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Chapter 5 Merry's Partners
Frodo managed to duck back into the corner just as Bilbo went by. That was close! He knew that his uncle was looking for him and he felt guilty for hiding from him, but he simply couldnít stand to be paraded about the room in this waistcoat!
Just now an interesting conversation was taking place near his corner and it was loud enough for him to hear. Normally, he wouldnít eavesdrop but he had nothing else to do so maybe he could pick up some interesting gossip for the Gaffer. Gaffer Hamfast Gamgee did like a good rumor.
His aunt Eglantine was angry with his cousin Pervinca about something. Eglantine Took had a firm hold on her youngest daughter's arm and was whispering. Frodo almost laughed. That must be where Pippin gets it. His young cousin couldnít whisper. It sounded like a whisper, but was at near full volume. Eglantine was doing that sort of a whisper now.
"You better have an excellent reason for upsetting your Aunt Opal, Pervinca Took!"
"Momma, keep your voice down, someone will hear you," Pervinca hissed back also too loudly. Frodo sighed. It must be a family problem. None of them could whisper apparently and none of them seemed to realize that they werenít whispering. Amazing!
"Well, where is that dress and why donít you have it on?"
The real answer would get her killed so Pervinca decided to fib a bit. "Well, you should speak to Pippin about that!"
"What has your little brother to do with this?" Eglantine asked, her voice a bit louder now.
"He was supposed to be standing still while I hemmed it and he-" Pervinca got no further than this as her mother interrupted.
"Pervinca! You didnít put that dress on Pippin!" Frodo had to smother a laugh. This was priceless. He was so sorry that Merry was missing this. Pippin in a dress! Sort of like putting a bonnet on a puppy! Poor Pip!
"Only to hem it, but he ruined it," Pervinca sniffed as thought this hurt her deeply. "He is probably somewhere hiding right now."
"What did he do?" Eglantine demanded to know in a now normal tone of voice.
"He was squirming about so that he ripped the waist and I just didnít have time to repair it, Momma," Pervinca lied masterfully. Eglantine wrapped her arm around her devious daughter, completely taken in and the two walked out of ear shot.
Frodo laughed softly. This explained Pippinís absence from the party. He was in trouble yet again and was hiding from his mother. Looks like somebody is going to get a serious punishment.
Pippin was quite proud of himself. He had made it to the far ballroom door without seeing a single hobbit! Now he was outside of a room full of them. All he had to do was locate his mum or in desperation, Merry or Frodo or maybe Pearl! He was becoming desperate too. The dress was a bit itchy around the collar and the waist and he was very tired of all of this! Also, the hat kept slipping to one side. He guessed there was a trick to tying these ribbon things but he didnít know it.
Pippin peeked out from under the hat and scanned the room for help. He saw his mum, but she had Pervinca in tow and they were leaving the room at the far side. Maybe mum would kill Pervinca for not wearing the dress! That would be worth seeing if only he could get across the room, but that would be impossible. No, heíd just have to hear about it later which would be almost as good.
Suddenly, he saw Merry! He was dancing with Estella Bolger. No wait, Fatty was stepping between them and waltzing away with Estelle. Fatty had cut in! Now was his chance. Merry needed a dance partner and he was about to get one. Pippin you have sunk to a new low!
Merry was standing there was his mouth open. "Fatty!" Just as he had decided to confront the Bolger lad, someone streaked out of the hall doorway and into his arms. He felt himself being pulled back toward the doorway but he resisted. The bold lass was wearing a hat! He couldnít see her face and she was much too thin, but the hat intrigued him.
"Easy there, lass. You wanted to dance, so letís dance," Merry said, pulling his new admirer onto the dance floor. She was a bit reluctant, but he was stronger and the music was in his favor. She must have lost her nerve, but he would help her find it. He wanted a look under the hat!
Merry noticed Frodo watching from the alcove and he grinned as if to say, look snagged another one! Poor Frodo, spending the party in the corner would be worse than dancing with one of the Bracegirdle lasses! Pippin had got stuck with one at the last party and she was twice his size and uglier than a mule in the mud!
"So, are you going to tell me your name or are you going to keep me in suspense?" Merry asked his new dancing partner as he pulled her close and led her expertly through a complex dance step. She was, at least, a good dancer. That would help make up for other shortcomings a bit.
Frodo!" It was Bilboís voice and Frodo knew he was caught.
"Oh, there you are!" Frodo turned the tables. Make Bilbo think heíd been looking for him.
Bilbo smiled. "Are you having a good time, my lad?"
"Oh, yes and everyone just loves the waistcoat." Frodo lied, though not very well.
"Oh, really? Who?" Bilbo asked.
"Ah, well, you know, e-everyone," Frodo stammered.
"I know," Bilbo said. Frodo heaved a small sigh of relief. Bilbo thought that everyone loved the waistcoat. He hated to lie, but it was far better than hurting his uncleís feeling.
"No, I know that you donít like the waistcoat, my lad," Bilbo smiled and squeezed Frodoís shoulder.
