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If You Could See What I Hear
Some day shall we two try to find
This strange enchanted place?
Go hand in hand through flower-lit woods
Where living trees embrace--
And suddenly, as if in a dream,
Behold a faerie’s face!
From “Enchanted Tulips”
Maud Keary, et al.
A/N: Alfie is a feminine form of Alfred. It means “Elf Counsellor”.
Paladin dismounted his pony and wrapped the reins around the fence post, then trudged wearily towards the door of the farmhouse where his wife waited. Eglantine searched his face anxiously and stiffened at the slight shake of his head.
“No sign of him at all.” Paladin’s voice was grim and he nodded over his shoulder at the rest of the searchers who trailed up the path after him. “I’ve sent Tomias to fetch the shirriff. It’s been far too long.” He brushed passed his wife and daughters.
Eglantine’s face grew pale, noting the firm set of his jaw. Her husband would only have called for Shirriff Smallburrow if he were very worried indeed.
She felt a comforting arm encircling her shoulders and looked into her daughter’s eyes. They sparkled with a strength she herself did not feel at the moment and Eglantine allowed herself to claim some of it gratefully.
“We’ll find him, Mum,” Pearl reassured her with a nod of certainty.
“Yes, indeed,” Pimpernel agreed. “We all know how Pippin is about wandering off. It isn’t the first time he’s done it.”
Eglantine didn’t answer. While her daughter’s voice sounded lightly optimistic, she couldn’t help noticing how pale her face appeared. Eglantine’s mind was awhirl with unwelcome imaginings about the many things that might befall a lad of barely ten years. She shivered and did her best to push the thoughts to the back of her mind. “Come, Pad.” Eglantine gestured at their friends and neighbors who had joined in the search. “We’ve prepared luncheon for everyone.”
“Aye, we’ll eat quickly and then resume the search,” Milo Chubb patted Paladin’s shoulder. “We’ll find him Pad. Never you fear!”
Paladin nodded once, his face a mask of tightly contained emotion, and sank into a chair. The others followed suit. Food was passed around the table in relative silence, each of them conjecturing possibilities as to the lad’s whereabouts. Not one of them wished to give voice to the darker speculations that were beginning to form in some of their minds. Quiet pockets of conversation slowly emerged from the hushed gathering.
Paladin gazed at his wife, his control slipping just the slightest bit as their eyes met and they shared their anguish. He communicated an unspoken promise to her and she dipped her head in understanding. He would find their son. Eglantine squeezed his hand. He looked around the table before speaking.
“I’m not waiting for Smallburrow to get here.” He nodded to his wife and daughters. “You can fill him in on the situation and tell him I’m turning the search deeper into the woodlands. I’d like to have him concentrate on the area further out around Whitwell and Tuckborough. Perhaps Pippin had a mind to go exploring in those directions. The lad generally prefers the woods, but it’s hard to tell with him.”
Paladin attempted a smile that was more of a grimace. “I don’t think he’d set out for Buckland even if he suddenly got it into his head to go see Merry. That’s a very long distance and he’s never tried such a thing before.” Paladin frowned, pondering. “At least not to my knowledge,” he added.
Pimpernel tilted her head in thought. “Da,” she began slowly, “ what if he found out that Merry was visiting Bag End with his parents this week?”
Paladin looked up, startled by the revelation. “I hadn’t even thought of that Nell. I’d forgotten about it myself.”
“Why, I did as well, Pad,” Eglantine brightened. “Their visit was planned some weeks ago and since we were keeping it quiet from Pippin so he wouldn’t beg to go to Hobbiton, I guess I’d let it slip my mind completely.”
“Yes, that’s right. They were planning on stopping by here to visit on their way home,” Pearl agreed. “It was supposed to be a surprise for Pip.”
“What? I didn’t know anything about it!” Pervinca pouted.
Pearl shook her head. “That’s because you’re as bad at keeping a secret as Pippin is.” She turned to her parents. “I can go find out if he’s there, Da. I’m a good rider, it wouldn’t take me long to make it to Bag End.”
Paladin looked at his pocket watch and then to his wife for her opinion. Eglantine immediately nodded her agreement. “All right, then. Go ahead. It’s certainly worth looking into, and there’s plenty of time for you to get there before nightfall.” Paladin tossed his napkin down onto the table next to the meal he had barely touched, and stood. “Meanwhile I’m going back to the woodlands and search deeper into the forest. That’s his favorite place to play, even though he knows he’s not allowed to go that far without someone with him.”
Their spirits lifted at the prospect of new places to hunt, the searchers rose as one from the table and followed.
“I wish it was time to go to Whitwell,” Merry sighed as he and Frodo strolled in Bag End’s front garden. Frodo gave him an understanding smile and Merry returned it with a grin of his own.
