This story was written in 2005 as a wedding gift for my friend Marigold, fellow hurricane evacuee, prolific plot bunny breeder and everyone's favorite beta-with-the-stickses. The part about Merry and the tambour was one of her plot bunnies.
Congratulations, Marigold and Lonewolf. May your life together be filled with happiness and hobbits
Dedicated with affection to Marigold and Lonewolf.
This wedding was not so large, nor so elaborate as her daughter Rose's wedding had been, thought Lily Cotton, as she placed the finishing touches on the wedding cake, but it was different, her eldest lad being wed. The wedding was being held right there on the Cotton farm, in front of their large and comfortable smial. She glanced out the window to watch her younger lads setting out tables for the guests, and turned to her daughter.
Rose was covering a large platter with slices of cheeses and cold sliced ham; another platter with pickles and sliced vegetables was on the table next to it.
"Should you go check on Marigold, Rose?" For Rose would be standing witness for her sister-in-law.
Rose laughed. "She was still in her bath, last I looked, and told me to stop fussing so, I was flustering her." Rose stopped and looked with satisfaction at her handiwork. "I think she has had time enough and then some. I'll go start getting her dressed."
"Well," said Sam, as he handed his brother-in-law his weskit, "in a couple of hours you will be my brother-in-law twice over!"
"I thank you for standing with me, Sam." Tom's fingers fumbled a bit with the buttons.
"I know you would rather have had Jolly."
"I always thought my brother would be the one to stand with me. Never thought he'd take it into his head to leave the Shire."
"He'll be back. And at least you know where he's gone, and for how long." For Jolly had been one of six hobbits, lead by Fredegar Bolger, sent to represent the Shire before the King in Gondor, and he would not return until the following spring.
"I'm glad you're back, Sam. And the others as well. I'm that proud that Mr. Frodo is going to wed us."
"So am I. I wish he was not giving over being Deputy Mayor tomorrow, though."
Frodo, Merry and Pippin walked up the lane to the Cotton farm, where Frodo had spent much of the previous winter, before Bag End had been restored.
"I wish that you would keep on as Deputy Mayor, Frodo," said Merry.
Frodo gave a rueful laugh. "If the job entailed nothing more than weddings, I might. But I have found I do not care for politics."
"I can't blame you there," said Pippin emphatically.
"You'll have to get over that, Pip," said Merry. "You'll be Thain one day."
Pippin made a face. "Now you sound like my father. But nothing says I have to like it. I just have to do it."
Frodo and Merry both laughed at their younger cousin's droll expression. As they came near the front gate, Farmer Cotton came towards them, a broad grin on his weatherbeaten face. "Mr. Frodo, I can't tell you how pleased we are that you're doing the marrying for our Tom and his Marigold. And Captain Merry and Captain Pippin, it's good to see you both were able to come."
The cousins returned his grin and his greetings. Pippin shifted the fiddle case slung across his back and said "You know you can't keep me away from an excuse to play."
Frodo took a carefully folded document from inside his jacket to hand the farmer. "I have their marriage lines right here, Tolman. I know that you will wish to set them out. Where will we stand for the ceremony?" The farmer led Frodo off, to discuss the details of the ceremony.
Merry glanced to where some of the Gamgee and Cotton brothers were setting up tables, and said "I think I'll go and see if they need some help." He headed in that direction.
Just then Tom's younger brother Nibs came up, with his flute in his hand. "Captain Pippin! You brought your fiddle!"
"I said I would, didn't I? Who else is playing?"
Nibs pursed his lips, and began to count out upon his fingers. "Our Uncle Wil is playing the Tookland pipes, and our cousin Hob Brown has his squeezebox. Sam's cousin, Anson Roper, has some shepherd's pipes, and his other cousin, Snowdrop Goodchild has a lap harp."
"No drummer?" asked Pippin.
"Tom's friend from the Southfarthing, Noddy Brownlock, he brought his tambour."
Pippin nodded. It was always good to have someone to keep the beat, especially for dancing.
"That's good then! It sounds like it will be fun!"
"We have a bit of time yet before the wedding. We was going to meet behind the barn for a bit of practice."
