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This started out as a one-chapter story, but I couldn't let sleeping dogs lie. So sorry. This is the story where I introduced Degger, my favorite 'original' character. His full story is seen in Riches to Rags.
Thanks to those who have read my other stories, and also have given me great feedback.
Disclaimer: These hobbits are not mine; they belong to JRR Tolkien.
The Great Escape
It began as one of those beautiful spring days that was too warm outside to concentrate on anything indoors. The spring rains had stopped; the buds on the ends of tree branches burst with small green leaves and the grass was once again green. The sky was virtually cloudless; a few small puffs slowly floated across the blue heavens of the Shire. It was one of the first few days of spring, where being indoors is the last place anyone would want to be.
Pippin sat his study desk unable to do just that: concentrate. He looked out the window, seeing the clear sky and sunshine. He turned around in his chair and looked back at his private Tutor, Mister Breddo Goldwine, who sat quietly upon the sofa near the door as if he were guarding it. Breddo lifted his eyes and caught Pippin’s gaze. He did not lift his head from the book he was reading--just his eyes. He looked over the top of book, “Questions, Master Peregrin?”
Pippin sighed, “No, sir.” He turned back around and propped his left arm onto the desk and let his head settle into his hand. He twirled the leadstick in his fingers. The silence along with the tick-tock of the clock over the mantelpiece was driving him loony. Every arithmetic problem had been solved and every history book assigned to him today had been read and written about. Each time he handed in his completed work to his Tutor, more assignments would be piled onto him. He purposely drove himself to finish all his studies far ahead of schedule today thinking Mister Breddo would release him early. So far his work ethic hadn’t paid off.
After a while an idea came to his mind. Pippin unbuttoned his cuffs and rolled up his sleeves. He busied himself with writing out a few more calculations on the worksheet that Breddo handed him just after lunch. Inch by inch, he lowered his head towards his paper. Surreptitiously he pinched his cheeks a few times. After a few moments he dramatically laid down the leadstick and stood up, addressing his elder.
“Mister Breddo, may I open a window, please?” He tugged on his shirt collar for emphasis, “it’s very stuffy in here.”
Pippin saw Breddo catch his eyes from the sofa. Surely he must see my red cheeks, but Breddo held his gaze. Inwardly, Pippin became nervous but was careful to make sure it didn’t show. He knows I’m up to something, he thought.
After a long pause, Breddo finally consented, “Very well, Master Peregrin. Be quick about it--and return to your seat.” He emphasized the last part.
“Yes, sir.” Pippin made his way over to the window farthest from his tutor, silently wondering if the old hobbit ever took a day off. The red satin drapes were already drawn to either side of the window, so Pippin pulled the sheers out to step inside near the windows and unlock the latch. It smelled dusty by the window, as it had been months since it was last open. Pippin paused before he gave it a bit of force, and when he paused he noticed a pony-drawn wagon in the far corner of the meadow. He also noticed that a small crowd of tweens gathered around it. He knew them to be a group of cousins and two of his sisters. He narrowed his eyes in contempt as they all waved towards the window. They have all the luck.
After the first few warm days had arrived in the Shire, the group of freinds had made plans to go to Bywater and spend the day wading in the pool. There was only one problem with that plan: Pippin was receiving very costly extended lessons from the great Mister Breddo. A highly sought out private Tutor for those who could afford him.
Lawks! How am I going to run all that way and not get caught? Pippin put his attention back to the window and pulled up on the window sash with all his strength. He closed his eyes and smiled as the warm, fresh breeze blew against his cheeks and tussled his hair. He heard birds chirping among the gardens below as he drank in the soothing fragrance of new growth. He opened his eyes and looked down. His eyes went wide at the drop; it was a grassy incline, but very steep. He decided he would only use that route in desperation. At length, one of the tweens broke away from the group and was running towards the open window. He waved his hands at the runner--giving the sign to stay back. “Master Peregrin!”
Pippin abruptly turned to face his Tutor. Thinking his hand-waving attracted the old hobbit’s attention, Pippin began flapping his arms up and down to imitate the cooling of himself. “Sir, I was just breathing in the fresh air. It felt good to stand in front of the open window!”
For the first time in the last hour, Mister Breddo laid aside the book he was reading and got up from his place on the sofa. He walked over to where Pippin stood and said, “If you stand in front of the open window, as heated up as you claim to be, you will catch your death!” Breddo placed his hands on top of the sash and slammed the window down. Pippin startled at the thud. As Breddo returned to the sofa Pippin stole a glance back down at the garden to see that the runner had hidden himself behind a shrub. He breathed a sigh of relief. That was too close!
