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Dreamflower's Mathoms I  by Dreamflower

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Frodo and Merry are 16 and 2 (or about 10 years old and about 14 months old, in Man years)


“How is he?”

“I believe he’s asleep,” said Saradoc, climbing in the bed with his wife. “I don’t know if he’ll stay asleep, though. How’s Merry?”

Esmeralda glanced with a smile at the cradle in the corner of the room. “He’s asleep, too. It’s not going to be long before he’s old enough to move into a crib in the nursery,” she said wistfully.

“Life would be simpler if we could put Frodo in a crib and he could not climb out.”

“You can’t keep staying awake most of the night to watch out for him.”

Saradoc shook his head. “If it’s like it was the last two years, it will ease off in a week or two, and he will almost be his old cheerful self again. But you know as well as I do he was not planning to creep into the kitchen for a snack last night.”

“No, dear, I know. He would not get dressed for that, he would simply have put on his dressing gown--even for a raid on the main kitchen. I think he probably *was* going to slip out and go down to the River.” She gave Saradoc a thoughtful look. “Perhaps it would help him, if he realized that we know what’s on his mind, that we do understand his--temptation.”

“No, Esme, we’ve been over this before. I am afraid that if he realizes we know the extent of his melancholy, he will be humiliated, and will just close up on us even more, and he might redouble his efforts to evade us.”

Esmeralda heard the catch in her husband’s voice. He still mourned his aunt, as Frodo still mourned his parents. Primula and Drogo had been much beloved in Buckland, and not just among their kinfolk.

“Well, as you say, when we get past these next few weeks, he will do much better, I am sure.”

Saradoc just sighed, and turned so that he had a view of Frodo’s bedroom door. It was to prevent midnight excursions to the River that he had been put in a room with no windows, and had to pass through their room to go out.

Since he had been living with Saradoc and Esmeralda, his melancholy had developed a pattern. The first two years, he had been like a small lost ghost, but between the dates of when his parents had drowned and the date of what would have been his mother’s birthday, it was even worse--he hardly ate, seldom spoke, and if not watched constantly, he would try to go to the Brandywine. Which would not have necessarily been a bad thing in itself, if Saradoc had not known only too well that his young cousin would seek to join his parents in its dark waters.

Then Merry had been born. That year, whenever Frodo’s melancholy threatened, one only had to put the baby in his arms to see his face relax in love. He had cheered up a good deal. Yet still, he was troubled by bad dreams and tried to slip out at least three times during that couple of weeks. But afterwards, he began to brighten up; he helped to care for the baby and soon began to also take part in the life of the Hall, playing with his cousins and friends, and actually getting into mischief.

Reminders of his parents would still cause him to withdraw a bit, but except for those few weeks in the spring, his melancholy seemed manageable. Saradoc had breathed a sigh of relief, and blessed his beautiful baby son for his sunny and loving nature. It seemed that Merry was the key to Frodo’s young heart.

Merry was two years old now, and often would be found in Frodo‘s arms. There was a profound connection between them, more like brothers, really, than cousins.

His ears alert for the slightest sound, Saradoc was beginning to think he might dare sleep, when he saw the door crack open a tiny bit. He sat up, and it closed again. A few moments later, he could hear his young cousin’s bitter weeping, and he felt tears prick his own eyes in sympathy.

It was unsurprising that with such a disturbed night’s sleep the Son of the Hall and his family were later than usual arising. The nurserymaid, Dahlia, had slipped into the room and taken Master Merry to feed and change before he could wake his parents.

It was after second breakfast when Frodo came from his room, tying the cord of his dressing gown. He tiptoed past his cousins and went straight to the nursery, where Dahlia was rocking Merry, and she had just finished feeding him some porridge.

“ ‘Morning, Master Frodo,” she said, glancing up. Her brow furrowed. The lad looked terrible. His eyes were puffy and red, as was his nose--he’d obviously been crying. And he was as pale as could be.

“Good morning, Dahlia.” His response was polite enough, but not very heartfelt.

But Merry looked up at him, and crowed with delight, holding his little arms out with a grin. Frodo looked at him and a bit of a smile touched his lips.

“Good morning, sprout,” he said, and held his own arms out.

Dahlia shook her head in resignation, and held the baby up--indeed, Merry was bouncing on her lap so, she had not much choice. She got up and let Frodo have the chair and Merry, and she went to take the little dishes away.

When she returned a short time later, Frodo and Merry were laughing together, and it did her heart good to see the lad cheered up so. It was a shame that he became so forlorn this time of year.

