Threshold: 4. Revelations of a Summer’s Night

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4. Revelations of a Summer’s Night

Chapter 4 ~ Revelations of a Summer’s Night.

1400, June 22 – 24: Lithe, the festival of Mid-year ~ Hobbiton.

All over the four Farthings, the high feast days of summer were a favourite time of celebration. The crops were sown and coming on, yet the heaviest work of the harvest was still far off. The cool of spring had turned to warm, but it was not yet overly hot. Midsummer was a time for everyone to breathe and be refreshed, and to appreciate the summer at its fairest.

This year, in order to be with Merry for the feast, Freddy begged (and was granted) Rosamunda’s permission to go a week early to Brandy Hall. The Master of Buckland presided over every major feast. Merry, as the future Master, was to be at his grandfather’s side. Estella, not to be cheated out of a privilege granted to her brother was allowed to go early to the Smials, too, in order to be with Pervinca. The Thain, like the Master of Buckland, oversaw the festivals in Tookland personally, but Ferumbras had been ill again. Paladin, as next in line, would do the honours.

So that neither child could say the other was preferred, Rosamunda stayed behind to celebrate the days in Hobbiton.

As Master of Bag End, Bilbo presided at Hobbiton’s feasts, which he very much enjoyed. He did not take as active a part as he once had done, but he still liked to meddle with the planning. He opened the feast of Lithe with a flourish.

For the next three days, there were games and feasting, dancing and singing. One could stroll about and enjoy a leisurely talk, or simply nap quietly in the shade. The soft evenings brought more of the same entertainments, and the Party Field and its environs were even more filled with folk. The grounds teemed with villagers and local farmers, along with their visiting guests, as well as hobbits in from the outlying areas. Children zigged and zagged through the celebration well past their bedtimes, jostling adults as they played their games of hide and chase. Wine flowed, ale slopped, and trays loaded with food were threaded through the milling crowd. For light, lanterns were strung between the trees. But, away from the central areas guests could venture into the dark where night began, and the sound of insects grew loud. In the shadows of tents and trees, young couples could be glimpsed indulging in a kiss or a squeeze, punctuated by giggles and the occasional smack.

The last day of the feast had come, the day after Mid-year. With it came folk’s last chances to dance. On the green, under the strings of lanterns, the dancing was under way, and had been most of the day. Dancing was extremely popular in the Shire among hobbits of every age. To provide ample opportunity for everyone, tradition had developed dances of all sorts. There were dances for indeterminate partners, which stretched in lines or circles, as well as the usual sorts for two. There were dances for little children, for parents and children, for youth not yet come of age, for married folk, and for single persons above the age of majority. There were dances just for lasses and women, and others just for lads and men.

Rosamunda always had loved dancing. That night she joined every dance for which she was eligible. The one for lasses and women gave her special pleasure, for its step was more intricate than the simpler ones designed for all. It required grace and very nimble feet.

When the lasses and women had finished, they cleared the floor for the lads and men, whose dance followed. Rosamunda recovered her breath with the rest as she stood watched.

The men’s dance was also rather intricate, but far more vigorous, requiring leaps and spins, punctuated by hand claps and the stamping of feet. Inexperienced or tipsy hobbits regularly collided, upsetting the pattern when they did. A few affronted dancers would utter disgruntled protests, but most responded with good-humour.

As she blotted her heated neck with her handkerchief, Rosamunda easily picked out Frodo from the rest. He was as tall as any of them, now. In the stamping step, when he flung up his arm with a flourish, his other hand fisted neatly upon his hip, she thought he looked quite grown-up. The impression was reinforced as she watched him dance the set that followed for ‘tweens. Squiring the local lasses about the green, Frodo was confident, light on his feet, deft, and quick. And, even better, he danced with joy. Rosamunda watched him with delight. Was it any wonder, she mused, that his young partners – pink-cheeked and breathless – responded with such obvious pleasure?

