35. New Beginnings
'The babe is due to arrive more than a month from now! I never had any problems with Elanor or Frodo, and I'm not having any problems now!'
'No, Rosie,' Samwise said firmly. 'I am not willing to risk you.'
'What is the risk? Hobbits have been having babes for far many more years than you can count, Samwise Gamgee, for all your fine education that Mr Bilbo gave you!'
'Rose,' he said, grieved.
'You won't leave me... but you you know you can go, if you just take me with you! It's a day's journey in the wagon. Break it into two days, if you like. We can stay in an inn on the way, it'll be quite an adventure.'
'No, Rose,' he said, but she thought he might be weakening in his resolve.
'After all you went through with Mr Merry and Mr Pippin...'
'Merry,' he broke in.
'He told me to call him Merry. No 'Sir', no 'Mr', just Merry.' There. She'd distracted him from his worry.
'But it is not our place.'
'It grieves him when I call him Mr Merry. I've seen it in his eyes. And he told me...' It was time to get back to the point at hand.
'Well, Husband, look in my eyes! I'm the one you're grieving now. They invited us to the handfasting ceremonies, a right fancy piece of paper at that, and you cannot be bothered to go!'
'Rose...' She was so frustrated she began to cry. 'Ah, Rosie lass...'
In the end, she argued him around to her position. It wasn't easy. He insisted on consulting with her mother, who, surprisingly, took Rose's part. 'The babe's more than a month off, and if Rose is comfortable enough riding the wagon here to the farm, she should be fine.' She looked hard at her daughter. 'And it will give you more time sitting down than you've allowed yourself the last few weeks!' Rose laughed, and Samwise finally smiled.
When the two couples had decided to hold their handfasting ceremonies together, Long Cleeve seemed the logical place. It was more centrally located than Brandy Hall, handier for friends and relatives travelling from all over the Shire, and had more room to set up pavilions than the Bolgers had in Budgeford.
'It would be nice to bless the farm with a happy occasion,' Diamond had said wistfully, and Merry reached over to squeeze her hand in silent understanding.
'It sounds perfect!' Estella enthused. 'The green meadow, the wildflowers, the woods rising in the background and the rolling hills on the other side... I could almost paint it and I've never seen it yet!'
'What will your parents say, not having the ceremony in Budgeford?' Diamond asked.
'My father has already agreed,' Estella said. She was not one to let the grass grow under her feet. She grinned, 'Besides, it saves him all the trouble of setting it up and taking it down himself!'
Merry turned to Pippin. 'How are you feeling, cousin?'
Pippin shook his head in irritation. 'If it's not, "How are you feeling, cousin," it's "Eat! Eat!" or some such. I'm fine!' He squirmed under the eye Merry fixed on him. 'All right, I'm not fine. But I'm better. And that will have to do.'
Esmeralda took his arm in hers. 'He just wants to get it over with as quickly as possible before the Thain thinks up some new mischief.' At his protest, she smiled up at him. 'Oh, I know you too well, Peregrin Took. After all, look at how long we were nearly married!' They all laughed, and it was settled.
All was in readiness, the friends and relations had poured in until the farm could hardly hold them. Along with the pavilions across the road from the farmstead were many smaller tents brought by travelling guests to sleep under, their bright colors blooming like oversized flowers on the field behind the house.
The feasting had begun the day before, and Fatty Bolger, presiding over the open air kitchens, had outdone himself. It hardly seemed possible that there would be an even grander feast the day of the ceremony.
Pippin and Diamond did not attend all the festivities, for he still had little energy. They listened to the music and laughter coming through the open windows while sitting together at the kitchen table, holding hands, or taking turns playing at Kings with Taddy or the twins.
When Pippin tired of such quiet activities, Diamond would lead him over to one of the chairs by the hearth, sit him down with his feet up, and rub his shoulders until he fell asleep; he refused to be found in a bed during daylight hours. When he complained, she would soothe him. 'You're getting stronger every day. Don't try to eat an Oliphaunt in one bite! You'll choke!'
'Might as well be eating an Oliphaunt, all the food you keep stuffing into me,' he grumbled.
'I'll see if Fredregar Bolger can get you some Oliphaunt, then,' she teased.
'At least The Took saw fit not to come,' Pippin said. Diamond could not decide whether she saw relief, or hurt in his eyes. Probably a little of both.
The next morning, the Brandybucks and the north-Tooks arose very early to gather wildflowers. They made a trip to the family burial ground to lay flowery wreaths upon the graves, to stand a moment in silent remembering, to sing a song. Then it was time to go back to the farmhouse, for there was much last-minute preparation to be done.
