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TESTAMENTS OF THE PAST
A breath of fresh air and some afternoon tea with their families proved to be just what Sam, Merry, and Pippin needed. They went back to the strongbox curious to find out more about the things Frodo had kept for all these years.
Merry cast an eye on the letters from his parents and grandparents that he had put to one side. While he wished to examine those, it was clear that Pippin and Sam were still interested in some of the other objects that were in the strongbox besides just letters and documents, and truth to tell, he wasn’t sure he wanted to tackle the letters this late in the day after all.
Sam was carefully moving aside another stack of letters to reveal a few more items. He lifted out a pipe--it had a long stem, and was a bit larger than most hobbit pipes. He smiled.
“Remember this?” he asked.
Pippin reached for the pipe. “I don’t think I ever saw Frodo with this one!”
Merry shook his head, and smiled rather wistfully as well. “No, that was Frodo’s first pipe, and he wasn’t really allowed to smoke it very often. Poor old Balin!”
“Balin?” Pippin sounded puzzled. What did Gimli’s cousin have to do with it?
Sam nodded. “That pipe were his gift to Mr. Frodo. I know you’ve been told about when Mr. Bilbo adopted Mr. Frodo. Gandalf was here, and Balin as well.”
Merry nodded. “The day after Frodo’s Adoption Party, Gandalf and Balin got ready to leave. Balin I think, had some important things to do…
Merry swung his feet, as he busily ate his first breakfast. His mum and da were still asleep in their guest room, but he and Frodo had wakened early and had a lovely tickle fight, before they washed and dressed and came to the kitchen. Bilbo was laying the table, and the smell of scones and porridge made Merry’s tummy rumble.
Gandalf was already seated on the floor by the table, and Balin was in the chair he’d been occupying for meals since his arrival.
Frodo busied himself with fetching the jam and honey from the larder and the milk and the butter from the cold cellar. As he came back out into the kitchen from the cellar, he paused by the back door.
“What’s this?” he asked. He looked over at the two guests. “Are you leaving?”
Merry’s gaze followed Frodo’s, and he noticed the large packs, and Gandalf’s staff, which were placed on the floor by the back door.
“Yes, Frodo,” said Gandalf. “It is time for us to be on our way.”
Merry felt his heart sink a little. He really liked the big Wizard, with his rumbly booming voice and his kind, twinkling eyes, and the Dwarf with his store of tales about Cousin Bilbo’s Adventure, so different than the ones Cousin Bilbo told himself.
Bilbo placed bowls of porridge on the table, and then attended to the teakettle. “It’s been very pleasant having you here,” he said. “I shall hate to see you leave.” He poured out the tea putting only a little in Merry’s cup, which Frodo topped off with milk and honey. Merry smiled up at his cousin as Frodo stirred it for him.
“Well, I am glad to have seen you, Bilbo,” said Balin, “but as I told you, I’ve a venture of some importance to see to, and I must be on my way. I’ve stayed already a bit longer than I meant to.”
Gandalf shook his head. “You know my opinion on this idea of yours.”
“Yes, yes,” said the Dwarf impatiently, “how you do go on about it. But I am sure the time is right.”
All the food was on the table, and Bilbo sat down now as they all ate. “I put cinnamon in the porridge…” started Bilbo, in an attempt to put the conversation on to the food, where it belonged.
But, Merry supposed, Big Folk must not care as much about being proper, because the Wizard and the Dwarf carried on their previous conversation, and Bilbo just sighed and rolled his eyes.
“I do wish that you would listen to me, old friend,” said Gandalf, “but heeding my advice is not something that Dwarves seem inclined to do.” He sounded a bit cross, thought Merry.
“This strawberry jam was put up by Bell Gamgee…” Bilbo tried again.
Gandalf chuckled. “Balin, we are reproved for our manners. The jam is delightful, Bilbo, as are the scones,” and he reached his long arm for another one.
When they had finished eating, it was time to say farewell. Gandalf and the Dwarf took up their packs, and Bilbo, Frodo and Merry followed them outside.
“I shall go see to the horse and cart,” said Gandalf, and he strode off on his long legs.
The Gaffer and Sam were busy in the herb bed, as the gardener was thinning out some scallions.
“Master Hamfast,” said Bilbo, “would you spare young Samwise to say farewell to our guests,”
Hamfast had shaken his head resignedly. “Go along wi’ ye, Sam, and mind your manners.”
They followed Balin around the side of the smial to the front path, and down to the gate, where Gandalf came rumbling up with the huge horse and cart.
