Pippin was casting me a half-frightened, half-amused look. Old Goodbody was a far cry from cheery, practical Hortensia, the chief healer at the Smials, and Pippin did not know what to make of the old hobbit with the bushy eyebrows that periodically brushed his patient's skin when the healer stooped close to peer at him.
"Yes, yes," Ponto said, sucking his teeth as he looked at the skin on Pippin's arm. "Well, that's it, then."
I sincerely hoped that Ponto was not referring to Pippin in general by the comment. I could have sent for another healer, as Ponto really doesn't practice anymore, but he and Bilbo had been dear friends. ("One of the few folk about who can tell you anything about what lies beyond the Shire," he'd often say. I often suspected Bilbo's friendship with Ponto had more to do with a certain liquid concoction of peaches and grain that Ponto produced each year than with the old healer's knowledge of foreign lands.) At any rate, he had cared for me during every illness I had had since coming to Hobbiton, and I had always fared well in his hands.
"Well," I asked him now, "is he all right?"
"Of course, he's not all right, Frodo, you ninnyhammer," Ponto said, using both hands to raise himself from the bedside chair on stiff knees. He shuffled over to his bag on top of the chest of drawers, stooped at the permanent angle old age had bequeathed him. "He's sick."
I heard some type of noise from the hallway that let me know Sam was listening from some hidden post, but I could not discern if he was brimming with indignation over his master being addressed so, or if he was laughing.
"Yes, I managed to deduce that myself during the night, Ponto," I said. "But what is it? Is it serious?"
Ponto was mumbling to himself and pulling jars, vials and pouches out of his bag. He paused, fingering a tiny jar and holding it up for scrutiny in a manner that most certainly meant he was not sure what it contained. "Heh?" he said. "What is it? Cough, mostly. Here, where are you?" He looked up from the jar and squinted about the room until he identified me. "Come over here and pay attention."
I obediently moved across the room. Ponto began pointing at things and firing off instructions. "This" -- he pointed to a small pouch of pleasant-smelling herbs -- "you put with hot water in a small basin and have him breathe in the steam. You should remember doing that a few times yourself." I nodded, though Ponto was not looking directly at me, and I therefore felt certain he could not see me. "This" -- a vial of pale oil -- "is lavender for his bath at night. Help him sleep. And add a little cinnamon oil if you have it, for the congestion. Lots of drinks -- juice, tea and the like. Put some lemon in it. Honey if he wants. Light broths or soup -- chicken or mushroom. And this" -- a jar of mixed, dried substances -- "brew as tea before bed. Knock him right out so he can sleep through the night. Keep him warm and dry, but he can get up and lie on the sofa for a bit if he prefers. No excitement, though. Give him a cool bath if the fever goes back up. Send for me if it keeps going up. Got all that?" Ponto peered so closely at my face his eyebrows nearly touched my forehead, and I wondered how mirthful Pippin had been able to contain his giggles during the examination.
"Yes, thank you, Ponto. I truly appreciate it," I said, using an arm to begin steering him out of the room.
"Yes, yes," he muttered, scooping up some stray items and dumping them back in his bag before shuffling toward the door. "See that Frodo follows all those instructions, now, Master Took," he said to Pippin, patting his foot under the covers as he left the room.
"Thank you, Mr. Goodbody," Pippin said from the bed, where he was half-hidden by blankets.
"Hmph," Ponto said, meandering into the hall. "Samwise!" he roared with surprising vigor for such an old hobbit and he headed (unfortunately) not for the door but for the kitchen. I put out of my mind what he and Sam might be doing in there (as I was certain it had something to do with that brew Bilbo had been so fond of), and turned back to my patient.
Dawn had been much brighter than the night, despite the continued bad weather. Pippin had slept without more disturbances after the second coughing fit, and his fever did not rise again. His sleep had been uneasy, though, and he was clearly in discomfort. He woke as soon as Sam came tramping in the back, while a healthy Pippin could sleep through an entire troupe of dwarves passing directly outside his door.
I was feeling much better about the whole situation, between Ponto's lack of great concern and Pippin's early morning demand for breakfast. He had eaten only a portion of what he usually could put away, but Bilbo always took hunger as a sign of health in a hobbit, and I have taken my cue from him.
"Well," I said, pleased to have tasks at hand to attend to, "shall I bring you some tea? You can drink it while I write to your parents and then we can take care of that herbal steam."
Pippin nodded, wiping his nose with a nearby handkerchief. (Sam had brought in an immense stack that he had uncovered from some room I probably hadn't been in for years.) "Be careful what you write, Frodo, because you will have half of the family up here if you frighten them, and then you may as well write off the rainy season, for you know they won't leave for weeks."
I vowed to carefully word the letter, for my sake as much as Pippin's, and headed to the kitchen to get his tea. Ponto and Sam were conspicuously absent, but the door to the cellar was ajar. Ponto speaks rather loudly (but as he always had done so I didn't think it was related to old age) and his voice was drifting up to me.
"Now, the important thing is to use just the right amount of sugar, Master Samwise," I heard him say, but then I stoked up the fire and the crackle of the wood, the clatter of the tea pot, and clinking of the tray and dishes drowned out the rest of the lesson.
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.