The Heir of the Hill
I II III IV V VI
Chapter 10: What Friends are For
What Friends Are For, part one
Frodo did not know what Gandalf told Bilbo about that day. He went to
his room as soon as they arrived at Bag End, falling in exhaustion onto
his soft bed where he slept the day and night away, waking in the early
dawn to the sound of Sam and Gaffer labouring in the garden. He felt
strangely weak and hungry, as if he had been ill, though he felt
completely well. He bathed his face and hands and dressed himself, then
followed his nose to the kitchen.
His uncle was bustling about the board, pulling hot pies from the oven.
The smell of them made the young hobbit’s mouth water. “Good morning,
“Frodo lad!” Bilbo nearly dropped the pie he held, saving it from
tipping from his hands with a deft movement. “I thought you were going
to sleep your life away! Sit down and have a cup of tea, dear boy. I
shall dish you out some porridge.”
“You have your hands full, uncle. I can get it.” Frodo poured a cup of
tea for himself and for Bilbo. He hesitated, looking for a third cup.
“Is Gandalf still here?”
“No, lad. He had to be off on his way. Left early this morning he did,
after looking in on you one last time. Worried about you he was, but he
didn’t say why.” Bilbo set the last pie on the sill, where the smell of
the bubbling fruit pastries filled the morning breeze.
Frodo was spooning tea leaves into their cups with an excess of care,
pointedly not looking at Bilbo. “What did he tell you about yesterday?”
“Very little, to my annoyance, if I may criticize one so wise! He
seemed to think it was not his place to say ought. I was hoping you
could shed a little light on why you came home half-dead from
exhaustion in the arms of a wizard with an elvish cloak wrapped around
you? Or is that not any business of mine?” Bilbo sighed, seeing that
his sharp remark had hurt Frodo. “Come, lad, I am only hard because I
am so worried about you! I am not angry.”
Frodo took his teacup in his hands but did not drink. “I was hoping
Gandalf would have told you, sir. I don’t remember much myself. I was
walking to the Waymeet along the road through Woodyend. There was an
accident; a tree fell and I was knocked on the head. I had some strange
dreams and woke to find Gandalf. He bought me home… and that is all
that I remember.”
Bilbo face was full of concern. “I checked your head, lad, when I saw
the blood on you. There is naught but a small white mark under your
hairline. I wouldn’t have known you were hurt at all, but for the
stains on your hands and face.”
“Gandalf must have done some magic… I don’t remember.” Frodo drank his
tea and dug into his breakfast, hot porridge piled with sweetenings and
a large slice of Bilbo’s fresh berry pie. The incident was fading from
his mind and his strength was returning. “I feel just fine now, uncle.
Your pies are as excellent as ever!” Bilbo gave him a second wedge,
relieved to see the lad’s appetite return.
“Eat them up, young Baggins, for you have a day ahead of you, if you
feel so well! You have visitors coming today, which you seem to have
forgotten also. Meriadoc Brandybuck should be here by lunchtime, and
he’s bringing that young cousin from Tuckburough, Peregrin. They can
both eat more than a team of draft horses, and I need help getting
everything ready. I want you to find Gamgee’s boy and have him help you
with the market this morning… finish your breakfast first!” Bilbo said
as Frodo rose from his chair hasitily. The young hobbit sat back down
and cleaned his plate, setting the dishes in the basin. “Leave the
washing up to me; off you go, lad! And don’t forget to pick up some
flour. I used the last of ours on these pies!”
In the garden Frodo found Samwise tugging at a weed that had dared to
sprout in his father’s beloved tater patch. He loosened the tough root
from the ground and chucked it into the barrow with a heap of other
unwanted foliage. Frodo waved to him and said, “Hola, Sam! I must go to
the market this morning. Can the Gaffer spare you for an hour or so? We
will need the barrow as well. Bilbo has ordered half the provender in
“Aye, go along there, Samwise, and mind yerself!” The Gaffer nodded
politely to Frodo, leaning on his hoe. “Good morning to you, Mr Frodo.”
“And to you, Master Gamgee. The garden looks beautiful, sir!” The
Gaffer beamed with pride and Sam wheeled the barrow over to the compost
heap where he upended it. He followed Frodo down the hill, heading
toward the Hobbiton market.
As they passed the mill, Frodo made to cross the bridge, but Sam
paused. “Didn’t Mr Bilbo say he needed some more flour, sir? We might
just as well pick it up now.”
“Yes, Sam, he did. I thought to spare you pushing it around while we
picked up the groceries. We could get it on the way home just as
“Why, Mr Frodo, you are too kind! It’s not a burden at all!”
Frodo hesitated. For some reason, he was loath to go into the mill. He
handed Sam a coin. “Do me a favour, Sam, and get the flour for me.
Finest ground with no hulls, as Bilbo favours. I will meet you at the
butcher’s stall. All right?” He hurried on when Sam nodded agreeably.
He drew a breath to ease his tight chest as he stepped off of the
bridge on the Bywater side.
Sam pushed his empty barrow up to the open door of the mill. The huge
wheel was squeaking as the water pushed it round and round, though the
gears inside were not turning today. There seemed to be no one about.
Sam coughed and then called out, “Hallo, the mill?”
“Hallo!” Ted Sandyman appeared from inside a small room, dusting his
hands that were coated with flour. “What do you want, Gamgee?” he said
roughly, though he sounded almost happy. Sam did not recall ever seeing
him in such a good mood before, unless he was tormenting someone.
“Picking up an order from Mr Baggins, Ted. Finest flour, please?” said Sam.
“Aye, right here it is. Da tol’ me to deliver it this afternoon.” Ted
looked as if he was insulted that Sam was come to claim this errand.
“Set it in the barrow, if you please, Mr Sandyman,” said Sam equably.
“Mr Bilbo used his up this morning, and needs it a bit earlier, is all.
Where’s Mr Sandyman?” Sam looked around at the deserted mill, where
unturned lumber and grain were setting around, neglected. “I’ve a coin
from Mr Frodo…”
“I’ll give it to my da when he gets back. He’s off today with the
foreman, pulling in a tree that was felled out by Woodyend.” Sam
dropped the coin in Ted’s meaty hand. The strong hobbit set it between
his teeth and bit on the metal. Sam shook his head. He had never
understood that practice. Ted slid the coin in a pocket. “Off with ye
now, Gamgee! I have other work to do today. There is your flour. Carry
it out to yerself! I am a busy hobbit, don’t you know?”
