17. Chapter 17
Theo paced the parlor, indulging himself in some worrying while Rose was away. After breakfast, Éowyn had taken Rose to have a bath and change her dress. Now Theo could let his guard down and lose the brave face he’d been putting on for her. He was scared--terrified--that he would lose her again. And if he lost Rose this time, there was nothing he could do, there wouldn’t be another chance. Other thoughts ran through his head. Could they run away? To Bree or Gondor or however far away was necessary? He sighed. No. He didn’t think Rose could bear to leave her family, not even for him.
He stopped his pacing when the door opened and made himself smile. He turned to face the door and the smile became real. Rose came to him, clad in a blue dress that had belonged to his mum, and he embraced her.
“You’re stuck with me now,” Theo whispered in her ear. “Dad wouldn’t consider letting anyone except Aunt Celly or the girls have Mum’s dresses. That means he considers you part of our family.”
Rose pulled back and looked in his eyes. “Do you mind me wearing it?”
“No,” Theo said, running his fingers along the familiar sleeve. “Mum would be very happy you’re wearing it. She loved all you Gamgees.” He kissed her ear and whispered, “She’d love that you were with me.”
“I hope I can be with you,” Rose said, dropping her eyes. “I’m scared, Theo. I don’t want to lose you.” She sniffled and wiped at her eyes. “I’ve made such a mess of things...”
He pulled her close. “It will be all right, Rose,” he whispered in her ear. It has to be, he told himself.
“Are we interrupting?”
Theo looked over Rose’s shoulder. Eomer and Fari were here.
Eomer had the chessboard tucked under his arm and he held up the box that held the carved pieces. “I thought we could pass the time, until... you know.”
Theo nodded and looked at Rose. He smiled. “Want to play?”
Rose shook her head. “I don’t know how.”
“We’ll teach you,” Eomer said as he sat on the floor. He lay the board in front of him and opened the box, then started to set up the pieces, figures in the forms of Gondorian soldiers and orcs. “If Fari can learn the rules, you certainly can.” He laughed and rolled out of the way of Fari’s swing at his arm.
Rose smiled and shrugged. “All right then.”
It did help to have something to take their minds off things, but their fun didn’t last for long. In the afternoon, just before teatime, a maid came into the parlor and told them their ‘guests’ had arrived. The maid, a part of Theo’s gossip circle, told him that the new arrivals looked quite angry. “That hobbit was askin’ Mister Gamgee why he didn’t just go get Miss Rose and leave,” she confided to Theo. “I’ve never seen anyone so angry.”
“Thanks, Dahlia,” Theo said. He and Rose exchanged frightened looks.
“I hope it works out for you, Theo,” the maid said. She nodded at him, then hurried from the room.
Fari jumped to his feet. “We won’t let them take her, right Eomer?” He turned to Theo. “We can get you out a back door and you can escape to Bree!”
Rose shook her head. “No, Fari, I have to face this.” Rose touched foreheads with Theo. The time had come, what could possibly be their last moments together.
“No!” Fari whined, tears in his eyes.
Theo looked up at his brother. “You’d better get him out of here.”
Eomer nodded. “Come on, Fari, we’ll go for a ride down by the river.”
“No,” whispered Fari, hugging himself and looking very small and vulnerable, “I want to stay with Theo.”
Rose got up and hugged Fari. “Fari, it’s not the same,” she murmured into his hair. “And I’ll do whatever I can to stay with him, all right?” Fari stepped back and nodded. It broke Theo’s heart to look at him, because Fari looked like he had years ago, when he was a frightened little boy trying to deal with a life that was a nightmare.
They went down the hall and to the study. Theo held Rose’s hand and Eomer had an arm slung over Fari’s shoulders.
His father’s study was full of people. The Gamgees and a couple Theo assumed were Mattas’ parents were talking to his father and Pippin. Frodo and Goldi had come, too, and were sitting quietly on the couch with Ivy and Éowyn. Judging by what Rose had told him, they were probably in as much trouble as he and Rose were. Mattas was sitting in a chair, looking quite dejected. Ivy saw them come in and she got up to whisper in her father’s ear.
All eyes turned to them and Theo felt Rose step closer to him, grasping his arm. Theo didn’t know where to look, didn’t want to meet the accusing glares, so he focused on Frodo, who smiled weakly.
“Rose!” Rosie Gamgee rushed over to them and Rose fell into her mother’s embrace.
“I’m sorry, Mum, I’m sorry,” Rose sobbed, “I’m sorry I disappointed you.”
“Oh, love, no,” Rosie said, hugging her tight, “It’s all right.”
Theo wanted so much to reach out and comfort Rose, but he knew it probably wasn’t a good idea considering their audience. He could only stand and watch as Rosie led Rose over to a couch to sit.
“So what’s to be done?” Mattas’ father asked. “Rose is obviously confused. I realize it’s not entirely unusual for a girl to become overwhelmed on her betrothal, but there’s my son’s feelings to consider, his reputation to protect,” --he glared at Theo--”and I propose that the wedding be moved up, to the end of summer, and we can put this event behind us.”
Sam sighed. “Well, Mister Greenfield, I think I need to talk to my daughter first,” he said, looking over at Rose, still huddled in her mother’s arms.
“What’s there to talk about? She’s had a week to change her mind. You should be happy Mattas is still wanting to marry her, considering.” He glared at Theo again.