The sets for adult couples followed. First were the dances for husbands and wives (and those publicly betrothed). As she looked on, Rosamunda felt wistful, even a little sad – and every bit the widow – her time to dance had been so early over. How she and Odovacar had loved to whirl about the floor. And now she stood with others not eligible for this dance. She withdrew a little under the edge of the trees in order to watch the couples unobserved as they swirled past, a blur of colour.

The next sets were for those who were of age, yet single. These dances were the most watched of all. Folk would whisper and conjecture over which couples on the floor might be coupling in the future.

The musicians were taking some refreshment and dancers assembling, when Rosamunda heard her name. Bilbo was hallooing her as he moved towards her, carrying a mug in each hand. He looked quite spry in spite of his age, as he made his way through the milling throng.

“Thank you, Bilbo,” she said, taking the proffered drink. “Ale?”

“No, wine pretending to be ale,” he told her confidentially before they drained them off.

“I have come to beg a favour, Rosamunda,” he said, blotting his lips on a pocket handkerchief. “I wondered if you might give an old hobbit a dance?” His eyes twinkled liked the polished buttons on his party waistcoat, and his cheeks shone. “Come, Rosa,” he said. “Will you have me?”

Bilbo’s manner was so warm and expansive, and his eye so lively, Rosamunda forgot to wonder if he were merely feeling sorry for her. She accepted gladly. He handed off their mugs to someone standing near, and they stepped onto the floor. Truly, the green was like a floor, now. After three days, it had been beaten flat by many dancing feet.

Rosamunda felt terribly self-conscious at first. Every head seemed to turn. But, once folk had finished looking their fill, noting who it was the Squire was partnering, they turned their attention to their own partners once again.

It was then that Rosamunda really began to enjoy the evening. Certainly, no one could take it amiss if she danced with Bilbo, now nearly one hundred and ten years old. Bilbo was quite good, too. They danced another. And another.

* * *

Next, there was another set for ‘tweens. The pace was much more brisk. Bilbo was glad of the respite as he stood and watched them. Round and round they went, with Frodo in their midst, spinning about with one of the Chubb lasses. Bilbo would be glad of a drink, when Rosamunda returned. She had gone to fetch them fresh mugs, theirs having wandered off.

“No, no!” Bilbo had protested breathlessly when she offered to go. “What sort of gentlehobbit would I be? I will go, Rosamunda.”

But Rosamunda had insisted. “Pish, Bilbo,” she admonished with a grin. “No ceremony between us!” Before he could utter another word, she had spun on her heel and gone.

Privately, Bilbo was grateful. He really had been quite winded. As he watched Rosamunda wending her way through the crowd of hobbits, he thought again how much he liked her. Her thoughtfulness was always so discreet.

When she returned bearing another pair of mugs, they smiled, wished each other health, and drained them off.

The next set was another that they could join. Recovered, Bilbo offered her his arm and led her out once more.

Rosamunda was in high spirits, he saw with pleasure. As he whirled her about in his arms, her cheeks were flushed, her eyes sparkled, and her fine teeth gleamed when she threw back her head and laughed, which was often – more from sheer exhilaration than from his jokes. Her hair was starting to come down, too, which only increased her easy sort of charm. Yes, she still was a very fine-looking hobbit woman, he thought, frankly admiring. She made a good armful. It was a shame, really, to see it all go to waste. She made him feel quite … well, it did not bear thinking about. Those days were past.

Some others were thinking about it, though, Bilbo noted. Just over there, for instance – Ponto and Porto Baggins (not closely related, thank heaven). From the time they were lads, they had admired Rosamunda. Whenever she had been in Hobbiton, they had followed her about, panting after her like dogs. She would rebuff them, of course, and they would slink off, but never for long. Well, Bilbo chuckled to himself, if they continued to look at her like that, their wives would be giving them a scolding when they got home. And there was young Hugo Goodbody. He would do well to stop his gawking. At the very least, he should go off and compose himself – or button up his coat – the silly ass.

