5. The Girding of Loins
June 24: The ending of Lithe ~ The Party Field and environs.
The festivities were winding down. Families with very young children had already gone home, but many tipsy revellers had remained. Some still weaved about, looking for one more joke or song, but even those who had collapsed upon the grass were lurching to their feet. The rest were looking for their companions to head into the homewards way. Only a few did not stir. These would be left to sleep it off till morning.
Bilbo had begun to feel a bit stiff, in spite of the wine. “In which stage of drunkenness am I?” he murmured to himself. As he watched a besotted old hobbit seated on an upturned keg, weeping copiously into his mug over his dear departed Maisy or Daisy, Bilbo hoped it was not one inclined towards nostalgia. He gave himself a shake.
Looking about, he saw Rosamunda not far off. She was pulling her wrap about her, preparing for her walk home. Bilbo did not like to think of her walking all that way alone, with so much on her mind. At the same moment, he saw Frodo emerging from the edge of the dark. Apparently he had finished his nocturnal reflections. Bilbo took a deep breath.
“Frodo!” he called. Frodo glanced around but seemed not to see Bilbo in the midst of the departing throng. Bilbo waved. “Frodo!” he called again. “Over here!”
As Bilbo walked up to Rosamunda, Frodo walked their way. When Frodo had joined them, she glanced at them both guardedly, her usual spontaneity greatly subdued. Bilbo was sorry to have caused it.
“I am accompanying Rosamunda home,” Bilbo declared. Rosamunda flashed him a look of surprise. Before she could decline the favour, Bilbo took Frodo by the arm, and urged him, “Come with us, won’t you, Frodo? It is late, and, who knows? There may be villains abroad!” Bilbo struggled for his accustomed twinkle, but the coolness of Frodo’s manner withered his spirits more effectively than dragon’s breath.
“There are no villains abroad,” Frodo answered levelly. “At least, none that I can tell.”
Bilbo felt rather daunted, but he pressed ahead with a brighter show of cheer. “Good! Let us keep it that way, shall we? Will you join us, then, Frodo?”
Frodo peered at Bilbo as if considering what the old hobbit might be up to this time. Dear, dear, Bilbo thought. Would the lad never trust him again? Yet, he must persevere.
Gazing up at the sky, Bilbo said appreciatively, “The moon has risen, and the night us lovely and mild. We shall walk off all our excess wine, too.”
Frodo seemed about to make a retort but checked himself, stealing a glance at Rosamunda. She seemed to feel it and looked up, but turned her eyes to Bilbo immediately.
“I shan’t argue,” she told Bilbo cordially. Her glance seemed shy when she added to Frodo, “I should be glad of the company.”
Together the three of them walked up the lane. On the narrower short-cuts, where three could not walk abreast, Bilbo dropped behind. They had not got far when Bilbo began to feel the weight of the evening settle upon him. Frodo and Rosamunda were just ahead when he drew to a halt.
He would not walk to Rosamunda’s cottage after all. He was simply too tired. They never would believe he had not planned it, of course, but there was nothing else for it.
“Rosa, Frodo, I must decline the walk, I think.” Heaving a sigh he confessed, “Actually, I am suddenly quite tired.”
His looks must have confirmed it, for both Frodo and Rosamunda showed swift concern, rushing to take his arm.
“No, no, I am well,” he said, shrugging them off to sit on a wall. “It is just ‘Time,’ I am afraid, catching up with me, ha, ha!” Bilbo’s chuckle sounded a bit feeble, even to him. They stood by waiting, unsure.
“You two go on. Really, I insist!”
When they were leaving, Bilbo had noticed the clutch of Gamgees trailing off the grounds not far behind them. Looking back, he saw the gardener's youngest son skipping ahead of the rest of his kin. Before Frodo and Rosamunda could utter a protest, Bilbo was hailing him.
“Hoy, there! Samwise!”
Sam trotted up.
“Sam! Master Frodo is just about to see Mistress Rosamunda home. But these two think I cannot make it on my own,” Bilbo laughed, casting an eye at the two younger hobbits who hovered near. “Help an old hobbit up the hill, won’t you, Sam? You need not take my arm,” Bilbo instructed when the lad seized him above his elbow to help him up. “I can manage, I think. But you may lead the way, there’s a good fellow!”
