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CHAPTER THREE: HIDDEN TREASURES
“We should pop those into the oven for afters,” he said hopefully. Elanor’s face lit up at this suggestion, and then fell as Rose shook her head.
“I don’t think so,” said Merry, as he managed to spear the last of Daisy’s pickles with his fork. He gave an amused look at the quickly hidden disgruntlement on Sam’s face, as the Master of Bag End missed out on the end of his sister’s gift. Teasing Sam wasn’t as much fun as teasing Pippin, who would have quickly protested. He avoided Estella’s glare, and looked at Pippin instead. “Those were made for tea, and tea is when we shall have them.”
“I hope they are as good as I remember them,” said Pippin wistfully. “But even Frodo never made them quite as well as Cousin Bilbo.”
“Mr. Bilbo was a dab hand at the baking,” said Sam reminiscently. “All his breads and cakes and pastries was just lovely and light as feathers! But them honeycakes, now that receipt was something special--he brought that receipt home from his Adventure.”
“Did he?” said Merry curiously. “I never knew that!”
“It’s what he told me one afternoon, when I was not much more than a faunt, afore Mr. Frodo ever came to live here. My Ma was up here doing a bit of spring cleaning like, in preparation for one of Mr. Frodo’s visits, and she’d brought me and Marigold up here to keep an eye on us. She kept Mari in a little sling with her while she worked, but Mr. Bilbo invited me into the kitchen with him, and I sat on the table while he mixed up them honeycakes. He told me he had the receipt of old Beorn. ‘Not, Samwise my lad, the twice-baked honeycakes he gave to us for our journey after we left him, but the nice soft yeasty ones we had with our supper while we were guests in his home.’ That’s just what he told me.”
Little Elanor’s eyes grew very wide. “Daddy! Do you mean the Beorn that turned into a bear and helped Mr. Bilbo and the Dwarves!”
“I do indeed, Elanorelle.”
The other hobbits’ brows rose at this, and all of them now glanced over at the sideboard where the potential treats lay covered with a red-checked tea towel.
“Well,” said Pippin, “as we are not to have them now, I don’t intend to torture myself with the smell of them any longer. I suppose it is time we returned to our task. That box holds a good many things, and we’ve barely begun to sort through them.”
The room was quiet as the three hobbits gathered around the strongbox. Rose and Estella had taken the children outside so that Elanor and Wyn could play while Rose and Estella minded Frodo-lad and little Perry.
“What should we look through next?” Merry asked as he opened the lid once again.
“How about that pouch?” said Pippin, pointing inside the box. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before. I wonder where he got it. It’s really pretty.”
“I haven’t seen it before either. It’s not Mum’s work and I don’t recall seeing that pattern made by any of the other Brandybucks, nor does it look store bought,” replied Merry as he lifted the wool pouch out of the box to get a better look at it.
The body of the pouch was made out of wine coloured homespun wool and was about eight inches long and five inches wide. It had a black drawstring closure at the top with a coloured wooden bead on each side of the pouch. There was a clever handle long enough to loop on a hobbit’s belt or carry on a shoulder that ran up one side of the pouch and down the other side, a black tassel at each end.
“Sam? Are you all right?” Pippin put a steadying hand on Sam’s shoulder and looked with concern at his friend.
Sam's normally sunny face had paled and his eyes glistened with tears. He blinked them away. Although he was trying to work his mouth to say something, the only sound coming from him was a tiny whimper from the back of his throat as he tried to breathe.
Merry turned to look at Sam and bolted over to him just in time to help Pippin ease Sam into a chair. “What is it?”
With a visible effort, he finally said, “That’s my Ma's weaving.”
"Ah," said Merry, nodding. He and Pippin exchanged an understanding glance. Sam never spoke of his mother's death, but they suspected that it had hit him quite hard, for she had been rather young to go so quickly.
“She made it for Mr. Frodo back when I was a lad to thank him as he looked after me and kept me from drowning me fool neck once by The Water when she weren’t looking. It gave her such a fright, and my Gaffer were none to happy about it neither, make no mistake.”
“That was very nice of her to make a present for Frodo.” Merry sat in a chair next to Sam and Pippin sat on the sofa, relieved that Sam had found his voice.
