Pride and Prejudice for Hobbits
1. Forelithe, S.R. 1408
Frodo himself, after the first shock, found that being his own master and the Mr. Baggins of Bag End was rather pleasant. For some years he was quite happy and did not worry much about the future. He was still a regular visitor at Brandy Hall, over in Buckland, where he had lived as a child, and so he was to be found, one pleasant summer’s afternoon, lying in the shade of an old oak tree supervising the exploits of several younger hobbits in the stream that flowed past Brandy Hall towards the Brandywine. Frodo had few cousins his own age, and though he loved his young cousins dearly he sometimes found himself wishing to spend time in the company of someone whose idea of fun didn’t always include loosing some unsuspecting farmer’s prize hog.
His eyes strayed over to where Saradoc Brandybuck, now Master of Buckland, and his brother Merimac stood in earnest conversation with a farmer who, he recalled, had been the unwilling recipient of one of his own pranks, not so many years ago. He seldom found enjoyment in the company of his older relatives, except for Bilbo, who had now been gone for seven years. The others all had worldly cares that he did not: tenants to mind, children to raise, and large households to run. He wondered if he would ever become like them, but hoped he would not. He frequently found them too dull for words.
Far beyond the fields, the Brandywine glittered and glinted in the sun. Frodo always thought of the start of an adventure as “crossing the river”, though of course he had crossed the river often enough, and no adventure had befallen. He wondered, not for the first time, whether any ever would, whether he would see mountains or dragons, and whether he would ever see Bilbo again, but this afternoon he was interested in no greater adventure than sitting in the sun and returning to Brandy Hall in time for dinner.
At length the long-awaited dinner bell could be heard ringing out over the fields, calling all the many inhabitants and dependents of Brandy Hall to the first of their afternoon meals. Frodo stood up, then stepped deftly aside as the muddy youngsters scrambled up the bank, each eager to be the first in line for food.
“Merry, wait up,” said Frodo suddenly, catching sight of his cousin’s face. “You’re a mess. All of you are a mess.”
“Now, go back down there and try to wash some of that off,” he ordered the boys. “You’ve been playing in that stream all afternoon, but anyone would think you hadn’t seen water in weeks!”
Several of the lads put up protests. Merry said, “Frodo, you never make me wash up before dinner when we’re adventuring!”
“Yes, but when we’re adventuring, I do not have to present you to your mama at dinner,” Frodo retorted.
“Frodo, you’re no fun any more!” Berry complained, but at a quelling look from Frodo he followed the other lads back down to the stream and splashed some water on his grimy face.
Dinner was seldom a formal meal at Brandy Hall. The young hobbits filled their plates and took places at an empty trestle table near enough to where the food was spread for easy access to seconds.
“Lads, you’re late,” said a genial voice behind them, and they looked up to see Merry’s father, Saradoc, standing nearby with a brimming plate. “Mind if I join you?”
And with no further ado he sat down next to his son.
“It was Frodo’s fault, Da,” Merry replied, shooting a venomous glance round his father at Frodo.
“Really?” asked Sary, cocking his head at Frodo.
“Yes, they might have been first in line had I not insisted that they take the time to wash their muddy faces first,” Frodo replied evenly.
At his response, and the identical looks of disgust on the faces of Merry, Berry, Pippin, and the other lads, Saradoc threw back his head and laughed. “Not some prank, then?” he teased.
“Sary, really. I am going to be forty this year,” Frodo answered. “I hope I have at least managed to settle down a little.”
Sary gave him an appraising glance, then said in a voice low enough for the lads not to hear, “Very good, my boy. But see that you do not settle so much that you are beyond a good joke once in a while.”
Frodo nodded solemnly, and Sary laughed again. “If you doubt my word, be sure you ask Merry – that is, my brother Merry – about our old Da’s last bottle of Winyards sometime!”
After dinner, the youngsters wanted to go back down to the creek, but Frodo had had quite enough of water for one day, and retrieved a book from his room. Just up above the north door of Brandy Hall was an old fallen tree he fancied would make the perfect reading spot.
