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A Conspiracy of Hobbits  by Dreamflower

(A/N: The italicized section of dialogue with Gandalf and Frodo comes directly from The Fellowship of the Ring,  "Three is Company")

CHAPTER 7

Merry left for Buckland the very next day, and Pippin went with him. Merry had in hand Frodo’s written authority to purchase his new home for him, as well as a draft for what funds would be needed.

If only this was for real, and Frodo really were going to settle back down in his childhood home,  Merry  would have been  more  than  pleased--though never  at  the  S-B’s getting Bag End, that still made him sick to his stomach--but the knowledge that it was all for nothing was depressing.

Pippin was not in a very good mood either. He was having to be so careful of what he said to Merry that it made his teeth hurt. He longed for them to be able to talk about the upcoming journey, and lay plans, but they couldn’t. It was too soon. Merry could too easily find a way to put a spike in his wheel if he told him now.

The second night of their journey they slept at The Floating Log in Frogmorton, and indulged in too much ale. It was not their usual jolly night of drinking and singing, either. They simply kept one another company morosely, in keeping with a pact they had once made, as they got determinedly drunk. It didn't help. Of course, they paid the usual price the following morning, and trudged along with sore heads and nasty mouths. They looked and felt, seedy and disreputable, and neither of them had a word to say to the other.

However, as they approached the Marish, Merry began to realize they could not arrive at Brandy Hall in this kind of state. His mother would tear him up one side and down the other, not only for his own appearance, but especially for allowing his younger cousin to do the same. And Pippin would be in for his own tongue lashing as well. Esmeralda spoiled her young nephew, but she did not indulge him.

Merry stopped. “Pip. We can’t go home like this. Mum’ll kill us.”

Pippin looked at his older cousin. “You’re right. What do you suggest?”

“I think when we get to Stock, we’ll stop at The Golden Perch and wash up and change clothes, and have a decent meal with one ale. And then we’ll head for the Ferry.”

So that was what they did. Sitting at their table in clean clothes, eating a nice meal of lamb and mushroom stew, fresh bread, cheese and pear tart did much to restore their spirits.

Merry had made the decision to act as though he believed what he was doing was real. He put on a cheerful countenance, and told Pippin what he had in mind.

“I think I’m going to ask Da if he’ll sell Frodo the old guesthouse at Crickhollow. It would be perfect for him. It’s small, but not too small, and it’s a nice distance from the Hall. Frodo’s used to more privacy than he’ll be getting in Buckland.”

“I remember that house, Merry. It would be perfect,” Pippin had also decided to act happier than he felt. “the layout is very similar to the front part of Bag End.”

“Yes, well it’s a very old-fashioned house, as much like a hole as the builders could make it. I think that Frodo would like it.”

“I think you’re right. Do you think Uncle Saradoc will agree?”

“Da is very fond of Frodo; he’ll be glad to have him back in Buckland. I’m fairly certain he’ll agree.”

xxxxx

And so it was. Saradoc and Esmeralda both were thrilled with the notion that Frodo would return to his childhood home. Esmeralda was surprised; she knew his memories of Buckland were bittersweet, and that there had been much to pain him, but she was pleased that he would be nearby once more.

Merry went over the house to make sure it was still in good repair, and was glad to find that it was in very good condition, needing only a bit of paint on some of the doors to make it perfect.

Only a few days later, he was able to send Frodo a letter, telling him that he was now the proud owner of the cottage at Crickhollow.

xxxxx

On the twentieth of Forelithe, Frodo received the letter from Merry telling him of his new house.

He found Sam in the kitchen garden, thinning onions. “Well, Sam, the last piece is in place. We simply have to get through the summer. Are you sure you still want to go through with this?”

“Not likely I’ll back out now, Mr. Frodo. I’m not about to stay here and see Bag End mauled by old Missus Lobelia and Lotho Pimple, begging your pardon, sir, even if they are your kin!” Sam delivered this sentence all in one breath, and punctuated it by yanking hard on a weed that had dared to show itself.

“Sam!” but the rebuke was only half-hearted, as Frodo agreed with him thoroughly. “I am sorry, Sam. But I had to do it. Now I can’t back out either.”

“I know, Mr. Frodo,” said Sam, with tears in his eyes.

Gandalf had gone early that morning for a walk, and returned that afternoon in time for tea. As the three of them sat in the kitchen, Frodo showed the wizard Merry’s letter. “It looks now as though my plan is finally arranged.”

“That is good,” replied Gandalf, “as I find that I shall be leaving in the morning.”

Frodo looked alarmed.

“Only for a short while, I hope,” he said. “But I am going down beyond the southern borders to get some news, if I can. I have been idle longer than I should.”

He spoke lightly, but it seemed to Frodo that he looked rather worried. “Has anything happened?” he asked.

“Well, no; but I have heard something that has made me anxious and needs looking into. If I think it necessary after all for you to get off at once, I shall come back immediately, or at least send word. In the meanwhile stick to your plan; but be more careful than ever, especially of the Ring. Let me impress on you once more: don’t use it!

He went off at dawn. “I may be back any day,” he said. “At the very least I shall come back for the farewell party. I think after all you may need my company on the road.”

“Well, Sam, we’re on our own now for a little while.” But Frodo looked troubled. It must be something dire to draw Gandalf away now.

 





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