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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.”
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