“Well,” said Bilbo, “I don’t suppose I shall see either of you for a while. Perhaps, Balin, in a few years, Frodo and I shall come visit you in your new home.”
Balin nodded, and then said “I nearly forgot!” He fumbled in his pack, and then brought out one of his pipes. “Frodo, my lad, I wished to give you a gift to mark the occasion of your adoption.” He handed the pipe to Frodo, whose eyes grew perfectly huge.
Frodo cast a look at Bilbo for permission, and at the older hobbit’s encouraging nod, said “Thank you very much, Master Balin! I shall treasure it!”
Merry and Sam stared enviously. It would be many years before either of them could smoke a pipe.
“Well,” said Gandalf gruffly, “come along, Master Dwarf!”
And Balin clambered into the cart, and they drove off to waves from all three of the young hobbits and Bilbo.
“That’s that, then,” said Bilbo briskly. “Come along, Frodo, Merry! We’ve the washing up to see to. Sam, I’m sure your father needs your help now!”
“I was sorry to see them go,” said Merry, “but none of us realised we’d never see Balin again. It wasn’t till after Moria that I realised just *where* he had been planning to go that spring.”
“I know,” said Sam. “He should have listened to Mr. Gandalf.”
Pippin sighed, and looked at the sad expressions Merry and Sam wore. Although he had been told before that Gandalf and Balin had visited Frodo at the time, it had never really sunk in before. Why, no wonder Frodo had sounded so sad in Moria--and Merry and Sam must have felt it too, having met the Dwarf. He turned the pipe over and over in his hands.
Sam looked at it. “Do you suppose Gimli would like to have it?”
“Yes,” said Merry, “that’s an excellent idea, Sam. You should put it aside for the next time he visits.”
Sam set the pipe Frodo got from poor Balin aside and then the three of them continued to look through the strongbox.
“Why, look! Frodo kept his sheep all these years!” declared Pippin, holding it aloft.
Merry took a small stuffed toy out of his cousin’s hand and examined it. It was still very fluffy, with a black face, ears, and hooves and a cream coloured body. “It’s still in pretty good shape, even after all those times we played with it here at Bag End. Of course, little Wyn and Perry each have one of their own. I make sure I keep my little lamb safely away from them so it comes to no harm.”
“Begging your pardon, but what about the sheep?” Sam asked, looking perplexed.
Merry and Pippin grinned at each other and Merry nodded for Pippin to explain.
“Well, as you know, my parents lived on the farm in Whitwell before Father became Thain. One of the things we did on the farm was herd sheep. Every Took or kin of the Tooks born is given a toy woolen sheep just like this one as a Naming Day present from my parents. Mother makes them all herself using fleece from our sheep.”
“Mum told me once when I had misplaced it that this had been Frodo’s favourite toy when he was a faunt. She said he used to carry it around with him wherever he went and would say ‘baa,’ as if he were a sheep,” said Merry.
They all paused and chuckled as they tried to imagine Frodo as a little faunt, walking all around Brandy Hall ‘baaing’ like a sheep.
“I could always tell mine apart from his when he was still living at Brandy Hall. Besides his having a black face, mine has grey eyes and Frodo’s has blue.”
“That was right kind of your ma to make all them sheep for all of your kin! I take it that your sheep has green eyes then, Pippin?” Sam asked.
Pippin turned to look at him. “It did,” he answered sadly.
“You didn’t save yours like Mr. Frodo and Merry?”
Merry grinned and looked at his cousin mischievously. “Go on then. Tell him.”
Pippin looked bashfully down at his furry feet, the tips of his ears turning crimson. “I … I lost mine.”
“You lost your sheep that your very own ma made for you?”
“Tell him how, Pip.” Pippin glared at his cousin; Merry sounded a bit too smug to him.
“I … I set it free. When I was little, still at Whitwell. I thought it would like to run free with the rest of the herd instead of being cooped up in my room so I took it outside and put it in the middle of the herd. I felt so proud of myself. But then one of our sheepdogs, a lovely black and white fellow named ‘Dickon,’ well, he herded the sheep over to the shearing pen, and when he did so, the sheep … well, they …”
“They trampled right over Pippin’s little toy sheep!” grinned Merry. “I told you not to do it!”
Sam looked stunned. The poor sheep! “But couldn’t you rescue it?”
“Well, I suppose I could have, but by the time the sheep had all cleared and gone into the pen, Dickon came along and grabbed my stuffed sheep and took off with it. I never found it after that.” Pippin looked so sad that Sam came up with an idea how to put things to rights.
