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Messing About In Boats  by Grey Wonderer

As always these are not my characters and I hope that if he were here now, J.R.R. Tolkien would find it in his heart not to sue me for borrowing them for this story.† In fact, I think it might be better if he didn't know about this so, lets keep this between us, shall we?

This is pre-quest for the most part.† Frodo is 37, Sam is 26, Merry is 24 and Pippin is 16.† The title comes from something said by a character in The Wind In The Willows .† The quote from that book is at the beginning of the story.

Hope you enjoy this and thank you for reading!

G.W.†††† 04/04

"This has been a wonderful day!" said he, as the Rat shoved off and took to the sculls again.† "Do you know, I've never been in a boat in all my life."

"What?" cried the Rat, open-mouthed:† "Never been in a-you never-well I-what have you been doing, then?"

"Is it so nice as all that?" asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leaned back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.

"Nice?† It's the only thing," said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leaned forward for his stroke.† "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing-absolutely nothing-half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.† Simply messing," he went on dreamily, "messing-about-in-boats; messing-"†† (The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame)

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Messing About In Boats†

"I donít know, Mister Merry," Sam said, slowly as he gazed out at the Brandywine. "Iíve never been in a boat before."

"Donít worry, Sam," Merry said, gently. "I can swim quite well and besides, I have been boating on this river most of my life. I know it very well so you would be quite safe."

Sam frowned. "I donít swim at all and I am a bit nervous about the water. Besides, I do very well fishing from the bank, you know."

"Oh, I know that Sam," Merry smiled. "Most of the time when we come on these fishing trips, you catch more than any of us."

Sam blushed with pride. Merryís words were very true, but Sam had always had trouble accepting praise, even when it was well deserved. Sam was the best at fishing among the five of them in spite of his refusal to get into a boat. He nearly always caught the most fish. "I donít know, Mister Merry," Sam said, returning to the subject of the boat as he was not very comfortable with compliments. "The Brandywine is a very deep river and from here, that boat of yours looks a bit small."

Frodo walked over and put an arm around Samís shoulders. "Relax, Sam," Frodo said, with a smile at Merry. "Once you are settled into the boat and have begun fishing, youíll forget all about everything else. I do think that you might enjoy this."

Frodo and Merry had discussed this between themselves late yesterday. They wanted Sam to feel at home on the river the way that they did and so they had decided to encourage him to try fishing from Merryís boat. They hoped by the end of the month, they could talk him into allowing them to teach him to swim. They all spent so much of their†free time†near the river†that Frodo felt it was important that Sam learn to swim for safetyís sake.

"You give it a try, Sam," Fredegar Bolger laughed, good-naturedly. "Iíll keep your place here on the bank company. Who knows? Maybe Iíll catch a few with you out in Merryís boat."

"Yes, letís give Fatty a fighting chance, Sam," Merry grinned. "As long as you are here on the bank, all of the fish will be jumping on your line. Poor Fatty will never catch anything." Merry loved to tease Fatty because his friend was such a good sport about it.

"Sure enough, Merry," Fredegar agreed. "You take the fishing expert out in your boat and try to keep pace with him for a bit. That will give us average†hobbits a chance to catch a few."

Sam was squirming a bit now. It seems that everyone thought he should try out Merryís boat, but the idea of climbing into it, made him very uncomfortable indeed. "I donít know, Mister Fredegar. My old Gaffer has always said that thereís plenty o fish near the bank and no need to wonder out on the river just to hook one or two more." Sam didnít finish his dear fatherís advice as he knew it wouldnít be the best thing to say. The Gaffer always added, ĎThose Brandybucks and their kin out in Buckland must be right touched to go out on that river! Not too much sense among that lot, Samwise.í

"Oh, but Sam, you will love the river," Pippin said, joining in now. "Everyone says that only Bucklanders like the river and boating but it isnít true at all. I love going out in Merryís boat and it is ever so safe."

This last bit of encouragement really put Sam in a†tight† spot. After all, Pippin Took was only sixteen and he wasnít afraid. How would it look if Sam was afraid to attempt something that Pippin did without pause? After all, Pippin was neither a Brandybuck or a Bucklander and he wasnít afraid. He was also ten years younger than Sam. The young Gamgee could feel himself being backed into a corner and at present he saw no graceful way out.

"Why Merry takes me with him all of the time and sometimes he even lets me row a bit," Pippin continued. "Fishing from the boat is great fun!"

Merry laughed. "Yes, but you never do much fishing, Pip."

"I do so," Pippin objected, turning from Sam to look over at Merry.

"Oh, really? Just when was the last time you caught anything?" Merry teased.

"Well, I do fish, Merry. I just donít fish very well," Pippin said, a bit injured.

"You can stay here with me on the bank then and give that a try, Pippin," Fatty suggested. "If you go out with Sam and Merry, you wonít have a chance."

