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During the days of Lithe, the friends made a concerted effort to forget about the Ring and the coming journey. The Thain always threw a wonderful celebration, and during the bonfire, there were music and dancing and games. There were no fireworks, however. Paladin had thought of asking Gandalf to provide some, but the wizard had already left the Shire before he could get around to it.
Eglantine had taken upon herself the task of keeping Folco’s foot out of his mouth, something which earned her Fatty’s eternal gratitude. She seemed to enjoy the young Boffin’s company, which completely amazed her children and husband.
Frodo seemed to be enjoying his visit with his relatives immensely. He felt that he needed to make for himself as many happy memories as he could. He was going to miss them all, but especially Merry and Pippin. It was hard to imagine what life was going to be like without them. He had always half hoped that when adventure found him, they would be coming along, but that was when adventure had held a much milder face, and was much further into the future.
After the holiday festivities were ended, Fatty found Merry alone, and asked him to go for a walk. He had been mulling over his idea. It still terrified him somewhat, yet he had decided that it was about time he became a contributing member of the conspiracy.
“You realize, Merry, that once you are gone, the talk is going to spread like wildfire. There will be no way to keep it a secret.”
“I know. But there is not much for it. I’m hoping that with Crickhollow being as isolated as it is, no one will notice for at least two or three days.”
“I may be able to buy you a little more time than that,” said Fatty.
“Whatever do you mean?”
“It’s occurred to me that if someone were to stay at Crickhollow, and be seen every so often from a distance, that the discovery of your leaving could be delayed for several days, maybe even a couple of weeks.”
Merry stared at him. “Fatty! Are you volunteering to do that? You’ve never so much as been over the Brandywine before! And you could be in serious trouble once it is found out.” Merry had no doubt that his father would interrogate Fatty within an inch of his life once he discovered the deception. And his reputation as dull and stupid would be marred forever.
“Merry, it is the least that I can do for you and Frodo. You are the only friends I have that can understand me. You will be going off into danger, and if I can do *something* to help put that danger off, believe me, I will.”
“Thank you, Fatty. It is an excellent idea.”
Frodo and Merry stayed at the Great Smials until the third day of Afterlithe, and then returned to Bag End.
Merry had brought with him from Buckland a little drawing of the layout at Crickhollow, with the measurements of the rooms all marked out. He and Frodo spent a week deciding which furnishings would be taken and where they would go in the new setting. Many items that Frodo had no intention of allowing into the hands of Lobelia and her son would also be taken and stored at Brandy Hall.
Merry also reminded Frodo that he also had a room filled with his parent’s possessions stored among the other mathoms there. This was something Frodo had completely forgotten.
On the night of the tenth, Frodo had a strange dream about Gandalf. He saw him approaching a tall tower, and he knew somehow that this was a terrible danger to the wizard. Suddenly it all seemed to fall away into a great distance, as though he were seeing it from miles in the sky. He found himself going up, up into the stars, and then all was lost in a brilliant white light.
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