Stories of Arda Home Page
About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search

Just to be With You  by Pervinca

Just to be With You


3: Picnic by the Brandywine

On their way back to Brandy Hall, Berilac decided to confront his cousin about Estella. “That Bolger lass is quite a pretty one.”

“What?” Merry asked, as if being broken from a chain of thought. “Oh, yes, she is.” He smiled suddenly at Berry. “I thought you said you would never find anything as fair as Pimpernel…”

“I didn’t say she was as fair as my dear Pimpernel,” Berry retorted, annoyed that his interrogation seemed to be switching from Merry to himself. “But she certainly is lovely. I believe you thought so too.”

“What do you mean by that?” Merry demanded, red-faced.

“Oh, nothing, Mister ‘I-shall-choose-when-I-am-ready’. I suppose you never expected to be ready so soon, right dear cousin?”

Merry smiled slightly. “Well, I see that there is little that I can hide from you and that I should be thankful that it was you, and not Pippin or Frodo, that noticed my interest in Estella.” He sighed. “She doesn’t seem like all of those other lasses. Of course, I only really just met her, but I would like to get to know her better.”

“I am sure you will have your chance to.”

* * * * * *

A host of Tooks arrived the next day, Everard included. Estella worried that she would lose her new friends now that they both had sweethearts to spend their time with, but she had no need to. Pervinca brought Everard to Crickhollow to meet Estella (the other guests of the party were staying at a nearby Inn).

Everard was a handsome and polite young hobbit. Estella made a note to congratulate Pervinca later on her fine catch. This thought shocked her – she was actually thinking like a lass.

An invitation came to Brandy Hall for the young Tooks, Bolgers and Baggins to join a few Brandybucks by the Brandywine River for a picnic. The hobbits did not need to be asked twice. Pippin, Frodo, Pervinca, Pimpernel, Fredegar, Estella, Everard and Ferdibrand (Freddie and Estella’s cousin) were soon ready and on their way to the Brandywine.

Merry was easy to find. He had set up several blankets not far from the banks. He had chosen a place in the river that had been netted off for young hobbits to swim in relative safety. It was here that young Brandybucks (and one Baggins and several Tooks) learnt to swim. Merry was not alone either. Berry had come with him, as well as Celandine and her elder brothers Doderic and Ilberic. Splashing about in the water were Merimas, Mentha and Melilot Brandybuck.

It was not long before the group of young hobbits were happily chatting, eating or swimming. Frodo was older than the rest, so he thought it his duty to act as the parent figure. Besides, he had not swum in the river since he was a boy. The Brandywine had swallowed up his parents and he had been terrified of it ever since.

Pervinca pulled Meriadoc aside to have a word with him. “Don’t you think Estella looks pretty this morning?”

Merry tensed up. “Why do you say that?” He glared at her suspiciously. “Has Berry said something to you?”

“No, nothing at all, cousin. But I can see he has said something to you. Well, here is my advice to you – go and speak to Stella. You may be pleasantly surprised.”

Merry looked at his cousin in shock, but he could not find a trace of jest in her face. She was quite serious. He took a deep breath and started towards Estella, but before he could speak to her, Melilot had emerged from the water and sauntered over to him. She had fancied her distant cousin for some time now. She grabbed him arm.

“Meriadoc, would you be so kind as to help me change from my bathing costume?” she asked, with a less than subtle flutter of her eyelashes.

“That would hardly be proper, Mel,” Merry stammered. He glanced around to his friends, begging for help. Fredegar was the only one who noticed and he quickly ran to Merry’s aid.

“Melilot, put this towel on,” he commanded. “You shall catch a chill!” Merry mouthed Thank you to Fredegar and quickly escaped.

“Well, that was rather clever of you, Master Brandybuck,” Estella boldly stated. “Was that young lass an admirer of yours?”

Merry grinned. “Well, apparently, yes, but I was not aware of it until just now.” He cleared his throat. “So, have you been enjoying your stay in Buckland?”

“It has been lovely so far, and I must thank you for inviting me out today.”

“It was my pleasure. I…I…” Merry stammered as he tried to put his thoughts into words. “The point is…I…I suppose, I want to say, that I would like to – if you don’t mind, that is – get to know you better…”

Estella blushed. “That would be nice, Meriadoc.”

Pippin was sitting with his two sisters, Everard, Berilac and Celandine. Celandine had snuggled close to him as soon as he arrived. Pippin looked over to his cousin and Estella and giggled. “What in the world is Meriadoc up to?”

“Trying to get to know Estella better,” Berry and Pervinca answered at the same time.

Pervinca laughed, and mockingly shook her finger at Pimpernel. “Pim, did you say something to Berry?”

“Not at all, dear Pervinca,” Berry replied. “I worked it out for myself and spoke to Merry last night. How did you find out?”

“I worked it out also, and spoke to Estella. We had a lovely little chat last night, didn’t we, Pimpernel?”

“And I suppose they both thought it would be a complete secret,” Peregrin laughed. “At least, I’m sure they hoped to keep it a secret from me.”

Pervinca pouted. “I had hoped to play matchmaker, but it looks as though I will not need to! The two of them are doing fine by themselves.”

Fredegar seemed to have escaped from Melilot, and he and Frodo wandered over to the Tooks and their partners. He glanced at his sister and Meriadoc. “Would anyone care to explain to me what is happening between those two?”

