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Well, no one can say he hadn't come up with a proper name for them pestiferous bugs. Sam tried to use his right toes to scratch behind the back of his left knee, though he'd had not much luck scratching his right ankle with his left toes. Betwixt the neekerbreekers and the midges, it was making for a sleepless night. It was hard to try and stay still and not wake up poor old Mr. Frodo, who probably had just as many midge bites as he did. Why wouldn't the neekerbreekers be quiet? Then all he'd have was the itching.
Frodo shuddered. He wished so badly to reach down and just scratch furiously at his calves, but he knew that would only make things worse, not to mention making it harder for Sam on one side of him and Pippin on the other to get any sleep. He wasn't fooling himself; if he was this miserable, they had to be as well. He wondered how much longer Strider would be dragging them through this insect-ridden marsh? Carefully, he shifted to his left side, facing Pippin, and put a hand over his right ear. At least the neekerbreekers were somewhat muted.
Pippin took a deep breath, blinking back tears. He'd had the worst of the midge bites after falling in the marsh. Not only his legs, but his hands and his face suffered bites. Strider had a tiny jar of salve, and he'd spared a bit for the bite near Pippin's left eye, but there wasn't enough to spare for all the bites the hobbits had suffered. And that incessant neekerbreeking was enough to drive him mad! Somehow without his even willing it, his hand reached up to scratch his forehead, but suddenly that hand was caught in Merry's iron grip.
Merry lost track again. He'd thought counting backwards from one thousand would keep his mind off those noisy insects Sam had named "neekerbreekers". But he kept losing track and having to start over whenever he got distracted by his itching ankles and calves. He was also worried, as he could tell Frodo and Pippin were not sleeping either. Pippin was being too still, for one thing. His younger cousin tended to be a restless sleeper. But then he saw Pippin's hand move towards his face. Merry reached over, grabbing Pip's wrist. "No scratching!" he whispered.
Aragorn stood watch, his back to the hobbits. He was all too aware of their discomfort, and now wished he had taken another path. But it seemed best to go a way that would discourage pursuit. It had not occurred to him that the hobbits, being shorter, would suffer more from the low-swarming midges. He forgot he was protected by his boots and leathers. His tiny jar of salve would be of little use on the four of them, so he used it only for the bite near Pippin's eye, which could be dangerous if infected.
Was there nothing that could quiet that constant noise?
(A/N: The type of midge that Strider and the hobbits encountered was likely the "Highland midge":
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