“It weren’t just a pouch, mind you. Ma put some of her shortbread biscuits in there, I reckon ‘cause she thought Mr. Frodo were real sweet.” Sam reached for the pouch that Merry still held in his hand and slowly ran his fingers over it.
The colour was beginning to come back into Sam’s face and the ends of his lips even curled up into the faintest hint of a smile. “I remember she made a big fuss of saying as how she wanted to make it ’specially out of wool so as it could absorb any water if it rained and protect whatever Mr. Frodo might put in the pouch. That and wool is real sturdy; it won’t wear in no hurry. It took Ma hours to weave the pouch on her loom. She used one of her own hair ribbons for the drawstring.”
“That was most thoughtful of your mother, Sam,” said Merry.
“Yes, and it was a very nice gift. The pouch looks like it has plenty of wear in it still. Frodo took good care of it,” Pippin added.
“I didn’t even know he kept it all these years,” said Sam. “I clean forgot all about it until just now, but I reckon Mr. Frodo kept it to remember her by.”
“He always said she was a fine hobbitess,” commented Merry.
“Aye, that she was. And she thought Mr. Frodo were the best behaved tweenaged hobbit as she ever saw!” Sam said. “But Mr. Frodo … Mr. Frodo were real sad when she died, on account of it reminded him of when his own parents died, you see. And he always had a soft spot in his heart for her. I reckon he kept it as a keepsake all this time.” Sam stared pensively at the pouch in his hands and thought a moment. “But why would he put it here in this strongbox with all of his most important treasures?” He looked up at the cousins expectantly.
“Well, that’s just it, Sam,” replied Pippin. “You’re mother was a real treasure.”
“And Frodo never was one to forget someone so special,” added Merry.
A few tears ran down Sam’s cheeks before he was able to check them. “You have the right of it, sirs. I’m glad Mr. Frodo knew that about her.”
“What do you say we see what Frodo thought worthy of keeping in your Mother’s pouch?” Merry asked briskly. “I’m quite certain the shortbread is long gone.”
Sam nodded as he wiped his tears away and offered the pouch back to Merry.
“No, you open it, Sam.”
“It’s only right,” added Pippin.
Sam blushed slightly and then opened the pouch and removed the first item he came to. He held it up so all three of them could get a good look at it. It was a small wooden toy boat that had been painted a bright green on the outside.
Merry and Pippin both chuckled in warm recognition.
“Why, that’s the little boat his father made for him!” exclaimed Pippin.
“He used to let me play with it back when he was still living with us at Brandy Hall!” laughed Merry. “Frodo would give me his boat to play with whenever we went swimming in that little cove. You remember, Pip? Frodo didn't often swim in the River, of course.
Pippin nodded. "That's where both of you taught me. I used to wonder why we didn't go with the other lads." He sighed. "I understood more when I got a bit older."
“I remember seeing that boat here at Bag End after Mr. Frodo moved in with Mr. Bilbo. He used to keep it in his room,” said Sam.
“That’s right!” agreed Pippin. “And he used to let me play with it in the bath!”
Merry snorted, "As if you needed anything to entertain you in the bath!”
“Well, Merry, he used to say it helped me keep more of the water in the tub if I knew the boat needed it to float,” said Pippin.
“Mr. Frodo always was a clever hobbit,” Sam chuckled. He held his left hand out and emptied a couple of things from the pouch onto his hand.
“Oh, look! It’s the spinning top and the whistle!” Merry exclaimed. "Drogo made those for him when he was little, too. Mum was always telling us to take the whistle outside if we were going to blow it.”
“Hmm… I remember Frodo would let me play with the spinning top when I was visiting, but I don’t recall him letting me play with the whistle,” said Pippin.
Merry and Sam gave each other a knowing look and chuckled.
“What?” asked Pippin in a hurt tone.
“Nothing. It’s just that you never needed nothing to help you make noise when you was little, Pippin,” replied Sam, trying to hide his grin, even though Merry was still laughing.
Pippin glared at both of them for a moment, but then broke into laughter himself. “I was a rather active lad, wasn’t I?”
“I can hardly wait until you have a lad of your own, Pip,” said Merry, still chuckling. “Perhaps it will have all been worth it then.”
“Here now, what’s that supposed to mean?”
Merry winked at Sam as they both laughed at the Took. “You’ll find out, dear cousin. You’ll find out. But I insist that you take the boat, the spinning top, and especially the whistle.”