Sam took Frodo’s sheep out of Merry’s hands and firmly placed it into Pippin’s hand, making his meaning clear, and sighed. Mr. Frodo ‘baaing’ like his black-faced sheep. Merry had a little lamb. And little lad Pip had lost his sheep and didn’t know where to find it. They all had wool in their heads. It was enough to make Sam glad he was born a Gamgee.
Sam looked to see what else remained in the box, to find a distraction from this discussion about toy sheep.
“What are these?” Sam asked curiously. He had two slim volumes, bound in blue leather in his lap and was thumbing through them. There were a couple of others next to him, identical. “It doesn’t look like Mr. Frodo’s work--and here’s one of Mr. Frodo himself as a young lad, if my eyes don‘t deceive me.”
Merry took the book from Sam, and flipped through it. “Why these must be Cousin Calla’s sketchbooks! She left these to Frodo; he was her student at the Hall.”
“Cousin Calla?” asked Pippin. “I'm not sure I remember her.” He put down the bundle of letters that looked to have been from Bilbo, and leaned over to look.
“No, she fell ill of a wasting sickness not long after Frodo came to live with Bilbo. She became rather a recluse after that, hiding away in her rooms at Brandy Hall, and seldom seeing anyone. She died the very year Grandda did.* She was--let’s see--my sixth--hmm…Frodo’s fourth cousin, three times removed, and rather well-known as an artist, even outside of Buckland.” Merry reached over to the side table, and picked up the framed document which had been carefully placed right on top of everything in the strongbox--Drogo and Primula‘s marriage contract. “This is some of her work, at least the borders and illuminations. I am not sure if she did the text or not, but the artwork is definitely hers.”
The three hobbits glanced through the sketchbooks, which also seemed to have served as journals as well. There were several sketches of a young Frodo. And there were some loose sketches tucked in as well.
“Look at this!” cried Sam, “This is Mr. Frodo’s work! I wonder when he made it? I don’t remember it!”
It was a charcoal sketch of a small child, just out of faunthood, perhaps five or six years of age. He was looking up shyly, with a sunny smile, and he had a trowel in his hand and a smudge of dirt on his brow.
Pippin laughed. “Why, that’s *you*, Sam!”
Merry chuckled. “So it is! Since it’s in Cousin Calla’s journal, I would suppose it is one he did for her in a lesson--he probably did it from memory after coming home to Buckland from a visit here one spring!” Merry studied it carefully for a moment. “I think that these journals could go back to Brandy Hall--but would you like to keep the sketch, Sam?”
Sam took it, and shook his head in amazement. “I’d be glad of it, Merry. Do you know, I sometimes wondered if Mr. Frodo ever thought about me at all when he’d go home to his kin.”
Merry smiled at Sam. “I’m surprised you would ever doubt it, Sam! And now you have the proof of it in your hands.”
Pippin stood up restlessly, the small sheep that had belonged to Frodo still in his hands. Merry and Sam were still looking through Cousin Calla’s sketchbooks, exclaiming over pictures of Frodo when he was small. Sometimes--not often, but sometimes--Pippin felt a bit left out to hear of Frodo’s life before he was born. Merry and Sam had shared so much more of Frodo’s life, and most of the time he loved to hear about it, would even ask for it. But when he was missing his Baggins cousin as much as he was now, he occasionally thought how unfair it was that he did not have as many memories of Frodo.
He stopped at the old desk beneath the window overlooking the front garden. Once it had been Bilbo’s, then Frodo’s, and now, Pippin supposed, Sam’s. It looked the same as it had when Frodo lived there--his desk set and various pens and penholders all lined up across the back. A good many of those had come from him. There was the oliphaunt ivory set he and Merry had found in Minas Tirith, and there was the fancy glass inkpot Pippin had given Frodo on his twelfth birthday, and there was the beautifully carved oak box, made especially for holding pens that Pippin had given Frodo on his twentieth birthday. It had curved slots inside to hold the pens. Pippin lifted the lid: there were arrayed the numerous pens he’d given Frodo over the years--a pen or some sort of writing implement or accessory had been his usual gift to Frodo ever since he was five. There they were, arrayed across the bottom of the box, from the cherry penholder with the brass nib that he’d given Frodo the year he‘d turned twenty-eight, to the pen made of beaten copper, to the silverpoint stylus, to--where was it? Where was the blue glass pen he’d given to Frodo when he was five? It had always stayed in that first slot, ever since Frodo had the box.
Sam looked up from the sketchbook. “What is it Pippin?”
“Do you know where the glass pen is? The one I gave Frodo?”
Merry looked annoyed at the interruption, and then puzzled.
Sam shook his head. “I don’t use any of Mr. Frodo’s special pens.”
