Pride and Prejudice for Hobbits
2. Afterlithe, S.R. 1408
Frodo had been invited to stay at Brandy Hall until the middle of Afterlithe, but after Esmeralda’s initial introduction of the matter of Miss Pearl Took and her coming of age party, it seemed more and more frequently to be the chief topic of conversation. Even Saradoc and his brother Merry brought it up one evening as the three of them sat outside after dinner, smoking their pipes, though Frodo felt sure that Esmie and Pansy had put them up to it. He longed to return to Bag End, where the most that was likely to be pressed on him was a second piece of Bell Gamgee’s excellent brambleberry pie.
He stayed long enough to celebrate the lithedays (which the Brandybucks were known to mark in extravagant fashion) but cut his visit short, claiming to have been recalled to Hobbiton on a matter of urgent business.
“Getting away from all these matchmaking females, most like,” remarked Merimac to his older brother as Frodo adjusted the straps on his pack
Esmie and Pansy fussed and clucked over Frodo, straightening his waistcoat and smoothing his unruly curls until he scowled and stepped away.
“Really, you two,” he protested. “I am old enough to take care of myself.”
Pansy pressed a cloth bundle of food into his hands, but Esmie said, “I worry about you, Frodo. Out on the road by yourself like that. You should ought to drive, you know.”
“I know,” replied Frodo, smiling brightly at her. “And I shall probably be thinking the same thing myself before too long. But I do like to go by foot. I see more of the Shire that way, I think.”
Esmie and Pansy exchanged a look that Frodo suspected meant they thought Miss Pearl Took would soon cure him of his odd habits. “We’ll see about that,” he thought to himself.
Berry gave Frodo a solid hug goodbye, and bid him return as soon as he liked, but Merry had been cross with Frodo all day and would do no more than extend his hand to his cousin civilly.
“Merry, what’s wrong?” Frodo asked him in exasperation. “I won’t go off with us out of sorts with each other.”
Merry glared at him, but Frodo crossed his arms and stared back patiently until Merry looked away and said, “I would have liked to come with you, you know.”
Suddenly, Merry’s unfriendly mood made a good deal more sense. Frodo frequently took his young cousins with him when he journeyed across the Shire. This time, so tired of meddling relatives had Frodo been that he had not even thought to ask Merry to accompany him.
“I’m sorry, Merry lad,” Frodo said, giving his unwilling cousin a hug anyway. “Not this time. And you know Pippin would be sorry to have missed it.” Pippin had been sent back to Tuckborough the week before the lithedays, his father deeming him too young yet for the sorts of festivities that obtained at Brandy Hall at that time of year. “But we shall see each other at your cousin Pearl’s coming of age party, and you shall come and stay with me at Bag End for my birthday, and afterwards, and Pippin and Fatty too, if they like, and we shall have some adventures then.”
Merry finally relented and returned Frodo’s embrace. “Alright, Frodo,” he said. “But I wish I could come with you now. It will be so dreadfully flat here with you and Pippin gone.”
Berry crossed his arms. “Merry, what about me?” he cried.
Merry glared at his cousin and punched him playfully on the arm. “Berry, you’re no fun at all,” he said. “You never want to have adventures.”
“No, why should I?” returned Berry. “Adventures only make you late for supper.”
Frodo smiled, relieved that he would not be leaving Merry in a foul mood with him, and relieved to be leaving relatives of all kinds behind for the moment.
It was nearing dusk on the third day when Frodo came at last wearily to the foot of the Hill. He had wished, more than once on his journey, that he had done as Esmie had suggested and driven instead; but he had kept reminding himself, grimly, that he always preferred to walk. He had also wished, more than once, that he had brought Merry with him after all. Journeys always seemed to go faster when they were undertaken in good company.
Now as he neared the top of the Hill and saw Bag End, shuttered and dark, looming before him, he wished that he had stayed in Brandy Hall altogether, or at least had the sense to write ahead to let Sam know he was returning several days earlier than expected. Light and laughter issued from Number Three, Bagshot Row. Frodo glanced up at Bag End’s silent expanse, under the brow of the Hill, then turned back purposefully and knocked on the Gamgees’ front door.
Frodo had never liked to stand on ceremony with the Gamgee family, though they, with varying rates of success, had always tried to keep up the appearance that ceremony was being stood upon. On this occasion, only a very desultory effort was made.
Bell Gamgee opened the door, holding a dish towel yet in one hand. “Why, Mr. Frodo!” she exclaimed in surprise. “Bless me!” She swept him into a crushing hug, pack, cloak, and all.
“Mistress Bell,” Frodo said fondly, extricating himself from her embrace. “I am glad to find you well.”