Diamond and Estella helped each other dress and do their hair. Estella settled the crown of wildflowers upon Diamond's head and stepped back. 'There!' she said. 'You make such a picture! I will paint you someday, for a wedding present for your husband! Even though he doesn't deserve it.'
Diamond laughed, setting Estella's flowery crown in place. 'It does look pretty,' she said. 'But white is such an inconvenient color! I'll probably never wear this dress again!'
'Save it for the wedding!' Estella laughed.
'White for a wedding?' Diamond asked.
'Why not! It makes a fine contrast against the green field and the blue sky!' Estella returned.
'Well, if it makes it through the feasting and the dancing, I just might put it away and keep it until then. But who's to say I'll fit into it two years from now? I might eat so much out of frustration at having to wait so long, I'll end up as plump as your aunt Poppy.'
'Poor Pippin marry a puffball! Ah, well, serves him right!' Estella jested.
'Serves him right for what?'
'I don't know, in particular, but with all the mischief he's done it ought to serve him right for something!'
A knock at the door interrupted their laughter. 'Lasses! It's time!'
As the Bolgers and north-Tooks escorted their daughters to the open field where the guests waited, a group of ponies was seen approaching on the road that ran past the farm. Esmeralda, standing with her husband and son, exclaimed, 'Well, I don't believe it! He's come!'
Merimac, standing by Pippin, asked, 'Will he make trouble, do you think?'
'My brother excels at making trouble,' his sister-in-law answered. 'It is what he does best.'
Saradoc squeezed Merry's arm. 'Stay here, lad. This is business for the head of the family.' He slowly walked to the road to meet the approaching riders. Farmer Took and Odovocar Bolger left their wives and daughters standing by the farmhouse to join the Master.
The Thain signaled his party to pull up before the three. He did not have the courtesy to dismount, but sat upon his pony looking down at them.
'Paladin?' said the Farmer quietly. 'Have you come to celebrate?'
'I've come to protest!' the other said forcefully. 'There was a previous engagement--'
'Which was lawfully dissolved,' the Farmer said evenly. His steely gaze might have come from the eyes of the Bullroarer himself. 'It seems to me that you have two options, Paladin.' The other stared in outrage, but the Farmer continued calmly. 'Thain or no Thain, this is north-Took land you're standing on. Either get out, or get down off that pony and stand by your son.'
They locked gazes, but the Thain was distracted by movement behind him. 'What are you doing?' he barked.
Eglantine dismounted, handed her reins to the rider next to her, looking up at her husband without expression. 'I'm getting down,' she said. 'You may do what you want, Paladin, but I'm going to go and stand by our son.' She turned and walked with great dignity to take her place at Pippin's side.
She smiled up at her son, taking his hand and giving it a reassuring squeeze. 'I've come,' she said. He nodded, not trusting himself to speak. He saw her eyes widen, and looked up to see his father stalking across the field towards him. Merimac stepped away. Without a word, grim-faced, the Thain took his place at Pippin's other side.
Saradoc returned to Merry, and the Bolgers and north-Tooks escorted their daughters to the field. The parents joined the hands of their children together, the traditional words of betrothal were spoken, a flute played, silence fell after the invitation to consider the significance of the vows they had witnessed. Then Farmer Took stepped forward, a beaming smile on his face, raised his arms and shouted, 'You are all invited to return, two years from today, to witness a wedding!' A great cheer broke out, and hobbits moved forward to congratulate the families.
'Pippin? Do you want to sit down?' Diamond asked.
Pippin looked down at her. 'I'm fine!' he said. 'I'll sit down at the feast, if you promise not to keep stuffing me with food.'
She laughed. 'Why then, what's the use of a feast?' Just then the Gamgees came up and she greeted them warmly. She had heard so much of Samwise and Rosie, and had grown to love them in the short time they had spent at the farm after the tragedy three years ealier.
'Well, Rosie lass, I couldn't have you, Samwise got you first, but I got the next best lass I could find,' Merry chuckled. Estella laughed, she had heard all about the courtship of Sam and Rosie.
'Oh, go on with you, Mer--' Rose started to answer, but gasped.
'Rose, what is it?' Samwise asked her. She clutched at him and could not speak. 'Rose! Is it the baby?'
Rose found her voice. 'No, it cannot be, it's too early...' she said faintly.
Mistress Took came up on her other side, looking to the Farmer. 'Mind the feast,' she said, 'we'll get this lass to the house; I'm sure she just needs to put her feet up for a bit.'
Diamond could see that her mother was speaking for Sam's benefit, and the wee children who clung to their mother's skirts. She bent to wheedle tiny Frodo. 'Come here, lad!' she said in a conspiratorial tone. 'We've some new pups in the barn, want to see them?'