“Sam!” said Merry reproachfully.
“No, no, Merry--it’s not that I don’t think I should. But I don’t write too comfortable with anything but a good old-fashioned goose quill. Mr. Bilbo showed me how to cut ‘em, you know, and he allus preferred a quill to the fancier pens Mr. Frodo liked.”
“Well,” said Pippin, “it’s not here where he always kept it. I hope it did not break after all these years.”
Sam shook his head. “It was one of his favourites. He was using it to make lists with right up to the day before he left.”
Pippin ran a finger through the empty slot, his mind racing. Suddenly, he grinned. “He took it.” He laughed delightedly. “Frodo took it with him!” For some reason, Pippin was suddenly and absolutely certain of that, and it made him happier than he had been since they had begun to go through the box.
Merry met his eyes, and nodded. “I don’t doubt but that you are right, Pip.” He bit his lip, and looked once more at the strongbox. “Maybe not everything that was special to Frodo is in here. He probably did take a few things with him.”
The three of them looked at one another with dawning wonder. Of course he would have.
Merry put aside the sketchbooks. It was comforting to know that Frodo had taken a few mementoes with him--that he had not had to abandon *everything* that was special to him when he left. Well, if Frodo had taken the pen Pippin gave him, he was bound to have taken something from Merry as well. He wondered what it might have been.
Now Merry thought he might at last be able to get the attention of Sam and Pippin onto the letters he had kept safely by his side. He glanced through some of them, and then picked up one that had his grandmother’s spidery old-fashioned handwriting on the envelope. He took it out and opened the faded paper.
“Oh,” he said, swallowing.
“What is it, Merry?” asked Pippin, who still had not sat down again, but came to look over his cousin’s shoulder. “Oh.” He came around and sat down once more.
Sam looked up with a puzzled glance, and Merry began to read:
My dear Bilbo,
There is no easy way to soften this news: last night Primula and Drogo were out boating upon the River. It is not known how it happened, but there was an accident to the boat. Both Primula and Drogo drowned.
Young Frodo fortunately was not with them when it occurred, and so was safe. However, he somehow escaped his minders, and was present when his parents' bodies were raised this afternoon. He became hysterical, and the healer had to give him a calming draught.
I am writing because Rory and Saradoc are completely distraught, and the Hall is in chaos. The funeral is in four days. I rely on you to pass the news to Dudo, Dora and other such Baggins relations as may wish to attend the funeral.
However, the Sackville-Bagginses will not be welcome in Buckland under any circumstances. I hold Lobelia responsible for this tragedy! It was her malicious ill-will that caused this, I am sure.
Please come at once, Bilbo. Rory needs you, and so does little Frodo.
Pippin bit his lip. This was a tale he had not known until fairly recently, but Sam nodded.
"On account of Missus Lobelia bringing a gift to the wedding when Mr. Frodo's parents were married," he said sagely.
"That's right. You know, Bucklanders set a lot of store by that particular superstition, and Grandmother more than most. She could never bear to be around the S.-B.s after that, and she never did want Frodo to come to Hobbiton on that account. Even when he visited Bilbo, she always worried about Frodo encountering them."
“There was naught for her to fear when Mr. Frodo was visiting Mr. Bilbo. Any time that them S.-B.s ever tried to poke their heads in Bag End, Mr. Bilbo was always sure to clear them off afore they could be a bother to Mr. Frodo. Very careful of him, Mr. Bilbo was, though he was still worried that them S.-B.s would bother Mr. Frodo when he were off somewhere without Mr. Bilbo,” said Sam.
“You’re right, Sam,” said Merry. His face lit up with a grin at a memory of a certain encounter when he had visited Bag End when he was young. “But I do seem to recall Frodo teaching the S.-B.s a lesson when he punched Lotho in the nose.”
All three of them laughed, as they all enjoyed envisioning Frodo punching Lotho in the nose to protect Merry.
“I reckon your grandmother and Mr. Bilbo never did have no real cause to fret about the S.-B.s and Mr. Frodo,” Sam finally said. “He could take care of himself.”
“Yes, and usually one of those looks from Frodo was all it took for Frodo to make sure the errant hobbit never erred again,” added Pippin as he reached for the next letter. “Here’s one from your mother to Bilbo before you were born,” he said to Merry. He scanned the contents of the letter quickly and broke into a grin. “She mentions *you* in it!”
"Right here," Pippin grinned, and began to read aloud:
"I will not be attending your Birthday this year however. I do not plan to be doing much travelling for the next several months, as sometime in mid-Solmath, Saradoc and I will be expecting the arrival of our first child!
