"The new draft is better," Pippin said, setting the Red Book down on the end-table. "Better than better, in fact; I'd go so far as to call it good."
Sam blushed a little at that – he never had been good at taking compliments, no matter how well-deserved – and nodded his thanks. "I've only strung Master Bilbo's words together, and Frodo's; the real credit is due them."
"Perhaps," Pippin said. "But you are the one who will be praised for it, as you're the one still around." He blew a smoke ring across the room so it hovered over the fire-mantle. "Or blamed for it. The Hobbiton folk won't thank you for your treatment of the Sackville-Bagginses, if the S.-B.'s take offense at how you treated their family. They make fine cloth down in Sackville, and your milliners won't like those trade arrangements being threatened."
"I thought of that, and had half planned to put it out under a false name. But Daisy Bracegirdle – Lobelia's sister, you know, and the closest thing she has to an heir – Daisy read an early draft last winter, and she's given me her blessing."
Pippin chuckled to himself. "I'd have given good gold to be a fly on the wall at that meeting. Cousin Daisy is every bit as high and mighty as Lobelia, or thinks she is. She must be mad as a hatter, now that a Gamgee minds that hearth. Lobelia nearly had a fit when our Frodo was named Master of Bag End, you remember? And he was at least a Baggins, for all he was raised in Buckland."
Sam cocked an eyebrow wryly, and Pippin was reminded of just how successful a spy he had proven. He was a hard hobbit to puzzle out, that was for certain. "I remember Merry telling me of it," Sam said, "and I remember how thoroughly worn out Frodo seemed that evening. You'll recall I was kept busy down at the Party Field most of that day, clearing away the remains of the day before. But Lobelia changed before she died, and Daisy knows that. She grew softer somehow and – well, she wouldn't have liked me as Master of Bag End, but she'd have accepted it in the end. Daisy respects that."
"Still, I can well imagine she said quite a piece. You minding Bag End is one thing, but finishing off Bilbo's and Frodo's book, that's quite another."
Sam rubbed his chin pensively and shrugged. "She didn't seem to mind so much. Truthfully, she seemed more concerned about Lotho, and she was happy that Frodo put his actions in a kind light. The odd joke now and then at Lobelia's expense didn't seem to bother her much."
"That reminds me," Pippin said. He set his pipe down and picked up the book again, quickly thumbing through the last pages. "There was one line I wondered about. Ah, here it is." He held the book steady with both hands, so he could read it more easily. "You have Frodo saying, No hobbit has ever killed another on purpose in the Shire, and it is not to begin now. Were those really his words? At the time I was near dead on my feet – I'd just been to Tookland and back, with no proper rest in too many nights – and I can't quite remember."
"He said that, near as I can remember." Sam's answer was a bit terse, and Pippin looked at him quizzically. After a pause Sam added, "Sometimes... sometimes the perfect truth, or the closest we can get at it, sometimes the truth is best found in falsehood." He rested his hands on his knees and leaned forward, his eyes meeting Pippin's. "I heard the tales about your great-aunt. And Frodo knew them, I'm sure. But... well, it's as I said. Sometimes the truth is best found in falsehood."
Pippin thought back to the stories he had heard about Lalia, and about his sister's role in her demise. The official histories had labeled it an accident, of course, but Pippin had heard the true story from his sister: how Lalia's tongue had been particularly harsh that morning, how she had found fault with everything Pearl had done for her, and how in a fit of exasperation Pearl had shoved old Lalia's wheeled chair so hard that she had fallen from it – fell so far she'd tumbled down the stairs and broken her neck! That was Pearl's version, and Pippin believed it, though he'd heard darker whisperings about conspiracies and sons impatient to inherit their mother's places. Just what story had Sam heard, he wondered? And, come to it, where had he heard it? He had always thought that tale well-guarded.
But if Sam guessed Pippin's unspoken questions, he kept his answers to himself. "Lalia's death may well have been an accident. An overtired maid, a threshold or a wheel in need of repair... that would explain it well enough. Or perhaps a fit of rage overtook your sister. Even that would not be on purpose, not really. And if there was some grand plan, even then, one exception need not break the rule. Our people are a peace-loving folk, for the most part, and it would do some of us good to be reminded of that."
Pippin nodded and handed the book to Sam. Sam looked down at it, his eyes lost in deep thought, and ran his fingers caressingly along the spine. "I was fair tempted to change Frodo's words," he said, "but not on the point you noticed. It was what came after. I wondered why the most debased hobbit should not be harmed, but why the other folk, the Ruffians and their like, were to only be spared if it can be helped."
Pippin was reminded of other passages, of a Southron lad who had died before Sam's eyes, and the orcs outside Shelob's Lair who wanted only their private mischiefs carried out for their own purposes. He remembered, too, the carnage he had seen in Minas Tirith when he'd gone to find Merry, and the charred stone and burning flesh that filled so many of his dreams. A shiver ran down his spine at those thoughts.
"We shan't change dear old Frodo's words," Pippin said at last, "for hobbits deserve to know him as he truly was. And if you had him speak too much in favor of the Ruffians, some folk would turn deaf ears to his other words. Eestella can hardly bear it when Merry talks admiringly about Théoden and the Rohirrim. The only memories she has of the Big Folk frighten her. And she's not alone in that." But then a brilliant thought struck Pippin, and he couldn't keep from smirking. "You should write your own book, though, putting in your own words what you would have had Frodo say."
Sam's eyes grew a bit wide at that idea, but slowly an answering smile spread across his face. "That's an idea, and no mistake."