#3 Four Hobbits Walk Into a Bar... - The Crossed Bows
Pippin saw her first, coming out of the jewelers. Hair so black it reflected the sun. She turned and he was hit with a pair of green eyes set just right in a perfectly heart shaped face. It is a cliché, but at that moment, Pippin fell in love.
"What's wrong, Pip?" Merry asked when his friend was no longer beside him, but had stopped a few paces back.
He did not answer, but pointed in her direction. She was talking to a few folks as they passed. Her teeth, a brilliant white, were caressed by peach-tinged lips.
"What?" Merry scanned the crowd, but saw nothing of interest. "Pip, The Crossed Bows awaits."
Abruptly, Pippin bolted down the street without a word. "Pippin!" If he leads me on one of his nonsense chases, Merry thought as he ran after the other hobbit, he's going to be sporting a Big People's size knot on his head.
She had moved off into the crowd, and having beheld perfection, Pippin wasn't ready to let it go. Deftly dodging the others on the street, he kept her in sight. She walked, and he ran, for blocks. Eventually he was able to catch his breath, and Merry was able to catch up, when she entered the bakery.
"Alright, Pip, what're you up to?"
"Come here and I'll show you." Pippin lead him to the window and they both peered in. She was standing at the counter, amiably chatting small talk to another customer while she waited for her turn. Her skin was fair, her cheeks barely hinted at a pink. Pip sighed heavily, fogging the window as he gazed at his ideal.
"A girl?" Merry was speechless. "I'm chasing you all over when we should be at the Crossed Bows right now, because of a girl?" Granted she was bonny, more than any in Buckland. However, she was not worth missing out on the best tasting ale in all the four farthings.
His grin lopsided, Pippin sighed again. "Not just a girl, Merry, The girl."
Oh, not again.
Her business completed, The Girl turned to exit the store, looking directly at the two hobbits staring at her through the front window. She never broke eye contact as she passed out into the street. A smile and a nod were sent their way before she walked across the street.
"Well, why didn't you introduce yourself?" Merry asked impatiently.
Pippin answered dreamily. "Didn't want to break the moment."
"Well, the moments gone now, my friend, because there she goes." He pulled on Pip's arm. "Come on, the tavern is this way."
Breaking free, Pippin ran after her. "I just want to ask her name."
Merry watched his friend bob and weave through the throng, getting closer all the time. The perfect girl turned the corner south and Pippin was only a few steps behind. He shouldn't be wandering off by himself, Merry thought, dejectedly realizing the Crossed Bows would have to wait a little longer. With a mild curse, he, too, jumped into the crowd and began to chase Pippin as he chased perfection.
That had been an hour ago and they were still chasing her. There had been a few times that they had gotten close, but something, or someone, had always foiled their plans. Merry had reached fed up about 20 minutes ago when they ran right past the place he had most wanted to see. "Pip, this is it! The Crossed Bows!" He stopped at the doors, snatching Pip's sleeve as he tried to run past. "This is it!"
Their quarry had stopped again, and this time Pip would not be denied. Wrenching his arm away from Merry, he dashed across the street towards her. "Go in, I'll meet you there!"
His thirst too great to be put off anymore, Merry heeded his friend's words and left the noise of Michel Delving behind.
"My, but you're a persistent one," the Girl said as Pippin stood behind her. She was at the flower vendor's cart looking at nothing in particular.
Swiping his hand through his unruly hair, Pip put on his best Took smile. "I just had to meet you."
Turning around, she dazzled him again with her eyes. They were greener than even the rolling hills of Tuckborough and he could have stared at them forever. When he did not say anything else, she cleared her throat as a reminder. "Oh, yes, well, I'm Peregrin Took."
"Peregrin, such a fancy name," she said, her voice filled with a dash of humor.
"My friends call me Pippin, or Pip. That blasted Took has been used on more than a few occasions."
"That one I believe." Looking over his shoulder, her eyes searched the street. "Friends, you said. Where did the other one go? The one that was trailing me with you?"
"You mean Merry," Pip answered brightly. This is going well! "He went to the Crossed Bows. Heard about your famous ale here in Michel Delving."
Frowning ever so slightly at this bit of news, she turned her attention back to her admirer. "Then you're a stranger here?"
"Hobbiton, in the east," he said, happy that she was looking at him again, "Tuckborough, to be precise. And Buckland, that's where Merry hails from."
"And you came all this way to drink ale and chase me?"
