Sharp Knives by Kathryn Ramage

Before they left Adelard's house, they stopped in the day nursery which opened onto the garden. Merry had seen Melly's son Aderic since his arrival, but Frodo hadn't yet and was worried about how the little boy was taking the distressing events going on around him. Losing a father was enough to grieve any child, but to lose him in such a dreadful way was worse still. And to be separated from his mother at such a time! Frodo's sympathies went out to the boy.

They found Aderic playing with his cousins. Pearl's and Reg's brood of small sons were all robust boys with bright curls in shades of chestnut and auburn. Aderic, who took more after his Brandybuck mother than his Took father, was a dark and slight figure among them. He was a quiet and somber little boy, but Frodo was relieved to see that he didn't look as if he'd been crying. How much had the Tooks told him? Surely, at the age of five, Aderic was old enough to be informed that his father was dead, but it was possible that he wasn't aware that Everard's body was laid out in another room only a few doors away.

When he saw Frodo with Merry at the nursery door, Aderic smiled. "Uncle Frodo!"

"Hello, Addy." Frodo crouched down to give the little boy a hug, then was overwhelmed by the other little boys, who were just as delighted to see him and clamoring for hugs too. A few minutes passed before he could ask Aderic how he was.

"I wanna go home now," Aderic told him. "Can we? Uncle Merry said Mamma 'n' me could go after you came."

"Not right away," said Merry. "Soon. We have some things we must do first."

"Aren't you happy here, Addy?" Frodo asked. "No one's been mean to you, have they? Do you want to see your mother?"

"I saw Mamma this morning," Aderic answered. "She doesn't like it here, and I don't either. Pev says she's in trouble."

"We're not s'posed to talk about it," Peveril, the eldest of the Took boys, told Frodo confidentially. "My mamma says so."

"Your mother did say so," said Pearl, who had come to the doorway beside Merry while her son was speaking. "Pev, I'm afraid you take too much after your Uncle Pippin." To Merry and Frodo, she said, "I didn't expect to find you still here. I thought you'd gone."

"We won't be here for much longer," Merry answered coolly. "Frodo wanted to see Addy before we left for the Bullroarer's."

"Then little Addy and Melly won't be going with you?" asked Pearl.

"Not tonight, no."

"We'll come back for them tomorrow," Frodo added as he rose from his crouched position amid the children. The three grown hobbits went out into the garden, where the boys wouldn't overhear their conversation. "Doesn't Addy know about his father?"

"Melly told him that Everard is dead, but I don't think he truly understands what that means," Pearl answered. "It isn't as if he knew Ev. Until they came to Tuckborough for this visit, Addy hadn't seen Ev since he was a baby. We've done our best to keep the rest of it from him."

"I think it'd be best if he were back at Brandy Hall," said Merry. "That's his home. I see that I can't take him and Melly right away, but at least I'll have them away from this house in the morning. You'll only have to abide her presence one more day."

"Oh, Merry," Pearl spoke in her reproving tone. "There's no imposition, honestly."

"All the same, you and Reg and Uncle Addy will be relieved to have her out of your house. I realize you can't be pleased to have her staying here. We won't trouble you for long. Frodo and I will do our best to avoid intruding more than we have to while he's investigating. If you'll pardon me, I'll see to the ponies." Merry gave her a frigidly polite bow and went over the top of the hill to the stables.

After he had gone, Pearl turned to Frodo with an apologetic expression and said, "I don't suppose I can blame him for feeling unwelcome after the way Mother's behaved to both of you. I hope you don't take the things she said as much to heart, Frodo. She's been extremely upset since poor Evvy died."

"I didn't realize that they were so close." Eglantine's late sister had been Everard's mother; in spite of this close blood relationship, Frodo had never observed the Lady expressing any special affection for her nephew.

"They weren't," Pearl confirmed. "But she's felt his death terribly keenly. I think it must have more to do with Pippin than Everard himself. The life you lads lead--you and Merry, and Pippin too. She's terrified that he'll end up like poor Evvy has."


"Well, dead. He's her only son, you know, and Father's heir. That does count for something. And since Pippin enjoys facing danger while helping you with your investigations, it's only natural she blames you for the risks he takes. She's always been horrified by the old stories about Thain Gerontius's sons and daughters who went out on adventures, especially the two that never came home. She's a Banks, after all, and they aren't Tookish in the least. She's tried to instill in us all a sense of decorum, to keep us from taking after our Took ancestors. I never wanted to go on adventures and that sort of life doesn't seem to hold much appeal for Peri either now that she's married and has a child of her own. But Pippin's got too much Tookish blood in him for Mother's comfort. Pimmie too. Running off with that traveling circus! We've no idea where in the wide world she is."

"Do you--do the Tooks--really believe that Melly killed Everard?"

"We can't help blaming her for his death," Pearl admitted. "No, Frodo, that's not the same thing. She abandoned him to return to her own family--something a proper wife should never do without the most severe provocation. If she'd stayed here and kept an eye on her husband, then Ev might never have gone off with Tibby and ended up as he did. She and little Addy would've been constant reminders of his family responsibilities. Without them, he had nothing to do but brood and go to drink at that public house, where he saw Tibby Clover almost every day. Melilot's behavior helped to bring about this terrible ending. If she can be blamed for nothing else, she can be blamed for that. I don't personally believe she murdered Everard, but her part in this is difficult for any of us to forgive."
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