Merry was standing on Frodo’s knees, and Frodo had both his little hands, jiggling him up and down, and singing a little nonsense rhyme. Merry was crowing with laughter and babbling, and in a moment, there was more laughter from the doorway, as Esmeralda and Saradoc entered.

“Well,” said Saradoc, “it’s good to see both my lads having such a lovely morning!”

Esmeralda moved into the room, and took Merry, who only reluctantly let go of his older cousin. “Why don’t you go get dressed, Frodo, and we’ll let Dahlia get Merry dressed for the day?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Frodo got up, and placed a little peck on her cheek, before going to do as he was bid.

The day was to be a busy one. Old Rory, the Master, and Saradoc’s father, had asked his son to come with him on the annual inspection of Bucklebury Ferry. And Esmeralda needed to go and speak with the Mistress, her mother-in-law Menegilda, about the upcoming Spring Festival.

And Frodo had lessons. His Baggins cousin Bilbo, had given him a lovely set of watercolors at Yule, and he had displayed some talent with them, so he had begun to take some lessons in drawing and painting from Cousin Calla. And after luncheon he would have to report to his Uncle Dinodas for his usual lessons. Today would be figures and sums--not the most favorite of his assignments--he much preferred to be reading or writing, tasks at which he excelled. At least it would not be recitation, which always made him feel silly.

After he dressed, he stopped by the nursery to tell Merry good-bye. The baby grinned and held out his arms, babbling. Some of the noises sounded almost like words. It would not be long now before Merry was talking. Saradoc and Esmeralda had been trying to coax a “mum” or a “da” out of him for weeks.

“I’m sorry, Merry. I can’t take you with me to my lessons, sprout.”

As he left he could hear Merry whimpering, and he winced. It made him feel guilty to be leaving him like that.

His drawing lesson with Cousin Calla was interesting. He had been learning to draw objects, such as bowls of fruit on the table, but today they talked a bit about drawing people, and Cousin Calla explained how the face, head and body were proportioned. He spent some time drawing copies of drawings she had made, but she told him that before his next lesson, she wished him to try and sketch some on his own.

He took luncheon in the main dining hall, sitting together with several of his cousins at the children’s table. There was a good deal of excited chatter about the Spring Festival.

“Did you hear?” exclaimed one of the lasses, “There’s going to be a party barge, and the Master and his family will be taking their dinner there on the River!”

Frodo suddenly felt as though the world had spun away from him. He could feel the blood draining from his face. How could he? How could his uncle *do* that? His appetite gone, his mouth suddenly dry, he stood up.

“Excuse me,” he said, as he walked away.

“Huh?” said the lass who had spoken. “What is the matter with him?”

“Oh, you know Frodo,” responded the lad who had sat on his other side. “He gets that way sometimes. He hardly touched his plate.” And with that, he took his fork and helped himself to Frodo’s lunch.

In one of the corridors, Frodo tried to still the pounding in his heart. He had tried his best to come to terms with the River. He would swim sometimes--everyone in Brandy Hall had to learn to swim, and he could go down to skip stones or fish with his cousins. And he tried to push to the back of his mind his nighttime visits there, when he would stand at the edge and imagine it taking him to his mother and father, wherever they might be, and wonder what it would be to cast himself in and lose himself to the dark water. The Brandywine was an altogether different and more seductive thing at night. But boats--no. No, he couldn’t. But if he didn’t--what if something happened to the rest of his family, and he were not with them? Would he once more be left alone?

Trying to calm himself, he took several deep breaths. He had to go to Uncle Dinodas for his lessons. Pulling himself together, he headed for his uncle’s apartments.

“Come in, Frodo. You are a bit early. But the book with your problems is on the table, along with the slate.”

Frodo nodded and moved heavily to the long oak table that had served many a young Brandybuck as a desk. Dinodas glanced at him; the lad did not look well--he could easily see that it was more than simply distaste for the subject of the day.

“Frodo, are you all right, lad? You don’t look well.” The older hobbit placed his hand on Frodo’s brow. “You do not seem to have a fever.”

Frodo looked up gratefully. “I am afraid I have a terrible headache, Uncle.”

Dinodas nodded. It was the time of year when Frodo’s melancholy often caused him to feel ill, usually because he was not eating properly, in Dinodas‘ opinion. He thought sometimes that Saradoc and Esmeralda could handle the situation a bit better, but he refrained from saying anything. Drogo and Primula had left them the responsibility, after all. He merely said “Well, Frodo, I don’t think that you could concentrate properly on your work feeling like that. Why don’t you go and take a bit of a nap? We will continue with this lesson when you come back day after tomorrow.”