It was then that Bilbo noticed Frodo. He was standing beside the Boffin lads, Folco and Marco. Laughing and bantering, Frodo was partly turned away. At a word from Folco, Frodo turned, and, seeing Bilbo, waved. But, when he saw who Bilbo held in his arms, the wave faltered. The upraised hand seemed to hang suspended in the air, the purpose of the gesture forgotten. Bilbo might have disappeared the way Frodo looked his fill at Rosamunda.

Bilbo twirled Rosamunda a last time as the dance ended to applause. Was he up for one more turn about the floor, he wondered? No, not wind enough. His eternal vigour was not that eternal. He wanted to sit down. Glancing at Rosamunda, he saw her expression of hopefulness, but he simply hadn’t the energy. Thank heaven it had been the last of the set. That way, he might save face.

The musicians had begun to re-tune their instruments, and Bilbo was leading Rosamunda from the floor, when he hesitated. The next dances would be for parents and children. ‘Mothers and Sons,’ would be first.

Inspired, Bilbo stopped and stood.

Rosamunda looked at him, puzzled, but graciously stopped beside him. Mothers and sons of every age were moving past them to assemble on the dusty green, finding their places for the set.

This would do very well, Bilbo thought. Yes, very well, indeed. Rosamunda was not yet tired of dancing, after all, and there was something that he wished to see.

“Frodo! Frodo,” he called.

Frodo, on the far edge of the dispersing circle of onlookers, had been turning to leave. But, hearing Bilbo’s summons, he checked himself and moved in their direction.

Frodo had drawn near when Bilbo, holding Rosamunda’s hand aloft, was saying to her, “You shall not be cheated of one more dance, Rosamunda – no, no!” He shot Frodo a pointed look to add, “Shall she, my lad?”

Frodo did not appear to know what to make of this, but waited politely, casting an inquisitive glance at Rosamunda.

“Of course she shan’t,” Bilbo declared with greater animation. “Why, here is just the thing: ‘Mothers and Sons.’ Rosamunda was like a mother to you once. That should still count for something, should it not, Frodo?”

“And, Rosa,” Bilbo said to her very brightly, “Surely, you would not refuse my heir?”

Then Bilbo turned and walked briskly away. Rosamunda’s hand was left suspended in the air.

When he reached the ring of spectators, Bilbo pivoted in time to catch the look of dismay on Rosamunda’s face. Frodo had seen it, too, for he hurried to bow and take her still-suspended hand, leading her to a place in the set.

“Thank you,” Bilbo could hear her murmuring. She had forced a reassuring smile, which Frodo returned with equal stiffness. Then together they waited in silence, looking everywhere but at each other.

The dance for mothers and sons was a simple one, designed so that both young mothers with little sons, and grown sons with aged mothers might be able to perform it. Bilbo was sure that Rosamunda had been pulled and yanked by Freddy through this dance in Buckland. Frodo must have danced it with his own mother, before she died, although Bilbo could not recall having not seen it. But Bilbo had seen Frodo’s Aunt Esmeralda leading him through its paces on several occasions, before Merry was old enough to manage the dance himself.

When the dancers were ready, the music was struck up. It was a courtly dance, and slow. Standing side by side in pairs, the couples danced with their hands joined, but held high between them, making an arch over the space. Pointing a foot, the toe of each would scrape across the ground in front, raising tiny puffs of dust, for the green now was nearly dirt. Then slowly they processed through the stately pattern of the dance.

Steps forward, steps back, a dip and turn. A parting and a coming together. Again, a pointed toe would tap; then scraping lines in zigs and zags; walk and turn and then reverse, one under the arm of the other, hands conjoined each time.

With a pace so grave and mannerly, little sons heading in wrong directions could be guided, and aged dancers could be supported, should they tire, at such a measured pace.

Many observers found it dull and wandered off for food or drink until something a bit livelier might be struck up. Others stayed, the ones to whom the dancers were known.

