Merry quietly entered Pippin’s room in
Crickhollow. He was carrying a candle, for it was so early in the
morning that there was no light yet. And Merry did not like darkness.
Pippin was, of course, still asleep. A corner of the sheet he clutched in his fist and every now and then his mouth would open and close, as a fish on dry land.
Merry stared at the young sleeping Took for a while but did not dare to wake him up just yet. Only when Pippin was asleep Merry was reminded of how young his cousin still was. No more than a lad, technically. But he had been through more than most men experienced in four lifetimes. And that had left its mark of course. The hard lines around his mouth when he looked scared, those he had from the captivity by the Uruk-Hai. The un-Pippinish hard look in his eyes when he was angry, came from the killing he had seen and even done so himself. In every expression, every look, every scar, Merry could see how the Quest had changed Pippin more than even he himself would admit.
But now, when he was asleep, the troubled look in his eyes, the concerned wrinkle on his forehead, they were all gone. There was Pippin again as he was before, in all his youth and innocence, untroubled and happy. Merry was so suddenly moved by this sight that he stooped and stroked Pippin’s brow with his thumb. The young Took stirred and opened his eyes.
“Merry? What is it?”
“It’s time for you to get up, sleepyhead, that’s what it is.”
Pippin peeped through the curtains, saw the dark sky and pulled the blankets over his head with a moan. “It’s still early, Merry. It’s not even light yet.”
Merry playfully pulled the blankets away from Pippin before the young Took could get a firmer grasp on them. He rolled up in a ball at the sudden cold. Merry gently nudged him.
“Come on, out you come, Pippin-lad.”
Pippin rolled over to meet Merry’s eyes. “You haven’t called me that in a long time.”
Merry rolled up the blankets in his arms and turned away from Pippin’s sudden gaze. He did not know why everything moved him so today.
Pippin got up from the bed and touched Merry’s shoulder. “Is something wrong, Merry?”
Yes! Merry wanted to scream out loud. I don’t know what it is, but I have this terribly uneasy feeling like something is going to happen and I don’t know what and I’m scared…
“No Pip, everything is just fine. Come on, get dressed.”
Pippin could see Merry was not in the mood to talk about whatever was bothering him and decided to rest his case for a while. He started to put on his clothes. “Where are we goin’?”
“To Bag End, of course, you fool of a Took! It’s Their Birthday tomorrow, remember?”
After a short breakfast (way too short, in Pippin’s opinion) they saddled their ponies and rode away into the direction of Hobbiton, after asking Fatty Bolger to keep an eye on the house. The sun was rising and Pippin rubbed the sore head he had just hit against the doorframe again. Crickhollow had not been built for such execptionally large Hobbits as the two cousins, and even though they had lived there for some time now, Pippin, and occassionally an absent-minded Merry as well, would still forget do bend down before leaving a room, thus hitting his head against the door. They always grumbled afterwards they really ought to adjust some things, but they had never actually gotten to it.
While rubbing, Pippin looked sideways at Merry, who had been unusually quiet this morning.
“Say, I did not know Frodo was going to celebrate it.”
“I don’t think he was planning to,” admitted Merry, “but today is special. Bilbo passes the Old Took today, and that’s an occasion worthy of remembering. Besides, it has been a while since we last saw Frodo and Sam. I bet Elanor has grown more again!”
Pippin smiled at the thought of the little Gamgee lass. He loved the baby girl to pieces and enjoyed playing with her in the gardens of Bag End.
Just as they were making camp for the night, the two cousins were startled by the sound of beating hoofs coming their way. Out of the clouds of dust on the road loomed up the shape of a pony, one Merry recognized as the animal he had given to Fatty. The pony looked like it was ready to collapse any time.
Off slid the slender figure of Fatty’s younger sister Estelle. She looked just as exhausted as the pony, but still very pretty, thought Merry. Now where did that thought come from?
“Master Merry, Master Pippin,” said Estelle after catching her breath. “Fred told me to go and look for you. It just so happened that a letter arrived for you just a few hours after you had left. Fred took one look at it and told me it needed to be delivered to you straight away. He said a letter with this mark had to be very important.”
She handed Merry a grey envelope and the young Hobbit immediately recognized the G-rune as Gandalf’s signature. Good old Fatty.
“Why didn’t Fatty come and bring it himself then?” asked Pippin.
Estelle smiled. “He said it would go faster with me than with him.”
Pippin snickered. “I think he was right about that.” If the pony already looked like this after a non-stop ride with the lightly-built Estelle, he could not even imagine what it would look like after carrying Fatty.
Merry had read the letter and his face turned grey as ashes. “Pip, we have to go. Now!”
“What?” said Pippin. “We just set up camp!”
“Leave the luggage. We have to leave.”
“No time to explain, Pippin, let’s move!”
Pippin was startled by the tone of his best friend’s voice. Something was definitely wrong. Merry’s voice sounded scared, a sound Pippin had hoped never to hear again.
The ponies galloped at full speed, and Merry did not care how tired the animals and Pippin were. He just prayed that they would not be too late, that they would still have time…
They arrived at Bag End before dawn. Merry pounded on the door with both his fists. The sound of a crying baby reached their ears and a while later the sleepy face of Rosie Gardner appeared at the door, carrying Elanor on her hip. “Merry? Pippin? Do you have any idea what time it is? What’s going on?”
“I need to see Frodo, Rose, it’s important!” Rosie too frowned at the urgent tone in Merry’s voice. “I’m afraid Mr. Frodo is out. He’s left for Rivendell yesterday with Sam to visit Mr. Bilbo for his birthday.”
Merry grabbed Rosie’s free hand. “In which direction did they go, Rose, it’s important!”