Sam picked up the bag and left the mill, more than happy to put the
miller’s son behind him. That lad had often brought Samwise grief, in
one form or another. But he did not dwell on this; he set the bag in
the barrow and pushed it over the bridge, looking for Frodo in the
crowded hobbitry in the market that morning.
He spotted him easily. Frodo’s dark hair stood out sharply among all
the other heads, crowned with brown curls or bonnets. Sam had never
realized how tall Frodo had become. He had always seemed tall to Sam,
who was younger than him by some twelve years. Now he saw that Frodo
was indeed taller than most hobbits, even those who were half again his
age. Also, his fair skin set him apart as well. He spotted Sam and
waved to him, his clear voice carrying easily above the din of the
They completed their shopping quickly, loading the barrow to
overflowing. Frodo took one handle while Sam the other, and together
they pushed the heavy load up the winding Hill path.
Standing close to Frodo, Sam marked him again. Just like any other
hobbit he appeared, dressed in clothes perhaps a bit richer than the
average, but well worn. But something about him was unusual, too. Sam
couldn’t put his finger on it. He stole frequent glances at Frodo as
they walked, until Frodo laughed and said, “Have I got spots breaking
out on my face, Sam? What is it you are staring at?”
“Nothing, sir! Only you seem different today; taller for one thing,
sir, if you don’t mind my saying so. I don’t recall you being so tall,
“I am sure you’re imagining it, Sam. I am just the same as ever! Or
perhaps,” Frodo paused, glancing down and realizing that his trews did
seem a bit shorter than usual today, and his tunic had been a bit tight
across his shoulders this morning when he had dressed. “Perhaps I am
just a growing hobbit! I think you are right, Sam! It must have been
that extra slice of pie this morning!”
They trundled up the path to the Bag End, and Sam elbowed the gate open
so that they could wheel the barrow toward the rear entrance of the
smial. Frodo nearly dropped his end of the barrow as Sam let his go,
exclaiming in disbelief.
A tall weed had sprouted right next to the tater patch he had cleared
that morning. Frodo’s complaint made Sam grab the barrow again, but the
young hobbit was still upset. “I pulled that weed once this morning, I
swear it, Mr Frodo! And there it is again, growing up like the wind
from the south!”
Frodo looked at the strange plant, a tall woody-looking thing with
whorled brown wood and knobby branches. He laughed at Sam, “I think the
Gaffer is overworking you, Sam! How can a weed grow that quickly?”
“I dunno, Mr Frodo,” said Sam darkly, as they began to unload the
barrow. “But I wonder if they don’t wander in from out of the woods at
times! I swear, sometimes I hear ‘em laughing at me!”
When the hobbits disappeared inside, the plant shuddered and began to
move itself toward the rose garden, where a new bush had rooted itself.
A whisper would have been heard, if anyone had stood nearby, “Told you,
Stint, so Ah did. Hide in a garden, do not dress as a weed, Ah said.
Uprooted you’ll get yourself again, if you don’t change!”
The woody-weed shed its foliage and wound itself into an
innocent-looking birdsnest. It settled into the branches of the hedge,
just beneath the study window. “You think you know it all, don’t you,
Firtle? I was the one who found the path to aewn’s house! Now we can
see aewn everyday, and keep him safe!”
Firtle shook his flowered branches. He had disguised himself as a
rosebush with extra thorns. “Stint did find, Ah’m agreeing. But he is
not aewn, Ah’m tellin’ you. His name you heard, as did Ah. ‘Meester
Froda’ he is called.”
Stint hissed as the hobbits came back outside to empty the barrow. Sam
looked at the tater patch, now missing the tricky weed. He guessed the
Gaffer must have been having a joke on him. He decided not to mention
it again, in case Mr Frodo really began to believe his gardener was
Frodo had paused, staring at the garden. His memory was being tickled,
and when Sam touched his sleeve in concern, he laughed and shrugged it
off. “I think we are both going barmy, Sam! I could have sworn I heard
the plants talking this time. Let’s go and have a piece of Bilbo’s pie
before Meriadoc and Peregrin come and eat them all. This has been a
The year is around 1398, summer in the Shire. Young Frodo Baggins
has more to worry about than peculiar dreams. There is a change in him
that has become visible to all, even his closest friends. Weeds aren't
the only thing growing up on the Hill.
It was a strange morning, bound to become a strange afternoon. For no
young hobbits had appeared by lunchtime, and Bilbo was becoming a
little worried about what might be delaying Merry and Pippin. It was
not like those two to be late for a meal. Frodo volunteered to run down
the lane toward Tuckburough and see what he could.
No farther than the bridge to Hobbiton did he need to go, though, for
there he found his two young cousins sitting on the grass beside the
mill. Ted Sandyman and Lotho Sackville-Baggins stood nearby,
restraining a pony that struggled and whinnied and tried to break from
Pippin was in tears, but it was Merry who was hurt. Frodo ran down the
dusty road and hurried to his side. Merry was grimacing and clutching
his foot. As Frodo ran up, he heard Merry say to Peregrin through
clenched teeth, “Not a word, young Took.”
“Merry! Whatever has happened?” Frodo looked with pity at Merry’s poor foot, his toes very red and swelling.
“An accident, Frodo,” Merry said, looking at Pippin who was biting on
his lip. The lad was just eight years old, but intelligent and
unusually well-spoken for one so young. He said nothing now, just
looked at Merry with eyes reddened and face streaked. “Lotho’s pony
stepped on my foot. I’ll be fine in a few moments. Help me up, will
Frodo clucked his tongue. He wondered by the bruising and swelling if
Merry’s foot might indeed be broken. “Just stay right there, Merry, and
don’t try to stand on that! Pippin, would you run up the Hill and ask
Sam to come with his barrow? We can use that to get you to Bag End,
Merry. Not the most dignified way to arrive to tea, but better than
hopping on one foot!” Peregrin sped off, cutting across yard and over
“How did this happen, Merry?” asked Frodo.
