The Shire, one month before ‘A Conspiracy Unmasked’
“What about second breakfast?”
“You just had it!
“Go along with you!”
Pippin went. He didn’t particularly want to eat, anyways - he was just seeing if he could wheedle some more. He wandered along the main road aimlessly, whistling, wondering if he could by any chance nip down to Farmer Boffin’s and snag a few carrots. This thought was just running through his mind when Merry crossed his path. He backtracked and eyed Pippin dubiously.
“Hullo!” Pippin said, cheerfully.
“You’re thinking about going down to Boffin’s, aren’t you?”
One of the drawbacks of having a cousin who was also your best friend, Pippin reflected, was that they always knew what you were going to do. “Why not?”
“For one, Peregrin Took, I believe you have encountered Boffin in his anger before -”
He didn’t finish his sentence, but emitted a squeal of alarm and pulled Pippin into an alley between two buildings. “What,” he protested.
“The S.-B.s,” Merry whispered. “Coming in all their finery. I suppose they are going to Bag-end, to hassle old Bilbo.”
Pippin peered out. It was true. Lobelia, marching down the road, haughty and proud, Lotho following. He had to laugh. “Poor Bilbo,” he whispered back.
The danger passed, they stepped out again.
“I am still going,” Pippin said hastily before Merry could continue with his list of reasons to avoid Farmer Boffin.
“Then I’m coming, too,” Merry said. “At least you shan’t be in trouble by yourself, Pip.” He didn’t protest.
They set off on the road down to Breffor Boffin’s farm in relatively high spirits, Merry, however, still questioning the decision. Pippin soon distracted him with tales, a couple about Frodo Baggins’ escapades.
Boffin’s farm was relatively close to the Shire itself, or at least where Pippin and Merry lived, probably only two and a half miles northeast. The hobbits covered the ground in a short amount of time.
“Now comes the tricky part,” Pippin muttered, half to himself. To hide in the plentiful cornfields - that was all right, but getting into them was a problem. Merry voiced his doubts again.
“It’s fine,” Pippin said, absentmindedly. “Come on.” And he attempted to burrow underneath the fence. Boffin, however, accounting for this, had build his fences sturdily, leaving no space for young hobbits to crawl under or to jump. Pippin drew back, eyed it, and then decided to climb it. Merry shook his head at him, and started burrowing instead. They made progress quickly, and were soon in, running across the fields, faces streaked with dirt. Which, apparently, wasn’t an uncommon sight in the Shire for them.
They found the carrot bed and was about to make a break for it when they heard Breffor himself, and hid behind a large apple tree instead. He came through, not noticing the tunnel. The hobbits heard him talking to himself as he went, tossing out rotten fruits and the like. One particularly large apple that had been overlooked last harvest landed in Pippin’s lap. He scrambled backwards in alarm, and then another hit him in the shoulder with a squelch.
It was a full ten minutes, and many more rotten fruits later, before Boffin noticed the hole under his fence. He looked around suspiciously, then shouted for his son, who denied making it. “Trespassers!” he said, then seized a nearby pitchfork firmly. Pippin decided it was time to leave. Merry seemed to agree, as he half rose from his position. Boffin was a force to be reckoned with when angry, and all hobbits are angry when their produce is stolen.
They ran. Boffin had left the gate open, and they made for it. Pippin and Merry scampered towards the gate, with Boffin chasing them with a menacing, gleaming pitchfork. Speculating on what had possessed him to come on this wild-goose chase, Merry ran. He could hear Pippin’s light footfalls next to him, and his heavy breathing - and then they fell into the gate. Merry could hear Pippin bouncing along the dirt road, still clutching the carrots he came for. Merry, however, was wise enough to keep his mouth shut. He saw what had happened now - a tree root, lying innocently across the road, had tripped them. They still had to run, however, and Merry pulled Pippin up. “Buck up,” he said, and they were off again. Boffin gave up the chase a quarter of a mile away, still issuing threats to Brandybucks and Tooks, having recognized them.
“Dunno why he was so angry,” Pippin said, looking back. “It wasn’t his mushrooms, anyways.”
They made it back to the Shire quietly enough, only stopping once to wash their faces - and the carrots - in the river.
“Just in time for elevenses,” Merry said.