1. A Mother's Lament
Ever has eye, ear, and heart in the Tookland been bent and turned eastwards since that day. He was gone, my Peregrin, with no note of farewell, nor message of where he was off to. Thankfully, a Quick Post came from dearest Esmeralda saying my youngest had been seen in the Buckland area near to Crickhollow, though he did not come to the Hall. Frodo was with him, and Sam. And, of course, Merry.
Soon after, life turned hard. Lotho began flinging his weight about, flaunting his title as Master of Bag End. Somehow, he had gained much wealth; rumor had it that it came from selling leaf outside the Shire. None knew who his buyer was, but the leaf became hard to acquire. Men came up from Sarn Ford way and moved into Longbottom, Hobbiton, Bywater, and many of the other towns nearby. Michel Delving even saw a few up there, which did not sit well with the Mayor; poor Will was arrested when he protested.
At last, Paladin put his foot down. No Sackville-Baggins was going to lord it over the rightful Thain of all the Shire. He threw out the ruffians who tried to make us do things their way, Lotho's way, and barred the Big People from the Tookland. There was loud cursing by Lotho and his gang, according to Pearl who heard from friends in nearby Bywater, but the ruffians dared not cross the Thain and they dared not step on property held by any Took. We were cut off from the rest of the Shire; at least, that is what Lotho thought. But our friends kept in touch, especially those in the Rebellion, sending messages by night, fighting from the hills.
It was now well past a year since Pippin left without a word. Folks looked upon me sideways and, for all their care, I saw them shaking their heads, heard their whispers saying he was dead or lost in the Old Forest. I paid them no heed. I would know if he were dead, I calmed myself, and kept my hands busy.
I suffered the winter by knitting him scarves. By the time the count reached one hundred, Paladin put a stop to it, gave the scarves to those in the hills defending our land, and forbade me to knit another. It was a week before I spoke to him again. During that time, I fussed, wondering what I could do to keep my mind from chewing over the fate of my youngest, wondering if he was alive or dead, lost in that horrid wood, or perhaps imprisoned in the Lockholes, unbeknown to me.
I took to cleaning his room, fingering the little memorabilia that he had collected over the years. 'Still yet a tween and already gone,' my mind would whisper, but then I would step outside and scream into the night, when no one looked nor heard, and then come back into the Great Smials, resolved that I was right and the rest of the Shire was wrong. 'My son lives!' I told myself over and over again. The wooden floorboards in his room shone from the scrubbings I gave it, so that it was so slippery one of the servants fell and broke his arm while trying to move a piece of furniture for me, moving it the hundredth time as it didn't 'quite fit' where it had stood before. This time, the Thain's bellow, I was sure, could be heard to the Brandywine. The door to Pippin's room was locked and the key remained in Paladin's weskit pocket. I gave up being angry; grief clung to me as I waited for news.
August came and passed, and soon followed September, yet no sign of Pippin nor his friends. If the news from Bywater were not so bad, I would've spent more time fretting over the anniversary. As it was, life turned even harder. Someone new had moved into Bag End, someone called Sharkey, and the ruffians in the Shire began to build ugly homes up and down the byroads. The mill, which had already been expanded, now belched blacker smoke, creaking and groaning, and never ceased doing whatever mischief was going on within its walls. No lumber had come from it in more than half a year. Horns blew at all hours of the day and night; law after law was created to crush our friends and neighbors. Some of the ruffians thought the Thain bluffed and entered our lands, but my Paladin ordered them killed and their bodies dragged out of the Tookland.
October was over and November came. It was as winter drew near that I gave up hope. He was gone. Paladin tried, in his own way, to comfort me; the girls sat with me well into the nights, holding my hands and whispering of their love; friends and relations brought sweets to me, hoping somehow that would ease my grief. Nothing helped. My son was dead.
Then one night, as dusk settled over the land, my ears perked up. There were riders coming down the lane, hard and fast. None of the resistance would ride so openly. I ran to the door, my heart leaping into my throat. 'Pippin,' I cried deep inside. Paladin flung the door open and ran into the lane. I followed him. Poor Pervinca, dismayed that I ran into the dark undraped, placed a shawl about my shoulders; the night was cold.
