A Special Homecoming by Dreamflower

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A SPECIAL HOMECOMING

Whistling merrily, Pippin backed in through the kitchen door of Crickhollow, both hands being occupied by a rather large basket. He turned and gave the door a shove with his rump, and then went to the table to put his burden down.

Still whistling, he went to the pump at the sink and washed his hands before filling the kettle for some tea. He took out the bread to cut a sandwich; he’d eat his elevenses as he worked on cooking luncheon. For today at lunchtime, Merry and Estella would be returning from the Hall with little Wyn.

It had been a bit lonesome for the last month. Cousin Dody and Mistress Thorn had insisted that Estella finish her confinement at Brandy Hall. So Merry had gone with her to stay in his parents’ apartment until after the baby was born. They had been there for two months, but Pippin had spent the first month making visits to the Great Smials, Bag End and Budgeford, before coming back. He wanted to be nearby for that last month, lest the babe come early. He still remembered the sorrow that had weighed both Merry and Estella down after the little one that was lost the first year they wed.

So he had been living alone in the little house, which had seemed very strange. In some ways, it had been a bit fun doing whatever he wished whenever he wished, without having anyone there to worry about inconveniencing, but mostly it was boring and lonely. He had taken the largest part of his meals at the Hall, and spent a good deal of time there. He had also gone into Newbury to the inn several times. Not for the first time he marveled at how Bilbo and Frodo had lived alone for so many years. It would have driven him insane, he thought. But maybe it had been because of the Ring. He’d often wondered about that.

But now his cousins were coming home, and with the little one. And he was going to have a lovely surprise for their luncheon.

When he’d been at Bag End this last time, he’d prevailed on Sam to give him a few lessons on pastry. He was a pretty fair baker--he and Merry often made scones, bread, cakes, and biscuits both savory and sweet. They had a mess to clean up afterwards, as they usually ended up in a flour fight. But neither of them had ever had much success with a nice flaky pie crust. Sam, on the other hand, had a wonderfully light hand with pastry, and his pies were always lovely. After a few lessons, they had both baked apple pies and presented them to Rose to see if she could tell which was Sam’s. Sam was insufferably pleased with his skill as a teacher when she proclaimed them both to be perfectly lovely, and couldn’t judge between them.

He alternated working on the pastry with sips of tea and bites of cucumber sandwich. Taking out a deep dish, he lined it with half the pastry, and then set it aside with the remainder, covered with a damp tea towel lest it dry out while he made the filling.

He turned to the basket, and took out the beautiful mushrooms he’d gathered that morning in a nearby copse, as well as a number he had purchased from their neighbor, Mr. Boffin. He chuckled. It was a shame there was no time for a raid across the River at Farmer Maggot’s. Mushrooms purloined from the Marish--those mushrooms always tasted better for some reason. But no, it was not lack of time. He was all grown up now, and so was Merry, and those days were behind them.

He put the skillet on the stove to heat, as he cleaned and chopped the mushrooms and a bit of onion. Then he tossed in a knob of butter; as soon as it melted, he put in the mushrooms and onion and began to stir them about. As they began to give up their juices, he moved the skillet to the back of the stove and went to slice the lovely cheese he had found at the Farmer’s Market in Bucklebury the day before.

It was going to seem odd to have a baby in the house, though he was looking forward to having her about to play with. He missed his nieces and nephews.

Merry had been certain that the child would be a lad. They had planned to name him Peridoc, which had chuffed Pippin no end, but there had been all kinds of fuss over a girl’s name. Merry had wanted to name her Éowyn, after his shield-sister in Rohan, but his Brandybuck relations had all hit the ceiling at this notion. Brandybuck girls *always* had flower names--*always*! Surprisingly, even Merry’s mum, his Aunt Esme, had been on the side of a flower name.

But his Merry was nothing if not clever. “Very well,” he had said, “if she cannot be named after my sister in Rohan, then she shall be named Simbelmynë after a flower that grows there.” From this he would not be moved, in spite of complaints that no one would be able to pronounce such a name. “Then I suppose,” he had said, “we will have to call her Éowyn for short.” So in the records of Brandy Hall, she was listed as Simbelmynë Brandybuck, everyone called her Éowyn the first day, and before the second day was out, it had been shortened to Wyn. Pippin would be willing to bet that by the time of her third birthday no one would even remember her official name unless they looked in the book.

Pippin began to assemble the pie, alternating the mushroom filling with the cheese, occasionally popping a bit of cheese into his own mouth. He rolled out the remaining pastry and covered the top, cutting little slits in it, before setting it in the oven. While it baked, he would make up a salad of greens from the little garden in the back, and he would pick some strawberries for dessert. He had put a bit of clotted cream in the larder to go with them.

He had just removed the pie from the oven when he heard the sound of the pony-trap, and he went to greet them.

“Hullo, Pip!” said Merry. He put a finger on Pippin’s nose and it came away floury. “Been baking?”

“I thought you might like a bit of lunch, now you’re home.”

“That sounds lovely, Pippin,” said Estella, as she handed Wyn to Merry. “We missed elevenses getting ready to leave.”

Merry handed his daughter to his cousin, so that he could help his wife down. Pippin took the little one expertly, looking at her perfect little face with adoration. Babies were lovely. He sighed; over two more years before he and Diamond could wed and start a family. Though he was now of age, she still was not, and she had to finish her apprenticeship, as well.

He looked at his cousins fondly. “I’m glad you’re home, now. It’s been dreadfully dull around here.”

Estella laughed. “I don’t think it will be a bit dull now, with a baby about. We shall all probably *long* for a bit of dullness in a few days. Now, how about that lunch?”

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An hour later, Estella nursed her daughter as they still sat at the table. There was not a crumb of food left to be seen.

“I think,” said Merry, “that if you are going to feed us like this every time we go away for a bit, then we shall have to go away more often!”

Pippin gave a shudder. “Heavens, no! It’s far too quiet around here when you are gone. I should never get any rest.”

Merry gave his younger cousin a squeeze on the arm. “We’re glad we’re home, too, Pip.”

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PIPPIN’S MUSHROOM PIE

 

Pastry for a two-crust pie*

1 pound of fresh mushrooms, cleaned and chopped

About 2 tablespoons of minced onion

1 tablespoon butter (or margarine)

Seasoning to taste

1 pound of mild white cheese, sliced thinly**

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a skillet sauté the mushrooms and onion until soft; season to taste. Line a deep dish with the bottom crust; then arrange about half the cheese in the crust. Then put in half the mushroom mixture. Repeat with another layer of cheese and mushroom mixture.

Put on the second crust, seal, and cut slits in the top to vent.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown. Let stand for about 5 to 10 minutes before cutting. Serve hot.

Yield: 6 servings for Men, 3 for hobbits.

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AUTHOR’S NOTES:

*Not having a Sam to give me pastry lessons, I usually content myself with a refrigerated pre-made crust, although I sometimes make a pie-crust made with oil instead of shortening.

**I usually use either provolone or Swiss, sometimes both. You can save yourself the slicing if you get it at the deli.





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