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Merry opened his eyes to the grey light just before dawn. When he was a small lad, it had seemed a rather large room, but now that he was grown, and larger than the average hobbit, it seemed much smaller. A good deal of it was due to the extra large bed. Frodo had two of them built, one for him and one for Pippin after they returned from their journey.
He was very glad Frodo had the beds made wider as well as longer. Merry smiled and turned on his side to watch his sleeping wife. She was curled on her side with her back to him, her curls all tumbled about her face. He gently brushed them away to feast his eyes on her, and she stirred sleepily but did not wake. After four years and two children, he still found himself awed that such a sweet, gentle, and clever lass had consented to be his bride.
As they often did, especially at times like this, his thoughts wandered back to Frodo. He wondered, if it had not been for the Ring, would his cousin ever have been able to find a wife, and the kind of happiness Merry now knew? He tried to console himself with the thought that perhaps Frodo had been a confirmed bachelor anyway. Bilbo had never shown any interest in getting married, even before It came to him. Neither had Porto Baggins, Angelica’s uncle, seemed interested in finding a wife. So maybe it was a Baggins trait. But he’d never know. And now the Baggins name was dying out.
He sighed and lay back against the pillow. There was still a good deal to be done with that strongbox. Mentally, he began to tick off a list: letters from various relations could go back to them. There were several from Freddy and Berilac and Mosco from their time with the embassy in Gondor. And he had seen a number of letters from Cousin Dody and from Uncle Dinny and Uncle Mac as well. Those could go back to Brandy Hall with him. Letters to the Took relatives, Pippin could take to the Great Smials. Perhaps Angelica would like the bundle from Frodo’s Aunt Dora. Merry was fairly certain Frodo had not kept *all* his aunt’s letters, though, or they would have filled the box by themselves. There was another folder of what appeared to be legal documents, and another smaller box they had not yet opened. And another bundle of letters, the one on top appeared to be from Strider--though Merry was sure that the whole bundle was not from him. He knew how many letters came through the King’s Messengers those first two years, after all.
They’d not, after all, completely emptied the strongbox yet, even though Pippin had suggested at one point simply upending it and dumping the contents on the floor. Sam had looked so horrified at that suggestion that Pippin had quickly withdrawn it.
Merry sat up and smiled at her. "Good morning, my heart. I do believe I smell first breakfast cooking."
In the kitchen, Sam was preparing griddlecakes, with the assistance of Elanor, who stood next to him on a chair, the turner in her hand, all set to slide it under and turn over each golden-brown cake as it was ready.
"The bubbles are all broke," she said.
"That’s right, Elanorelle. Take your time, love."
Her little tongue peeking out the corner of her mouth in concentration, she carefully and slowly pushed the turner under, and gave it a little flip. Her face fell as one edge curled under, and some of the batter spread back out. "It’s not *round*, Daddy," she wailed.
Rose sat in the rocking chair nursing little Frodo-lad and watching the cooks fondly. Sam was far more patient with Elanor in the kitchen than she was.
"Take them up now," said Sam holding the platter before his daughter.
Once more Elanor carefully lifted the cakes up, and this time dropped each one onto the dish. "Do you think Unca Pip and Unca Merry will like my cakes?"
Merry just then entered the kitchen, little Wyn in his arms. Estella was still seeing to changing and dressing Perry. "I can promise that Uncle Merry most certainly will like your cakes, Elanor!" he exclaimed. "In fact, maybe he won’t even *leave* any for Uncle Pippin!"
Elanor giggled. "Yes you will!" she grinned. "You *always* share with Unca Pip!"
Merry looked puzzled. "Where is Pip? It’s not like him not to be in the kitchen at the first smell of breakfast."
Pippin turned away from his window. It was dawn. The dream that had awakened him had been different from most of his nightmares. It was not about any of the things that had happened to *him* on the Quest, nightmares that he was almost used to after seven years, that wakened him with heart pounding, sometimes screaming, though it did not happen so often now as it once had.