“Well, I’ve no time for guessing at your riddles, either one of you,” sniffed Pippin as he put the little treasures to one side. “We’ve got more things to go through. Is that one of Bilbo’s handkerchiefs?” He pulled a bright yellow handkerchief out of the pouch, spilling the rest of the contents onto Sam’s lap.
“It sure looks like it, doesn’t it?” said Sam.
Merry took the handkerchief from Pippin and looked it over quietly. “It’s the first handkerchief Bilbo ever gave to Frodo, when Frodo was still living at the Hall. I used to be quite envious of it. It was a birthday present to Frodo on their birthday. Frodo told me that Bilbo used to always say that Frodo never had a handkerchief when he needed one, so that’s why he got him one on their birthday. Frodo never did fancy yellow as much as other hobbits, but he carried it with him everywhere just to please Bilbo. After Bilbo left, he stopped carrying it. But obviously he kept it anyway."
All three of them smiled. It was so like Frodo to use something he didn't like to please someone else, and then keep it anyway, when he no longer had reason to use it.
“Well, look at this!" exclaimed Merry, reaching onto Sam’s lap and picking up a small flat pasteboard box with a faded picture of a pony on it.
“What is that?” asked Sam.
Merry grinned broadly, his eyes twinkling. “It’s a puzzle!”
“Yes, a jigsaw puzzle of a pony. This is actually *mine*."
Pippin and Sam gave Merry a quizzical look, and Pippin arched a brow. "Yours?"
"Yes. I got it for Yule the year I was five. I don't know *how* many times I made Frodo help me put it together. We took it apart and put it together over and over for days, and then one day a piece went missing, and I was very upset. So Frodo took the puzzle, and said that since we couldn't finish it, we should do something else for a change. I had no idea he kept it." His eyes narrowed, and suddenly, he tipped the pieces out on the tea table, and quickly manipulated them. All the pieces were there.
Pippin and Sam laughed. "Clever Frodo! He knows how obsessed you get. He must have been heartily tired of that same old puzzle day after day!"
Merry bristled. "Obsessed?"
"Yes!" Pippin exclaimed while Sam nodded at the same time, both of them laughing. After a moment, Merry joined in.
"You may have a point there," he chuckled.
Merry glanced at the remaining items on Sam’s lap. He gaped in surprise at what he saw there. Instantly, he picked an item up and held it before him, studying it closely.
“What is it, Merry?” asked Pippin.
Merry looked closely at the name written in silver on a red ribbon. “I can’t believe it.”
“Merry?” Pippin sidled up next to him to take a look for himself. “First Place - 1379, Buckland Races, swimming - ten to fifteen year olds.”
“I didn’t even know he had ever entered one of the Buckland swimming races!” exclaimed Merry. “All those years we went to the Races and he never told me he had been in one, let alone won one.”
Pippin took the ribbon into his own hand, looked at it closer, and frowned. “1379. He won this before you were ever born, Merry. Just a year before his parents died.”
“I saw that ribbon in Mr. Frodo’s room once when I was about fifteen and asked him about it,” said Sam. “His eyes got that sad and far away look of his, and he just turned and walked right past Mr. Bilbo and me and out the smial without saying a word. Mr. Bilbo, he could see I were that upset about distressing Mr. Frodo and confused about what I’d done to upset him, so he took me aside and explained…”
Sam watched Frodo go outside without a word, closing the front door behind him. He turned wide-eyed toward Bilbo in confusion.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Bilbo! Did I say something wrong?"
Bilbo smiled understandingly at Sam. The poor lad had no idea why talking about that ribbon upset Frodo they way it did.
“Come, Samwise. I have just the thing! How about a nice cup of tea and some seedcake, eh?” The elder hobbit led Sam into the kitchen and began to brew the tea.
“I’m really sorry, Mr. Bilbo,” Sam repeated, not knowing what else to say.
“It’s not your fault, my lad,” said Bilbo as he smiled kindly at Sam and placed the seedcake and a plate before him. “It’s just that he won that ribbon for coming in first place in a swimming contest on the Brandywine River. The very same river that his parents drowned in.”
“Oh, Mr. Bilbo, sir!” gasped Sam in horror. “Poor Master Frodo! No wonder he don’t want to be reminded of it! Samwise, you ninnyhammer!”