“You heard him, Baggins. It were an accident.” Ted Sandyman’s shadow
cut across Merry’s prone form. Frodo looked up at him, stiffening
slightly at the animosity in Ted’s voice. “Lotho got a new pony from
his dad. He is still a little green to ride. Brandybuck wasn’t moving
fast enough across the bridge and got trod on!” Ted laughed a nasty
“I’ll be all right, Frodo. Forget about it. Just help me get to the
Hill.” Merry’s voice was almost pleading for Frodo to drop the subject.
Frodo could see now that Lotho had come up behind them, slapping his
riding gloves on his thigh with a *crack*.
Lotho was four years older than Frodo, and had always used his age and
weight against the younger hobbit, trying to intimidate him. He was a
terror to his peers in Sackville where he lived with his parents and a
known bully to all the children in Hobbiton and Bywater. Ted and he
were as close of friends as either was likely to have. Individually,
they were to be avoided. Together, they could mean a lot of trouble.
Frodo’s heart was hot with anger for his friend. He knew the tricks
that Shire lads sometimes played on visitors from across the
Brandywine; he had been the brunt of many japes and practical jokes
himself, when first he had moved to Hobbiton. This seemed a bit more
than just hazing, though. Merry’s foot could be seriously injured, and
Peregrin might have been hurt as well.
“I can’t say I think much of taking a green pony for a ride through the
village, Lotho,” Frodo commented. Merry winced and ducked his head, but
Frodo could see that it wasn’t his foot that pained him.
“What’s that supposed to mean, Baggins?” asked Lotho menacingly. He
stepped forward quickly and grabbed Frodo by his vest, hauling him to
his feet as if he intended to shake him like a rat. He had not counted
on Frodo being taller than him now by a good two inches. He released
Frodo’s jacket and stepped back uncertainly.
Frodo was not the least bit afraid of either Lotho or Ted. He had taken
and given beatings to both of them at one time or another, in
one-on-one wrestling or fisticuffs. But Ted was closing in behind him
and Merry was in too bad a way to back him up. He took a deep breath
and tried to think through the moment.
He kept his voice soft and reasonable, “I only mean that it would be a
shame to injure such a fine pony, riding him about before he is fully
trained. Your father would be most ill pleased, should such a valuable
animal come to harm. If I were you, I would get him out of here and
away before anyone learns about this and it gets back to your father.”
Lotho looked uneasy at the mention of his father. He lifted his chin
and said defiantly, “I’m on business for my father today. There is no
reason why I shouldn’t be here.”
Frodo took a step toward Lotho, taking advantage of his uncertainty.
“If you have business, then be about it, Master Sackville-Baggins. I
have business, too. Perhaps Ted will be kind enough to help you mount
your green pony so you can be away. I am afraid that I am rather too
busy at the moment to assist you.” He leveled an even stare at Lotho,
all the while half expecting a blow from Ted who stood behind him.
Lotho backed down quickly. Mumbling something, he grabbed a fistful of
Ted’s shirt and dragged him along. Ted walked backward rather than turn
his back to Frodo, stumbling toward the mill and the place where they
had tethered the pony. He looked as though the matter had not been
dropped as far as he was concerned.
Frodo turned his back on them at once, kneeling next to Merry.
Meriadoc’s eyes were big as saucers, and he was trying to keep a smile
off of his face. He bowed his head as if in pain, but whispered for
Frodo’s ears, “You tell ‘em, cousin!”
Frodo kept his own smile hidden with difficulty. “If you can’t beat
them, bluff them, my dear Meriadoc.” There was a clatter of hooves as
Lotho’s pony galluped away, Lotho barely hanging on as the beast took
its head and bolted over the bridge. Luckily, there were no pedestrians
this time. Ted went inside the mill and slammed the door behind him.
Shortly Sam appeared, with the barrow as well as the Gaffer and Bilbo. Peregrin was trotting alongside, puffing and red-faced.
Bilbo looked at Merry’s foot, then sent Sam to fetch the doctor from
town. They lifted the lad into the barrow gently and carefully rolled
him up the Hill. “I certainly hope that none of those bones are broken,
young Meriadoc! What will your father say, when he hears about this?”
“It was just an accident, Uncle Bilbo. Really, I will be fine…” Merry
protested, wincing at every jolt and bump as the older hobbits steered
him toward Bag End.
“That’s what young Peregrin said,” Bilbo commented, glancing back at
the young Took. Pippin refused to look into his eye. Bilbo nodded and
said no more, but Frodo could see he was not fooled.
Frodo carried Pippin pig-a-back; the young Took was winded and worried
about his cousin. He grasped Pippin under his legs, and with the lad
hugging him around the neck, they followed the Gaffer and Bilbo uphill.
Pippin leaned his face close to Frodo’s ear and whispered, “It wasn’t
no accident, cousin Frodo.”
“I know, lad,” Frodo murmured back to him. “We will settle with Mr
Lotho and Mr Sandyman. But we mustn’t make trouble for Bilbo, lad.
There’s folks who want to cause him grief, and you or Merry getting
hurt while visiting us would be just the kind of incident they could
use. I know it is hard to not be mad… I am furious myself! Just don’t
say anything about it right now, okay?”
“That’s what Merry said. I don’t understand, but I will stay quiet. I
promised Merry.” Pippin’s face was splotchy from crying, but now it was
determined and grim.
Frodo jogged him a little, making sounds like a pony. Pippin giggled
slightly. “We will talk about it later, and I will help you understand
then. Right now, let’s try to get home before the pies are all cold.”
“Pies?” Pippin hugged Frodo hard around his neck, making him gasp. “I thought I could smell pies…”
Part Three: Doctor Tarsus
Doctor Samuel Tarsus, a neatly dressed hobbit of middling years,
arrived swiftly with Sam Gamgee carrying his bag, an anonymous leather
satchel. Bilbo let him into the parlour where they had settled
Meriadoc, his feet propped up on a cushioned stool.
Frodo had taken Pippin into the kitchen for a morsel of food and to
keep him out from underfoot, but they both leaned against the door
listening and looking in as Doctor Tarsus examined Merry.