"Yes, I am planning to stay here as well, Pippin," Frodo said. "You and I can keep Fatty company while he attempts to empty the Brandywine of its fish in Samís absence."

"But I want to go with Sam," Pippin said. "He might feel better with me along because I can swim too, you know. I have been messing about in boats almost as long as Merry has." Pippin looked from Frodo to Merry in hopes of getting their approval on this.

"You know, Frodo, Pippin might just help Sam relax a bit. After all, Pipís done lots of boating," Merry said, thoughtfully, smiling a bit at Pippin's claim that he had been boating almost as long as Merry.†

"I donít know, Merry," Frodo frowned. While Pippinís presence in the boat would be a distraction, Frodo doubted that it would be a relaxing one. Pippin tended to move about the boat a bit recklessly and was forever having to be reminded to sit down. The last time that Frodo had been in a boat with the over-active Took, he had returned to shore feeling a bit sea-sick from all of the rocking that the boat did. Pippinís†sort of messing about in a boat†involved far too much movement. Merry was used to it and hardly noticed it, but Frodo had been very unsettled by it and he felt that Sam would be as well.

"Oh, please, Frodo," Pippin begged. "I just want to go and†help Sam enjoy his first boat trip." Pippin was looking up at him and smiling winningly. "Besides, I can swim, you know."

"I know you can swim, Pip," Frodo laughed. "I helped teach you, remember? Besides, the idea isnít to swim, itís to boat and to fish. There shouldnít be any swimming involved."

"Donít worry, Frodo," Pippin said. "Iíll just help Merry with the rowing. Iím getting pretty good at that part." The youngster smiled proudly when speaking of his rowing skills.† Behind him Merry shook his head assuring Frodo that Pippin would not be rowing the boat.† Merry and Frodo knew that Pippin's rowing skills still needed refining, but neither wanted to hurt the lad's feelings by saying so.

"I havenít said I was going, you know," Sam interjected. It was always difficult to get yourself heard when all three cousins were talking amongst themselves. He found it a bit off-putting that the three of them were planning his actions without him.

"Oh, but Sam," Pippin objected, turning to face the young Gamgee now. "You have to give it a try! Besides it will be ever so much fun and Merry is very good at boating." The youngster shifted feet and fairly bounced about in front of Sam as he spoke. This only added to Frodoís worries about Pippinís ability to remain seated and still in the boat, but Merry was smiling.

"How about it, Sam," Merry asked. "Pip and I will†soon have you† fishing from the boat as if you had been doing it all of your life."

"Well, I suppose maybe for a bit-" Sam began but Pippin cut him off in his excitement. The lad was thrilled that Sam had agreed.

"Oh, Sam, you wonít be the least bit sorry!† You're going to love messing about in a boat!" Pippin took Samís arm and began leading him, or dragging him depending on your view, toward the bank where Merryís little boat was waiting.

"Donít leave without me, Pip," Merry called out and then turned to Frodo and whispered. "Just like we planned."

"Not quite, Merry," Frodo whispered. "I hadnít planned on Pippin going along." Frodoís voice was low also and he was frowning as he watched Pippin standing below them on the bank barely containing his excitement as he told Sam all about the boat. Sam, Frodo observed, was standing rigidly, still a safe distance from the boat, and looking miserable.

"Donít worry about, Pip," Merry whispered. "I know how to rein him in if I need to do so." Merry was looking confident,†as he†picked up his and Samís fishing poles. Sam had left†his behind when Pippin had dragged him off unexpectedly. "Pipís just happy that Sam is going. He likes Sam very much."

"I know that Merry," Frodo said. "I just donít want Samís first boat ride to be his last."

Behind Frodo, Fredegar chuckled, shaking his head. "I donít know how you plan to rein him in, Merry, but youíd best get to it." He then motioned toward the boat. Pippin had one foot in the boat and one on the shore and was still chattering away.

"Peregrin Took!" Merry yelled, loudly. "I believe I told you to wait!" Merry was now striding down to the bank with the fishing poles in his hand and a very stern look on his face. Pippin had stepped back onto the shore in the wink of an eye and was now trying to look innocent, hands behind his back, and bitting his lower lip.

Frodo sighed, heavily and turned to Fatty. "Somehow, I have a very bad feeling about this."

Fredegar draped an arm around Frodoís shoulders, and the two of them began to make their way to the bank together. "Donít worry, Frodo. Merry knows Pippin and I am sure this will be fine."

Frodo stopped and looked up at the large, pleasant, Bolger lad. "Are you?"

"Not really. I just thought that one of us should try to make the other one feel better," Fredegar said.

Frodo laughed. "I think it will take just a bit more than that, Fredegar."