The younger Gamgee girls, May and Marigold, looked as though they might have liked to hug Frodo too, but their mother shot them a quelling glance, and they curtseyed instead, looking up through their long lashes shyly and giggling. Daisy, the eldest, had been for some years in service to Frodo’s very proper Aunt Dora, and before that imposing lady had died she had instilled a very fine sense of social order in all of her staff. She curtseyed very correctly and precisely, and returned to her needlework. Frodo crossed the room to shake the Gaffer’s hand. The Gamgee patriarch made as though to rise from his armchair by the fire, but Frodo said,
“Don’t trouble yourself, Gaffer, I beg you!”
With no further ado he set his pack and cloak down by the table and sat down next to Sam, favouring him with a flashing smile, but Sam immediately jumped up to hang his master’s cloak by the door and set a fresh kettle on the fire for tea.
“Weren’t expectin’ you back this early, lad,” the Gaffer commented. “Is there aught amiss?”
“Not at all,” replied Frodo. He leaned back, resting his elbows on the table behind him. “I had merely heard more than enough about Miss Pearl Took’s coming-of-age party.”
Mari sat suddenly right next to Frodo, where Sam had been sitting only a moment before. “Did you hear about her dress?” she asked eagerly, eyes shining. Frodo looked at her in surprise.
“I daresay I did,” he laughed, “but I am afraid I paid it no mind.”
“I heard from Rosie Cotton, who heard from Lily Sandheaver, who heard from – “
“Marigold Gamgee!” snapped Bell, Daisy, and the Gaffer in unison. Sam shot an apologetic look at Frodo. Mari blushed, but forged ahead.
“I heard Miss Pearl’s dress came from the Elves!” she exclaimed.
Frodo looked at her gravely. “Had I known the matter was of such importance to you, Miss Marigold, I promise you I should have paid it more mind. But perhaps you ought to go to Buckland in my place next time. I am sure you have much more patience for talk of gowns, and pavilions, and who ought not to be seated next to whom than I have.”
Mari and May looked at each other and giggled. Sam now had the tea ready, and he set the pot on the table next to his master, reclaiming his seat from Mari.
“You should have sent word you were comin’ back early,” he said. “There ain’t nothing ready for you up at Bag End yet.”
“Sam, really. It’s not as though everything is in dustcovers up there,” Frodo replied. He took a sip of his tea. “And I think I can light a fire for myself.”
Sam’s look said either that he doubted Frodo could light a proper fire, or that he thought Frodo shouldn’t be bothered with such a menial task; Frodo was not sure which.
“I’ll be fine,” he insisted. “But I’ll be expecting a nice big breakfast in the morning. Only three days on the road, but it seems like weeks since I had a proper meal.”
Sam watched his master address himself to his breakfast. As requested, Sam had prepared a breakfast that was both as nice and as big as any hobbit could ask for. The generosity of Brandy Hall’s tables was much noted throughout the Shire, but Sam had never had any faith that those queer Bucklanders were feeding Frodo properly.
At length, Frodo pushed his plate aside. “How I have missed your cooking, Sam!” he exclaimed.
Sam ducked his head and said modestly, “Just doin’ me job, sir,” though in truth he was always both pleased and flattered when Frodo praised him or his skills in the kitchen. He cleared the dishes away from the table and began the washing up. Frodo leaned back into the corner, putting his feet up on the long bench.
“Well, go on, Sam!” he smiled. “I know you can’t wait to ask me.”
Sam glanced back at him. He was glad that Frodo was home again, even if he hadn’t had time to prepare Bag End properly for his return.
“Alright then, sir,” he said, returning the smile. “And how was Buckland?”
Frodo’s smile grew even brighter. Sam turned back to the washing up.
“Queer, as usual!” Frodo said. He loved to tease Sam about his suspicion of Bucklanders, which he thought completely ungrounded. He launched into a detailed account of his doings at Brandy Hall, including the matter of Miss Pearl Took.
“Esmie is very determined that I should court the girl, though of course she never said so in quite so many words,” said Frodo.
“Do you mean to?” asked Sam. As far as he knew, his master had no intention of courting any lass. He suspected it was because of the adventuring.
“Well, no, of course not,” Frodo replied. He did not say any more. Frodo had never said anything to Sam about his plans to go adventuring, though it was plain as a pikestaff to Sam that he intended to do so one day. Sam supposed that Frodo had never even given thought to the notion that Sam knew he meant to go adventuring.
“I will be going to the party, of course,” Frodo said a moment later. “It would be very rude of me not to. And from the sounds of what your sisters said last night, this party is almost as much anticipated as poor old Bilbo’s was.” He sighed. “Dear old Bilbo! I wonder where he has got to?”
“I’m sure it won’t be half so magnificent,” said Sam, in an effort to turn the conversation back to the party. It always worried him when Frodo began talking about Bilbo. It was then that he always felt Frodo would take it into his head to go off on an adventure on the spot. He didn’t like the thought of Frodo going off on an adventure, especially not without him. Sam always felt that Frodo would come to a sticky end if he weren’t there to look after him. “Leastaways, there won’t be no fireworks.”
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.