4. Chapter Three: The Master of Bag End
There were strange curtains on his window.
Not plain curtains with a single color that was understated and proper for a single gentlemen living on his own but rather floral curtains, with large pasty colored daisies imprinted across sky blue fabric. Frodo stared at the curtains for a few minutes, wondering what had happened to the plain, green gingham curtains he had been accustomed to seeing for so long. There were sensible curtains for gentlemen that were trying desperately to regain his reputation as a sensible hobbit. It was bad enough that Frodo was now viewed with the same eccentricity that had dogged Bilbo following his return to Shire from his adventures abroad, without his routine being disrupted by unexpected changes in his household.
Like these curtains.
It was his own fault he supposed he had brought this upon himself. When he had asked Sam and Rosie to move in with him, Frodo had not considered the ramifications of having two extra people sharing his life. He only thought of Sam’s happiness because his best friend was torn by his loyalty to him and his love for Rosie Cotton. After everything that Sam had done for him, Frodo was determined to spare Sam the ordeal of having to choose between them by making the offer of having Sam and Rosie come live with him at Bag End. Only after the deed was done, did Frodo realize what a big change it was going to have upon him personally to have not only Sam living with him but Rosie as well.
It never occurred to him that there would be vast differences in sharing a house with a woman as opposed to a man. Why should it? For years he had lived with Bilbo and they had got along quite well, without the slightest hint of discord. Their routine was comfortable and familiar, with no unexpected surprises, quite a feat when one remembered how peculiar Bilbo could be at times. Even after Bilbo had gone and Sam was a regular visitor to Bag End, Frodo had found it perfectly pleasing to have the gardener about, sometimes even to stay. However, from the moment Rosie had entered the hobbit hole in Bagshot Row, her impact upon the household was marked and unlike anything that Frodo had experienced before whenever he had company to stay.
The curtains were only the latest in a long list of trials that Frodo had been forced to endure since giving the couple a place in Bag End. For starters, how is it that women did not recognize the concept of simply enjoying the quiet after an evening meal? Frodo was accustomed to putting up his feet and reading a book or working on his after dinner. For him, it was one of the last pleasures of the day before turning in for the night. However, it was almost impossible to do now with both Sam and Rosie occupying that time with him and insisting on conversation as if he was starved for it. Worse yet, they were newlyweds and their talks seemed mostly fixated upon telling him how wonderful the other half of their couplet was.
It was enough to make him regret ridding himself of the One Ring.
Unfortunately, conversation was not the worst of it. Frodo wondered if perhaps Sam and Rosie would have benefited from a honeymoon first before moving straight into Bag End because the first few nights with them under his roof was more than he was able to handle. After all the things he had seen in his life time, what with Nazgul, barrow wrights and Shelob, Frodo had never thought he would fear so much the sound of the bed creaking next door in the middle of the night. During these occasions, Frodo would dive under his pillows and try not to think about the fact that Sam and Rosie were probably engaging in all sorts of intimacies in the next room. Nor was it easy to remain in good humour when he woke up the next morning, irritated and weary after being unable to sleep for more than a few hours when Rosie and Sam were so cheerful after their twilight antics.
Frodo knew he was being a little selfish. After all, one could not simply invite others into one’s life without expecting to be some changes but this was really not what he had expected. It was bad enough that he did not always feel well and lately the frequency of his spells was starting to become difficult to hide. He did not want Sam to be intruded by the knowledge that he was not getting better but worse because Sam had endured enough by accompanying him to Mordor to destroy the ring. Still, Frodo did not know how much longer he was going to conceal his illness from his best friend, when he was having trouble hiding the fact that Sam and Rosie were driving him insane by his inability to cope with them in his home.
Now as he stared at the curtains that he was quickly growing to despise with a passion, Frodo did not see the day improving and decided that perhaps what he needed was to get out of the house for the day. The illness he would confess to no one, not even Sam was keeping him indoors more than he liked. While he spent this time working on his book, Frodo could not deny that part of his ill temper of late was due to the fact that he was becoming a little house bound. Considering the adventures he had endured in recent years, one would think that he would happy to take refuge inside his home but the truth was, Frodo had become accustomed to the open spaces and what was more, he missed it.
Peering through the windows, he saw that it was a beautiful day outside and resolved himself to enjoy it and put aside his troubles with Sam and Rosie for the time being. He could think of nothing more relaxing than to work on his book in the sunshine. He used to love sitting under the party tree for hours but that was now impossible after it had so cruelly been cut down during Saruman’s unfortunate occupation of the Shire. Fortunately Sam had planted some of the seeds that Galadriel had given him in Lothlorien and now the glade was covered in mallorn saplings that were flowering sporadically. Frodo could think of worse things than to spend an afternoon surrounded by that loveliness.
"Good morning, Mr. Frodo," Sam’s voice interrupted his evolving plans for the day.
"Good morning Sam," Frodo greeted his best friend in the world.