"No, certainly not." The way she had said it made everything sound silly. "We came with Frodo and Sam to get supplies for Bilbo."
She blinked. "Frodo, Sam and Bilbo? More friends?"
"Frodo and Sam, but not Bilbo. That's Frodo's uncle. Not to say that we're not friendly, because we are. Except when we woke him up from his nap." He could feel himself babbling, but was powerless to stop his tongue.
"Only here for the day, then? Frodo, Sam, Merry and you?" She teased him with a smile. "And you spent you're day chasing me? Why?"
"Just wanted to know your name."
Laughing, she handed over the flowers she had been holding. "Pansy."
Uncertain whether she meant the flower or her name, Pip said, "Beg pardon?"
"My name, silly. Pansy. You can call me Pansy."
Pip suck out his hand. "Nice to meet you, Pansy."
She took his hand in hers, skin warmly brushing his palm. "Welcome to Michel Delving."
He didn't want to let go. He didn't have anything else to say to her right now, but he wasn't yet ready to say goodbye. "Would you like to meet my friends?" That was good!, he thought. Won't look so stupid around them, would have plenty to talk about. He hoped.
"Frodo, Sam and Merry?"
"I'm meeting them at the Crossed Bows," he said, and, as if she didn't already know, he pointed to the tavern across the street, "I know Merry would like to say hello, considering he spent most of his afternoon following you."
The answer "No" flitted across her eyes, and Pippin's heart sunk. "A compromise, Peregrin, how about a compromise?"
"What?" Then he hastily added, "Anything."
"You go to join your friends now, and I will meet you there later." The expression on her face would brook no arguments, so Pippin was forced to agree. He had really want to have every eye on him and feel the envy of all when he walked into the Crossed Bows with Pansy on his arm, but he would have to settle for just the envy of when she sat beside him. "Agreed. When's later?"
Her laugh was just like he imagined Elves would sound. "Later is after now. And later will never come if you don't leave now." Turning him around, she gave him a gentle push in the right direction. "Until later, Blasted Took."
Pippin looked back over his shoulder, but she was gone. "Pansy," he whispered as he walked to the tavern, heedless of everything else. He still held one of the flowers in his hand. Soon he would be holding the real article. Putting the small purple blossom in the buttonhole of his jacket, Pippin whistled as he walked into the Crossed Bows prepared to wait as long as it took for later to arrive.
The road brings you always back again,
Cradling his special package in the crook of his arm, Sam followed Frodo through the crowd toward the Crossed Bows. When they had deposited their other purchases, Mr. Bilbo's supplies, he decided to keep this one with him. He had saved over many months what few coins he could, one goal in mind. When he had been asked to accompany Frodo to Michel Delving, he had thrust his savings deep in his pocket hoping he would be able to find what he had been saving for. Having no desire to get in the way of Frodo's business, he had not spoken of his special purchase to his friend. It wasn't until Frodo noticed Sam eyeing the greenhouse at the end of a long row of shops was it mentioned. When voiced, Frodo insisted that his errands could wait.
Once inside, Sam could not believe it. He had never seen so many strange and beautiful plants. With no concept of the time, he walking up and down, marveling
at all the flora, with Frodo silently behind. There were so many exotic plants that he began to fear what he wanted, something plain and ordinary, would not be here and he would return to Hobbiton empty-handed. But, over in the corner amongst all the brilliant reds and pinks, his special purchase sat. Lifting it up carefully, Sam shared its beauty with Frodo. It wasn't actually beautiful at the moment; it was just a bunch of thorny branches stuck in a cloth bag filled with dirt. However, as he explained to Frodo has he paid for this treasure, come spring, (right around his birthday, by the way), those thorny twigs would bring forth sunny yellow roses. Frodo had no idea why Sam had wanted that particular color and Sam wasn't about to enlighten him. All he would say is he wanted the yellow roses for a birthday present. Frodo, not being the pushy type when it came to Sam, let the matter drop. Now as he walked, he imagined the yellow roses he would grow and how lovely they would look all tied up in a bouquet and given to someone even more special then the roses themselves.
"Here we are," Frodo announced at the door. He pushed it open with his free hand. He, too, had been reluctant to leave his special purchase behind; the book was tucked securely under his arm.
As the door swung open, the sounds of raucous laughter and clinking mugs spilled out into the street. The pair stood just inside the doorway waiting until their eyes adjusted to the sudden dimness. Over in the corner, by the far wall, they heard a crowd singing and one distinct voice bellowed above them all.