As he made to draw the sheers closed, Pippin gazed again down towards the shrub his friend had hidden himself behind. He was gone. This puzzled the young teen, but he trusted his friends as how to best proceed from here. He returned to the seat at his desk, sitting miserably as he made a pretense of working out his calculations. Several long minutes passed by when a knock was heard on the door.
Mister Breddo did a downward twirl with his forefinger, indicating for Pippin to turn back round and sit in his chair. “I shall answer the door, lad.” When Breddo opened the door, a young servant lad in his late teens handed the Tutor a note, but said nothing. Breddo unfolded the paper and read it’s contents, his lips moving silently as he formed the words. Breddo looked over at Pippin, “Your father requests my presence in his office. I shall return directly--and stay in your seat!”
Once the tutor had left, Pippin twisted back around in frustration and threw his leadstick at the door. He folded his arms in front of him on the desk. He would do no more assignments. He’d had his fill of Mister Breddo for today. He was beginning to entertain the idea of escaping on his own while the tutor was out when he heard a “Pssst!” He turned in his seat to make sure Breddo wasn‘t anywhere to be seen. It was the servant lad peeking his head into the room. “Master Pippin!” Pippin rose from his desk and went to the door. He inwardly hoped he hadn’t injured the lad.
“Master Pippin, I was told to tell ye that I was bribed to deliver that note,” he said. The servant furtively smiled as he pulled from his pocket two silver pennies, “and to tell ye that Master Merry’s waitin’ at the shrub.”
Pippin smiled back at the servant, “Thank you, Degger! I won’t forget this!” Pippin wasted no time in finding the nearest exit out of the Smials.
* * *
“Come in,” Paladin answered to the knock on his door. He looked up from the documents he was reading as the highly paid Tutor approached his desk. “Ah! Master Goldwine,” Paladin stood up to shake his hand. “this is a pleasant surprise! How is Pippin faring with his studies?”
Breddo cleared his throat, making no reciprocating gesture. “Sir, you summoned me,” he said.
Paladin’s brow wrinkled as he searched through his mind. How could he forget sending the Master a note? Because he didn’t. He took back the hand he offered and sat back down at his desk.
“Master Goldwine--may I call you Breddo?”
“Mister Breddo will do.”
Paladin scratched his head, grinning at the stuffiness of his guest. Well, Mister Breddo”, giving the same inflection the old hobbit did, “I don’t recall summoning you at all. Do you know what it is I called you for?”
Breddo felt his time was being wasted on this rustic upstart. He thrust out the note and let it sail onto Paladin’s desk. “I take it this is your note,” he answered in a snide tone.
Paladin was not amused. His cousin the Thain, Ferumbras III, recommended this Tutor for Pippin’s studies, now that the lad was destined for Thain. He took the note that Breddo so rudely tossed and read it. “Well, Mister Breddo,” Paladin had a sardonic smile on his lips. “This isn’t my script.” He tossed the note back onto the desk, and leaned back in his leather chair.
Breddo took back the note and looked at it again. “Whose is it?” he demanded.
Paladin shrugged, “It’s not mine, and it’s not my son’s.” He knew the script to be that of his nephew, Merry, but wasn‘t about to divulge that information to the arrogant hobbit. He knew his nephew, daughters, and their cousins all had plans for the day, but little did he realize those plans included his young son. Well, he should have known better, anyway. Paladin gazed towards the open window of his office, feeling a warm, summer-like breeze touch his skin. He looked outside the window at the sunshine and blue sky. For a moment he yearned to be a boy again--shirking off the heavy cloak of responsibilities and jumping into the pool at Bywater with his friends.
Breddo followed his gaze out the window and saw two figures running full speed towards a waiting wagon. One figure was considerably smaller than the other. He stepped up closer to the open window with his mouth gaping wide open. Never before had he met a child so impudent! “Master Peregrin!” he yelled out of the window, spittle flying in his fury, “Return to your studies this instant!” It seemed the lads picked up speed as they ran after the slowly moving wagon. He continued to gaze as both lads were brought up into the wagon by their waiting friends, beginning with the smaller one.
Paladin stood up from his chair, smiling as he watched the boys going off to spend the day in the sunshine. Childhood comes only once, he thought. “Mister Breddo--,” He began, but was cut off by the old hobbit.