Merry looked up at the doctor uneasily, his face betraying his pain and
fear. Doctors meant icky-tasting medicines and sharp pokes and prods.
He had never felt comfortable around them, and now he tensed as the
hobbit came close to him.
Dr Tarsus looked the boy in the face, taking no notice of his foot. He
took off his hat and coat, handing them to the ubiquious Samwise, and
held out his hand to Merry. "Master Brandybuck? It is my honour to meet
you, young sir. I know your father Saradoc; you are the very image of
him when he was your age. We were friends back when I lived in Stock as
a lad." Merry accepted his hand, smiling a little.
The doctor sat down next to him, setting his bag between his feet.
"Master Baggins was kind enough to invite me to tea this afternoon.
Perhaps I could take a look at your scuff while the water boils?" Merry
nodded, relaxing at the hobbit's friendly manner and gentle voice.
From out of his bag, Dr Tarsus brought forth a strange object. Pippin
gasped and clutched Frodo's arm, afraid that it would hurt Merry
terribly, but Merry exclaimed, "I know what that is! That is a tuning
fork! Mother uses that to keep the hobbit-fry choir singing together."
"Aye, Mr Brandybuck. There is another use for a tuning fork, than to
keep young hobbits from singing sour. I am going to stike this and
touch it to your toes, one at a time. If you feel any discomfort, say
so at once!"
The doctor struck the fork lightly on the arm of his chair, then touched it to Merry's big toe.
Merry laughed. "Doctor, sir, that is my good foot!"
"Oh!" cried the doctor, who made a show of taking off his thick
spectacles and cleaning them thouroughly. He put them back on and
squinted at Merry's feet again. "So it is, young Master! All right,
we'll try this one. Remember... if it hurts at all, say so instantly."
He repeated the gesture on each of Merry's toes, striking the metal and
setting the end to the nail of each battered digit. Merry watched but
uttered no complaint. He did not even wince once.
"Well, that is good!" exclaimed the doctor.
"What does it mean, sir?" asked Pippin. He could not bear listening only and had crept into the room to watch the doctor work.
The doctor patted him on the head. "It means that your cousin is in the key of G sharp!" Everyone laughed, Merry loudest of all.
"That is good, because I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, sir!" he said jokingly.
"It also means that here are no broken bones in your foot, Master
Merry," the doctor said. "I can see tht you are deeply bruised, but a
bit of willowbark a couple of times a day will take care of the pain,
and you should keep it raised and keep off of it for several days. A
warm soak in some salty water would help, too. No walks further than
the parlour to the pantry, mind you, and try to avoid squaredancing for
a few weeks."
Pippin giggled and quipped, "That is very good, Doctor sir, 'cause
Merry can't dance neither!" Merry grabbed Pippin and held him playfully
with his arm locked around his head while everyone laughed.
Frodo forestalled anymore cousin-abuse by arriving at that moment with
a trolley, laden with steaming a tea pot, cups and plates, piled high
with fresh pies.
"If you are quite through being the center of attention, Merry, we
might have a spot of tea," said Frodo with a smile. He was so relieved
that Merry was not badly hurt. He served the doctor first, then Bilbo
and the Gaffer (Bilbo insisted that he and Sam join them since they had
missed their own tea, helping with Merry). Sam, Pippin, and Frodo sat
nearby and listened politely while the older hobbits talked. They
grinned at each other and kept Merry's plate full of sweets until he
begged for no more.
Doctor Tarsus mixed up a special cup of tea for Merry, who drank it
with a face. He left a small bottle of powdered willowbark with Bilbo,
along with instructions on how often and how much to use. Frodo
listened, too, ready to back up his uncle's sometimes spotty memory.
The Doctor rose to leave with a parting word to Merry, "Give that
father of yours my regards, Master Brandybuck. Tell him he is overdue
to buy me a pint at the Golden Perch. Good day, Mr Baggins, Mr Gamgee.
And to you, young ones! Do Merry's running about for the next few days,
will you? There's some good lads!" and with that, he bowed and departed.
Frodo sat down next to Merry, pleased to see that his pain and
frustration had eased. "It is a good thing, cousin, that your foot is
in the key of G, I think."
Sensing that Frodo was in a silly mood, Merry cautiously asked, "Why is that, Frodo?"
"Why, 'tis better that your foot be sharp, than it B Flat!"
Merry groaned at Frodo's awful pun. "I am going to need more medicine
if you are going to tell bad jokes all afternoon! Have pity on a poor
Merriment rang through the halls and out of the many windows of Bag End, falling like welcome rain on the listening flowers.
Part Four : Merry's Story
Bilbo closed the round door behind the doctor, latching it securely. To
the Gaffer he said, "Thank you for helping with Meriadoc, Hamfast. I
know you must get back about it, but do you think you can spare Samwise
tonight?" Bilbo was looking at Sam as he said this, winking one eye
slowly so that the Gaffer could not see," I think I shall be needing
his services tonight, with all these extra mouths to feed. I shall set
him up with supper and bed tonight, with your leave."
"Of course, Master Baggins!" said the Gaffer equably. "I'll send him
'round after his chores are met. He's been looking forward to Master
Merry and Mr Peregrin's visit for some time." The Gaffer might have
been reluctant once to allow Sam to learn his letters, fearing that
such things would give him ideas above his station. But he knew how
fond Bilbo was of the lad, and that he and Frodo were good friends.
Children needed friends when they are young.
"You'll send him home if he becomes a bother, sir. But for now, we best
get back to work. That garden don't weed itself, you know!"
The Gaffer and Sam left, and Bilbo looked at his young guests. Frodo
was picking up cups and plates to tidy-up after tea. "Leave those for
now, lad. I think we need to hear what really happened today."
Pippin wilted under Bilbo's firm gaze, and Merry looked at his
quilt-covered toes. Neither said anything at first. Frodo smiled gently
at his friends. "It's all right, Merry. You can tell Bilbo what
happened. We know that Lotho and Ted are trying to make trouble. Bilbo
will be better able to protect us and himself if he knows everything
that they do."
