1. The Living is Easy
This story takes place in S.R. 1438. It is the fourth year of the Thainship of Peregrin I; the sixth year since Meriadoc the Magnificent became the Master of Buckland. Peregrin has been married for eleven years, and his son, Faramir, is eight years old. Meriadoc (in my take on things) has been married for 10 years, and his son, Theodoc, is nine years old.
Peace and prosperity bathed the Shire with their blessings and, apart from some of the day to day annoyances of life, the Hobbits of the Shire and the Hobbits of Buckland were a happy, contented population. Late winter had been comfortable; spring neither too wet nor too dry. There had been no floods, nor droughts, so the harvest would most likely be bountiful. Indeed, these early summer days were halcyon days.
On this particularly fine day the head pastry cook at Great Smials burst unannounced into the Thain's study, looking as steamed as one of her puddings.
"I demand action be taken immediately, Thain Peregrin!" Her volume was amazing. "This is an outrage! An outrage, sir! I will not stand for it! I have been violated, I tell you, violated!"
"Violated, Tulip?" Pippin responded, shaking his head a bit to try to clear the ringing in his ears.
"Some dirty little thief, sir, has violated the sanctuary of my kitchen and stolen my rollin' pin!"
Pippin barely managed to hold back his laughter. "Your . . . your rolling pin, Tulip? All this over a rolling pin?"
Tulip looked as though if she had her rolling pin, she would have hit the Thain over the head with it. "My prize rollin' pin! The one that was awarded me at the Lithedays Festival twenty six years ago come Lithedays this summer. Awarded me for the best treacle tarts in the whole of the Shire, which none has bested me since, I'll have you know! It went missing sometime the day afore yesterday whilst you were away."
Pippin wondered if it was uncommonly noisy in the pastry kitchen that Tulip was accustomed to speaking so loudly, as the ringing in his ears was getting worse.
"Of course, of course, Tulip! I can understand your outrage. I'll send my secretary right away to look over the kitchen, talk to your staff and see if we can solve this problem. We will find your rolling pin, Tulip, I promise you."
"You had best do so, young Thain Peregrin, for I dare say the quality of your beloved raspberry tarts will be sufferin' for the lack of that rollin' pin!"
"I will see to it myself then, Tulip. I can't have anything happen to your marvelous raspberry tarts! I will be there momentarily."
"I should hope so, Thain Peregrin!" Tulip huffed as she trounced out of the study.
Pippin rose to go to the pastry kitchen, still shaking his head trying to get his ears to quit ringing. "At least this is giving me something to do." He said to himself.
But neither a search of all the kitchens nor stern lectures to all of the cooking staff produced the prize rolling pin.
The following week a frightened young hobbitess was shown into Pippin's study. He had been sitting, leaning back in his chair with his feet on the massive desk, playing at finger weaving with a piece of string he had found in a drawer. He was still trying to untangle it from his fingers when the lass finally stood before the desk.
"What is it lass?" the Thain asked as he ducked his hands below the surface of the desk.
"I'm Marigold, sir. I tend to the main entrance, the formal parlor and the library." She kept her eyes lowered as she spoke.
Pippin finally got his fingers free from the string which he dropped to the floor, placed his hands on the desk and interlaced his fingers.
"Please look at me, Marigold." he said in a kindly voice and slowly the girl raised her head. "That is better," Pippin said giving her his brightest smile. "No need to be shy or embarrassed with me, lass. There are no small jobs or unimportant hobbits at Great Smials. It takes all of us to keep this place functioning as it should. I've had to clean up enough messes that I have made to know that it is hard work to keep a home in good condition. I dread to think what a horrid mess we would be in if you were not here to keep those rooms in order, Marigold."
"Thank you sir." She smiled, blushing at his kind words, but then her eyes lowered again. "I fear I may be in trouble, though."
"Did you forget to dust the lampshades in the parlor?"
Marigold looked up to see the Thain still smiling at her and realized that he was teasing her. But her concern was over a more serious matter so she could not return his smile.
"No, sir," she said softly, "There are things missing, sir."
"What, again?" Pippin exclaimed as he sat up straighter. "Last week it was pastry cook Tulip's rolling pin. What is it this time?"