Bilbo glanced back over his shoulder at Rosamunda and Frodo. They both looked exceedingly dismayed – whether from worry over his exhausted state – or over the prospect of their walk alone together, he could not tell. But at the sight of them, Bilbo felt a stab of tenderness. Fondly he bid them goodnight, covering his feelings with a parting quip.
Even after they had passed Bag End and rounded the Hill, Frodo and Rosamunda remained silent. It was enough to hear the sounds of the night rising from either side of the cart track as the noise from the Party Field faded away. The edges of the sky were speckled with stars where the climbing moon did not obscure them. At three-quarters full, its light flooded the land, plainly illuminating the path before their feet. A breeze freshened, shaking the grasses of the ancient grazing land that rolled into the west, but the air that stirred around them was mild.
Plunged in thought, Frodo kept pulling a little ahead of Rosamunda, his head tipped forward and his hands clasped behind him. After they had been walking for quite a while, she spoke.
“Do you think that Bilbo is all right?” he heard her ask.
Frodo was grateful for a break in the silence. Before he answered, he checked his pace until they were walking abreast, that he might see her face.
“Oh, I think he is. I know he is old, but, the truth is, he has always seemed the same to me. Yet, he has been different, recently. Not ill, but – I don’t know – more excitable; more easily agitated. Not towards me, I do not mean, but generally.”
Frodo gazed ahead again. “He has been a little unsettled or restless, ever since Gandalf last was here. I do not think it is illness, though. Tonight I thought he merely looked tired. But, perhaps, that was due to disappointment.” Frodo swallowed, unwilling to say more.
“Disappointment?” Rosamunda asked, as they climbed up another hill of hissing grasses. Silver-edged under the waxing moon, they waved and shivered in the breeze.
At the crest of the hill, they came to a stop. The breeze dropped, and the grasses stilled. Cricket noises and the songs of frogs rose from the little sloughs. Up ahead, a hummock stood out from the hills around it, its face pocked with dark rounds – the windows and door of Rosamunda’s cottage.
As they stood and stared at the moonlit scene, a small gust lifted their hair. Frodo’s heart hammered as he sought to recall the topic of their spare conversation.
“Bilbo talked to me tonight about his hopes for me,” he managed to say, his eyes still fixed on the darkened round in the centre of the hillock that marked her cottage door. “About his hopes for my future. I think he was disappointed.”
He did not glance at her, but he could feel Rosamunda’s keen attention.
“He wanted to know how I felt about … certain things. I think my answers were not what he had wished to hear.”
Even the crickets seemed to still themselves as Frodo paused. There was only the sound of grasses sighing.
“How you felt about what?” Rosamunda asked.
The slight hesitancy in her voice, as if she might not wish to hear what he might say, increased his anxiousness. He tucked his chin tightly into his neck, attempting to quell the feeling that was clawing its way into his throat from his chest. As he struggled, he felt her glance. Surely she must see his discomposure. Staring straight ahead, Frodo forced himself to speak.
“How I felt about you, Rosa,” he made himself answer.
It was horrible, yet also a relief to have said that much.
“Bilbo said he could see it,” he stammered.
Rosamunda made no comment. He could feel the tension in her silence, but whether it boded good or ill, Frodo could not tell. He set his chin. In the next moment, he would find out one way or the other.
“He said he could see something in you, too –”
Did he sense or only imagine her start? He clenched the nails of his fingers into his palms, goading himself to look her in the face. He turned.
“Bilbo said – he said – he thought you felt the same way about me, Rosa. But he was not absolutely sure….”
Rosamunda could hear the sound of Frodo’s voice, but the tumult inside her head made it difficult to hear his words clearly. With an effort, she made herself attend.
“… And so I wish to know, Rosa,” he was concluding, “has Bilbo seen amiss … or true?”
His arms were pressed to his sides and his hands balled into fists as he stood at attention, waiting. Yet so full of every sort of feeling was she Rosamunda could not make herself lift her eyes to his face. But she must say something. He would take it very ill if she said nothing at all, and that she could not bear. She set aside her inner arguing, dropped her shoulders, and sighed. He deserved her plain answer.
