49. Chapter 48 - May 1431
It was because of Granddad that Ivy was here walking along the Hedge rather than riding south to Rohan. She didn’t blame him for it, though. She was too worried to feel bad about missing out on seeing her mother and her new sister this summer. Granddad had been stricken with apoplexy this winter and everyone was worried about him.
She squeezed his hand and he turned his head to smile at her, the left side of his mouth only just forming the other half of a lopsided smile. Estella had said that he was very lucky, that most people were incapacitated or died from it, but Granddad had only had a mild attack. He had been up and about again within a few days, sometimes needing the cane that Ivy now carried for him. He limped a little and kept his weakened left hand tucked in his coat pocket, and sometimes he was a bit forgetful about things, but for the most part he was the same old Granddad.
He seemed to be doing much better, well enough now to invite his grandchildren out for a walk in the spring sunshine. Nevertheless, her father still hadn’t wanted to leave the Shire this summer. A person struck by apoplexy was often stricken soon again, and that’s what worried Ivy.
“You look worried again,” he said to her.
She blushed a little and shrugged. “A little.”
Granddad stopped and tugged her hand to pull her close for a peck on the cheek. He could do that now that she was as tall as he was. His breath smelled of the peppermint candies he kept in the bowl on his desk and Ivy had to swallow hard to keep in the sob when she realized that someday she’d never again have one of those peppermint kisses. “I’m fine now, Ivy-lass,” he said. “And when I’m no longer fine, then it is my time to go on to Eru.”
Ivy breathed a heaving sigh, the tears threatening to come, but then Granddad looked to the side and said “And what are you planning on doing with that, Theo-lad?”
Ivy wiped at her eyes and followed her grandfather’s gaze to where her brother stood. Theo had a large snowball in his raised hand. Aimed at her. He dropped his hand and let the snowball fall to the ground. “Nothin’”
“Right,” Granddad said.
“You’re a brat, Theo,” Ivy scolded, exasperation with her brother driving some of her worry away.
“You’re a brat, Theo,” her brother mocked back and scampered away to where Eomer was enthralled with a patch of melting snow.
“Why couldn’t I have gotten a sister here,” Ivy muttered.
“Oh, you’re brother isn’t all that bad,” her grandfather chuckled. Then Eomer squealed and jumped up to shake a large lump of snow out of his shirt. Theo didn’t even try to look innocent. “Well, he won’t be that bad a few years from now anyway,” Saradoc said with a wink.
Ivy rolled her eyes and handed her grandfather his cane so she could go help Eomer. When she turned back to him, her grandfather was leaning on the cane and he looked a little pale. “Are you all right, Granddad?” she asked, rushing over to him.
“Fine, fine,” he said. “Nothing to worry over. An old hobbit like me gets tired easily.” He gave Ivy a reassuring smile. “We should probably head home now, though. Your gran will have a fit if I tire myself out too much.”
Ivy was glad her brothers didn’t put up an argument about cutting their walk short. Theo at least understood that Granddad was ill, and Eomer would go wherever Theo went. They turned back down the path towards the cart that waited down by the road.
“I’m sorry you didn’t get to go see your mum and new sister this summer,” Granddad said once her brothers had trotted ahead of them. “I know you were looking forward to it.”
“No, Granddad, it’s fine,” she said. “Dad said we’ll try to go next year.”
“I told your Dad he didn’t have to stay here to watch over me. He worries too much, your Dad.”
Ivy shrugged. She could always see her other family next year, but she didn’t know how much longer she had with her grandfather. But she didn’t want to say that. “I suppose,” she said softly.
They walked in silence for a while and Ivy remembered the other times they’d come on walks up to the High Hay, the great hedge that separated Buckland from the Old Forest. It had always been a special thing to go for a walk along the hedge with Granddad. First it had just been her, then Theo started coming along, and finally Eomer. As they walked, he would often tell them stories of the Brandybucks all the way back to Gorhendad Brandybuck, who had founded Buckland and built Brandy Hall in the banks of the Brandywine hundreds of years ago.
Her grandfather stumbled a little on the stony path and Ivy grabbed onto his arm. “You can lean on me, Granddad,” she said. “I can hold you up.” At least there was one advantage to being a ‘giant’.
Her grandfather looked at her and for a moment it seemed as if he was looking at her for the first time. “You’ve grown up on me, Ivy-lass,” he finally said. “Not just taller, either. If I didn’t know better I would swear you were closing in on your tweens.” He shook his head and continued on his way.
Ivy didn’t say anything as she helped him down the last bit of path to the cart. Sometimes Granddad said odd things, just whatever happened to pop into his head it seemed. Estella said it was from the apoplexy. She was only eleven. How could he think she was almost a tween?
Theo held the pony steady while Ivy helped Granddad into the cart. Once her grandfather and brothers were settled, she climbed up herself. She took a quick glance at the hedge and tried not to wonder if this would be their last walk with Granddad. She shook the feeling of sorrow away and took up the reins to turn the pony back towards Brandy Hall.
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