Chapter 5: A Successful Search

"Merry, look here!" Pippin exclaimed. He pointed to a broken log that used to extend over a stream. "What do you suppose did that?"

"That log wasn't terribly strong," Merry said. "It could hold my weight, but if someone heavier was to cross it--"

"Sam!" Pippin exclaimed.

"Come on, there's a narrower part down there," Merry said.

The two hobbits crossed the stream, then went back to the spot where the broken log lay. They studied the ground for a few minutes, searching for clues. Then Merry found something.

"Here!" Merry cried. "Pip, look what I've found! Hobbit tracks!"

Merry and Pippin followed the tracks to the rock Frodo and Sam had sat on, and from there to the hollow tree. There they found Frodo and Sam sleeping peacefully together. Frodo was still wrapped in Sam's protective arms.

"See here, Pip!" Merry said loudly. "Two little hobbits living wild in the forest!"

"Oooh, Merry!" Pippin exclaimed, catching on to the joke. "Do you suppose we could tame them and keep them as pets?"

Sam opened his eyes at this and scowled at the two trouble making hobbits, displeased at the idea of being treated like an animal, even if they were only joking.

"I don't know, Pip," Merry said. "They are wild, after all. And vicious too, by the looks of them. See the mean gleam in that one's eye?"

Frodo, who was awake by this time, chuckled softly at the thought of Sam mean. Sam was a gentle soul.

"This here is a particularly ugly breed of wild-hobbit," Merry continued matter-of-factly, pointing to Frodo.

Even gentle souls, Frodo reminded himself, have things that set them off, and Merry and just pressed Sam's defensive buttons.

"Here!" Sam exclaimed, casting a disapproving glare at the mischievous Brandybuck. "That's not funny!"

"It wasn't meant as a joke," Merry said coolly.

"Just look at it!" Pippin added, wrinkling his nose at Frodo.

That was too much for Sam. His eyes widened and he sat up perfectly straight. "How dare you say such a thing about Mr. Frodo!"

Merry and Pippin laughed. "We were just kidding, Sam!" Pippin told him. "Frodo knows that, don't you, cousin?"

"Yes, Pippin, I know. Sam, lad, don't squeeze me quite so hard."

"Sorry, Mr. Frodo." Sam blushed. "Can we get out of this tree now?"

"Yes, let's," Frodo agreed. "You'll come with me to Bag End, won't you Sam? I'd like to talk with you about some things..." He meant, of course, Bilbo, who was still very much on his mind.

"Of course, Mr. Frodo."

"I'm looking forward to breakfast," Frodo added. "I'll do the cooking today if you like. You deserve a break."

"Now, Mr. Frodo," Sam said. "You know how much I enjoy preparing your meals. You wouldn't want to take that away from me, would you?"

"Indeed not, dear Sam. I just thought I'd ask."

"I'll make you the best breakfast you ever had, Mr. Frodo," Sam promised as he helped Frodo off his lap.

Merry and Pippin looked at each other, then turned to Sam.

"Let us help you, Sam!" they said, pulling him out of the tree.

"Is there anything else we can do for you, Sam?" Pippin asked.

Sam shook his head. "No need to butter me up, lads. You can come to breakfast too."