Merry reluctantly began to speak. "We were walking up from the Green
Dragon where Pip's father had dropped us off. He and Aunt Eglantine
were taking the girls to visit Master Banks. It was just a short way up
the Hill, so we said we would walk. We had just waved them away and
were crossing the bridge when Pimple..." Merry turned bright red and
corrected himself awkwardly, "..I mean Mr Lotho Sackville-..."
Bilbo laughed, "I think 'Pimple' is rather a good epithat for that one! Go on with your story, Merry."
Merry grinned as he realized that Bilbo was listening to his tales for
a turn of fortune. He warmed up to his role as a storyteller. "Lotho
came riding his pony across the bridge. I pulled Pippin aside before he
could trample us; he did not even slow down. I doubt that he could have
slowed that pony, even if he had tried. I am not sure that it is the
pony's fault; Lotho doesn't know how to ride a horse, if you ask my
opinion, sir." Merry paused, and when Bilbo did not reprimand him for
his criticism of Lotho, he continued.
"He stopped once he reached the mill-side of the Water. Laughing at us,
he was. When I gave him my opinion of his horsemanship, he threatened
to strap the saddle on me and ride me up the Hill."
Pippin was hiding his face in Frodo's sleeve. Frodo put his arm around his young cousin and hugged him comfortingly.
Merry spoke on. "Well, sir, my answer to that suggestion is not to be
found in any ettiquette books, I confess. He charged his pony right at
us, sir, and I pushed Pippin down so that the pony wouldn't step on
him. I wasn't quick enough to avoid being stepped on myself." Merry
shifted his foot and winced.
Bilbo shook his head. "Reckless and rash! Oh, I am not blaming you,
Meriadoc, though all this might have been avoided if you could have
kept a cooler head." The old hobbit sighed. "He was trying to get you
into a fight, dear boy. If you or Peregrin were injured while visiting
me, Otho could possibly convince Paladin and Saradoc that your coming
around to visit Uncle Bilbo was 'unsafe', which would lead possibly to
my being pronounced 'unfit' as a guardian to my young nephew. They are
trying to find a loophole through which they can seize control of Bag
End. It is sad, that Otho should use his son to act through, and that
he would stoop to such treachery as to contemplate risking young lives
to satisfy his greed. He must be watched closely. We all must be more
careful and not give him opportunities for further mischief."
Merry dropped his eyes, genuinely contrite. "I am sorry, sir, if my
actions have compromised you or Frodo." He raised his head then, and a
fire burned in his proud eyes. "My father would never believe such
lies, I assure you!"
Bilbo smiled and felt the bottom of the teapot to see if the water was
still warm. "I thank you, Merry. Let me go and get some more water on
the boil. You will be needing another dose of medicine soon. Is your
"Not much, sir." Merry grimaced after Bilbo left the room. "That willowbark tea is awful!"
Frodo had set Peregrin on his knee and was patting his back gently. The
little hobbit was very sad. "Perhaps you would like to lay down and
take a nap, Pip?" asked Frodo softly. Pippin shook his head 'no', and
clung to his cousin desperately. "You're perfectly safe here, lad.
Bilbo would not let anyone hurt you, nor would I or Merry, as he proved
Pippin sighed and closed his eyes, falling asleep almost instantly.
Merry motioned for Frodo to hand him over. He made room in the big
chair that Bilbo had sat him in, tucking the blanket under Peregrin's
chin. Softly, he said, "I really didn't have time to think. I just
wanted to keep Pippin from getting hurt. He is still so small for his
Frodo smiled gently at them, then began to clear up the dishes and
empty cups, saying, "He's like a little brother to me. I had not really
missed all the other children at Brandyhall when I moved here, except
you and one or two other close friends. But after Pip was born, I
realized how nice it was to have younger hobbits around, to tell tales
and teach games to." Frodo was gripped suddenly with the anger he had
bottled up. His hand shook suddenly so that the china cup he had just
picked up broke in his hand, and he cut himself on the shards. He
exclaimed, placing his bleeding finger in his mouth.
Merry had a grim smile on his face. "Me, too, cousin. After you left
Brandyhall, it was like loosing an older brother. I wish to be to
Pippin what you are to me; someone who I can count on to be my friend,
through thick and thin."
Frodo gripped Merry's shoulder. "I am that, Merry." They looked up at
the sound of Bilbo returning. The older hobbit set a teapot down beside
Merry, who could not disguise his aversion for what was coming.
"It has to taste bad, lad, or it won't make you feel better!" Bilbo
said. "Now drink this down, and settle back for a spot of a nap
yourself. Me and Frodo have some work to do in the kitchen."
Sam arrived just after sunset, and with his help Bilbo had a fine
supper ready for Merry and Pippin when they woke from their naps. After
eating until they were nearly somnolent again, the young hobbits sat
and listened to Bilbo tell tales. Sam sat on the floor near the fire,
his eyes as big as saucers as Bilbo told a tale of the Elder Days, sad
and exciting stories of valour and loss, betrayal and triumph in the
face of evil.
Frodo was as attentive as the others. These tales he had only read
about in his studies of the Elvish language, trying to decipher the
strange writing of the Ancient Tongues. His eyes filled with tears as
Bilbo described the voyage of Eärendil, sailing into the west to
try and save the races of his mixed blood; Elves and Men.
Bedtime came too soon, and Bilbo settled Merry down in the spare
bedroom off the parlour. The lad had not needed to hop more than a few
steps, leaning on Frodo and Sam's shoulders. Pippin was set up in one
of the small beds in the second guestroom, Sam was bedded down in the
other. But before he would lay down, Sam went around all the rooms and
banked the fires, helping Frodo and Bilbo with the washing-up before he
laid down himself. He was so tired that he was stumbling as he headed
Frodo wished him goodnight, checking on the sleeping Peregrin before
heading to his own room. He laid down his head on the soft pillows and
closed his eyes, but even as weary as he was, sleep eluded him for a
long time. He watched the stars through the glass pane of his window
until he at last drifted toward slumber.
Frodo heard the door to his room open and then close with a soft bang.
He heard Pippin's tiny bare feet padding across the hook-rug, then the
bed swayed and shifted as he climbed onto it, trailing his favourite
quilt that his mother had made for him, that he took with him whenever
he visited Bag End.
