After the cousins
have parted from Sam at the road to Buckland…
At the end of their song, their voices trailed away into silence. After a moment, Pippin said a little shakily, “Well, cousin, I must say that I have seen more pleasant occasions than this.”
Merry nodded. “I know, Pip. I’ll miss him, too.”
“If Gandalf had not told us, we would not have known until Sam returned and told us himself,” Pippin said bitterly.
“Pippin,” Merry spoke carefully, “Frodo was only trying to spare us pain…”
Pippin shook his head. “No, no, cousin, you misunderstand me. We should have known before Frodo ever thought to leave.”
Merry looked worriedly at his beloved younger cousin as he tried to understand Pippin’s distress.
Pippin brushed his sleeve across his eyes. “Before we left on the Quest, we were close enough to Frodo to see that something was going on. We saw him go to all his favorite places to say goodbye; you saw Bilbo use the ring…and of course we had dear Sam listening at the windows…”
Pippin swallowed hard as he fought the tears. “This time…we didn’t see, Merry. We were all back here again; we worked together to cleanse the Shire; Frodo seemed to fit back into everything…and next thing we know, Gandalf tells us that Frodo sails to Valinor to find peace and healing…”
Fresh tears spilled down the young Took’s face. “And we didn’t notice, Merry! Frodo was hurting that much inside and we didn’t see it…at least I didn’t see it…and we are the ones who should have seen it first.” He hunched forward in the saddle as he wept uncontrollably.
Merry reached out and took Pippin’s pony’s bridle and stopped the animal with a soft “whoa”. With the other hand he reached into his pocket and extracted a handkerchief and held it out to the other hobbit. Pippin managed a chuckle before making use of the offered bit of cloth.
“This is as good a spot as any for a brief rest, Pippin-lad, we’ve been riding for hours. Besides, I fear in your current state you would run headlong into a tree or a ditch.”
They dismounted from their ponies and found a cool spot beneath a tree while Pippin composed himself. After a time they took the pipes and tobacco they carried always in their ponies’ packs, and smoked for a time in silence.
“Pip,” Merry said finally, “we’ve all changed in the last two years. None of knew what lay ahead when we left Crickhollow with Sam and Frodo. We all learned things about ourselves that we didn’t know before, and did things that we never dreamed that we could do-and if we had known about them ahead of time, we likely would have run back to Crickhollow and hidden under our beds.”
Pippin smiled slightly.
“But I don’t think any of us could possibly know what being the Ringbearer did to Frodo. On the outside, he WAS the same Frodo-except he had nine fingers instead of ten. But even Sam didn’t see this coming, Pip, and they lived in the same house! He could see that Frodo was withdrawing from life in the Shire, but he never dreamed that Frodo needed to put it all behind him in order to heal. He changed inside- where we couldn’t see.”
Merry put an arm around Pippin and squeezed hard.
“Frodo loved all of us, Pippin, and he knew we loved him-and none of us loved him so much as Sam did. But he needs more than that to help him recover from what happened to him. He didn’t leave because we didn’t love him enough, or because he didn’t love us. By going to Valinor he has a chance to fully recover from what the Ring did to him. He’d never be able to do that here. But…it was probably just as hard for him to leave us, as it was for us to see him go, even though Bilbo and Gandalf went too.”
Pippin thought about this.
‘I hope Sam will be all right,” he said solemnly.
“There’s more courage in Samwise Gamgee than in all of us put together, Pippin. He’ll be all right. He has Rosie and Elanor and all the children to follow to help him along…and us, of course.”
Pippin rested his head against Merry’s shoulder, a childlike gesture he had not employed for a long time.
“I’m glad you and I are still together, Merry. I don’t know what I would have done if it had been you getting on that ship.”
“You would have had to run both Tuckborough and Buckland by yourself, I expect,” Merry said with a soft laugh.
But he drew Pippin closer to his side, and the two hobbits silently sat and watched the sun slowly fade into the west.