"How, I mean itís not that I donít like it, itís just not the sort of thing, well," Frodo gave up. "Merry told you didnít he?"
"No, but you are close to the mark. Seems the apple doesnít fall far from the tree. Saradoc figured it out," Bilbo smiled. He reached over and removed the waistcoat from Frodo. "Now, why donít we go and get a bit to eat and then you can dance with some of the lasses before your cousin takes them all."
"Yes, he has one Iíve never seen now," Frodo said, pointing to Merry and his partner as they moved gracefully across the dance floor.
"Hullo, Frodo lad. Bilbo," Saradoc smiled walking over to them. "Frodo, I thought Merry was interested in the Bolger lass."
"Thatís what I thought also, Uncle Saradoc, but Fatty broke in on that and now Merry has a new partner," Frodo smiled at Saradoc.
"Tell your uncle thank you Frodo," Bilbo grinned. "You know you want to."
"Thank you," Frodo smiled over at Saradoc and at that moment Paladin Took joined them.
"Well, you do have a name donít you?" Merry said, and he tried to bend down to peek under the hat, but his partner ducked.
"For a lass that waylaid me, you certainly have gotten shy," Merry laughed. He found it oddly attractive. It drew him to this new lass. Maybe Estella Bolger wasnít the only lass for him.
"Donít be angry, Merry and try not to laugh," Pippinís voice said weakly. Merry found himself looking around to try and locate the source and then suddenly he knew.
"Pippin if that is you under that hat, you are a dead hobbit child," Merry hissed. "Look at me."
Pippin lifted his head and let his eyes meet Merryís. "Merry, I can explain."
"I doubt that. I seriously doubt that." Merry glared at him and stopped dancing. The two of them were standing in the center of the dance floor not moving. Pippin had lowered his head.
"I can explain. Vince sewed me into her frock. Then she dared me to leave her room and I had to get out of this only I canít and so I put on this hat and came to find you or Frodo or my mum. Honest, Merry, "Pippin said. "I wasnít trying to fool you. It isnít a joke and I never thought it would be funny! I just want to get out of this frock!"
Paladin frowned, "What do you suppose Merry and his little lass are up to?"
"I have no idea," Saradoc admitted, "But it looks as if they are having a bit of a row right there on the dance floor."
"Frodo lad, are you all right?" Bilbo asked. Frodo was staring intently at Merry and the lass in the hat. He looked as if he were studying them.
"No, it canít be," Frodo murmured.
"Sorry?" Bilbo was confused. Saradoc and Paladin were now watching Merry and the Lass to see if they could get an idea of what Frodo was seeing. Frodo had the advantage, however. Had heard Pervinca and Eglantine taking earlier and some how he thought that Merryís new lass might just be Merryís favorite cousin! Frodo was grinning now.
Out on the dance floor, Fatty Bolger was approaching Merry with an unfriendly look in his eyes. "Merry Brandybuck, I want to have a word with you."
Everyone was watching now. Everyone except Pippin who had lowered his head and was trying desperately to look very small. Usually the little Took was trying to look taller than he was but now, he was hoping that a board in the flooring would slide back and he would fall into the lower levels of the Smial and disappear! Merry was suddenly nervous too.
Thinking fast, Merry wrapped his arm around Pippin's waist and whispered, "Dance." He then began leading them toward the far end of the room. "Sorry Fatty, but Iím busy at the moment."
"Merry, where are we -" Pippin began in his Tookish whisper which had Fatty craning his neck to hear, but Merry leaned forward, put his hand over Pippinís mouth and kissed the back of his own hand. From Fattyís perspective, it would look as if Merry were planting a kiss on his partnerís lips and not his own hand!
Frodo was doubling over with laughter! Bilbo looked at him in confusion and at that moment, Merry got close enough for Saradoc to grab him by the back of his collar and drag him over to them. Pippin was caught in the process as Merry still had his hand over the Tookís mouth.
"Oh, my, Merryís lass has very large feet doesnít she?" Bilbo whispered to Paladin. Large feet on a female hobbit were not considered to be a good thing.
"I recognize those feet," Paladin moaned, and put his head down.
"Come here," Saradoc said, firmly steering Merry toward him. In an effort to get free, Merry let go of Pippin and the little Took fell flat on his face on the floor.
There was a collective awwwww, from the dance floor and Pippin begin trying to right himself but he was having trouble with the skirt.
Paladin sighed and pulled his only son to his feet. Pippin came dangerously close to losing the hat, but managed to put a hand on it and hold it in place.
"Nice dress, Pip," Frodo said.
"Howíd you know it was me?" Pippin wondered looking up at Frodo.
"Keep your head down," Merry hissed. "You'll get us both laughed right out of the smial."
"Iím guessing that this is quite a story," Saradoc laughed.
Merry blushed. "I had nothing to do with this."
"I think the best thing to do is to retire to a quiet room and hear this interesting tale," Bilbo recommended, "before anyone else realizes what is happening."
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