Breddo huffed condescendingly, “Mister Paladin, do you not understand that you hired me to teach your son higher learning?”
The smile faded from Paladin’s lips, “Mister Breddo, I understand more than you think I do. Yes--I hired you to be my son’s Tutor--not his warden.” Paladin put his hands in his pockets, then his smile reappeared as he nodded towards the window, “And I suppose this will be the last time you underestimate my son’s intelligence as well.” Paladin found the whole situation rather humorous. He sat down again in his chair, smirking at the now humbled Tutor. “You’ve just been outwitted by two young lads. One of them only turned thirteen a few days ago.”
Mister Breddo wasn’t smiling.
Paladin stopped needling the elder hobbit and grew serious, “Come now, Mister Breddo, he’s just a boy--the son of a farmer. He isn’t used to being cooped up all day indoors at this time of year.” Paladin held out his hand, indicating for Breddo to sit down. “Did he finish all of his assignments?”
“Well ahead of time.”
Paladin nodded. “I used to let him go outside and play if he worked hard and finished all of what I assigned him for the day,” he said. “I believe he thought you would do the same.”
Breddo only gazed at Paladin, unnerving him a bit. He felt as if he was under the scrutiny of his own father as when he was a young lad. But it was only for a brief moment. Paladin took in a deep breath, smelling the fresh air. “You may keep our originally bargained salary, Mister Breddo, however, I do want Pippin’s study hours changed. He is to be released at noon until the harvest, at which time he may resume studies until tea.”
“But, sir, how do you expect him to be ready for his responsibilities as Thain?”
“Pippin is a very clever boy,” said Paladin. “He will be ready when that day comes--and that won‘t happen for a long time. I have full confidence in your ability to see that he is ready. But for now, he is a boy--let him be a boy for as long as he‘s able to.” Then Paladin rose from his seat, indicating the meeting was over. “Good day, Mister Breddo. I’ll see you early in the morning.”
A Day of Fun
“Run, Pippin!” Merry was looking over his shoulder, holding up the rear to make sure his younger cousin made it to the waiting wagon. Merry heard the old Tutor yelling something unintelligible out the window as he ran, however, it became too difficult to hear the words as they put distance between them and the Smials.
Pippin pulled out all the stops, running as fast as his legs could carry him and nearly stumbling in the effort. “Stop!” He yelled, seeing the wagon start to roll forward.
He heard his cousins yelling from the back of the wagon, “Come on, Pippin! You can make it!”
Pippin met up with the tail end of the wagon and was nearly successful in lifting himself up but was already too weak from sprinting all the way across the meadow. Merry was right behind him and shoved him the rest of the way into the vehicle as the other cousins pulled him up. Merry was next to be hauled up into the wagon. Pippin and Merry lay on their backs gasping for air as their friends and cousins laughed and carried on.
Ferdibrand laughed, “I thought that old hobbit was going to jump out the window and come running after you the way he was shouting!”
Fredegar held onto the reins as he looked into the back of the wagon, ensuring all occupants were inside. Once everyone was safely inside, he flicked the reins, spurring the ponies into a good pace.
Merry held his sides while catching his breath, “I thought...you were going...to make a run for it...from the window.”
Pippin, too, was heavily winded, “I was wondering...why you came running...towards the gardens!” His curls clung to his sweaty forehead. “I was...going to sneak...out of the window...until I opened it...and saw the drop.”
“Did you see it?” Merry’s breathing slowed down a bit. He held onto the top button of his shirt and flapped it in and out to cool himself, “I almost broke my foot last autumn...jumping out of that window.”
After a few minutes Pippin slowly sat up, “Merry, how did you get old Breddo out of the study? I know you bribed Degger to give him a note.”
Merry had also sat up, sitting between Pippin and Ferdibrand, “I wrote on the note that your dad wanted to see him in his office--immediately.”
Pimpernel hooted a laugh, “Now you’re both really going to get it when we get home!”
“His uncle can’t touch him,” said Ferdibrand. “He’s staying with Frodo in Hobbiton.”
“Oh, Ferdie,” Merry let out a long breath, “I’m only visiting my cousin Frodo in Hobbiton. You don’t know just how far my uncle’s arm can reach! And I not only get it from him, I get it from my mother when I get back to Brandy Hall, too!” He chuckled, “She reads aloud all the letters my Uncle Paladin sends her--the ones where he just happens to include my misbehavior, and then she tells me I’m to remain in my room for a day.”
“Merry absolutely hates being indoors,” Pippin chimed in. He glanced around the wagon, “Did anyone remember to pack my bag for me?” He looked at his sisters.
