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Section XL-Two Become Four

After the terror of last night's crossing of the Brandywine, I slept little or not at all. However, this has given me an irresistible opportunity to repay once more the rude awakenings my cousins visited on me all those years. With the sun's appearance, the shadows that pressed in last night have, for the moment, all but vanished. I've decided to roust all three from slumber, though being considerably gentler with Sam than the other two. I wake Sam first, only because I know he would wish it so. For him, I gently touch his shoulder while whispering his name. I did not want him to start loudly and wake the others, for I was reserving that pleasure for myself. He seems momentarily embarrassed that I should be the one doing the waking. His attention turns immediately to building the fire for breakfast. I find the simple doing of such an everyday need strangely calming. I turn my attention back to my self-appointed duty, admittedly taking far too much glee in stripping away the cloaks draped over Merry and Pippin, so much for keeping the sun out. I probably shouldn't laugh with such delight, but there you have it.

Breakfast finished and out of the way, I face the difficult task of the day, saying good-bye to Merry and Pippin. I embrace them each and thank them for their timely help. A quick exchange passes between them without a word. I turn to Sam to see how much longer before we are ready to be on our way. My cousins remain where they stand, watching me. I return my attention to them, and swallow the lump in my throat. I attempt to say farewell, but they will have none of it. They insist on coming with us, at least as far as Bree. I try to argue with them, but suddenly it is like being back in Bag End and disputing whether or not Sam should accompany me. I need only glance to where Sam is putting our packs to rights to know how effective my arguments were about that. So two become four.

We should arrive in Bree today. The sky does not look promising. As we tramp along, I've time to consider what paths are open to me. I think, once in Bree, I first will have a long talk with Gandalf; he must be told about these Black Riders. I am sure had he known of them, he would have certainly warned me. Then, my dear cousins and Sam should be sent home to the Shire, they'll already have come further than I ever intended, and there's no need for them to accompany me to Rivendell. I desire only to see Uncle Bilbo and mayhap I will return home as well.

Since my cousins, by my plan, are only coming as far as Bree, I see no reason to overly worry them with the details of our journey. Besides, their chatter and banter has more completely banished the shadows from my mind, a momentary escape by my way of thinking. We indulge in a few traveling songs, until the first raindrop is felt. The terror of the night before creeps back into my heart with the darkening clouds and now the incessant rain. I am sharply reminded that if this were just one of our regular outings, we would find shelter and wait it out. But the pelting rain has managed to drive home that this is not one of our Shire adventures. We must keep moving.

Staying off the road has not made the journey any easier, and yet we must continue on. Finally, we find ourselves approaching our destination, Bree. A careful survey of the road, first one way and then the other, reveals it to be clear, for the moment. We splash through the puddles, hurriedly approaching the gate, and I knock.