No, this had been different. He’d dreamed of Frodo before the Quest, his carefree and happy cousin--but he himself had somehow known of the coming peril, and he kept trying to *warn* Frodo of his danger. But no one seemed to hear what he was really saying, and when he had told Frodo the Ring was evil, his cousin had just laughed and ruffled his head as though he were seven, and told him not to worry, it was just a little trinket, the least of rings… Merry had shrugged him off, Sam just kept talking about the garden…and the more desperate his warnings grew, the less they seemed to hear him. He had wakened suddenly, to complete clarity, knowing it was only a dream. And yet he was left with a lingering sense of foreboding.
He had dressed slowly, trying to think what it might mean. He could hear the others stirring. He supposed it was just all the memories of Frodo they had been stirring up, going through that box. And yet, it was so good to see some of the things that Frodo had cherished, that had been important to his cousin.
He could smell griddlecakes and bacon.
Shrugging to himself, he went on to the kitchen.
Sam, Merry and Pippin wasted no time when breakfast was finished, but headed straight for the study. The plan was to work straight through until luncheon. To that end, they took a tray in with them, loaded with fruit, bread, cheese, biscuits and a teapot. They could nibble as they worked, and would not have to stop until lunch time.
The only legal documents left were in the folder: a copy of Frodo's last will, as well as copies of his two previous wills. The two earlier wills had "Void" written upon them in red ink, and the word had been initialled, apparently, by the lawyer.
"I thought Frodo's will was on file at the Mayor's Office," said Pippin, puzzled.
"It is," replied Merry. "This is just a copy - see, it's not even signed."
"What about them other wills, Merry?" Sam asked. He had not realised that Frodo had earlier wills. Yet now he thought of it, it made sense, considering all the trouble Mr. Bilbo had when he came back from going off with the Dwarves--Mr. Frodo would never want to take a chance like that.
Merry glanced at them. "This one was the first one, the one he had made right after Bilbo left. And this is the one he made before--" he wet his lips. "Before we all left. If there were ever any evidence of how successful we were in hiding our Conspiracy from him, this is it." For in that will, Frodo had left almost everything to Merry and Pippin, unaware they would be accompanying him into danger. Pippin looked uncomfortably at the folded version of that will; for he had been the one to tell Merry what was in it, and the thought of receiving so much of Frodo’s wealth still made him cringe. It had been a most pleasant surprise when he had found out that Frodo had made Sam his heir in the end.
His eye was caught by a document with his father's name on it. "What's this?" he asked, taking it out to look more closely.
Merry glanced over. "That's a renunciation. It's like the one Frodo had your father sign when he made Crickhollow over to the both of us."
Sam nodded. "Mr. Bilbo signed one when he adopted Mr. Frodo--remember?"
"Yes, yes he did. And Frodo had old Ponto sign one before he left, so there'd be no trouble for you over Bag End, Sam."
Pippin looked at the renunciation once more, shaking his head. Frodo really had thought of everything, seemingly.
Merry took out another small bundle of letters, and after a glance, exclaimed “Aha! I knew it! I *knew* Bilbo must have written to Frodo.”
“O’ course he did,” replied Sam. “He never said nothing to his kin about it though--said if Mr. Bilbo wanted them to know, he’d write them too.”
Merry and Pippin gave him a reproachful look. They didn’t need to say anything. Sam blushed. He knew what they were thinking. “Well, it’s only natural as I’d know, being as I was here when they came, sometimes.”
Pippin shook his head. “Of course you are right, Sam. And it’s not your fault our cousin--well, both our cousins, really--were so close-mouthed about things.” He elbowed Merry, who looked a bit cross.
Startled, Merry said, “Oh no! Not a bit of your fault, Sam.” But he still looked cross, something explained an instant later by his next words. “Can you believe that in seventeen years, Bilbo only sent Frodo *five* letters?” There was more than a tinge of anger in Merry’s voice. “Frodo probably *lived* for those letters! Only *five*!”
Pippin shook his head. “Merry, be reasonable. It can’t have been easy to send them--Rivendell is a long way off, and there aren’t that many messengers available. It’s not like the Shire Post. Or even the way it is now, with the King’s Messengers. The Wild was a lot more dangerous then.”
And Sam shook his head. “You know Mr. Frodo was perfectly happy when he heard from Mr. Bilbo. But he didn’t pine in between, like you seem to be thinking.”
“Besides,” added Pippin, “how do you know he didn’t send *dozens* of letters? If they had to go through old Butterburr at the Prancing Pony, Frodo’d never have known, would he?”