“Of course not,” Pervinca jested. “Whom do you take us for--your personal serving maids?”
Pimpernel tossed a leather rucksack at him, “Just remember to use the comb we packed!”
“There’s nothing wrong with my hair,“ he replied, opening the bag and looking inside. Satisfied all he was going to need for the day was in his pack, he looked up at his sister, “Thanks, Pim.”
Fredegar spoke over his shoulder, “So how does it feel to be a teen, Pip?”
“It feels grand!” Pippin loved the fact he was now a part of an elite group. A faction of young hobbits known for their charm, angst, cheek, and having a heart of gold. “But..,” he rubbed his stomach, “I’m hungry.”
Merry shook his head, “You’re always hungry, Pip.”
Pippin gave his favorite cousin a look of surprise, “and you’re not?”
“My father doesn’t have to farm in order to keep me fed!” Of course, Merry was only joking with his young cousin.
“No, Uncle Saradoc has all of Buckland doing that for him!”
“All right, lads!“ Everard pointed towards a pile of large baskets next to him, “don’t panic--lunch is sitting right there.”
A wide smile formed on Pippin’s face, “This day is getting better and better!”
Pervinca watched her brother‘s excitement grow, “We all know how much you like picnics, Pip. We’ve planned to stop at Wildebury Glen to have a picnic out in the sunshine.”
* * *
The rest of the ride to Wildebury Glen was filled with chatter and much laugher. They sat around the fire pit roasting meats...and a little bit of Pippin.
“Oy! You should’ve seen him,” Fredegar laughed. “He fell into the mud pool near the old pond and was covered from head to toe in muck!” He gasped for air as laughed harder, “and all he wanted was the apple on the tree branch!”
Pippin smirked as the story was told, “and it was a very delicious apple, too!”
“I can top that one,” Everard said. “How about the time we were throwing rocks at a target we drew on a boulder?” Merry smiled at this recollection. Everard continued on, “We threw all our supply of rocks and then Merry called for a break as he went to go gather them up. Pippin didn’t hear him call for a break and hit Merry right on the bum with a good-sized rock!”
Merry joined in the laughter, “I had a nasty bruise on my backside for three weeks!”
“I’ve got a good Pippin story,” Pervinca smiled. “When he and I were younger, I think he was about ten. One time we went scavenging in the kitchen for a snack when we spied Pim making cookies. After the cookies cooled, she’d put them in the cookie jar.” Pervinca began laughing, “Well, Pippin had this grand idea, so we went lurking next door in the wash room, and when she put the cookies in the jar, we’d wait for her to leave the room. Pippin would run in, steal the cookie jar, and by the time Pim came back we had the jar back in its place and the cookies eaten!” Pim’s mouth was gaping. Pervinca went on between her laughter, “Poor Pim! She finally caught on after the third batch!”
“I knew who was stealing them, I just couldn’t prove it!“ The tween shook her head, “and Pearl accused me of eating them all--Pippin.”
“What?” Pippin feigned innocence, “I was merely testing your exquisite baking skills.”
Merry laughed as he threw a handful of leaves at his cousin. “Pippin, your eyes ought to be brown instead of green!”
As the laughing died down and things grew quiet, the snapping and crackling of the burning wood began to echo around the trees.
“The afternoon is getting away. Shall we go on to the pool?” Fredegar moved to start cleaning up around the area. The rest of the group followed and soon they were back on the road headed towards Bywater.
Burning the Midnight Oil
This was a day that would live forever in young Pippin’s mind. The whole group spent a lovely afternoon at the pool. Since the Shire had not yet warmed up, the water was still very cool so they didn’t stay in the water too long. They merely spread out blankets and continued the repartee they began at Wildebury Glen.
After Bywater, they went on to Hobbiton, more notably to Bag End where Frodo threw a party in Pippin’s honor; celebrating his thirteenth birthday. There was good food, good friends, and good cheer. Frodo was a much excellent host in that he had games, songs, and even a dance planned for the rest of the day and on into the evening. At about midnight the gang decided to head back to Tuckborough. It was nearly four in the morning when the young Tooks and Brandybuck stepped into their quarters and tiptoed to their respective bedrooms.
Pippin thought he was having an ugly dream where someone was trying to rouse him from his peaceful slumber. He sighed and rolled over, bringing the warm covers over his ears.
“Master Pippin! It’s time to get up!”
