The Courting of Diamond of Long Cleeve

She was a wee thing. Creamy skin, light hair shimmered in the light. The circle of woven flowers on her head set unsteady and threatened to fall as she danced. There was no shortage of partners for such a lass. His chances were thin. He had come through battle and the land of the Big Folk unscathed, but now he faced his biggest battle. To win the heart of the lovely Diamond would take all his cunning and courage.
The band was playing well tonight. The celebration of dear old Master Bilbo's birthday was always a grand affair. Good food, better drink, and music all night long. Pippin had worn his armor tonight. His sword hung from his belt. War and wondering were not on his mind, though. Perhaps it was the birth of Sam's daughter or the time of year, but he had a strong desire to settle down himself and take a wife. Plenty young and pretty Hobbitesses would have him for sure, but there was something about this one that stopped his heart and sent his head reeling.
"Shall we dance?" she said.
Pippin was startled from his musings by a voice as sweet and flowing as honey. He could only nod in response since his senses had taken leave of him. How he remained standing and even danced with her lovely hand in his he never knew. It was like to a dream. So perfect and thrilling. He never wanted it to end. Her skirts flew in swirls of color as he twirled her to the music. The tune ended and he bowed low to her. She curtsied and then took his arm.
"A drink for you, Master Peregrin?" she said.
Again his words failed and he nodded. They walked up to the table where the punch was being served. The young lady behind it poured up two cups of red liquid. He put his lips to the rim and drank it in one gulp. He looked down at Diamond who had not touched hers, but was watching him.
"Pippin! Come at once!"
It was Merry. What did he want?
"Please excuse me, Mistress Diamond. May I return for another dance later in the evening?" he said.
"Oh, yes. Please do. You dance very well," she said. Her face was flushed and her hands shaking. Perhaps she had gotten overheated during the jig. He took her hand and led her to a seat. After another bow, he walked to Merry.
"What is it? I finally got to dance with her."
Merry glanced over Pippin's shoulder at the blushing Diamond sitting where he had left her.
Merry smiled and gave Pippin a clap on the back.
"I will send you back to your wooing soon enough. For now, look over there," said Merry.
Pippin looked in the direction Merry was pointing. A figure was hunched over a barrel, rolling it down the path to the border of Hobbiton.
"Who is that?" asked Pippin.
"Near as I can figure it is Biglo Took. He is smuggling Old Toby out of the Shire again. To whom or for what purpose we will have to get out of him," said Merry.
"It will have to be done quick. He is almost at the border," he said.
Pippin watched the shadow roll the valuable pipe weed down the road. He looked back at Diamond who seemed to have recovered now and was tapping her foot to the tune of the music.
"His timing leaves much to be desired," said Pippin. With a heavy sigh, he motioned at Merry to follow and scooped up two mugs as he passed the drink table. He gave one to Merry and began staggering and singing off key to the music. The shadow stopped and pushed the barrel into the bushes. Merry and Pippin came up to him arm in arm. They laughed and slurred their speech as they spoke.
"Big-a-lo Took you old boulderdasher! Come have a drink with us!" said Pippin. He staggered up to Biglo and put his arm around his neck.
" You cannot go home so early. It is Master Bilbo's birthday you know. He would want you to drink hearty and long," he said.
"Pip, do you know what would go with a drink hearty and long? A smoke! My pipe has not been lit in a week! Have you a bit of it on you, Pip?" said Merry. He went to the other side of Biglo and wrapped his arm around his neck.
"Can't say that I do, Merry. How about you, Biglo? Seen any good pipe weed about? or will we have to go a digging for it?"
At that, the façade was over. Their grasp on Biglo tightened.
Biglo shuddered.
"I have not any, friends. I know where it can be bought - and at a right price for the likes of you, such noble, battle hearty souls," said Biglo.
"Well, that won't be necessary. We will just take back the barrel you tried to steal. Where was it going? To Bree? To undeserving folk I would imagine," said Pippin.
"You must understand, sirs. I was forced into the deal at the threat of loss of my head," said Biglo.
"By whom?" said Merry.
Biglo stood still and said not a word. Pippin was losing his patience. He imagined Horace Hornblower or Bill Bracegirdle asking Diamond to dance.
"We don't have all night. You know the penalty for smuggling, and yet you risk it. Why?" said Pippin.
There was a loud bang. Smoke filled the air and caught Pippin's attention. The fireworks had started. Biglo jerked free and ran down the road. He got to the hedgerows and scrambled through them like a chased rabbit. Merry and Pippin watched him go. They rolled the barrel back to the hut it was stored. Pippin woke the guard with a hard nudge in the ribs.
Pippin half ran back to the party with Merry on his heels. He arrived in time to see Diamond finishing up a dance with Hildibold Longbottom. She looked up and saw his watching her. He stared at the ground, but it was too late. She came over to him.
"Where have you been? It is time for the last dance," she said.
He could not look away from her eyes. They begged him to ask her, though she knew it was impolite to ask a gentleman for the last dance of the evening. He held out his hand and she laid hers in it. The music started a slow waltz. They took off in perfect step as if they had danced together forever. Her face was blushing again. Her eyes shone. Pippin could not believe how perfect and pink her lips were. The music stopped, but they kept waltzing. They waltzed until they were behind the food tent. There, he used both hands to throw caution and courtesy away as he drew them around her waist. She was trembling, or was that him? She turned her face upward to him, and he cupped her round face with his hands. He bent down and set his mouth on hers. It was over in a few seconds, but it began a whole new lifetime.
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