Oh the Shire is a wondrous place for to travel
far and wide,
but, it's only the best when shared with a friend
that you want to have by your side.
You sit and you talk by the fire's light,
the stars shine above in the sky,
The tales you tell are of fancy,
Yet, neither will ball them a lie.
where the hearth warms each cold night,
But, in slumber you dream of the places you've seen,
and the joy of a lone star's light.
The road brings you always back again,
"They didn't waste any time," Sam muttered.
Standing on the table, Merry and Pippin were regaling the locals with a favorite Green Dragon song. "Frodo! Sam! Over here!"
All heads pivoted and both grew hot with embarrassment. Luckily a tray full of mugs was dropped behind the bar and they became suddenly less interesting. Sam and Frodo began to weave their way between sticky tables and drunken patrons back to where their friends held sway over a small audience. Even before reaching the table, a mug was thrust into their hands and their backs were slapped heartily.
Throwing his arms wide, Pippin shouted, "Welcome to the Crossed Bows, gentlemen!"
Merry pushed a place clear at their table to make room for the late hobbits. "Decided not to wait for you."
"That's obvious," Frodo whispered to Sam. Finding a semi-clean spot at the end of the table near the wall, both sat down to watch the floor show. The table next to them was crowded with rough looking hobbits who were glowering at Pippin's antics. It was obvious that they were not amused.
"Sing up another one!" A cry went up from the bar. "A song! A song!"
Pippin cleared his throat. "Here's one I've just this minute composed."
The girls of Michel Delving are so fancy,
Named Violet, Marigold and Pansy.
The fairest I've ere seen,
Eyes of blue or of green,
And with one of them I'll take my
The crowd wasn't quite sure what to do with that and an uncanny silence grew about the tavern. Pippin still stood on the table, but instead of adoration he felt hostility.
"Here now, what he mean by that?" a rather rotund, yet strong looking hobbit spoke up from the other table. Surrounding him were others not quite as savory looking.
"Nothing, nothing," Frodo said, pulling Pippin off the table to sit beside him.
"That was stupid, Pip," Merry scolded. He slipped in on the other side of the table beside Sam. The hobbits at the other table were still staring and Sam secretly wished for another tray to drop.
"Just having a bit of fun, that's all." Pippin was peeved that no one seemed to appreciate his fine poetry. He nursed his bruised ego with another ale.
"Well, that kind of fun could get us kicked out of here." Merry stole a glance at those other hobbits. "Or worse."
"Is there anything to eat in this place?" Sam asked, looking around. They had not eaten since elvensees and he was starved.
"You know, we never found out," Merry said, and was up and going in search of the answer.
"Don't care what the others say," Frodo leaned into Pippin, "I liked it."
"Thank you, Frodo," and Pip held out his mug for a toast. "To the girls of Michel Delving." Sam joined in for good measure.
With table singing off the program, the hobbits sat and drained their mugs dry. Sam was beginning to despair about ever eating when a girl appeared bearing bowls of hot stew and bread.
"Pansy!" Pippin perked up when he saw her. "What are you doing?"
Frodo murmured a "Thank you" as the food was set before him, his eyes never leaving the girl. He caught Sam's attention and mouthed "Pansy?" but Sam just shrugged and went to work on his stew.
"I'm working here, if you don't mind, you blasted Took," she said good- naturedly. Frodo nearly spit out his stew.
Blundering up, Pippin offered his seat, which she declined. "Can't sit with the customers."
"The food's here, I see," Merry declared his return, "Do you have a bowl of that delicious smelling stew for me, Miss?"
Pansy looked at Merry and her whole demeanor changed. "But, I think I'll make an exception to that rule this time." A place at the table was open by Pippin, but she wriggled her way in to sit beside Merry. This caused Sam to be shoved further down the table. Grumbling, he gathered his stew before him again and went back to eating.
She was even lovelier in the firelight of the tavern, if that's possible. Leaning his chin on his palms, elbows meeting the table, he stared at Pansy, love sick written with his face.
"You must be Peregrin's friend, Merry," she said, tossing back her ebony hair, "The one who chased me all over town."
"Actually, Pip chased you, I just followed him."
"I'm very persistent," Pippin interjected. He wanted her to look at him, but she wouldn't glance his way.
"An admirable quality in any hobbit," she purred, leaning in closer.