Sam was always up a good deal earlier than he, preferring an early start, as was the practice of any good gardener. Certainly that was his Gaffer had always told him anyway. Sam entered the kitchen, glad to see Frodo had a little color his pallor though not much. Ever since they had returned from Mordor, it did not appear as if Frodo was recovering the way he should and it was part of the reason why Sam had been so torn when it had come time to marry Rosie. As much as he loved Farmer Cotton’s daughter, he could not deny that a part of him that would always feel bound to take care of Frodo.
"Got some fine apples out of the tree," Sam announced as he went to the kitchen, carrying a bucket full of the fruit. "If we’re lucky, Rosie can make us pie for dinner."
"That would be nice," Frodo found that he quite liked that possibility. Despite the fact that the woman had invaded the sanctity of his kitchen by removing his plain, comfortable curtains and that her presence in the house with Sam ensured Frodo could again never think any noise at night to be innocent, he had to admit she was a marvelous cook. Personal differences aside, when it came to food, he was still very much a hobbit.
"Oh I see you’re admiring the curtains Rosie put up," Sam pointed out, mistaking completely the reason why Frodo had been staring at them when he entered the kitchen.
"Yes," Frodo’s mood darkened at the memory of the offending fabric but reminded himself that Rosie had probably meant well. "I did notice. Its very nice,’ he lied through gritted teeth.
"Oh I’m so glad you like it Mr. Frodo, I was a bit worried to tell the truth. I didn’t think Rosie ought to be changing things without asking you first," Sam replied, relieved that Frodo did not mind, after all it was an imposition enough that they were both living here.
"It’s alright," Frodo answered, unable to stay angry when Sam was so concerned. "It was a bit of surprise but I’ll get use to them."
"She just wants to fit in so badly," Sam continued to speak as he put the kettle on the fire. "I mean it was so terribly kind of you to let us stay here. If you didn’t I don’t think we would even be married yet. Rosie’s determined to see to it that you never regret letting us come to stay in Bag End."
If Frodo could have cursed under his breath, he would have.
Sam could not have made him feel guiltier even if he tried. If Frodo did not know Sam as well as he did, he would have been inclined to believe that Sam was trying to make him feel badly but the stouthearted gardener was too noble for such manipulation. Frodo released a resigned sigh, determined to endure the teething problems that came with suddenly sharing a home with others for the first time because the alternative would hurt Sam too much and that was something Frodo would not do, no matter what.
Frodo sat down at the kitchen table, allowing himself to enjoy the pot of tea that Sam was obviously preparing for him. He could not hear Rosie in the house and assumed that she was at the market doing the daily shopping. Frodo had become accustomed to her shopping for dinner early in the day and mentally wondered what she was cooking this evening. He was grateful that Rosie had taken over the chore of cooking because frankly after their journey abroad during the quest, Frodo could honestly say that he had his fill of Sam’s cooking and was more than grateful for a change.
"She will Sam," Frodo answered his best friend and surprised himself by his own sincerity, "its new for all of us. I mean I thought I would be living alone again when we got home, like I was when Bilbo left, but things have changed and now you and Rosie are here with me. Its taking me some getting used to.’
"You don’t regret it then?" Sam looked at him, his eyes meeting Frodo’s.
"No," Frodo shook his head. "I don’t."
Frodo did not think he could hide his true feelings so well from his friend. Did he regret asking Sam and Rosie to stay? No, not really. However, he did miss his privacy and the fact that he no longer felt like master in his own house. As he watched Sam and Rosie, deliriously happy together, with delight in every moment they shared in each other’s life, Frodo felt like the intruder and it was a disconcerting feeling indeed to feel like the guest in one’s own house.
The uneasiness stayed with him and finally drove him out of the house.
Carrying a small satchel with loose sheets of paper and his quill set, Frodo left Bag End behind him and walked down into the field where the party tree had been. Instead of trees he had known all his life, he saw instead the mallorn tree that was growing from the seeds that Sam had brought from Lothlorien and the beauty of it was enough to touch even a soul as jaded as his. A sense of sadness often lingered with him whenever he saw the field, not because Saruman had torn down the party tree but because it was the last place he ever felt truly comfortable in the Shire. The night after the party had changed his world forever even if he did not know it.
He found himself a comfortable place before the dark thoughts in his head started to drain the color from this beautiful day. One of the other trees that had been planted was a still sapling, but was blessed with more leaves then the others and though the shade was minimal, it was enough to suit his purposes. Frodo sank into the soft grass, taking a deep breath of the sweet smell the golden flowers of the mallorn seemed to produce. He felt the heat against his skin and decided that whatever troubles he was experiencing at the moment at home, was not so formidable when faced with such beauty before him.
Reaching into his satchel, he made a mental catalogue of the notes he needed to jot down for his book when suddenly his fingers recoiled at the sensation of moisture at the bottom of the leather pouch. Investigating further, Frodo let out a groan when he saw the lid to the small bottle of ink he carried inside the satchel had somehow come undone and the dark fluid had leaked through the rest of its contents. The sheets of paper were a soggy dark mess and completely unusable. The sight of them made Frodo utter a string of foul curses that was an unfortunate remnant of his time in the Black Tower. Even the birds perched in the tree overhead decided to take flight in disapproval.