Frodo is doing somewhat better. He is still far too melancholy for his age, and it has been nearly a year and a half since we lost Primula and Drogo. However the knowledge that he would be going to see you in Hobbiton has piqued his interest, and he is very much looking forward to the visit..."
Merry nodded sadly and looked at his dear mother’s familiar scroll a moment longer before reaching for the next letter. He gasped when he saw the only slightly less familiar handwriting on the envelope.
“This one’s from Grandfather.” He looked at Merry and Pippin for reassurance. They both nodded at him and he removed the letter from the envelope and opened it up hesitantly, but then immediately began to grin once he saw what the letter was about.
My dearest friend and cousin, Bilbo--
It is with great pride that I announce to you that the Son of the Hall and his wife are delivered of a fine son. He was born yesterday morning at four o' clock in the morning, and immediately began announcing his desire for first breakfast!
Meriadoc weighed three and three-quarter pounds and was ten and one half inches long! A fine strapping lad!
Esmeralda is doing well, although tired, of course, and Saradoc is almost as insufferably pleased with himself. Young Frodo seems to have been quite taken with his new young cousin as well.
I hope very much that you might come across the River for a visit soon and meet my new grandson!
“I was not big!” Merry snapped back. He was sorry to have snapped back the next moment as the thought of how little Pippin had been when he was born prematurely crossed his mind. “Not so big, at any rate. How big were you when you were born, Sam?”
Sam’s cheeks grew hot with embarrassment at the attention being turned onto him.
“Yes, Sam. How much did you weigh?” asked Pippin curiously. “You couldn’t have been larger than old Merry here!”
Sam’s cheeks reddened even more, especially as Merry and Pippin continued to look at him expectantly for an answer. There was nothing for it but to tell them.
“Four and one-half pounds,” he replied quietly. “But I weren’t near as big as Hamson! He was four and three-quarter pounds!”
Merry’s and Pippin’s eyes grew round as they both gulped.
“I always did admire your mother, Sam,” said Merry.
“Yes. And now I don’t feel quite so sorry for Aunt Esme anymore,” added Pippin. “At least, not because of Merry’s birth weight. Having to put up with him as a son is a different matter all together.”
“Oi!” Merry aimed a cousinly swat at the back of Pippin's head, but Pippin was just a bit too quick for him.
All three of the hobbits were grinning as they happily looked at the next letter.
“This one has to be… “Pippin began as he opened the letter. “It is! It‘s from Frodo himself!”
Dear Uncle Bilbo,
I have a new cousin! I know that you knew he was coming soon. Well, he was born the day before yesterday. His name is Meriadoc, but I have decided to call him "Merry", for he is such a cheerful baby. When I saw him, I know he smiled at me, although Aunt Esme and Uncle Sara say he is far too little and too young yet to do any such thing. But I know I could feel him smiling. He took hold of one of my fingers and held on tightly, as though he would never let go! He is very strong for such a tiny baby.
I know there have been other baby cousins at the Hall, but this one is very special. I just know it! I hope you will come and see him soon, so then my two most favourite cousins of all can meet!
I miss you very much, Uncle Bilbo!
“Well, of course, it was you and Bilbo before *I* came along,” Pippin grinned. “Once he got a look at me, of course, *I* was his favourite!”
Merry chuckled. “Certainly, Pippin. Whatever you say Pippin.” Then he winked at Sam. “We humour his delusions, Sam.”
“Oi!” exclaimed Pippin, aiming his own swat at the back of Merry’s head, which his cousin easily ducked.
Shaking his head, Merry took up the next letter. He frowned as he read his father’s letter, an old familiar pain of heartache gripping his middle.
“What is it, Merry?” asked Pippin, pulling a corner of the letter down so that he could read it as well.
Merry swallowed miserably. “Frodo.”
Sam came up on the other side of Merry and the three of them read the letter.
I thank you so much for promptly informing us of Frodo's whereabouts. We had been frantic at discovering that he was missing, and my father had already ordered dragging the River, fearing the worst.
We were furious to discover what he had done until we read his own letter, and realized how hurt he must have been. I am still a bit upset that he did not feel he could confide in me, however that has never been an easy thing for him to do--I was very angry indeed at Aunt Asphodel and Uncle Rufus. They had no business interfering, nor saying things of that sort to Frodo..."
Pippin solemnly and silently embraced Merry, rubbing his back. Sam was wiping his own eyes. "Bless me," he said, "I was still a faunt myself then, but I can remember him that year sitting on the step with this faraway look in his eyes, and thinking he were awful sad. I never really understood how bad he had it, back in Buckland. But Merry, I don't think he would have wanted to miss out on them things he did with you when you was a little lad. When he finally did come to live here, I think almost every other word out of his mouth was 'Merry'."