“He … has seen truly,” she confessed.
Her words seemed to have burst inside Frodo’s mind. As if a core of feeling were rising up from his toes to fill him – whether with pain or joy she could not tell – Frodo’s chest expanded and his fingers splayed as if sparks might shoot from their ends. His face blazed so intensely, she dropped her eyes before its splendour. When she looked at him again, any pain she might have seen in him had vanished, leaving only joy.
Frodo said nothing but, tentatively, he reached a hand towards her, holding it there, poised in invitation.
Rosamunda took it.
Then, hand in hand, they walked in silence down the hill of grass and up again until they had gained her doorstep.
“Rosa, may I come in?” Frodo inquired, exercising every bit of restraint in order to ask it calmly. But his hopes were so high, Frodo was sure his ardour was very evident.
“No,” she said.
He struggled to hide the blow her refusal had been to him, but Rosamunda must have seen his dismay. At once she offered him her warmest smile.
“I only meant,” she softly said, “not tonight. I should love for you to come and see me, Frodo, but not tonight.”
Frodo exhaled as an enormous wave of relief washed over him. Rosamunda’s smile had widened to a grin as she watched.
“Dear Frodo,” she said affectionately, touching the tips of her long fingers to his cheek.
Her touch was brief and light, but Frodo felt as if he she had touched him with a burning brand. Before he could stop himself he burst out, “But – why not tonight?”
Rosamunda laughed, dropping her head back as she did so. Her throat gleamed and her teeth flashed in the silver light.
“Ah, Frodo,” she sighed as she recovered from her mirth, “How I could watch your face all night!”
Frodo felt himself blush and he looked at his feet.
“I am not a ‘tween, you know,” he heard her chuckle. “I am tired!” Lifting his chin with her forefinger she smiled at him to say, “Though, I can see that you are not.”
Then she smoothed her skirts and drew herself up, as if she were preparing to conclude the conversation. “Really, Frodo,” she explained reasonably, “it is very late.” Frodo felt a bit deflated. But then she added, “If you should stay, soon I should be yawning, no matter what you might do to me!”
Frodo shivered. No matter what you might do to me.
“… Which would be neither courteous nor commendable, in a lover, I think. Would not you agree?” she was asking him.
Frodo shivered again. In a lover!
He watched, mesmerised, as her lips curve into a smile she had never shown to him before. Everything inside him seemed to melt. He ached to touch her, if only for a moment. No, he wished for more than a moment.
He would risk it.
“Might I kiss you, Rosa, before I go?”
Matching his question with movement, Frodo edged closer. He could not seem to prevent himself. He hovered so close he could hear her breathing, even over the chorus of crickets and frogs that rose from the grasses around the cottage.
She was weakening, he could feel it. Her body was listing towards him as if she were succumbing to a spell, the spell of his warm breath upon her cheeks and across the bridge of her nose. He could feel an answering heat rising off the surface of her skin. It filled him with even greater ardour.
But, as if marshalling her reserves, Rosamunda stepped up onto the doorstep behind her.
“Tomorrow,” she insisted breathlessly. “Why, if I should kiss you now, Frodo,” she laughed, “you would never go!”
Frodo opened his mouth to declare at once his honourable intentions, but she prevented him, placing her palm over the middle of his breast.
“Silly!” she said, chuckling softly. Her eyes grew dark as she confessed, “I only meant that if I should kiss you now, you would not go because I should not let you go.”
So great was his happiness, Frodo could have shouted aloud. He seized the hand upon his breast and kissed it, pressing the centre of her palm to his lips, just as he had wished ever since he had seen Odovacar do it, years ago, before the Bag End hearth.
As he relished the scent and feel of her skin against his mouth, he felt an unmistakable shiver run through Rosamunda. He released her hand and stepped towards her. She stepped back, until she was against the cottage door. Raising her hands in protest, she fended him off with a laugh.
Frodo sensed the earnestness behind her mirth, and, although disappointed, he stepped back. He wondered if he had been mistaken in her response, but her voice was soft, her breasts rose and fell quickly, and her eyes shone brilliantly as she smiled to say, “Go, Frodo. Go, but come tomorrow when you are free.”
