2. Where's Merry?
"Esmeralda!" Eglantine kissed her sister-in-law, "now don't get cold out here."
"Aunt Esmie, where's Merry?" Pippin piped in as soon as Pearl lifted him down.
"How was the journey?" Esmeralda continued. "Most of the Took entourage are here now – I think you're the last."
"It was slow, but the girls hate to jostle, so Bopo drove very slowly." Eglantine followed her hostess into the Hall, with her small son positively bouncing up and down.
"Mamma, where's Merry? Please! Aunt Esmie, is Merry here?"
"Well young Peregrin, you've done a lot of growing at last I see." Esmeralda finally paid some attention to the excited little one. "At least a foot I should say!"
Pippin looked up proudly. "I've growed exactly one inch and a quarter from Afteryule last," he announced. "Papa says I'm big now! Auntie, where's Merry?"
"I think he's in the stables with the ponies," Esmeralda said after a moment's thought. "He was helping to bed down the extra ponies that came from the Smials." She smiled indulgently at her excited nephew still bundled up in his pixie hood and mittens. "He'll be there awhile now that your ponies have arrived. Do you want to go and see him?"
"Yes please!" Pippin jumped up and down, completely forgetting his worries about Merry seeing him in his pixie hood. "Can I go now, Mamma? Please, I'll be good."
"Bopo!" Eglantine put her head back through the door. It was growing dark and very cold and their coachman was about to lead the ponies round to the stables. "Would you take Peregrin with you? He wants to see his cousin Meriadoc and he's helping in the stables."
"Of course Ma-am." Bopo reached down and lifted Pippin up and sat him on the lead pony. "You sit tight now Master Pippin and hold on. We'll go and find your Master Merry afore you can say dragon."
"Dragon, dragon, dragon!" Pippin giggled as he wrapped his still mittened fists around the pony's harness. "Come on Jingles," (for that was the pony's name) "let's find Merry!"
As they reached the stables there was much activity going on. So many extra ponies from the Smials meant a lot of doubling up in stalls and more hay nets to be filled and mucking out to be done. Merry loved to work in the stables though and was busily rubbing down his Uncle Paladin's mare as she was still hot and damp from her ride.
"Merry!" Pippin shouted as soon as he spotted his big cousin. "Merry look I can ride a pony!"
Bopo lifted him down so that the stable hands could start unharnessing the team and Pippin ran straight to his big cousin. "Did you see me? I was riding on Jingles!"
"Hullo Pip!" Merry looked up from what he was doing with a big grin on his face. "that's a cosy hat you've got! You look just like a baby squirrel!"
The other lads who were working in the stables laughed good-naturedly at the little hobbit, but Pippin's face dropped. That was what Merry had said before. He'd forgotten he was wearing the hat and now Merry still thought he was a baby.
Pippin pulled the hood off and threw it on the ground and stamped on it. "I'm not a baby! I rode the pony, can I help you Merry? Can I help brush the ponies too?"
"No Master Pippin," Bopo came up behind him and lifted him up to sit on the saddle tree. "You sit there and stay out from under foot. You're a bit little in the stable. Your Mam would have my hide if'n you got trod on."
Pippin sat enthralled and watched Merry skilfully rubbing down his father's pony, whistling as he did and chatting casually to the other lads in the stable. Then his big cousin helped to unharness and settle the ponies from the coach. Eventually he turned back to his baby cousin. "Well Pip did you grow any more yet?" He lifted Pippin down and stood beside him, measuring the top of his cousin's curly head against himself. Pippin just reached up to Merry's thigh. "Still got a lot more to go little Pip." Merry laughed.
"I'm a whole inch and a quarter more from Afteryule last!" Pippin announced. "and Papa says I'm big now."
"Yes you're a bit bigger." Merry picked Pippin up and swung him round. "But I wager I can still throw you over a haystack."
Pippin was pleased to get Merry's attention at last, but would have preferred him to have admired his new stature a bit more, especially as he had worked on it so hard, eating all his greens, finishing his breakfast every day and even having an afternoon sleep without being told too many times.
"Come along now, Master Pippin." Bopo caught the hobbit child from Merry and lifted him up on his shoulders. "I'd best take you indoors now, your Mam will be a worrit about you."
"No can't I stay with Merry?" Pippin pleaded. "Please Bopo, please!"
"I'm not coming yet, Pip." Merry told him. "It'll be your bedtime before I'm finished here. I'll see you in the morning I dare say."
Pippin was not exactly sulking, he knew better than that, but he was being very quiet and taciturn. Merry still treated him as if he were a baby. Admittedly he let him follow him round indoors, but Merry kept going outside and doing, what he called, grown up things with the adults. Things that he, Pippin, was not allowed to do, such as helping to bring in the Yule log and chopping up the firewood or cutting branches of holly to decorate the big dining hall. Pippin was sure he could have managed to help, even if Merry had had to hold him up.
Pippin was also being subjected to an undue amount of fussing from various aunts at Brandy Hall. He had heard the tales before, but took very little interest in his own beginnings. He was the 'miracle baby', born just when all hope was lost, the heir to the Thainship. His own father would eventually inherit the title, as his cousin, Thain Ferumbras III, was a bachelor and likely to remain so. Pippin liked the idea of being Thain one day, but he disliked being the subject of so much wonder at how he had put on weight and grown into such a healthy lad now. None of his aunts' admiration mattered if Merry did not think he was big yet.
"Pearl I don't think Merry likes me," he whispered to his big sister, "he doesn’t want to play with me at all."
"Well Merry's an almost grown lad now and he's been given lots of special jobs to do while everybody gets ready for Yule." Pearl reassured him. "I'm sure he'll find some time for you soon, once all the things are ready."
But Pearl was not so sure, so later that day she spoke to Merry. "You know Meriadoc, Pippin worships the ground on which you walk. You could try and spend a little more time with him."
"Honestly Pearl, I think I'm a bit too old to be playing with Pippin," Merry was enjoying semi-adult status now that he had turned thirteen, "and babysitting is women's work in any case."
"He's not a baby any longer," Pearl pointed out, "and Father was hoping you would spend some time with Peregrin as he is worried that he spends too long with just girls for company."
"I don't really know what to talk to him about any more." Merry thought back to how he had played with Pippin before. "He usually just follows me around and I ignore him mostly, that seemed to work quite well."
"I think you'll find he's quite a bit more grown up now," Pearl smiled at her younger cousin. "Tell him about Thluggul, he likes that and it's only two days to go."
"Oh really Pearl," Merry groaned. "I can't start telling him fairy stories – it's too babyish!"
"Well then tell him how to muck out a stable," Pearl sighed, "only just talk to him, please, Merry – for me."
"I suppose." Merry knew he would have to spend some time with his baby cousin, if not for Pearl, he knew his Uncle Paladin would ask him sooner or later, so he may as well get it over with, but he knew he was really too grown up for Pippin now.
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.