"Cousin Frodo? It is really dark in that bedroom."
"It is just as dark in here, Pippin, but yes, you can sleep here if you wish."
"Thank you, Frodo," Pippin snuggled into the hollow under Frodo's left
arm. "I feel better sleeping next to someone who is braver than me."
Frodo rubbed Pippin's back until the child fell asleep. "I do, too, Pip," he said softly.
Frodo wasn't sure if it was some sound or the cold wind on his face
that woke him in the dark of the night -- he was wide awake suddenly,
just like someone had spoken his name inside his head. He sat up,
scattering leaves and flower petals from his hair that had blown in on
him through the window... he did not remember leaving it open that
He threw the covers aside, thinking that perhaps Merry had called to
him, then he realized that Pippin was no longer asleep beside him. The
quilt and pillow that the young Took had been using were still on the
bed. Frodo ran his hands over the cloth; no warmth lingered upon them.
His cousin had been gone for some time.
A touch of panic fluttered in Frodo's heart as he hastily dressed,
pulling on breeches and tunic over his nightshirt. He quickly checked
through the smial, looking first in the pantries for the notoriously
hungry child. Merry's room was quiet but for the sounds of light
breathing. The draught that Bilbo prepared for him that night had sent
him to sleep quickly. Frodo did not disturb him; Pippin was not there.
He was going to check Bilbo's room, but noticed that the front door was
ajar. He grabbed a cloak as he pulled the door open and stepped out.
The night was cold. Frodo wrapped the cloak around his shoulders and
looked around. The moon was high and close to full; he could see
clearly, though everything was grey and shadowy behind the hedge. The
front gate was latched and too high for the young Took to reach, so
Frodo headed around the burrow toward the garden. The hairs on his neck
stood up as he heard voices ahead. As he passed the woodpile, he caught
up a stout stick in his hands.
He nearly stumbled over Pippin. He was curled on the ground beneath the
sheltering branches of a naked rosebush, covered in a blanket of
leaves. He was soundly sleeping, his hands pillowing his cheek.
Frodo laid down his stick and touched Peregrin's shoulder to wake him
gently. "Pippin! What no earth are you doing out here in the middle
night?" Frodo removed his cloak and wrapped the child in it.
Pippin roused enough to wrap his arms around Frodo's neck and say, "I
got lost, Frodo. I thought I was at home... your garden is too big!"
The young Took laid his head on Frodo's shoulder and closed his eyes.
"Tell Firtle thanks for keeping me warm," he murmured as sleep claimed
Frodo wondered why that name sounded familiar. He stared around the
garden, all the plants glistening with dew in the moonlight. A dream
that was a memory woke in his head, and he understood.
He spoke softly, so that Pippin would not wake, "Thank you for
protecting my little cousin. You are welcome here, if you plan no
mischief. I thought you were a dream… “ Frodo couldn’t think of anymore
to say. He felt a little foolish, talking to an empty garden. He picked
up Pippin and returned to the house.
Sam met him on the doorstep, rubbing sleep out of his eyes. “Mr Frodo?
Who’re you talking to out there?” Sam helped Frodo settle Pippin back
in Frodo’s room. “Was there someone in the garden, sir?”
“Just the flowers and moonlight, Sam,” Frodo answered. “Go on back to
sleep. I think Pip has been sleepwalking, and I feel as though I have
been myself, too.”
Sam went back to bed, but Frodo sat up and watched Pippin sleep, prying
into the corners of his own mind that still refused to yield the full
bounty of his memories.
In the garden, Firtle gathered in his thin arms the leaves he had
discarded to cover the little hobbit. Stint regarded him with eyes
shining in the waning moonlight. “You look like an early autumn,
Firtle was not amused. “Taking too long will Ah be, putting back on
these leaves! Root me out for sure that gardener will, thinking Ah have
died! Be helping me, Stint!
“Maybe we should just hang out in the hedge. As long as we keep our
heads down, we shouldn’t get trimmed back too much! I was dressed as a
bird’s nest for only a day, and already some silly plover has laid her
eggs on me! Life out of the Grove is strange and dangerous for a
woodsprite. Should we go home?” Stint asked doubtfully.
“This place, Ah’m liking, Stint. Seeing Meester Froda is making me
glad. Stay awhile, lets! Beneath his window, dwell Ah will, and hear
his laughter that makes my heart high!” Firtle left his leaves on the
path and went to peer into the window that Stint had managed to open
earlier, when he had roused Frodo to come and find the little one. It
was closed tightly now, but the woodsprites could see their hobbit
sitting in a rocking chair by the fire. His brow was creased and he
seemed tired and sad. Firtle purred with sympathy. “No laughter and
singing now. Sad is Meester Froda."
Stint wound himself into the ivy that circled the window, making room
for the broader sprite below the sill. “We’ll see that he has no more
reason to be sad this night, Firtle. Let us watch and fight for our
aewnr.” Stint watched as Firtle garbed himself in holly to blend in to
the rest of the bushes beneath the window. “Oh, Firtle! That is a good
look for you!”
“Shhh! Wake them you will, noisy! Meester Froda has fallen asleep at last.”
Part Six: The Miller's Son
What are we while we grow but the sum of what we see and feel? When do
we find out who we are and realize that we have the will to be what we
choose, rather than what we are taught to be? When is it right to raise
your fist rather than turn your cheek? And what can change fear into
part six, The Miller’s Son
Merry spent the next day in complete misery, longing to get up and go
cavorting about the Shire with Frodo and Pippin, but Bilbo firmly
forbade this. After some intense negotiating, Merry got Bilbo to allow
him to hobble about with a cane that first day (it was actually a
shillelagh that Bilbo had received as a birthday present some years
before). Frodo and Pippin tried to keep Merry in his chair by offering
to play games and sing songs in the parlour, but after an evening of
immobility, the young Brandybuck wanted to go outside and feel the
sunshine on his face.
They spent the morning in the garden until the Gaffer chased them out,
sending Samwise along with them down to the Pool to catch some fish.
Merry kept one hand on Frodo’s shoulder and with his shillelagh, he
managed limp down the Hill easily.