“Now, don’t you fret about it, Sam. You had no way of knowing. Having been raised in Buckland, Frodo had been swimming almost since the time he could crawl. He used to tell me how he couldn’t wait until he was old enough to compete in the swimming contest!” laughed Bilbo, a distant smile of the past in his eyes.
The smile vanished as he continued. “By the time Frodo was old enough to enter the races, he was ten years old. Being one of the youngest in the contest, he didn’t do well. But he was happy just the same. Oh, my! You should have seen the look of pride on his face at having completed the course! You see, even though Wedmath was not my usual time to visit at Brandy Hall, I had come specifically to see Frodo compete in the Races. The lad had practically begged me to come and I was powerless to refuse him.” Bilbo’s eyes were twinkling again as he thought of how much he loved his younger cousin.
“But that there ribbon says that he won first place!” interrupted Sam, bringing Bilbo back from his thoughts.
“What? Oh, so it does,” began Bilbo as he poured the tea and scraped some of the white sugar off the cone wrapped in light blue paper and into Sam’s cup. “He won the ribbon the following year. I was there again, at Frodo’s request… I’ve never seen Frodo so happy and proud.” Bilbo gazed out the kitchen window toward the sad figure that stood solitary in the front garden. “That was 1379. His parents drowned in the River the following year in 1380.”
Sam practically choked on his sip of tea and quickly put the cup back down. “1380? Why, that's the very year I were born, Mr. Bilbo!”
Bilbo turned toward him. “Was it really? Well, I don’t think their deaths had anything to do with your birth, Samwise.”
“I don’t know why it never struck me before as how I was born the same year as poor Master Frodo losing his parents.”
“Well, it’s not the sort of thing we like to dwell upon, is it?” Bilbo said gently, putting another slice of seedcake on Sam’s plate before taking a bite of his own piece.
“I reckon not,” said Sam. “But if that memory brings back sad memories for Master Frodo, why does he keep it where he can see it?”
“Oh, I suppose it has a lot of happy memories for him as well. Not only of winning the race, but of a lovely day spent with his parents, seeing their happy faces. Drogo and Primula were so proud of Frodo. I could see it in their beaming faces. So you see, it must have been a special day for Frodo to see that look upon his parents’ faces, too. But to have to tell someone else what the ribbon was for, well, I imagine that comes too close to reliving how soon after he lost them. Because he knows that the first thing someone is going to do as soon as they see the year on the ribbon is comment on how he lost his parents the very next year. And the last thing he wants is anyone’s pity.”
Sam could see how Bilbo was right. That had been his very first thought, too, as soon as he had learnt the year that Frodo had won the race. He wondered what it would be like to lose a parent at such an early age. An involuntary shiver ran down his spine at the horrible thought. Sam was so glad that both of his parents were alive and well.
“That was the only time I ever saw that ribbon. I’d never known Mr. Frodo was such a good swimmer before, but it weren’t no surprise, him having been thinner than most lads were, he would have had that much less weight to pull through the water and that much less to weigh him down,” said Sam.
Tears stood in Merry’s and Pippin’s eyes as they thought of their cousin who had never entered a Buckland swimming race in all the years they had known him.
“I wish I’d got to see him win one of those races,” said Merry. “I’d have liked to see him so proud of himself, just once.”
Pippin nodded and handed the ribbon to Merry. “You keep it, Merry. It belongs in Buckland.”
Merry looked up in surprise at his younger cousin, “Oh, no, I couldn’t…”
“It’s only right, Merry,” agreed Sam. “Since you didn’t get to see him race.”
Merry smiled gratefully at them and then carefully placed the ribbon in a pocket of his westkit.
“What is this?” Merry wrinkled his face up in disgust as he plucked something up out of the storage box with the barest of fingertips and began to examine it. “Pippin! Didn’t you have enough mushrooms at luncheon? Now look what you’ve done! You’ve dropped one in with Frodo’s things!”
Pippin had just opened his mouth to object when Sam spoke first.
“Begging your pardon, Merry, but that there mushroom is not from luncheon.”
”Well, how else could it have got in here?”
“I don’t rightly know, but that mushroom is old and wrinkled. It looks like it’s seen many a summer,” Sam replied.
