For Nierielraina's birthday.
“Won’t you take me out on the river?” begged Primula Brandybuck Baggins of her husband. “The sky is clear, the Moon is bright, and the night is warm. It will be oh, so romantic!” Seeing the anxiety becoming obvious in his handsome face, she began to coax. “Oh, but do give it a try, Drogo dearling! You are already far more comfortable crossing over on the ferry, and you know it. You will find out it’s much the same in a rowboat. You don’t even have to row or pole, you see. I’ll push it away from the bank, even, if you like. All you need do is sit still in the stern—that’s the back of the boat, you know—and let me lie with my head in your lap while we float with the current down to the bay where we Brandybucks swim. Or, if you’d prefer not to see the water around you, I’ll sit in the back and you can lay your head on my lap. Oh, do be a dear and go with me! You’ll see just how beautiful it can be!”
She’d asked the same thing every time they visited Brandy Hall, and he’d always managed to beg off. But tonight Drogo had been playing at draughts with Primula’s nephew Saradoc, the two of them exchanging jokes and taking a drink whenever taking one of the other’s pieces, and as a result of his multiple wins he was feeling particularly expansive and even a bit reckless.
“If you truly wish it, beloved,” he said.
Fearful he might just change his mind once he should have time to think on it, she immediately handed him a basket of viands she’d prepared, took him by the hand, grabbed up the blanket roll she had ready, and led him out of the apartment that was theirs any time they visited Brandy Hall and out of the great warren of a smial. Sara’s younger brother Merimac was standing out front, smoking his recently granted first pipe and feeling particularly grown up, and he looked quite surprised when she sent him with the bundled blankets to ready the Hall’s largest and most stable punt for them. He wisely kept his mouth shut and hurried off to do her bidding, and she and Drogo followed after, Drogo carrying the basket while she described its contents as seductively as possible.
“I brought some of the leftover duck Saradoc prepared for dinner tonight—you know how good his duck is, sweetling! And a salad of late spring greens, and a large wedge of that white cheese you are so fond of that Mother makes. And there’s something more, a surprise provided by Bilbo from a secret gift he made me last fall at his birthday! Oh, and some of that delectable herb bread that Esmeralda makes—she gave me two loaves this afternoon that she made fresh this morning. I’m so glad that Adalgrim’s brood came, too, to celebrate my father’s birthday! Isn’t it lucky? And there’s something in there that I made, also. Oh, but I do hope you will like it!” And she kept slapping teasingly at his hand each time he tried to lift the striped cloth that covered the basket’s contents. She’d thought that at least she might talk him into going up atop the Master’s parlor to share a late picnic supper under the stars, but to actually get him to agree to floating down the Brandywine? That was far more than she’d hoped to experience tonight!
He was so besotted with her description of the contents of the basket and with herself as well that he barely noticed that they’d arrived at the upper landing where many of the Hall’s boats were kept. Mac had the desired punt ready, the pole carefully positioned athwart just in case it might be needed, the thickest rug in her bundle laid on the bottom of the boat and the rest ready to draw around the passengers should the evening grow more chill. She sat on the low seat at the stern while Mac helped Drogo into the vessel, where he was coaxed to sit in the center of the rug and then lie back with his head in his wife’s lap. At a nervous nod from Primula, Mac settled the basket to Drogo’s right, and with no warning gave the punt the shove it needed to slip out into the current.
This finally startled Drogo into the awareness that he was actually afloat on the surface of the river, and he started to sit up, only to be pressed back by his wife. “Oh, but do lie still, Drogo,” she urged him. “The punt will rock far less if you do, you must realize.”
“But it’s rocking already!” he objected.
“But isn’t it just right, this rocking, almost like a cradle? Just think what it is like sitting in our great rocking chair at home with me in your lap. You’ve always loved that! Only this time your head is in my lap, and the night breeze is soothing, and the frogs are peeping along the bank of the river, and the water is flowing gently by us, all singing to us, rejoicing that we are here with them, rejoicing that we are so much in love! For I do love you, Drogo Baggins. I love you and the way that you love me and have overcome so many of your fears for my sake. And if you are very, very good, I shall feed you sultanas, one by one, and slivers of white cheese, and bits of herb bread, and bites of Sara’s roast duck….”
He smiled up at her, and opened his mouth as she held out some spice cake she’d pinched off the slices she’d set atop the rest of the food in the basket, and swallowed a sip of Old Winyards she squeezed out of a wineskin….
Before the night was over, Drogo Baggins was already looking forward to his next sail along the Brandywine River with his so beloved wife!