Frodo and Fredegar made their way down to the bank to find a likely spot to begin fishing as they watched Merry attempt to rein Pippin in. Frodo dearly loved his younger cousins, but both of them, in their own way, could be quite infuriating at times. Merry meant well and Frodo was sure that Merry believed himself more than a match for Pippin, but all the same, Frodo knew that Merry was fooling himself. It was true that Pippin adored Merry and would attempt to please him at every turn, but it was also true that Pippin wanted to impress Merry. This was where the problems often began. In his efforts to seem more mature or more independent, Pippin often set things in motion that even Merry was powerless to stop.

The youngest of their number expended a great deal of his vast wealth of energy trying to prove himself to them. Pippin worked hard at stretching his sixteen years so that they would seem to measure twenty-four. Peregrin Took desperately wanted to be as old as Merry, as clever as Merry, as strong as Merry, and as self-assured as Merry. At sixteen, he was none of these things. Pippin was slight of build and so not terribly strong, easily distracted, and frightfully insecure, though he made a fine show of covering this last with an outwardly boastful manner. If you didnít know him well, you would have guessed that he had all of the confidence in Middle Earth.

Merry, on the other hand, did have all of the confidence in Middle Earth. The young Brandybuck truly believed that there was nothing that he couldnít handle, including a certain younger cousin. Merry was an only child, well-loved and over-indulged. Instead of becoming spoiled, Merry had simply become convinced that he could do anything that he set his mind to. The frightening thing about this was that the stubborn Brandybuck usually did manage to do anything he set his mind to and poor Sam was about to climb into a boat with these two lightening bolts in search of targets.

Frodo thought to put a stop to the entire thing, but could see no way to do so without making it appear that he didnít trust Merry, or worse, that he thought Sam incapable of boating. Frodo had no wish to injure Samís pride which often was on shaky ground due to the difference in his station in life. Samís family were working class and though Frodo and the others tried to convince Sam that this made no difference to them, Sam felt that there was a difference. Experience had taught Sam that most of the Shire felt there was a difference between the hard working family of Hamfast Gamgee and the well-fixed Bagginses, Brandybucks and Tooks. No amount of assurances from Frodo were going to convince Sam that he was on the same level as the rest of them.

Fredegar was now settling himself on the bank and preparing to bait his hook. Frodo sank down next to him and watched as Merry settled Sam into the small boat while Pippin danced about on the shore, waiting impatiently to be allowed by Merry to climb in and join Sam. The boat had not even left the bank yet and already Sam looked half frightened to death.

"I can help you push off, Merry," Pippin offered, trying to sound as if this were a casual offer instead of a hopeful request.

Merry smiled, reassuringly at Sam and then turned to Pippin. "Not this time, Pip. I think it would be best if you got into the boat with Sam and let me push us off."

Pippin tried not to look disappointed, swallowed, and then said, "All right, Merry." He then stepped quickly and awkwardly into the boat, making it rock back and forth on the bank as he situated himself next to a very nervous Sam.

"Now, stay seated, Pippin," Merry said, sternly, as he began to push the boat into the water.

"I will," Pippin said, a bit insulted. "I have been boating before, you know." He turned to Sam and said, "You have to stay seated or the boat rocks something fierce and if you arenít careful it will dump you right into the Brandywine, Sam."

Sam was sure that Pippin had meant this information to be helpful in some way, but right now he just wanted to leap out of the boat and run up the bank and as far away from the river as he could get. The very thought of being dumped into the Brandywine made him shiver.

"Are you cold, Sam?" Pippin chirped, shifting on his seat and rocking the boat as Merry climbed smoothly in next to them both and put a firm hand on Pippinís shoulder, re-seating the energetic youngster.

"No, Iím not cold," Sam said, nervously. His eyes were round with fear as he watched Frodo and Fredegar growing smaller on the bank. The boat was moving out into the river and Sam was leaving the safety of solid ground.

"Pip, why donít you help Sam get his pole ready while I row us out a bit?" Merry suggested.

Pippin brightened at once, having been given something important to do. "Here, Sam, you hold onto the pole and Iíll find the bait." Pippin handed Sam the pole and then began to lean over and root around the bottom of the small boat in search of the worms. Sam held tightly to his pole as if it were a lifeline connecting him with the shore and watched Pippin bob up and down as he looked for the bait.

Merry rowed the boat out with gentle strokes of the oars, keeping a watchful eye on both of his passengers. Frodo had been worried about nothing. This was going to work out fine. All he had to do was keep Pippin busy and get Sam to relax and enjoy the river.

As those thoughts filtered through Merryís mind, Pippin stood up, turned to Merry, and announced, "I think weíve left the bait back on the shore with Frodo." The boat rocked wildly, but Pippin took no notice of it, nor did he notice that Sam was turning paler by the second. The young gardener tightened his grip on the pole and watched in terror as Pippin moved toward Merry.