“Merry … are you … still angry at Mr. Bilbo about Mr. Frodo coming here to live?” Sam didn’t think that was the case, but remembering Merry’s confession when they’d found his own letter to Bilbo, Sam had to wonder.
“No,” said Pippin astutely. “No, he’s still angry with Cousin Bilbo for going off and leaving Frodo with the Ring.”
Sam stared at Pippin in shock. They’d tried to avoid mentioning the Ring for the most part--an unspoken agreement--yet a glance at Merry’s face told him that Pippin once more had hit the nail on the head. Merry looked shocked, but more the shock of a sudden realisation, than of surprise.
Merry deflated sadly. “I didn’t think I was, Pip. I thought I was over all that when we watched Bilbo sail off with Frodo. But, all this…I suppose that perhaps you are right, I’m not over it. If only…” His voice trailed off uncertainly.
Pippin put a gentle hand on Merry’s arm, and very seriously quoted the old Shire nursery verse: “ ‘If all the world were apple pie and all the rivers ink, and all the trees were bread and cheese, what would we have to drink?’ ”
Merry chuckled and shook his head. “Only you, Pip, would come up with that old saw! It’s never made one bit of sense to me!”
“Oh, I don’t know, Merry,” said Sam, “I allus thought it meant that ‘if onlies’ was useless.”
“Come on, let’s try and finish this before luncheon,” said Pippin.
Now that all of the letters and documents were out of the way, Merry, Pippin, and Sam looked inside the strongbox to see what remained. All that they saw was a wooden box resting on a piece of bright red velvet folded at the bottom of the box.
"I suppose we ought to open in this box now," said Merry. It looked familiar.
"What do you reckon’s in it?" Sam asked. The box had silver hobnails firmly keeping strips of wood in place around the box. On the strips of wood in its centre was a heavy iron latch.
"The quickest way to find out is to open it," suggested Pippin as he removed the small wooden box and looked at Merry. He was fairly sure he knew what they'd find in this one.
"You’re right, Pip," said Merry, taking the small box from his cousin. He rested the tip of his right thumb on the inside of the latch and pushed it to the side. He looked up at Pippin and Sam for an instant, and then opened the box.
The air inside the box was old, just as its contents were. Merry raised an eyebrow at Pippin and both cousins exchanged smiles. Yes. They knew these items very well.
"I don’t think I’ve ever seen them things before," said Sam.
"No, I don’t expect as you have, Sam," said Merry. "You see, they belonged to Frodo’s parents. We used to look at them sometimes when he was still at Brandy Hall, and then, after he moved in with Bilbo, here at Bag End, although I thought there would be more in here."
“How do you mean, Merry?” Sam asked in confusion.
Merry began to explain. “Well, this was the box that Frodo always used to keep his parents’ most treasured possessions in…”
“Other than Frodo,” Pippin interjected saucily.
Merry gave his cousin a wry grin and reprimanded him playfully by slapping him on the shoulder. “If you are finished interrupting, Pip.”
Pippin grinned widely, well pleased with himself. “Yes, I believe I am, Merry, although you know what I said is true.”
“So it is,” agreed Merry. “But I believe Sam knew not only that Frodo was his parents’ most treasured possession, but that he was not kept in a box.”
“No, he was kept in a hall first and then in a smial,” agreed Pippin toothily.
Merry cleared his throat and glared at Pippin.
Sam tried to keep from chuckling as he watched the exchange between the two cousins. These two were nothing if not entertaining.
“As I was saying,” Merry gave Pippin a quick warning glance, “Whenever Frodo used to let me look in this box at his parents’ things,” another warning glance toward Pippin, who looked innocently back at Merry, “not only were these objects in the box, but so were a few other things.”
“Oh? Like what?” asked Sam.
“Like that small stone that Drogo always used to carry around with him in his pocket,” explained Merry.
“Yes, Sam. Just your ordinary small, shiny, potato skin coloured river bed stone,” added Pippin.
“It was from the Brandywine,” Merry said seriously. “Frodo said his parents had been skipping stones in the Brandywine one time when they were courting. It was the very last stone they had collected for skipping stones. Primula begged Drogo not to throw it, but to keep it as a remembrance of the occasion.”
