2. Yuletide at the Great Smials
'Glad Yule!' the Thain cried, coming out to meet them, followed by Diamond. 'Welcome! We weren't expecting you until teatime.'
'We made good time,' the Mayor answered, young Merry and Pippin jumping down behind him and immediately unloading the baggage. Samwise turned to hand out his wife and daughters.
Elanor and Fastred emerged from the Smials to greet them. 'Mum! Dad! Come on into the Smials before you catch your deaths! There's a fire laid in your sitting room, and I'm sure we can find you a pot of tea, even though high tea is an hour away.' They allowed Elanor to herd them into the Smials, clucking away like a hen chasing her chicks out of the cold, but once inside with the chill shut out by the great doors, the Gamgees turned to the serious business of proper greeting.
'Ellie,' Rose said, giving her eldest a hug. 'Where's that grandson of ours?' she added.
'Asleep,' Elanor said promptly. 'Naptime's too important to interrupt, even for an arrival. You taught me that, down in Gondor, when Prince Imrahil wanted to see Tolman and you made him wait!'
'I didn't!' Rose laughed.
'You did,' Sam said with a smile. 'But the Prince understood... he was a father, himself, of course.' He hugged Elanor in his turn, then extended his hand to Fastred. 'Glad to find you here,' he said. 'Half thought you might be in the Westmarch.'
'For Yule?' Fastred said. 'My wife expects me home for all holidays and birthdays, I'm not sure why.'
Elanor laughed and gave her husband a push. 'I'm not sure why, myself,' she quipped. 'But it is nice to have you underfoot, all the same.' She led the way to the rooms that were kept for the Mayor and his family. True to her word, there was a bright fire on the hearth, and a teakettle was just coming to the boil as they entered.
'There!' Elanor said. 'Take off your wraps and we'll get you all warm and cosy in three shakes.'
'Two, it looks like,' Sam said with a fond smile. His Ellie had certainly grown up.
Fastred took their outer garments and quickly dispersed them on pegs near the entryway to their suite, while Elanor made the tea and served her parents.
'Got anything to go with that?' Frodo said hopefully, and she laughed.
'High tea's in less than an hour,' she pretended to scold. 'The kitchens are in a state of complete bustle. You're likely to be pressed into labour if you went in search of biscuits, at this moment.'
'I shall try not to perish of hunger in the meantime,' Frodo said, though the younger lads looked as if they could not be so patient.
A servant tapped at the door, entering with little Elfstan. 'He woke up, Mistress; hungry like as not.' Elanor took him with a smile and thanks, the servant bobbed a courtesy and departed.
'You're living high!' Merry exclaimed. 'Folk waiting on you, and all!'
'Not me,' Elanor smiled. 'Little Elfstan is the apple of the Thain's eye, and so they spoil him shamelessly. His slightest wish is granted.'
Rose held out her arms for her grandson, but the little one was making hunger hiccups and she must needs soon surrender him again to Elanor, to be nursed into complacency. Once his tummy was full, he was satisfied to be passed from arm to arm, smiling at every one with all the contentment of a well-fed, well-loved babe.
'But it's time for our own tea!' Fastred said, rising and taking the babe on his arm. 'Come along, the Thain expects folk to be prompt.'
'As he should,' the Mayor said approvingly. The little group joined the hobbits moving through the hallways to converge on the great room.
The Gamgees found their places at the high table and sat down, waiting for festivities to commence. Merry Gamgee nudged his brother Pippin, who nodded with a grin as the twain surveyed the riches piled upon the platters. Tea at Bag End usually consisted of a few biscuits or fresh-baked scones, with a more substantial supper an hour or two later, and early to bed. In the great halls, however, the hobbits were more likely to make tea a hearty meal, followed by a light snack ("eventides") at sunset, whereupon the children would be put to bed, and then late supper for adults and tweens halfway between sunset and bedtime.
The Thain's Chancellor entered on his wife's arm, and there was a chorus of "Uncle Ferdi!" from the Gamgee children. He was not really an uncle, nor even a cousin, strictly speaking, but had taken the Gamgee family under his wing from time of the Mayor's first visit to the Smials.
'Well, well,' Ferdibrand Took grinned. 'Nell, I see that your family has safely arrived, and the festivities may begin.' He sniffed the air appreciatively. 'As is only proper; 'twould be a shame for all these delicacies to go to waste.'
'There's not much chance of that,' Elanor said, and the chancellor's face turned to her, eyes seeming to look straight into hers, though an encounter with ruffians beyond the Bounds some years earlier had left him in darkness. Merry and his brother Pippin added their enthusiastic opinions, and the chancellor nodded.