One of these was Bilbo. He stayed stock still. He sought to rouse himself against the sight, saying it was early days, and that he needn’t be prematurely discouraged. But as he watched, he sighed, and, sighing, gave it up. There would be no marriage with the Tooks.

Watching his heir dance with Rosamunda, Bilbo could not banish from his mind the word, perfect. They did not smile, they did not speak. They did not even meet each other’s eyes except when needful for the execution of the dance. But the extended arm, the join of hands, the step away and together, the way Frodo’s fingers poised upon his partner’s waist as he urged her through the turn and back – all of it was executed perfectly.

There was nothing immodest, no languid lovers’ looks. The sheer want of looks told Bilbo much. He knew them both well enough to look for little signs. Their heightened colour was not from exertion, nor was the greater rise and fall of chest and breast. Did he sense or merely imagine the quickened pulse in each? The eyes of both were brilliant, but that could be the lanterns’ light.

But, no. Although their eyes met seldom, when they did, it seemed to Bilbo those meetings bore a charge, a spark, which ought not to be there. But it was.

When it ended, the dancers bowed or made a courtesy, and the spectators who remained joined the dancers in ragged but appreciative applause. Bilbo watched as Frodo led Rosamunda from the floor on the far side of the green. They exchanged a few words, but Bilbo could not hear them. Just some courtesies, he supposed.

Then Rosamunda retreated beneath the trees. Frodo, Bilbo saw, strode off towards the drinks tent. Bilbo followed.

It was time for that talk, after all.

* * *

At first, Bilbo could not find Frodo in such a crowd. But, walking in the direction of the privies, he saw Frodo’s back disappearing into the shadows of the outlying trees. Bilbo followed.

Just beyond their edge, where the fields began, Frodo came to a halt and stood. Under the trees, as Bilbo drew nearer and the noise of the feast receded, the sounds of night could be heard, rising to a chorus when he reached the fields beyond. Out in the furrows, frogs and crickets chirped, making a rhythmic sound like breathing.

Bilbo opened his mouth to speak but shut it. Perhaps he might better discern the younger hobbit’s mood if he took the time to watch.

Frodo stood as if transfixed, his face lifted to the night sky. Star-gazing, Bilbo surmised with a smile. His eye followed Frodo’s until he was nearly lost himself in the luminous vastness overhead, its velvety black spangled with brilliants, washed paler where the moon had risen.

Suddenly, Bilbo wished he might simply join Frodo in the quiet of the moment. But, no, that must wait for another time. He had an errand. Regretfully, he sucked in a breath, braced himself, and advanced.

“Frodo, my lad!” he called, stepping gingerly between the rows of young wheat.

Frodo did not give him a glance.

“I saw you heading this way, as I left the privies.” (A lie, but Bilbo discounted it.)

Frodo did not answer.

Coming to stand at Frodo’s side, Bilbo hoped the moonlight might better his chances for judging Frodo’s thoughts.

“Well, you’ve had some fine dancing tonight, eh, my lad?” he said heartily.

Ignoring the lack of response, he declared, “So have I!”

Bilbo thought he felt a quiver in the linen sleeve that brushed his own. He waited.

Frodo kept his eyes fixed on the sky above him, but said quite evenly, “Why did you have us dance together, Bilbo?”

Well, Bilbo thought, whatever had been his feelings out on the dancing green, Frodo had kept his wits about him.

Bilbo groped, answering Frodo’s question with a question.

“Whatever do you mean?” he blustered cheerfully. “You are not telling me, you were sorry to have stood up to dance with your Aunt Rosamunda?”

“She is not my aunt,” Frodo answered stonily, staring ahead. “Nor is she my mother.”

Tread carefully, Bilbo cautioned himself.

“Well, no, of course not! Even Rosa could not take the place of your mother.”

