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Little Lad Lost  by Citrine

3. We Haven't Looked Everywhere

Pearl sat herself down in the dust of the road and bawled.

Frodo handed her his handkerchief. May was crying outright and hugging Daisy, while Daisy petted her hair and wibbled. Merry's chin was all a-quiver, and Sam was studying the dirt on his furry feet and wiping furiously at his eyes." Pearl, for pity's sake, stop, please, or you'll have us all wailing, and that won't do Pippin any good."

"Oh, oh," Pearl hiccupped. "I'm sorry, I'm just so tired, and it's so hot, and I just don't know where to look anymo-or-or-" She covered her face with the handkerchief and sobbed.

Frodo lifted her up and put an arm around her. Merry leaned in and rubbed his face on Frodo's waistcoat, and Frodo knuckled his curly brown head. In a few moments Frodo would be crying himself, and that wouldn't do. "There, there, we haven't looked everywhere yet." From far away, if Frodo strained his ears, he could still hear Bilbo and Hamfast and the two big lads calling and searching. They had left Bag End, headed for the patch of woodland and the Water that led down to Bywater Pool. How could one small, half-naked babe disappear so completely? Despair clutched at Frodo's heart, but he shook the feeling off. Every other hobbit in Hobbiton seemed to have vanished, hiding from the heat of the day, but someone must have seen Pippin, perhaps those children playing with a hoop and a stick, or that dame farther on hanging laundry, perhaps Pippin was curled up in someone's garden, sound asleep. "We'll just have to split up and start knocking on doors. Sam, who lives down that way?"

Sam wiped the tears and sweat from his face with his sleeve. Take him away from his birthplace and he would be as lost as if he had been sat upon the moon, but he knew every inch of Hobbiton and very nearly every hobbit in it." Well sir, down that way is a great lot of Goodbodys, and Goodchilds and Proudfeets, and some of the Widow Rumble's kin, and down that way, is some Burrowses and Grubbs and Chubbs, and Bunce's, some Brownlocks and Boffins, and old Missus Chubb-Baggins. She's nice, gave Daisy a silver penny once for bringing her laundry, but she's a bit-"Sam was about to say 'addlepated', but he heard his Dad's voice say Mind how you speak of your elders and betters, Samwise, and closed up his mouth like a miser's purse. "She's, ah, old," Sam finished.

"Right then," Frodo said, giving Pearl a last comforting pat on the back. He squeezed Merry's shoulder and prepared to marshal his troops. "It's up to us to find Pippin now. Knowing him, we've all got upset for nothing, and he's very close by right now, sitting in someone's strawberry patch and getting a stomach ache." This made them all laugh a little, just what he intended. "Sam, I want you and May to follow the road, all the way down to my Auntie Dora's if you have to, question any hobbit out and about along the way, and don't be afraid to knock on the front door of the smial and put your foot in it if you must. If any hobbit gives you trouble, just go on and I'll deal with them later. Merry, Pearl, Daisy, you're with me." Daisy knew Hobbiton, too, and Frodo would need her sense of direction.

Frodo stood still for a moment and looked at his small army: Brown-haired Daisy and May in their patched aprons, and Sam, his round, freckled face shining red with heat and full up with-hero worship, Merry and Pearl at his side, holding each other's hands and trying to be brave. His heart swelled, and he felt close to crying again, but he took a deep breath instead. How could Pippin not be found, with friends and family like this searching for him? "All right then. Let's go."


In good time the kettle of water had been heated, mixed with a pitcher of cold well-water, and poured into a large dishpan. Pippin enjoyed a bath anytime, and he splashed and crowed and covered the floor with puddles. The two old hobbit-dames were dampened from heel to crown and nearly drowned, but they successfully wrestled him out of the pan at last and rubbed him till he was rosy and dry and his hair stood up in wild whirls and spikes. Lobelia took the heavy pan of bath water to the back door and threw it out-The task would have been Lotho's, but he had mysteriously disappeared, along with his cold plate of luncheon.

Posy was fussing with the ties on the little cap when Lobelia returned. "Lobelia, do help me," Posy said, nearly in tears. "I keep putting it on, but the little lad whips it off again!" She quickly shoved it down on Pippin's head.

"No!" Pippin scowled. "Hot!" He grabbed the cap with both hands and yanked it off, this time hurling it across the room.

