18. Chapter 18
Two days later, Theo was sitting in the entryway of the smial that contained the Mayor’s office in Michel Delving. He sat across from a closed door, and behind it he could hear the murmur of voices negotiating the breaking of Rose’s betrothal: Rose’s parents, Mattas’ parents, and his father and Éowyn. Since it was usually the Mayor--or Thain or Master--who oversaw these legal proceedings, the Shirriff, Minto Burrows, had been brought in to act as the impartial party.
Theo couldn’t hear what they were saying, but he concentrated on trying anyway, anything to distract him from looking out the little round window next to the front door, out to the yard where Rose was talking to Mattas. But, being a nosy sort, he finally gave in and raised his head to look.
Rose and Mattas were sitting on a bench under a tree. They both looked nearly in tears. Theo saw Mattas take Rose’s hand and he ground his teeth and turned away, fighting the jealousy that twisted in his gut. He had to trust Rose. She had wanted to talk to Mattas, to explain everything to him and apologize. He knew it hurt Rose, knowing what she had done to Mattas. But she was paying for it. It seemed like most of the Western Shire was upset with her. Even Elanor, because Mattas was Fastred’s cousin.
Frodo had told him this morning that many were saying Rose threw over Mattas because she wanted to rise above her place and become Mistress of Brandy Hall. Of course, they conveniently forgot that Rose had originally thrown over him for Mattas, just to avoid those rumors. Theo sighed. If people wanted to say nasty things, they certainly weren’t going to let the truth get in the way. But it made him angry, that people would say such things when it wasn’t even any of their business. What did it matter that a ‘common’ girl had never married Master or Thain. There always had to be a first time! And why was Rose Gamgee’s choice of husband so important to them anyway.
At least the Eastern Shire didn’t seem to be bothered by the situation. Any challenges to their relationship from his relatives never materialized. Most of the residents of Brandy Hall had even made a point to see him and give their congratulations once the news of his impending betrothal got out. Theo figured that if they could accept a woman from Rohan as their Mistress, the Mayor’s daughter was nothing to get upset about. Theo was grateful that Bucklanders tended to be a fairly easy-going lot. After what Ivy went through to get ‘approval’ from the Tooks of her courtship by Pippin, he dreaded to think about the reaction if he’d been a Took.
He looked up when the front door opened. Rose came in, looking quite worn out. She shook her head. “I’m a terrible person,” she said and slumped down into the chair next to Theo, head in hands.
“Oh, love, don’t.” Theo reached over to rub her back. “Stop punishing yourself. Just like you said, the truth was going to hurt, but the lie would have been worse.” Rose shrugged and sighed, staring at the floor. Theo leaned over to whisper in her ear. “Just think how devastated the poor lad would have been years from now, when he discovered that his wife was tumbling the Master of Buckland and all of his children were actually Brandybucks.”
Rose looked up at him. “You. Are. Horrible,” she said, but she was fighting a slight smile. Theo just gave her a cheeky grin and took her hand. She squeezed it and sat upright, then leaned over to kiss his cheek. “Thank you for trying to cheer me up.”
Theo pushed his hand under her silky hair and let the curls twine around his fingers. “Anything for you, love.”
The door to the Mayor’s office opened and the Greenfields came out. Rose stood up and approached them. “I’m sorry.” Mr. Greenfield wouldn’t even look at her, and his wife gave her a look of utter contempt. They continued on without a word.
Theo saw Rose’s shoulders slump, but then she took a deep breath and turned to Mr. Burrows, who was standing in the doorway of the office. “Are you ready for us?” she asked. He nodded and waved them into the room.
Theo’s father, Éowyn, and the Gamgees sat at a small table, and Theo and Rose took the two chairs that had been used by Mattas’ parents.
“Well,” said Minto, shuffling through some papers on a nearby table, “you’ve been through this before so you know you just need to decide on the dowry and bride wealth and whatnot.”
“I won’t be requestin’ anything,” said Sam. Theo’s father tried to protest but Sam shook his head. “No, Mister Merry, you took care of the compensation for the Greenfields. That is more than enough.”
Theo’s dad didn’t argue. “All right, Sam”.
