Characters: Meriadoc, Peregrine, Hobbits
Source: Pre-Ring War
Disclaimer: These are Tolkien’s characters and his Middle-earth
“See? This is where the line rises – and over here… this is you.”
Young Meriadoc Brandybuck gazed at the carefully inked parchment roll in fascinated wonder: His tree, his family tree…
He reached out to touch the shiny black letters adorning the fine leather.
“Ah, ah!” admonished his father’s clerk, “No little fingers please! This is for looking at, not for touching.”
“Will I be able to write on it?”
“Doubt it. First, your letters must become a good deal straighter; second, when the time comes to add a wife…”
“Wife?” piped Merry, “Ugh, I don’t want a girl there!”
The shrubs wavered as something furtive passed amongst them.
“Meriadoc, is that you trampin’ my gardens?”
Cook stood at the back door of Brandy Hall surveying the rows of berry bushes in the extensive walled kitchen-garden… source of some suspicious movements.
“You come out this minute!”
Two grubby young hobbits emerged slowly.
“Peregrine Took! As guest here I’s expects better!”
“Twas my fault,” said Merry, “I was shownin’ him… around.
Both pairs were stained purplish. Merry’s held a jam-jar of crushed berries and apple-vinegar.
“We were making Shrub, like Da drinks.”
“What Master drinks ain’t for you!”
The rest of the afternoon they were on weeding duty. Under Cook’s watchful eye, the two youngsters worked their way down rows of carrots, pea-stalks, lettuce and cabbage seedlings. It was hot and tiring; they had dirt under their finger-nails and soil between their toes.
“Alright. Come here,” called Cook from the doorway. She had mugs of diluted cordial; they gulped the cool, sweetened water gratefully.
“This is fruit boiled with sugar; the Master’s Shrub is made for brandy, you be a good deal older before I’ll serve you that.”
As they left, Merry revealed his secret gleanings… Pipe-weed leaves!
Hidden away under the long branches of the High Hay was Meriadoc’s personal private space. His older cousins had built a den here years back, daring each other to burrow through and even walk towards the Old Forest beyond. He’d found it, cleared it and made it his own.
He and Pippin sat deep beneath sheltering branches, staring at the limp green leaves stuffed into an old clay pipe.
“What now?” said Peregrine.
“We light it.”
Merry clenched the broken pipe stem between his teeth, applied a flame, sucked hard… and coughed… and coughed!
His face turned green as seaweed.
Pippin thumped Merry’s back hard. Merry spluttered, tears streaming down his face. He flung the pipe of evil smoking weed down and scrubbed at his mouth.
“Arrgh! Urgh!” was all he could manage.
“Are you alright?”
“Water…!” Merry eventually croaked.
“No...” Pip searched his trouser pockets, “peppermint…?” He held out a slightly dusty half-sucked lozenge.
Merry seized the sweet, pocket-fluff and all, cramming it in his mouth, frantically rolling it around his tongue. They scrambled to their feet and fled
The discarded pipe still burnt, creating small clouds of noxious smoke that floated through the long grass towards the forest.
Over the grass, over the moss around stumps and fallen branches, over leaf-mould and mushrooms… the smell came to a nose that twitched and sniffed and remembered what it was to be young… just about. He whistled, and hummed, striding down secret green paths in his yellow boots.
Greeny faces, mossy mows,
Little hobbits hairy toes,
Best be brushed and bed-side
Away from High–ho hedge-side
Leave the pipe-weed wilting.
Not for you the greenery, the yallary leafy weedery.
He found the smouldering pipe, stamping it out with a chuckle, ‘lads will be lads’ ...then strode back into his forest.