Sam was just starting to stir from his long nap. He opened a drowsey eye to see Mr. Frodo holding Chrys’s hand as they walked from the river to the blanket. Sam found himself thinking ‘Mr. Bilbo best tend to this right quick…..or the Uncles may have cause to take Frodo’. He frowned inwardly at that thought and vowed he’d do all he could to enure that Frodo stayed right where he belonged, at Bag End. He yawned loudly and stretched as he sat up, giving Frodo time to drop Chrys’s hand before turning to fully face the pair.
Sam stood, somewhat groggily “what a basket Mr. Bilbo packs, I can’t recall the last time I napped so deep.” Both Chrys and Frodo smiled at Sam’s words. “I’d be asking Bilbo exactly what he put in that pie if I were you Sam” Frodo said with a twinkle in his eye ” perhaps he used some of Old Prody’s sleeping herbs” he said exchanging a knowing look with Chrys. As Sam bent down to retrieve the blanket Chrys gave Frodo a nudge with her elbow and look that said ‘don’t start trouble with me silly hobbit’. Sam stood up and laughed. “What a foolish notion Mr. Frodo, where do ye get these ideas” Sam snorted as he shook his head.
They loaded up the cart and made their way back to Bag End as the clouds rolling past the sun took on the brilliant red, orange and deep violet of the impending sunset.
Bilbo and Prody also made their way back to the hobbit hole. They rode in silence, each lost in their own thoughts about the hobbits in their charge. The trip to Michel Delving had been very informative. Bilbo shook his head “I still can’t believe tha nerve of theat Rory Brandybuck” he fumed “he must have known all along that I was named co-guardian in Drogo’s will, he must have!” Prody drew a puff from his pipe “Now settle yerself Bilbo, the clerk did say those papers had only been filed a week afore the accident, it’s likely that Rory had an older copy.” “Perhaps” agreed Bilbo” but you’d think with something as important as the welfare of a child that Rory might have made inquiries, it’s not as if we’re settling on the sale of some lifestock, it’s the life of a lad we’re talking of.” Prody patted his friend on the knee “well it seems the matter of Frodo’s adoption is already final then , does it not?” Bilbo smiled “well, Frodo still has to choose one of us by the time of his 21st birthday, although it seems likely he’ll pick me.” Bilbo indulged himself with a few moments of warm remembrances; times of telling tales, reading, hiking the Shire….’ah’ he thought ‘those times will be ours again’. Then, as a cold shudder passed through him, he remembered his friend.
He turned to Prody “What of the matter of the betrothal, still set on going through with this then? The news will hit Chrys hard I am afraid” Bilbo said, a tear in his eye as he reached over to squeeze his friend’s knee. Prody drew thoughtfully on his pipe, “there’s no one else for the lass Bilbo, I’ve no where else for her to go.” Bilbo nodded slowly and asked “Did Elrond say how long?” he asked softly. Prody shook his head “Ye know Elrond well enough ta know that ye’ll never get an answer that simple from him.” Bilbo smiled as he thought of the stately Lord Elrond “Yes, quite right, I see your point” he said and then continued, “but what did he say?” “He didn’t tell me anything I didn’t all ready know myself…that my heart is ailing, it’s slowing down Bilbo and one day it…and I will just stop.”
The sound of the pony’s hooves was the only noise to break through the heavy silence of the moment. Bilbo looked to his friend intensely “I could still adopt her Prody”.
Prody laughed derisively “and break both their hearts? Have ye not seen the way she looks ta the lad?” “Yes, yes I have seen, but what of Frodo? He is I’m afraid a little like his Uncle as affairs of the heart go, that is quite unaware and very uncomfortable in uncharted territory.” “Speak in a manner I can understand ya old fool” Prody said gruffly “does he not favor the lass?” Bilbo thought of the night before, the warmth he’d seen between them, the way his eyes sparkled when he made her laugh…”yes he does, but I’m not sure he’s aware of it yet.” Bilbo said with a smile.
They rode on a few moments in silence, enjoying the cooling early evening air and the fringes of the sunset over the hills. Bilbo shook his head “they are so young Prody”.