“That is not what I meant at all!” Frodo’s voice had risen. Although he tempered his tone at once, he squared himself before his elder, saying heatedly, “Only, tell me this – did you not make me dance with her on purpose?”

It was more a demand than a request, and Bilbo was taken aback by the edge in the lad’s voice. His “nephew” had grown up more than he had realised.

Bilbo would be plain.

“In fact, my boy, I did design that the two of you should dance.”

Frodo looked his amazement, but did not speak it.

Bilbo forged ahead.

“I have noticed – you know that I have noticed – in the past – that your feelings for Rosamunda have not been what they ought. At least, they were not what I thought they should be. Still, I have continued to hope I might see you throw your cap over the wall for a lass, someday. But, for an eligible lass, not Rosamunda. I have hoped your fancy for her would prove a passing thing – that it was a lad’s infatuation. In fact, I have believed it to be so. For, I have seen improvement. That is, it seemed as though your amorous interests had begun to be directed elsewhere.”

Frodo remained respectfully attentive, but said nothing.
“Well. That brings us to tonight. I have been watching you, Frodo, it is true – watching you with Rosamunda. And I thought I had seen … but I wanted to be sure. So, I resolved upon my little experiment. I recognized an opportunity and asked you to dance with her. You see, I thought I might learn whether what I had seen in my kitchen, four years ago, was still there – or not.”

“And what had you seen, then?” Frodo almost flung at him. “Just another itchy boy?”

Bilbo sensed the injury behind Frodo’s angry words, but he had to be honest.

“Well, yes, Frodo, I did think that – at first. After all, considering your age …”

Frodo took a great breath, as if to interject, but seemed to reconsider. His shoulders dropped. “It is true,” he admitted, chastened. “I was not much thinking of Rosa, not in the moment; only of what I was doing – of what I was feeling.” With renewed ardour, he added, “But afterwards, I knew.”

Bilbo let the silence sit.

“Do you truly care for her, then?”

“How can you ask it? Yes! Ever since I was little!”

“I am not talking about when you were little,” Bilbo said testily. Was the boy prevaricating? No, that was not it. He would rephrase.

“I know you care for her in that way, Frodo,” he soothed. “That is, I know you have loved her as your grown-up friend.”

One more go should do it.

“I am talking about wanting her. No, I don’t mean quite that, either,” Bilbo said impatiently, as if to himself. “Obviously, you want her,” he muttered.

Frodo’s face coloured and took on a look of misery. Bilbo felt a pang. He needn’t make it worse.

“It is perfectly understandable, my lad,” Bilbo said, touching Frodo’s arm. Frodo flinched. Bilbo did not withdraw his hand, but said more gently, “It struck you all of a sudden, that is all. I saw it happen, you know, that night in our parlour, just before the Yule. You were watching her with Odovacar, before the fire.”

Frodo’s flush deepened.

“You had seen them together so many times, for so many years. But, suddenly, it was all different, wasn’t it? Because you were different. Wasn’t that the way of it?”

“Yes, it was all different….” Frodo murmured. Bilbo could hear his dry swallow before he added, “Especially … once I had held her.”

Frodo’s voice trailed away. He had dropped his eyes, as if to stare at the wheat, which waved about his feet in the moonlight.

With a burst of fervour, he turned and said, “I have tried, honestly, Bilbo. And I have been able to for get about it a little – just as long as I don’t see her. But, when I do see her, it all comes back.”

Bilbo’s shoulders drooped and he sighed. “Ah. I see.” He paused, in case Frodo should speak. But the lad again was silent.

“What do you mean to do, then?” Bilbo asked.

Frodo began to pace. “I suppose I shall have to stay away, since I have been so … transparent. For now she will feel ill at ease whenever I am near. I only hope she will not think ill of me for long.”

Frodo stopped and stared into the darkness. Although he did not speak, his face was very animated, hinting at the struggle going on within.

He said at last, aggrieved, “You should not have done it, Bilbo. You should not have made me dance with her – just ‘to see.’ Even if you did not care for my feelings, you might have cared for hers.”