Merry commented that afternoon on Frodo’s quietness. His cousin had
said very little that day and the evening before, falling often into
staring into the middle distance when he was not addressed directly.
Frodo smiled and ruffled Pip’s hair, causing the young Took to squawk
in protest. "I am just tired," Frodo answered simply. He settled back
against a tree and napped while the others flung their lines into the
Merry watched Frodo until he was sure that his cousin was truly asleep.
Pippin had wandered around the edge of the Pool, watching some ants
trooping toward their anthill. Merry waved Sam to come closer.
"I call this meeting of the Conspirators to order!" Merry whispered
with a grin. "What have you learned since my last visit, Sam?"
Sam ducked his head with a guilty smile. "I wish you wouldn’t call us
that, Merry. I feel bad enough, spying on Mr Frodo and Mr Bilbo." Merry
had insisted that Sam not call him "Mr" or "Master" while they convened
their meetings to discuss what they had learned about Bilbo’s Ring. It
was not very often that the young Bucklander and the gardner’s son were
alone together long enough to talk, but both were still keen to solve
"Not much to tell, I’m afraid. I haven’t had much time to spend
listening to Mr Bilbo lately, with the vegetable garden going in and
all the weeding. I did hear Mr Bilbo say something the other day about
the Sackville-Bagginses. I am not sure if it has ought to do with… the
Ring…" Sam whispered meaningfully, looking around to insure they were
not being overheard. "I heard him call Mr Otho a fat…"
"Heads together and whispering?" Peregrin Took poked his own head
between the two hobbits, having crept up silently behind them. "What is
it you are talking about, cousin and Sam? What about Uncle Bilbo? Do
you mean the magic ring that he used to fight the dragon?"
Merry shushed Pippin and glanced toward Frodo in alarm. His cousin had
not moved; he was breathing softly and had his eyes closed.
Sam was bright red and biting his knuckle. Their secret was discovered!
How ever would he face Mr Frodo now, if word got out that he was… a
spy! He hung his head in shame.
Merry looked close at Pippin, placing a finger on his lips. "Can you keep a secret, Mr Peregrin Took?"
Pippin nodded eagerly, getting into the mystery and intrigue; an
appealing game to the young hobbit. "You have to swear, Pippin! Swear
you won’t tell another living soul what we are about to tell you!"
Merry said sternly.
"I promise! 'Cross my heart and hope to die, if word be said it won’t be I'!" Pippin whispered fiercely.
In spite of Sam’s misgivings, Merry told Pippin the tale about how the
two had formed their ‘conspiracy’ to learn more about the magic ring
that Bilbo had brought back to the Shire, just for their own knowing
and not to be shared about. "You are a good friend to Frodo, and we
know you admire and respect Bilbo, too, Pippin," Merry said after the
story was out. "You can be a member of our conspiracy, but you have to
promise never to let any word slip to anyone! If you do… me and Sam
will never speak to you again!" Merry doubted that threats were
necessary to obtain Peregrin’s loyalty but he really couldn’t think of
any punishment that the bold young Took feared except loss of
Pip’s eyes grew large and filled with tears. "I would never do that, Merry! I swear I won’t tell."
"Won’t tell what?" asked Frodo, yawning. He had roused only that
moment, but his words made all three hobbits jump like they had sat on
a bed of live coals. Merry and Sam glanced at each other in alarm.
"Won’t tell you that you snore like a dragon, Frodo Baggins," said
Pippin swiftly, running to tackle Frodo where he lay. "We caught six
fish! Do you think Uncle Bilbo would like fish for supper?" Merry and
Sam sighed with relief. Peregrin was an excellent choice for a
Frodo laughed and tickled Pippin. "I am sure he is counting on it! I am
glad you all had such luck… I lost the day and did not catch anything
but fourty winks!"
They headed back to the hole, singing in the soft twilight. As they
passed the mill, Frodo paused. The memories and thoughts that had been
drifting back to him were weighing on his heart, and he wanted to
confront them. "Sam, take Merry up the hill, will you? I will follow
along in a moment."
Sam stepped under Merry’s hand, a worried look in his face. "Are you
sure, Frodo?" asked Merry, hopping a little. "We could wait for you…"
the mill loomed dark behind them, and Merry could see the uncertainty
in Frodo’s eyes.
"Yes, I am sure. Take Pippin with you and wait for me in the parlour. I
will be home in time for supper… have you ever known me to be late to a
Merry snorted, "Constantly!" but he obeyed, hobbling uphill in the
gloaming. Pippin walked backward slowly, until Merry called to him to
When they were away, Frodo turned toward the mill. The draft-pony and
cart were there, laden with cut logs from the fallen tree. In a moment
of sheer fancy, Frodo wondered if the branch that had struck him
senseless was among that pile of timber. He could not bring himself to
approach the mill. Fear warred with desire, to know and to speak with
the miller and confront him about what had happened that day on the
road. Frodo’s memory was still incomplete, but he knew that the miller
would have some answers about it.
Before Frodo could force himself to knock on the door, a hand descended
on his shoulder and he was thrown to the ground. He would have
exclaimed but a knee driven into his stomach robbed him of breath.
Ted knelt on his chest and before Frodo could throw him off, he drew
back a knotted fist and punched Frodo in the mouth. Then he stood up
"What you doing creeping around here, Baggins? I would have thought a
clever fellow like you would know that a beating was waiting here for
you and those cousins of yours! I am sick of your high-handed ways and
arrogance! I don’t see anything that makes you better than me. Here is
another reason to stay away," and he aimed a kick at Frodo’s ribs.
Frodo rolled away before the kick could land. He scrambled up and
launched himself at Ted, all the anger and frustration that he had
swallowed coming out of him in a roar. He grabbed Ted and shoved him
against the wall of the mill with a bang. He knotted his fists in Ted’s
tunic and leaned against him so that the other hobbit could not kick
"Listen to me, Ted Sandyman, because I am not going to say this twice,"
Frodo said evenly, spitting blood from his squashed mouth. "You can and
shall do what you will toward me, but you stay away from my cousins. If
I ever hear of you threatening them or harming them in any way, I shall
come back here and finish this beating. Do you understand?" To make his
point clear, Frodo butted Ted in the face with his hard head.