Rosie thought for a moment and then waved her hand to the West. She had no idea of the locations of Elven Kingdoms. But Merry had. And so had Pippin, who finally began to understand the situation. He paled. “But Rivendell is the other way…”
Merry bowed his head. Westward. All through the wild ride, he had refused to believe it. But now he knew it was true. Frodo was leaving them.
“Merry? Are you all right? Come in, I’ll make you some tea.” Rosie looked at the young Brandybuck with great concern.
Merry slowly shook his head. “No, thank you, Rose. We have to go.”
He kissed the confused woman on her forehead and stroked Elanor’s cheek. “Let’s go, Pip.”
Pippin followed him, this time without questions or objections.
While riding towards the Grey Havens, Merry briefly told Pippin what had been in Gandalf’s letter. Pippin could hardly believe it. “Without even saying goodbye to us…” he whispered.
“He did not want to make this any harder than it already was, Pip,” said Merry.
Pippin said nothing, just shook his head. Tears began rolling down his cheeks. Merry wished he had the time to comfort him. But there were more important things right now. Pippin would hopefully still be with him for a while yet. But the other Hobbit Merry held as dearly as a brother, where would he be after tomorrow?
After what seemed like an eternity for the two Hobbits, they reached the White Towers just as the growing morninglight danced on the waves of the endless Sea. They saw Bill and Strider, the ponies, standing quietly in a little meadow, and they looked beyond and saw a white ship genly being rocked by the Sea. And then Merry saw a small, dark-haired figure and at that sight he thanked whoever it was that had been so kind to let him see it one more time.
“Frodo!” he yelled. The figure turned around and Merry saw that it was indeed Frodo, but yet it was not. This was not the shy young Hobbit he had grown up with and had known all his life. Of course it wasn’t. That Hobbit was long gone. But this was also not the wounded Hobbit that rode beside him all the way from Minas Tirith. Frodo’s eyes shone. To Merry, it was like someone had put candles in the window of an empty house again. The healing had finally begun.
The final sparkle of Merry’s hope that he would not lose Frodo was washed away by the look in the eyes of his cousin. But yet, he was not unhappy. How could he be? If never seeing him again meant Frodo would be healed and at peace, it was a price he was happy to pay. He remembered hearing a saying about it: ‘sometimes one has to lose something to keep it.’ And who told him that? Frodo…
The sound of Pippin’s clear laugh startled him. Merry looked aside and saw that there were still tears welling in the young Took’s eyes, but he still laughed. “You tried to give us the slip once before and failed, Frodo. This time you nearly succeeded, but you have failed again. It was not Sam, though, that gave you away this time, but Gandalf himself!”
“Yes, said Gandalf, and for the first time they noticed him standing in his flowing white robes, next to Bilbo, who waved cheerfully at them as if they were just arriving at a tea-party.
“For it will be better to ride back three together than one alone.” At these words, Merry and Pippin now also spotted Sam standing next to Frodo, and Merry knew what the former gardener must be feeling. Sam truly looked miserable, but, just like Merry, also seemed to realise it was all for the best of his master.
Merry and Pippin put their ponies in the meadow with Strider and Bill, and joined the other Hobbits at the shore. Pippin and Sam were both quietly sobbing, but Merry had not shed a tear. He stood very still and serious.
Gandalf looked at the Hobbits one by one and cleared his throat. “Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea ends our Fellowship in Middle-Earth. Go in peace. I will not say: do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.”
Then Frodo stepped forward and faced Merry. The young Brandybuck looked in his eyes and, whether by Gandalf’s words or the final acceptance of the loss of the one he had held closest to a brother, Merry started to cry uncontrollably as he looked in the blue depths he knew so well. He suddenly remembered every single moment in his childhood he had spent with Frodo. These very eyes he was looking into were in every early memory he had. They were a part of his life. The thought that this was the last time he would see them, was almost unbearable. He embraced Frodo and felt a soft hand stroke his hair. Merry pressed his face onto Frodo’s shoulder, wanting this moment to last forever, closing the feel of this forever in his heart. Frodo finally gently removed his cousin’s arms from his neck and smiled at him, then Merry hung his head and felt the touch of Frodo’s lips on his forehead.
Frodo then kissed Pippin, and shared a long moment with Sam. Finally he turned away from them and boarded the ship. Merry blinked away a tear and felt Pippin’s hand find his. He squeezed it hard as the shape of Frodo faded into the mist, keeping his eyes on the angelic face to the last. The starlight glass flickered and faded away. Frodo was gone.
Merry did not know how long he, Pippin and Sam had been standing there, but he was sure hours must have gone by until Pippin finally broke the spell by slowly turning away. Merry cast one more glance at the wide sea before him, then followed without looking back.
They saddled their ponies and rode back into the forest. For a long time they were silent, until the silence became almost unbearable to Merry. He wanted to say something, something that would capture his feelings, explain them. But he did not know how. He was not sure that words existed for something as great as this.
A thought came to his mind. It was almost as if he could hear Bilbo’s voice whisper in his ear, saying one of his favourite sayings: ‘where words fail, music speaks…’
Merry nodded. And he started to sing. Softly at first, but gradually louder and louder. The words just came to his lips. He looked aside when he heard another voice join in. Pippin smiled at him as he sang along.
The song was a lullaby Frodo had written for his young cousin, long ago. Much later, Merry had sung it to Pippin as well.
This day has gone, for worse or better
It’s over now, you did your best
To make it worthwile, make it matter
And now it’s time for you to rest
This day has gone, but have no sorrow
For some things never fade away
You keep in your heart the dreams of tomorrow
And the memories of yesterday
Merry kept singing, now loud and clear, until his voice seemed to be echoed by the trees and the earth itself. And he imagined that Frodo could hear it and hoped that he would understand what he meant to say.