Frodo felt wildly ecstatic but hoped he did not look it. He would do his shouting once he was out of earshot.
He was about to make his farewell to her when he thought to ask, “In the night?” He had never made such an assignation before. It might be good to check.
“Yes,” she said – then, “No.” Rosamunda shook her head ruefully and chuckled, as if amused by her own muddled instructions. Then she heaved a little sigh and came back to the edge of the doorstep. Frodo still stood below it. With great effort, he refrained from seizing her around the waist.
Standing slightly above him she gazed down into his eyes and said, “No, not in the night. Come before. I could not bear to wait that long.”
The import of Rosamunda’s words and the ardour with which she expressed them, filled Frodo with a fever of happiness.
Rosamunda opened her door and stood in the threshold. They exchanged one last look then Frodo said goodnight.
Only at the doorstep of Bag End did the image of Rosamunda leave Frodo’s mind. Then he remembered: Bilbo. He had quite forgotten about Bilbo’s weak spell. Before he went to bed, Frodo would see how Bilbo did.
Inside, the place stood in near darkness. Just a flicker of light shifted across the tiles of the broad entry hall. It came from the parlour, as if a candle still guttered there. Leaning through the parlour doorway, Frodo peeked in and relaxed. Bilbo was all right.
Bilbo was settled in his chair, snoring lightly, his feet propped on a cushioned stool. A few volumes were spread on the floor and one lay opened on his lap.
Frodo crept closer.
“Bilbo,” he said again, touching the old hobbit’s knee as he crouched beside him.
Bilbo snorted and opened his eyes. As he awakened to the sight of his heir, his expressions changed in rapid succession. His fuzzy waking smile vanished and a look of concern took its place. “You are back already? Well! I was wrong, then.”
Frodo commanded his face into a look of neutrality.
“Ah, I am sorry, lad,” Bilbo commiserated, easing his feet off the stool and flexing his toes. “She would not have you, then?”
Frodo was defeated. A smile peeped out, which became a grin. Then he broke into peals of joyous laughter.
“She says, ‘Tomorrow,’ Bilbo!” he proclaimed, nearly giddy with happiness. “I am to come to her tomorrow!”
Bilbo heaved himself up from his chair and clapped Frodo on the shoulder. Smiling broadly, he said, “Come on, then, my lad! Let’s feed you up! I could do with a bit of something myself.”
The elder hobbit led the way into the kitchen.
June 25, the day following the end of Lithe.
The next day Frodo had difficulty keeping still. He was unable to read or write or sit. After a great deal of pacing and aimless stopping and standing, he found he had had enough, and began looking for things to keep himself busy, things that needed doing in an active way.
He dragged out his latest journal, plus a few sheets of blank stock. Frodo had filled up many journals since he had come to Bag End, which Bilbo had been happy to supply. Just the week before, down at the Bywater Pool, Frodo had made some sketches of water plants, and a spotted frog he had never seen. He would try to write the texts to go with them. Surely he could do that much.
Frodo sat down at the big parlour table, opened the journal, spread out the sheets of paper, and forced himself to work. Soon he became engaged in the writing and time passed easily.
When he had finished, Frodo closed the journal and stared at its leather cover. It was rich and smooth and lightly scored from use. Beside its oxblood darkness, the pristine creamy white of the sheets he had brought out attracted him.
He knew what he would do; he would make a portrait. He would draw Rosamunda’s face. He rummaged in the sideboard for a stick of charcoal and some wool.
Drawing Rosamunda’s face proved more difficult than Frodo had anticipated. He squinted and scowled as he tried and failed to render her features: the large, dark eyes and full mouth of the Goolds, and the high cheekbones and pointed chin of the Tooks. Everything he did came out wrong. The smile was lopsided and the nose too broad. Frodo heaved an irritated sigh. It did not look like her at all. He pushed it aside in disgust.
Should he have expected any differently? A few years before, Frodo had tried to draw Bilbo’s likeness. That had not turned out very satisfactorily, either. Bilbo had offered advice as Frodo began to work, tips he had received while staying with the Elves in Rivendell.