This time Pippin felt a hand push at his shoulders a tad. He opened his eyes to slits. It was Degger--the lad who slipped Breddo the note the day before. Pippin’s voice was thick with sleep, “What in the name of wonder do you want, Degger?”
“Master Pippin, it’s a quarter past seven and breakfast is on the board.” Then he added more anxiously, “and Mister Goldwine will be arriving soon.”
Those confounded lessons! Pippin took in a deep breath and then yawned, “Very well.” He stretched and rubbed his eyes, “I’m awake.”
Pippin was growing quite irritated with the lad, Degger. He rolled over again and muttered, “I told you I was awake!”
“But Master Pippin, it’s almost eight o’clock! Mister Goldwine will be here any minute!”
Pippin’s eyes flew open. Eight o’clock? Just a second ago it was a quarter past seven! Pippin threw off his blankets and shivered in the morning chill, “Thank you, Degger!” The young servant helped him to quickly dress. He then put in Pippin’s hand a piece of buttered bread and an apple. He shooed the young Took out and towards the study, “Watch out for flying leadsticks!” He was making reference to Pippin’s outburst the day before.
Pippin entered the study and slipped into his chair mere seconds before Mister Breddo walked in.
“Good morning, Master Peregrin. I take it your day with your riotous friends went well?”
Pippin wanted to rebuttal the Tutor’s remark about his friends--even more so because it included his sisters, but his mouth was full of buttered bread. Instead he got up and poured himself a glass of water to wash it all down. “My sist--”
“Sit down, lad.”
Pippin glared at the elder hobbit, but he obeyed. He was soon rewarded with a pile of assignments to complete before noon.
He looked up at his Tutor, “Mister Breddo, I can’t finish all this in four hours!”
“You did yesterday--well before noon, when you so desired to flee from your studies.”
Pippin was livid. He jerked opened his desk drawer, pulled out his lead stick and slammed it shut. His lack of sleep was making him very irritable. He began furiously writing out the calculations on the paper. The first few seemed easy enough. Perhaps the rest would be likewise. He’d show Breddo a thing or two.
Unfortunately, that was not to be. Pippin’s mind wandered as he paused to work out the sums on his fingers. He couldn’t concentrate for long. Now he was angry with himself. He laid aside his calculations for a while until he could wake up more fully. He decided to work on his reading assignments and write the essays that followed. This way, if his mind strayed, Mister Breddo wouldn’t notice.
Pippin opened his eyes. His face nearly slid off the hand that was propping it up. He breathed deep and cleared his throat.
“It’s time to wake up,” Breddo wore a wicked grin.
It seemed to Pippin that the old hobbit was enjoying this. He straightened up in his chair and tried desperately to keep his eyes open. This was especially difficult as the book he was reading a passage from was titled, “Pipeweed and Other Herblore”, by Tobold Hornblower. This book was as dry as his throat. He took another draught of water before forging on. He stole a glance behind him. Breddo was watching him like a hawk. He felt the Tutor’s eyes boring holes into the back of his skull as he read on.
There was a knock on the door and Mister Breddo went to answer it. When he answered it, a young hobbit lad was standing there in the hall.
“Let me guess...you have a note for me.” Breddo really had no idea that it was Merry who wrote the note, he was just making sarcastic assumptions.
“Uh--no, sir,” Merry turned red in the face and looked at his feet. “Though, I would ask if I might speak with you.” He stepped back a pace into the hallway.
Breddo looked back at Pippin, who had turned around in his seat and seemed to continue reading. “I shall only be a moment,” he said, easing the door closed. When he stepped further into the hallway, he noticed Paladin standing on the far side.
“Mister Breddo, I want you to meet my nephew, Meriadoc Brandybuck, though we all call him Merry. He has something he wants to tell you.”
Merry slipped his hands into his pockets, “I....I was the one who wrote the note.”
Breddo watched Merry’s sheepish expression, “So you were the mastermind behind yesterday’s flight?”
Merry knew the Tutor wasn’t giving a compliment. His eyes remained at his feet, “Yes, sir.”
Breddo could tell by the lad’s speech that he wasn’t from Tuckborough--or Tookland for that matter. “A Bucklander. I should’ve known," he said. “I hope your punishment has met the deed.”
“Well, it did--is sort of,” Paladin smirked. “You see, my dear nephew, Merry, has decided that a bit of higher learning wouldn’t be such a bad thing for him.” He watched with amusement as his nephew grimaced, “He’s decided to join my son in his studies for the next...oh, three weeks or so.”