“’I shall keep it as long as you stay by my side,’ said Drogo.” Pippin quoted wistfully, a tear spilling down his cheek.
Merry nodded solemnly, his own tears filling his misty grey eyes. “And that’s how they became betrothed. Primula opened Drogo’s hand that still held the small stone and placed the stone in one of the pockets of his westkit. And there it remained throughout the rest of their lives. When their bodies were brought ashore after the accident, Frodo saw the stone slip from Drogo’s pocket and insisted that it be brought to him, which it was. Frodo kept the stone with him in his own pocket as his father had done, only removing it for baths or at night when he would put it in this box. I don’t suppose he could bear to be parted from it.”
“Frodo must have taken the stone with him, a way of taking a bit of the Shire with him,” said Pippin.
“I reckon I would take a stone as special as all that with me if I had left the Shire like Mr. Frodo did,” Sam said, wiping his eyes with his sleeves.
“Pip, did you notice that the pocket watch is also missing?” asked Merry.
Pippin raised his eyebrows in surprise before a quick look in the box confirmed that Merry was correct. “I suppose if he kept the stone, he had to keep the pocket watch, too.”
“What pocket watch, Mr. Pippin?” asked Sam. It was at times like this when Sam was reminded that for all Merry and Pippin said, he really was *not* family.
“The pocket watch that Primula gave to Drogo as a wedding gift.”
“Primula had Bilbo specially order it for her from the Dwarves at her request. Bilbo was always glad of that. Frodo said that later on, Drogo kept inside the watch a tiny drawing of Primula and Frodo when he was still a babe.” Merry thought fondly of Cousin Calla, whom he had only started to get to know before her death, but who had been especially fond of Frodo.
Pippin’s voice cut into his thoughts. “Even when I was little, Frodo would let me open the watch at night when I visited Bag End so I could look at that picture.”
“I don’t reckon as there would be much use for a watch in them undying lands, but I reckon that don’t matter none,” said Sam.
“No, time wouldn’t have much meaning there, I suppose,” agreed Merry as he fingered through the items in the box. “But that pocket watch sure would to Frodo.”
“Anything else missing?” asked Sam.
“I don’t see Drogo’s pocket whittling knife in here either.”
“Maybe Frodo took it with him in case he decided to take up whittling,” quipped Pippin.
Merry continued on without comment. “And it seems he took his mother’s favourite thimble and needle case, too. You remember, Pip, those pretty wooden ones with the primulas painted on the sides. Frodo said that his father had managed to sweet-talk Cousin Calla into painting it on there for him.
"I remember them." Pippin smiled fondly. He took the box from Merry and looked through it at the items Frodo had treasured but decided *not* to take with him, removing a silver coloured mouth harp. He put the tiny harp to his mouth and began flicking it with one of his fingers a few times, coaxing out a strange twanging sound that filled the quiet study. "This used to be Drogo’s. Frodo used to let me play it sometimes – he’s the one who taught me how to play it."
Pippin continued to pluck at it, slowly at first, but then quicker and quicker. Soon, the plucking took on the jolly rhythm of "Nob O' the Lea". It was a queer sounding instrument, but Sam and Merry found the tune infectious as they listened to Pippin play it.
As for Pippin, he always found it difficult not to move about while playing, especially when playing such a lively tune. He rose from his chair without ever missing a beat and began to dance around in circles as he continued to play. He danced around Sam and Merry, both of whom began to laugh at him.
"Come on, Merry!" Pippin exclaimed as he finished the tune, grabbing his cousin’s hand and pulling him to his feet. "Dance with me!" Pippin put the mouth-harp back to his lips and began to play "Ho, Ho, Ho! To the Bottle I Go".
Merry grinned down at Sam, his own toes tapping. Sam merely shrugged his shoulders, and began clapping in time to the music. Merry began clapping as well and soon began to kick up his heels just as Pippin was doing. Soon, the two cousins were dancing around Sam, that is, until Merry pulled him up as well and urged him to dance.
Sam shook his head, the tips of his ears turning crimson as he tried to sit down again.
"Oh, no you don’t!" exclaimed Merry, pulling him up from underneath the elbow.
"Pip and I won’t hear of it. If *we* dance, *you* dance – in honour of Frodo!"