“Twenty-one summers to be precise,” Pippin replied. He lifted his chin up in the air and grinned, his green eyes twinkling with satisfaction as Sam and Merry both turned to look incredulously at the smug Took. Pippin pointed to a spot on the wrinkled mushroom and replied, “I was there. Look!”
Upon closer inspection, Merry and Sam saw that there were initials carved into the cap of the mushroom.
“PT, FB” Sam read.
“Peregrin Took, Frodo Baggins,” Pippin interpreted happily. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that mushroom.”
Merry screwed his face up and faced his younger cousin, “Would you care to explain why Frodo would have kept an old wrinkled mushroom, and why it would have your initials on it?”
“It’s to commemorate Frodo’s and my first walking trip together!”
“Pippin! You and I went walking before that!” exclaimed Merry.
“Well, yes we did,” admitted Pippin. “But I said Frodo and I. You were not there. You were sick with hay fever back in Buckland.”
Sam gave an amused look at Merry before returning his gaze to Pippin. “Go on then, Pippin. I want to hear about this.”
Merry pursed his lips and leant forward curiously with his arms crossed. It wasn’t often he learnt of something involving Pippin and Frodo that he didn’t already know.
“Well, remember Merry, the summer I was fourteen? We’d all three met at the Great Smials for the Lithedays as usual, but instead of coming back to Whitwell with me, you’d had to return to Buckland.”
“Ah yes, I remember. Grandmother Menegilda had one of her bad turns, and Da was worried and then I had hay fever. So I didn’t make my usual Afterlithe visit. I was going to come back in Wedmath…”
Pippin nodded. “Frodo, on the other hand was not especially in any hurry to get back here. So it was just Frodo and me. When Frodo asked me what I wanted to do one day, I took one look outside and saw that it was a fine summer’s day and told him that I thought it would be grand if we could go on a real adventure, like he used to go on with Bilbo…”
”But we’ve gone on walking trips before, Pippin,” said Frodo. “Not alone we haven’t,” Pippin replied. “We’ve only gone with Merry … or Bilbo.” He added the last part softly, a note of uncertainty in his voice as to whether he should mention it. The last thing he wanted to do was to hurt Frodo. “But we’ve never gone just the two of us, like you’ve done with Merry.”
“Merry’s older than you.”
“Yes, and he always will be,” Pippin pointed out. “But I’m at least a year older now than Merry was the first time you took him alone on a walking trip! Besides, it’s good weather now (and Father said it’s likely to hold for at least a week. I promise I’ll do everything you tell me to do, even cleaning the fish. Please, Frodo! Can’t we go?”
Frodo raised an eyebrow and looked at his younger cousin’s pleading face with amusement.
“All right, dearest, but I don’t want any complaints if you get tired,” Frodo said, ruffling Pippin’s curls.
“Oh, thank you, Frodo! You’ll see! I won’t be any trouble at all!” Frodo grunted as a young teen grabbed him tightly in a hug.
Pippin was as good as his word and did not complain once. Despite agreeing to Pippin’s request, Frodo still didn’t want to go that far with Pippin. He was still a bit slight for his age and Paladin and Eglantine would never forgive him if anything happened to their son. In the end, Frodo decided that they would go to Pincup, carefully avoiding Tuckborough as they entered the Green Hills, since Pippin would certainly have objected to Frodo taking him back home.
Sam’s prediction had been correct as usual and the fair weather held throughout the trip. Frodo had to admit, he was glad to go on another walking trip, it had been far too long since his last one. And Pippin really was old enough now to be good company and not complain about getting tired.
As they walked along the path the first day of their adventure, they sang some of their favourite walking songs, mostly ones that Bilbo had written, Pippins sweet young voice mixing with Frodo’s rich, deeper tones. When they had tired of singing, they played a game that Frodo always played with Merry or Pippin when they went walking: spot the wildlife. It was a game Bilbo had played with Frodo when he was a lad.
By mid-afternoon, Pippin had spotted three squirrels, a robin, and a rabbit hopping along. Even though they had not yet even come to the Green Hills, Pippin sighed as he stared around him, intent on finding more wildlife. Frodo knew that what Pippin really wanted to find was a deer in the woods. It was always the same way.
“Perhaps we should sing again,” Frodo suggested.