“Don’t draw what you think you see, Frodo. That is, don’t try to draw what you think my features should look like – draw what you actually see. You will do much better that way.” Frodo had tried to follow Bilbo’s instructions, but he had not really understood what his uncle was getting at. The portrait had not turned out well.
Bilbo had kept it, calling it a fine effort, but Frodo had wished that Bilbo had burnt it. It really had been quite poor.
While thinking these dour thoughts, Frodo had been making circles with his charcoal at the top of the clean sheet of paper. In each he had inscribed a smaller circle, with a still smaller circle inside that one. He stared at the two largest circles, situated side by side towards the top of the sheet. They reminded him of twin targets. No, not targets. With a wad of wool he smudged off their upper thirds. They looked like breasts, not targets, very round and full. But, no, he thought, dissatisfied; they still looked like targets. They wanted shading. That was it.
Frodo began by softening the starkness of the deeply curving lower crescents, carefully drawing the tip of his middle finger along the charcoal in a continuous brushing motion. Then, with the ball of his thumb, he feathered the charcoal up towards the central circles, blending it in, darker to lighter as he went.
There. That was better. The two breasts looked very round indeed. Then, very delicately, he smudged in the inner circles to make the areolas. That was better still. With just the tip of his little finger he dabbed at the innermost circles to make the nipples. Just another few touches with the charcoal and a few more dabs, and he had made them satisfyingly dark and prominent.
As he worked, Frodo had become increasingly engaged in his project, not only mentally but bodily. His breathing had deepened and a thin veil of perspiration was gathered on his upper lip. Presently he found that breasts were not enough, not nearly enough. He wanted more.
Taking up the charcoal and setting it to paper, Frodo hesitated. He glanced towards the hall and listened. Down the hall was the study where Bilbo was barricaded, in order to work without disturbance. There was no sound.
Assured of his privacy, Frodo gripped the charcoal, touched its tip to the paper, and dragged it decisively down the sheet, first down the left side and then the right, making a pronounced hourglass shape beneath the breasts that he had made. That was a good beginning. Then, in the middle of the hourglass, where it widened at the bottom, Frodo made a V. It was ridiculously small. Carefully, he extended it to what he imagined would be a more realistic size.
He paused, resting the edge of his hand against the edge of the paper as he glanced once more at the shadowy entrance to the hall. There still was not a sound, but the charcoal he held began to have a slick feeling. His fingers shook ever so slightly. Gripping the charcoal tightly, Frodo drew a line from the bottom of the page and brought it up to meet the point of the V, making a Y. When he lifted the charcoal away, he felt a tiny thrill. The shape he had drawn pleased him profoundly. Then he stopped to consider what he might add next.
Once more, it wanted shading. The thighs, and the extremely interesting juncture above and between them, did not look nearly convincing enough.
Lightly, Frodo smoothed the line that made the base of the Y. He smoothed the tip of his finger up its length towards the place where it forked, but stopped short of the V itself. That he would save for last. Using feathery strokes, he coaxed the charcoal to create a more rounded look until the thighs were ripe and full where they pressed against each other. Then he shaded their tops where they defined the sides of the V that nestled above them. He added a subtle roundness to the belly, too, after he had added a navel.
When Frodo had finished, he hesitated again. The still-untouched triangle in the middle looked very white and bare. He lifted his fingers and let them hover above it, as he might do to feel the warmth from a hearth. He did not notice it, but his heart beat faster and his breaths came quicker as with the pointed end of the charcoal he made a tangle of graceful curlicues, to stand for Rosamunda’s nether hair. Then he lowered the tip of his middle finger onto the juncture and began to smudge; tentatively at first, but with greater satisfaction as he progressed. Darker and darker the V became as he rubbed the paper’s creamy surface. As he rubbed, Frodo felt his heart begin to quiet within him, as if the repetitive rhythm assuaged it.
When he lifted his fingertip away, Frodo looked with only partial satisfaction at what he had made, absently sucking the charcoal off his thumb and finger. He had let it get much too dark. Rosamunda’s hair was more of a golden brown. The hair down there would match, wouldn’t it? His did.
Frodo cogitated on what he might draw next. He could fetch another sheet of stock. There was only one thing left he really wished to render, but he had no further images or conjectures which might provide him with guidance in portraying this most intimate part of the female anatomy.