“Rose has her dowry chest that Rosie’s been helping her with,” said Sam. He shrugged. “Though I suppose she won’t be needing to set up house at Brandy Hall.”
“She’ll still need her own things,” said Éowyn, “to make their rooms her own.”
Sam nodded. He looked uncomfortable. Theo guessed that he wasn’t sure what to offer one of the wealthiest hobbits in the Shire for the rest of the dowry. “I’m not sure what else to offer, Mister Merry,” he finally said, a little red in the face. “I know gentlehobbits usually value the connections made by a marriage. I don’t know what to offer instead.”
“Making a connection to your family is valuable to me, Samwise Gamgee,” said Merry scoldingly. “You’re one of my dearest friends and I am honored to be bringing your daughter into my family.” He thought for a moment. “I would like to ask one thing of you, though.”
“I’ll do my best to give it, Mister Merry.”
Theo’s dad grinned at Sam. “As we’ll be in-laws, you can stop calling me ‘Mister’.”
Rosie giggled. She’d stopped using ‘Mister’ a long time ago, but hadn’t been able to convince her husband it was all right to do the same.
Sam blushed, then looked up. “I’ll try, Mis--Merry,” he said. “But it’s going to take some getting used to.”
His father held out his hand, shaking with Sam to seal their agreement.
“All right, then,” said Minto, “If you’re agreed on that, then it’s just a matter of signing the agreements, then having the ceremony to make it all official.”
Theo suddenly felt very giddy. He was so very close to marrying Rose! The families discussed their future and decided to wait until the fall to hold the actual betrothal ceremony, to give everyone some time to cool off. Theo hoped Elanor would forgive her sister by then. Then they discussed the marriage itself, which sent all sorts of butterflies fluttering in Theo’s stomach. Sam was adamant that they wait until Rose was of age. “She’s going to be taking on some big responsibilities,” he said, “and I want to make sure she’s ready for it.”
After the papers were signed and hands were shook they headed for home, parting with the Gamgees in Hobbiton. Theo and Rose had an emotional goodbye, because they wouldn’t be seeing each other until the Gamgee’s August birthday party the following month.
“Come now,” said Sam, hugging his sobbing daughter, “you can still write to him. And it’s only a month.”
Theo sighed, watching them disappear into Bag End, then turned to get on his pony. Only a month.
Theo didn’t have a chance to agonize over their separation. Before his second letter to her had even reached Hobbiton, Rose was standing in the entry of Brandy Hall, sobbing in his arms, while her father and Frodo brought in her belongings.
“It was awful,” she cried into his neck, “Nobody would talk to me, or even look at me, when I went out. And I heard them say such awful things, worse than before, about how I was spoiled and selfish and hurt Mattas. And then Elanor...” She started a new round of sobs and Theo patted her back helplessly. She’d said in her first letter that people were upset with her over the betrothal. She hadn’t said how much.
“Come along, deorest,” Éowyn said, placing a comforting hand on Rose’s back. “We’ll get you settled in your room.” Rose sniffled and pulled away from Theo. Her face was as red as her hair from all her tears. Her mum took her hand and they followed Éowyn towards the Master’s wing where Rose would stay in a guest room.
Theo’s stomach hurt as he watched them leave, and he angrily clenched his fists. What business was it of anyone if Rose loved him? But he felt guilty, too, like this was in some way his fault. Sam had come to Brandy Hall a few days ago, asking if Rose could stay with them. The scorn of the hobbits around her was wearing on her, and there was no sign it would be letting up anytime soon.
“It’s not your fault,” Frodo said, coming to stand next to him. “And don’t give me that look. I could tell from your face you were feeling guilty.” Frodo sighed and glanced in the direction his sister had gone. “It did get bad for her, though. People can be cruel. And Elanor is being completely unreasonable about the whole thing. I can’t believe she’d expect Rose to marry a lad she didn’t really love! Of course, she’ll go along with whatever Fastred says.” Frodo scowled and Theo felt guilty again, for the strife that was obviously running through the Gamgee family. Then Frodo grinned. “Goldi lit into Elanor about it, though. She’s got quite the temper, our little Goldi. I pity the lad brave enough to marry her!” Theo chuckled at that and they collected Rose’s things to take to her room.
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.