Title: Accounted For
Author: Anso the Hobbit
Characters: Merry, Pippin, Saradoc, various Brandybuck cousins
Timeline: Brandy Hall, SR 1408 so Merry is 26 and Pippin 18.
Note: This serves as chapter four in my series “Master in Training” which is a series of stand-alone ficlets about Merry’s training to become Master after his grandfather dies. Also written for Marigold’s Challenge 27 where I was to include the four elements air, fire, water and earth and also the time "study time".
Disclaimer: Not mine. They just own me.
Merry rested his head in his hands and looked gloomily down at the sheet of paper in front of him. It was blank and he was at a loss on how to fill it. That is, it wasn't completely blank as there were lines going both vertically and horizontally across it to make columns and rows. The problem was that Merry didn't know how to fill in the numbers that were to go in them. He lifted his head and looked out the window for perhaps the hundredth time in the last hour. The sky was a clear, crisp blue and he could almost smell the spring air through the window.
Merry closed his eyes and fondly remembered how it was for the first time each year to walk on the sun-warmed earth and watch the gardeners work to help the first signs of spring to sprout. He remembered how the soil tickled his feet and how soft it felt after walking on frozen ground for months. He opened his eyes again and studied the garden outside his window. From his desk Merry could clearly see the lads who played on the lawn and he didn't need to open the window to hear their shouts and laughter or strain his eyes to find Pippin amongst them. The sun glinted in his coppery curls and Merry could clearly hear his laughter.
“Merry?” Merry hadn’t heard the door open and his da come in. "How are you getting on with those numbers?" Saradoc came over to the desk and looked down at the empty sheet and sighed. “Look at me Merry,” he said and went to stand in front of his son. Merry lifted his head and looked at him.
“I know you find it hard to sit inside and work when the other lads are free to go outside, but I also know how important it is that you understand this. Some day you knowing how the accounts are done will make all the difference between a good and a bad decision and since you will be the one to decide what is to be done, you need to know enough about how the accounts are done to make a good and just decision."
“I'm sorry, Da, and I know how important it is. You have explained this to me before and you have been very helpful in making me understand it but I just can't grasp it when I'm on my own." Merry was actually quite good with numbers. He didn't have any problems when it came to the more elementary parts of mathematics and he liked keeping things in order and systematised, but these accounts got the better of him.
Saradoc sighed. He looked around the room and pulled a chair that stood in front of the fire up to Merry's desk. "All right, let's go over this one more time then. You know the difference between the rows and columns, right?"
Merry nodded. “Yes and I know which column is for debit and credit but what I find hard to understand is how to account for the value of the crops and livestock. It's sort of sad to think that I have to make numbers out of them when they have such a greater value.”
“I know how you love the animals Merry-lad, and I am very grateful for that. They are however part of what we own and to know what we have also makes us able to find out what we can or cannot do."
Merry was about to protest, but Saradoc held his hand up. “Don't. I know the animals have greater value than what we can put down in numbers, but they are still something we buy and sell. How else would we be the best pony-breeders in the Shire if we didn't know what the ponies are worth and what to pay or take for them?”
“You’re right," Merry said. "I shouldn't have complained."
“Don’t worry Merry. It’s all right to stop up and think about things before doing them. It means you’re thorough and I couldn’t wish for anything else. Now, let’s see about these figures, shall we?"
“Pippin! You were supposed to catch that ball, now we're losing again," Berilac said and picked up the ball Pippin hadn't seen because he'd been lost in his thoughts.
“I'm sorry." Pippin found his place among the team again and tried to focus on the game they were playing.
“What’s wrong with you today?” Ilberic asked. "You usually love this game.”
“I know what’s wrong,” Doderic said. “It’s because Merry’s inside and studying and can’t play with us. He's the best player in the Hall and his team always wins. For my part I’d say I’m happy he’s stuck in that study because that gives the rest of us a chance to show what we're worth too."
“Dody!” Pippin said indignant on Merry's behalf. “You know that isn’t true. Merry is good at this, that is right, but he’s not mean. He doesn’t even always play team leader."
“No,” Ilberic agreed. "But if he's playing, he always decides who is on his team."
“That isn’t fair,” Pippin protested. “Merry’s not like that and you know it. Why are you so mean all of a sudden? Do you envy him sitting inside having to do accounts perhaps? I’m sure he’d love to trade with you.”
Ilberic laughed and went to his own spot on the field, but Pippin could see that he'd hit the nail square on the head. Ilby was envious of Merry's position at the Hall. Pippin also knew that there was something in what Ilberic said. Merry was usually the one who led a game and it had always been like that. He missed Merry being in charge and supposed the others did too. Merry was never mean or unfair when playing but Pippin supposed Merry wasn’t the best loser there was. He was a fair player and sometimes went quite far to get the best players on his team. Pippin however, wasn't very good at ball games but if Merry initiated a game he took Pippin on his team anyway.
He however was not envious of Merry being cooped up inside. Merry’s lessons had increased quite a lot after his grandda had died and Pippin had sometimes partaken in them but he'd had the choice to not do so when he wanted and that meant he could avoid boring accounting lessons when he wished to. He never got his head around numbers the way that Merry did.