Estella joined in, 'Oh, they are the dearest little pups!' she enthused. 'I'm sure your Uncle Merry will show them to you if you ask him!'
Elanor looked up at her tall "uncle". 'May we see the pups?' she asked.
Merry swooped down to hoist a child to each shoulder. 'Of course you may! You must help us to pick out their names, now...' they heard him saying as he strode away.
Rose gasped again, and Samwise swung her up into his arms to carry her to the house. 'It's too early...' she protested, then her eyes filled with tears and she sobbed, 'Oh, Samwise... I'm so sorry...' Her husband spoke soothing words to her but she refused to be comforted.
The little group moved towards the house, while Farmer Took herded the guests to the feast, booming reassurances.
Pearl Took directed Samwise to the bedroom. 'Lay her on the bed there.' She ordered Esmeralda to get a pot of water going on the kitchen fire, and Diamond to get out what Pearl thought might be needed if what she suspected was happening, then scrubbed her hands thoroughly.
Entering the bedroom again, she said to Rose, 'My dear, we need to take a look,' then looking to Sam said, 'Do you want to wait in the kitchen?' Rose gasped and clung more tightly to her husband. He shook his head, gently circling his arms about his wife.
Pearl smiled. 'All right, then. Let's see what we have here.' Her examination confirmed her fears. She smiled up at Rose. 'Well, it seems this babe is in a hurry to meet his parents! Perhaps he didn't want to be left out of the feast... he's a proper hobbit lad, starting out right!' Her nonsense seemed to calm the couple. She had Samwise help his wife out of her dress and into a loose shift.
Diamond came in with a covered cup. 'Here, Mistress Rose, I want you to drink this all down.' Rose obeyed, a little calmer to be in competent hands.
'Master Samwise, rub your wife's back, try to ease her muscles,' Pearl said. 'I'll be right back.' She motioned Diamond to follow her. 'Lass, I know you've only helped your father deliver sheep and ponies and calves, but I am going to need your help in here.'
Diamond nodded, 'Tell me what to do.'
'She's a little thing, and your hands are smaller than mine. I want you to wash up--scrub the way your father showed you when you helped him with the lambing--and be ready to jump in if I call you. I don't like the way things look.'
'What is it?'
'I think... the babe may be turned the wrong way.' At her daughter's gasp, she smiled. 'Now, lass, you've delivered many a lamb with its legs back in the wrong place... this is just another wee lamb, you know.' At an outcry from Rose in the bedroom, she said, 'Hurry now!' and turned back to the room.
'Let's see if we can find you a comfortable position,' she crooned. Lying down on the bed was not the best way to labor with a babe turned the wrong way. She and Sam got Rose upright between them, lowered her gently until she gasped, 'That's a bit better, but...' she bit her lip and moaned. 'Something's happening,' she choked.
'Let me see,' Pearl said soothingly. It was the worst possible news she could think of. 'Well,' she said, fighting for calm, 'this lad's going to be a contrary one. Wants to come out feet first.' She looked at Sam. 'There's no time to wait for healer or midwife, we've got to get this babe out now.'
'Do you know what you're doing?' he asked in an urgent undertone.
'I've helped a few neighbors. I've delivered lots of lambs,' she said. 'It'll have to do.' She raised her voice to call sharply. 'Diamond!' Raising her eyes to Samwise, she said, 'Keep her calm. Talk to her.'
Diamond came in and Pearl instructed her in a whisper. 'One foot's out, the other needs to come out. Once you've got two feet, pull gently each time the muscles tighten.' She smiled into Diamond's eyes. 'No different from lambing,' she said. She raised her voice to say, 'Stay with us, Mistress Rose. We're almost finished! Just a bit more work to do.'
It was not long before she was swaddling a wee wrinkled red figure that cried lustily for all its coming a month early. She breathed a sigh of relief, far too many early babies never drew breath... then smiling, she handed the bundle to Rose. 'You have a fine daughter,' she said, 'good and strong, for all she was in a hurry to get here.' She and Diamond busied themselves with all the necessary tasks to get Rose cleaned up, settled, and comfortable, while Rose and Sam marveled over the small features and tiny fingers.
'What's her name to be, then?' Diamond asked softly when she had settled Rose against the pillows, baby nestled in her arms.
Samwise looked up with shining eyes, then down at his wife. 'Her name's Rose,' he said.
In the end, Diamond didn't miss the dancing at all. She was perfectly happy to collapse in the chair by the hearth, across from the other chair where her Pippin was lightly snoring.
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.