Merry leads Frodo, Sam, and Pippin onto the Buckleberry Ferry, the only way to cross the Brandywine River and enter Buckland until the Brandywine Bridge twenty miles further ahead. The hobbits are greatly relieved to have entered Buckland safely—especially when they spy a creature that may be a Black Rider who has followed them but cannot cross the river. Buckland is better protected than the Shire, for it is bordered by the barriers of the Brandywine River and a purpose-grown hedge.
Unlike the Shire, Buckland has physical protective barriers against evil entry that the hobbits can rely on to slow down their enemy’s pursuit. These defenses stem from the historic threat of wolves and of malevolent trees from the neighboring Old Forest. This is also an important moment for all the hobbits, as it is their first time leaving the borders of the Shire.
The hobbits walk from the Ferry to Frodo’s cottage in Crickhollow, where they are welcomed by Fatty. Under Merry’s direction, Fatty has helped set up the cottage in a warm and homely manner. Frodo, Sam and Pippin are relieved to take baths and eat supper. Frodo finally reveals his plan to journey to Rivendell to Merry, Pippin and Fatty, but is shocked to find that his friends already know. Furthermore, they are fully aware of the Ring’s existence and the danger it brings its bearer. Frodo is flabbergasted to learn that his friends have long formed a conspiracy to work out Frodo’s plans, with the chief spy being his loyal gardener, Sam. Despite being terribly afraid, Merry and Pippin have determined to join their two friends on the adventure to Rivendell and will not be persuaded otherwise.
Frodo, Sam, and Pippin are relieved to be able to luxuriate in the comforts of baths and supper; they still have much development until they become hardened travelers. Frodo cannot believe that he has experienced another bout of deception at the hands of friends—in this case the hobbits have been spying on him in their concern for Frodo’s wellbeing. It due to this concern (and perhaps due to their strong sense of curiosity) that Merry and Pippin demand to join Frodo’s quest. In spite of their fears of the road, they naively but earnestly demonstrate great courage in wanting to face peril alongside their friends.
Frodo is shocked by his friends’ collective deceit, but he is thankful for their courage and friendship in accompanying him into danger. With Sam the chief investigator of the conspiracy, Merry has taken on the role of chief planner; he has organized appropriate travel packs and ponies so that the four hobbits can leave immediately, while Fatty will stay behind at Crickhollow to keep up the pretense that Frodo is now living there. Fatty is relieved with his part, for he is less adventurous than Merry and Pippin and not as wholly devoted to Frodo as the loyal Sam.
Readers are surprised once more by the pluck and ingenuity of hobbits. Merry is revealed as wise beyond his years; like Farmer Maggot, he is shrewder and more discerning than most hobbits. His organizational skills will likely be useful on the road. Fatty is terrified by the events of the Ring, and shows less courage than his friends because he cannot manage his fear to accompany the group beyond the Shire. The compassionate Merry has decided Fatty can still feel valued by looking after the Crickhollow cottage.