All was silent. The wind had stopped blowing. The leaves on the cornstalks made no noise, for a hobbit can walk without a sound, and the sun’s setting rays softly hid any movement. Then, out of the green field, a hairy foot stepped carefully onto the road. Then another joined it. A pair of brown eyes pierced the air with their intenseness. A rustling began in the corn on the other side of the road, and the hobbit looked up, all senses alert, his arms ready to act. A gust of wind blew, and the hobbit’s breath grew ragged with anticipation and fear. He sidestepped, looking quickly around him. Suddenly…
A hand grabbed his shoulders from behind, a heavy weight was thrown onto his back, and he fell. Onto the road, his face in the dirt, while a hand gripped his hair and pulled his face upward.
“I got you, Merry!” the young hobbit said gleefully.
Merry twisted his face. “Alright, already! Get up, you big oaf! Luggo a’ my hair!”
Pippin jumped off of Merry’s back and stood to the side, grinning. Merry pulled himself up and bent to wipe off his trouser knees. A light gleamed in his brown eyes, and his dirt covered hand suddenly shot out to grab the back of Pippin’s knee. Pippin whooped and fell hard onto the road. He tried to scramble back up, but Merry was on him.
“Help! Mercy!” Pippin screamed. But it was no use, as half the boys in Buckland knew. Once Merry Brandybuck got the upper hand, there was no use any more. Merry always won.
“Give up? Give up?” Merry asked, his muscular brown hand pinning down Pippin’s head with his own arm. Pippin looked sorrowfully up at Merry’s face. Giving a little sigh, he nodded his head.
“Say it!” Merry said, increasing the pressure on Pippin’s arm.
“Oh! Uncle! Uncle, Merry! Let me up!”
Merry grinned and stood, giving his hand to Pippin to help him up. “Good try, Pip. You almost got me that time.”
“Almost! I did get you.”
“Pippin, it’s a fact of life, and you’ve got to accept it. No one, not no one, has ever gotten me.” Pippin rolled his eyes.
“Doderic said he got you once. He said he had you crying on the floor like a baby.”
Merry put his arm around Pippin’s shoulder. “And if someone had ever gotten me, I would be the first to admit it. But I’ll tell you what, Pip. If you put yourself under my teaching, I’ll show you some tricks I’ve got, tricks I’ve never shown anybody else!”
The hobbits’ heads jerked up as the sound of rattling wheels came from ahead of them. A cloud of dust was beginning to appear on the road ahead, and a wagon suddenly came over a hill coming towards them. Merry and Pippin grabbed each other, then ran, their curly hair flying, back into the cornfield to hide behind the stalks. They held their breath, waiting for the wagon to pass by. But the wheels stopped. The hobbits listened, and looked at each other, wondering in their eyes. Pippin crept forward, dodging the leaves and ears of corn. Merry drew in a sharp breath, whispering, “No!”, but Pippin ignored him. Merry frowned angrily, and crept ahead. He grabbed Pippin’s shoulder to stop him, shaking his head vigorously. Pushing his hand on Pippin’s shoulder, Merry brought them both down to their knees. From the ground, they could see upward to the wagon. Merry raised his eyebrows and looked at Pippin in surprise. “Doderic!” he mouthed, jerking his head at the hobbit on the wagon seat.
Doderic Brandybuck, a dark headed boy just out of his tweens, sat on the wagon seat chewing a blade of grass, his eyes straining to see the road ahead. Merry twitched his mouth, his eyes narrowing as he tried to puzzle out why Doderic was there. THERE’S NO REASON IN THE SHIRE FOR HIM TO BE SITTING IN THE MIDDLE OF A CORNFIELD, he thought. THERE’S NO REASON AT ALL! HE COULDN’T HAVE KNOWN WE WERE HERE… COULD HE? No matter what Merry might say, the truth was that only a few months ago, Doderic had indeed beaten Merry in a wrestling match. It was a cause of great and humiliating shame to Merry, and he was every day more and more thankful that no one else had been there to see his defeat. Merry lived in constant fear that Doderic would try and make him tell the truth. Doderic was more than capable of it, he knew. A little fight, a little twisting of the arm in front of his friends, and Merry was a goner.
Pippin nudged Merry’s arm, and pointed at the road ahead of the wagon. Doderic was leaning forward, peering through the dusk toward the sound of running feet. His face broke into a smile, and he leaned back and pulled the blade of grass out of his mouth. Merry and Pippin froze as he jumped out of the wagon and onto the ground near them. They would have been very noticable, that is, if Doderic had been paying attention. But he was thinking only of the green dress flying towards him, and the pink cheeked girl wearing it.
Lily Proudfoot ran up the road, skirts flying behind her, her rich brown hair whipping her face. Ahead of her, his arms outstretched and a loving smile on his face, stood her hobbit. A golden light touched his hair and festooned the green cornstalks around him. Lily ran into his arms, her flushed face upturned to his. His arms enfolded her in his embrace, and she closed her eyes.
