21. What Happened That Evening
More than once, Merry Gamgee had to call his name to gain his attention, and the son of the Thain would smile politely before once again becoming absorbed in his plate.
'Must be his favourite dish,' Pippin-lad murmured to his brother.
'Doesn't want to miss a bite,' Merry Gamgee murmured in return. Goldi shot both her brothers a pained look and then turned to the chancellor with a determined smile.
'Uncle Ferdi, the necklace isn't really magic, now, is it?' she said.
'Well now, that depends,' he said.
'Depends on what?' she asked.
'On who wears it,' Ferdi said. 'When that rooster wore it, I'm told it shone with astonishing fire; however, when my wife puts it on, it pales by comparison.'
'It only goes to show I'm prettier than a chicken,' Pimpernel smiled, and the children shouted with laughter.
'Though you'd hardly know it, I am that hen-pecked, you know,' Ferdi said with a martyred expression, and his wife jabbed him, hard, with her elbow.
'Ow!' he complained. 'Go and peck on someone who can defend himself.'
'You poor dear,' Pimpernel said. 'I'd forgotten how helpless you are.' She covered his hand with her own. 'How many ruffians was it, now, that you slew after you were blinded?'
'Four, I think,' Pippin said from further down the table.
'No, 'twas five,' Ferdi returned with dignity. 'But I had the advantage. They thought I was helpless, as well.'
'Hurrah for Ferdi,' Frodo shouted, raising his glass. He'd heard the Thain tell his father how Ferdi had discerned the truth. If not for Ferdibrand, he'd be under the Ban this very moment. The rest took up the call, and a toast was drunk by all in the great room. The chancellor inclined his head gravely.
'I see you are finally discovering my true worth, Pip,' he said to the Thain. 'I should take this auspicious moment to request an increase in my salary.'
Pippin laughed in answer, and Ferdi pressed, 'Was that an "aye"?'
'Nay!' the Thain called over the laughter. 'But you have my undying gratitude, Ferdi!'
'Undying gratitude won't buy me any ponies,' Ferdi said in return.
Pimpernel interceded. 'Here, my love,' she said, refilling his glass. 'Tookland's finest, from the Thain's private stock.'
'All right, then,' Ferdi said, lifting the glass to his lips for an appreciative sip. 'I suppose, as long as the Thain's undying gratitude means glassfuls of his private stock, I shall seek to be contented.'
That evening, Samwise and Pippin sat in the Thain's study, sipping some of the finest ale in Tookland, after the feast was over.
'How can I ever thank you?' Sam said.
'What, for putting your son under the Ban? No thanks are due me for that,' Pippin answered.
'That is not what I meant,' Sam said stubbornly. 'You saved Frodo, you know. He'd have lived under the Ban for the entire year, like as not, but folk would still have branded him a thief after it was all through. He'd never have anyone's trust again, and Rus Burrows would have made sure no wedding took place in the Spring.'
'When you put it that way...' Pippin mused.
'I feel I owe you... something,' Samwise persisted. He saw the Thain's face brighten, and asked, 'What?'
'There is something I would like,' Pippin admitted.
'Name it,' Samwise said recklessly. 'It's yours.'
'Your daughter,' Pippin said.
Sam's mouth fell open, and remained so for a good while before he had the presence of mind to shut it again. 'My...' he said.
Pippin nodded, grinning. 'That's right,' he said encouragingly. 'I want your daughter.' He put up a hand. 'Not for me, mind, but for my son.'
'You want Goldi?' Sam said slowly, understanding dawning.
'I want them to have a chance,' Pippin said. 'O perhaps it is not meant to be, perhaps they are not meant to be, but how will we ever know if we snuff their flame before it's even alight?'
'But what about the Tooks?' Sam said.
Pippin shook his head. 'They'll talk about Farry no matter what,' he said. 'And you know that Goldi's already being gossiped about in Bywater and Hobbiton. Hobbits talk, it's a great sport of ours. Let us give them something to talk about, then!'
Sam looked unconvinced, but Pippin pressed on.
'You should have seen the folk around here after word got out that I'd pronounced Frodo under the Ban,' he said. 'I thought for sure they'd throw me out, or call the healers to declare me prematurely senile or somewhat. Your family is very well thought of around here, Sam, and this... incident with Frodo has opened my eyes to it.'
He took a long pull from his glass and went on. 'Surely, there will be some mothers disappointed that their daughters couldn't catch Faramir, but they'd be disappointed anyhow, for the lad can only marry one lass, now, can't he?' He shot Samwise a searching look. 'Can we not give them a chance, Samwise?'
'I do not know,' Sam said slowly.
'Think on it,' Pippin continued. 'He's in line to be Thain after me, so the lad has good prospects for the future, I'd say. And he'll have to live here to do that, so he and his family'll never go too far from Hobbiton, that'll be a factor in his favour as far as your Rosie is concerned.'
'Unless they happen to travel to Gondor to visit the King,' Sam said. 'That's all too likely, from the stories he told Goldi after his return. They were already planning...'
'Were they, now?' Pippin said softly. 'I find that quite interesting.'
'I...' Sam said, then stopped to take a long pull from his own glass. 'All right,' he said finally. 'We will give them a chance.' He looked up, to meet the Thain's keen eye. 'But I still owe you much...'
'You do not owe me a thing,' Pippin said stoutly. 'I would say things are now even between us.'
That evening, Ferdibrand sat back with a sigh of satisfaction after recounting the events of the day to his spellbound family.
'I am so glad my brother is so devious,' Pimpernel murmured. She gazed sharply at the children. 'Don't you go taking after him...'
Laughing, they all promised. 'Now,' Pimpernel said, 'you've had your story... off to bed with the lot of you!'
With a chorus of "Good nights" and a shower of kisses, they were on their way, the tweens herding the younger ones before them as Pimpernel rose to turn down all the lamps, leaving only a single candle burning on the table by the sofa. 'There,' she said, 'nice and cosy,' and she resumed her seat beside him, and renewed her grip upon her husband's hand.
'Ah, that reminds me,' Ferdi said, digging in a pocket with his free hand. 'Here you are, my love, safe and sound.' He kissed Pimpernel, then pulled his hand from hers, needing both hands to undo the clasp and slip the elven necklace around her neck.
'There, 'tis once again where it belongs, gracing the loveliest throat in the Shire,' he murmured, his fingers fastening the clasp, then moving to her face. She closed her eyes against the butterfly touch as he gently traced her features.
'I'd always heard Estella Brandybuck was the loveliest in the Shire,' she whispered, an old, familiar joke of theirs.
'She doesn't hold a candle to you...' he said softly, pulling her hair free of its constraining net to allow it to cascade over her shoulders, twining his fingers in the curls. 'There, now,' he added, in a satisfied tone. 'I imagine you look much the same as the wild lass with the flying hair I chased through the farmyard with the handful of mud...'
'Which you proceeded to stuff down the back of my bodice, as I recall,' she chuckled.
'Ah, 'twas the best use of mud that this lad ever thought of,' he said, his fingers returning to her face. Something in his voice caused her to open her eyes, and to her astonishment she saw tears upon his cheeks, belying his light tone.
'Ferdi, my love, what is it?' she whispered.
'Ah, lass,' he said, 'my Nell, my own...' He turned his face away, as if to hide his grief. 'What I would give just to see your face again...'
'O my love,' she whispered, pulling him close, kissing the tears from his face, until he turned to her once more. She blew out the single candle, and their arms went around each other; so they sat a long while in the darkness, together.
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.