Sighing in exasperation, Merry took hold of Pippinís wrist and pulled him down. "Sit down!" The startled Took landed with a thump on his backside on the bottom of the boat. The boat listed from side to side, and then began to settle just as Sam decided that they were all about to experience the dumping that Pippin had spoken of earlier.

"Ouch!" Pippin wailed. "I was only trying to tell you that we havenít any bait. You neednít be so rough." Pippin squirmed and tried to get up but Merry held fast to his cousinís wrist.

"How many times do I have to pull you from the Brandywine before you remember not to stand up in this boat, Pippin?" Merry demanded. "Now sit still and I will look for the bait. Iím sure there was some in the boat somewhere." Merry released Pippinís wrist, pulled the oars into the boat and leaned carefully over to search the boat for the missing bait.

Pippin rubbed his wrist and looked abused. "Want me to row a bit?" He suddenly asked, brightening as Samís eyes took on a new look of fear. He dared not imagine what would happen to them if Pippin were to begin rowing. He felt his stomach lurch a bit at the mere mention of this idea.

"No, donít do anything, just sit still and let me find the bait," Merry growled.

"There it is!" Pippin shouted, diving forward and reaching his hand under the seat, pulling a small pouch of worms out from under the startled Sam. Pippin was quite pleased with himself and he stood to hand the worms to Merry.

Merry glared at him and jerked him back down hard, taking the pouch out of Pippinís hand and once again, landing the youngster on his backside. Again, the boat rocked, dangerously, as Merryís voice, low and menacing, spoke to Pippin. "Do that one more time and I will push you over and let you swim for the shore."

Pippinís eyes became huge and he bit his lower lip, but refused to back down. "I found the bait, didnít I?"

"Yes, and nearly tossed us all into the river in the process. Now, sit still," Merry said, still using that menacing tone of voice that would have frightened most hobbits Pippinís age and most hobbits in general. Despite his own fear, Sam could tell that Pippin was not impressed.

"Fine. I shall sit here and do nothing. Youíre so clever, you can do it all," Pippin retorted, folding his arms over his chest and glaring at Merry.

Merry ignored this and began to bait Samís hook. Normally, Sam would have simply taken the pouch from Merry and selected his own bait from among the fat, brown, night crawlers, but at present he didnít think he could let go of his pole. Moving at all didnít seem like a very good idea to Sam and so he sat there and watched, trying to contain his terror, as Merry baited his hook.

"There, Sam," Merry smiled and patted him on the shoulder. "Now you can catch some of the big fish from the center of the river."

Sam nodded and tried to smile. The center of the river! Samwise, if your old Gaffer could see you now, heíd have a thing or two to say about the fix youíve landed in this time, no mistake. Merry then startled him by saying, "Sam, you will need to turn and put your line in the water."

"Donít you imagine that he knows that, Merry?" Pippin asked in disgust. Merry ignored him and watched Sam ease himself into position and cast his line into the river, timidly. Sam thought that this boat was becoming smaller by the minute. The bickering cousins were making the space seem very small indeed.

Meanwhile, Frodo was watching with interest as Samís line hit the water. "Well, it seems that Sam has begun to fish. I hope he is enjoying himself a bit."

Fredegar grinned. "I hope he makes it back to shore with at least half of his wits and without getting a dip in the Brandywine."

"You arenít very optimistic for someone who told me, only moments ago, not to worry," Frodo said, still watching the boaters.

"Well, itís getting harder to remain optimistic as I watch that little boat of Merryís rock about in the river. Also, judging by the way Sam looks from here, I have my doubts that he is enjoying his boat ride or the fishing," Fredegar answered.

"No, I suppose heís not," Frodo sighed. "I did have the best of intentions when I discussed this with Merry. I thought Sam would like the river once he realized how relaxing boats can be. Also, I hadnít counted on Pippin."

Fredegar laughed. "You should know by now never to forget to count Pippin when figuring all of the possible out-comes of a thing."

"Yes I really should, shouldnít I?" Frodo grinned. "I only hope Sam is enjoying the boat more than I suspect that he is." Frodo and Fredegar looked out toward the small boat now drifting slightly in the center of the Brandywine.

Pippin leaned forward onto his knees and tried to move a bit closer to Sam without drawing Merryís† attention. He was anxious to see how Sam enjoyed fishing from the boat now that Samís line was in the water. Pippin stretched up a bit and then leaned his hands on the side of the boat from which Sam was fishing and looked up at Sam. "See, Sam?" Pippin smiled. "See how peaceful it is out here in the water?"

Merry was moving carefully back to the oars and around the back of Pippin. "It would be peaceful if some of us would keep our mouths shut for a minute or two," Merry mumbled.

Pippin whipped his head in Merryís direction and scowled. "I heard that!"

"Really, well then perhaps you should learn from it and keep still," Merry said, adjusting himself on the seat. He smiled at Pippin, but it was not a friendly smile, more of a sarcastic leer. Pippin recognized this at once and stuck his tongue out at Merry.