Lobelia laughed. "Hah, he knows his own mind, that one. Oh, leave it off, Posy, for pity's sake. It's not as though he'll catch cold today without it." The doorbell jangled suddenly, and they both jumped. Lobelia sighed heavily. Who on earth could that be, running about ringing doorbells in the hottest part of the day? "Mind the baby, Posy, I'll see who it is."

Lobelia tucked the pan under one arm and walked to the front door, in no particular rush. If it was important, they would wait. She opened the door to find two little children, a lad and a lass, standing on the doorstep. The lass seemed a bit older than the lad, but they were both as patched and scroungey a pair of ragamuffins as one could expect to see, obviously brother and sister, and dried streaks through the dust of their sunburned faces told that they'd been crying not so long ago. To think I wore these blasted stays for visitors such as this, Lobelia thought. "What do you want?"

The lass dropped a little courtesy, and her words stuttered. She had been expecting the sweetly empty smile of Mistress Posy when the door opened, not the frowning face of Lobelia Sackville-Baggins. "How do you do, Missus, my name's May Gamgee, and this is my brother Samwise-"

"Good day to you, Missus," the lad said, ducking his head. Well, they were well brought up little ragamuffins, it seemed.

"You might recollect seeing us around Number Three on Bagshot Row. Please, but would you happen to have seen a very little child-"

"About so high," Sam added, holding his hand a little way off the ground. He blushed. 'Walking round without no clothes on."

"Though he might be crawling," the lass broke in again, with tears in her eyes. "He's nought but a little baby, Missus, and we've lost him-"

Posy chose to come in at that moment, Pippin in her arms. At the sight of the two familiar faces on the doorstep, Pippin clapped his hands and squealed."Oh Lobelia, I was thinking of making up a sugar-poppet for the little fellow, do you think-oh, it's the little Gamgee children! Should I put the kettle on?"

Sam jumped, and May nearly screamed. "Missus Posy! You've found him! Mister Pippin!"

Sam and May would have leaped through the doorway, had not Lobelia held them off. "Hi, what do you think you're doing!"

"It's Mister Pippin, the lost baby," Sam said. "Oh thank you, Missus, we were all that worried about him, and we're ever so grateful, but we'll be fetching him back home now-"

"Be off with you!" Lobelia said. "As if I would hand off a tender little babe to just any grubby little bread-snatcher who came to the doorstep!" She snorted. "Pippin, indeed! What sort of name is that? Named after an apple, is he? Not very likely." Secretly she wondered if perhaps these weren't actually the child's relations, come to retrieve him after he'd been thrown away in haste. Well, she'd be plagued if she'd let the lad go back to that sort of life, the poor little mite. "It's far too hot to stand here listening to your fairy tales. Go away now, or I'll have the shirriffs on you."

She closed the door in their faces and leaned against it, panting. "Beastly little things!"

Posy looked completely befuddled. "Oh dear, and they're usually such nice children, always laughing and singing, and the lass has such a good hand with the laundry, everything always ironed just so, even Carlo's handkerchiefs, and lavender put in amongst the sheets..."

Lobelia went to the window, lifted the lace curtain and peered out. Sam and May were walking away slowly. May was weeping so hard she could barely walk. Sam took one more look back over his shoulder, with such a look of fierce determination on his face that Lobelia gave a little start and drew away from the windowpane, then he grabbed May's hand and took off at a run. Good riddance.

"Bye bye?" Pippin said. His chin was beginning to quiver. Sam-lad and May-lass had been right there, and then they had gone away so quickly. He didn't understand. Shouldn't Mammy, or Pearl, or even Frodo-cousin or Merry-cousin, have come to take him home by now?

Lobelia handed Posy the dishpan and took Pippin into her arms. "Shh, pet," she said. "You're safe and sound with your Auntie Lobelia now. Posy, do fetch us a pitcher of cider from the cellar-I declare I'm parched-and I'll make up a plate of biscuits. Then we can set ourselves down in the parlour and cool off."

"Splendid idea," Posy said, already turning away. "Shall I call for Lotho?"

"Shout the smial down," Lobelia said, feeling a twinge of annoyance with her missing son. "Though I doubt he'll hear you. Heaven only knows where he's taken himself off to this time."


More to come...

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