When Frodo retrieved his hand from the satchel his fingers were black as if he had stuck them in the coal bin. Of course the first thing he did, without thinking was to wipe the offending stain on his hands across his trousers before realizing too late that he had succeeded in smearing the ink all the fabric. The words that came out of his mouth then put the former curses to shame. Unfortunately, this time it appeared that his audience was not birds but rather a handful of children who were staring at him with an older female companion, with eyes wide like saucers.
"Mr. Baggins!" The woman whom Frodo recognised to be Violet Proudfoot exclaimed with clear mortification and Frodo was almost driven to swear again when he remembered what had earned her ire in the first place and restrained himself.
"Miss Proudfoot!" He started to stammer. "I didn’t see you there."
"Obviously," she snorted, "I would not imagine you would use such language in front of children if you did!"
"I’m sorry," Frodo struggled to explain himself as the children gawked at him, wondering if it was another language he had spoken. Frodo was glad that much of what he had uttered was not decipherable to their sensitive ears, though the same could not be said for Violet Proudfoot who was one of Proudfoot’s granddaughters and the school mistress of the Hobbiton School. " I had a bit of an accident," he responded meekly.
"I would say you had a big accident," she snorted and then glanced at the stains on his clothes. "And I do not mean with the ink."
Frodo gave her a look and noted that she had not left, bracing himself to hear more stinging barbs from her over his lapse in front of the children. He did not know Violet Proudfoot very well because she had lived for a time with some of Proudfoot’s relations in Bywater and that was before he had left the Shire to undertake the destruction of the One Ring. She was a pretty thing with dark hair and comely features, though she could never be considered a great beauty. She wore the look of someone who had seen the best and worst of life and was changed forever by it. It was a state of being Frodo could understand most intimately.
"If you’ll excuse me," Frodo replied, deciding that the best place for him was home right now because he did not like the way Violet was looking at him and feared that she might be another one of those women who thought he was a man ripe for the picking.
The bane of his existence since returning home from abroad, was discovering what an eligible bachelor he had become in the wake of his travels and the Battle of Bywater. Before the Quest of the Ring, he had never had to worry about such things because he was considered a peculiar hobbit in much the way Bilbo was regarded. Unfortunately, his position as Deputy Mayor and his part in reclaiming the Shire from Saruman had suddenly made him very attractive as a potential husband. Frodo had thought being maimed by Gollum would spare him the indignity of this but it appeared that it was not to be.
"I think that would be best," she remarked neutrally, her expression showing no interest in him whatsoever but that meant little, Frodo had come to learn that these women knew how to hide their intentions until it was too late.
"Good day Violet, children," he said politely and started to walk away, bound for home to clean himself up and to escape her while he still could.
"Lemon juice," she spoke before he could draw to far away from her and her charges.
"Excuse me?" Frodo turned around and faced her.
"Lemon juice," Violet replied. "Its good for ink stains."
"It is?" He stared at her.
"Yes," she nodded. "I speak from experience."
He supposed as a schoolmistress accustomed to dealing with books and the written word, she probably did have a considerable experience in such matters. He took her words as just friendly advice without suspicions of any clandestine intentions on her part.
"Thank you," he managed to say.
"I would not leave it too long though," she added, giving him the nudge he needed to leave without any further awkward attempts at conversation.
Frodo nodded and continued on his way, looking over his shoulder long enough to see that she was also on her way across the field with the children outdistancing her quickly as they ran through the saplings. He thought about her for a moment, feeling somewhat unsettled by the encounter and not quite knowing why. Nevertheless, he forced thoughts about her out of his mind because if there was anything in this world that he did not need right now, it was female company. As it was, trying to get accustomed to Rosie and her curtains was trial enough.
And he had thought going to Mordor had been hard.
After returning home for a change of clothing and to soak the ones soiled by ink, Frodo decided he would try again for his day under the sun. To his surprise, he found that the application of lemon juice to the stains did go a long way to removing the ink from his clothes. Reminding himself to thank Violet the next time he saw her, Frodo prepared to leave Bag End for the second time. Unfortunately his efforts were hampered by a lack of ink, since the mishap earlier had drained what supplies he had left. Certain that the Fates were conspiring against him, Frodo was muttering in annoyance when he left Bag End bound for the local goods store in order to purchase fresh supplies.
It took an hour of his time to finally acquire new ink for his notes before he returned to the field again, staring furtive glances about as he moved through the trees, determined that he would not get pinned by either children or Violet Proudfoot again. Frodo supposed the simpler solution might simply be to find another place for his sojourn but having been driven out of his house because of Rosie’s presence, Frodo was determined to give concession to no other woman invading his personal space. He trudged through the grass telling himself this with great conviction while at the same time, keeping a vigil almost as sharp as when he had been pursued by the Nazgul. However, had Sauron’s minions caught him, the worst that could happen to him was his death.
If Violet and others like her snared him in their web, the worst they would do was marry him.