The old healer turned to his friend, eyes hardening. “Well then Bilbo Baggins, if they’re not betrothed ye’ll have ta adopt her and then they’ll never have the chance fer love.” Bilbo sighed, he knew his friend was right, but he had to voice his fears. “This conditional betrothal will have ’em married within the year…to go from being children, to being married…well it just seems a lot.” he finished quietly. “Now you listen to me Bilbo Baggins, this conditional betrothal is only enacted in exceptional circumstances and I thought ye’d agree with me that these two make for some exceptional circumstances.” he drew on his pipe again “We’ve seen ’em do a whole lot of growing up these past months.” He turned to face Bilbo “They are older in their experience of life than most hobbits’ll ever be.” he said vehemently and added softly
“sadness has a way ‘o aging you right quick”. “Yes it does” Bilbo agreed quietly.
They were nearly to Prody’s hole as Bilbo asked “You are coming over tomorrow when Paladin and Saradoc are visiting? I could use some help explaining all this to them…and Chrys needs to hear of your illness from you my friend” he said sadly. “Yes, yes…I’ll be there for tea. Please do me the favor Bilbo of not letting on to Chrys that I’m back from my travels. I need some time alone to get my affairs in order” he said with a far off look in his tired old eyes. “Certainly my friend” Bilbo said as he helped Prody down from the cart “remember tea tomorrow” he reminded him as he drove away. Prody nodded tiredly and waving Bilbo off went into his hole.
The next morning Frodo found himself up early, he lay abed a moment and took stock. ‘I’ve gotten my voice back, I can walk…though still hurts a bit without the cane, I can dress myself, pour tea, read books and do most everything I used to do….but I feel as if I’m forgetting something’ he thought to himself. He smiled thinking how nice it would be to have his young cousins to visit. Last time he’d seen Merry , his cousin had begged him not to leave Brandy Hall. He hoped it wouldn’t be too hard on Merry to learn that he wanted more than anything to stay at Bag End. He closed his eyes a moment and thought of all that had happened in the past 9 months.His revoire was broken as he gradually became aware of sounds out his window.
He heard a voice waft towards him “ye’ll be finding better light without this old lilac hanging over ya. Ah, ya’ll have to be patient though with these here chrysanthamums…I’ve learned that’s a bloom ye don’t want ta rile…ye best treat it with respect.” Frodo smiled to himself, he loved the comfort of hearing Sam”tending” his flowers, which is what he called his daily garden talk. He got up from his bed and poking his head out the round window called “you’d better treat Chrysanthamum with respect, or I’ll be the one paying the price Sam!” he said with a laugh.
Sam, turned red at having been caught in his morning “tending”, but walked to the window. “Well, ye ready sir? I’m thinking that Master’s Merry and Pippin’ll be here by second breakfast.” “Yes Sam, I feel ready for nearly anything today…what a glorious day” Frodo said breathing in deeply the smell of the late blooming lilacs and smiling at his friend. Sam looked to Frodo, his eyes were shining, his face had a glow from yesterday’s time out of doors, his curls had almost regrown to cover the shorn spot on his head and he’d even gained a little weight in the last two weeks. Most important, in Sam’s mind was the easy smile on his face. Sam felt the sun shining above couldn’t be any brighter than his Mr. Frodo when he was happy. “Yep, yer looking ready ta me sir…ye surely are.” Sam said with a satisfied nod.
“Thanks Sam, you are coming to tea aren’t you? If Bilbo forgot to invite you I’m doing so now” Frodo said lightly. “Oh yes sir, I’m coming…Mr. Bilbo came down this morning and ’twas right set upon it when he asked the Gaffer. Now ya be careful with them rascally cousins of yers…don’t let ’em be wearing you out.” Sam said shaking a finger at the blue eyes in the window. Frodo smiled at his friend “now Sam, I should be able to keep a 10 year old and a 3 year old in line don’t you think?” Frodo laughed as he backed away from the window to dress. Sam waved him off and shook his head as he walked away….he had his worries about those mischievous lads, but he kept them to himself.