Merry continued looking uncomfortably at his feet. He had already finished his higher learning four years ago at the ripe old age of fifteen, so it certainly wasn’t his decision to give up his free time for more studies. He was, shall we say, convinced by his uncle that it would be to his advantage.
“Well, Master Meriadoc, the first item on your schedule is to help keep your cousin awake.” He quietly twisted the door handle and let the door swing open, “It seems he’s having difficulties doing just that.”
Poor Pippin. He had given up on any pretense of focusing on his reading. Paladin and Merry observed the young teen with his head down on the desk over his book.
“Pippin!” Paladin tried to get his son’s attention. The boy never stirred. The trio walked up behind the lad and saw that he was indeed asleep.
“Master Peregrin.” Breddo spoke loudly, but didn’t shout.
Pippin stirred this time, lifting his head ever so slightly. He was still half-asleep as he spoke, “I was just studying the finer points of old Toby’s pipeweed.”
“I suppose the study included your drooling saliva all over your book?” Breddo handed Pippin his pocket-handkerchief.
Paladin shook his head at his son, “Mister Breddo--he’ll be no good to you today. Just look at him. His friends kept him out far too late yesterday.” He glanced at his nephew. Paladin leaned down and lifted the small teen into his arms. He saw the books and papers with half-written arithmetic calculations on them. “Is this what you have assigned to him today?” Breddo nodded.
“I promise you,” said Paladin, “both Pippin--and Merry--will have all of these assignments completed and ready for you at eight o’clock tomorrow. I apologize for wasting your time today.” He looked at his nephew. “Merry, gather up his things and bring them with you unless you intend to stay with Mister Breddo beginning today.“
Merry didn’t need long to think about that one. He quickly started gathering up Pippin’s books, notes, and papers.
Paladin smirked at him, “It seems you lads will be very busy later today.”
Every Hobbit for Himself
“We were only assigned to write an essay, Merry, not a book!” Pippin glared at his cousin who was now writing the fifth page of his report on Tobold’s book of Pipeweed and Herblore.
Without so much as lifting his pen, Merry replied, “You really ought to read the book, Pippin. It’s very interesting.”
Pippin folded his arms across his chest and sulked, “But if you submit a report like that one, he’ll expect me to do the same!”
“And why not?” Merry dipped his pen into the ink jar, “You’re a bright lad--you’ll think of something to write.”
Pippin sighed, shaking his head. Merry had always been an overachiever. His hopes were dashed of compelling his cousin to write only what was expected of him. He walked over to where Merry was sitting and peered over his cousin’s shoulder. He was even drawing an illustration of the leaf!
Now Pippin was feeling the tickle of competition. Not to be outdone by his older cousin, he casually walked back to his desk and sat down. Pippin began wracking his brain for every twenty-dollar word he could think of. He thought old Toby’s book was dry and boring--he would be the first hobbit to write an essay without so much as reading the first page of the book!
A little while later, as Pippin was finishing up his magnificent report on pipeweed, he heard some abrasive scribbling going on behind him. He smirked; poor Merry--too bad. Calculations were Pippin’s specialty. He’d let Merry work them out on his own...this was every hobbit for himself!
* * * * *
“Good morning, Mater Peregrin! So you do have eyes behind your eyelids!” Breddo goaded Pippin. Merry stifled a laugh then wiped the grin off his face when he saw his cousin glowering at him. Merry took the extra desk near the window.
Breddo collected the writings and book reports from the lads then perused through them. He eyeballed Pippin. “I see Master Meriadoc spent his time wisely last evening,” he said. Then he leaned into Pippin's ear, “Don’t disappoint me, lad.” Merry caught snatches of Breddo’s remarks to his young cousin. “Although I’m a descendant of the Tooks, we must not allow our name to be tarnished.” He glanced at Merry when he said the word tarnished. Neither lad said anything. Each pupil turned around in his own seat to face the wall in front of them.
“Master Meriadoc, please stand up and read your essay on Herblore.” He handed Merry the report he’d turned in.
Merry stood up and read his entire essay. When he was finished, he sat back down.
“Impressive, lad, very impressive,” Breddo said rather flatly. “Now, Master Peregrin, please read to us your interpretation of Master Hornblower’s exposition on Herblore.” He smiled as he handed Pippin his report.
Pippin stood up and read aloud the report he’d so cleverly written the evening before. When he was finished, however, both Merry and the Tutor were more confused than enlightened. Mister Breddo scratched his head, “What exactly did you just read to me?”