Frodo shuddered at the thought, images of a sacrificial lamb being brought to the some barbarian altar, trussed up helplessly as a gaggle of women, all armed with a bouquet on one hand and rings far more dangerous and binding that the One Ring, in the other. It was enough to give a gentleman hobbit terrible nightmares. Not that he was adverse to the whole idea of marriage of course; it was just that he had come to the conclusion that it was not for him. Having a dark lord run rife over one’s brain had the tendency to drive away the need to share one’s thoughts with another being. Frodo had just about enough of sharing himself then he could stomach and had no desire endure it again, no matter how pleasant it might be.
Seeing no signs of Violet or any other female, Frodo let out a sigh and eased back under the same tree he had been sitting under when his day had started to go askew, feeling the midday sun warming his face. In the distance he could see the top of Bag End peering over the crest of the great hill. He looked at the blank page before him and jotted down the notes for his next chapter, having to do with the journey the Fellowship had taken. Despite the peril of their quest, Frodo could not deny that the one good thing about the entire endeavor were the friends he had made and knowing that together, they had truly shaped the future of Middle earth.
He thought of Aragorn Elessar who would always be Strider to him, who had more names than Frodo had waist coasts in his cupboard, wondering whether the kingship would see to it that the man would bathe more frequently. Unlike Legolas who could fall headfirst into the mud and still step out of it looking cleaner than all of them put together. He wondered if there was some elven enchantment that prevented dirt from sticking to the skins of the Eldar. It was probably the same magic that ensured all that long hair did not end up in unruly tangles. The elf and Gimli the dwarf made such a curious pair, Frodo thought to himself with a little smile and hoped the two still traveled together in the world outside the Shire.
He thought of how they had argued during the quest, with such intensity that taxed even Gandalf’s impatience. It was during this time that Frodo was actually concerned that Gandalf had developing an addiction to Southfarthing leaf since Legolas and Gimli’s arguments coincided with Gandalf suddenly needing to ‘go off somewhere for a smoke’ as the wizard often put it. The person, who coined the warning to never meddle in the affairs of wizards because they were quick to anger, obviously had never seen one whose supply of weed was about to be exhausted. Frodo wondered how Gandalf was faring out there in Isengard and wished to see the wizard again. Hopefully the next time he did Gandalf again, he would not find himself embarking upon some perilous quest.
Gandalf seemed to have that effect upon all the masters of Bag End.
Perhaps he ought to warn Sam, Frodo thought.
With the memories of the Fellowship fresh in his thoughts, Frodo began to jot down the notes for that particular segment of his book, finding his writings gaining momentum the further he traveled down the page. Before long he had outlined a good deal of the chapter and was rather pleased with himself when suddenly, he heard someone calling out his name.
Frodo stopped writing and looked up to see one of the Bolgers ambling towards him. The former Ringbearer let out a little curse under his breath once again that he did not have the One Ring with him. At times like these, the invisibility of Sauron’s Master Ring had decided advantages, particularly when he did not wish to deal with yet another father with an unmarried daughter, cousin, sister, etc.
Jobbin was fat and did not walk but waddled. He was rounder then was normally expected of hobbits and Frodo remembered Bilbo once saying that he could have competed with Bombur the Dwarf of Erebor for size. Considering how much trouble Bombur’s weight had been during Bilbo’s journey to the Lonely Mountains, Frodo decided that this comparison did not bode well for Jobbin. What was worse, it appeared that Jobbin was not the only one in his family who suffered from this malaise because his children and indeed his wife were just as round, though to a lesser degree.
"Jobbin," Frodo responded when the hobbit finally reached him. "What can I do for you?" He asked wearily.
"Well," Jobbin smiled, his grin plastered across his face for the occasion. "My cousin Della is coming to dinner next week form Frogmorton and she would dearly love to see you. It’s been so long since the party."
In truth, Frodo doubted he had ever met Della Bolger at Bilbo’s party but remained silent nonetheless since it would be rude to point that out and catch Jobbin in an obvious falsehood.
"Yes it has," he lied for the benefit of Jobbin’s dignity. "I don’t think I can make it though. I’m due to visit the Thain next week and I’ll be gone for most of it. I’m sorry."
It was at this particular moment that he heard another voice calling out to him giving rise to the question whether everyone in Hobbiton knew what he had planned to do today. As luck would have it, approaching them was none other than Pippin and Frodo began to wonder if he was truly cursed with misfortune today for it appeared that the one person who could unravel the hastily crafted lie he had told to Jobbin was suddenly approaching them.
"Hello Frodo," Pippin greeted him cheerfully and added a similarly enthused greeting at Jobbin. "Hello there Jobbin."
"Why Master Took," Jobbin exclaimed, "we were just speaking about the Thain."
"You were?" Pippin raised a brow at that. "What about?"
Frodo was sending him furious eye signals to remain silent but as always, Pippin was not the quickest when it came to interpreting such hidden messages and appeared oblivious to Frodo’s desperate efforts to warn him.
"About Mr Baggins going to visit the Thain next week."
Pippin opened his mouth to respond when suddenly an arm struck him across the throat silencing anything he was going to say when Frodo chose that moment to stretch out his arms in a yawn.
