Young Brandybuck-Part 2 - Pippin
Merry's incident with Asphodel's drink was not quickly forgotten. For weeks, it was all the hobbits could talk about. Saradoc did his best to stand up for his son, but there was nothing he could do to stop the constant looks of disgust given to his son from the elders of Brandy Hall. Eventually, the elders got over it, but Merry was still looked down upon as a reckless hobbit-lad. Merry spent a good deal of time by himself, or with Frodo or Fatty, or both. They were good companions, even though Frodo was so much older. Occasionally, Fatty would bring his sister, Estella, to visit for a day, but she usually got in the way and annoyed Merry. She was picky about her food and prim about her clothes, and was generally a pain for young hobbit-lads who wanted to have some fun.
The following year, Frodo moved to Hobbiton to live with Bilbo Baggins on the Hill. Merry mourned for his cousin and friend, but he would soon have another companion.
Merry was eight years old when he and his mother went to go visit the Tooks of the Great Smials in Tookland. Esmeralda's brother was Paladin II, a Took of some signifigance. Paladin's wife was expecting a child and Esmerald made sure to be there for her sister-in-law's delivery.
"Merry?" Merry looked up from his breakfast to see his mother standing in the door way of the kitchen. The Great Smials were much like Brandy Hall in that all the Tooks lived and ate together
"Hmm?" he replied, and swallowed.
"I might need you to run a few errands for me today, so please do not go too far," Esmeralda said. Merry nodded, wondering what kinds of errands she meant.
Merry spent most of his day in and around the kitchen. The Tooks cooked differently than the Brandybucks, and it always made the visit more interesting when there was interesting food. Around noon, Paladin popped his head into the kitchen.
"Hey, Merry," he said, "they tell me you might get a new cousin today." Merry could tell that Paladin was a little uneasy.
"If that's so," he said, "then you'll have a new son."
"Or daughter," Paladin said, clueing in all the possibilities. But Merry shook his head, his brown curls bobbing.
"No," he said, simply, "I want a boy cousin." Paladin smiled at his defiance, suddenly hoping too that his next child was male. At least for Merry's sake...
They went off to talk as hobbit-men and hobbit-lads might, but were interrupted fifteen minutes later. Esmeralda came to find them outside, looking at the clouds. She sighed, summoning up womanly courage and approached Paladin.
"Paladin," she said, but Paladin could read his sister's eyes.
"Already?" he asked. Esmeralda nodded. Merry wasn't catching on to any of this.
"Would you like to stay out here so I can deliver to you what's happening or would you like to come inside?" Esmeralda asked.
"Won't they let me see her?" Paladin asked.
"Have they ever? You know the rules," Esmeralda said. Paladin sat again, sighing to himself.
"I'll stay out here with Merry," he said, then turned to smile at Merry as Esmeralda walked away.
"What just happened?" Merry asked.
"It'll be any time now, Merry," Paladin said, "anytime now..." His voice trailed off as he looked heavenward. Merry sat, drawing his knees up to his chest and hugging them.
Grown-ups, he thought, Why are they so wishy-washy about this? I thought we ought to be happy. Then again, Tooks are odd.
He thought about when his other Brandybuck cousins were born, but he could remember little about that. It had been a long time since there had been any baby born around the Hall, and Merry had a hard time recalling what had gone on when the most recent one had been born.
I suppose I'm about to find out....
Time passed slowly, and Merry began to wonder if it always took this long. Esmeralda appeared a few times to speak with Paladin, but Merry never understood a word they said. They seemed to be able to speak to each other without using words, and that made it complicated too.
Finally, Esmeralda came out, it seemed, only to speak to Paladin again, but Merry was wrong.
She ran down the hill, her apron flying in the breeze, and she was calling his name.
"Merry! Merry!" Merry stood.
Paladin had risen, too; his face gone white.
"Paladin, you may want to go inside," Esmeralda said to her brother, and stopped him before he could interrupt, "I know about the rules, but things are not going normally. Merry, I need you for an errand." Merry drew himself up, importantly, and nodded.
"Master Hamfast Gamgee and his son, Sam, are on there way back from Michel Delving to pick up some new seeds," Esmeralda explained, "I know this because I saw them this morning. They can't have gone any farther than the turn off to Hobbiton. I need you to take a pony and ride as fast as you can to catch up with them. Master Gamgee knows all about healing people with his plants. I need you, Merry, to find him and bring him back here. It's urgent, Merry, we need him."
Merry nodded, excitedly. At last, adventure! This was something to make the day go faster!
Esmeralda accompanied him to the stables and helped him on a horse. She gave him a few more instructions on the urgency, then hurried him on his way into the sun-lit afternoon, deep into Tuckborough forest.
Merry rode as fast as he could make the horse gallop. His father had taught him when he was young on the horses that Brandy Hall stabled. Now he rode an unusual horse in an unusual forest rode. Yet he was thinking:
Can life get any grander?
The sun beat down upon his small body, causing him to perspire. Droplets of sweat dripped in his eyes, making them sting. As if by some magic or just a jolt of reality, Merry suddenly realized what was happening: if he did not find Master Gamgee, his new cousin may not live!