“You haven’t seen Pippin in months, I know. But it will only be another two days and you’ll be on your way.”
“I wish you were coming too.”
“So do I, but I must--” Frodo turned his head in surprise when he heard his name called loudly. Someone was riding up the lane very fast and the cousins paused to wait for the breathless lass to reach them. They were both startled to see that it was Pearl as she reined her pony to a stop and dismounted quickly.
“Pearl! Whatever is wrong?” Frodo asked, his voice rising with concern.
“Is Pippin here? Oh, please tell me that he is.” Pearl attempted to catch her breath and still the pounding of her heart. She knew the answer already by the look of surprise on her cousins’ faces.
“What’s the matter? What happened?” Asked Merry anxiously.
“He’s been missing since yesterday afternoon. We’ve seen neither hide nor hair of him since he went for a walk in the meadow after luncheon. Da and the farmhands searched all night and now Da’s called for the shirriff. Mum is beside herself with worry, although she’s trying not to show it, and the rest of us are just as uneasy.”
“Was he upset about anything?” Frodo asked.
“No, not really.” Pearl smiled at the memory of her little brother covered in cow dung, vigorously protesting his second bath of the day. Even as their mother lowered him into the tub of soapy water, Pippin continued to beg for his knitted piglet in between his objections. “He was a wee bit unhappy about needing a bath after he took an unfortunate plunge into a cow pat,” she chuckled, before growing serious again. “But no, he wasn’t upset. He told Mum he was taking Tulip for a walk because the piglet had suggested it. I think he just wanted to have some time to himself to play, seeing as how we were all interfering with his fun.”
“We need to inform Bilbo and your parents, Merry.” Frodo gestured for them to follow him as he spun around and headed for the smial at a brisk trot.
“Yes, perhaps they can help,” Pearl readily agreed as she trailed behind Frodo. “I thought perhaps he might have come here. That perhaps he overheard our conversation about your pending visit.” She draped an arm about her younger cousin’s shoulders and squeezed.
Merry shook his head vigorously. “I haven’t seen Pip since our last visit months ago. Have you checked all his favorite places to hide?”
“Yes, of course we have. That is, unless he has some new ones we’re not aware of?” Pearl stopped and eyed Merry curiously.
“Well,” Merry scratched his head and considered. “There is a place we found fairly recently and didn’t tell anyone about.”
“What is it then?” Pearl grew impatient quickly. “Tell me!”
“A cave. It’s on the farm and very well hidden by overgrowth. We happened upon it one day last spring while we were exploring. Pippin was fascinated by it. We didn’t go very far in because we didn’t have a lantern. We’d planned to go back another time, but we never had the opportunity."
“A cave?” Pearl’s voice was suddenly shrill and Merry winced at her tone. “My little brother might be lost inside a cave? Meriadoc! Do you have any idea how dangerous a place like that is?” Pearl hoisted up her skirts and ran the remaining distance to the smial. She arrived just as the door opened and her aunt and uncle emerged. Saradoc barely acknowledged her as he hurried toward the pen where the ponies were kept.
“Oh, Auntie,” Pearl fell into Esmeralda’s arms and was folded into the welcoming hug. “We can’t find Pippin. He’s been gone since yesterday.”
“I know dear. Your uncle is hitching the waggon. We’ll be on our way to Whitwell in just a few minutes. I believe Bilbo and Frodo are coming too.”
“Thank you, Aunt Esmie.”
Merry caught up with her and tried to explain. “Pearl, I told him he couldn’t go in there alone. I made him promise he wouldn’t and that we’d only explore it together.”
Pearl whirled on him. “Merry, this is Pippin we’re talking about. If he were of a mind to go exploring nothing would stop him. You know that! He’d find a way to reason out getting around any promises he made to you.”
Merry was forced to agree when it was put to him that way. Pippin could justify his actions in any of a hundred different ways if he felt he was right in doing something. His little cousin would no doubt talk himself out of believing there was any danger even though Merry had told him there might be.
“Well find him, Pearl. You know what a habit he has of wandering off in search of adventure.”
Pearl nodded. “That’s true, but he’s never been gone over night before.”
The little party started on their way, Saradoc leading the way with his wife and son, and Bilbo following in his pony cart with Frodo.
Laughing merrily, Pippin and Rhoswen skipped down the path together towards the crystal stream. Tulip clutched her young master’s shoulder hanging on for dear life, occasionally emitting tiny squeals. Rhoswen stopped and released Pippin’s hand. She pointed at Tulip. “Your friend is distressed."
Pippin reached into his collar and scratched Tulip behind her ears to soothe her. The knitted piglet grunted with pleasure at the attention, although she let him know she was still upset. Pippin held her snout to his ear and listened, then patted her head. “Don’t worry. I told you everything is all right.”