My heart sank. It was not Pippin but some great brute of a Hobbit, almost as tall and wide as Bullroarer himself was supposed to have been, riding with six Hobbit lads. I turned to go back inside when I heard the voice. Could it be his? Louder, yet familiar. Self-assured, yet his. Could it be? I collapsed into Pearl's arms. "Peregrin?" I whispered. The girls fluttered about me, all except Pervinca.
"Dad," the Hobbit who sounded like my son jumped from the pony, "Dad, I'm glad you're home. We've come from Bywater. It's not a pleasant sight. I'm glad to see things around here are well."
"Peregrin! Look at you! I can hardly believe my eyes. Long have I hoped the day would come..."
Pervinca, just lately grown from a tween herself, interrupted. "You're dead, Pippin," her eyes were wide, "You're dead."
He laughed and picked her up, turning a circle with her in his arms. "Dead as a doornail, my sister dearest." Then he kissed her hard on the forehead and put her down.
"No! You are not my brother," she whispered in surprise, touching the kiss mark with wonder. "Not the Pippin who pulled my hair."
"Not that Pippin indeed, but Pippin nonetheless," my husband smiled. "Come into the Smial, Peregrin, and warm yourself. You have been sorely missed."
"Dad there's things afoot that need our help."
"Come by the fire and tell me. The Tooks will do what we can. Eglantine, have some food brought in. Eglantine?" I hardly watched as Paladin stepped closer and took me in his arms. "Come, sweet heart, come inside and sit. Pearl," he turned to our oldest, "water for Peregrin and the lads to wash the road's dirt from hands and faces. Pimpernel, bring a comforter for your mother and help seat her." He handed me over to Pimpernel as if I were a sack of potatoes and strode into the room, his arm around Pippin's shoulder, though, I noted reflexively, my son was taller than my Paladin. The lads from Bywater followed them inside.
I sat in my chair, oblivious to all but my son, my Peregrin. He stood next to Paladin and towered over him, his chest grown broad and strong, his hands sure as he spoke, waving them about to emphasize what he said. Clearly, not my son. Where had my boy gone to? When had he grown up? He was a tween, just a tween. I tried to control my sobs. My son had grown up without me. Somewhere in the great world outside the Tookland. I should be proud, I thought; I should hold my head up high and delight in his coming of age.
But he did not come of age as I watched. I thought of all the things that he should have done while growing up, catching fireflies, climbing and falling out of trees, looking lovesick at some young Hobbit lass, learning of the Tookland and the Thain's duties. My breath caught. None of these things had I seen. He was old. He was grown. He was...
I sobbed and he came to me, knelt at my feet. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have gone without leaving word. We were just going to help Frodo move, and then one thing led to another, and suddenly we were in the Old Forest, and there was no turning back after that."
He thought I sobbed because he had been gone. No. I sobbed at the loss of my baby, my Hobbit lad, and the things I had missed.
I held him close and whispered how much I loved him and how proud I was of him and kept my grief to myself. I will never tell him what I had lost while he was away on his adventure. Perhaps someday, as a father himself, he will realize what it is to watch his child grow. But he will not put two and two together. None will know....
Perhaps Esmeralda. Perhaps Merry has changed too. Though already grown... She might understand. Yes, when this is over, I will go to her. I will lay my broken heart at her feet and she will understand and tell me it is all right. That he is alive and that is the important thing. And my mind will say, 'Yes, that is the important thing,' and my heart will stay torn and broken. And none will really understand.
A/N - 1) I'm having Pippin use the term, Dad, since it is used by Sam and the Gaffer throughout FOTR. There is no mention of 'Da or anything like that; though father is used a few times. I know many Irish use 'Da,' but, again, I could find no such use in any of Tolkien's works. 2) I always thought the word was unbeknownst (1848AD) - but that's a vulgar form of the true word, unbeknown (1600AD). According to dictionary.com.
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