Merry sniffled, and took the handkerchief Pippin handed him, and blew his nose. "Thank you, Sam. I know I would not give up those memories for the world."
After giving Merry a few minutes to compose himself, Pippin picked up another letter. “That’s from Bilbo…” his voice trailed off, as he looked at the date on the letter. “He wrote it on the day of The Party--just before he left.”
Merry and Sam looked over Pippin’s shoulders, as they read the first few sentences.
My own adventure lies on a path outside the Shire now. Do not be sad, Frodo; I shall always love you..."
The three of them looked at one another, and Sam shook his head.
They were silent for a moment, and then Merry opened another letter, and then grinned widely.
When are you coming here? I know you are busy with all of your responsibilities now that Bilbo has left, but I need you here to help me manage a certain little Took who is getting under my skin.
I’m glad Aunt Tina brought him here so he does not catch the sickness going around in the Tooklands, but do you know what that cousin of yours is doing? He’s decided that a great way to wake me up every morning is to gather up some of the overnight frost, pat it until it is nice and firm, and then slip it inside my nightclothes – with me still inside them!"
Pippin snorted, and Sam rolled his eyes.
"Once he has me up, he insists on singing 'One hundred apple pies' all day long. Yes, that song!
If that’s not enough to drive any hobbit mad, he has been teasing me mercilessly about liking a certain lass or two, including right in front of the lasses! You would think that a lad with three older sisters would understand how vexing that could be, but not your cousin. Oh, no! It’s as if he was purposely trying to get me to stop paying the lasses any attention.
I dare not complain to Mum or Da or Aunt Tina about it. They might not let him come next year or insist on punishing him, which would all be my fault for not getting him to see reason.
Please, Frodo. You know how he minds you better than anyone else sometimes. I know you couldn’t come back to Buckland after the Birthday *this* year for your autumn visit, but it’s drawing near First Yule and I miss you. It’s no good for you to stay shut inside Bag End all by yourself.
Won’t you come straight away to see your sprout?
Merry grinned. "Well, I didn't know that after I made up the part about the frost that you would *do* it to me the next morning!"
"I couldn't let you lie, could I?"
"And how I let you talk me into putting in that part about 'sprout' I will never know! I hated for Frodo to call me that when I was that age!"
"It worked, didn't it? I told you Frodo would really feel sorry for you if you put that in! I was right."
"Well, I knew you were right--of course it would have made him feel dreadfully guilty. But that didn't mean I liked it." Merry sighed. "I was rather silly and full of myself at that age you know." It was not until Frodo was gone from any possibility of ever calling him ‘sprout’ again that Merry realised just how much he missed it.
“Well, with as miserable as Frodo was feeling after Bilbo left the Shire, your bruised pride was a small price to pay to make Frodo come to Brandy Hall sooner so he could start to feel happy again.”
“After we made him feel dreadfully guilty first.”
Sam shook his head and chuckled at the two of them. Some things never *changed*.
Pippin lifted his chin, sniffed the air, and grinned. “Mmm! I do believe I smell dinner!” A rumble from the vicinity of his stomach punctuated that observation.
Merry inhaled as well, a look of pure bliss on his face. “Mushroom pie!”
“Glory! That smells like Rosie’s coney stew!” exclaimed Sam, his own stomach beginning to rumble.
All thoughts of the strongbox were put aside as the three hobbits followed their noses straightaway into the kitchen, each of them salivating.
Some things *never* changed.
“Very astute of you, Pip,” chuckled Merry. “You almost got yourself landed with doing the dishes.”
“Why, I’d be glad to wash the dishes, Merry!” Pippin said. There was a hint of mischief twinkling in his eyes.
“I like the sound of this!” exclaimed Estella.
“After Rosie and Estella made such a fine meal while we looked through Frodo’s strong box,” Pippin continued, “it’s only right that we take care of clearing the table and washing up the dishes. Don’t you agree, cousin?” Pippin grinned at Merry expectantly.
Merry forced himself to smile. “Why, yes, Pip. A very good idea!” He turned to face his wife. “You and Rosie rest, dear. Pippin and I will take care of the dishes.”
Sam held his hand up to cover his mouth as he tried to hide a snigger.
“And Sam will help us,” Merry said, looking straight at Sam and grinned. “Won’t you, Sam?”