"Oh Pippin!" Frodo apologised as Pippin doubled over and started to cough loudly. Frodo patted him on the back, attempting to help him overcome the injury while Pippin struggled to speak but could not quite manage it in his fit of coughing.
"I am terribly sorry, I didn’t meant to hit you!" Frodo declared, feigning false shock at what he had done.
Pippin’s response was another bout of coughing that made Jobbin take a step back as if Pippin had acquired something he might catch.
"Well that’s too bad," Jobbins said hastily as he tried to speak through Frodo’s efforts to aid Pippin who was doubled over. "Maybe next time."
"For certain," Frodo said distracted, feeling terribly guilty he was forced to resort to violence in order to spare himself the indignity of being forced to endure the company of Jobbin and his family for an evening.
The round hobbit was soon on his way and Frodo turned back to Pippin who had stopped but appeared very red in the face from the ordeal.
"What was that for!" Pippin exclaimed in a hoarse demand before Frodo could speak.
"I’m sorry but I had to keep you quiet," Frodo replied apologetically as Pippin shoved him in annoyance, not understanding at all and quite irate. "He wanted me to go meet his cousin Della next week and I couldn't think of anything other than to tell him I was visiting down your way."
"And for that you almost collapsed my windpipe?" Pippin snorted, giving him a look as he rubbed his throat tenderly.
"I’ve never even seen his cousin Della!" Frodo exclaimed, desperate to be forgiven for actions.
"Yes, I have actually," Pippin had to confess though his ire had been elbowed in the throat had yet to fade, much like the pain of it.
"What is she like?" Frodo was almost afraid to ask.
"Well," Pippin hesitated in his answer because it was not in a hobbit's nature to be intentionally unkind. However, neither was it in their nature to lie either, to their friends anyway. "Picture Jobbin in dress."
"You see why I was driven to such lengths," Frodo grumbled, grateful that he had managed his narrow escape but not that he had elbowed Pippin to do it, well not entirely. "I've had these invitations ever since I became Deputy Mayor. Its most disturbing."
"I don't know why you're fighting it Frodo," Pippin stared at his friend and cousin. "After all, its not like you could not use a little female company after everything you’ve been through."
"Oh not you too," Frodo groaned. "I've been hearing enough of that from Sam!"
Pippin was firmly of the belief that Frodo should indulge himself a little after the quest of the One Ring and the burden he had endured to see that terrible task accomplished. Pippin himself had also been inundated with the attentions of many of the Shire girls since returning home and he could not say that he was avoiding their efforts because he was enjoying it too much. However, his eyes was fixed firmly one Diamond of Long Cleeves and that had simplified things for him considerably.
"Its true though," Pippin pointed out. "I mean you do like girls don't you?" The hobbit looked at Frodo suspiciously.
The question earned him another jab from Frodo, this time across the back of the head.
"It was just a question!" Pippin declared rubbing his head. "After all, you've been alone for a long time and you've never been known to keep company with many women!"
"Because I was discreet!" Frodo snapped, mortified that his masculinity was being called into question. "A gentlemen does not discuss his affairs with anyone. Anyway, I have no wish to go courting!"
"Fine, fine," Pippin threw his hands up in a gesture of defeat. "I'll say no more about it but I thought with Sam and Rosie in the house, newlyweds and all, you'd probably wouldn't mind a little bit of…."
"Finish that sentence and you will regret it," Frodo glared at him. "Trust me, that is one thing I do not need. I've been listening to it enough all night since they were married! What I need more than a woman, is a good night's sleep and some time alone!"
"All night?" Pippin's expression became sly. "Do tell!"
"You're a lost cause," Frodo retorted shaking his head in resignation.
"I'm a lost cause?" Pippin gave him a look. "You should talk. You really are turning peculiar like Bilbo and not in a good way either."
"Was there some reason you sought me out Pippin?" Frodo glared at him, "or did you just suddenly develop this urge to irritate me for no reason?"
"Well that was that and the fact that Merry and I were going to take a ride out to Bree, thought you might want to come along." Pippin replied, suddenly remembering why he had sought Frodo out in the first place.
"To Bree?" Frodo's eyes widened. He had not been that way since they returned to the Shire. "What's there?"
"Nothing," Pippin shrugged. "Just thought we'd go for a little tip out of the Shire. It seems like forever since we left town for any reason."
"I might join you," Frodo replied, deciding that he would not mind a short trip away. "When we you planning on going?"
"In a few days," the young Took responded. "You think Sam will come with us?"
"I doubt it," he answered sincerely, "Sam's too interested in staying close to Rosie at the moment."
Pippin did not say anything for an instant and looked at Frodo thoughtfully, "you're not a little jealous are you?"
"Jealous?" Frodo stared at him. "What do you mean, jealous?"
"Well Sam does seem terribly happy," Pippin remarked, sounding a good deal wiser then he normally appeared. "And if anyone in the Shire deserves that kind of happiness, it’s you. Perhaps you feel just a little resentful that he's got what you should have."