“My report on Pipeweed and Herblore,” said Pippin.
Breddo‘s hands were on his hips, “Did you even bother to read the book?”
Pippin mumbled something about reading the first two pages.
“Master Peregrin! You shall have ready for me tomorrow morning at eight o’clock, another essay. One that reflects a learned mind like your cousin! And read the book this time!” Pippin blushed when Breddo proceeded to rip up the report he'd handed back to him.
Breddo had a scheme going here. He’d seen Merry’s arithmetic calculations. “Now, Master Meriadoc,” he said, “you shall explain to me, how many gallons equal a bushel.”
Merry stood up from his desk, hands in his pockets. He spoke something under his breath.
This was going to be easier than he first thought. He bellowed, “Bring your hands out of your pockets, stand up straight and speak loudly so everyone can hear! Is that how you intend to answer questions posed to you as Master of the Hall?” He smirked when Merry looked up at him. “Yes,” he said, “I’ve tutored one of your cousins at Brandy Hall. I know who you are. Now answer me! How many gallons are in a bushel?”
Merry slowly took his hands out of his pockets, red in the face--both chagrined and angry--he took a deep breath. “Four,” he said meekly.
Pippin almost fell out of his chair laughing. He gradually became aware that he was the only one laughing. He gradually quieted down.
“Now, lad,” Breddo spoke to Merry, “every single one of your calculations on this paper were correct--all except the ones with measurements involved. I don‘t understand it other than you are confused by the tables.” He went to the bookshelves and gazed around until he found the book he was looking for. He pulled it out and gave it to Merry, opened to a page with the tables written in definition form. “Study this while I excuse myself for a short while,” he said. “I have an appointment with Mister Paladin in his office at ten o’clock, and I am always prompt.” Breddo handed Pippin yet another book, but this time it was about the history of Great Smials. He knew Pippin loved history. “Read this, Master Peregrin, and I shall expect an essay before you leave at noon today.” Then he left the two cousins to themselves.
* * *
The bright morning sunshine was glaring through the open sheers and landing upon the pages of Pippin’s book. As much as he tried different sitting positions, he couldn’t escape the bright rays. He could see his cousin quietly studying his measurements. He asked, “Merry, would you close the drapes?”
Merry did not look up from his book. “I’m studying,” he replied. Merry had his feet anchored around the desk legs while he teetered upon the hind legs of his chair. This had always been his favorite studying position. He wasn’t about to get up.
Pippin got up in a huff to close them. Once he pulled the drapes closed, he turned around awkwardly and accidentally knocked over the jar of ink--on top of Merry’s book report. Merry fell over backwards as he scrambled to avoid the black ink, but it dripped all over the desk, his legs, the floor....and his report. “Pippin!” Merry got up and surveyed the mess, “Just look at what...!” He looked at his ruined book report, and he was angry. “You wanted to do that all along, didn’t you? My report was better than yours was and you’re jealous!”
“It was an accident!” Pippin retorted, “Me--jealous over you? Don't be ridiculous! At least I can add--at least I know what a bushel is! I won’t make my father a pauper with my false measurements!”
That remark cut Merry to the heart. He’d always had a bit of difficulty in keeping the tables straight in his head, and Pippin knew that. Merry hadn’t been exposed to sums and measurements as Pippin had been in early childhood.
For his part, Pippin saw the effects of his cruel words and quickly apologized, “I’m sorry, Merry.”
Merry sat down in his now upright chair and sadly tossed his report into the waste can. “Don’t you see what he’s doing, Pippin? He’s setting us against one another.” Merry looked at his cousin, “He’s humiliated me and he’s humiliated you. My tutor at Brandy Hall never did that. Breddo’s up to something.”
Pippin reviewed in his mind all the events of the morning and agreed. They hadn't had a serious argument in years. “I’ve got an idea.”
The Learning Curve
The following morning after breakfast, the two cousins walked into the study together laughing and joking about everything and nothing.
“Good morning, lads,” Mister Breddo greeted them as they walked inside the room.
“Good morning, Mister Breddo,” they replied together.
“Here’s my new report from Toby Hornblower’s Pipeweed and Herblore book.” Pippin handed Breddo his new work.
Breddo flipped through the pages and handed it back to Pippin. “I want you to read it as soon as I’ve inspected Master Meriadoc’s work.”
Still a bit bashful about his newly acquired skills, Merry gave the elder hobbit the arithmetic calculations he was assigned to complete.
