2. Meet the Grangerfords
Upon entering, he found it none the more hospitable. There were several other men in the entryway with weapons pointed at them.
A woman smiled and said, "Why, Pa, they're no Shepherdsons." Frodo wasn't quite sure what a Shepherdson was, but right now he was glad he wasn't one. Another woman came in and told the men to put the 'guns' down. Frodo figured that must be what the weapons were. It didn't sound very dangerous, but he was sure he didn't want to see how they worked. The new woman seemed quite convinced that they weren't Shepherdsons, so the men with guns left.
The man standing behind Will spoke. "What are your names, boys?"
"George Jackson, sir," Will answered, "and this is ...my brother. Fred."
Frodo blinked at the name. What kind of a name was Fred? And why had Will felt he couldn't tell them their real names? Perhaps this boy was used to meeting unpleasant strangers. Though, it did make him wonder if Will was even his right name. Presently, he doubted it.
"Ya see," the woman told the man.
Another young boy came into the room and asked what was going on. The man got on his case about being slow and said something about how they could have been shot. Frodo wondered if the people they were fighting, whoever they were, had arrows, because these people obviously didn't.
The man asked where they were from. Frodo decided it was best to let Will answer the questions, since he seemed to know better what was going on. He didn't understand the answer, though. What was a steamboat? And how does one fall off it?
Well, they seemed to accept his excuse. Frodo learned these people were called the Grangerfords. He guessed it was a family name, rather than a race, because they looked man enough, even though their clothes were all very strange.
They were taken to some older women, who brought out more odd garments for them. They said they'd give Frodo and Will...George...whoever... a bath. Frodo assured them he could bathe himself.
"Suit yourself," the old woman told him. "I'll just go draw the water. But at least let me help you out of those filthy shoes." She knelt closer to him and before he could react to this strange statement, she made another. "Land's sake!"
He looked down at his large, hairy, perfectly reasonable hobbit feet. Apparently these people have never seen Shire-folk. Oops. That's right. He's supposed to be a man-boy. Quickly and smoothly, he brushed his hair over the tips of his ears. If they reacted this way to big feet, he'd hate to see what they thought of pointy ears.
Will came to his rescue. "Oh, don't mind him. Fred's been that way since birth. You think that's bad, you should have seen our uncle. Hairy as a werewolf. He worked in a freak show as the dog boy until he got shot by a hunter who thought he was a bear."
"Gracious!" the old woman exclaimed.
"Don't worry, though. That almost never happens," Will added.
The flustered woman smoothed her skirt. "Well, I'll just go make your baths, then." She wandered into the other room, muttering something about the 'poor boys.'
When he was sure they were alone, Will turned to Frodo. "Hell's bells, Fred! If you ain't the strangest boy I ever met. What's wrong with you?"
Frodo didn't quite know how to answer this. "My name's not Fred. It's Frodo. And all my people have feet like mine."
"I ain't talkin' 'bout your feet," Will said. "Didn't no one ever tell you how to lie? It's like you ain't never told a story before."
"I've told plenty of stories," Frodo answered, a little confused, "but they're usually true. My people don't lie as a habit."
"Well, your people must be pretty boring," Will answered. Then he seemed to just realize something. "Who are your people, anyway? And what is with that accent 'a yours?"
"Why, hobbits of course. And we all talk like this," Frodo said with a hint of indignation.
"What in tarnation is a hobbit?" asked the boy.
"I am," Frodo told him flatly.
Will just shook his head. "I don't know why I'm stickin' up for you."
"Don't you think you better tell me your real name?" Frodo asked him.
"What makes you think my name ain't...Bill?" Will asked, obviously trying to remember what name he'd said.
"The fact that you told me it was Will, for one," the hobbit replied.
The boy didn't look happy. "Oh, all right. My name's Huck. Huck Finn. But don't you go tellin' anyone else. There's people thinks I'm dead all over the place and if I get found out I'll be in a right mess."
Frodo was a bit stunned by that last bit, but at least now he knew the boy's name. He was about to attempt an answer when the old woman came back in.
"Right, then," she said, "let's get your clothes off and get you in the tub." She went to Frodo and unfastened the elven leaf clasp before he could stop her. She took off his cloak and he grabbed it before she could take it away. She looked at him, surprised.
"It's...special," he said, trying to emulate their accent as best he could.
Her look softened and she smiled. "Ohh...someone's got a security blanket."
"You might say that," he said, though he didn't quite understand the term.
"Don't worry. I'll just set it right over here for you, then," she said, taking the cloak from him. She set it on a nearby stool. Turning back to him, her eyes fell on Sting, which still hung at his side. "Oh, my."
Frodo quickly covered this time. "Family heirloom." She didn't respond with more than a confused and slightly worried look. "I use it to...scare off animals," he continued, looking to Huck, who smiled with approval though he looked a little concerned himself. The old woman still didn't respond. He just took it off and set it with his cloak, hoping she'd let it slide.
She did, and left them to bathe in peace. Frodo was surprised to see the bathroom full of porcelain, but he'd become so desensitized to wonder in the past few weeks (first Moria, then Lothlorien), he just shrugged and got in the tub.