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Fatty shut the door to the guest room he was staying in behind Folco. He’d just spent a half hour commiserating with him. Somehow his friend in one afternoon had managed to put Merry's and Pippin’s backs up, irritate the Thain, and annoy all three of the Took sisters, including insulting the new baby, all without really knowing why. Fatty loved his friend dearly, no one had a kinder or more generous spirit, but there was a complete lack of connection between Folco’s brain and his mouth.
He sighed and sat down on his bed. He really needed to give some thought to Merry’s problem. He was very frightened. Merry did not have as much knowledge as he as to just how powerful or evil that Ring was. Frodo and Gandalf were right to try and get it out of the Shire. But one of Fatty’s secret vices was a love for Elvish tales and poetry--probably of Hobbits in the Shire, only he and Frodo truly grasped what it meant. He knew the tale of Gil-Galad. He was glad that Merry had confided in him, but he wished the problem did not exist.
When the knock came on the door a moment later, he thought it must be Merry.
“Come on in.” But to his surprise, it was not Merry, but Pippin.
“Hullo, Fatty. I’d like to have a word with you.”
Fatty’s heart sank. Somehow, Pippin was on to them. That was the only explanation for the gleam in those Tookish green eyes.
“Whatever for?” But it was only a half-hearted effort.
“Well, I have come to the conclusion that I have been misjudging you all these years, and that you are not in fact, ‘as dull as ditchwater’.”
Fatty moaned. “You were eavesdropping.”
“Yes, that I was,” said Pippin unapologetically. “I want to know exactly what’s up with Frodo and Merry. And don’t even think of not telling me.”
“Merry will have my guts for garters.”
“So will I. You know I’m going to find out sooner or later. Let’s make it sooner.” Though Pippin’s tone was light, the expression on his face was determined. “I’ll never let anyone know I heard it from you.”
“You’re not going to like this. It’s very serious indeed, maybe even more serious than Merry realises.”
“I don’t have to like it, Fatty. I just have to know.”
And so once more Gandalf’s conversation with Frodo was passed along.
Pippin sat in silence for so long that Fatty began to wonder if he had understood. Finally he shook his head. “Whew! Poor Frodo. And now I understand why Merry doesn’t want me to come along; he‘s got to protect his little Pip, silly goose. But they are going to need me, whether they like it or not.”
Fatty shook his head; he was glad he was a Bolger, with no desires to leave his home.
Sam stood back and admired his handiwork. He had put out all the spring annuals in their beds beside the front path, and under the windows of Bag End. He was of two minds about the perennials, some of which needed to be divided and moved. On the one hand he hated to leave a job half done; on the other hand was that nagging little voice that seemed to keep coming at him these days, ever since Gandalf had caught him listening to him and Mr. Frodo, the voice that said “why bother, you won’t be here to see to it, after all, will you?”
Well, of course that was beside the point wasn’t it. What needed doing, needed doing, and no mistake. The Gaffer’d take his head off if he thought Sam was neglecting the garden for such a silly thing as that.
Problem was, what with Mr. Frodo away to Tookland for a few days, and Gandalf tramping round the Shire while he was gone, he had too much time to think. He was still glad of the idea that he might be seeing Elves, and that he could go with his Mr. Frodo and look out for him; but he kept coming back to why they had to leave. At least now they knew where--Rivendell, to the Elves; and when--well, that would be right after The Birthday, no other day seemed right. But knowing the why of it, that took all the joy out of it. That evil Ring.
Last fall, when Mr. Merry had talked to him in The Green Dragon, there was no thought of such a thing. It was just Mr. Merry’s mind seemed to run the same way Sam’s did--that sooner or later, Mr. Frodo would be off after old Mr. Bilbo, and those as didn’t wish to be left behind had best keep their eyes open. Mr. Merry was level-headed, even if he did like a joke sometimes too much, and he was right fierce when it came to Mr. Frodo. Sometimes Sam thought Mr. Merry forgot he was the younger cousin. So he’d agreed to keep his eyes and ears open, and tell Mr. Merry what was going on.
So when Gandalf had come back, Sam had taken his clippers and stationed himself where he could hear what he and Mr. Frodo were talking of. And as the talk went on, he got more and more scared, and he forgot to keep clipping, although truth to tell there wasn’t much left as needed clipping by that time. And then Gandalf had caught him. Sam shook his head; he still couldn’t believe he said something so daft as “there ain’t no eaves at Bag End,” but it was just the first thing popped into his head. He didn’t really think old Gandalf would turn him into anything--but he had no doubt that he could.
And then Sam had turned right around and told Mr. Merry everything. He tried to tell himself that it wasn’t breaking the promise, because it was what he heard before Gandalf caught him; but he knew, deep down that it was. Only, he needed some help to protect Mr. Frodo--he couldn’t do it all alone--and he didn’t know anybody better than Mr. Merry to do that.
Only now he couldn’t help him out anymore.
He just hoped Mr. Merry would be able to figure what was going on, on his own.
Back in his own room, Pippin vainly tried to find sleep. He was no longer angry at Merry. If their positions were reversed, he’d probably be trying to do the same. But it did not change his determination to go with his cousins. If he let them go off into this kind of danger without him, he would never forgive himself.
This was no longer a light-hearted competition to put one over on Merry. This was now literally a matter of life and death. He had better begin thinking on the ways he could be of use to his cousins once they got started.
How could someone as good and wise as Frodo end up cursed with such a horrible thing? This was a question he was going to be asking himself, had he only known it, for years.
He was going to have to keep on his toes once he got to Bag End if he were to find out any details of the plans for leaving.
Well, at least he wasn’t angry at Merry any more. At this, he realized that his thoughts were going around in circles. It was going to be a long night.
Merry had finally fallen into an exhausted sleep. Knowing that he now had a plan for finding out what was going on had helped.
Once he was in Bag End, he was sure he would be able to keep tabs on Frodo’s plans. The hardest part was going to be keeping Pip in the dark.
He wasn’t used to keeping secrets from Pip.
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