"Lead the way," said Pippin with a grin.
Marigold sat in her chemise and underthings, as Rose brushed the coppery curls on her head to a high gloss.
"Has the Gaffer seen your dress?" asked Rose.
"Not on me," giggled Marigold. "But I told him that I had worn it for the Ball. And he's seen yours and not objected." The dress Rose had worn for her wedding had been of a similar cut to the one Marigold would wear today. Pippin's sister Pimpernel had gifted them with the dresses last spring when they had accompanied Sam to the Great Smials with Mr. Frodo. The dresses showed a good deal more bosom than either lass was accustomed to.
"I know Tom's not seen it."
Marigold's face softened in a fond smile, as she thought of her betrothed. "I hope he will like me in it."
Rose laughed. "You will be lucky if he's not struck dumb by the sight of you. My brother is daft over you, you know."
"Yes, I do know," said Marigold smugly. But Rose saw the light in her best friend's eyes, and knew that she was just as daft for her Tom.
Marigold stood up, and Rose carefully lifted the lovely butter yellow dress over her head, dropping the skirts carefully, and then drawing back the sash of deep saffron yellow to tie it in a careful bow at the back.
Then she took up the wreath of flowers and ribbons. The flowers were daisies and baby's breath and a number of Marigold's namesake flowers, with the ribbons of bright yellow and pale yellow and green and white.
"Let me see your feet, now, Mari dear. Do we need to brush up your toes again?"
Marigold stuck one foot out for her sister-in-law's inspection.
"I think you'll do, lass," she said softly, and gave her friend a gentle hug. Both of them felt the sting of tears. It had been only three months since Marigold had stood witness for Rose when she wed Sam.
Beneath a large oak that stood near the old smial, Farmer Cotton had placed a small table. There they laid out the marriage lines, weighted on three corners by polished stones, and on the fourth by the bottle of red ink. Frodo would not bring out the quill until they were ready for it, lest a stray breeze carry it off.
The day was beginning to grow warm, as the time neared noon when the ceremony was to take place, but Frodo would not remove his jacket, for he owed it to the young couple to present a formal appearance at their wedding. He was very pleased that Marigold and Tom had asked him to officiate. It would make a fitting close to his time as Deputy Mayor.
Old Will Whitfoot had asked Frodo to continue in the job, though he had returned to his own duties as Mayor, he had hoped to have Frodo's help and advice. But Frodo simply wanted to get back into a quiet life in Bag End, work on the Red Book, and enjoy being a part of Sam's and Rose's small family.
And, though it was yet too soon for even Rose to suspect, Frodo knew that she had quickened, and that come spring a tiny lass would be born to Sam and Rose. But so far it was knowledge he had kept to himself, though Sam had noticed him giving them small little secret smiles.
Behind the Cotton's barn, the pleasant cacophony of various instruments in various stages of being tuned could be heard. They wanted to be ready as soon as the ceremony was over to take up their instruments and play.
Nibs had begun to fret. "Where's Noddy? I saw him not ten minutes ago, helping to set up the tables. He said he'd be along in just a moment."
Just then, they saw three hobbits come around the corner of the barn. The one in the middle was Noddy, and he was being helped along by Merry on one side, and Nick Cotton on the other. Merry was supporting Noddy's right arm.
"We need some cold water," said Merry. Pippin grabbed a nearby bucket, and filled it quickly at the well.
"I'm that sorry, Nibs," said Noddy, wincing as his swollen hand was plunged into the bucket of cold water. "I got my hand jammed between the table and the sawhorse."
"What are we going to do without a tambour player?" Nibs asked.
"Oh, that's all right," said Pippin breezily. "Merry can play the tambour!"
Merry stared at his cousin in stupefaction. "What are you saying?"
"Oh, come now, Merry. You used to play to keep the time for Aunt Esme and I all the time."
Merry gave Pippin a glare that would have stopped any other hobbit dead in his tracks. It had no effect whatsoever on his younger cousin, who had turned to the others and explained. "Merry's mum used to have him play the tambour to keep time for us when she gave me my fiddle lessons."