"One of the Took family portraits off the wall in the main entry, Thain Peregrin sir, and the Dwarf-made candlesticks in the parlor that you gave to the Mistress for a wedding present." Marigold had lost her former blush and was now rather pale. "I swear to you, sir, they were there yesterday morning when I did those rooms. They truly were!" The poor lasses' tear filled eyes were pleading.
"Now there, Marigold, no need to cry." Pippin said as he stood, came around the desk and put his arm about the little maid's shoulders. "Did you tell anyone of it when you found the things missing?" He asked in a gentle voice.
Marigold nodded. "I told the head of housekeeping, Peony, sir. She told me that I needed to tell you of it when you got back this afternoon from being gone camping with the young Master. I came as soon as I was able to, sir."
"We will go have a look at things, you and I, and settle this matter. I have no doubts that you are an honest young Took and that there is a good explanation for this. My wife may have taken the candlesticks to use elsewhere and perhaps the portrait needed special cleaning." He paused a moment then added, "Or maybe someone doesn't like that ancestor anymore and put him in a cupboard."
This time Marigold did manage to return the Thain's smile.
In the quiet of a summer's evening, as the fireflies danced in the tall grasses of nearby fields, Thain Peregrin, Mistress Diamond and young Master Faramir sat in the herb garden of Great Smials enjoying the cool of the day and the fragrance of the herbs. Peregrin sat with his back to a boulder. Diamond rested her back against him with one of his hands draped over her shoulder. On her lap she held their sleeping three year old daughter, Beryl, while Faramir played close by hoping the light would last long enough for him to finish his battle between the army of Gondor and the Orcs.
"What are we to do about the thefts, Peregrin?" Diamond asked taking hold of her husband's hand, kissing it before returning it to her shoulder. "At first I thought it was you pulling pranks on everyone as you did when you were young, but then I realized that you aren't even here when they happen. The thief must be aware of your comings and goings knowing that the Smials are not watched quite as carefully when you are gone."
"Do you think that is the case, my love?" Pippin asked.
Diamond sat up, turning around a bit to look at Peregrin. Little Beryl squirmed at her Mother's sudden movement but did not awaken. "Well, yes! Do you mean to say, dear, that you had not noticed that these thefts always happen while you are on one of your camping trips with Faramir?"
"I had noticed but I hadn't really thought of the level of watchfulness being lower when I am away. I will look into adding extra sentries the next time Faramir and I leave."
"Must you keep leaving, Peregrin?" Diamond asked as she pouted a little. "You two have gone camping nearly every week this summer and for four days each time. I must confess to you that I am feeling more than a little abandoned."
"I'm sorry, my love." Pippin said and pulled Diamond into a hug while giving her a long tender kiss, being careful not to disturb their sleeping daughter.
"Ick!" exclaimed Faramir, who had finished his battle.
Pippin looked at him out of the corner of his eye, pulled his mouth away from Diamond's just enough to mutter, "Watch yourself, young hobbit!", then finished his thorough kissing of his wife.
"We will have all of next week together, dear one," Pippin said as he continued to hold Diamond. "Remember, the trip to Hobbiton for the Lithedays Festival, the Festival itself, then a day of visiting with the Gamgees' and then the trip home. You will be quite ready to be rid of us again after that, I am certain."
The Lithedays Festival came and went while the delightful summer meandered through its allotted days. Harvest was nearing, and the busyness of gathering up the stores food and supplies for the winter would soon fill the ever shortening hours of daylight.
The thefts at Great Smials had continued throughout the summer, two even occurring during the Festival. The list of missing items had grown longer and stranger. The Elven brooch from Lorien, Faramir's set of toy Gondorian soldiers, Cousin Ferdibrand's pipe that was inlaid with pearl (the only pipe he would use, smoking the worst pipe-weed in the Shire; no one missed it but him), Pervinca's sewing basket, the master chef's favorite soup and stew pot, Pippin's mail shirt. These were just a few of the purloined items.
The Thain, as he had promised, had ordered more sentries posted during his camping trips with Faramir, but to no avail; the thefts had continued, until finally the worst theft of all occurred. Two of the four days of what Pippin had promised Diamond would be the last camping trip had passed when the Thain's secretary pounded on Diamond's sitting room door.
"It's gone Mistress! All is lost!" The young hobbit's face was pale, and he was trembling from head to foot. He sank into the nearest chair and put his face into his shaking hands.
Diamond knelt beside him, put her hand on his shoulder, and said, "Isembold, try to calm down. It surely cannot be that bad! Come now, take a few deep breaths then tell me what is missing now."