It was impossible not to sing to such lively music. The only time that Merry and Sam stopped singing was when they were laughing with the sheer joy of the songs, for Pippin went straightaway from "Ho, Ho, Ho!" into a tune known as "Green Dragon Ale".
It was just what the three of them needed – a relief going through all of those memories of Frodo. They sang louder and louder, forgetting for the moment the strongbox and their task.
Suddenly, the door to the study opened with a thud and Rose and Estella stood in the doorway, with Frodo-lad and little Perry in their arms.
"What is going on in here?" asked Estella, her mouth still open in surprise at the sight that greeted her.
"Sam! What would Mr. Frodo think?" asked Rose in alarm.
Sam turned to look at his wife. "Why, Mr. Frodo would be right pleased! He wouldn’t want us sitting here moping about, all glum-like."
Merry and Pippin caught Sam up again as they continued to dance.
"It’s true, Rosie," said Merry. "Frodo always enjoyed music, and when he was younger, he used to really like to dance, too. You remember how he used to dance at the parties Bilbo and he used to throw for the Birthday. Nothing would make him happier than to know that he brought us laughter and joy."
Elanor and Wyn peeped around their mothers’ skirts and giggled at the sight of their fathers dancing around with Uncle Pippin to that odd sounding music.
"Come on, Elanorelle!" exclaimed Sam, and he scooped Elanor up in his arms and began to dance with her. Elanor giggled harder than ever as she clapped her hands to the music.
"And would my little flower like to dance, too?" Merry asked as he bent over and danced toward Wyn. He raised his daughter high in the air and then twirled her about, the sound of her joyous laughter rising above the twang of the mouth harp.
Estella and Rose stared at their husbands dancing with their daughters and then looked at each other. It was impossible not to laugh, and neither of them tried. Instead, they both entered the room and sat on the sofa with Frodo-lad and Perry in their arms.
"Look at Da, Perry! Remember this so you can tease him about it when you are older!" Estella said softly into her little son’s ear as she clapped his hands for him.
Pippin played one jolly song after another, although he stopped playing drinking songs and began to play some familiar nursery tunes. The dancers whirled around and clapped their hands, all of them forgetting about the strongbox on the table and the task at hand.
At last, the dancers tired and collapsed onto the empty chairs, or onto the floor in Pippin’s case.
Elanor was the first to catch her breath. She went over to the open box and pulled something out of it. "How pretty!" she said, holding a hair comb covered with painted flowers.
"Elanor, no! Don’t touch!" exclaimed Rose, quickly snatching the comb out of her daughter’s hand and putting it back in the box. "Begging your pardon, Merry and Pippin."
"It’s all right, Rosie. She did not mean any harm by it," Merry said. He knew from experience just how difficult it was for a little lass to keep her hands off things that caught her eye.
"Elanorelle, them things in the box belong to Mr. Frodo," said Sam gently but firmly.
Poor Elanor was crestfallen. She knew better than to reach for something that wasn’t hers; but the comb was so much prettier than the hair combs Mam wore. It was shameful to be reprimanded in front of Uncle Merry and Uncle Pippin.
"I’m sorry, Daddy. Unca Merry, Unca Pippin," she said in a tiny voice.
"Come, do not be so upset about it, lass," Pippin smiled at her gently. "You are not the first young hobbit not to be able to help touching something that you oughtn’t. Nor will you be the last."
"That’s right, Elanor. You should have seen the trouble your Uncle Pippin used to get into for touching things he would have been better served to have left alone," said Merry, ruffling her curls affectionately.
A sad and far away look came into Pippin’s eyes. "Quite so, I’m afraid. And what I touched was much worse than a pretty hair comb." Echoes of a long ago rum-pum-pumming sounded in Pippin’s ears, filling him with the roar of beating drums that he had thought long forgotten .
Merry looked at his cousin in alarm and understood. "Oh, Pip! I had not thought of that at all! Forgive me, cousin, for being so thoughtless." He rose from the chair, handing little Wyn to Sam as he went over to Pippin and put his arms around him.
"Perhaps we should leave you three alone now," suggested Estella. "Come, lasses. Let’s go see if the kittens need someone to pet them."
The door shut quietly behind Rose, Estella, and the children, leaving Sam, Merry, and Pippin to their memories.
"It weren’t your fault, Pippin," said Sam, joining Merry in hugging Pippin.
