20. Chapter 19 - September 1421
Her mother shook her head. “Too many for me,” she chuckled. She winked up at her daughter. “And I don’t think you’ll have anything to worry about with a Brandybuck, our Merry being an only child.”
Estella blushed. “Mother!” she huffed. “I’m going to get the cakes.” She turned and went back into the kitchen. She didn’t want her mother to see her frown. Her mum might have her already married and ‘Mrs. Brandybuck’, but Estella sometimes wondered if Merry wasn’t so keen on the idea. He never seemed to want to bring it up and--
A pounding on the front door interrupted her thoughts. It couldn’t be for Mrs. Bracegirdle already? She’d only just seen her that morning and she wasn’t showing any signs of being that close to delivery.
She hurried out to the front room, just as her mother opened the door.
“Peregrin!” Mrs. Bolger exclaimed, “Whatever is the matter?” Pippin was on the doorstep, tears on his face.
Fear gripped Estella. If Pippin was here, it could only be Merry or Ivy...
“Estella!” he said, ignoring Estella’s mother.
“Is something wrong with Ivy?” Estella asked, her voice shaking. “Merry?”
“No! No.” Pippin came in and took her hands. “We need you to come stay with Ivy for a while. Merry’s parents are away visiting friends in the South Farthing, and Merry and I have to go now.” He choked back a sob. “Frodo’s leaving.”
“He’s going West, Estella. Over the sea. With the Elves. We’re never going to see him again.” Tears were running down Pippin’s cheeks. “And we have to go now, to say good-bye, and Ivy knows you and there’s not many that Merry would trust Ivy to, and...”
Estella hugged him tight, cutting off his grief-filled rambling and letting him sob on her shoulder. “Let me get some things and we’ll go,” she said softly.
“Good night, Ivy,” Estella said. She kissed the little girl’s brow and lay her down in her crib.
“Night,” Ivy sighed, curling up around the rag doll that had been a gift from her grandmother.
Estella smoothed Ivy’s curls, then turned to blow out the candle. The first few days of her stay at Crickhollow had been hard. Ivy had wept for her father and Pippin nearly non-stop that first night and day. Estella had tried to explain that they’d gone to visit Uncle Sam and Aunt Rosie, thinking Ivy could understand that. She finally did, but only after a very rough few days.
She changed into her nightdress and picked up her robe from the bed in Ivy’s room that she had been using. She wasn’t sure how long it took to travel to the Grey Havens, but she hoped they would be home soon. It had been two weeks, now, since they had left to say their good-byes to Frodo. Ivy missed her father. Estella missed him, too.
She made herself another cup of tea and went to sit in the parlor to relax a little before bed. She didn’t have any patients to worry about at the moment at least. Mrs. Bracegirdle had delivered a few days after Merry and Pippin had left. The Brandybucks had returned to Brandy Hall by then, and Estella had been able to take Ivy to them, but then they had insisted that Estella take Ivy back to Crickhollow.
“She’ll be happier at home, with her missing Merry,” Esmeralda had said. “If you don’t mind, Estella-dear?”
Estella suspected Esmeralda had ulterior motives in having her spend time alone with Ivy. She wondered if Merry’s mum was conspiring with her own mum to get them married. She sighed. She had to admit that she hoped it worked.
She heard quiet voices outside, then the door opened. Merry and Pippin came in, looking exhausted.
“Merry!” she said and rushed over to him. He stepped into the parlor and swept her into a tight embrace.
“How are you?” she whispered. He just shook his head, keeping his face buried in her neck. She glanced over at the doorway. Pippin still stood there, watching them, looking a little lost. She opened her other arm to him. He smiled weakly and came to her, and she held them both for a moment.
Then Pippin kissed her cheek and stepped back. “I’ll let you two talk,” he said.
“That’s all right, Pip,” Merry said, pulling away from Estella. “I want to go see Ivy.” He gave Estella a light kiss. “Thanks for watching her,” he said. “We stopped at the Hall and Mum said she was a terror for you at first.”
“She missed you,” Estella said. Merry smiled and hurried down the hallway to his daughter’s room.
Estella took Pippin’s hand and led him into the parlor. “You just sit there and I’ll get you some tea. Or would you like something to eat?”
Pippin just shrugged.
“It’s going to be hard for him,” said Pippin. He slouched on the couch, looking miserable. “I mean, I’m going to miss Frodo, too. But they were raised like brothers until Bilbo adopted Frodo. Merry followed Frodo around like I followed Merry around. And I know what I’d feel like if I lost Merry.”
Pippin choked a sob at those last words and Estella sat next to him and pulled him into her arms again. “Oh, poor Pip,” she said softly.
“Are you trying to steal my girl?” Merry said. Estella could tell he was forcing himself to make his voice cheerful. The grief in his eyes gave that away.
Pippin pulled away, a laugh breaking through the tears. “Well, you know the Peregrin Took charm. How could she resist me?”
“You stopped me just in time, Merry,” Estella said, getting in on their joke. “I don’t know how much longer I could resist.” She stood up and went to Merry. “You didn’t answer me before. How are you?”
Pippin coughed. “Now it’s my turn to peek in on our Ivy-lass,” he said, and rushed from the parlor.
Estella pulled Merry over to the couch and made him sit. He stared at his feet for a moment before speaking. “It was hard Estella, so hard to let him go. But...” He wiped at the tears in his eyes. “But I know it had to be done. He was so sick and the elves will help him.”
She sat next to him and put her arm around him, resting her cheek on his shoulder. They’d explained this land across the sea to her, a land that only elves and the gods could reside in. And two adventurous, brave hobbits.
“All the way back home, I kept thinking that now I know a little of what Éowyn felt like, when I took Ivy from her.”
“Merry,” she said. She touched his cheek and guided him to look at her. “It’s not the same. Éowyn can see Ivy someday, if she wishes. And you certainly didn’t ‘take’ her. She was given to you. Don’t you ever forget that!”
He sighed. “I suppose,” he murmured, shrugging. Estella didn’t think he meant it. He still carried guilt for ‘taking’ Ivy from her mother. And sometimes she suspected he still carried feelings for Ivy’s mother as well.
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.