“Considering?” asked Sam, glaring at the hobbit, his voice suddenly threatening. Mr. Greenfield took a step back. He was obviously not expecting the change that came over the gentle mayor. Sam looked dangerous.
“My son has assured me that nothing has happened between them,” his father said, stepping in to diffuse the situation. “And I believe him.”
“And we’re to accept the lad’s word?” asked Greenfield.
“If Mister Merry believes his son, then I will accept it,” Sam said, still glaring at Mr. Greenfield.
Mr. Greenfield looked like he wanted to say something else, but then his wife grabbed his arm, shaking her head and pointing towards where there son sat in misery.
“Then talk to your daughter,” he said. “But remember it’s not a simple thing to break a betrothal. It’s a breach of contract, and our family has already gone through a great expense for the party. There is compensation to consider...”
“I realize that,” said Sam, the angry look fleeing from his face, replaced by worry. Theo wondered how much Sam would have to pay the Greenfields. He knew they didn’t have a whole lot of money.
“But, as I said Mr. Gamgee, my son still wants to marry Rose, so we are willing to put this unfortunate event behind us. Just tell her to go through with the betrothal and--”
“What?” Theo said, not able to contain his anger. “If your son loved her, he’d let her make her own decision!” Like he had.
“I do love her!”
It was the first time Theo had ever really heard Mattas speak--he’d always avoided him. Mattas looked over at Rose. “Rose, please. I know you’re upset, but can’t we talk about this? I know I can’t give you the same things as...” Mattas gave a quick glance towards Theo and sighed. “I love you, Rose,” he said, tears in his eyes. “Please give me another chance?”
Theo just stared at him in astonishment. From the hurt in his voice, it certainly sounded like Mattas loved Rose. His stomach turned as he realized he might have more of a fight on his hands than what he’d imagined. Mattas appeared to be just as kind and loving as everyone had said he was and why would he have ever gotten the idea that Rose would have agreed to marry anyone who was otherwise?
Theo looked over at Rose. She was staring at Mattas, wide-eyed. Her lip was trembling and she was clutching her mother’s shirt. Then she buried her face in Rosie’s neck again.
“Enough of this,” Greenfield said. “Mister Gamgee, just tell your daughter to honor her part of the betrothal.”
“No!” The protest came from Pippin. He walked over to stand in front of Sam. “Sam,” Pippin pleaded, but he didn’t say any more, just looked in Sam’s eyes.
“This is ridiculous,” Mattas’ father said. “Is it up to the Thain how you raise your daughter?”
“This has nothin’ to do with him bein’ Thain,” Sam said harshly. He grasped Pippin’s arm. “You know I wouldn’t, Pippin,” he said softly. It struck Theo that it was the first time he’d ever heard Uncle Sam not use ‘Mister’ when addressing Pippin. Sam turned back to look at his daughter. “It’s up to Rose.”
Rose shrank a little as all eyes turned to her. Then she took a deep breath and stood up. With no hesitation, she said “I love Theo.”
Theo had a little pity for the lad, as Mattas slumped back into his chair. His mother rushed over to comfort him, but his father looked even more outraged.
“If that’s the way it is to be, then I will be meeting you in Michel Delving--in two days?--to settle the breaking of the betrothal.”
Sam looked over at his wife. “We’ll need a few more days to get...”
“That’s fine,” Theo’s father butted in. “We’ll be there.”
Mister Greenfield scowled at him. “You? Why?”
“My son is partly responsible for this. I’ll be settling the compensation with you, Mister Greenfield.” He cut off Sam’s protest with a shake of his head. “Then Mister Gamgee and I have some business of our own to take care of.” Sam gave a sigh and nodded.
Éowyn, trying to be diplomatic, offered Mattas’ family the use of Crickhollow for the night, but they wanted to get out of Buckland as soon as possible. Rose tried to speak to Mattas before he left, but he wouldn’t even look at her before his parents rushed him away.
“I’ve hurt him terribly,” Rose said, as she watched them leave. She turned to Theo and touched his cheek. “I’ve hurt you both.”
“It’s over and done with,” Theo said. He leaned in to kiss her, but was interrupted by a cough. He looked up into the scowling face of Sam Gamgee.
“Sorry, Uncle Sam,” he mumbled, backing away from Rose.
“Rose, your mother and I need to speak with you,” Sam said. She nodded and followed them out of the study.
“Well, Merry,” Pippin said. “It looks like you may have got yourself a daughter-in-law.”
“I hope they’re easier to deal with than son-in-laws,” Theo’s dad said, with an exaggerated sigh that made Ivy and Éowyn break into giggles, and Pippin to cross his arms indignantly.
Then it hit Theo that it was almost certainly on his way to marrying Rose, and he started feeling a little lightheaded. Eomer was there to grab his arm. “All right, Theo?” he asked.
“Yeah,” he said, a bit dreamily. “I think I’m going to be getting married.” Then he was found himself being hugged by a laughing Eomer. Fari hugged him from the other side, grinning at him with tears in his eyes. Then Frodo and Goldi joined them, too, in a mass of laughing hobbits.
When Rose and her parents returned after an hour or so, she and her mother looked as if they’d been crying and Sam looked a little worn, but they were all smiling.
“They apologized,” Rose said quietly to him as they sat at dinner. “They feel bad about everything, encouraging me to marry someone else when I really love you.”
She smiled at him and Theo felt a warmth come over him. He really wanted to kiss Rose, but Uncle Sam was watching. He settled for squeezing her hand under the table. “I love you, too.”
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.