"Sam doesnít mind if I talk to him, do you, Sam?" Pippin said, turning to face the still frightened Sam who was clutching his fishing pole.

Sam gulped and replied, "You and Mister Merry go on and talk if you want to. Iíll be fine." Sam sounded anything but fine to Merry.

"See, Merry," Pippin sneered.

"Sam, are you sure youíre all right?" Merry asked. He was suddenly a bit worried about their friend. He looked a bit too pale and he didnít seem to be enjoying himself. Frankly, with all of the stirring around Pippin had done since they had gotten into the boat, Merry could understand that Sam might be a bit cross. All of this noise and motion was bound to frighten off the fish.

"He says heís fine, Merry," Pippin sighed. "Be quiet and let him try to catch something. Why donít you row the boat some more?" Pippin waved Merry off and then looked back at Sam. "You are fine arenít you, Sam?"

"For your information, Peregrin Took, one does not row the boat while trying to fish from it. The motion of the oars frightens the fish and stirs up the water," Merry said, and he began baiting his own hook and readying his pole for a bit of fishing. Maybe if he were fishing also, Sam would relax. It looked to Merry as if Sam was pressing hard enough on his own pole with his clenched fingers to snap the thing in two.

Pippin ignored him and began to scan the bottom of the boat for something. "Merry, I think we have to go back to shore," Pippin said, frowning and then biting his lower lip a bit.

Sam looked hopefully over at Merry and waited for him to reply. The words Ďback to shoreí were the first reassuring words that Pippin had managed to say since theyíd gotten into this shaky little boat.

"Why would we need to do that, Pippin?" Merry said, casting his line into the river.

"I think Iíve left my pole on the bank," Pippin admitted, a bit embarrassed.

"Well, then you shall just have to sit quietly and watch Sam and I fish," Merry said, much to both Sam and Pippinís dismay. "You know perfectly well that when you are fishing, you bring your pole with you."

"But Merry, I just forgot it and it really wonít take you that long to go back to the bank so I can get it. Iíll hurry," Pippin said.

"We are supposed to leave a perfectly good fishing location and row back to the bank, stirring up the water and ruining everything so that you can get your pole?" Merry asked, glaring at Pippin.

"I donít mind at all, Mister Merry," Sam broke in. "It wouldnít be much fun for Mister Pippin if he canít fish too."

"Mister Pippin should have thought to bring his pole," Merry said, sternly.

Pippin glared at Merry and then looked over at Sam. "Itís all right, Sam. Merry is just worried that I might catch more fish than he will. I donít mind." Pippin leaned forward a bit, looking into the Brandywine as if something vastly interesting had caught his attention.

"Yes, thatís right, Sam," Merry groaned. "I am afraid that for once, Pippin might actually catch something on the river besides a cold from falling into the water."

"I catch plenty of fish," Pippin shot back, indignantly.

"If you had to feed yourself on what you catch, youíd starve to death," Merry laughed.

Sam groaned inwardly and tried not to think about where this was leading. Unfortunately, it went just where he thought it might go and Pippin leaped to his feet and yelled, "You take that back right now, Merry!" The boat rocked a bit.

"Oh, sit down, Pip Squeak. You know that you arenít exactly the best fisherman in the Shire," Merry retorted, leaning back a bit against the side of the boat as if he had taken no notice of Pippinís standing up.

"And I suppose you are?" Pippin said, waving an arm at Merry.

"I am much better at it then youíll ever be, " Merry said, quietly. "Now sit down and let Sam and me fish."

"Fine, but only because I know Sam here can catch something," Pippin said, patting Sam roughly on the shoulder and giving him a bit of a start. "Iíll just sit down and watch you not catch anything." Pippin then sat down in the bottom of the boat with such force that Samís teeth seemed to rattle.

"Keep that up and no one will catch anything," Merry muttered, rolling his eyes and giving Sam a look. Sam tried to look back but he was busy trying not to panic.

Pippin shifted his weight and leaned over the opposite side of the boat, sticking his hand into the river and making small circular motions. Merry glared at him and reached over, snatching Pippinís hand from the water. "Keep you hands in the boat. Youíll disturb the fish."

"You and Sam are fishing on the other side of the boat," Pippin objected. "Iím not hurting anything." He glared at Merry and then settled himself against Samís leg as if looking for support. Sam didnít move. Maybe if he sat very still and was very quiet, Merry and Pippin would settle down and then soon this would all be over.

Satisfied that he had gained the upper hand, Merry returned to his fishing with a wink to the unresponsive Sam.

"Bossy old Brandybuck," Pippin muttered.

"I heard that," Merry said, sharply.

"Good!" Pippin shot back. He then turned his back on Merry and stuck his hand in the water again, but this time, before Merry could react, Pippin was on his feet and yelling, " Merry! Look! A water snake and itís a big one!"

