22. Invitation to Tea
'That must be Ellie and Fas,' Rose said, going to the door, but to her surprise, she opened to see the chancellor's smiling face.
'Ferdi? We were about to sit down to tea, would you like to join us?' she said hospitably.
'I regret to decline,' Ferdibrand answered with a bow. 'I am here on a commission for the Thain.'
'Ah,' Sam said, getting up and coming forward. 'Did he need me for something?'
'As a matter of fact, Samwise, I am here to convey his cordial invitation to your daughter to take tea upon the meadow with his family.'
'Which daughter?' Rose said, and Ferdi turned to her, smile brightening.
'Why, my sweet, golden-haired lass, of course,' he said. 'The one I tried to steal away from you, for a daughter of my own, but for the fact that you wouldn't give her up.'
'Go on with you, now, Ferdi,' Rose said, while Samwise raised his voice to call, 'Goldi!'
Goldi came to the door of the sleeping room shared by the girls, where she had been mending a tear in young Ruby’s dress. 'Yes, Dad?' she asked. She wasn't surprised to see Ferdi there, he was often in and out of their suite on the Thain's business.
'You're to take tea with the family of the Thain this day,' Sam said. His eyes met those of his wife; they had talked long into the night on this, and other topics. She gave a slight nod and Sam turned back to the chancellor. 'Please thank the Thain for his kind attentions to our daughter,' he said formally.
'I shall,' Ferdi promised. 'Are you ready, Goldi-my-lass?'
'Take a hat,' Rose said, 'The sun is bright today.'
'Yes, Mum,' Goldi said, and whirled back into the room to run a brush quickly through her curls and grab up her hat.
'Farry must be off again,' muttered Merry-lad to his brothers. 'Where d'you suppose? Buckland?'
'Mmm, perhaps Undertowers,' Pippin-lad answered, 'on some commission or other.'
'Why not Gondor?' Robin piped up. Though Ferdibrand heard the soft-voiced discussion, he gave no sign, save perhaps a slightly wider smile.
'I'm ready,' Goldi said, reappearing, hat in hand.
'Do you have your hat?' Ferdi inquired as she took his arm.
'Yes,' she answered.
'Is it a pretty one?'
He could hear Goldi's dimples in her reply. 'Very pretty, "Uncle" Ferdi.'
'Good,' he said in satisfaction. 'If you are to decorate my arm all the way to the entrance of the Smials, you ought to be decorative.' The laughter of the Gamgees washed around him, and he bowed towards the Mayor. 'My thanks,' he said, 'for making my life easier. You know how the Thain is when he doesn't get his way, tyrant that he is.'
'Indeed,' Sam said. 'Keeps you on your toes.'
'He does,' Ferdi nodded. 'It's amazing that I have not worn my poor toes off completely.' He turned to Goldi. 'Shall we go, my dear?'
There was a chorus of "good-bye" behind them as they proceeded towards the main entrance of the Smials. Goldi watched in fascination as Ferdi unerringly guided himself, fingers lightly tracing along the wall, responding to the greetings of passers-by, identifying them with uncanny accuracy by their voices. She had tried it herself on a few occasions, closing her eyes and guiding herself along the wall, counting the doorways and side passages, but it had been a slow, fumbling process.
As they reached the entrance, the guard greeted them and opened the door. 'Mistress Diamond awaits you,' he said, and Ferdi thanked him, turning to Goldilocks.
'Here I must leave you, my dear,' he said regretfully. 'I will go and tell the Thain that all is ready for the picnic.'
'Thank you, "Uncle" Ferdi,' Goldi said. She wished to lay a kiss upon his cheek, as in the old days when she was small enough to climb up on his lap, but contented herself with pressing his hand before releasing it. He smiled in understanding, nodded in farewell, and turned back into the Smials.
In the courtyard, Diamond straightened from her inspection of the contents of two large baskets to greet her, while the little twins rushed to seize Goldi's hands, chanting her name in delight, and Merigrin, Forget-me-not and Jonquil came to offer greetings of their own. 'I'm so glad you were able to join us, my dear,' Diamond smiled. 'Come, Ruby-love,' she called to Forget-me-not, 'put on your hat. See, Goldi has hers. The sun is bright today!' Diamond firmly tied the ribbon bows of Jonquil’s hat as she spoke.
'I will help you,' Goldi said cheerily, disengaging her hands from the twins' firm grip to lift the straw hat from where it dangled, placing it on Forget-me-not's dark curls, tying the ribbon bows.
'Your hat is so pretty,' Forget-me-not said shyly, and Goldi gave her a hug.
'We'll decorate yours with garlands of wildflowers, and it will be just as nice,' she said. 'And when we return from Michel Delving, on our next visit, I'll teach you to make silk flowers to sew onto your hat, and your sister’s, if you like.'
'Would you?' the little lass gasped in delight, and Goldi nodded, while little Jonquil clapped her hands in raptures of anticipation.
'It's a promise,' she said.
'Ah, my dear, there you are,' Diamond said.
'Of course, d'you think I would work past teatime with a picnic in the offing?' The Thain spoke from behind Goldi, and she turned to see him smiling at them from the doorway, Faramir by his side. Goldi managed to keep her expression cool, calm, pleasant, just the right degree of a nod, she thought. It was a good thing they couldn't hear her heart pounding like a galloping pony.
'Faramir,' she said, her voice nicely steady, thank goodness!
'Goldilocks,' he answered as formally.
'I think you and I will take this basket between us,' Diamond said to her husband, 'and Goldi and Farry can take the other... can you manage, my dear?' she asked Goldilocks.
'Easily, Mistress Diamond,' she said, stooping to take one of the handles. Faramir, at a poke from his father, jumped to take the other and their heads nearly bumped as they bent down.
'Hullo, mouldy-Goldi,' Farry said under his breath.
'Hullo, hairy-Farry,' she answered, trying to suppress a giggle. Dignified, that was the way to be. On her best behaviour. She and Faramir were still friends, after all, and they always would be.
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.