"'Tis the seal, Mistress, the Thain's seal. He left instructions that I was to apply it to certain documents if they came back from the scribe before he returned." The poor lad was still shaking and had not lifted his head. "He said they mustn't lie about without the seal as there could be mischief to come from it if they were sent out without being made official. The documents arrived an hour ago, and I've searched everywhere. But the seal is gone, Mistress, and now I can't perform my task, the papers lie there unsealed and . . . and . . ." He could say no more as his fear and grief over whelmed him.
A stern look came to Diamond's eyes, a look gleaned from years of taking charge of her drunkard Father. "Do not fret yourself over this any further, Isembold. I think I know just what needs to be done and I will see to it. Why don't you go to your quarters now and try to rest? I'll have Mistress Pearl make you a tonic and bring it to you." Diamond helped the distraught hobbit to the door then hurried off to act on her idea.
The sun was lowering in the afternoon sky but was still a few hours from its setting when Diamond and her pony rounded the last curve in the Stock Road before the place where a small path went off to the north to a small pond hidden in the woods where she figured Peregrin and Faramir were camping. There was a rider approaching on the road, and Diamond soon recognized Estella Brandybuck.
"Estella! Strange to meet you out on the road like this, dear, but I'm glad to see you. If I don't meet up with Peregrin and Faramir, as I expect to, I will appreciate the company. They are out here somewhere on a camping trip."
Estella pulled her pony to a stop as she came abreast of Diamond. "You are looking for Pippin and Faramir? I find that rather interesting as I am looking for Merry and Theodoc. I fear we have been having more problems with thefts at the Hall and it has finally become a dangerous situation."
"That's right, you had mentioned very briefly at the Lithedays Festival that you had been having troubles with thefts as we were and yet I don't remember speaking much about it with you."
"I think Merry interrupted, and we never got back to it. But you say you are looking for your two campers. Are you headed for the pond that lies to the north?" Diamond nodded. "I am headed that way as well," Estella continued, "as Merry and Theo have, I think, been camping there nearly every week all summer."
At that instant the same thought came to Estella and Diamond. With a nod to each other the two now angry wives headed their ponies up the small winding path to the pond. In the clearing surrounding the pond stood a good-sized tent and a fire pit that held a large fire, burning against the coming night. Over to one side two adult hobbits and two hobbit children stood going through a large pile of miscellaneous items.
"We will get this all sorted out and see which of us has bested the other, but I am certain my share will out do yours." One of the adult hobbits said as they worked at separating their ill-gotten goods into two separate piles.
"You are certain that you brought it all down from that tree? I have all of ours written down, and it had best all be here. Wouldn't want the lads to catch you cheating, would you?" said the other, as he waved a piece of paper in the first hobbit's face.
Pippin spun around to find the point of his own sword resting on his chest, held firmly in place by his wife's hand. What she had brought the sword for she was not quite sure, but she was now glad she had, as it had obviously gotten her wayward husband's attention.
"Diamond!" he said as soon as his shock wore off enough for him to speak. His eyes were fixed on the sword. "Ah, well . . . yes . . . well, hello dear!" he finally said, trying to sound cheerful.
"Peregrin Took!" Diamond intoned again. Her eyes were blazing, and her hand holding the sword was steady. "How dare you! Whatever did you think you were doing? Was this supposed to be funny? What are you teaching our son?"
"And you, Meriadoc Brandybuck," said an equally intense Estella, "I thought you had outgrown this nonsense years ago! Are you blind to the trouble you've caused?" Merry gaped open-mouthed at his wife, his list of items he and Theodoc had taken from the Great Smials of the Tooks clutched in his hand.
"What are we to do with the lot of you?" resumed Diamond. "The Took and Thain of the Shire and the Master of Buckland playing at being thieves with their heirs as their little helpers! The four of you are disgraceful! We should turn you over to the Sherriffs for this lawlessness but for the shame it would bring to our families."
"You are right." Pippin said, lowering his head in shame. "You should use the sword and just say that you found our murdered bodies where the thieves left them," he said as he pushed himself forward hard into the blade.
Diamond's arm was forced back, the blood rushing from her face. But Pippin used her shock to grab her arm, wrench the sword from her grasp, then he caught her, easing her to the ground as her legs crumpled beneath her.