Merry was either blind or completely stupid, thought Frodo as he watched the cart wreck playing out before him. As she brushed Merry's hand reaching for his empty mug, Frodo decided on stupid.
"Well, that's Pip, then."
"And what about you, Master Brandybuck? I'm sure you have many admirable qualities." Even Sam, who was on his second bowl of stew, noticed that one.
Merry stopped chewing and smiled sheepishly. "Not according to my mother."
Pansy laughed, a deep, nearly breathless sound that sent shivers up Pippin's spine. She was truly perfect. Except that perfection had done nothing but stare at Merry since she sat down. Something that she had said she couldn't do, until Merry showed up and she sat down beside him and...The truth hit him like a ton of stone. He didn't understand, he sincerely didn't: What did Merry have that was so wonderful? That goofy grin of his? So what if he was taller then me, (not that I would ever admit to it)? Why Merry? Frodo had those eyes and Sam did have an open, honest way about him, but none of them could hold a candle to the old Took charm, wit and personality. What was she thinking?
Pippin was devastated. His perfect girl had chosen his best friend over him. How could this day get any worse?
"I would like to hear those stories, the ones your mother tells," Pansy cooed, sliding closer.
"Well, she's at Brandyhall over in Buckland," Merry stuttered out. It was just now dawning on him what was happening and he didn't know how to get out of it. He had been told never to speak harshly to a lady, but he didn't think his Nana had this kind of lady in mind when that lesson had been taught.
Frodo kicked Merry under the table, wishing he could have reached a little higher. Could he really be that dense?
"Pansy! Get back to work!" a harsh voice shouted from the kitchen. Reluctantly she stood. "Back to work. But, don't you four leave, I'll return shortly." Sam held up the empty bread plate for her as she departed. With one long intriguing look back at Merry, Pansy disappeared into the kitchen.
Merry kicked Frodo back. Hard. "Why'd you do that?"
Not wanting to speak about the awkward position they all found themselves in while other ears could hear, Frodo inclined his head towards Pippin, who had dropped face down into his crossed arms. Merry mouthed, "I know, I know. What do I do now?" Frodo searched through his vast knowledge of the opposite sex and came up blank. Both turned to Sam, who looked back blankly. "What?"
Tapping his elbow, Merry attempted to engage his friend in his favorite pastime. "Hey, Pip, now would be a good time for a song, don't you think?"
Talking into the table, Pippin never raised his head. "You go ahead, Merry. Don't feel quite up to it right now."
Merry looked at Frodo, eyebrows raised as it to say, "What now?" Frodo, for the moment, was idealess.
A passer-by on Sam's right knocked him into Merry on the way to visit the necessary. His stew immediately forgotten, Sam looked under the table at his small bundle making sure it remained undamaged. The rude one had kicked it further back than Sam could reach sitting up, so he leaned under the table to retrieve it and push it to a safer place. Unfortunately, he forgot how long the table was, for, when he sat up, the back of his head banged the table from underneath, thus setting off a disastrous chain of events.
The jarring of the table spilled Frodo's stew and when he reached for his napkin he found it had slipped off his lap and onto the floor. Snaking his hand below him, he did not find his napkin, but Sam's thorns. He jerked his hand away sharply, knocking Merry's leg in the process. Merry had had enough of Frodo and his meddlesome kicks under the table. Without a word, but a nasty grimace thrown in Frodo's direction, he lashed out with his foot intending to kick Frodo back. Only he didn't connect with Frodo, who had turned his knees to the side in order to reach under the table. What he got was the bottom of Pippin's chair with such force, it sent both Pippin, and his seat, tipping backwards. Arms flaying to stop his fall, Pippin knocked into the person serving drinks to that "other table". The back of the chair smacked her soundly in the bum, pushing her forward and sending the drinks into the air. When she tried to step out of the way of the falling ale, her legs became entangled in Pippin and his chair, she went down in a heap. Now, Pippin, looking up from the floor, could not see clearly. He only knew that something was falling towards him and he had to do something to stop it. He threw up his hands and they latched onto something round and soft.
The tavern was as silent and still as if all the servants had dropped their trays simultaneously. Sam was rubbing his bruised head, Frodo was wiping stew off his coat, Merry was holding his stubbed toe, the hobbits at the other table were dripping. And all were staring at Pippin lying on the floor with Pansy spread across him, his hands firmly planted on her breasts.