Bilbo gathered his wits before he spoke. There would be no taking back what he might say now. Tentatively, he began, “But I do care for Rosamunda’s feelings, Frodo, do you not see?”

Frodo peered at him and waited.

“I did not make you dance with Rosamunda, only to see what you might feel for her,” Bilbo explained wearily, “I thought I knew that well enough.”

Before Frodo’s fresh look of mortification could prevent him, he went on, determined to finish. I did it to see what she might feel for you.”

Frodo caught his breath. Bilbo, sensing the energy crackling from him hastened to continue.

“You see, that day in my kitchen … Well, it was not just you, Frodo, in whom I saw something different. I thought I saw it in Rosamunda, too. Tonight, when I had you dance together, I wondered if I might see it again.”

“And what did you see, Bilbo?” Frodo implored, his voice reduced to a whisper.

“Tonight, I saw –”

Bilbo hesitated. It would be disastrous if he had misread it. What if he were mistaken? ‘I saw,’ put it too strongly. He began again.

“That is, I believe I saw … that Rosamunda shares your feelings.”

Frodo’s face, so often an open book, was plainly readable now. Bilbo watched as importunity became disbelief, which blossomed into wonder. He smiled wearily. Oh, why had he even bothered making his fine distinctions? The boy was lost.

Frodo suddenly gathered himself, as if he meant to rush away at once.

“Frodo,” Bilbo said, placing a cautionary hand upon his shoulder, “I do not know, I only guess.”

“Then, I mean to find out.”

Having spoken, Frodo struck off across the fields and vanished into the night.

* * *

Bilbo wanted to call Frodo back, but he let him go. He would return, if only because Rosamunda was still somewhere at the party. Before Bilbo had gone looking for Frodo, he had seen her retreating under the shadow of the trees.

When Bilbo returned to the party, however, he found Rosamunda not under the trees but in the midst of a throng of merrymakers. He made his way through the crowd, carefully negotiating between sloshing cups of wine and mugs of ale, until he could hear her laughing with Bertie Bolger, her husband's cousin, and his wife Poppy. They were about her age, and appeared to be sharing a joke.

Rosamunda must have seen Bilbo’s meaningful look as he approached, for she interrupted her pleasantries at once. Warmly, she made her excuses to the Bolgers, and began moving his way.

Ah, if only she were twenty years younger. He really did like her very much. Although widows almost never remarried, a younger one still might. He could remember such a union, long ago. It had occasioned hard feeling and even harder talk, but the couple had not been driven from the Shire bodily. Even ten years younger would be sufficient. No, he corrected himself. Ten years would not be enough. She had had Freddy easily enough; he had been born right off the mark, just after she'd come of age. Folk had even counted back the months to the wedding day, to see if Odovacar had tumbled her prematurely. But Estella was not born for another five years. Then – nothing. Estella was fourteen or fifteen years old, from the look of her. Bilbo had no idea why Rosamunda and Odovacar had failed to produce any other children. It certainly wasn’t for want of trying. Yet it remained that Rosamunda was not likely to bear another child. His wishing would not alter that fact.

“Rosamunda!” he hailed her as she approached. “What a pleasure it was to dance with you! I feel quite rejuvenated. It was, perhaps, an even greater pleasure to see you dance!”

Rosamunda had lifted shining eyes to his at the first part of his exclamation, but her look dulled at the second. Yet she smiled gallantly, if tentatively, as if she did not wish to judge his meaning prematurely.

“Yes, I was watching you dance – you and Frodo. Did you not notice? The two of you looked so well together!”

Before Rosamunda could speak, Bilbo tucked her arm in his and began propelling her to the other side of the Party Field. But she was having none of it. Mid-way, she stopped, shook off his arm, and wheeled upon him.

