36. Lamp in the Window
Diamond came out of the farmhouse with a bundle in her arms, which she transferred to Rose. 'Here she is, all fresh and dry and ready for her tea,' she smiled. Pippin politely averted his eyes while Diamond settled the babe in Rose's arms and fixed a discrete shawl in place.
She moved over to Pippin, placing a hand on either shoulder and bending to kiss the top of his head. 'And what can I get for you, my love?'
Pippin surprised her by saying in a musing tone, 'Warm milk sounds rather inviting... put some honey in it?'
She squeezed his shoulders gently. 'And nutmeg... I'll fix it just the way you like it.'
He closed his eyes to let the warm sun bathe his face. He had nearly fallen asleep when Rose's voice broke into this thoughts. 'It's peaceful here.'
'Yes, hard to believe all that mob was here a mere week ago.' He took a deep breath of the afternoon air.
Diamond came up behind him, handed him a fragrant steaming mug. He sipped and let the warmth spread through him.
'It's so quiet since the Bolgers left,' she added. Rose smiled and Pippin laughed.
'Oh, aye, it is quiet with Estella gone; the farm hardly seemed to contain her,' he answered.
'There'll be a lot of visiting between Budgeford and the Hall the next two years.'
'Yes. The Master will see to that. Merry needs her.' Seeing her questioning look, he added, 'She's a lamp in the window for him.'
'You mean the one in the old story, that leads the lost traveller home?
'Oh, aye.' Setting down his empty mug, he grasped the hand that lay on his shoulder, pulling it down to nestle his cheek against it.
Little Rose had finished her "tea" and lay in sweet sleep, cuddled against her mother, who had closed her own eyes to drink in the sunshine.
Pippin chuckled. Diamond asked, 'What's the joke?'
'Poor Jewel. He only gets an hour or two of riding these days.'
'And Estella chattering away beside him...'
'Yes, poor lad, hardly has a quiet moment to think his own thoughts.'
'Are you talking about the pony, or Merry?' Diamond asked, and Rose joined in their laughter.
'Two years is a long time to wait,' she sighed. 'I suppose there will have to be a lot of visiting between the Smials and Long Cleeve.' She smiled mischievously. 'Do you suppose they'll let me in the door?'
He didn't smile or answer her question, saying instead, 'Can your father pay a living wage to someone he hires, enough to keep a wife and family?'
She supposed he was asking for a relative who wanted to get out of Tuckborough, out from under the Thain's oppressive rule.
'Yes, he could use the extra help, but any hobbit working for him will have to work hard.'
'I can do that.'
Startled, she met his gaze. 'But...'
'I never wanted to be Thain, not really. It was all my father's idea.'
She swung around to kneel by his side, looking up at him in shock. 'Oh, Pippin...'
He shook his head. 'I'm tired, Diamond. I don't want to fight anymore. He wins; I give up.' He met her eyes again. 'I'm not going back to Tuckborough.'
Rose told Samwise about the conversation when they were alone. His eyes were troubled. 'I cannot see Mr Pippin as a farmer.'
She laughed. 'No, somehow the mail, sword and shield would look a bit out of place behind a plow.'
Sam did not share his wife's laughter. 'He cannot, Rose.' He saw that she didn't understand and tried again. 'The plow kicks up too much dust; his lungs won't stand it.'
'He's on the mend... by the time they are married...'
Samwise shook his head. 'First his lungs were battered and pierced by his shattered ribs when that troll fell on him, then the pneumonia nearly drowned him...' she winced, but he drove home the brutal truth. 'He will be well again if he lets those who love him take care of him, but he'll never be completely whole again. He'll have to be careful all the rest of his life.'
'Not going back to Tuckborough?' Merry put down the letter his father had given him to read.
'Aye. The Thain's a fool. He tried to bend his son to his will, but he broke him instead.'
'Broke him? Those are strong words...'
'He's stopped fighting, Son. Something's gone out of him, some spark. Perhaps that fine lass of his can coax it back to life, but as far as I can tell, the Thain has lost his son.'
Estella chimed in softly. 'Yes. He was always calling Peregrin the fool, but to my thinking he was the river calling the fish "wet".'
'I can't imagine Pippin not fighting his father. It's so much a part of him.'
Esmeralda sighed. 'Perhaps now he can find some peace.'
Saradoc looked sober. 'I wish I could say I thought so.'
Seeing Merry sinking into deep thoughts, Estella pulled at his hand. 'Come, beloved...'
He looked up and smiled. 'What is it?'
'Cannot you hear your poor neglected pony calling? He wants us to go on a picnic this day!'
'Oh, yes! He told me he wanted me to paint a watercolour of the wildflowers by the little waterfall today.'
'He sounds very particular.'
'Oh, he is! And not afraid to say what he wants!'
Merry chuckled and returned the squeeze of her hand. 'Let us go and see if Merimas and Pansy are free for a picnic,' he said.
As the two left the study, hand in hand, Esmeralda gave her husband a joyful embrace. 'Oh, Saradoc...!' she murmured.
He looked down into her shining eyes, his own eyes filled with matching joy. 'I know,' was all he needed to say.
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.