"Besides, it happened long ago and don’t matter now."
"It does matter, Sam," countered Pippin. "There was no reason for me to throw that stone. I didn’t think and my curiosity got the better of me, and almost cost all of us our lives
"Yes, but it didn’t," Merry said firmly. "You were only a tween at the time, and sometimes thoughtless, just like most tweens. And you learnt from your mistake. That was not the Pippin that I heard about in Minas Tirith. That Pippin, that Ernil I Pheriannath, had grown into a most responsible hobbit that I am proud to call my cousin."
Sam nodded his head in agreement. "Merry’s got the right of it. You learnt your lesson."
"No, Merry! No, Sam. I … I was just as thoughtless later on when I stole the palantir from Gandalf and looked in it. I just had to look. Just like with in Moria. I didn’t learn my lesson at all, you see. I shall never forget it, so dark and horrible…" Pippin visibly shuddered, his face screwed up in pain at the still too real memory.
"Now, Mr. Pippin," began Sam, taking Pippin by the shoulders. "We have been all through this afore many a times. You looked through that there palantir for a reason. If you hadn’t, then he would not have been so distracted and his eye would have fixed on Mr. Frodo and the Ring might never have been destroyed. And you never would have gone to Minas Tirith and would not have saved Lord Faramir. Mr. Gandalf used to say that we all done what we did for a reason; we all had our own roles to play in helping Mr. Frodo to save Middle Earth."
"He’s right, Pip. You know better than any of us how powerful the draw of the palantir was. Why, even Frodo could not avoid the pull of the Ring forever, and he was a fully grown hobbit at the time."
"I don’t know. Going through all of Frodo’s things … his wills … I know it was for the best, that it saved Middle Earth, but I can’t help thinking … wondering… what Frodo’s life would have been like if he had not touched the Ring … if Bilbo had not touched it." Pippin bit his lip, remembering his earlier words about "if only". It seemed that it was harder to avoid than he'd thought.
"I know, it’s silly. Of course we are all better now for the Ring and Sauron having been destroyed. It’s just… I still miss my Frodo …" Pippin’s voice faded away as he dissolved into tears.
"We all miss him," Merry said, again hugging Pippin to him. "But I know he is glad for having made his sacrifice. The Shire meant that much to him. All of us did."
"Mr. Frodo was the finest hobbit as ever lived," said Sam, wiping tears away from his own eyes. "I’m sorry Elanor touched that hair comb of Mr. Frodo’s. That’s what started all this."
"No, Sam, it’s not Elanor’s fault," said Pippin. "It’s going through all of these memories of Frodo’s. I’m afraid they’ve dredged up a few of my own memories as well. Besides, I can’t blame Elanor; it is a rather pretty comb at that."
Pippin reached into the box and removed the hair comb from where Rose had put it.
"It was Frodo’s mother’s," Merry commented. "Frodo said that his father gave it to his mother when he was born."
Pippin nodded. "Yes, and Frodo told me that his mother was the prettiest hobbitess he ever saw, especially when she had this fancy comb in her hair and …" he reached into the box once more, smiled, and removed something else. "… and this bracelet."
"Weren’t that given to Mistress Primula by Mr. Drogo, too?" asked Sam.
Merry nodded. "That was his wedding present to her."
Sam took the bracelet from Pippin and turned it over in his hands, admiring the clever detailing of primulas on it. "It’s beautiful."
"Frodo said that any time his father saw something with primulas on it, he got it for his mother, just like this bracelet and the hair comb," said Merry.
"It’s small wonder that Elanor couldn’t help touching so pretty as this," added Pippin.
"With her hair, that comb would look beautiful in her hair, Sam," said Merry.
"And after all, it is a family heirloom and Elanor is the oldest daughter of Frodo’s heir."
"Sir? I hope you are not suggesting what I think you are," Sam said in horror.
"That hair comb belongs to Mr. Frodo and to his family!"
"Must we go over this again, Sam?" asked Pippin, rolling his eyes. "You *are* family! You, Rosie, Elanor, and Frodo-lad. You are as much a part of Frodo’s family as we are and that heirloom is going to Elanor."