He was halted on his way out the door, however, by Esmeralda Brandybuck, Sary’s wife.
“What’s this, Frodo, a book, on a day like this?” she called out to him. Frodo looked down at the book in his hand.
“I was going to read it outside, Esmie,” he answered a little defensively. When he was a youngster at Brandy Hall, Frodo had always somewhat feared Esmeralda Brandybuck, for she was never afraid to speak her mind, and he had felt the rough side of her tongue more than once over some prank he had pulled. Now that he was of age, and she Mistress of Buckland, his fear had turned to respect and admiration, but she was still an imposing woman. She was, after all, a Took by birth, and Took women were frequently said to be remarkable.
“Well, then, you shall have to come and read to me and Pansy,” Esmie replied, and her tone of voice brooked no opposition. “Mending linens is dreadfully tedious, you know.”
Seeing that he had no choice, Frodo turned away from the stairs leading to the top of the Hall and came to the clearing where Esmie and her sister-in-law Pansy had set up chairs and a basket of linens. He looked at his book again. It contained mainly random snippets of poetry written by Bilbo, along with more or less coherent ramblings on elvish verb forms and the weaknesses of dragons.
“I fear it is a dreadfully dull book,” he said apologetically. He himself found it fascinating, but likely only because it reminded him so strongly of the old hobbit. He wasn’t sure he cared to share it with anyone.
“Then you will simply have to entertain us with tales of the queer doings of folk up in Hobbiton,” Esmie replied. Resigned, Frodo sat down beside the basket of linens and tried to recall an amusing story or two. Before he could get started, Esmie said, “Not off with the lads again this afternoon?”
Frodo laughed. “No, I left them to their fun. Catching tadpoles gets a bit dull after a while.”
Esmie looked at Frodo as though she were seeing him in a new light. This did not sound like the Frodo Baggins who for many years had been known as the worst rascal of Buckland. “You sound like you’re getting old, Frodo!” she teased.
Without thinking, Frodo said, “Not nearly as old as Bilbo, Esmie dear. He will be eleventy-eight this year.”
Esmie and Pansy paused in their mending to look at one another meaningfully. By all accounts, Frodo had inherited not only Bilbo’s fortune, but his oddity as well. Esmeralda had some thought that the oddity might be cured, however, by some careful planning; and the fortune would likely be sufficient to smooth over any queerness that might remain.
“My, how time flies!” she remarked pleasantly. “Your cousin Pearl is coming of age this year.”
“Oh, yes. Pip was telling us she can hardly speak of anything else,” Frodo replied absently. The virtues of gossiping with two of his aunts were beginning to wear thin in short order. He wondered how he could escape politely to his reading spot and his book.
“She’s turned out to be a fine lass, you know,” Esmeralda persisted gently.
Frodo began to see where the conversation was going. He had had several similar conversations in the past few years, mainly with Daisy Boffin, Poppy Bolger, and Peony Burrows. He had always listened politely, but he was not particularly interested in having young ladies recommended to his attention. In fact, he had never really given much thought to young ladies at all. Bilbo had never married, and Frodo had never expected that he would, either. There were too many adventures to be had to think about taking a wife.
He took a moment to consider his best course of action. “Has she, then?” he asked, affecting a disinterested tone. “I don’t think I’ve seen her since…” he thought for a moment. “Yule last year, perhaps?”
“Pal tells me half the lads in Tuckborough are after her,” Esmeralda continued.
Frodo glanced wistfully to the shady spot above the door. “I hope she may find one to her liking,” he said unco-operatively. He thought he heard Esmie cluck her tongue, and had to look down to hide a smile.
“You’ll be at her party, of course,” she said.
“What’s that, Aunt Esmie?” asked Frodo, leafing through his book as though he hadn’t really been paying attention. Of course, he had been, since these sorts of conversations required one to be on one’s guard at all times, to avoid accidentally agreeing to visit aging ladies whose nieces had moved in to look after them, or spotty second cousins. “Oh, yes, I expect so,” he continued after a moment. He couldn’t very well refuse altogether to pay his respects to the eldest daughter of the heir to the Thain.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.