Frodo did not answer because he was too concerned trying to discern whether or not Pippin's words had some kernel of truth in them, despite his desire to deny it outright. He could not refute that he did feel a little envious when he saw how happy Sam and Rosie were together and when he had been out there in the hellish land of Mordor, he had dreamt of the life that Sam was now experiencing. Yet even then, there was this inescapable feeling in him that knew such a life was beyond him and had been ever since the ring was passed into his possession.
"Maybe," Frodo answered softly, having no wish to admit to Pippin even if they both knew that some part of the Took's words were probably too. "But I am happy for Sam Pippin, really. Its just that I need peace and quiet and lately I don't seem to be getting any of it."
"Well that’s entirely your fault," Pippin replied, a devious smile crossing his face.
"How exactly is this my fault?" Frodo asked, aware that he was probably not going to like Pippin’s answer.
"Who knew you were going to be so irresistible to the ladies?" His friend grinned.
Frodo hit him again.
It was becoming enormously clear to Frodo that unless he acquired the One Ring again and turned invisible, a very unlikely possibility since he had gone to all the trouble of disposing of the troublesome thing, he was not going to go unnoticed by the rest of Hobbiton. After ushering Pippin away with promises of joining Merry and him for a trip to Bree sometime soon, Frodo decided to find another quiet place to continue working on his notes. So far his day had been one interruption after another and Frodo wondered if there was some great conspiracy afoot to ensure that he acquired no peace and quiet today.
With Pippin gone, Frodo forced himself to relax as he sat down under another sapling and began once again, the business of jotting down notes for the writing of his book. The silence of solitude allowed his mind to slip back into his previous train of thought and the words flowed easily once that was accomplished. He was feeling quite satisfied with himself and his progress, having structured the chapter he was working to some depth when suddenly, his happy mood was once again shattered by a female voice.
Frodo let out a groan as he dropped his pen upon the paper and wondered who was it now that was intruding upon his privacy. He started to think that perhaps leaving his house had been the worse decision he had since deciding that the road to Moria was the best way to cross the Misty Mountains. Raising his eyes, he found himself facing Violet Proudfoot once again, although this time she was not accompanied by her students but was alone. If anything convinced Frodo that she was like all the other women who had turned their attention to him since his return to Hobbiton, it was that fact alone. No doubt she did not wish a youthful audience while she attempted to debase herself by trapping him into playing the part of her suitor.
"What is it now?" He asked, not all together politely but his temper was fraying at the edges and he really did not care to be polite any more.
The woman arched her brow tautly before answering; "I wanted to speak to you on a matter of some importance."
"And naturally, it could not be said with the children present?" He stared at her knowingly, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
"I do not see why they should be present," Violet responded, still appearing confused by his ambivalence.
"Of course not," he stood up abruptly, dropping his papers and pen onto the soft grass as his eyes bore into hers mercilessly. "Why should they be present? All they would do is get in the way of your speech which I am certain you have rehearsed well."
"Rehearsed?" Her eyes widened.
"Yes, your kind often do," Frodo returned sharply. He was so incensed by this whole situation that his anger was sweeping him further and further away form rational thought. "You sit and plan what and how you are going to approach me. Some of you send agents to make the opening gestures, come in for a cup of tea Mr. Baggins or perhaps dinner, Mr. Baggins. Would you like to meet my cousin Mr. Baggins, she’s just moved up from Crickhollow. I know your intention dear lady and while I do not blame you for your actions, after all you are only behaving in the manner that is expected of your gender, I must tell you that I am utterly and completely uninterested in forming any kind of courtship with you!"
"Courtship?" She managed to say, her lips quivering a little while her hands at her sides had balled into fists.
"Courtship," Frodo hissed, missing all the signs of impending danger and this was saying something of a hobbit that had once faced evil on a scale beyond description and had survived. "I have no desire for a wife. I never have. I know that all you women seem to think that I am something of a prize but I have no desire to marry and I doubt I ever will. I am sorry to be so blunt with you Miss Proudfoot, but I will spare you the indignity of groveling at my feet for attention."
"Groveling at your feet for attention," she mused, nodding slowly as he finished his tirade.
"Now I apologize for being so forward but I have endured as much of this as I can tolerate. I am certain in time, you will find someone else to pursue but it will not be me," Frodo concluded. He was starting to question how she could be a schoolmistress when she said so little to his statement and seemed to be in the habit of repeating his words back to him. She did not appear terribly bright at all. Frodo feared for the education of the Shire children if someone like Violet was teaching him.
Suddenly, without any warning whatsoever, Frodo found himself at the receiving end of a solid punch that sent him sprawling and landing rather unceremoniously on his behind. The flaring pain at his jaw dissipated just in time for him to see Violet rumbling even more violently that Mount Doom when he had stood at its perilous maw. She was glaring at him with wide eyes and Frodo was certain that he could see smoke rising out of her ears because she appeared that furious.
"How dare you make the assumption that I wanted to court you!" she shouted. "I had no intention of any kind when I sought you out! However, since you did bring up the subject, may I clarify my position since you were so good enough to make yours known, even though I had no designs of any kind upon you?"