When the game finished, and Pippin’s team did really lose, Pippin said no to another round and went to find Merry. Perhaps his cousin was finished by now, or at least would be allowed a break? It was one of the first really wonderful spring days and it was sad that Merry couldn't enjoy it. Pippin liked playing with the other lads and he had fun, but it was never really the same as when Merry was there.
He found Merry in the study he used when he had lessons indoors. He knocked softly on the door in case Merry was deep in concentration about something and wouldn't want to be disturbed, but when Merry said, "Come in." Pippin could clearly hear the relief in his voice.
“Hullo Pip,” Merry said, looking up from his papers. “Is the game over? I saw you playing through the window.”
“Don’t you want to play any more then?”
“No, we lost and you weren't there.” Pippin shuffled his feet a bit and cast his eyes down.
“I’m sorry you lost. You know I couldn’t be there, Pip.” Merry reached for Pippin’s hand to get his attention. When he did Merry smiled and squeezed Pippin’s hand reassuringly.
“I know, I’m sorry,” Pippin said, then brightened. "I thought I'd come save you."
“You did? That's wonderful!" Merry smiled. "I'm afraid Da won't release me until I am finished with this though." He sighed. "He has explained it to me several times but I still find it hard to get my head around.”
“I’m sorry about that, Mer.” Pippin came over to the desk and looked at the papers. His stomach rumbled. “Have you had elevenses yet?”
“No,” Merry shook his head. “I’m thirsty though so I wouldn‘t mind something to drink at least. Would you get us something? I’m sure Da won’t mind if we had elevenses together.”
“All right, what would you like?”
A few minutes later Pippin was back with a tray laden with stewed apples-with-cinnamon, scones, honey butter, clotted cream, raspberry jam, a large pitcher of fizzy pear juice and tea. “It’s the last of the apples and Aunt Esmie is making apple pie for tea today. She said that you'd get the rest of the day off when you finish the accounts your working on." Pippin put the tray on Merry's desk and sat down in the chair his uncle had vacated earlier. "So you could keep an eye on me, she said! Stuff and nonsense! I don't need looking after."
“I'm sure she only meant that I should be able to spend time with you when you're here and not always be buried in books and papers."
“I suppose. It’s not fair that you have to spend so much time working.“ Pippin started buttering a scone.
“I know, Pip, and I’m sorry. You know why though, don’t you?" Merry poured himself some of the pear juice and drank it all in one go before refilling his own glass and pouring some for Pippin.
“Yes I do, and I shouldn’t complain about it but I can’t help wanting you to come play too.” He watched as Merry downed the second glass of juice. “You really were thirsty!"
“All these papers dry me out.” Merry said and attacked the apples. They ate in silence for a while before Pippin spoke up again.
“I know Father is buried in work with being Thain, and I suppose I will be when my time comes too, but I can't say it looks like he’s having fun."
“I’m sure he does have fun too, Pip, but work isn‘t supposed to be fun. It’s something we have to do. Da, and Grandda before him, always told me what would happen if we didn't look after Buckland and the Bucklanders as we should. I sometimes wish that I could do something else, but then I think of all the people who'd suffer if I didn't accept my responsibilities and then I find that I have no other choice but to learn what I can and help Da as much as possible."
“You can decide not to be Master, Merry, there’s lots of cousins who I’m sure would like to trade.” Pippin said.
“You really think so? Who would want that?”
“Well…” Pippin wasn’t sure if he wanted to tell Merry about the argument during the game earlier in the morning. “I’m not sure, but there’s many to choose from.”
“There’s lots of Tooks too, Pippin, but that isn’t really the point. Uncle Paladin and Da and you and I are destined to be Thain and Master because we're the first sons.”
“Yes, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it when you're buried in books and studying.” Pippin pouted but when Merry sent him a stern look he stopped.
“I don’t always like it either and especially when I can see you playing just outside my window.”
“Well," Pippin said, when their plates were empty and the only thing left was half a pot of tea, "if anyone has to be Master I'm glad it's you. I'd much rather have it be you than anyone else."
“Even if I have to study a lot and not always have time to be with you as much as we both want?" Merry raised his eyebrows and looked at Pippin.
“Thank you, Pip. I am very glad to hear that. I don't always find it easy to watch you have your lessons when I am visiting either but it helps that Uncle Paladin often finds me something to do so I can work with you or help you."
“I’m glad he does, and I'm happy to be of help here too Merry, but on days like today I'd rather be outside enjoying myself."
Pippin rose and lifted the tray from the desk. "Do you think we could take your boat out for a trip later today?"
“I would love that, but I’d better get on with this then if I am to finish before it gets dark. We should make the boat ready for the season anyway."
Pippin turned to leave, but Merry spoke up just as he was about to open the door. “Pip? Thanks for making my day brighter. Now I have something nice to look forward to later today.”
“You’re welcome,” Pippin said and smiled brightly. “That’s what friends are for.”