Two mouths of two young hobbits popped open at the same time. Two pairs of eyes squeezed tightly shut one after the other to avoid seeing the gross display in front of them. Doderic was kissing Lily. Pippin opened one eye, but closed it again quickly, shuddering in disgust. Merry’s was contorting in very odd ways, as if he didn’t know whether to grimace or grin ecstatically. The grin won, and Pippin looked up from hiding his face in the ground to hear a snort of supressed laughter. Pippin gasped! WHAT IF THEY HEARD THEM! There was only one thing to do. Pippin clapped a grimy hand over Merry’s mouth and shook him. Merry’s eyebrows deepened in fury, and he whipped Pippin off of him, grabbing his shoulders.
The hobbits froze as Lily spoke the name in a love infatuated, breathy voice. Forgetting all fights in the ecstasy of eavesdropping on such a lovey meeting, Merry and Pippin crawled to the roadside and dropped side by side, watching and grinning uncontrollably. Doderic rubbed Lily’s back as she leaned against his chest and sighed happily. He put his hands on her cheeks and raised her head up to look at him.
“Lily, I love you.”
Merry and Pippin held their breaths, grinning.
“I never really knew what it meant to love someone, before, before I loved you.”
The hobbits put their hands over each other’s mouths.
“Oh, Dod, that’s the same with me! I’m so glad we found each other.”
Merry and Pippin shook together with bottled up laughter.
Doderic set his chin, and pulled Lily’s arms from around him, holding her hands together in front of him. Lily looked, wondering, up into his face.
“What’s the matter?”
“Lily, I-” Doderic took a breath, and the hobbits under the corn leaned forward to hear his quivering voice. Suddenly, he knelt down and looked at his beloved. “Lily, darling,” (Lily’s face began to get slightly pink), “I just I…” Doderic stuttered. “I love you.” (Lily was now a bright red, and her eyes were getting suspiciously watery.) “Will you marry me?” Doderic almost yelled, and suddenly did not seem to know where to look. A small gasp came from the rosie Lily, and Doderic looked up. She smiled! And suddenly the world burst into flame for them both. They were alone, the flames of love were burning high, Doderic took her in his arms, and…
Two young hobbits rolled in smothered laughter beneath the cornstalks.
The wagon – carrying a beaming young couple rich in love and the promise of marriage, rolled slowly toward Brandy Hall. They did not want theses moments to end, never, although they might have if they had known that their love infatuated meeting had been witnessed by two of the biggest rascals in the Shire.
Merry and Pippin had lain in the cornfield, slowly gathering their strength after their laughing fit, while Lily and Doderic were swept away by emotions. Occasionally one of them would finish laughing, take a peep at the couple, and throw himself back onto the ground in choked giggles. Finally though, a few whispered words from Doderic in his beloved’s ear got them both into the wagon, and the wagon turned around and headed back to Brandy Hall. Merry and Pippin waited, pinching each other to be ready, and when the wagon rolled past them, they ran out of the field and hopped onto the back of it.
Merry winked at Pippin, and they dangled their feet over the swaying wagon, whispering about how they would let the lovers know they had heard everything that had happened.
“Without getting caught, of course,” Pippin reminded.
“Of course, of course!”
When the wagon pulled up to Brandy Hall, Pippin jumped off of the wagon with Merry right behind him.
“Thanks for the ride!” he called.
Merry kissed the air, and they smiled knowingly.
“Ooooh, Dod!” Pippin cried, falling into Merry’s arms.
“Marry me! Hug me! Kiss me!” Merry said melodramatically into Pippin’s face.
Lily gave a gasp and hid her face in her dress, but Doderic stood up, a tower of wrath, and roared.
“Run!” Merry shouted.
“I am running!” said Pippin, already whirling about and jumping away from the humiliated couple. The hobbits dashed around Brandy Hall, full speed. Pippin slid to a stop, looking wildly around him, and ducked behind a wheel barrow, hiding his head in his knees. Merry pulled him up and dragged him with him. Pippin called, “This way!”, and began to run toward the tree hollow where Merry usually played.
“No! He’ll know!” Merry whispered, jerking Pippin toward the house. “Come on!”
They dashed inside, and not a moment too soon, for Doderic came plunging around the house. They weren’t quick enough though, and Doderic saw the door closing. He gave a yell that warned of murder, and didn’t give any comfort to the hobbits running along the passageway inside the Hall. Merry had long ago memorized all of the halls and rooms of the Hall, and it often came in handy, as he often had to escape from some outraged hobbit. His cousin Frodo had shown him many tricks as well, for Frodo had also been a notorious rascal when he lived at Brandy Hall, and his cousins Merry and Pippin followed closely in his footsteps. Merry led Pippin on a run for their lives through hallways and rooms of surprised adults, until Pippin found himself panting in a small dark closet, smelling oddly of food.
“Where are we?” he asked.
“What do you mean? A pantry, of course!”
“Oh!” Pippin brightened considerably. “Shall we have biscuits or mushrooms?”
“Both,” Merry said, and they groped their way to find their victory feast.