Frodo was astonished by the feeling of rage that was burning inside
him. Years of submission and swallowing insults seemed to catch up with
him. He restrained himself from hitting Ted again but hung on to his
shirt tight, staring into his reddening eyes.
Ted was taken aback by the fierceness of Frodo’s attack. He had not had
anyone fight back against him with such force and determination. For
the first time, the bully tasted the fear he had caused for so many. He
tried to wriggle away from Frodo. Frodo lifted him from his feet and
pinned him against the mill wall.
Dangling from Frodo’s hands, Ted heard movement in the mill behind and
he called out in a loud voice, "Ow! Ouch! Dad! Dad, come quick!" and
had the satisfaction of watching Frodo blanche and step back. His face
had gone white in complete terror as the door of the mill was flung
open and a figure appeared, silhouetted by the fiery furnace behind.
Frodo’s anger fled with the appearance of Ted’s father. Though he was
of no less height than the older hobbit (thanks to the draught of the
woodsprites) and of only a little less weight, the memory of what the
miller had done to Frodo towered in his mind. He loosed Ted and stepped
back and stumbled, falling and raising an arm to deflect the blow he
expected from those feared, callused fists.
Sandyman did not strike Frodo. He grabbed his son by the arm and
propelled him toward the mill. "Get inside, boy. I’ll deal with you
later." He walked up to Frodo and offered him his hand.
Stunned by this unexpected gesture, Frodo took his hand cautiously and allowed the miller to pull him to his feet.
The miller helped Frodo up and offered him a handkerchief for his
bleeding lip, saying gently, "Don’t be afraid of me, lad. I promise I
won’t hurt you again."
Frodo was still flushed from the fight with Ted and he didn’t feel the
pain of his split lip or any of his bruises. He was confused by his own
fear and returning memories. Vividly he recalled the scene on the Woody
End road, each detail now clear in his mind; the falling tree and him
pushing the miller aside; the blow on his head and the miller’s words
that he should have died with his parents or never been born. Like a
canker those words had eaten into his heart, leaving an ache that Frodo
had no words to describe.
"Why?" Frodo spoke the word softly, then repeated it with more heat.
"Why? Why did you say that to me? What did I ever do to earn such
treatment from you?"
Sandyman bowed his head. Softly he answered, "If’n I could un-do what I
have done, I would." The miller raised his eyes and looked at Frodo. "
I’m sorry, son."
Ted was standing near, having disobeyed his father’s order to go into the mill. "What do you mean, dad? What did you do?"
The miller looked at the ground and said in an even firm tone, "Go on
into the mill, Ted. This is no business o’ yours." When Ted did not
move immediately, Sandyman turned on him and snarled, "Get inside now!
Go on, boy!"
Ted flinched at the strength of his father’s reprimand. Turning slowly,
he looked at Frodo with a stare of pure hatred before going inside the
building and slamming the door.
The miller faced Frodo again. His eyes were full of tears; a startling
sight to the young hobbit. Sandyman spoke in a shadow of a voice, so
soft that Frodo could barely hear him though he stood only a short span
away. "I’d go back and change things, if’n I could. What I did… it were
wrong, and since that day I’ve cursed m’self for being a coward and a
blackheart. I really were glad to see you all right, that day you
crossed the bridge with that wizard. I ne’er expected to see you
again…" The miller cleared his throat, sighing as he confessed, "I‘d
been listening to talk that I should’na paid heed to. I’ll not heed it
again. I swear, I’ll not raise a hand to hurt you, Frodo Baggins. I’m
Frodo felt his fury turn to ashes as he watched the miller weep in
front him. "And Bilbo?" Frodo was surprised to hear his own voice so
steady and calm-sounding, "And my cousins?"
"I’ll ne’er do ought to hurt any of them. I swear it!" Sandyman met
Frodo’s eyes, and Frodo knew that the miller spoke the truth.
Frodo relaxed his shoulders and raised his head. Taking a deep breath,
he said softly, "I accept your apology, Mr Sandyman, and your promises.
Let there be no more fear and anger between you and I." Frodo turned
and proceeded up the Hill, feeling taller and colder than ever he had
in all his life.
He also felt Ted’s eyes burning on his back, all the way home, until
the round green door closed behind him, shutting out the night.
Otho was drinking at his table at the Grain and Sack Inn, trying to
read some papers he had brought with him. He was too distracted to read
them, however. He was wondering why Sandyman was late, and why he had
sent no answer to his message.
He heard the front door open, but the landlord sounded no alarm.
Instead of the miller, Otho was surprised to see his son Lotho walk in
with a shifty-eyed lad dressed in scruffy clothes.
Otho did not like the look of this ratty hobbit-child standing next to
his son. He had a blackened eye, and was heavy-set and stronglooking.
He seemed a little familiar. Otho ignored the lad. To Lotho he said "Do
you have a message from Sandyman for me, boy?" asked Otho brusquely.
"No, father, I have something better than that for you. My friend Ted
here has some interesting things to tell." Lotho gestured to the hobbit
Otho reluctantly condescended to speak to him. "Aren’t you the miller’s son? Where is he?"
Ted answered the question with a scowl. "He’s not here, Mr Otho sir,
and not likely to be coming. I don’t think he even read that letter you
Otho was appalled. "He didn’t read it? Why not?" Lotho was smiling
slightly and that made Otho wonder what was going on. He jabbed a
finger at a seat, "Sit down, boy… Ted, isn’t it?"
"Yessir. I saw the letter when it arrived. I gave it to him when he got
home after trying to uproot the Thain’s sickly tree. He just tossed it
in the furnace without opening it." Ted picked up Otho’s mug and poured
some ale into it, drinking it down. He wiped his mouth and looked
meaningfully at the older hobbit. "But I know what the letter said. I
broke the seal before he got home. Mr Sackville-Baggins, my dad has no
desire anymore to do business with you regarding the Bagginses of Bag
End… but I do! Just tell me what you want."
Otho looked at his son, and a smile spread across his face. This might
be even better that what he had planned. He fished in his pocket and
handed Ted a coin. "Very good, young Mr Sandyman. I’ll be in touch."