Sam erased the smile from his face and looked from the grins of his Rosie and Estella to the even wider matching grins of Merry and Pippin. “Err… right, Merry. It’s only proper.”
She was rewarded with the mock hurt looks of all three hobbits.
Estella picked Perry up out of the chair beside her and laughed. “Well, that’s settled then! Come on, Rosie. We’ll be in the sitting room when you are finished, lads.”
“Nice going, Pip! Why don’t you offer for us to put all the children to sleep while you’re at it!” said Merry as the three hobbits began to clear the table.
“With pleasure, cousin!” grinned Pippin.
“Pippin!” Merry hissed.
“Did you hear that, Rosie and Estella?” Pippin said loudly, ignoring his cousin. “After we are finished with the dishes, Merry, Sam, and I will be happy to put the children to bed while you have some tea.”
“Well, I don’t know what’s got into the three of you, but Estella and I know when not to argue! Don’t we, Estella?” said Rosie.
“Absolutely! This should be interesting,” mused Estella. “Perry usually cries when anyone but me tries to put him to sleep for the night.”
Merry scowled at Pippin, nodding in agreement. “Well done, Pip,” he said sarcastically.
“I thought so!” Pippin agreed with a wide, toothy grin. “I’ve helped Estella put Perry to bed lots of times. How hard can it be?”
“Come on, let’s get started,” said Sam. He picked up the empty plates that had held the roasted chicken and taters. “As my old gaffer always said, ‘fastest started, soonest done.’”
With Sam in the kitchen, it wasn’t long before the table was cleared and all of the dishes were washed, dried, and put away. Even though they were grown-up, he had been very careful to push the jar of flour out of sight of Merry and Pippin.
Then it was time to put the children to bed for the night. Fortunately, the little Elanor and Wyn liked getting baths and their fathers had very little trouble getting their daughters cleaned. In the meantime, Pippin held little Perry while he tried to keep Frodo-lad amused.
“I’ll wash Frodo-lad while Sam puts the lasses to bed,” suggested Merry. “You, my dear cousin, may give Perry his bath and put him to bed.”
“With pleasure! You’ll see, Merry,” Pippin smiled. “Your son will be clean and sound asleep in no time.”
As Pippin moved past them with little one-year-old Perry in his arms, Sam and Merry exchanged a knowing glance.
It was with great satisfaction that Merry left the bathing room half an hour later with a clean Frodo-lad in his arms.
“Well?” Sam said simply as he entered the room Frodo-lad and Perry were sharing.
“Are the lasses asleep?” asked Merry.
Sam nodded his head and looked back at Merry expectantly.
Merry’s face lit up as he thought of the scene he had recently left in the bathing room. “I’m very proud of my son. Right now, Perry is proving that he has inherited my ability to get under Pippin’s skin.”
“Not exactly being cooperative, is the lad?” asked Sam.
“Most Brandybucks love the water, but not my lad. I’m afraid Perry takes after his Uncle Freddy when it comes to that,” said Merry with glee.
Sam and Merry laughed quietly while they finished tucking Frodo-lad in. In a few short minutes, the two experienced fathers had him asleep. Then, they sat in the two chairs in the room and waited for Pippin to show up with Perry.
And waited some more.
Sam was just starting to nod off when a haggard looking Pippin finally entered the room with wriggling Perry in his arms. Merry nudged Sam’s elbow and he looked up at Pippin and tried not to grin.
“Any problems?” Merry asked Pippin happily.
Pippin sighed with exhaustion and managed to paste a tired smile on his face before looking at Merry.
“Oh, no. Perry… was having so much fun in the bath that I just decided to let him play for a bit. That’s all.”
“Good!” Merry grinned wickedly. “Then since the two of you are getting along so well, you should have no problem in putting him to bed and getting to sleep.”
Pippin smiled weakly at Merry. “No, it shouldn’t be a problem at all.” He was beginning to think twice about his earlier idea. It had seemed a good idea at the time – whenever Pippin had helped Estella, she’d never had difficulty getting Perry to sleep.
“Pippin…” Sam moved to stand and help the inexperienced unwed hobbit. It really wasn’t fair.
Merry moved Sam firmly back into his chair. “No, Sam. Pippin said it shouldn’t be any problem at all. Let him do it.”
“Is everything going fine in there?” Estella asked loudly.
“Everything’s just fine, dear.” Merry replied, easing himself back into his chair. He then stretched, folded his hands neatly behind his head, and looked at Pippin expectantly.
Pippin looked from his cousin down to the squirming bundle in his arms and sighed.
It was twenty minutes later and although Pippin had managed to get Perry to lie down, the baby was still screaming. It had only been thanks to Sam that Frodo-lad had not woken up.
