The three hobbits met in Frodo's and Merry's room later that afternoon to talk about what they'd learned.
"Everyone's been accounted for, except Melly," Frodo said glumly.
"Unless somebody's lying," said Merry. "That's possible. Uncles Adelard and Paladin are great friends. If Uncle Paladin thought Adelard had killed Toby, he'd say they were both in Adelard's study when he hadn't been there--or knew that Adelard wasn't. And Pearl would lie to say she was with Reg if it saved him."
"I hate this kind of talk," said Pippin. "I don't like you calling them liars, doubting them. Pearl's never told a lie in her life! I don't think she would, even for Reg."
"I'm sorry, Pip, but it's the way we have to look at it if we're to conduct this investigation properly--isn't that right, Frodo?" Merry answered. "You told us what Sam said the first time you did this: It's no good to say that somebody or other can't have committed a murder. We have to ask, 'What if they did?' We have to consider everyone. That doesn't mean we believe it's true."
"It's what Sam would say this time too," Frodo agreed.
"It'd be easy for him to say it," Pippin retorted. "He's never had to suspect his own family!"
"Not suspecting," said Merry, "only considering."
Frodo added, "You know your father believes one of the Tooks is involved."
"Just because Father believes it doesn't mean it's so," Pippin responded defensively. "He might be wrong. A Thain can be wrong, you know. Besides, if a Took's killed Toby, then it must've been to shut him up, right? They didn't want him to cause a scandal at the wedding. But if that's what they meant to do, it didn't work! Toby's dead body makes a much worse scandal than anything he might've said about Evvy if he was still alive. Nobody who wanted to kill Toby to keep him from making a scandal would've done it the way they did."
"Maybe they didn't think he'd be found right away," said Merry.
"No," Frodo said, "Pip's right. Whoever went to the grove that evening knew they would find Toby there, and must have known why. It was the place where Everard and Toby always met. That was no secret--half the family knew of it. Whoever killed Toby must have realized that Everard would soon come along and find his body. And once Everard did find him, everything after that would happen just as it has. The sherriffs would be summoned. Questions would be asked. The truth would have to come out. There was no way to avoid a scandal."
"They might not have intended murder," Merry suggested. "I've said so before, and I like that idea much better than one of the Tooks going there deliberately to kill him. Whoever it was only meant to send Toby away before Everard arrived. I think that's much more likely."
"But if that's so, why bring a knife?" asked Frodo.
"To threaten him, perhaps. Or they might've simply had it with them. Didn't you that say that the sherriffs were looking for a small, sharp pocket-knife--the sort anybody might keep about them for cutting fruit or whittling a bit of wood?"
Pippin, who had been glancing from one to the other, following their discussion, suddenly went very pale. Frodo and Merry did not notice.
"After all, every one of us had a pocket-knife with us yesterday when we were out cutting flowers and trimming the stems for the garlands," Merry continued. "There were a half-dozen of them about the garden last night. It's a good thing Evvy left his behind by the water-tubs. It'd be much worse for him if he'd still had it with him when he found Toby!"
"There might be something in what you say," Frodo said thoughtfully. "Pocket-knives don't draw much attention. Anyone might carry one. Toby was stabbed from the front, not behind. Whoever wielded the knife stood directly before him. Did he see it? If he was being threatened by it, certainly. Did he believe they wouldn't use it? And there's one other thing that's been puzzling me: Why didn't Toby scream? Sherriff Thornbreak says there were signs of a struggle in the grove. He must have fought. If he'd cried out for help, we would have heard him, just as we heard Everard. But he didn't. Why not?"
"He didn't realize that he was in danger for his life?" Merry guessed. "He wasn't truly afraid of the person he was fighting, until it was too late? But who could that be?"
"A friend," said Frodo. "Someone he trusted, or someone he didn't believe would do him harm. Merry, we really have to find out if everyone was where they say they were. Can you and Pip find out if anyone saw Pearl with Reg on the terrace? We were sitting with our backs to the hill, but the girls or Ferdi might have noticed them. I'll talk to Uncle Paladin. If I press him about Uncle Adelard, he might admit that that's who he's worried about-"
Pippin let out a sharp yelp.
Merry turned to him. "What's the matter with you, Pip?"
"I told you, I don't like this! It's my family you're talking about!" He was growing more upset by the moment. Merry sat down beside him and put an arm around him; Pippin leaned on him.
"Hush, Pip. Hush. We won't go on about it." He kissed Pippin's temple, stroked his hair, rocked him, then glanced up at Frodo over the other boy's head. "Will you leave us alone for awhile?" he requested. "We've had enough talk of murder for today."
Frodo nodded, and went out.
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