Sharp Knives by Kathryn Ramage

Frodo walked back over the crest of the hill and down into the deep valley that contained the garden behind the Thain's Hall and the neighboring Took smials. Merry was sitting alone on the western slope above the garden, waiting for his return; he was frowning, but Frodo was used to that by now.

As he drew nearer to his cousin, Merry rose and called out to him, "Frodo, have you gone mad?"

At first, Frodo didn't understand what Merry was referring to. Then he said, "Oh. Melly told you?"

"Just after you left. I wondered what on earth you were saying to her to make her laugh like that. It couldn't have been this story about Rudmer Thursk. That's news to cheer her, but it isn't so cheering as that. Whatever made you do such a thing?"

"I wanted to give something to think about besides her present position, so that she'd look toward her future. I also meant to show her that I intended to stand by her, no matter what. It did cheer her up, Merry. She laughed out loud. You heard her."

"What if she accepts?" Merry persisted. "When I asked what she meant to do, she said she was thinking the matter over seriously. It's all very well to want to give her hope, Frodo, but it isn't fair of you to play with her feelings. She's been through enough. What'll you do if she decides she'll marry you?"

"If she does, then I will marry her," Frodo told him. "I meant it, Merry. I wouldn't have made such an offer if I hadn't intended to carry it through. You didn't seem to think it was so terrible an idea last night. You said she regretted refusing my proposal the last time."

"I never imagined you'd actually go and do it again! Besides, when I said that, you said you wouldn't be a fit husband. Have you told Melly about you and Sam? After Evvy, she deserves to know." Something else occurred to Merry. "What about Sam? What'll you tell him? He won't like you getting married."

Frodo knew that this was true, but he answered, "I don't see why he should object. I didn't when he married Rose. And unless Melly wants another child, my marriage to her will be perfectly chaste."

"Did you tell Melly that?"

"Of course. We had a frank conversation on the subject. She knows all about Sam. She understands that I'm not the sort of hobbit to be attentive to a wife in that way, but I told her I'd be willing to try if she wanted to have a baby. The Ring undermined my health, but I've no reason to believe I can't father a healthy child if I make the effort."

Merry shook his head in disbelief. "You're quite mad, Frodo. The maddest hobbit I know."

"Melly said so too."

"Well, you and Melly can do as you please, but did you think of how the Tooks will receive this news? They're bound to hear of it--they probably have already. Pip was with me when Melly told me, and Dodi and Isalda were nearby. Pearl and Reg too. They won't keep it to themselves. The story will spread 'til everybody in Tuckborough hears about it."

A gathering of hobbits in the heart of the garden below told Frodo that Merry was right; the news was already beginning to spread.
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