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As the days of Lithe and Midsummer drew near, Frodo found himself fretting; he felt at loose ends. It was too soon to begin packing things out, yet there seemed to be no reason to do anything that mattered, for he’d be gone. So it was with some relief, when on the twenty-ninth of Forelithe he found Merry and Pippin at his door once more.
“Hullo, cousin!” greeted Pippin cheerily. “My mother has summoned me home for the holiday, and Merry has come along. Would you like to come up to Tookland with us for a few days?”
“Do say you will, Frodo,” put in Merry “it will be dead dreary without you there. And when it‘s over, you can keep me company part of the way back.”
Frodo only thought briefly before agreeing. Bag End felt sad to him now, as if his home were reproaching him for giving it up. A few days away among relatives would take his mind off things.
Pippin found that his parents were not happy with him. He had spent weeks at Bag End, followed by more weeks in Buckland, and altogether had been gone for very nearly two months. He was told in no uncertain terms that he would be staying at the Great Smials at least until Halimath. Then his parents might allow him to help Frodo with his move.
Needless to say, this did not sit well with him. How could he keep tabs on his cousins when he was stuck in Tookland? Of course, he knew that they were probably not going anywhere before The Birthday, but what if something came up?
When Fatty discovered that Merry and Pippin had spirited Frodo away to the Great Smials for the Lithedays he talked Folco into accompanying him there. He needed to talk to his fellow conspirators
"But Fatty," said Folco, "it's no fun there. The Tooks are so touchy. And besides, I think the Thain is still mad at me for my joke about Pimpernel's baby."
“Just avoid the Thain. And Folco, try to avoid making jokes. I’ve told you before that you just don’t have the knack for it.” Fatty shook his head. “Besides Frodo’s there, and Merry and Pippin; we’ll get to see them. And they always have a magnificent bonfire for Midsummer.”
“Well, it will be good to see Frodo--he doesn’t get mad at me quite so much as other folk. And Merry, I guess. Pippin’s almost as touchy as his father, though. But a big bonfire would be nice.”
Fatty sighed. It was sometimes a lot of work being Folco’s friend, but they’d known one another since they were fauntlings and Fatty couldn’t imagine life without him. But he did wish that other people could have more patience with Folco’s unfortunate way of speaking. On the other hand, it did have its entertainment value at times--he still cherished the look on Lotho’s face when Folco had made his offer to Frodo.
Fatty had been giving a lot of thought to his own part in this little conspiracy of Frodo’s friends. Merry had brought him in, and confided in him. Now he had Pippin on his other side, pumping him for any information that Fatty could give him about Merry and Frodo both. But he really was not contributing anything. Although he knew he could never leave the Shire, he wanted very much to actively help Frodo.
He thought back on his friendship with Frodo and Bilbo. It was Bilbo’s tales that had awakened in him the love for Elvish lore that he had to try so hard to hide. He knew his family would never understand, and would make his life miserable if they ever knew about it. Stories of Elves weren’t practical, they would not put coin in hand, or food on the table, they would not add one whit to one’s status; that’s all his parents really cared about. Of all the people in his family, only his younger sister Estella ever understood him; she too, had a fondness for tales. Whenever his father would visit Bilbo on business, Fatty would go along, and manage to hide himself in Bilbo’s study, sneaking what peeks he could at the fascinating books and scrolls that were there.
One day, not too long before Bilbo’s famous eleventy-first birthday, Frodo had caught him in there, hiding behind the settee, and trying to puzzle out some Elvish characters that the two Baggins cousins had been attempting to translate. Instead of being angry, Frodo had helped him, and allowed him to borrow one of the precious books.
It was the beginning of a long friendship. Frodo understood his need to hide his intelligence from his family, and he never gave him away. He even put up with having Folco around. He had known that Merry and Pippin thought him quite as stupid as he made believe he was, but something must have given him away to Merry. He’d been very surprised to be approached by the Brandybuck, and touched that he trusted him in this matter of the Ring.
Pippin, on the other hand had not figured him out until he eavesdropped, and there was more than a hint of blackmail in his attitude towards getting what he wanted. But Fatty could not fault him for it, since it was motivated by his love for his cousins. Still, he was amazed at the bravery of both Took and Brandybuck, to be willing to go on this journey, knowing what they would be up against.
But he had the beginnings of an idea. Something only he could do, since he would not be going along.
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