3. Dropped Stitch
A touch on his shoulder awakened him, and he looked up to see the farmer's smile. 'Sun's up out of her bed, lad,' he said good naturedly, 'your pony's had his breakfast already, and ours is waiting.'
'Thank you,' Pippin said, rising to brush some stray hay from his clothes. He felt in his pocket, relieved that he hadn't lost any of the coins his father had given him, for he would have to account for each one, and held out two silver pennies. 'For your trouble,' he said.
The farmer waved them away. 'Nay, lad, no need. What's a bit of food and a blanket?' He smiled and turned away, leaving Pippin still standing stupidly with his hand out. 'Use your coins to buy a bridle,' he called over his shoulder. 'Don't let breakfast go cold, now.'
'Right!' Pippin shoved the coins back into his pocket, jogged to catch up with the farmer, took his turn to splash head and hands quickly with the cold water from the bucket by the door, and joined the family for a hearty breakfast.
The banter between the farmer and his sons reminded Pippin of Brandy Hall, and he smiled and soon had his own jokes to add to the conversation. He'd give all of Tookland and the promise of being Thain someday to trade lots with one of these farm lads. But then, he wouldn't wish his father on anyone.
After breakfast, he groomed the grey pony and saddled him. As he was easing the loop of Sam's rope over the pony's head, to lead him out of the yard, the farmer stopped him.
'How far are you going?'
'Only to Hobbiton. An easy day's journey,' he replied.
'A good thirty miles,' the farmer replied. 'Wouldn't it be easier to ride than walk?'
'Even if I had a bridle, I wouldn't use it. This poor lad's mouth needs time to heal yet.'
The farmer nodded, 'Aye, I saw that. Seems you bought him out of a bad situation.' He raised his voice and rubbed the pony's chin, addressing his next words to the beast. 'Ah, lad, but I'd say things are looking up! You take good care of this two-footed lad, he'll take good care of you.'
The pony nodded, and Pippin laughed. 'Looks like he'd like an apple.'
'Nay, he's a bright lad,' the farmer maintained. 'Understands every word we say.' He held out his hand for the rope. 'Here, let me show you a trick I learned when I was your age.'
He moved the loop around the pony's neck up until it rested just behind ears and lower jaw, then brought the loose end of the rope forward, looping it again, gently, around the nose, tying a knot at the bottom, bringing the free end around and tying it again to make a rough bridle with reins but no bit.
'There, you can rest his mouth but still ride him,' the farmer said. 'Let's give it a try.'
Pippin spoke softly to the pony, eased himself into the saddle. The ears went back and the eyes rolled white. The farmer kept hold of the rope reins near the pony's chin, stroking and soothing until the ears came up again. He looked up at Pippin. 'Talk to him, lad, let him know it's you on his back.'
Pippin spoke, and the pony looked around, gentle astonishment in its soft eyes. O it's you! the pony seemed to say.
The farmer's wife came out with a bag in hand. 'Here,' she said, handing it up to Pippin, 'a bit of dinner for the journey.' He thanked her, and she said with a twinkle in her eye, 'You're welcome any time, lad.'
The family waved as he rode the grey pony out of the yard. The pony responded well to leg and rein. Perhaps he wasn't so ill trained after all.
Pippin had a cold supper laid out by the time he heard the wagon roll up. He heard Sam calling good night, and his cousins' voices answering, then Merry said he'd see Frodo inside after he put his pony away.
Frodo stopped in surprise to see Pippin. 'Hello, cousin!' he said. 'I didn't expect to see you here, yet. We looked for you along the road, Sam said you were walking home.'
'Why walk when you can ride?' Pippin said gaily.
'How is the new pony working out?' Frodo asked.
'We're great friends,' Pippin said, 'Practically on a first name basis already.'
'What's his name?'
'I haven't thought of one yet, that's why I said "practically",' Pippin said reasonably.
They chatted a bit about the Fair until Merry came in. 'Nice pony you've got there,' he said to Pippin. 'I think you got a bargain after all.'
'Thanks,' Pippin said. They sat down to eat. Pippin had determined to tease Merry by not asking who had won the pony race.
They talked and laughed through the meal, and then Frodo turned to Pippin. 'Would your father let you stay through the end of the month?' he asked.
'He won't care, as long as you ask him properly,' Pippin said off-handedly.
Frodo smiled. 'Then I shall send an invitation off in the morning,' he said. Sobering, he added, 'This might be one of your last visits to Bag End, after all.'
Pippin stared. 'Why, what have I done now?' he asked.
Frodo laughed and reached out to tousle his hair as if he were much younger. 'Nothing, cousin.' He sat back, gazing from Pippin to Merry. 'I've just decided to sell Bag End, is all,' he said, trying for a casual tone. 'Merry's going to help me find a house in Buckland, a small one that's within my means.'
'Within your means?' Pippin asked, astonished.
'Yes, Pippin. I'm afraid I've come to the end of Bilbo's money,' Frodo answered.
'When?' Pippin asked.
'O, the Sackville-Bagginses have indicated they would be happy to take Bag End off my hands anytime,' Frodo said easily. 'All I need to do is find a house to move into...' Pippin realized his mouth was hanging open and he managed to close it. 'I'll probably move in the autumn. Pippin, are you all right?' he asked kindly.
'Fine, fine,' Pippin mumbled, seeking Merry's eye. Merry shook his head ever so slightly, and Pippin subsided, holding in all the many questions he was aching to ask.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.