Merry snorted. He had flatly refused to let his mother give him fiddle lessons, as she had so badly wished to. He didn't mind a jolly walking song, or a bit of a song and dance among friends at the inn, but he had no wish whatsoever to play in front of an audience the way Pippin did. The only reason he had agreed to the tambour was her insistence that every educated gentlehobbit should play some instrument. The tambour was the least he could get away with. "Pip, I haven't played since I came of age." But he knew it was a losing battle. He couldn't let Tom and Marigold down, and Pippin was giving him that look of his. "Very well. But don't say I didn't warn you."
"It will be all right, Merry, you'll see."
Famous last words, thought Merry sourly.
The guests had gathered together in the foreyard of the Cotton's smial, with those who were to witness the marriage lines standing to the forefront. Frodo stood next to the table where the document lay, and Tom, running a finger through his collar, and Sam at his side, stood to Frodo's right.
There was a stir, as the bride and her attendant approached. Tom gasped at the sight of his beautiful Marigold, and tears sprang to his eyes.
Marigold and Rose came, and stood to Frodo's left. Marigold was pale, and a bit flushed. Frodo gave her a reassuring smile.
Then he turned to Tom.
"I have before me two hobbits who have come with a petition of marriage. Who will vouch for them?"
Sam took a step forward, and in the same firm tone he used to declaim poetry said: "I am Samwise Gamgee, a hobbit of Hobbiton. I present Tolman Cotton the Younger, a hobbit of Bywater, known to me as a hobbit of good character, who is of age, with no reasons why he should not be wed." He gave a decisive nod, and stepped back.
Now it was Rose's turn to speak. "I am Rose Gamgee, a hobbitess of Hobbiton. I present Marigold Gamgee, a hobbitess of Hobbiton, known to me as a hobbitess of good character, who is of age, with no reasons why she should not be wed."
Frodo continued. "Tolman Cotton, is it your intent to wed Marigold Gamgee, of your own free will?"
Tom ran his finger under his collar once more, and then, red as could be, spoke up loudly. "Aye, that it is!" There was a titter of laughter from some of the younger guests.
"Marigold Gamgee, is it your intent to wed Tolman Cotton, of your own free will?"
"Yes, it is."
"Tolman Cotton and Marigold Gamgee, you have declared before witnesses your intent to wed. The duties of marriage are to honor and support one another; the blessings of marriage are to love and respect one another. These duties and these blessings are meant to last for a lifetime. Are you prepared to take on these tasks, through such joys and sorrows as may in time come to you?"
"Yes, we are!" they said together.
Frodo gave them a smile, and glancing past Tom, he looked at Sam's proud face, and gave him a smile as well.
"Tom and Marigold have known for many years they wished to join their lives together. It is a momentous day in which they are finally able to make that dream come true. May your lives together be filled with happiness and blessings. May your joys be many, may your sorrows be few."
Now he looked at the guests. "Will the designated witnesses please step forward: "Tolman Cotton the Elder, Wilcome Cotton the Elder, Hobson Brown, Hamson Gamgee, Halfred Gamgee, Samwise Gamgee, Anson Roper."
The seven witnesses came forward, and Frodo handed them the quill, each of them signing the document in the red ink. Then he handed it to Tom, and then to Marigold, and finally signed it himself: "Frodo Baggins, Deputy Mayor."
Sam and Rosie and the other witnesses stepped away, and Frodo put an arm around Tom's and Marigold's shoulders. "I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Tolman Cotton the Younger."
He leaned toward Tom. "You can kiss her now, Tom."
To the cheers and laughter of all their guests, Tom bussed his bride soundly. She blushed, and then kissed him back just as firmly.
Frodo now took his jacket off, and prepared to enjoy himself as a guest. He turned to see Merry standing behind him, and glaring at Pippin, who was chatting with Sam's young cousin Snowdrop.
"I think" said Merry, through gritted teeth, "that I am just going to kill him and tell everyone he died."
This would have alarmed anyone else but Frodo, who was well aware of Merry's moods, especially with regards to Pippin. "What did he get you into this time?"
