He had cried quite a bit the last few days too. It pained him so much to even think of Pippin, and what he had done to his poor little cousin, and that he would never again see little Pip. It was his fault, certainly. His father was right, he was nearly grown now and should have the sense not to have allowed Pippin to climb the tree, let alone encourage him to do so. And he should be grateful that Pippin had only broken his arm, and was not permanently damaged. But he already missed Pippin terribly, and he wished he could tell Pippin so, and that he was sorry he had allowed the whole thing to happen.
But his Aunt Eglantine had made her position perfectly clear, as Merry would not soon forget. Surely his parents had cause to swat his bottom from time to time, but they had never done worse, and no other grownup had ever touched him, much less struck him, and the shame burned him as much as the welt on his face. Perhaps they were right, and he was an awful hobbit. Oh, but he missed Pippin.
It was not long past dinnertime when Merry heard the commotion at the door. Much as he wanted to listen, he had jeopardized himself enough for one day, and he opted to remain where he was, which may or may not have proved a good decision when the door was flung open and his Aunt Eglantine marched in. She stormed towards Merry, causing him to retreat up against the far wall, while his parents frantically pulled on her dress in an attempt to slow her progress.
"Meriadoc Brandybuck, what have you done with my child!" his Aunt screamed, and raised her hand to strike him but his uncle, clearly calmer, pulled her back.
"Meriadoc has not left this room or this house since your last visit!" his father thundered. "Whatever has become of Peregrin, my son had nothing to do with it!"
"Pippin? What has happened to Pippin?" Merry cried. He had already done far too much to the tiny hobbit, if something else had happened, well, he simply would not be able to bear it.
"Peregrin has disappeared," his uncle Paladin responded, still clutching tightly to his wife. "He did not come down for his dinner, and he is gone from the house."
"What did you do to him?" his aunt screamed again, and lunged for Merry. He flattened himself against the wall and squealed, thinking he would be struck again.
This time it was his father who pulled her back. "If you ever lay a hand on my son again, it is you who shall be banned from my home!" he roared.
"Meriadoc, please, if anyone would know where Pippin might have gone, surely you would?" his mother asked.
Merry dearly wished he could have given an answer, but in the whirling confusion of his mind he could not think of anywhere Pippin might have gone where he would not already have been found, and all he could do was shake his head.
"We'll have to start searching," Paladin said urgently, "Peregrin is far too small to be out alone, and the night is getting colder."
"Please," Merry whispered, "let me help."
"I think you should stay here," his father told him, not unkindly.
"No, I must look for him!" Merry cried.
His aunt appeared as though she would say something very unkind, but her husband glared at her and she said nothing. "Meriadoc may be of help, please bring him," his uncle said, and half-dragged his wife outside.
Pippin still was not found by the time they returned to the Took home, and while many of the neighbors had agreed to assist in the search, no one was particularly hopeful that the tiny hobbit would be found before morning. Provinca, in particular, was heartbroken for her little brother, and Merry went to speak with her, knowing that if Pippin would have spoken to anyone else, it would have been her.
Merry did not even get a chance to ask her. "I should have brought him to dinner with me!" she wailed. "But I left him and he's gone, I lost my little brother!"
"Provinca!" Merry tried to sound stern and failed miserably. "What did Pippin say to you? Do you remember anything?"
Provinca stopped wailing long enough to think. "I told him grownup hobbits say they're sorry," she answered.
Merry frowned. "That's no help at all. Didn't he say anything?"
"Well, yes, he asked if he told you he was sorry, would everything be all right again…he must have gone looking for you!" Provinca realized it at the same moment as Merry.
"But he wouldn't go to my house by the road, so…" Merry raced back to the sitting room. "I think Pippin went into the woods!" he shouted, and darted out the door and ran towards the trees as fast as he could. But his home wasn't that far from the Took's, and he was home in only a few minutes, and there was no sign of Pippin.
'He must have gotten lost,' Merry thought, 'in the dark, surely he would have.' So he went back and began to look for any sign that a small hobbit might have been by. After a time he found something; one of Pippin's buttons, caught in a bush. Perhaps Pippin lost the trail here. Merry left the path and found himself walking towards the Brandywine River, the sound of the water growing louder and louder. He could hear the water splashing, then Merry thought he heard an unusually loud splash. He knew Pippin couldn't swim. But he could find trouble.
"Pippin!" he shouted, running towards the river. Sure enough, he could hear the sound of something much larger than a fish struggling in the river, and with nothing better to go on than the sound, Merry dove into the river.
Most hobbits cannot swim, but many Buckland hobbits can. Merry was a Bucklander; he loved swimming in the river, and was quite good at it. But he could not find things in the river in the dark, and after diving under several times he still had not found anything but rocks, nor could he hear any more splashing. Despairing, he dove one more time, and grasped about the river bottom for anything which did not belong there. This time, his hand found a piece of cloth within it, and he closed his hand upon it and pulled it up to the surface.
