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The Tenth Walker  by Lindelea

Chapter 92. We endure disappointment for the sake of necessity 

Youngest hobbit wakens as the Sun is thinking about seeking her bed, though not quite stifling her yawns, as Master likes to say. He (Youngest, not Master) seems quite put out at the news that the fire no longer burns, and we are to move on again this evening rather than resting through the night as was originally planned, for it seems that he was looking forward to a ‘real good meal: something hot’.

I muse to myself about the charms of a ‘hot meal’. I have a dim memory of a hot bran mash in that wondrous place, now growing dim in my memory, where the Big Man (the one with the shield) and Dwarf and the Fair One joined our party, along with Tall Hat. Yes, I decide, that warm bran mash was both delicious and comforting. I can only imagine that Youngest’s ‘real good (hot) meal’ must be such a thing, and so I share his disappointment. 

I roll an eye at Tall Hat, but he appears more sympathetic than annoyed at Youngest’s outburst, for instead of sending him to fetch water or re-pack some bag or other (or perhaps turning him into a toad for the next hour or two), he tells Youngest that he may go on looking forward. That sounds like a hopeful thought, especially when he adds that Youngest might expect many unexpected feasts.

Expecting something unexpected is too much of a puzzle for my poor brain, I fear. I shake my head to clear it, missing much of what Tall Hat has yet to say (something about having a pipe to warm his feet, if I heard him right), though I closely attend the conversation once more when my Sam speaks. Of course. Even though my hobbit is not addressing his words to me, but to Master, I keep one ear swivelled in his direction, to make sure I will not miss any of them.

It seems that my Sam is worried about being ‘too warm’ where ever it is we are going. It is a curious thought, though I am not overly worried. As the weather warms, I will blow my coat, as I have heard it said. I can still remember the pleasurable feeling of my old man, plying a stiff brush to sweep away thick wads of hair by the handful, leaving my sides shining and no longer shaggy. So I have no fears of being too warm by any means. 

I raise my head to sample the air, just to make sure. Yes, my surroundings smell like winter, or early springtide at the very latest. I remain glad of my shaggy winter covering.

Does my Sam anticipate such a long journey, then, as to take us into the heat of high summer?

In any event, we remain in hiding as the day draws to an end. Our Big Man alternates watching from the sheltered spot high on the hill with the other Big Man (the one with the shield), and the Dwarf and the Fair One also take their turn on watch, telling the hobbits to stay together in the sheltered hollow and re-pack the bags to be ready to move out at dusk. 

I stay near the hobbits – the grass is better here. I graze, listening to my companions conversing quietly. They fall silent and point at the sky to quiet the others whenever one or another sees the dark birds coming again, and I freeze, trying to stand motionless, until their conversation arises once more, indicating that the birds have flown over and gone again. When Master falls asleep, almost mid-sentence, the others quieten their voices at first and then stop talking altogether to allow him his rest. 

Meanwhile, I alternate dozing and grazing: quiet, soothing pastimes that I hope help Master find rest and relaxation. One of the most peaceful places I know is a warm stable at feeding time when we are all munching our grain, or pulling hay from the rack and chewing it.

When the Sun is low in the sky, the birds do not return, and my Sam sets out a meal of sorts for everyone.

Youngest grumbles, and not-too-Merry cuffs him about the ear – or pretends to do so, and Youngest cowers away to make it look more real, but as Master does not protest and my Sam does not seem at all troubled, I think it is like the gambols of young colts, playing at fighting. Master then tells Youngest to be grateful for what he’s got, and not-too-Merry is not to be left out of the conversation. ‘It could be worse,’ he says.

‘Merry!’ Youngest protests, though he keeps his voice low. He adds severely, as serious as I have ever heard him, ‘You know never to say such a thing! It’s like inviting “worse” to look in... which is the last thing we should want to happen!’

‘So eat your food and be glad of it,’ Master says, as if the younger hobbits’ quarrelling disturbs him.

Youngest is immediately apologetic, and he crams his mouth full of dried meat and chews vigorously, humming in apparent delight and shaking his head up and down as if it is the most delicious thing he has ever eaten.

Even though I am sure that he, like myself, would prefer a nice, warm bran mash instead.

Still, we must make the best of what is available, and I fill my mouth with as much grass as I can gather, and together, Youngest and I chew our mouthfuls.


Author notes:

Some text taken from “The Ring Goes South” from The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien.

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