"You didn’t?" Frodo stammered and tried to utter something that might have been an apology but the words came out in gibberish. It mattered little anyway since Frodo doubted she would have heard him.
"First of all," she stood over him, hands on her hips. "You are strange! You walk around town with a cloud over your head and look as if you’ve just come from a funeral! I swear that if it were possible, it would rain just around you! You are peculiar and sullen even when you are attempting to be cheerful and while others might think you the catch of the day because you are the master of Bag End, I could not care less. I would like my suitors with something more than depression in their eyes! Secondly, after hearing your display this morning, I would not have anything to do with you even if you were the very last hobbit in the whole of Middle earth! No decent gentlemen would ever say the terrible words you did and in front of children no less!"
"It was an accident!" Frodo stammered, his face turning red with embarrassment at the realization that he had made a mistake of monumental proportions. Unfortunately, there was no escaping the catastrophe whose path he had mistakenly placed himself as he saw Violet standing over him, wearing that stormy expression of fury. "I thought…"
"I know what you thought!" She snapped not allowing him to finish his sentence. "You are not so terribly irresistible that every woman who sees you will fall immediately to your charms Mr. Baggins! How dare you make such an assumption with me? I have never been so thoroughly disgusted by any hobbit as I am with you! You are no prize despite what some others of my half witted gender might think!"
"But you came to find me," Frodo finally managed to get a word in after that rather lengthy tirade. He was rather horrified by this whole incident and wondered if his humiliation could get any worse.
"I came to find you because I wanted to see if you would give a talk to the children!" She retorted sharply.
"A talk?" Frodo swallowed visibly and decided that his humiliation could get worse, a good deal worse.
"Yes," she straightened up, staring at him like he was the lowliest thing she had ever seen and was still contemplating whether or not she was going to step on it. "I had heard Rosie Gamgee telling me of some of the far away places that you have been to in your travels. How you had seen the elves and were present at the inauguration of the Gondorian king, I thought you might come to the school and give a talk about it! I’ve had Pippin Took and Merry Brandybuck to the school and the children enjoyed their talks immensely! Mr. Brandybuck said that you have been further east then all of them and so I rather foolishly thought that you might be inclined to tell the children about your travels since you’ve been working on your book!"
"Oh," Frodo responded mutely, not knowing what else he could say.
"Well I certainly should have known better after hearing your foul speech this morning!" She snorted, turning on her heels, her skirt doing a slight flounce as she departed. "Good day Mr. Baggins and do not worry, I shall trouble you no more on this matter or any other!"
Frodo did not react until she was out of earshot before he let out a loud groan of dismay.
"Oh very well done Frodo!" He grimaced, feeling thoroughly humiliated but also ashamed at himself and at some of the words she had lashed at him, though for once he could not say that he did not deserve them.
"A fine mess you’ve made of things," he scolded himself at how he could make such an enormous misjudgment. Not only had he embarrassed himself and humiliated poor Violet, he felt terrible of what he had said to her and had no doubt that it would be across the Shire in a matter of hours. Honestly, he did not wish to be pelted stones each time he passed any unmarried woman in town which was exactly what would happen if Violet told the story of their disagreement to the rest of Hobbiton.
His face was still aching and he touched the tender skin where she had struck him, somewhat deservedly, he was forced to admit and knew that there would be swelling later on but for the moment, he had more pressing concerns. Above him, the sky rumbled a little and he knew that the sunny day had evaporated around him. It was probably chased away by Violet’s foul mood he told himself. Collecting his things, he saw some flowers growing on the bushes and helped himself to a handful as he hurried after the woman was rapidly storming her way across the field with more speed than the weather overhead.
It did not take Frodo long to find her. She was not quite at the edge of the field and Frodo was grateful that he did not have to face her in view of town because he had quite enough embarrassment for one day. He had no desire for an audience being privy to the apology he was going to have to make to sooth the lady’s anger.
"Violet!" He called out.
She paused in her steps and turned around, her face still twisted in that angry scowl.
"That’s Miss Proudfoot to you, Mr. Baggins," she declared hotly when he reached her.
"Look I’m terribly sorry," Frodo started to apologize, "Miss Proudfoot. I really did not mean to be so rude. I just wanted to say that I would be willing to give that talk now."
Her eyes’ widened. "How very good of you but I do not think that is necessary.’
Frodo felt scalded at his efforts being slapped back in his face. "You are a hard woman Violet Proudfoot," he found himself saying. "I was trying to apologize!"
"Nonsense!" she snorted. "You are merely attempting to assuage your own guilt at your terrible behavior!"
"I am not!" Frodo retorted, wondering how a schoolmistress could be so unforgiving. "I should not have made those comments and you are right, I was presumptuous about your intentions but you have no idea what I have endured these past weeks!"
At that, she seemed to soften a little and her carriage, straight and ready for battle slackened a little, "perhaps I am too hasty in condemning you," she sighed, the anger bleeding out of her face as she met his eyes. "I accept your apology."
"I’m glad," Frodo smiled a little and was pleasured when he was rewarded with one from her. "I brought these for you," he said producing the handful of mallorn he had been concealing behind his back.