Tulip hastened to disagree, haughtily reminding him that his parents were bound to be searching frantically for him by now. Pippin frowned. He allowed himself to consider Tulip’s warning and shifted from foot to foot uneasily, wondering just how much trouble he was actually going to be in. He was aware he’d wandered much farther than he was allowed, and sighed, favoring his knitted friend with a look of irritation. Why did she always insist on being right?
Rhoswen smiled at the pair. They were so enchanting! They must remain here with her forever. She could not bear to see them go. The tea. Ah yes, the tea. She must bring her friend home to taste the food of her family’s land. Then he would not leave her, ever. “Come, the tea will grow cold if we linger much longer. My mother has prepared the most delightful feast to welcome you.”
Pippin’s eyes widened at the mention of a feast. His mouth watered. He slanted his eyes towards the piglet perched on his shoulder and wondered what argument to use next. He couldn’t help feeling like he was talking to his mother, trying to convince her that he should be allowed to do something he knew he shouldn’t. He needed to go home, it was true, but he was ever so hungry! Surely they had time for just a small feast?
Tulip was famished too, but stubbornly maintained her position that something was awry. She knew Pippin was wavering and couldn’t resist giving him a slight kick of warning with her soft hoof. She chuckled at his sharp glance and raised a knitted eyebrow ever so innocently. Her young master sighed and struggled with his conscience, but Tulip had no doubt what his decision would be. He was a hobbit, after all. She frowned disapprovingly at his next words.
“Well…I don’t think it would do any harm to just have a bite. It wouldn’t be good manners to turn down Rhoswen’s invitation, now would it Tulip?”
Tulip sighed. Sometimes she hated being right so much of the time. She shook her pink head in disagreement and then climbed under his shirt collar and held her tongue. Pippin smiled in relief. “All right, we’ll come to tea, then. But afterwards I must be going home. My parents will wonder what happened to me.” His voice lowered to a near whisper, “I have been gone all night.”
“Yes, I realize that you have. Never fear, everything will be fine. Come!” The faerie took Pippin’s hand in hers and tugged him along. Tulip eyed her from the safety of her perch and wondered what it was about this child that concerned her so much.
The thick underbrush hampered their progress at times, but Paladin pushed on determinedly. The searchers were now deep into the woods that bordered the Took farm and the light was dim even though nightfall was still hours away. They had dismounted some time ago and were leading their ponies as they sought clues every step of the way.
So far they had not found any evidence of his son’s passing, no matter where they searched. But Paladin reminded himself that it was also a good thing. There had been no signs of struggle or injury, no indication that a fox or any other woodland creature had attacked Peregrin. Just as the reflection passed through his mind the cry of a hawk overhead caused him to shudder with an unexpected notion. Oh, mercy! What if a great owl…Paladin refused to allow himself to complete the thought. He trudged along faster while pushing the horrific notion from his mind with a will of iron.
Rhoswen giggled and hurried faster. “Come, Peregrin,” she gestured to the hobbit lad.
Pippin marveled at the speed his friend was able to travel. He knew he could run fairly quickly, but Rhoswen seemed to almost fly ahead of him. Inside his shirt Tulip warned him not to spill her onto the ground. She’d had her fill of adventure for the time being and simply wished for some food and a nap.
Gliding to a stop at last Rhoswen turned and laughed while she waited for Pippin to catch up. She took in his flushed face with glee, delighted that she could entice him to hurry after her while she easily stayed ahead. “Look!”
She pointed. Pippin panted to a stop beside her and then stared in delight. A feast as fine as that served at Yule lay before him, laid out in a picnic on the ground just inside a clearing. He gasped in wonder. Tulip poked her head out and did the same despite her feelings of trepidation.
“Oh! Look at…” Pippin’s voice trailed off as he stared at the banquet before him. Beside him, Rhoswen giggled. Pippin approached, awestruck, and halted a short way from the bounty. His mouth fell open and he continued to stare.
“Come Peregrin! Let us eat now. You may have your fill.” The faerie knelt on the ground beside the food and waved at him impatiently to join her.
Pippin took a step forward and dropped to his knees. He reached for the bread and broke off a portion, then raised it to his mouth. Before he could take the first bite a voice cried out from the direction they’d come and he dropped it to the ground and whirled. Tulip joined him in a squeal of surprise as they beheld another; She was clad in a gown much like Rhoswen’s.
In the wink of an eye, Pippin found himself being lifted from his place at the picnic and whisked a considerable distance away. He blinked, uncertain of just how he’d gotten there so quickly. He gazed up into the twinkling green eyes and was greeted with a gentle smile. Any feelings of fright he’d had melted away immediately.
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