Merry leaned forward to look and at that moment, Sam, who had never cared for snakes on dry land and certainly had no love of them in the water, jumped to his feet and sucked in his breath. The minute he had done so, he knew he had made a very large mistake. The boat was rocking wildly now with both Sam and Pippin now standing..

Merry leaned forward even more. "I donít see any snake, Pippin Took!" With that announcement, Merry fell head first into the Brandywine as the boat shifted suddenly to one side because of the weight of both Sam and Pippin standing. Pippin began to howl with laughter but this was short-lived as with Merryís weight gone from the opposite side, the boat leaned over toward the water in the other direction and Pippin was tossed into the river on the other side.

Sam, fearing that the snake would bite one or both of his fallen companions, began to wave his arms at Frodo and Fredegar and shout "Snake! Snake! Mister Frodo, thereís a snake in the water!"

From the bank Fredegar and Frodo watched in horror as first Merry, and then Pippin, fell into the river. They now looked on as Sam began waving wildly at them and yelling something. "What is he saying?" Fredegar asked, leaning forward and trying to make out Samís words.

Frodo stood up and sighed, "I donít know, but Iíd better swim out and help him. I think something has just gone terribly wrong."

As Frodo waded into the river and began to swim out toward the boat, Fredegar noticed that Samís agitation was growing as if he were trying to warn Frodo away. Fredegar was at a loss to help though, as he couldnít swim or boat. He paced up and down on the bank and hoped that Frodo would be able to sort things out. As he watched, Pippin began swimming madly for the shore with Merry in pursuit. It was the oddest thing to watch. Frodo passed the two of them as he headed for the stranded Sam who now seemed to be sitting down in the boat, holding tightly to both sides.

As Pippin neared the bank, Merry began to catch him and Fredegar distinctly heard Merry yell out, "When I get my hands on you, I am going to drown you like the little rat that you are!"

Pippin was clearly losing steam and was now flailing madly in his efforts to stay ahead of Merry who was a much stronger swimmer. Merry was gaining on the youngster and Fredegar watched as Merry caught hold of Pippinís ankle and the lad was pulled backward toward Merry and under the water.

In the far distance, Frodo had reached the boat and was now climbing into it. "Sam, itís all right, Sam," Frodo tried to calm the frightened gardener. "Just sit perfectly still and Iíll climb in and get you to shore."

"Mister Frodo, thereís a snake in the water, hurry and get into the boat," Sam warned and he managed to let go of the sides of the boat so that he could take Frodoís hand and pull him in. Unfortunately, Sam leaned too far in Frodoís direction and tipped the poor boat too far to†the side. The next thing Frodo knew, both he and Sam were in the Brandywine together and the very frightened Sam was attempting to climb Frodo like a ladder.

From his vantage point on the bank, Fredegar got the distinct impression that at least two of the four hobbits in the water were going to drown. Frodo, slighter of build than Sam, was struggling to keep both himself and the frightened Gamgee above the water while Merry seemed to be busy trying to drown Pippin. Amid Samís frantic yelling and all of the splashing, Merryís voice rose yelling at Pippin whom he was now holding out of the water while the youngster gulped in air, "You are going to pay dearly for that one, Peregrin Took!"

"But, Merry I-" before Pippin could finish, Merry dunked him again. Out near the boat, Frodo was still struggling to keep Sam from drowning them both and Fredegar decided that enough was enough. Frodo needed help. He cupped his hands to his mouth and yelled to Merry who was just dragging Pippin out of the water again by the hair of his head. "Merry, Sam is drowning Frodo!"

Miraculously, Merry heard him and letting go of Pippin, he turned to see Frodo trying to hold onto both Sam and the side of the rocking boat. "Swim to shore and stay there!" Merry yelled at Pippin and then he turned and began to swim for Frodo and Sam. Breathless, from being repeatedly dunked, Pippin gasped for air and then slowly made his way to the shore. He was too exhausted to do otherwise.

Once Pippin reached the bank, Fredegar helped drag the lad onto the shore and the two of them watched as Merry helped Frodo get the panicked Sam into the boat. Pippin was sitting on the bank panting and Fredegar found himself taking a deep breath. He had been holding his from the moment it looked as if Sam might accidently drown Frodo. Pippin looked up at him and sighed, "Merry is going to kill me."

"I got that impression a minute or two ago, " Fredegar agreed. "What did you do?"

"I may have thought that I saw a snake in the water or something," Pippin said, in an off-hand tone as he began to breath normally.

Fredegar frowned down at Pippin and said, "You may have?"

Just at that moment, Merryís voice came across the river in their direction as he rowed for all he was worth, "Donít you move from that spot, Peregrin Took! When I get this boat to shore I plan to teach you a lesson!"

Pippin looked woefully up at Fredegar and said, "You suppose I can out run him with this much head start?"

