"There now, Bill," Sam said softly to his pony as he brushed the animal's mane. "Thunder's gone and it didn't even rain."
As soon as Sam heard the rumbling he went out to Bill. He knew the pony disliked the loud sound and a good brushing always calmed him. The heat had broken a day ago with a gentle shower but more rain would be welcome. Sam guessed it would come sometime during the night. Bill nuzzled Sam's ear, making him smile. They were both startled at the rustle of approaching feet on the hay-strewn floor.
"Sam and Bill!" Merry said, trying to keep his voice low. Sam had told him probably a hundred times to keep quiet around Bill when it thundered. Bill raised his head and lowered it again, almost as if he was nodding at Merry. Merry patted his head. "Hullo," Sam said. "Don't you be scarin' Bill, now. I've just got him calmed down."
"It's Pippin you should be worried about," Merry said as their friend joined them, eating a very crunchy apple. "He's been making noise since breakfast!"
"I hardly had any second breakfast," Pippin protested. "Here, Bill, have an apple? See, Bill doesn't mind. And he knows a good apple when he smells one."
"Farmer Maggot's apples?" Sam asked.
Pippin laughed. "No, not these! We bought 'em fair. We've got more if you're interested. And we did find the best mushrooms! I hope we're not too late for tea; Merry and I have only had apples and pears and cheese all afternoon. Don't you feed this pony, Sam?!" he exclaimed as Bill tried to get his nose into Pippin's pockets.
"Now, Bill," Sam said, gently pulling the pony away. "You already got one."
"Well," said Merry, "There was the ale and sandwiches after lunch."
"Oh that was a snack," Pippin sighed.
"Sam, how are things? What have you and Rosie been up to?"
"What we're always up to," he answered, starting to brush out Bill's tail. "What's the news, are the new trees still growing?"
"All the ones we've seen are. Next year most of 'em will be nearly full grown, at this rate. How's Frodo?"
"As well as can be expected, I suppose. Still working on the Book."
"Do you know what he wants to tell us?"
"What makes you think he wants to tell you anything?"
"His note said he'd like to 'see' us," Pippin said. "That means he wants to say something."
"You're sure he's alright?" Merry asked. "He's not going to tell us he's ill, is he? He wouldn't say much about something like that to us but you'd know, Sam."
Sam straightened up and looked at them. "You think I'd tell you something that Mr. Frodo isn't ready to?? Well you'll just have to ask him yourself and take whatever he tells you."
"So there is something, isn't there?" Pippin said. "Give us a hint, Sam!"
Sam brushed Bill's tail very attentively. "If he has any news you'll have to hear it from him."
"Oh it must be exciting!" Merry declared, making Sam frown.
"You've lost your wits," he mumbled.
"When you won't look at us that means you're trying to hide something," Pippin said. "Just give us a hint!"
"As if you'd settle for that! I'm not sayin' a word about Mr. Frodo to you, so whatever you want to know you just go and ask him!" Sam glared at them. Bill tried to get into Pippin's pockets again. Pippin squealed and hurried out; Merry following, laughing.