It was in the midst of these thoughts that Frodo heard a voice, quite close, speaking his name.
“. . . And so, Mr. Frodo, I just went ahead and let myself in. I was just wanting to tell you, sir, that I’m off to –”
Samwise Gamgee was right behind him. Frodo bolted up from his chair, barking the bone of his hip on the table edge, and making a big smear across the paper.
The paper! Swiftly Frodo slid the drawing under the cover of his open journal. And there was the face of Rosamunda staring off the other sheet, as plain as day. Thank heaven it looked nothing like her! Had Sam seen anything? Frodo swerved around to look.
The ‘tween said nothing, but Sam’s face flamed, red as any beetroot.
Frodo managed finally to wish Sam a good dinner, but he was unable to look the boy in the eye as he did so. The lad backed away until he turned and scampered out the door.
That had been enough. Frodo pulled out his drawing of Rosamunda’s body. He ran a wistful finger across its lines once more before he screwed it up into a tight little ball. He crumpled up her portrait, too. He wedged them both under the back of the parlour grate. Neither of them had been a good likeness, anyway. Through the parlour window Frodo watched Sam as he hurried down the Row to his dinner.
Dinner. That seemed a good thought. Frodo had already missed his tea. Putting his journal away, he slammed the charcoal in a drawer, and marched himself into the kitchen. He would prepare a meal to share for them to share. Surely Bilbo would be hungry by now.
For most of the day, Bilbo had been closeted away, tackling the next section in his book on Dwarvish customs during the Second Age. Frodo had only seen his guardian when he had popped out for elevenses. Having taken in a substantial tray for his luncheon, Bilbo had been well fortified. Typically, he would not emerge again until dinner.
Frodo had already started putting a meal together when Bilbo came into the kitchen. He looked delighted with Frodo’s progress, and joined him in the preparations. Under his breath, Bilbo hummed an old tune as he worked. Frodo recognized it as a very silly one Bilbo had made up for him when he first had come to Bag End, about dogs and their dinners.
It was a simple but ample meal, a cold spread of smoked meats and cheeses, supplemented with a bit of fruit and a tart. Frodo had felt the need of it. Bilbo appeared satisfied, too. Not much conversation passed between them, but this was their usual way when they dined by themselves.
When they had finished, Bilbo blotted the corners of his mouth with his napkin, using a series of neat little pats. Frodo was pushing his chair away from the table when Bilbo stayed him. “Are you off, then?” he asked, touching Frodo’s arm.
Frodo sat back down. “Off where?” he answered.
Bilbo waved his hand in a north-westerly direction as he rolled his eyes. “You know …!”
Frodo flashed Bilbo a grin. Just as quickly, his grin vanished while he worried the edges of his napkin. “No,” he answered, “I do not think it is time yet, Uncle. I don’t wish to arrive early, when she might not be ready.”
“What time is Rosamunda expecting you?” Bilbo asked reasonably.
“Well, I am not sure, actually,” Frodo answered, fidgeting as he picked up and put down little bits of ham still lying on his plate. “First she said that I should come tomorrow; that is, today, when I was free. So, I said, ‘In the night?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ But then she changed her mind and said, ‘No, come before.’ But how much before, is ‘before,’ Bilbo?”
“Women can be imprecise in saying what they mean,” Bilbo answered, “but, in my experience, they usually know what they want. Did Rosamunda give you no other indication of her desires?”
Her desires …
Under Bilbo’s solicitous scrutiny, Frodo felt the heat rising up his neck. Bilbo appeared as though he were trying not to smile. Frodo felt his cheeks flame under his uncle’s scrutiny.
“Well,” Frodo began, giving Bilbo a sidelong glance, “She said, I should come before, because –” Having said that much, Frodo dipped his head to hide his blushing grin. All at once he realized what his uncle’s response would be.
“She said, I wasn’t to wait till night, because she did not want to wait that long.”
Bilbo felt his chin drop unto his waistcoat. Was there ever such a lad?
“Well, Frodo,” he exclaimed, pushing himself up from his chair. “Whatever are you waiting for? If she said that, you don’t need a clock to tell you what time she means!”