“What is this, Bilbo? What are you getting at?” Her tone was angry and perplexed, but also hurt. “Indeed, I have felt you watching me all night. At first, I thought it was from friendliness. But, then, when you made Frodo stand up to dance with me, your gaze felt like suspicion. I have not enjoyed it. And now, under a cloak of good humour, you say pointed things to me. What do you mean by it? Do you suspect me, still?”

Her face and neck had become blotched with colour, visible even through her sun-browned duskiness.

Suspect you, Rosa? That puts my interest in a rather ugly light, don’t you think?”

“I do not know what to think! You seem to be looking for ugliness. Why else would you have done it?”

Bilbo saw her extreme agitation, and was sorry for it. For he knew that, just as she truly loved his heir, Rosamunda cared for him, too.

“I did not mean to discomfit you, Rosa, although I can see that I have. I am sorry for it. But I needed to learn something.”

Rosamunda allowed him to take her arm and guide her to the perimeter of the field. Once they were well away, she did not wait for him to start.

“What did you need to learn so badly, Bilbo, that you would embarrass your nephew, and me, as well?”

“My ‘nephew’.… Yes, Frodo still calls me, ‘Uncle.’ And, I think, with a nephew’s love. Yet he is not my nephew.” Bilbo looked at her steadily and took her arm to add, “Just as for many years he called you, ‘Auntie.’ Yet you are not his aunt, Rosa. Nor does Frodo make you any sort of nephew.”

Rosamunda did not pull away, but she clearly wished to. Bilbo heaved another sigh – too many for one evening and at his age. He let her go.

“Ah, Rosa,” he sighed. “I am sorry. I am making a muddle of it. I suppose what I mean to say is that whether we would have it so or not, Frodo has grown up on us. Towards you, I fear, most of all.”

Rosa said nothing but seemed to be studying the place where Bilbo had grasped her arm.

“In just one more year,” Bilbo continued, “Frodo will be of age, and, an adult. But already he is one, Rosa. It needs only the formality.”

Rosamunda looked up. Her brows were knitted together, as if wondering whither he was leading.

“Frodo is a good lad; we both know that. He knows what is expected of him, and he knows what he ought to do.”

“I have never disagreed with you, Bilbo, on what Frodo ought to do.”

“That is well said, Rosa, well said. But – and I do not mean this ill – what if Frodo should wish to do what he ought not? What if he persists in doing something … something that is not in his own best interests?”

Rosamunda did not speak, but Bilbo saw the cords tighten in her throat.

“If I am not mistaken, Rosa, Frodo will be coming to you tonight. I think he intends to make you some sort of declaration.”

Rosamunda’s mouth dropped open, but Bilbo lifted his hand against whatever it was that she might say. He first must finish.

“I – I have not opposed him in it. I believe, now, that such an effort would be in vain. But I remain mindful of his well-being. I must be so. As Frodo’s guardian, and one who loves him, I have wanted to think of him as settled, or to feel that he will be so, in years to come, when I am gone.”

Dismay swept over Rosamunda’s open face. He spoke at once.

“No, no, Rosa; I am not dying,” he assured her. “But I am not young. Oh, sometimes I may even fool myself, but it is not so. I do feel the press of time, in spite of my appearance. I know … that I shall not be here much longer.”

Her face showed a mix of feelings, but she said nothing.

“Well, I cannot read your mind, Rosa. I ask you only to take care. I love Frodo, you know.”

“And I do not?”

“I know you have loved him, as a child. But it is different now, is it not?”

Rosamunda hung her head.

“I wish you very happy,” Bilbo told her. Earnestly he pressed her hand, unable to hide a tinge of sadness.

Turning to walk away, he stopped. Something more needed to be said.

“You cannot keep him, Rosa,” he said. “Nor can he keep you.”

“I know. Time will take me soon enough.”

* * *

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.

Story Information

Author: mechtild

Status: General

Completion: Work in Progress

Era: 3rd Age - The Stewards

Genre: Drama

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 07/21/06

Original Post: 07/10/04

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