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Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By
Chapter 9: Crickhollow
After dinner, Farmer Maggot insisted that he drive his guests to the Buckleberry Ferry. Goldi agreed, but only because she did not wish to help Pippin and Faramir all the way there. Getting them from the ferry to Crickhollow would be hard enough. Both had drunk more than their fill of ale. Pippin was singing.
As seem to be the tradition with the wife of the farmer, Mrs. Maggot handed Goldi a basket, from which rose the pleasant aroma of mushrooms. Goldi tried to refuse the gift, but Mrs. Maggot would hear none of it.
"We have more than enough mushrooms growing here, Miss Goldilocks," said Mrs. Maggot. "And besides…" She looked at Pippin and Faramir, "those two will probably be starving when they sober up." Goldi finally gave in, and thanked Mrs. Maggot for her kindness.
Harry and Ed came over to her.
"Well, it was nice meeting you Miss Goldi," said Harry, blushing again. "Please, feel free to visit us any time you want to."
"I will do that," said Goldi. She gave Harry and Ed a quick kiss on their cheeks. Both of them blushed furiously. Goldi smiled to herself. Good thing Faramir didn’t see that.
Farmer Maggot was waiting at his cart. The pony shifted restlessly, anxious to leave. Pippin and Faramir were already in the back, Pippin fast asleep.
"You’d best ride in the back, Miss Goldi, and keep an eye on those two," said Maggot, with a chuckle.
Goldi nodded, and climbed into the back of the cart. Faramir spotted her immediately, and crawled to her side.
"Hullo, Goldi," he slurred. Goldi flinched as Faramir layed his head on her shoulder. "You know what? You’re really pretty. I think those two farm boys thought so too. I like you, Goldi. I like you a lot. In fact, I lo…" He fell asleep before finishing his sentence.
If Goldi hadn’t cared so much about his wellbeing, she probably would have thrown Faramir out of the cart. Or, at least, kicked him. Even when he was drunk, he still knew exactly how to make her mad.
With a sigh, Goldi rested her head on the side of the cart, and tried to ignore the fact that Faramir was snoring loudly in her ear.
* * * * * *
The trip to the ferry seemed to take forever, but they finally arrived. Goldi even fell asleep herself for a few moments. But the long trip (and long sleep) had done a surprising amount of good for Faramir and Pippin. They had both sobered up considerably. Pippin still giggled at the most bizarre things (like hearing the pony whinny in farewell as Farmer Maggot returned to the farm). Faramir only felt slightly light-headed.
And also, quite horrified. He remembered everything that had happened – unlike Pippin, who would probably wake the next morning with a terrible headache and no recollection of the night. But Faramir had a clear memory of what he had said and done, including almost telling Goldi that he loved her. So close, I came so close to ruining everything.
Faramir planned to tell Goldi his feelings at some stage on their journey. Pippin’s arrival had made things slightly more difficult, especially when he made it clear that Faramir’s feelings were quite obvious. Faramir knew that Goldi must also suspect something, but he would not tell her anything yet. He wasn’t ready, and he doubted she was either.
"What have you got there, Goldi?" Faramir asked, seeing the basket in her hand.
"Mushrooms. A gift from Mrs. Maggot," answered Goldi. "I see you are feeling better. We had better get to Crickhollow, before Pippin falls in the river, or does something else equally as stupid."
Together, Faramir and Goldi helped Pippin stagger to the ferry. Goldi made him sit, while Faramir untied the ropes, and pushed off with a long wooden pole. The ferry drifted across the Brandywine River. Its passengers sat silently, watching the West Bank fade away.
As they reached the opposite shore and stepped back onto solid ground, Pippin, who was sitting on the path, suddenly cried out: "What’s that?! Over on the other bank!"
Faramir and Goldi looked to the West Bank of the Brandywine, half expecting to see a black shape crouched on the ground, and hear the sound of snuffling. But they saw nothing, and the only sound they could hear was Pippin’s hysterical laughter.
"I can’t believe you fell for that!" he cried, between bouts of giggles. "Did you really think there was a black rider over there?"
With a quick side-glance at each other, Faramir and Goldi each grabbed one of Pippin’s arms, and began to drag him along the path, ignoring his cries of pain.
* * * * * *
After the Battle of Bywater and the Fall of Sharkey, Meriadoc and Peregrin had lived together, for some time, in Crickhollow. Even after they had both married, the two couples remained in the cosy house, with Meriadoc and Estella helping to raise young Faramir. Meriadoc had moved back to Brandy Hall when his father died, so Peregrin had taken his family back to the Great Smials. However, the two hobbits still had joint ownership of the house (Frodo had left it to both of them), and it was used as accommodation for Peregrin and his family on their frequent visits to Buckland.
Faramir and Goldi followed the road that led to Crickhollow. Pippin had fallen to sleep again, which made him somewhat easier to drag, since he was no longer struggling. Faramir insisted that they avoid the bright lights of Brandy Hall. He often visited Meriadoc, so it was quite possible that someone would recognise him. Also, Goldi and her sister Daisy looked very much alike, and since Daisy and Primrose had made frequent visits to Brandy Hall, someone could easily mistake Goldilocks for her sister.
When they finally reached Crickhollow, Goldi and Faramir were exhausted. There was some distance between the house and Buckleberry Ferry, and having to drag an unconscious hobbit the entire way did not make the journey any easier. Goldi waited as Faramir fumbled with the key. He unlocked the door, and they stumbled in, finding a bed for Pippin, and leaving him there.
Goldi and Faramir both slumped into comfortable chairs. Crickhollow was finely furnished, and comfortable enough to accommodate a good crowd of hobbits.
"So, what is the plan for tomorrow?" asked Goldi, taking a bite out of a mushroom.
Faramir grinned. "I think you know the answer to that."
Goldi’s eyes widened. "No, you are not serious! You cannot be planning to go through…to go through…the Old Forest!"
Many things had changed in the Shire (and in all of Middle-Earth) since the destruction of the Ring, but the notoriously queer reputation of the Old Forest was not one of these. Even the children of Sam, Meriadoc and Peregrin were taught to fear it (though Faramir had obviously not listened).
"Why not? Our fathers managed to survive it. I am sure we can, too."
"They were lucky to survive it. Remember Old Man Willow? The only reason our fathers made it through the Old Forest was the help of Tom Bombadil, and we cannot be certain that we shall also receive that help."
But it was no use arguing with Faramir. Tooks can be a stubborn as mules if they have made their mind up about something, and Faramir would not be swayed.
Goldi gave in, seeing it was absolutely hopeless. "Fine! But if I end up trapped inside a willow, I will not be happy!"
* * * * * *
Inside The Floating Log, Peregrin held a mug of beer to his aching jaw, and scowled at Sam.
"I said I was sorry," Sam mumbled, taking a swig from his own mug. He knew that he should not have hit Peregrin, but part of him felt that the Took deserved it. Goldi was not old enough to be married, and even if she was, why would she want to marry Faramir Took? Because she grew up with him, replied a little voice in his head. Because they have always been close friends, and now that they have started to grow up, they want it to be something more. Sam knew any argument against that would be useless. He, himself, had experienced the change from friendship to deep affection. He and Rose had grown up together, with him being close friends with her brothers. And now – they had been married for many years, with thirteen wonderful children who were all starting to grow up.
That’s what it is, Sam thought, with a sigh. I don’t want Goldi to grow up. I want her to stay as my little girl. I’ll just have to get used to the idea. I suppose Faramir would be a fine choice for Goldi after all. But I don’t think I’ll tell Peregrin that.
Sam smiled behind his mug.
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