Bilbo had brought his hands together in order to clap, but he caught himself at the sight of Frodo’s face. “You are not nervous are you, lad?” he asked more solicitously. “You will never get a fairer offer than that.”
Frodo’s face blossomed into radiant grin. Ah, how he loved to see it.
“Go, then. Go as soon as you have tidied yourself. You did wash, didn’t you? All over? Women can be finicky that way. No? I thought as much. Well, you go and see to that. You won’t want your ears tasting like the cellar floor!”
Bilbo snorted at the sight of Frodo’s ears, which reddened to their tips. Perhaps he shouldn’t tease, but Frodo’s blushes were such a pleasure to provoke.
“Go on,” Bilbo exhorted, shooing Frodo away. “I’ll see to this.”
Frodo was already down the hall when Bilbo nearly barked out another laugh. Quickly he suppressed it. He should not make light of it, no. The day had come – Frodo’s first lass! Well, probably his first. Although, not a lass, as such. Bilbo’s brow furrowed again as he thought of the extreme happiness on his nephew’s face at the prospect of being received by Rosamunda.
Rummaging through his memories, Bilbo found his own first time, a haystack affair. It had been pleasant enough, but it was soon over and forgotten. Bilbo both feared and was terribly pleased to think that it would not be so for Frodo – not with Rosamunda. Perhaps she would be just what Frodo needed, once Bilbo had gone, he mused. That threw the whole affair in a much more positive light. Yes, it might be a good thing after all.
In any case, it was not as though it would go on forever.
On that encouraging thought, Bilbo went to fetch a tray to take away the dinner things.
Back in his bedroom Frodo had begun to ready himself. But for what, he thought with mounting anxiety. An ordeal? An adventure? A debacle? No, it could not be any of those, for he was readying himself for Rosa. The thought restored him at once.
Outside Bag End, Bilbo saw Frodo off, as if to wish him luck. Bilbo stood in the garden and watched as Frodo leapt the gate and scrambled up the bank of the Hill. Just below its brow Frodo paused to say goodbye. The slanting light of the late afternoon sun warmed the back of his head and neck as he turned and looked below. Bilbo was shading his eyes and shouting up at him, “Now, don’t get in a sweat, Frodo! You’ll spoil all that tidying you’ve done!”
Frodo answered Bilbo’s grin his own and gave a last wave. Then he was up and over.
Past the fields, the roll of grass and hill looked different to Frodo, now that he saw it in the light. He had been out as far as Rosa’s cottage as a child, but that was years ago. Since then, he only went that way as a cut-through to the upper reaches of the Water, and that was seldom.
As he walked, Frodo discovered that he was becoming far too excited; already he was panting. He slackened his pace, and took the time to look about him. It really was quite lovely out.
The wind was light and the grasses hissed and sighed, but only softly. The late sun – not quite shining in his face as he followed the north-westerly track – brilliantly illuminated every eastward-rising slope, leaving the downward sides in shadow. The whole expanse of the land – the slopes and dips – the risings and fallings – seemed to fill his mind with thoughts of Rosamunda. There were peaked places that dropped and angled into little clefts. There were sloughs between the hillocks, still wet before the highest summer dried them out. These were spiked with swaying water plants that delved their roots into the humid places, hidden and deep.
Ah, it was all too much! Everything reminded him of her, and of having her. He wanted to throw himself down, then and there, as if he could take what he wanted from the land itself.
This would never do, he thought. Perspiration sprang from his upper lip and trickled down his back between his shoulder blades. There. Now he was going to spoil all his preparations. Scanning the horizon, Frodo saw no one. He took off his shirt.
As he trudged along again, he carried his waistcoat in one hand and his shirt in the other. He waved his shirt about to dry it. A light breeze played over his hot skin as he walked, and soon he felt refreshed. But Frodo’s mind did not cool, and heated pictures filled it. Soon he did not see the land but only imagined skin and limbs and secret places.
Yet, what could he imagine? Frodo had seen the truth of it when he had been trying to draw her. He could try to imagine, but he really did not know. He had spent a great deal of time guessing, he admitted to himself, but his store of images was limited.
Just then a gust of wind rose, chilling him. He put his things back on as he walked and thought.
