Marching Orders by Dreamflower

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Story Notes:


This story came from a bunny of Shirebound's. Sometime ago, she had posted a little starter, that she said anyone was free to use if they wished. It consisted of a bit of dialogue between Bilbo and Frodo right after Frodo had come to live at Bag End. I really loved it, and saved it, until I could come up with the right something to complete it. The part in bold is by Shirebound.

Although Merry does not actually make a personal appearance in the story, it is very *much* *about* Merry, and I hope everyone will get a kick out of it.

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: Frodo is 20, Sam is 9 and Merry is 7 (13, 6 and 5 in Man-years).]


"I'm surprised at how you've taken to young Samwise," Bilbo said over tea. "Hal and Ham are so much closer to your age, I would have thought--"

"I know," Frodo admitted, "but Sam's so much closer to Merry's age. I really like having him around."

"Ah," Bilbo nodded. "I hadn't thought of that. Well, the lad certainly worships the ground you walk on."

"Hardly that!" Frodo laughed, clearing the dishes.

"He responds to kindness and respect," Bilbo mused, "and feeling that he's not just another face in a crowd." He responds to the same things you do, my lad "Some of the gentry don't give the working class the time of day."

"I can't imagine treating anyone that way," Frodo frowned.

"Uncle Rory always said that the only difference between the working hobbits and the gentry is that the gentry have more responsibilities and have to wear more uncomfortable clothes."

"Your Uncle Rory is an uncommonly sensible hobbit. Unfortunately, things are a bit more hidebound here in Hobbiton, lad. But I’ve not let that worry me overmuch, and I am pleased that you don’t seem inclined to either. I am very glad that you get on so famously with little Sam."

"He reminds me a lot of Merry. He’s such a happy child, yet he’s also very practical for his age--I’m glad they got on so well when Merry was here earlier this year. I hope they will be good friends."

Bilbo shook his head. "I hope they may be playmates when Merry visits--there really aren’t any other lads his age nearby--but don’t expect Sam’s father to approve of a friendship with the grandson of the Master of Buckland."

Frodo frowned, briefly. But he had known Gaffer Gamgee long enough to realize his older cousin was correct.

"Speaking of Merry, Uncle Bilbo--did I see a letter for me from him in the post?"

Bilbo hesitated for an instant. "No, no, my lad!" he said hastily. "All the post was for me today."

Frodo’s face fell. He had been sure he had seen the familiar large envelope among the stack of mail his cousin had taken from the post hobbit.

"Would you mind seeing to the washing up on your own, Frodo? I’ve a few things to do in my study?"

"Not at all, Uncle." Frodo rose and began to gather up the tea things.

Bilbo shut the door to his study, sat down at his desk, and picked up the stack of letters. The one on the bottom was indeed from young Merry. It was addressed in the large and careful letters of a young child:



Curiously, he opened it and unfolded the letter inside. His eyebrows rose.

The next morning, Frodo, as he sometimes did, slept through first breakfast, and wakened to the smell of second breakfast cooking--he could tell it must be second breakfast from the angle of the sun in his window. He washed and dressed quickly, and running his fingers through his curls instead of a comb, he wandered into the kitchen.

"Ah!" Bilbo grinned. "Glad to see you awake! I was down at the market early this morning, and bought some new sausages." He dished up a plate for Frodo: sausages, eggs scrambled with cheese, fried potatoes, toast, and a small bowl of strawberries and cream.

Frodo looked at the sausages, and sniffed. He took a bite. "Oh, these are lovely! I liked the other sausages, Uncle Bilbo, but they had so much pepper that sometimes they made my throat itch. I like these much better--and they have plenty of sage in them!"

"Well, I just thought that I’d try something a bit different. What are your plans for today?"

His ward grinned up at him, as he dug into the bowl of strawberries with relish. "I thought that if I buckled down to it, I could finish my essay on Arthedain before elevenses, and then I could work on that Sindarin grammar for a while. And I thought I might try to read that book of Elven lays you translated after luncheon…"

Bilbo laughed. "Frodo, really! It’s a lovely summer day, far too nice to spend sitting about the smial doing lessons all day. I’ve an idea. Why don’t I pack up a picnic. You take young Samwise with you--I’ll make it right with the Gaffer--and take a stroll down to the Water. You could have a swim, and perhaps coax little Sammy into wading in the shallows. Take the Elven book with you, if you wish. I know I can trust you to be careful of it. You can read to him a bit if you like."

Frodo sprang up with a glad cry, and gave Bilbo an enthusiastic hug, which the older hobbit returned with a bit more fervor than was his usual wont.

"Uncle Bilbo, you have the best ideas!"

Bilbo gave him another quick squeeze. "I just don’t want you to be sorry you came to live with me, Frodo. It’s far different than just coming to visit for a couple of months, to be here with an old bachelor like me all the time, and few young people about."

"Oh, Uncle! I’d never be sorry! I *do* miss Merry, and the others sometimes, but it’s just wonderful to be here with you."

"Yes. Well." The older hobbit blinked, and sniffed. "I’m pleased to hear you say it, but still, you run along and have some fun with little Sam today."

No further coaxing was needed, and soon Frodo was headed out of the smial, carrying a small, but well-filled hamper, and calling for Sam.

Bilbo watched the two head down the path to the road, and then reached into his jacket and pulled out the letter. Unfolding it, he chuckled and shook his head.

"Dear Cousin Bilbo,

Since you get to have Frodo now you had better take good care of him.

Do not let him look at books and do lessons all day long. Mum says he needs xersiz He needs to go for walks and go swimming. And clime trees too, but don’t let him clime too high and fall and brake his leg or something or I will be angry with you.

He likes strawberries. And mushroom soup. And cheese on his eggs sometimes. And too much peper makes his nose itch. And his eyes and he snizzes sneezes.

Sometimes he gets very sad. If he does then you must hug him a lot and tell him you love him and tell him stories to chir him up.

If this is too much trubbel trouble for you then you can give him back to me.

Do not show him this letter. He thinks that I worry too much.


Cousin Merry

P.S. Give him a hug from me."

Bilbo shook his head, chuckling. "Well, Master Meriadoc Brandybuck, I have done my best to carry out your orders."

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