushed voice. Her stomach tightened as she thought of the possibilities. Living all together as they did at Crickhollow, Estella had come to learn various methods of reading her husband.
One of the most reliable methods was Pippin. If Pippin’s face was tight with concern and he was speaking quietly with Merry while standing protectively over him, as he was doing now, Estella could be certain that something was amiss with Merry.
Estella carefully hid the frown that had formed on her face and entered the room.
“Excuse me, Pippin. Merry, would please see that your daughter goes to sleep while I wash this little lad? She had her bath a little earlier.”
“Of course, dear.” Although Merry smiled brightly, Estella did not miss that his eyes were glistening. She gave a pointed glance at Pippin who nodded slightly.
“I’ll give you a hand, Estella. Perry’s getting quite used to his Uncle Pippin helping with his bath; I would not want to disappoint the lad!” he said cheerfully.
Pippin checked the water in the kettle against the skin on the underside of his wrist. Good. Warm, but not too hot. He poured it into the small basin, as Estella divested little Perry of his clothing. She lowered the baby into the bath, and took the flannel Pippin proffered her, and lathering it with soap, began to wash Perry.
"What's going on, Pippin? Why is Merry upset? Does it have something to do with the letter Sam sent?"
"You are full of questions, Cousin Estella," said Pippin, evading her searching glance.
"None of that, Peregrin Took! You tell me why you are fretting over Merry!" Perry picked up on his mother's distress, and began to whimper and fret. She lowered her voice. "Please, Pip. I do have the right to know."
He sighed. "You are right, Estella." He paused a moment, to put more warm water in the basin, pouring it gently over his little namesake, and rinsing off the soap. "The strongbox apparently contains some things that Frodo felt important to save--letters and other documents. It's going to be just--" he stopped for a moment, a catch in his own voice, "just a bit distressing to go through them." He took a deep breath, and then reached out with a towel to take up the wet baby from his mother. "At any rate, it has to be done, and it's not going to be easy. Come to Uncle Pip, Perry, and let's get you all dry."
Once Estella and Pippin had finished bathing Perry, and he was sleeping soundly, Estella went to check on little Wyn. The door was half open as Estella peeked in on her daughter. She was asleep. Merry was sitting beside her, gently stroking her soft curls and quietly humming an old tune his mother used to hum to him when he was a faunt. He looked up at Estella and smiled.
“She’s really something, the way she falls asleep so easily here at Bag End,” Merry said, still stroking little Wyn’s hair. “Frodo said that he always had to read me a story, sometimes two, before I would nod off when we used to come and visit Bilbo. Bilbo used to say that Frodo was the same way.”
Estella entered the room and closed the door softly behind her and came to stand next to Merry.
“Perhaps you and Frodo just liked to stay awake to hear the stories.” She reached over and put her arm around him.
Merry chuckled softly and shook his head. “You know me so well.”
“With Pippin living at Crickhollow with us, I’ve heard enough stories from the two of you to know how much all three of you enjoyed stories. You are always saying what an excellent story-teller Bilbo is. And Frodo. Perhaps it is a Baggins talent he inherited from birth,” she said pointedly.
Estella felt Merry tense a little as she looked at him expectantly.
“Frodo, eh? I take it Pippin told you about the letters.”
“You are not the only one who worries about family, Merry, dear.”
“I’m fine, Estella, really.”
She snorted sofly. "I believe that as much as Pippin does. We both love you more than anything.”
Merry reached around Estella with both of his arms and wrapped her in a tight embrace.
“I know you do, both of you. I am truly a lucky hobbit to be so loved. Between you, and Pippin, and the children…” He smiled down at the sleeping form of his daughter. “Frodo left a strongbox filled with old documents and letters. We saw letters from when he was born.”
Estella said nothing, choosing to let Merry tell her in his own way.
“Drogo and Primula were so excited when he was born, just like we were when we had Wyn and Perry. Even back then, Primula--before Frodo was even born, Drogo and Primula had asked Bilbo to be Frodo's guardian along with Da. Maybe she had one of those dreams like Frodo sometimes did, or maybe it was just a feeling, I don’t know.”
Merry paused and took a breath.