"I doubt it," Fredegar said, judging the distance of the boat from the shore against Pippinís chances.

"Doubt Frodo or Sam will be too keen to help me this time either, "Pippin said, even more pitifully.

"No, I donít suspect that you will be able to count on either of them," Fredegar agreed, as the boat drew nearer and he could see the look on Sam's and Frodoís faces. No, Pippin was in trouble this time.

"Well, I canít just sit here and let them kill me," Pippin said, getting to his feet and making to run, but Fredegar caught him firmly by the back of his shirt and stopped him.

"Let go," Pippin pleaded.

"No, this time I think you have whatever they dish out coming," Fredegar said, continuing to hold Pippin in place as the boat touched the shore.

Merry was out of the boat and stalking over to Fredegar and Pippin with his jaw set and his hands clinched. "Youíve done it this time! You nearly drown Frodo and Sam!"

Frodo was helping a very shaky Sam out onto the bank. The minute Samís furry feet touched the solid earth, he sank to his knees. Frodo bent down to see to his poor frightened friend and as he did so, he called up the bank to his cousins. "Both of you stay right where you are and keep your mouths shut. When I get Sam settled down, I will deal with both of you!" Frodo didnít often use that particular tone of voice with his cousins, but when he did they knew that he meant business.

Fredegar let go of Pippin who sank, resignedly to the grass to await his fate. Merry unclinched his fists and stood still, watching Frodo help Sam up the bank. "Look what youíve managed to do now," Merry hissed over at Pippin without looking at him.

"Me?" Pippin whispered back, trying to sound innocent.

"Yes, you an your snake in the water," Merry whispered. "Because of that little prank, Sam fell into the river."

"Sam wasnít supposed to fall in, just you were," Pippin muttered, as the water dripped into his eyes from his damp hair.

"Iím sure that is going to be a great defense," Merry whispered. He then began wringing out the bottom of his shirt as he watched Frodo coming toward them. Fredegar was now helping Sam the rest of the way up the bank.

Frodo reached them and locked eyes with Merry. "Which of you is responsible for this?" Frodo asked in a very calm voice. He then looked down at Pippin. "Well?"

Pippin swallowed and got to his feet. "I might be."

"Might be?" Merry objected.

"Well, I didnít mean for Sam to fall in the river, Frodo," Pippin began. "It was just that Merry was being so bossy that I-"

"Frodo, I was not being bossy!" Merry objected.

"You were too!"

"You were being a complete pain and you left me no choice!"

"I was only trying to help and you wouldnít let me do anything!" Pippin announced. He then looked at Frodo and said, "He wouldnít come back and let me get my fishing pole either."

"So you made up a snake!" Merry yelled.

"I only did that to scare you," Pippin said. "I never meant to scare Sam. You deserved it!"

"You mean to tell me that there wasnít any snake in that river?" All three cousins turned to look as Sam came over and stood there dripping and red faced. He was looking at Pippin in complete astonishment.

"It was sort of s-s-supposed to be a wee bit of a j-j-joke on M-Merry," Pippin stammered, looking pained.

"A joke?" Sam said, not believing what he was now hearing.

Pippin nodded and looked up at Sam dreading what he might be about to see in his friendís face.

Sam was beyond angry at this moment. He had been cornered into getting into that boat in the first place. He had then been rocked about and tossed from side to side and forced to listen to Merry and Pippin argue like a couple of ten-year-olds, and then he had been scared out of his wits by Pippinís announcement that there was a snake in the water! As if all of that wasnít enough, he had fallen into the river and nearly drown himself and Frodo! He glared down at this small, purveyor of mischief and pranks and felt the rage boil to the surface.

"Sam, he didnít mean it for you," Merry said, seeing how close Sam was to snapping. "He was trying to frighten me." Pippin had moved a bit closer to Merry.

Sam was so angry that he was shaking. "I canít talk about this now, Mister Merry. If I say any more†just now, Iíll say something that I will likely be sorry for later on. I am going to walk a bit ahead and try to calm down. Donít say anything to me now,†or Iím likely to forget my place†and turn Mister Pippin here over my knee and teach him some manners or I might just punch you in the face, Mister Merry." With that said, Sam Gamgee started off down the path back toward Brandy Hall.

As Merry and Pippin watched Sam retreat, Fredegar passed them announcing, "Iíll give Sam a minute to settle down and then Iíll catch up and walk with him to make sure heís all right, Frodo."

Pippin and Merry then turned back to Frodo who was looking at both of them as if they were two very disgusting bugs that needed squashing. Out of habit, Pippin moved over even closer to Merry. Merry sighed and looked over at Frodo, "I donít guess that went anything at all like we planned, did it?"

"No, Merry," Frodo said, still angry. "I donít recall planning to have Sam fall into the Brandywine."

"I guess you might be a bit angry with me," Merry said, as Pippin reached up and took hold of Merryís sleeve for support. Merry allowed it.