“All right!” Pippin smiled cheerfully. One thing Frodo and Merry both knew was that the easiest way to cheer Pippin up was to suggest that he sing.
One hundred apple pies, cooling on the sill,
“Not that song, please.”
“All right, Frodo.” They walked along the road in silence for a few minutes. Soon, Frodo heard Pippin humming, which soon became singing again.
Road goes ever on and on
Pippin looked carefully at Frodo. Although he was certain Frodo would not have any objection to this song, he wanted to be certain not to be a bother on their adventure.
But this was one of Bilbo’s songs. Frodo was smiling and soon joined his voice with Pippin’s.
And I must follow, if I can,
“Well, you’d better be able to say whither the path goes, Frodo Baggins, or we shall become lost!” Pippin quipped after they finished the song.
As they continued making their way through the Green Hills and Pincup, they continued to sing. This walking trip was turning out to be everything Pippin had hoped for.
“I’m glad we came this way, Frodo. This way, I won’t have to clean any fish!” the young Took exclaimed happily as they ambled the Green Hills. “Although, I don’t know so much as I’d mind cleaning them just now. I am feeling a bit peckish!”
Frodo gave Pippin a pointed look, but there was a hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth.
“Not that I’m complaining!” Pippin added quickly. “I just mean, we didn’t stop for afternoon tea and the sun’s starting to set, so I thought we might want to stop for dinner now so we can get a few more hours of walking in under the stars.”
“Very tactful of you, Pip,” Frodo laughed, slipping his rucksack off by some rocks that would serve well to control their cook fire.
“I thought so!” Pippin agreed readily with a huge grin as he slipped his rucksack off next to Frodo’s. “What can I do to help?”
Frodo looked around their surroundings and motioned to a patch of the woods where there were some smaller fallen branches. “You can gather the firewood while I start getting the food out and make the pit.”
“I’ll get it straight away! And I’m going to find us some mushrooms, too!” Pippin exclaimed.
Before Frodo had even opened one of their rucksacks, Pippin dashed off to gather the wood. He had only been gone about ten minutes when he returned with his arms weighed down by enough wood to make five cook fires.
“Will this be enough?” the teen asked.
“That will be plenty, dearest!” Frodo chuckled in response.
“Good!” Pippin dropped the firewood near the pit that Frodo had made and then dug into the pocket of his breeches. “Look what I found!” he said proudly, holding out his hands.
“Mushrooms!” exclaimed Frodo, who began salivating at the sight of the tasty morsels. “What a good lad!”
Pippin’s face glowed as he basked in Frodo’s approval.
“They’re all safe to eat – I’ve seen them plenty of times when I’ve gone mushrooming with Pearl. But look what else I found!” Pippin dropped the mushrooms into Frodo’s hands and rummaged in his pocket once again. “Writing mushrooms! At least, that’s what Pearl says they’re called.” Pippin held two long-stemmed medium sized tawny coloured mushrooms in his hands for Frodo’s inspection.
“So they are! That’s what Bilbo always called them as well,” said Frodo. He put the little button mushrooms Pippin had already given to him down in the pot he had taken out and took the writing mushrooms from Pippin.
“Pearl says they are rare.”
“She’s correct. At least, here in the Shire. And did Pearl also show you what to do with them?”
Pippin nodded enthusiastically. “She said you can write anything you want on the caps of the mushrooms and then put them in a safe, dry place to dry and when they dry, whatever you wrote on them will still be there on the cap, forever and ever.”
“That’s right! So what would you like to write on them?” Frodo asked. “It can’t be that long, there’s not that much room on the caps.”
Pippin thought for a moment. Finally, he smiled.
“What about our initials? That’s short enough, isn’t it? And then we can always remember this adventure that we shared – just the two of us! And look! I got two of them – one for you and one for me, so we can each keep one.”
“Why, that’s a fine idea, Pippin!? Frodo hugged his little cousin warmly, careful not to squish the mushrooms. He handed Pippin a small twig with which to carve their initials.
“I think you ought to do it, Frodo. Your handwriting is neater than mine.”
“All right, Pippin. I’ll do the writing,” Frodo chuckled.
He handed one of the mushrooms back to Pippin and carefully held the other one up to find the best spot on the mushroom to write on. The corners of his mouth rose as he looked again at Pippin, who was anxiously looked on.
