4. Bagshot Row
Marigold was at the farm nearly every day for a while. We were busy storing the root crops down cellar and drying apples for winter pies. As soon as it got cold, Da butchered one of the pigs and we spent one day rendering lard and another making sausage. Nibs kept the smokehouse fire smoldering, full of hams and sides of bacon and a string of salmon Jolly had caught.
The cellar was stuffed with good things, crocks of dried tomatoes and parched corn, barrels of fresh apples and bins of potatoes and boxes of carrots and turnips packed in damp sand. Autumn was the busiest time of year for us, and Marigold was a welcome extra pair of hands. Mum sent her home each evening with a good share of whatever we’d been working on, to keep her and the Gaffer through the winter.
I thought one day to ask her how they were managing without Sam’s wages. She blushed a little.
“Oh, we get by, Rosie. Mr. Frodo made the smial over to the Gaffer before he left, you know—“
“What? I thought it always belonged to your family, Mari! You mean the Bagginses owned it all along?”
“Oh, yes – all of Bagshot Row. But Mr. Frodo made all the smials over to the families that lived in them, last summer, before he sold Bag End. He said he wanted to make sure there wasn’t no confusion about them, that they weren’t included in the sale, you know. The Gaffer’s got the deed and everything, all legal, tucked away in the kitchen cupboard.”
“Well, that’s good, anyhow. At least now you don’t have any rent to pay.”
“Oh, we never did pay rent. The smial was part of the gardener’s wages, from way back when Cousin Holman worked for Mr. Bilbo. But yes, it’s a good thing we own it outright now. Mr. Lotho is nothing like Mr. Frodo was. He’d charge us rent, sure enough, if he could!”
“Nobody likes him much, do they? Da went to see him when they closed the Mill, and I’ve never seen him so angry as he was when he got back.”
“I’m not surprised. He really is pretty awful.”
We found out just how awful a week or so later. The Gaffer came trudging up the road with Marigold one morning, moving stiffly and leaning on his stick, but making good time for all that. Mari had to help him up the porch steps, but he shook her off when he reached the door and stood as straight as his bent old back would allow, his face like a thundercloud.
“Good morrow to you, Gaffer, Marigold.” My mother was puzzled, but welcoming. “Come sit down and have a mug of something, Gaffer. What brings you out so early this morning?”
“I’ve come to see your husband, ma’am. There’s trouble up in Hobbiton, and we need his help.”
“Oh, dear. Rose, go out to the barn, tell your Da he’s wanted in the house. Marigold, get your apron on, dearie, and get your father a bit of breakfast.”
The Gaffer was willing enough to have a bite, but he set down his mug and struggled to his feet when Da came in.
“Sit down, Gaffer, sit down. What can I do for you? Rose says there’s trouble up your way?”
“Aye, sir, trouble enough! It’s that Lotho Pimple, drat his hide!” He paused, chewing the insides of his cheeks, then burst out, “He’s a thief, Mr. Cotton, there’s no two ways about it! He’s out to take Bagshot Row, dig it up and turn it into a sandpit! ‘Tis no property of his, sir, none at all – Mr. Frodo give us all title to our own smials, legal like, afore he left. But Lotho, he won’t believe that, seemingly, and he’s got half a dozen big Men milling round the place, setting out stakes where he’s planning to dig and all.”
I stared at Marigold, shocked, and she nodded.
“Lotho came yesterday evening,” she whispered to me. “He wouldn’t even come in, he stood outside the door and told the Gaffer to pack up our things and be out the first of next week! The Gaffer went and showed him the paper Mr. Frodo gave him, that says the smial is our own, and Lotho, he just laughed at him and went on to the next door….”
“I comes to you for help, sir. Bag End’s the chief house in Hobbiton; there’s no one in the village with the standing to make Lotho listen to reason, make him abide by law.”
“You did right, Gaffer. Wait till I get my jacket and we’ll go see Odovacar Bolger about this. I’d as soon there was a group of us to call on Lotho, and Mr. Odo’s the leading hobbit around here.”
They went off together, and Mum set Mari and me to tramping out soup beans. We set a big wooden frame on the porch floor and filled it full of the dried-up bean vines the boys had pulled up and stashed in the barn after first frost. Then we tramped around and around in the pile of vines, rubbing our feet over the beans till we rubbed them out of their brittle husks and they sifted down to the bottom of the pile. When we got done, we could scoop up armfuls of the dried vines and load them on the garden cart to be hauled away, and the hard little beans would be lying all over the porch floor for us to pick up and put in cloth bags, hung up in the attic for winter soups.
This was our favorite task in autumn, usually. It was more like play than work, and we marched through the rustling dry stuff singing at the top of our lungs, tripping each other and falling down and rolling around in the pile – we could be as silly as we liked, it all served to rub the beans out of their casings and help the task along. But our hearts weren’t in it today.
“Rose, I don’t know where we’ll go, if we have to leave Bagshot Row,” Marigold said. She was pacing back and forth, tramping down the vines and rubbing her feet over them automatically, not paying attention, just another job of work to get through.
“You won’t have to leave, Mari! Mr. Frodo fixed that already, giving you title to the place. Mr. Lotho thinks he can push you folks around, but he’ll find out that decent hobbits won’t stand for it. Wait till Mr. Odo gets done with him – Lotho Pimple will find out he’s bit off more than he can chew!”
But he didn’t, though. Da and the others came back in the afternoon, Mr. Odo with them, and settled around our kitchen table. Mari and I ran up and down the cellar stairs bringing them mugs of beer, and helped Mum set out food for them while they talked.
“Well, that’s it then, we’ll have to send for old Will,” said Mr. Odo. “Lotho won’t listen to anyone from around here, but he’ll have to pay heed to the Mayor.”
“I don't much like the looks of those Men he’s got hanging round Bag End,” Da said. “Shifty-eyed bunch, if you ask me. Best warn Will to bring a couple of Shirriffs with him when he goes to see Lotho.”
“Yes, well, I don’t suppose Lotho will set himself against the Mayor, Cotton! He’s already in the wrong, you know – those deeds Frodo Baggins gave the smial-holders are perfectly legal, as I’m sure he must realize. He needs a reminder, is all, that there’s more to the Shire than just Hobbiton. He can’t run roughshod over hobbits just because he’s bought Bag End.”
“Hmm. Well, I hope you’re right, Mr. Odo.”
He didn’t say any more, and the talk turned to the good harvest behind us and the prospects for a cold winter ahead.
“It’ll be a bitter one! You ladies had better start right now, knitting some double-thick mittens for the family.” Falco Grubb held himself to be a weather prophet, and he nodded and frowned as if he personally was going to make sure it was a winter of record cold.
“Never you fear, Falco, we’ve mittens and scarves and good thick sweaters to spare! You just stop by here if you run short.” Mum was teasing him – Falco’s wife Violet was her friend from back when they were girls, and they kept a good-natured competition going on matters of housewifery.
“Well, it’s been a good harvest all round,” Mr. Odo said comfortably. “I’d say the Shire is in good shape to take whatever the winter may throw at us, and come up smiling. We just have to settle this little problem with Lotho, and I’ll get a Quick Post off to Will the Mayor first thing in the morning. You tell the Gaffer not to worry, Marigold. We’ll soon have this sorted out.”
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.