'I'm counting on you,' he said. 'Let there be no waste.' His wife, Pimpernel, led him to her chair, opposite Mayor and Mistress Gamgee, placing his hand upon the back. With a bow and a flourish, he seated her, then found his own chair next to hers, and took it.
A bell sounded, and the rest of the Tooks and guests quickly took their places. Looking around, Samwise observed aloud that the great room was not as crowded as usual, and Ferdi nodded. 'Quite a few have moved out to the new territory,' he said. 'I actually have room to stretch my elbows now.'
The servers were setting out the cosied teapots, and the room quieted in anticipation of the Thain's arrival. Thain Peregrin entered, his wife on his arm, and all the guests rose together and bowed to their host.
'We thank you,' Thain Peregrin said, smiling. 'Welcome to the festivities!' He nodded to Samwise. 'As we have the Mayor here with us, perhaps he would like to say a few words.'
Sam rose and bowed. He said, 'Let the celebration begin!' and sat down again, leaving the Thain at a loss for words.
'Well, you did say "a few",' Sam added, pouring tea for Rose and himself. 'Was that few enough?'
Peregrin chuckled. 'A great economy,' he said. 'We should have you open all the feasts at the Smials.'
Merry Gamgee watched in fascination as Ferdi poured out Pimpernel's tea and then his own, and as Pimpernel passed him the cups, he poured out for the rest of his children as well.
'How do you do that?' he said, only to be hushed by his older brother Frodo.
'It's all right, Frodo,' the chancellor said calmly, 'He only sees me pour out on Last Day, after all; the rest of the year the lasses take possession of all the teapots. Now, Merry-lad, listen.'
Though it was difficult with the quiet conversation going on about them, Merry listened intently, while his father poured out for the Gamgees and Ferdi continued to serve his own family.
'The sound...' he said slowly. 'It gets... higher as the cup fills.'
'Good lad!' Ferdi said approvingly. He lowered his voice. 'I used to stick my thumb in at the top, to feel for the tea as I poured, until I discovered the trick of listening. Somehow folk don't care for a thumb in their tea, can you imagine?'
Pimpernel laughed as she served her husband's plate. 'I cannot imagine why,' she said gaily.
It was a festive meal, but Ferdibrand noticed that Goldilocks was quieter than usual. 'And how is my fair-haired lass this day?' he asked. 'Goldi, are you here? I have not heard you speak.'
'I'm here, Uncle Ferdi,' she answered. She didn't have much to say. She had been looking forward to the Yule celebration at the Great Smials, the feasting and dancing, the roasting of mushrooms and bacon on long sticks over the Yule log in the wee hours, the quiet conversation with the other tweens and young unmarried hobbits... but Faramir was not sitting with his family.
Merry, seeing her glance, said, 'And where is Faramir? Is he ill? Pip and I were planning to go shooting with him after tea.'
'He is spending the holiday at Buckland,' Ferdibrand answered. He turned to his wife. 'Nell, my own,' (which is how he distinguished Pimpernel from Elanor).
'Yes, my love?' Pimpernel said brightly.
'Is Goldi still as pretty as the last time we saw her?'
'Oh, Ferdibrand,' Mistress Rose said reprovingly. 'You'll turn her head.'
'Not that head,' Ferdi said with dignity. 'Why, she has as much sense in her little finger as most tweens her age have in their whole being.' He was rewarded with Goldi's laughter, and he smiled. 'That's better,' he said. 'You should laugh more often, Goldi, 'tis a blessing on the ears.'
'Uncle Ferdi, you are incorrigible,' Goldilocks scolded, a smile in her voice.
' "Encourageable", I am that,' he answered cheerily. 'So, will you dance with my Rudivar? I would hate to think of him pining away this night for want of attention.' Rudi groaned but did not comment, while the rest of his brothers were convulsed with laughter.
'Just so long as you don't go planning any weddings,' Goldi said saucily. She subsided under her mother's stern look, but the chancellor only laughed.
'I don't know,' he said thoughtfully. 'How old are you... three-and-twenty, I think? If we start planning now, your wedding could be a grand affair indeed.'
'Don't you dare!' Goldi said, and he chuckled.
'Enough teasing, my love, you are going to pull that leg right off,' Pimpernel chided.
Ferdi affected alarm. 'We must not have that,' he said severely. 'Why, however would she dance with our Rudi?'
'More tea, my love?' Pimpernel diverted him, and he refilled her cup, leaving Goldi for the time being to her own thoughts.
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.