Merry and Estella were both blushing. Merry seemed to be telling Estella an amusing story, for she was laughing.

“The future Master seems to have found himself a potential Mistress,” Berry answered, taking a large bite from an apple. “They do make a rather sweet couple, don’t you think?”

Fredegar gave a little laugh. “Then I suppose I shall have to spend Merry’s party distracting Melilot. And I shall be happy to do so.” He looked fondly at the young Brandybuck lass.

Frodo smiled to himself. Merry’s party seemed to be sprouting new couples everywhere. Perhaps even I might find a special someone at this party, but the smile froze on his lips at this thought, and his hands strayed to his pocket to finger a small object that he forever kept on a chain attached to his belt.

* * * * * *

With the party looming closer, Merry was unable to spend as much time with his friends during the day. He spent two days running around Brandy Hall, doing numerous tasks for his mother. During this time, his thoughts often drifted to Estella Bolger.

Saradoc Brandybuck suggested that on the night two before the party, the Thain’s family and Frodo would be invited to Brandy Hall for dinner. He agreed when Merry asked that the Bolgers be invited also.

When the invitation arrived at Crickhollow, Estella was terrified. She was to meet Merry’s parents. In the little time she had spent with Merry, she knew that she was started to fall in love with him. She had never met anyone quite like him, and he was everything she had hoped to find in her future husband. She had even managed to overcome her shyness around him. But meeting his parents would be a completely different matter. She wondered if Merry had spoken to them about her. Would they approve of her?

These were the thoughts that plagued her mind as Pervinca and Pimpernel tightened the strings on her corset. Though Estella usually hated wearing dresses of the sort, she wanted to make a good impression on the Master and the Mistress of the Hall.

“Stop worrying!” Pervinca commanded. “Aunt Esmeralda will love you. She’s a Took, you know. Our father’s youngest sister. Father says that I’m a lot like her, and I like you, so I am certain she will too. Uncle Sarry can be a little frightening when you first meet him, but he really is an old dear!”

Pimpernel was also being fussed over. Eglantine had been told about the blossoming relationship between her daughter and Berilac and was immensely pleased. “We may have another wedding on our hands soon!” she squealed happily.

Eventually, all of the hobbitesses were ready, much to the relief of the male hobbits, who had been ready for a good hour or so. Estella walked with Pippin, since Pervinca was chatting lovingly to Everard (as Pervinca’s betrothed, he was also invited to Brandy Hall) and Pimpernel was still being fussed over by her mother. Frodo and Fredegar were at the front of the group speaking quietly.

Estella had not spoken to Pippin all that much, but now that she did she regretted that she had not earlier. She discovered that Merry and Pippin were far closer than cousins, more like brothers. Pippin shared more than a few embarrassing stories about Merry’s youth, which made Estella laugh.

“He really likes you,” Peregrin said at length, shocking Estella. “He’s never really been all that interested in lasses. He might have fooled around with one or two, but nothing all that great. He’s almost as dull as Frodo.”

Estella had to smile at that. She had heard a lot about the promiscuous Peregrin Took and his conquests from his sisters and her brother. His boyish good looks and enchanting green eyes would have made it near impossible for any lass to resist him.

“I suppose I like Meriadoc too,” Estella almost whispered.

“If you want my advice, call him Merry and not Meriadoc. People only really use his full name when they’re telling him off.”

“I shall remember that Master Peregrin.”

Pippin grinned at her. “And the same goes for me. You are a friend now, so you may call me Pippin.”

“Then you are permitted to call me Stella, if you wish.” The two shook hands as they finally approached Brandy Hall.

Esmeralda was waiting to greet them. She embraced her warmly – it had been a while since she had last seen him. She then hugged her sister-in-law and her nieces and nephew.

“Peregrin, you’ve grown so much!” she cried.

“How did I know you were going to say that?” Pippin mumbled.

“Come in, come in. Merry and Saradoc are waiting for you!”

They followed Esmeralda to the large dining room that was reserved for the Master and any guests he might have. There were more hugs and hand shakes; Berry was there too, much to Pimpernel’s delight.

“Estella,” Merry called. He bowed before her and lightly kissed her hand. “I’m so glad you came.”

“How could I refuse?” she whispered.

He grinned at her and, taking her hand in his, led her over to his father. “Estella Bolger, may I present to you my father, Saradoc Brandybuck.”

Estella curtsied the way Pervinca had taught her to. “It is a pleasure to meet you, sir.”

“So, you’re the young lass my boy has not stopped talking about these past few days,” said Saradoc. “Then the pleasure is all mine, Mistress Estella.”

Merry seemed somewhat embarrassed that his father had revealed that he had been speaking about Estella to them, but Estella was honoured. Despite her fear, she had secretly hoped that Merry might have mentioned her to his parents.

A bell was rung to announce that dinner was to be served. As they made their way to the table, Saradoc leaned close to Estella’s ear and whispered. “You’re prettier than he said you were.”

* * * * * *

A/N: No, that last line is not Saradoc being a dirty old sleaze. He was just letting Estella know what Merry had said about her. And before anyone says anything about Frodo and the Ring, in the books, he keeps it on a chain that is attached to his belt, not in an envelope in a chest as in the movies.

<< Back

Next >>

Leave Review
Home     Search     Chapter List