Merry still sat in the rocking chair enjoying the entertainment. Normally, he hated to hear his son scream. But not tonight. His normally cheery cousin full of energy was withering into a pile of frustrated raw nerves before his eyes. He doubted that even the battle before the Black Gate had been as daunting an experience for Pippin.
“Please, Perry! Stop being so contrary and go to sleep!” Pippin had already sung all of the soothing songs he knew to the lad but with no results.
At this rate, they would never get Perry to sleep. Sam looked over at Merry and pled with his eyes. Finally, Merry nodded in satisfied agreement.
“Here now, let me try, Pippin,” said Sam as he came to Pippin’s side. “You sit down and rest a while.”
“Thank you, Sam,” Pippin said with relief. He weakly clapped a hand on Sam’s shoulder before collapsing into the chair Sam had just vacated and glancing at Merry, who smugly met his eyes.
“There now, Master Periadoc, what’s all the fuss about?” Sam held the baby in his arms and rocked him gently back and forth. He softly hummed an old tune his gammer had always sung to him when he was a lad.
Although Perry was sniffling, he was quieting down. It wasn’t long before he was sound asleep in Sam’s arms.
Pippin looked on in amazement. “Sam! How did you do that?” he whispered. He dared not speak too loudly lest he wake Perry up and Merry made *him* get the baby back to sleep.
“Why, it’s naught but having a couple of wee ones of our own! Both Rosie and I have had plenty of nights such as you had before we learnt what works and what don’t.”
“I guess you were right. I didn’t know what I was doing when I said we would put the lads and lasses to sleep. Especially Master Periadoc over there,” said a chagrined Pippin.
“You’ll see when you and Diamond get married and have little ones of your own, Pip,” Merry added quietly. He rose and went over to Sam to get a look at his sleeping son. No matter how much he had enjoyed teaching Pippin a lesson, it hadn’t been easy for Merry to hear Perry scream like that and not go over to him. “You will learn fast enough. Wyn was never a problem to get to sleep, but Perry won’t go to sleep for anyone but Estella. I’m a bit surprised he fell asleep for you, Sam.”
Sam’s face reddened slightly. “The lad had probably just worn himself out with all his fussing while Pippin was tending him, that’s all,” he said humbly. “Just look at the sweet little lad now!”
“You’d never guess he was screaming like an goblin a minute ago,” said Pippin.
“No, he looks as peaceful as if he were in Lothlorien,” added Merry.
“Perry’s always been good at changing his moods quickly.”
Sam smiled at the baby as he laid him down and covered him with a soft blanket. As he did so, Perry opened his eyes sleepily for a moment and yawned and stretched. He stared at Sam for a moment and then winked at him before closing both eyes and drifting back to sleep.
“Did you see that?” Sam asked in amazement. “He winked at me! Perry’s a winker!”
“Perry-the-Winkle?” Merry stared at Sam in surprise. “What kind of outlandish name is that for my son?”
Pippin laughed. “Silly Merry! You need to have Estella clean your ears for you or do a better job of cleaning them yourself! Sam didn’t say ‘Perry-the-Winkle!’ He said that Perry is a winker!”
Sam nodded in agreement. “Aye, that’s a fact, Merry, though there’s naught wrong with ‘Perry-the-Winkle’ neither.”
“Did you hear that, Merry?” chuckled Pippin. “Perhaps you should have had a daughter instead and then you could have named her ‘Periwinkle!’” he jested.
Merry looked sharply up at his cousin and glared at him with mock indignation.
“Now, see here, Pippin. Perry is a fine lad and a right smart and friendly one to be winking at such an early age,” Sam chided him. “Isn’t that so, Master Perry-the-Winkle?” he added, turning to snug the blanket up a little more around the sleeping baby.
“Thank you, Sam!” replied Merry, jutting his chin up in the air a little at
Pippin. “You feel free to call him ‘Perry-the-Winkle’ any time you want. I believe you’ve earned that right since *you* were able to get him to go to sleep.”
“Why, glory be, I believe I will!” exclaimed Sam softly, leaning over to run a finger gently around one pointy little ear. “Did you hear that, Perry-the-Winkle? You’ve got a new name for me to be a calling you!”
“Well, now that Perry’s asleep and has got a new name, I believe it’s time we all left this room and rejoined your wives,” suggested Pippin.
“Now that’s the *first* good idea you’ve had this evening!” joked Merry as he clapped Pippin on the back.
See the Author Notes for the full text of three of the letters quoted in this story, and for a link to pictures of some of the items described.
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