"I am more than a bit angry with you, Meriadoc," Frodo said.

"It was probably mostly my fault, Frodo," Pippin said, weakly.

"I am also not very happy with you at the present, Peregrin," Frodo said. "Now, I am also going to walk back to the Hall alone. The two of you will put the boat up, gather everyoneís things and return to the Hall where you will explain this entire mess to Uncle Saradoc. We will leave it to him to decide whatís to be done."

As Frodo left them standing there, Pippin looked up at Merry and said, "Uncle Doc will kill us."

"Yes, he will and Frodo knows that, " Merry said. "But we have it coming, Pip."

Pippin nodded solemnly. "Suppose Sam will ever speak to us again, Merry?"

"In a couple of years, Iím sure heíll forget all about it, " Merry said, dryly. "Now, let's get that boat out of the water and go and face my father."

___________________________________

Some years later, while they waited on the bank of another river.....

Sam was frowning as he looked at the lovely Elven boats when Frodo came over to join him. "Whatís the matter, Sam?"

"I was just thinking about something is all, Mister Frodo, " Sam said, still looking at the boats.

Frodo was trying to puzzle out what Sam might be concerned about, when his attention was diverted by the voices of his younger cousins talking excitedly with Gimli near one of the other boats.

"Oh, Merry is ever so good with boats, Gimli, " Pippin was saying. "He has been boating all of his life. He even taught me how to row a bit, though I am not as good with a boat as Merry."

"My family lives near the river," Merry said. "I must admit that these are the most amazing boats that I have ever seen." Merry was running his hand down the side of the boat and examining it carefully. Pippin, climbed over into the boat and began walking the length of it as it sat there on the dry land.

"Careful there young hobbit, " Gimli warned Pippin. "Aragorn said that we were to wait until he came over before getting into the boats." Gimli folded his arms over his chest and puffed on his pipe.

"Oh, Iím sure itís fine Gimli," Pippin said. "The boats are still on the shore. Anyway, I can swim quite well. Merry and Frodo taught me.†I†am almost as good with a boat as Merry is."

"So, all of you hobbits swim then?" Gimli said, a bit of surprise in his voice. He had heard his father say that hobbits were not fond of water.† He had believed this to be so as his father, Gloin, had traveled with Frodo's Uncle Bilbo Baggins.† Gimli had assumed that his father knew a great deal about hobbits from his friendship with Bilbo.†He found himself wondering if he was the only one in the Fellowship that didnít swim.

"Well, all of us except Sam," Merry said.

As Frodo heard this he looked over sympathetically at Sam, now knowing what it was that Sam was recalling. "Donít worry, Sam," Frodo said, softly. "They are both much older now and Aragorn wonít allow them to do anything foolish. I am sure that someone other than Merry and Pippin will be in charge of the boats."

From a distance, Frodo heard Merryís voice again, "I can row if need be, Gimli, though I have never rowed a boat as large as this one."

Sam was looking more nervous by the minute and Frodo wasnít sure what to say.

"Well, my friends, are you getting used to the idea of the boats?" Aragorn asked as he joined them. He could tell that something was wrong but he felt that he should let the Hobbits explain it to him when they were ready.

"Aragorn," Frodo said. "Would it be safe to say that you wonít be allowing just anyone to row the boats?"

"I thought we would organize ourselves and assign boats before we left, Frodo," Aragorn said. "Why? Do you have some sort of a suggestion regarding the boats?"

Frodo looked at Sam then and the gardener said, "I promised to stick with you, Mister Frodo and I mean to keep my word, but Iíll not willingly get in a boat with Mister Merry or Mister Pippin if you take my meaning?"

"I do indeed, Sam," Frodo smiled. "Aragorn, I think that Sam and I would like to be in your boat if that is all right."

Aragorn was a bit confused by this as the four Hobbits had always seemed so close and Merry was the only one with much boating experience. Samís hesitancy to go with Merry or Pippin confused him, but he was sure that there was a reason and so he said, " I was thinking that very thing, Frodo. I thought that Gimli and Legolas might go together and that Merry and Pippin could go with Boromir." He waited to see how this news would be received.

Frodo smiled and so did Sam, though he still looked a bit too tense about the boats.

"That will be fine, Aragorn," Frodo said, and Sam nodded his approval. Behind them Pippin was attempting to lift one of the large oars out of the boat and his voice sang out.

"This might be quite a nice change, Merry.† I have always loved messing about in boats."

Frodo and Sam exchanged knowing looks as Aragorn wondered what this all could mean.† Aragorn then began to hurry over toward Gimli, Merry and Pippin.† Pippin, in his efforts to lift the oar properly, and turned about and struck Gimli in the face.

Left alone for the moment with their boat,Sam looked over at Frodo and said, "Do you suppose that we should warn Mister Boromir?"





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