"Oh, he only volunteered me to play the tambour for the dancing this afternoon."
Frodo bit his lip to stifle a chuckle. "And you agreed?"
"Well, I could hardly say 'no' with everyone staring at me, could I?"
"Maybe it won't be so bad, Merry. You used to be pretty good with that thing."
"In private." Merry flushed. He had never cared for the idea of performing for an audience-it was why he wouldn't let his mother teach him the fiddle.
"Well, you're committed, now, cousin, you'll just have to make the best of it." But Frodo was privately amused, and felt that Merry was now getting a taste of his own medicine. He had not quite forgiven him for maneuvering him into taking the Deputy Mayor's job.
Merry sighed. He'd not done too badly in their practice session behind the barn, though he could tell Pip thought he was keeping the beat a bit slow. Maybe it wouldn't be a total disaster.
Just then Pippin came up and plucked at his sleeve. "Come on, Merry, we'll be playing in just a moment." And he began to drag Merry off with him, just as the notes from old Wil Cotton's pipes got all the guest's attention.
The musicians were gathered beneath the tree where the ceremony had taken place.
Nibs looked at them before he put his flute to his lips. "We'll start with 'Southfarthing Brawl'(1) and then do 'Happy Hob'.(2)
Merry groaned inwardly. Why did they have to start with Southfarthing Brawl? It got faster and faster toward the end. But there was nothing for it, the other players were ready to begin.
It started well enough, and at first Merry thought things might not be so bad, but as the music began to speed up, he started to lose the rhythm. Desperately he tried to keep up, but fielding glares from the other musicians, he flushed and dropped out. He cast his fiercest glare towards Pippin, but Pippin, who was fairly glowing with the music, cast a smile his way full of fond encouragement. Pippin gave Merry a couple of firm nods to the beat, and soon, by keeping his eyes on his cousin, he was able to get back into the music, and even managed the fast run up to the end of the piece.
Merry flashed Pippin a triumphant grin, which Pippin returned along with a look that said "I told you so." Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all…
The music started for "Happy Hob", which was one of Merry's favorite dances. The last time he had danced that was with Estella at Sam's wedding. This wasn't so bad.
They went through a number of Merry's favorite dances, nothing unfamiliar. Soon they were playing the Tangle Dance.(3) They'd take a break after this. Merry watched the dancers-why that was Frodo leading the Tangle! He and Pippin grinned again. It was worth it to see Frodo dancing again.
After the music ended, and the dancers had extricated themselves, the guests all descended on the tables, and began to help themselves to food and drink.
Pippin handed Merry an ale, and Merry took it gratefully. "See, Merry, it's not so bad."
"No, Pip, it's not so bad. But I wouldn't want to make a habit of it."
After the food and drink had found its place, the musicians went back to work. They played a few songs that were just for listening to, and then after a while, they struck up "Exchanges".(4)
Everyone thought it would be great fun to try and cut the bridal couple, but Tom and Marigold were very nimble, and managed to stay together through the whole dance, in spite of some very determined efforts by Tom's younger brothers, and by some of Marigold's friends. There was much laughter from those watching, at the various tricks that were tried and failed.
The music continued with a few breaks here and there, throughout the afternoon. The food and drink kept being replenished, and there were a number of hobbits who began to flag. Finally, as the sun began to set, Tom's Uncle Wil piped the couple to the door of the little cottage that had been built nearby.
Sam and Rose walked back to Bag End with Frodo, Merry and Pippin.
"That was a lovely wedding, Sam," Rose said.
"Not so lovely as our own, Rosie-lass." Sam dropped a kiss on top of her head as they walked hand in hand.
A few steps ahead, the cousins walked quietly. The stars began to come out. Frodo looked up at them, thinking that today had been a very nice finish to his duties as Deputy Mayor.
I can't post the links to the music played on this site, but if you search, you can likely find them:
(1)To hear the Southfarthing Brawl, search for Califian Bransle.
2)To hear Happy Hob, search for Mairi's Wedding.
(3) To hear the Tangle Dance, search for the Tangle Bransle
(4) To hear Exchanges, search for Hole in the Wall.