The cloth was Pippin's coat, and Pippin was still inside it, but still and lifeless. Merry swam back to the bank as fast as he could and pulled Pippin out of the water, but the tiny hobbit did not breathe. "Pippin! Pippin, please breathe!" Merry cried, shaking Pippin with great force in his panic, much harder than he ever would have shaken Pippin normally. But his shaking must have had some effect, for suddenly Pippin spewed a great amount of water and muck upon Merry, and commenced choking and gagging.
"Oh, Peregrin Took, you have frightened me far too much," Merry sighed in relief, hugging his little cousin tightly even as Pippin gasped for breath. "And your family as well. I should think you should be the one kept to your room, so we shall not have to worry about you further."
"But I can get out of my room, Merry - you showed me how, and I did!" Pippin coughed proudly. "I wanted to tell you how sorry I am that everyone's cross with you because I fell out of the tree so I tried to go to your house." Pippin stopped to spew out more of the river's bottom. "Then I was lost. Lost is bad, isn't it Merry? I don't think I want to be lost again."
"No, Pippin, please do not be lost again. I doubt I could survive it," Merry told him. "And I will take pains to make sure you are not lost again, or injured, or any other terrible thing. I'm sorry about the tree, too. It is time I was a responsible hobbit, and made sure this sort of thing does not happen again."
Pippin was silent for a bit, except for coughing up still more water. Then he looked up at Merry, his eyes filled with worry. "No more climbing trees?"
"Oh." Pippin paused. "Does this mean you won't teach me to swim?"
"The contrary, my dear cousin, I'm going to teach you to swim starting tomorrow. I wouldn't want this to happen again."
"I don't want this to happen again either. But I like climbing trees," Pippin coughed yet again, and shivered badly in the cold air. Merry was completely soaked himself, but all the same he took off his scarf, a gray one with purple and yellow spots that he was quite proud of, and wrapped it about Pippin as best he could considering it was far too large for a such a tiny hobbit. Pippin smiled at Merry gratefully, then shivered again.
"Come on now Pip, I'm taking you home before you're entirely chilled," Merry picked up Pippin and started back towards the Took home. Even as he did so, he could hear the other hobbits coming, and found himself worrying. Pippin must have been worrying, too.
"Merry, I don't want to go home. Not if they won't let me see you any more."
Merry was quite taken aback by Pippin's statement, but he knew there was nothing to be done. Whatever the consequences, Pippin needed to be warm and dry, and the rest would have to wait, though Merry dreaded whatever decision their parents might make. "I suppose they might not, Pippin, we'll see, but let's not worry about that now," he tried to reassure Pippin. But nothing could have prepared him for Pippin's next question.
"Merry? Could I have another frog?"
As it turned out, Merry hadn't needed to worry about Pippin's mother. When they returned, Eglantine Took took one look at her only son, soaked to the bone and shivering, and fainted dead away. With the excitement caused by her fainting and Pippin's safe if soggy return, Merry went unnoticed by all, and he wound up sitting in a corner, shivering in his own wet clothes before his mother finally discovered him. Within moments he was wrapped up in a blanket, sitting next to the fire and dreading what would come next, for his mother had already told him his father wished to speak with him.
He did not have long to wait, for by that time Pippin had been dried, warmed and put to bed. Both Merry's father and Pippin's father asked Merry to give a full account of the evening, which Merry did in what was for him an unusually straightforward and truthful if unenthusiastic manner. Merry had already concluded that Pippin's parents would not change their minds. He was further convinced of this when Saradoc Brandybuck and Paladin Took left to discuss the situation amongst themselves.
Merry's father returned sooner than Merry had expected. "Meriadoc, are you warm yet?" he asked.
"I'm not sure that I ever will really be warm again," Merry replied, "but I am somewhat."
His father nodded. "I spoke with Paladin, at length, regarding the circumstances, and I can say without hesitation that I am quite glad I am not married to his wife."
Merry did not know quite how to respond to this, so he did not.
"You know that your mother and I determined that you should stay in your room for half a fortnight with regard to the tree-climbing incident," his father continued. "You have three days remaining of this punishment, and you will spend them in your room."
"Yes, sir," Merry whispered. He did not think this was good.
"After the three days are gone, your punishment will be over. I believe, and Paladin agrees, that you now understand why encouraging Pippin to climb a tree was not appropriate."
"Yes, sir!" Merry answered, a little more loudly. He hadn't expected to be let off with his original punishment, he had thought he would be receiving more.
"Paladin is going to have to convince his wife, and I envy him not the least, however, we have agreed that afterwards, you may continue to visit with Pippin."
Merry's eyes widened considerably. "I - I may? Are you - I may?"
"Yes, Meriadoc, you may," his father seemed somewhat amused. "I would suggest that you give his mother a rather wide berth. She does not care for you."
"No, sir, that she doesn't. And I promise I'll take perfectly good care of Pippin! Like he was my brother!" Merry had never felt quite so relieved in his life.
"I'm not so sure that he isn't," his father answered. "For now, it's time you went home. And straight back to your room."
Surprisingly, this was fine with Merry. "And I'll go gladly!"
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.