“Do you think,” Goldilocks asked, squinting into the falling dusk, “that the Entwives are real? Really real?”
“Of course I do,” Faramir answered, turning to give her an exasperated look. “Treebeard told Father all about them, after all, didn’t he?”
“Well,” Goldilocks said, “Treebeard told your father about something that happened long long ago, and your father told us about Treebeard telling him, which was a long time ago itself, and sometimes things get changed around in stories, is all.”
Faramir scowled at her. “Father would never tell us something that isn’t true,” he said stoutly.
“Your father told us that it was the troll in the cellar at Bag End who left those beer mugs in the kitchen at Dad’s birthday party, and ate the leftover cake, and knocked over the umbrella stand in the hallway,” Goldilocks said sensibly.
“Oh, well, that,” Faramir said dismissively, turning back around. “That’s different.”
Goldilocks sighed, and shifted position on her tree branch. “I just think we might be out here a long time, and still not see an Entwife,” she said, squinting into the twilight stretching out over the Green Hill Country. “And it’s past suppertime.”
“Just a bit longer,” Faramir said softly, and watched with hopeful eyes.
“Maybe Mummie won’t notice,” Goldilocks said hopefully, but Faramir and Hamfast exchanged a quick look and then shook their heads ruefully at her.
“No?” Goldilocks asked. “I can’t look that bad!”
The lads nodded their heads at her in unison and Goldilocks tentatively prodded at the swollen eye. “It’s not my fault, you know,” she huffed. “Stupid Mat Bolger with his big fat mouth. He’s just lucky I tripped before I could catch him.”
Faramir rolled his eyes -- Mat easily weighed half over Goldilocks. Then he jumped excitedly as an idea struck him. “Oh, wait here!” he cried and bolted out of the shed. He returned 10 minutes later, out of breath and flushed, with a big, floppy, flower-bedecked hat in his grubby hands.
“It’s Auntie Pervinca’s,” he said, holding it out. “Go on, no one will see your face with this on.”
“Is that the Gamgee lass?” Iris Took asked Pervinca at supper. “Wearing one of your hats, I believe.”
Pervinca narrowed her eyes as she looked over at the children’s table, then sighed. “Well, at least she’s finally taking interest in her appearance,” she said to Iris. “It’s nice to see her in something fashionable, even if it doesn’t fit.”
“Go on, Hammie,” Faramir urged. “It’s more scared of you than you are of it.”
Hamfast doubted that, but he drew in a fortifying breath of air and reached out his hand.
He was too shocked to scream, really, and just stood there, the turtle hanging from his index finger by its strong, curved beak. Faramir and Goldilocks were wide-eyed and open-mouthed in a combination of awe, horror and delight. Then Hamfast found his voice and let out a yell, followed by much frantic shaking of his arm and shrieks of, “Get it off me!”
“Oh, stop, Hammie, you’ll hurt it!” Faramir cried, to which Hamfast hollered, “I’ll hurt it? It’s hurting me! Get it off!”
Goldilocks stepped forward and grabbed the turtle by its shell, effectively ending Hamfast’s desperate bid for release. “You let him go!” she said firmly to the turtle, and Faramir began to laugh.
“I don’t think you can tell a turtle what to do, Goldilocks,” he giggled, but apparently she could, because it released its jaw and popped its head back into its shell. Faramir stopped laughing and looked sufficiently impressed by the power of Goldilocks’ command.
“There,” she said in satisfaction, and waded into the stream to set the turtle down on a rock. “We’re sorry, turtle.” She waded back to shore and put her hands on her hips when she saw Hamfast’s trembling lower lip. “Hamfast Gamgee, don’t you dare cry,” she said. “We still have lots to do today, and we don’t have time for you to be a baby. Look, you’re not even hurt,” and she grabbed his finger and shoved it in front of his eyes. It was red and marked from the turtle’s beak, but the skin was not broken.
Hamfast sniffled in a small show of defiance. “You’re catching the frog then,” he said sullenly.
“All right,” Goldilocks said cheerily, and waded back out.
“Tell us about Gandalf’s fireworks,” Hamfast pleaded.
“No, tell us about Bard and his black arrow that slew Smaug and saved Laketown!” Goldilocks demanded, jumping to her feet on the bed in excitement.
“Tell us about how you saved Gimli from drowning in the pond!” Faramir added to the chorus.
Pippin rolled his eyes good-naturedly. “Well, I can’t tell all of those!” he said. “It will be morning and time to get up if I sit here and tell all those.”
“That’s all right, Father,” Faramir said, settling himself onto his pillows. “We will listen for as long as it takes.”
“Briony,” Goldilocks whispered, and peered boldly into the old nurse’s face. Briony slitted an eye open.
“Young lass,” she said sternly, “can you not tell when an old hobbit is napping?”
“Briony, we’ve brought you a wonderful thing!” Faramir exclaimed.
“Oh, well, that’s a different tale, isn’t it?” Briony said, opening both her eyes and setting her mending aside. “Let’s see it, then.”
Faramir presented a small, smooth stone with a hole directly in the center of it. “It’s a fairy-stone!” Hamfast piped up, excitement overcoming his usual reticence.
“Oh, yes, that it is,” Briony said in all seriousness. She rubbed gnarled fingers over the smooth surface, turning it around in her hand.
“It will show you things that are true if you look through it,” Faramir said eagerly, leaning against the side of her rocking chair. “Do you like it?”
“Oh, I know what it will do,” Briony said crisply, “and it is a right marvelous gift. Thank you, my lambs.” She held it up and peered through the hole at the three young faces beaming up at her.
“What did you see?” Goldilocks asked as Briony lowered the stone.
“You three together,” the nurse said with a smile.
(NOTE: I am shamelessly promoting my own material with the reference to Pippin saving Gimli from drowning, which takes place in my first-ever Lord of the Rings story “Splashing and Sputtering.” I also am stealing shamelessly from other authors, with their kind permission. The troll first appeared in the cellar at Bag End in Shirebound’s “Quarantined,” and I learned of fairy-stones in Budgielover’s “Recovery in Rivendell.”)