Breddo looked over the sheet of paper. Some errant numbers were crossed out, but all in all the sums to the formulas were correct--every single one of them. He also handed Merry back his work and said, “Be ready for me to test you on some aspects of Measurement.” Merry nodded.
When called upon, Pippin stood next to his desk and proudly read aloud his handiwork. When he was finished, he was pleased to hear applause from the two other people in the room.
“Much, much better, Master Peregrin!” Said Breddo.
Pippin’s eyes shifted over to his cousin; he was smiling, too. He could hear Merry mouthing, “I knew you could do it!" Pippin smiled and took a bow before returning to his seat.
Merry was asked to recite the table of measurements. Merry complied, though a bit nervous. Pippin silently sang along with his cousin:
“1 pint of cornmeal comes from 4 gills,
Thoroughly grinded by the mills.
If I eat too much I’ll get a wart,
Remember 2 pints equals a quart.
Though not quite as sharp as an eagle’s talon,
Is 4 quarts that equal a gallon?
Although 2 gallons equal a peck,
It can’t measure up to a thousand flecks.
Like tomatoes we throw at each other and mush-el,
It takes 8 gallons of them to fill a bushel.
(Merry smiled, remembering a particular tomato fight)
We take the tomatoes to market to barter
Because 8 bushels equal a quarter.”
Slightly blushing, Merry quickly sat down. Breddo looked in wonder at the lad who just yesterday had difficulties with the basics of measurements. “So, Master Meriadoc, if I give you 4 gallons of...tomatoes, what do you have?”
Merry barely paused. “A half a bushel.”
A wide smile came to the old Tutor’s face. He flipped through the pages of the book he gave to Merry the day before. “Very good, Master Meriadoc, though I would learn sooner where you came by that ditty?”
Merry looked at his cousin, “Pippin and I made it up yesterday evening. It’s just nonsense, but it helps me to remember them.”
Sitting down on the sofa, he asked, “What happened yesterday when I left for...Mister Paladin’s office?”
The boys shrugged. “We had an argument,” Pippin answered. “I accidentally knocked over Merry’s ink jar and ruined his book report. He said I was jealous over his writing...and he was right--I was. But yesterday evening we worked together on his tables, and he helped me get past the dry--er, I mean, the difficult parts of reading Toby’s Herblore. I actually found some of it quite interesting and so I was able to write about it--truthfully this time.”
“So yesterday evening, you lads worked together on your assignments?“ Asked the Tutor. They both nodded. His smile was sincere, “I am glad to hear that.”
Breddo motioned for the lads to join him on the sofa, “I must confess that I was humiliated and angry when you two young lads outwitted me a few days ago. Yesterday I tried to set you against one another as retribution. But my heart wasn’t in it, which is why I left the room. I didn’t go to Mister Paladin’s office; I went for a walk in the garden to collect my thoughts.” His smile turned sad, “Now I am the one who wants to run away! However, that shall not happen, though I will promise you lads this: I shall never set you two against one another ever again.”
Merry replied, “We guessed that’s what you were up to and so we thought to thwart your plan by doing the exact opposite. Which wasn’t hard for us because we’re already good friends.”
The tension in the air seemed to dissipate. Breddo finally spoke, “Will you lads forgive a foolish old hobbit?”
Pippin smiled, “I will forgive you--but it comes at the price of being released early today!”
Breddo laughed, “A small price to pay!” Then he grew serious, “I will leave you lads today with this: You both share something I have never seen in cousins elsewhere. Don’t ever allow anyone or anything tear your hearts asunder.” He looked at Merry, “Don’t fool yourself; you are a bright lad in your own right, Master Meriadoc. You were taught well and have kept in memory most everything you’ve learned. Don’t let a difficulty like measurements make you think otherwise. I‘ve been confused by them at times myself.”
Then he looked at Pippin, “Indeed you are a very clever lad, Master Peregrin, and there I should have been quicker to listen closely to your father when he hired me--he did warn me.” Pippin blushed. Breddo gave him a smile then continued, “Your only obstacle is reading material that you find uninteresting--and I mean to break that habit! You are capable of so much, lad. When the day finally arrives that you become Thain, between your head and your heart, you will accomplish great things.” He smiled and stood up, “and as I shall keep my word, I am releasing you lads to the sunshine and soft meadows to run in. Off with you, now!”
The boys laughed in their excitement. They ran out of the study and headed straight for the stables, as they had planned to go riding that day.
Breddo watched them go, speaking softly to himself, “I’ll see you lads in the morning.”
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