23. Teatime with the Thain
'Lovely,' Diamond said. 'Come, lasses, let us spread the feast.' The Thain and his sons quickly had the blankets stretched out upon the ground, and Diamond, Goldilocks, and Forget-me-not laid out the food, enough for an army, it seemed.
Goldilocks rose and made a courtesy to the Thain and his wife, thanking them for their invitation. 'You're most welcome, my dear,' Diamond said warmly. She patted the blanket next to herself. 'Sit down, now, you must eat before the locusts devour all.' Indeed, her sons were eyeing the food hungrily. Pippin waited until the ladies had been served before he gave the word to the lads to dive in, and dive in they did, headfirst and headlong.
As they ate, the Thain regaled all with stories, and there was much laughter. At one point, Diamond said, 'This has been such a delight! I hope you can join us again, and often, Goldi!' Goldilocks nodded and smiled, but avoided Faramir's glance. How could she bear to spend more time in their company, in Farry's company? Her heart was already heavy with all she had vowed to give up, "for the good of the Shire".
When they finished, Diamond started to pack up the baskets, saying, 'Farry, Meri, it's time to pick a drift of wildflowers that the lasses may make their garlands.'
'What is a picnic without garlands, after all?' Pippin laughed. 'Goldi, you and Ruby (as they called Forget-me-not for "short", after Diamond's sister) had better go along and direct the lads, lest they pick all the wrong colours and spoil the effect.'
Together the young folk wandered, Farry and his younger brother cutting the flowers that the lasses pointed out, and soon each had an armload to bear back to the blankets. There all sat down again, and the lads obediently handed flowers to the lasses on demand, watching the garlands grow under the skillful fingers.
'There!' Goldi said. 'Now give me your hat, Ruby, for this will suit perfectly, I believe.' She wound the weaving of wildflowers around the hat's crown, and held it out away from herself with a critical eye, tucking more flowers in here and there, studying the effect. Finally, she held the hat out. 'What do you think?'
'O it is beautiful!' little Forget-me-not breathed.
'Just like its owner,' Goldi smiled, putting the hat on the little girl's head and tying the ribbons. Forget-me-not presented her with a necklace made from her own carefully chosen flowers, and Goldi adorned herself with grave thanks.
'You two look fit to grace the court of the King and Queen,' Pippin said solemnly. 'Unlike you ruffians,' he added, turning suddenly to seize the twins, who'd been at the jelly and were well-smeared and sticky. The Thain hauled his youngest sons over to the little brook and proceeded to wash them, despite their vigorous protests. All three ended up quite damp from the exercise.
'Time to head back,' Diamond said. There was a general groan, but the Thain supported his wife, of course. ('I dare not gainsay her,' he whispered to Goldi. 'She'll put me on water rations, you know.') They finished packing away the last of the plates and silver and folded up the blankets, stuffing all into the baskets.
Goldi found that the basket she shared with Farry was now considerably lighter, for the food and drink were now inside the hobbits, and everyone was carrying his or her share. They sang their way back to the Great Smials, and it was with a pang of regret that Goldi thanked her hosts once again and turned to go in.
'We must do this again, as soon as the election is over and you return from Michel Delving,' Diamond said.
'Indeed,' the Thain answered. 'I will impress upon the Mayor the need to make a good long visit at the Smials after the election.'
'If he's still Mayor,' Goldi said doubtfully.
Pippin's laughter rang out. 'Whether or not he is,' he said, 'he's always welcome here! But I have no doubt as to the outcome.' He took Goldi's hand and bowed over it, much as if she were a grown-up hobbit. 'Thank you again, my dear,' he added.
'You're most welcome, Sir,' she replied. 'My parents will be wondering what has become of me...'
'Then go,' Diamond said, 'and thank them from us, for sparing you.'
'Yes, Mistress,' Goldi said, and entered the Smials, where over the eventide meal she was prompted to share every detail of the picnic with her family.
When she retired after late supper, she slowly removed the garland from her neck and hung it up on the mirror. The flowers were already wilting, as wildflowers do, but as she sat before the mirror and brushed her hair, they reminded her of the brightness of the day. Her littler sisters were already abed, and asleep, when she laid down her brush.
She was about to blow out the candle and seek her own pillow, when her mother stepped softly into the room, a bulky packet in one hand.
'Goldi?' she said, her voice low so as not to disturb the others.
'Yes, Mum?' Goldi whispered, turning from the mirror.
'I have something here that belongs to you,' Rose said. Ah, how grown-up her daughter looked, not the little girl she remembered, but a tween already, well on her way to adulthood. She held out the packet, and Goldi took it questioningly.
'Belongs to me?' she echoed.
'Take a look,' Rose murmured.
Goldi looked... and gasped. The bundle was made up of envelopes, each directed to her, in clear, bold handwriting she knew at a glance.
'Yes,' Rose said. 'They are Farry's letters to you. We were wrong to keep them from you, Goldi, and I hope you will forgive us. Your father and I... we didn't want to see you hurt, and so... I fear we have hurt you, ourselves, by our actions.'
'O Mum,' Goldi breathed, then stopped, not knowing what to say.
'Farry's father is giving him your letters this night, even as we speak,' Rose went on. 'If...' she paused, seeking for the right words. 'If this friendship that has grown up between the two of you... is meant to be more than that, well, we have decided that you ought to have a chance to see if it is more, or if it is just a lovely friendship.'
Goldi nodded, taking in her mother's words.
'Goldi,' her mother said, demanding her full attention. She met Rose's gaze. 'I would rather that it was not more, for reasons you well know.' Goldilocks nodded. 'But if it is something that is meant to be, then you will have my blessing, and your father's. We love you, Daughter, and want only for your happiness.'
'O Mum,' she breathed, and hugged her mother. Rose's arms tightened around her.
'O Goldi-lass, it seems only yesterday you were lisping "Mum" for the first time,' she said, a catch in her voice. 'But kittens grow up, and so do lasses... and we would be fools to try and stop them. Bless you, lovey, and now, go to sleep.'
Goldi, usually an obedient child, kissed her mother on the cheek and sought her pillow, putting the precious packet of letters under it, to be at hand first thing on the morrow... but she did not go to sleep, not for quite awhile.
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.