“I was shaken when I first read the letters and saw Drogo’s and Primula’s marriage document and Will, but I was feeling better when you found Pippin and me in the study. Pippin was concerned that it was going to be too difficult a task for me, looking through that box of old memories, and he’s right that it will be difficult. But, Estella, I must see it through. Yet when I came in here to put Wyn to bed, holding her and having her look at me with those trusting eyes, so certain that I will always be there for her--it just brought it home to me.
“What if something happens to us? I can’t bear to think of Wyn or Perry going through the pain Frodo has gone through his entire life. Seeing those documents about Frodo and his parents, when their lives held so much promise, knowing that they would be dead in a few short years and the pain Frodo would bear from that point on…”
“Nothing is going to happen to us, Merry.”
But Merry continued on as if he had not heard Estella. “Frodo is like a brother to me, just as much as Pippin is. But Frodo was my first brother, my older brother. I looked up to him for everything, even when I was older.”
“I remember,” Estella said softly. “I noticed that when you and Frodo used to come over to visit with Freddy.”
Merry looked at her and nodded. “Frodo played a special part in my life. He taught me so much and made me laugh more than anyone I knew until Pippin came along. He knew me better than anyone else, even when I was a faunt and a little lad. But I could not take away all of his pain. I failed and he left. He left me behind three times.”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I suppose deep down, I never really got over his leaving. I know he was hurting, that he had to leave Buckland and was better off here with Bilbo, but--I felt like I had lost him. I still needed him to be a part of my life. Then he went off on his own to Mordor. If only I had guessed sooner what he meant to do. Sam did.” Merry moved to wipe the tears that had started to form. "And then he had to leave again, when he should have been able to live in honor and happiness here in the Shire. I miss him still. I need him still."
“I know you do,” Estella said gently as she rubbed his back. “I see it in your eyes every day, yours and Pippin’s. But he had to leave, both times. His pain was just too much for him to stay.”
“I know that! I know we would have lost him anyway! Why couldn't Frodo stay and do his healing with his family that loves him so much? He had Mum and Da, and Grandda and Grandmum; scores of Brandybuck relatives there to help him heal. And after the Ring--Sam, Pippin, and I would have done *anything* for him! Why couldn’t we help him? Why did he have to leave?”
Merry reached up almost angrily to dash the tears from his eyes. His agitation conveyed itself to his sleeping daughter, who whimpered slightly in her sleep. He glanced down and her guiltily, and bit his lip.
"Come, Merry my love, let us leave, so that Wyn can sleep."
He nodded, and allowed her to take him by the hand and lead him from the room. As she did so, Pippin was coming out of his own room and halted when he saw them. Merry had his hand over his eyes as he tried to master his tears, and did not see how pale his cousin grew at the sight of him.
Pippin opened his mouth as if to speak, but only managed a weak, “Merry?” before being silenced by a shake of Estella’s head as she guided Merry into their guest room.
“I’m sorry, Estella,” Merry took a deep breath once he had regained his control. He sat in the chair in front of the dark window and stared at the stars. “I thought I had made my peace with all of this a long time ago.”
“We never get over losing someone we love, dear. Even when we know why they are taken from us.”
“He was cheated in life. First by the death of his parents and then by The Ring. As long as I have known him, there was always a part of him that was missing. A part I never knew.”
“Well then, Merry, maybe you will find that missing part of Frodo in that strongbox of his.”
Merry looked up sharply at Estella in confusion.
“Maybe you will find your answers there so you can be at peace.”
“I hope so, Estella. I really hope so. I just want him to be happy.”
“I know you do, dearest. We all do.”
Estella embraced Merry tenderly and allowed him to cling to her for support. After a few minutes, Merry moved out of her embrace.
“I think I ought to go speak with Pippin now. I could feel him there in the hallway. He'll be awake half the night worrying over me if I don't ease his mind.”
She smiled at him and nodded. "I'll be waiting for you."
For the full text of the Marriage Document, with a link to pictures of it, and the full text of Drogo's letter to Bilbo and of Drogo's and Primula's will, check the Author's Notes.
|<< Back||Next >>|
|Home Search Chapter List|