Merry nodded. He gazed at Sam pointedly with his grey eyes and crossed his arms across his chest. "And that goes for Pippin and me, too. You’re all part of our family as well, so you’d best get used to the idea because you are family now and that’s never going to change. Now then, I suggest you put this family heirloom hair comb away for Elanor until she gets a little older so that she can have something that once belonged to her Uncle Frodo--who named her as I recall."
"But …’ began Sam before he was interrupted by Pippin.
"Sam, have you not learnt better than to cross a Brandybuck when he is that determined?" asked Pippin, crossing his arms just like Merry had. "And although I am a Took and not a Brandybuck, I assure you that in this regard, I am just as determined as Merry. We mean for Elanor to get that hair comb and that is just what is going to happen," he said resolutely.
Sam looked from one of Frodo’s cousins to the other and sighed. He had heard them say he was family before, he’d even heard Frodo say it before he left the Shire. But something about it never seemed proper to him. However, he could see that he was not going to win this argument. There was naught for it but to accept it.
"Thank you, sirs… Merry… Pippin," he added quickly at the sight of their glares at his calling them "sirs." "Elanor will be right pleased!" He smiled at them as he took the pretty hair comb and placed it on the table beside him for safekeeping.
"Good! Now that that is settled, I insist that Wyn get the bracelet," began Pippin. "It’s only fair … if one of Frodo’s little lasses gets his mother’s hair comb, then his other little lass ought to have his mother’s bracelet."
Sam grinned at this and before Merry could get any further than opening his mouth to protest, Sam had shoved the bracelet into his hand and closed it around the piece of jewellery.
Without a moment’s hesitation, Merry closed his mouth and reached into the box for the remaining object. “Fine. Then I insist that *this* go to Frodo-lad.” He thrust a small dark copper button darkened with age into Sam’s hand. “Frodo-lad ought to have something of his very own that was quite dear to the *uncle* he was named after.”
“Done!” exclaimed Pippin, smiling brightly. “Drogo’s bird-in-the-barn westkit button goes to Frodo-lad. He’s a lucky lad; I always fancied that button myself when I was little and used to hope that someday Frodo would give it to me as a mathom. Oh, no, Sam,” Pippin continued, reading Sam’s thought clearly in his eyes. “I said that I *used to* hope that Frodo would give it to me. I don’t want it anymore; I want Frodo-lad to have it, as does Merry. That button is going to Frodo-lad.”
“Good, then we are all finished with the items in the box,” agreed Merry with satisfaction.
"Well not quite," said Sam, starting to reach in for the piece of red velvet. He remembered that length of cloth had been given to Frodo by a merchant in Minas Tirith. While it was rather a cheerful red, it was still not a colour any of the hobbits had favoured for clothing, but rather than offend the Man, who had been effusive over how the pheriannath had saved his son at the Black Gate, Frodo had taken it with thanks. Frodo must have placed it in there to cushion some of the other items. But just as Sam started to lift a corner of it, there was a tap on the door, and Rose stuck her head in. "Would you lads be up to some lunch?"
The three of them looked at one another. They could start putting things back into the strongbox after lunch. They wouldn't need the cloth--since many items would be going off to Buckland or the Great Smials or Budgeford the strongbox would not be nearly so full when they finished.
Pippin's face lit up. "I think luncheon is a splendid idea, Rose."
Lunch ended, and the three hobbits got up to return to the study. It was time to put away the things that would be remaining at Bag End.
Sam once more reached in, and lifted up the corner of the folded cloth. It was unexpectedly heavy, and there was a muffled "thunk" as he moved it.
"There's something inside the cloth," said Merry.
Sam lifted the fabric out, and unfolding it, revealed a tiny black box. It had seven silver stars embossed on the lid, so it was clearly Gondorian in origin. In addition, beneath the box and also folded into the fabric, there was a letter there, sealed with Frodo's seal. Sam passed them to Merry, who handed the box to Pippin.
This was such a small box. Whatever it held, had to be small. Merry glanced at the letter from Frodo in his hand, and wondered if they should open it first.
Pippin could not wait. He flicked up the small brass latch of the box, opened it, and gasped when he saw what was inside it.
"Thunder!" he exclaimed, going pale. Merry went even whiter. As for Sam, he turned green, and racing to the window in front of the desk, he shoved the desk aside, threw open the sash, stuck his head out and was noisily sick.
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