Merry pondered this for a moment, for his small brain couldn't really comprehend death. But he did comprehend love. Love was what he felt when his mother told him he would soon have a new cousin. Love was what he saw in Paladin's eyes when he spoke of his new child. Love was what he sensed when he thought of this new companion coming into the world. Love was what he felt when, in the secret of his bedroom, he decided what his new cousin was to be called: Pippin. Merry didn't know him, but somehow it fit.
Death. Death was what took Frodo's parents. Death was what might take Merry's new cousin if he didn't find Master Gamgee. Then where would that love go? What would happen to little Pippin?
Merry felt tears now sting his eyes, not his own sweat. Not little Pippin! Merry gave the pony a sharp kick to urge it onward, hoping that he could race against time and death.
Then there was an instant of confusion. The world was suddenly upside down and backward, and then spinning. The pony made a loud, frightened whinny. Then there was a moment of light, sunny afternoon. Then all was black.
******(hehe, don't worry. I'm not stopping there!)
When Merry came to, his vision was fuzzy. What had happened? Why was he on the ground? He gazed up at the trees above him, trying to remember what had last happened. Perhaps he had just been thrown from his pony. And from the looks of the sky, he had not been out long. The sun was still shining brightly, and there was a lark singing somewhere. Merry remembered a lark singing, so he could not have been out more than a few minutes.
Groggily he rose to his feet, looking around him. His head ached and spun. Why was he in the forest? Which forest was it? His face was wet and sticky...
In the stillness of Tuckborough forest, an ear-shattering scream reached the Gamgees as they ate a second lunch.
"What was that?" Sam asked his Gaffer. Master Gamgee looked around, alarmed.
"I don't know, Samwise," he said, rising, "but I don't like the sound of it."
From somewhere, the voice continued to scream and cry, pitifully, like a child without a father.
"I'll reckon that a lost child," Master Gamgee said, "Come on, Samwise. 'Family's not going to miss us much if we stop to help a lost child."
Sam quickly packed away their gear as they pressed on into Tuckborough forest, following the sound of the child's voice.
They had not gone on more than fifteen minutes when they found Merry Brandybuck, stumbling along the path with a bloody face and muddied clothes. Merry had come often to visit the Gamgee's neighbor, Bilbo Baggins and his nephew, Frodo, and Sam recognized him instantly. Sam was only two years older than Merry, and he could hardly contain himself at the sight of his friend.
"Merry! Mr. Merry!" Sam ran to Merry's side, throwing an arm around Merry's waist to support him.
"What happened, child?" the Gaffer asked. Merry looked up at him, in a daze.
"Pony threw me...came to find you..." he whispered, his eyes rolling in and out of the back of his head.
"Why, Merry?" the Gaffer was shouting so Merry could hear, "Why did you come to find us?"
"New cousin, Pippin...up at the Great Smials," Merry seemed to come to a bit more, "There are troubles and they need you." Master Gamgee lifted Merry off his feet, and looked at Sam.
"Let's go see what this is about, Sam," he said.
"Merry? Do you hear me, Merry?" Merry's head swam. It was dark and warm. He was in bed, and there was someone over him. Someone watching over him.
"Who's that?" he mumbled.
"It's Master Gamgee," the voice replied, "You're Mum's here too, and so is my boy, Sam." Merry blinked a bit, and looked around. Esmeralda knelt by his side, Sam stood in the far corner, and Master Gamgee stood over him with a compress pressed to his head.
"What about my cousin? What about him?" Merry was anxious. Had they gotten back in time?
"You must not have been out the whole time!" Esmeralda said, "It is a he, and he's fine." Merry sighed, contently. He had done it.
The next day, when Merry felt a little better, he went to go visit his new cousin. He tapped lightly on the nursery door, and was allowed in.
He stepped in and surveryed the room. Yes, it was suitable for his cousin. It was bright and warm and comfortable. The nurse held a small bundle, and turned to Merry.
"You are Merry Brandybuck, aren't you?" the nurse said. Merry nodded. The nurse held out the bundle for Merry to see. Merry stood on his tip-toes and peered at his new cousin.
He was small, round, and pinkish. His little mouth was round and pursed up in a little pout. His eyes were large and his lashes dark and long. He was pudgy and soft.
The nurse sat Merry down in a chair, and placed the child in his arms. Even at eight, Merry's eyes filled with tears. He was beautiful...
The next day, Sam and Frodo came to visit the new child. Frodo came to see how Merry was faring, and Sam had stayed with his father.
Paladin and his wife sat with Merry in the nursery with the new hobbit-child. Frodo sat by Merry as Sam stood over Merry's shoulder.
"What have you decided to call him?" Frodo asked Paladin.
"Peregrin," Paladin said, "Peregrin Took." Merry looked over at him, wondering if he should ask what was on his mind.
"Uncle Paladin..."he ventured, "Peregrin's awfully long. Can we--may we call him 'Pippin' for short?" Paladin smiled and looked at his wife.
"You know, in a way, it suits him," Paladin said, "We'll call him 'Pippin'."
Merry smiled, contently, and looked down at Pippin as Frodo and Sam gazed on. It did suit him. Completely.