Frodo stood shakily. “Thank you, Uncle Dinny. I believe I will.”

In a numb fog, he let himself into Saradoc’s apartment. He looked about cautiously. No one else was home. Apparently, Uncle Sara and Aunt Esme were still out and busy, and Dahlia had probably taken Merry for a walk. Good. That meant there would be no questions about why he was missing a lesson, no worried faces trying to make him answer questions.

He lay down on the settee in the sitting room, and began to cry. He wept until he really did have a headache, and a stomachache, as well. Why was his life so miserable? Why were his parents gone? It wasn’t fair! It wasn’t fair! And of course, part of his mind kept saying “What do you expect? Life’s not fair. It‘s never been fair, and it‘s never going to be.”

He found his fingers digging into the cushion, and he gripped more tightly. And then in sudden anger, he began to rend it, sending feathers everywhere. He ripped--and ripped--and ripped--

“Master Frodo! What are you doing?”

He looked up in horror to see Dahlia standing in the doorway, holding a sleeping Merry, and staring at him in astonishment. With a cry of pain, he leapt up, and raced to his room, slamming the door behind him.

In the dark of his windowless room, he flung himself upon his bed. It did not matter here if his eyes were open or closed. The dark was comforting.

He did not weep. He was all cried out. If he lay still enough, perhaps he could find the oblivion of sleep. Of course, he’d just wake up again to more misery--

Perhaps he did fall asleep, for he completely lost any track of time, but the next thing he knew was the sound of a rapping at his door, and the sound of Uncle Sara’s voice. His headache was raging, and his stomach was tied in knots.


Frodo tried to ignore it.

“Frodo, answer me. I am coming in.”

He sighed. “Please leave me alone, Uncle.”

The door cracked, and the thin wedge of light made Frodo squint.

“Frodo, please come out. We need to talk.”

Heaving a deep breath, Frodo swung his legs to the floor, and shambled to the door. Saradoc put an arm around his shoulders, and led him into the sitting room. Esmeralda was sitting there with Merry on her lap. Merry looked at Frodo and grinned, but for once Frodo was too miserable to respond. Merry’s little brow furrowed in puzzlement.

Saradoc led Frodo to one of the chairs, and sat him down, and then went and sat in another chair across from him.

“Frodo, what is this all about?”

Frodo would not look his cousin in the eye. “I heard about the Spring Festival,” he mumbled.

Saradoc was baffled. What on earth did that have to do with anything? “I don’t understand?”

Frodo looked up, blue eyes blazing. “How could Uncle Rory even *think* of having a party on the River?” he yelled. “How could he *do* that?”

Merry began to whimper.

“And what makes you say that?”

“I heard them talking, telling all about it at lunch!”

“But you didn’t hear it from me, or from my father, did you, Frodo? And that’s because it isn’t true. The idea *was* brought up, by one of the cousins from Haysend, and father told them ‘No’ in no uncertain terms.”

Frodo stared, stunned. “But--” He was clearly staggered. “It’s not true?”

“No, of course it isn’t. Father would never do such a thing to you, or to us either. We all still miss them as well, Frodo.”

“Oh,” he moaned. “I’ve made such a mess of things!” He stared up at Saradoc, his face a mask of misery.

Merry was whimpering even more, and struggling in his mother’s arms, reaching out for Frodo, who for once was not even looking in his direction.

Esmeralda tried to sooth him. “Ssh, Merry-mine,” she whispered. “Not right now.”

Frodo began to cry again. It seemed that was all he could do lately.

Merry pushed his feet up against his mother, and lunged towards Frodo with his arms outstretched.

“FWO!” he yelled. “Fwo! Fwo!”

Everyone turned to stare at the baby.

He bounced angrily on his mother’s knees. “Fwo! Fwo! Fwo!”

The misery on Frodo’s face drained away to be replaced by amazement. “Merry?”

Little arms stretched out to him. “Fwo! Fwo!”

Frodo reached his own arms out, and just in time, as two sturdy little feet pushed off his mother’s lap, and he launched himself into Frodo’s embrace.

Saradoc and Esmeralda stared at one another. Not Mummy, not Da--but “Fro”?

Merry snuggled into Frodo’s arms, and then reached up a tiny hand to brush away the tears, “Fwo,” he said contentedly.

Frodo’s grasp tightened, and he buried his face in the soft curls. “Oh, Merry, I do love you, sprout.”


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