Frodo held the small twig and carefully carved on the first mushroom, “PT” and looked at the proud grin on his cousin, knowing that the lad would be glad his initials were listed first. Below the “PT,” he added “FB.”
“That’s perfect!” Pippin exclaimed. “Now do the other one!”
Only after both mushrooms were carved with the exact same thing did they begin to prepare their dinner of lentil and mushroom soup with some rosemary griddle bread.
“We agreed that we would each keep one of the mushrooms so we would never forget the first time we went on adventure, just the two of us. I still have my mushroom, but I forgot all about seeing what happened with Frodo’s,” Pippin explained, gently turning the mushroom over in his fingers, not even bothering to wipe the tears away from his eyes.
Merry and Sam were both misty-eyed as well.
“That were a beautiful story, Mr. Pippin,” Sam commented, too choked up to remember not to use the “Mr.”.
Merry nodded, unable to say anything for a moment. Finally, he said, “Why don’t you keep Frodo’s mushroom, Pippin. It’s only right. Keep the two of them together.”
It was Sam’s turn to nod now. “Mr. Frodo would like that.”
Pippin gave them a thin, watery smile and carefully placed the mushroom in the breast pocket of his weskit. Then he reached out and picked up the blanket.
“So, what’s in the blanket then, Merry?” Pippin poked at it curiously. “I think I know…”
“So do I. But open it up anyway.”
Pippin untied the ribbon that was around the blanket, and drew the folds away. “Baby clothes! Just as I thought!”
Merry and Sam looked at the tiny clothes: a long white dress, such as was worn by both lads and lasses as infants; a white knitted bonnet and a matching jacket; a small playsuit the colour of bluebells--it had a bumblebee embroidered on the little pocket; and a little bib, also embroidered with bumblebees. And of course the blanket itself, knitted of two strands of soft cream-coloured wool with fringe on each end.
“Blue?” said Pippin, puzzled. Pale green was the usual colour for hobbit lads, and pale yellow for the lasses.
Merry shrugged, too caught up in his thoughts at the moment to give more of an answer. Frodo had worn these tiny garments. Putting away his sad thoughts, he looked at Sam. “Well, Sam, it’s perfect timing--you’ve a babe on the way, and here are some baby clothes.”
Sam drew back in horror. “I could never! Those was Mr. *Frodo’s*!”
“I know that, Sam. And Frodo made you his heir. So they belong to you.”
“But his mum made those, I’m sure!”
“I’m sure she did as well. She was known for her needlework, I’m told. That means they will be very well made.”
“But they ought to go to you. Or to … to Pippin for when he weds!”
“They’ll be of no use to Estella and me. We’ve a lass and a lad, and no mind to have more.”
Pippin and Sam looked at him dubiously. That had the sound of tempting fate. But they said nothing about it. Instead, Pippin protested, “And I’m not even *married* yet! As Merry said, you’ve another babe coming, and you and Rosie will probably fill this hole to the rafters!”
“Pip!” said Merry sharply.
Pippin’s cheeks blushed a fiery red as he realised what he’d said. “Well,” he mumbled, “you know what I mean!”
Sam shook his head stubbornly, and retreated to the only thing that kept coming to his mind. “Those was Mr. Frodo’s as a babe.”
Merry and Pippin looked at one another helplessly. Sam in this mood could be every bit as stubborn as a Baggins. Or a Took. Or a Brandybuck. Or all three rolled into one.
Merry tried appealing to Sam’s practicality. “Sam, what’s the point of them just being kept until they rot away? Frodo would *want* them to be used, I’m sure.”
Sam just set his face.
Pippin and Merry exchanged a helpless glance, and then Pippin stood up. “I know how to resolve this.”
Sam and Merry stared at him as he went to the study door and opened it. Their expressions turned to alarm as Pippin called: “Estella! Rose! Would you please come in here a moment? We need your opinions.”
He turned back to Sam and Merry with a smirk. Both of them glared at him.
Estella and Rose entered the room. “What is it, Pip?” said Estella. She and Rose were trying to take advantage of the children’s naps to have a nice chat and a cup of tea.
“Look!” Pippin said, pointing to where the little garments lay, atop the blanket on the settee next to Merry.
“Oh!” said Rose. “They’re beautiful!”