Frodo had seen leg – he almost had seen higher. And Pearl Took had offered to show him her breasts. Frodo had not been interested in Pearl, but he could not refuse the offer, opportune as it was. Her breasts had been smaller than he had hoped, but they had been exceedingly pretty and pointed. She clearly would agree from the way she preened and posed, angling them this way and that (as much for her own admiration as for his, Frodo suspected). But Pippin had put an end to all that, springing from the bushes with his silly sing-song rhyme. Pearl had been beside herself. Frodo had been taken aback by her fury over something so silly.
But he had never seen a female body, not all over. Well, he had, but he had been too far away and the females too young for it to have been truly satisfying.
In Buckland, along the Brandywine below the Hall, there were bathing spots assigned by custom to be used by only one sex or the other. Little children might bathe in the shallows at the bottom of the lawns, but none who were older.
In spite of every parental admonition, most Buckland lads did their best to have a peek at Buckland lasses. Frodo himself had led a small foray through the tangled undergrowth that provided a screen for the place where the lasses bathed. Crawling on their bellies, their snickers mixed with “Ow!”s (quickly stifled), they had gained a partial, distant view of the young bathers standing in the river. But not for long. A snapped twig and a burst of mirth alerted their quarry and up it flew (rather, it went under). Into the river a dozen lasses plunged, with shrieks and giggles and water frothing everywhere. The alarm was raised, and the maidservants, whom the lads had dismissed as lazy sentinels lost in chat beneath the trees, were up and running. They stormed the bank where Frodo and his lads were hidden, and they had barely got away. When he and his troops arrived back at the Hall, the lads were panting, scratched and dirty. Their dishevelled appearance clearly marked them as the perpetrators, and all of them were duly punished.
After that, the sentinels were on their guard. There were no more peeks for many years to come. But Frodo knew that whatever Rosamunda looked like, it would not be like those young lasses in the Brandywine.
The clothes that Rosamunda wore were of a modest sort, but however she might cover herself, the ample forms that her clothing concealed were very evident to any hobbit lad or man. Her collars were high, but the open throats of her bodices made an arrow that led Frodo’s eye down into conjectures as to what might lie beneath. Rosamunda abjured the use of stays at home as being too restrictive of her movements. At the table when she leaned into her work, the subtle swing and sway implied a heft that Frodo longed to test. For the thousandth time he thought of when he had held her in his arms in Bilbo’s kitchen, his hands around her waist. If only he had moved them higher – lower! When he thought of the feel of her springy hips, so round and full, as he held her pressed against him, ah, the wonder of it! Afterwards, he could not ride in a pony trap and watch the hips of the mare in front of him swinging back and forth without becoming quite transported. The mare’s hips conjured up pictures of other hips. And when the mare’s tail would twitch aside, all Frodo could think of was pulling those hips to him, to press and part and –
Frodo had not noticed how far he had walked until he found himself standing on the crest of the last hill. The cottage was right before him. Yet, he was in such a state! It would not do at all. He could not see Rosamunda now, not like this. He must act.
Quickly, Frodo looked about then threw himself down in the cleft of the hill. He began to remedy the situation at once. From experience, he knew it would only take a moment. Pulling himself free from the placket of his breeches, he rolled onto his side just in time. It would not do to spoil his clothes.
Frodo rolled onto his back, spent and panting. As he waited for his heart to stop pounding and his breathing to return to normal, he gazed up at the sky he had not noticed. The sky was blue at its zenith, but the east was deepening into indigo where, almost imperceptibly, a few stars twinkled. In the west, the sun was sinking. Soon it would disappear behind the distant White Downs and the Tower Hills far beyond, to sink into the Sea Frodo had never seen. Eärendil, the evening star already shone forth from the gold and violet and rose. And rose. Rosa!
Frodo leapt up. After he wiped his fingers on the grass, he set his clothes to rights, checking for any telltale stains. He wished for no further mortification. Mortification.
Suddenly Frodo was seized with apprehension. Now that he actually was about to embark upon this meeting so long imagined and desired, he felt unaccountably nervous, even fearful. Atop the hillcrest, Frodo stared across the little vale that separated him from Rosamunda’s cottage. Then his heart lifted. The door was standing open.
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.