"Oh," she accepted the flowers; clearly uncertain at how she should view this gesture. Something akin to confusion and distress crossed her features for the briefest time. "I feel terrible for striking you now," she replied after a moment.
"It was not your fault," Frodo replied. "I did behave rather badly."
"But it appears you have reason," she replied.
"I did," he was not about to deny that. "So I take it you will keep this encounter between us only? I do not wish for all of Hobbiton to know of this disagreement."
Even as he said it, he knew that he had made another grievous mistake.
"Ooh!" She hissed in fury and suddenly he found himself flat on his back once again, his other eye stinging with pain as he felt the flutter of scattered flowers falling across his face.
"You scoundrel!" Frodo heard her shout. "That’s your whole reason for apologizing isn’t it? So that I would not ruin your precious reputation by telling anyone how badly you behaved! I had never any intention of speaking of this encounter to anyone! I am no gossipmonger! You Mr. Baggins, can take your talk, your apologies and your flowers and go to the trolls with you!"
Frodo shook his head and let it drop into grass, staring at the sky above, thinking that life was so much simpler when all he had to worry about was the One Ring and the quest to Mordor.
Predictably, as the thought crossed his mind, it started to rain.
"Poor Mister Frodo," Rosie cooed gently as she slipped a blanket over him lap and ran her fingers over his hair like he was a small child in need of solace. "I had no idea that I was going to cause you so much mischief."
"It was not your fault Rosie," Frodo sighed as he eased back into his chair, enjoying her ministrations as she fawned around him. Outside the rain was battering down relentlessly, its teeming sounds forming a soothing noise in the background. "I offended the lady and she behaved rightly so."
"Violet’s always had a bit of a temper, even as a child she was always prone to using her fists to express her anger. The only people who doesn’t make her mad that way are the children, thankfully," Rosie remarked handing him a hot cup of tea as he sat in front of the fire that Sam had stoked into being.
"Yes," he frowned in agreement, feeling the stinging pain around his eyes and wondered if he would look like a raccoon the next morning. "She certainly throws a good punch."
"Now don’t you worry about a thing," Rosie said as she brought him the book he was presently reading which he had left on his bedside table. "I’ll talk to Violet and have this whole thing straightened out. She’s not one to gossip as I could have probably told you that but she doesn’t know you like I do Mr. Frodo and there will be none of this getting across town, not while I can help it."
Frodo looked up at Rosie, seeing the imperious look across her face and noted that she wore an expression that reminded him of Aragorn just before the king of Gondor was about to go slaughter Nazgul. For a brief instant, he was almost in awe of her and felt somewhat privileged that she would defend him so stoutly. At that moment, he understood all too well why Sam cherished her so. All this time, he had complained about what an intrusion Rosie had been in his life with her marriage to Sam. After all, not only had she taken up place in his home but also space in the heart of his best friend that perhaps he felt belonged to him exclusively. Now Frodo understood how terribly wrong he had been. He was not losing anything with Rosie’s presence and gaining more than he ever imagined he would when she had come to stay.
With a sudden start, he realized why Bag End felt so differently since her arrival. Instead of the smell of musty old books, the house smelled of home cooked meals and warmth that had been absent since Bilbo left. He looked around his parlor and saw a vase of flowers sitting on the mantle piece with splashes of color in the curtains that he had first abhorred but now felt like a slice of life he had been denying himself because of the travails of his past. For the first time in so many years, Bag End did not just feel like a house to him but rather a home. It surprised him how much difference lay between those two words.
"Rosie," Frodo spoke, halting her departure to the kitchen where she was in the process of preparing dinner while taking short interludes to see tend to him.
"Yes Mister. Frodo?" she asked quizzically.
"I am really glad that you and Sam have come to stay," he said with a little smile.
Rosie’s smile was even more brilliant than the flames in the fire place, her eyes glistened with emotion probably because it was the first time she had ever heard him say those words and meant it so sincerely.
"Thank you for letting us move in with you, if you hadn’t we probably wouldn’t be married," Rosie replied.
"I doubt that," Frodo reached for her hand and held it in his, "Sam loves you terribly, I doubted anything would have stood in his way with you were being what he wanted."
Rosie swallowed hard at the words, finding it difficult to speak. Fortunately, she did not need to.
"Am I interrupting something?" Sam announced himself as he entered the parlor where his wife and friend were having what appeared to be a deeply emotional conversation.
"Just in time," Frodo grinned at Sam. "I was finished telling Rosie how much you both mean to me but now that I’ve gotten that sentimental business aside, how about joining me for a cup of tea Sam and I’ll tell you what nightmare my day has been."
"And I’ll make you a nice cup of tea as well," Rosie remarked with a special smile for her husband as she started towards the kitchen past him. Rosie planted as small kiss on his lips before she was on her way again.
As Frodo watched Sam pull up a chair, he eased into his own comfortably, thinking to himself that Bag End was and always be his home but he was rather glad to know that it would always be Sam and Rosie’s as well.
Even if he did hate those curtains.
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.