"Pippin!" Diamond gasped, "You . . . you . . . how?"
"I had already put on my mail shirt," he said as he grinned, pulling the bottom of his shirt up to show the mail beneath. "I really was not comfortable having you resting my sword at my heart, so I thought I would get it from you."
"And let me think you had just impaled yourself!" She shoved him roughly away and got to her feet. "That is worse than this stealing of yours, far worse, and a horrible thing to do in front of your son!"
"Don't you dare laugh, Merry!" Estella hissed at the sound of her husband starting to chuckle. "You had better be glad it wasn't you as tried that stunt. I assure you, you would be regretting it worse than I'm sure Pippin will." Merry swallowed, coughed and choked a bit in his effort to lose his laughter. Theodoc clutched his Father's arm and hid his face behind Merry's back to hide his own mirth from his furious Mother.
"But Mum," Faramir piped up, looking sweetly at his Mother, "I knew Father had on his mail and wouldn't be hurt." The look Diamond gave him caused the lad to quickly shut his mouth.
"It was not really stealing, Estella dearest. It was all only in fun," Merry said after catching his breath, "The last winter, this spring and summer were too good, nearly perfect, and there simply wasn't much of anything for us to do."
"And you know how we get when we are bored," Pippin put in for good measure.
"We thought, rather than go mad from the tedium, we would well . . . ," Merry hesitated.
"Make a wager with each other?" Estella huffed.
"No," said Pippin, "a friendly competition rather. Merry made a comment that he could still plan and execute a prank better than I could. And I said I doubted it and, for some reason, he said he could rob me blind without ever getting caught."
"Merry!" Estella gasped. "This was your idea?"
"Only partially!" Merry said though he already knew he was on the losing side of this discussion. "It was Pip who came up with the idea of raiding each others houses and anything being fair game."
"And our sons got involved with this in what way?" Diamond's voice was icy.
"Well actually, seeing as you have brought it up, it was really . . . ," Pippin started to say, but his wife cut him off.
"Don't you dare try to blame this on your son, Peregrin Took!"
"But truly, Diamond,' Pippin tried to explain, "We were telling Theodoc and Faramir stories about when Merry and I were lads. They said it sounded like great fun, and they asked which one of us was best at it all, and," Pippin lowered his eyes. He was starting to realize how foolish this was sounding. "And we sort of started going back and forth about it."
"My Father is better at it than yours." Theodoc said in an imperious tone while giving Faramir a light shove. Merry hurriedly put his hand over his son's mouth while pulling Theodoc tightly to his side and holding him there.
Pippin looked up with an expression of defeat in his eyes. "We have behaved like fools. Are you quite satisfied now? We behaved as though we are younger than our own sons, We are fools, and we have been caught. So, Mistress Diamond and Mistress Estella," he stood up his straightest and held his chin up, "What shall our punishment be?"
The wives spoke together in each other's ears for a few moments, nodded to each other and faced their thoroughly embarrassed husbands and sons.
"We have decided," said Diamond in her most motherly voice, "that you supposedly adult hobbits have indeed acted like little lads, and you lads went along with it when you knew it was all wrong to be doing these things. So your punishments will all be the same punishment."
"First, of course, proper apologies will be given by each of you to all of your victims." Estella said while looking each of the naughty hobbits in the eye, "Then the four of you will return everything to it's proper place, especially the seal of the Master of Buckland and the seal of the Thain of the Shire."
"You did manage to get it then, Merry!" Pippin said excitedly and then sucked in his lower lip and looked at his feet, one of which he realized he had just put in his mouth.
Diamond glared at him then continued. "And the rest of your punishment is this; none of you, the two naughty Brandybucks and the two naughty Tooks, neither set of you will see the other at all until the Yule celebration which is to be at Great Smials this year."
Both Theodoc and Faramir started to whine, "But, Mum!" when firm looks from their Mothers convinced them not to follow that plan of action. Their Fathers just stood starting at each other as though a sort of death sentence had been uttered.
"Get all this sorted through and then we are all going to spend the night at the inn." said Diamond. She and Estella sat by the fire and watched to make sure the sorting went smoothly.
All was packed up, and everyone was on their pony headed down the path when Merry heard Faramir ask Pippin, "But you bested Uncle Merry, didn't you, Father?"
In the heavy silence that followed, Merry wondered if the gift for saying the wrong thing was inherited.
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.