Estella went over, and her eyes widened in surprise, and then she bit her lip. She knew whose work this was, and it made her think briefly of the nature of tragedy. “This is some of Primula’s work.” She picked up the tiny white dress, and examined the pin tucks at the hem. “Mother Esme has told me that Frodo’s mother had a real gift with any kind of needlework.” She put the dress down and took up the bib. “How sweet! See the bumblebees? Esmeralda told me that Primula used to put little bees on things she would make for her family--for Baggins and Brandybuck.” Estella picked up the little playsuit. “And how she made baby Frodo’s things in blue rather than green, because of his eyes. Look at the little bee on the pocket!”
Rose picked up the little bonnet and jacket. “And look at the knitting. Do you know if she spun her own wool?”
Estella nodded. “From what I’ve heard from Merry’s mum and a few of the older cousins and aunties in Brandy Hall who knew her, she was a wonder with her drop spindle, though sometimes she would buy her yarn as well. Bilbo gave her a spinning wheel for his birthday the year before she died.”
“I wish I could knit,” said Rose. “That’s one thing my own mam didn’t do. Most of our knitted things was made by Aunt Aster.”
“I could teach you. It doesn’t take long to learn the simpler stitches…”
The two were talking as though Sam, Merry and Pippin were not even in the room. Merry, Sam and Pippin kept looking from one to the other as they spoke, and finally Merry cleared his throat.
Estella looked at her husband. “Yes, dear?”
“I’m thinking that Pippin asked you in here to help us decide what to do with these. I think they should go to Rose and Sam…”
“Don’t you think they should stay with family?” Sam put in quickly.
Rose and Estella looked at one another and laughed. “Is *that* all?” said Rose with a grin.
“It isn’t a problem,” said Estella. “Obviously neither of our children could wear the dress nor the jacket and bonnet, Merry. Those are sized for very young infants, and I would think that Rose and Sam will soon have use of them.”
“And,” added Rose, “our Frodo-lad could never fit in that playsuit. But I’m thinking it would still fit your little Perry. And the bib’s meant to go with that, I do suppose. When the new babe outgrows the gown and such, why then we’ll put them away for another--whether you and Estella have another or mayhap when Pippin and Miss Diamond wed and have their own wee bairns, and then we’ll pass them back.”
“That’s what you *do* with baby clothes, after all.” Estella was examining the tiny stitches of the embroidery on the pocket of the playsuit. “Primula probably had put these few aside in the hopes of another child, or maybe these were her favourites. But why do you think there are not more here? These weren’t Frodo’s only clothes. I am quite sure, Merry, that at some point you yourself probably wore some of Frodo’s baby things.”
Sam, Merry and Pippin all looked quite startled. Well, of course hobbits handed around baby clothes--it was only good hobbit sense, but somehow they had not thought of that in the context of *these* baby clothes. They had been Frodo’s after all.
“But,” protested Sam, “they were *Mr. Frodo’s*. What about stains and all?” But his protest sounded weak even to his own ears now.
Rose chuckled warmly, and Estella shook her head, amused.
“Sam, me dear,” said Rose, “do you think that when Mr. Frodo was a baby he never spit up or made messes?”
“We shall take care of that when the time comes, of course,” said Estella. She held up the playsuit. “I think you are right, Rose. This probably would fit little Perry for another month or two.” She picked the little blanket up as well. “Perhaps I’ll try it on him after his nap…in the meantime, I’ll get my needles and wool out of my travelling case and show you how to cast on…” She and Rose left the room, chatting once more as though their husbands and Pippin were not even there.
“So,” said Pippin cheerily, “I suppose *that’s* solved!”
Merry and Sam both looked at one another and then at him, and exchanged a smile. Pippin’s day was coming. He’d learn.
“I could use with a spot of fresh air about now,” said Pippin as he walked toward the door. “Would either of you care to join me?”
“A sniff of air is a grand idea!” said Sam enthusiastically. “Merry?”
Merry smiled at the two of them. “I think some fresh air could do us all some good. It’s not good for a body to be cooped up indoors all day with a box full of memories.”
“And by the time we are finished with our walk, then it will be time for afternoon tea, which is fine with me as I am already starving!” exclaimed Pippin.
“Why does that not surprise me?” said Merry as they made their way outside.
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