“You lasses ain’t even old enough to be thinkin’ about lads yet,” the Gaffer said shaking his finger at his daughters as they sat finishing their luncheon. “So I don’t want to hear no more nonsense out of neither one o’ you about Mister Baggins’s boy. He’s far above your station anyway. You hear me?”
“Yes, Dad,” May answered without looking at anyone else.
“Daisy?” He looked meaningly at his eldest daughter.
“Yes, Dad,” Daisy said in just a little too angelic a tone so he looked harder at her, and she nodded.
“Good,” he said wiping his chin with his napkin. “Now I’m goin’ back to work. Remember what I said now.”
“They’ll remember, Dad,” Halfred, the second-oldest son said with twinkling eyes. “We’ll make sure of that.”
“That we will,” said Hamson, the eldest, with a wink at his sisters. “If they start up with their gabble again, we’ll put a gag and a blindfold on ’em.”
Daisy stuck out her tongue at him.
Samwise said nothing and looked out the window.
Marigold, the youngest, licked her fingers. Her mum told her to use her napkin. Their dad went out.
When he was well out of earshot, Daisy turned to Sam and asked, “How old is he, d’you think?”
“Daisy,” her mum said, “remember what your dad said.”
“I only asked how old he was,” Daisy said innocently.
“I don’t know,” Sam said. “I’ll ask him, next time I see him. About Hamson’s age, I should think.”
“He’s perfectly splendid,” May said, then blushed and looked down at her plate.
“A bit skinny, wouldn’t you think?” Halfred said wiggling his eyebrows at his elder brother.
“I would think,” Hamson agreed, wiggling his in return.
“You would think?” Daisy said with an exaggerated widening of her eyes. “I’ll believe THAT when I hear it.”
Sam and Marigold both giggled.
“`His eyes are pools of long-lost dreams’,” Halfred intoned in a girly voice. Daisy turned fiery red, picked up a buttered roll and made as if to hurl it at him. Her mum reached over and laid a hand on her wrist. “Oi!” he said. “Where in blazes do you hear such things anyway? Story-books?”
“I don’t read, you ninny,” Daisy, who was rather hot-tempered, retorted. “I thought of it myself, thank you! Mum, he’s been spyin’ on us!”
“I wish I could think of such lovely things to say,” May sighed.
Hamson snickered. His mother looked sternly at him.
“We weren’t spyin’,” Halfred grinned. “Some lasses just ain’t so good at keepin’ their voices down, is all.”
“Maybe if you could think of such things,” Daisy shot at him, “that Boffin girl you’re always moonin’ over might give you a second look. She’ll certainly never do it on account o’ your looks.”
This stirred up giggles from everyone except Halfred, who pinked visibly.
“Very well then,” he said, “next time I see her, I’ll tell her her eyes are pools of long lost dreams, and her voice is like to a nightingale.”
“I heard him singin’ once,” May said. “His voice was…oh…”
“What was he singin’?” Daisy asked eagerly.
“I don’t know. It was some strange language. But it was so…”
“Haunting,” Halfred said. “Dreamy. Romantic.”
“Like to a nightingale,” Hamson said with a wink.
“Or a skylark,” Halfred said. “Chirp, chirp, tweet, tweet.”
“Or a swallow,” Hamson said. “Twitter, twitter.”
Daisy kicked him under the table. Marigold giggled.
“Tweet, tweet, tweet,” she said.
“They’re just jealous,” May said to her older sister.
“His eyes are lovely, I’ll admit,” said their mum. “He’s a fine-lookin’ lad, and well-mannered too. But not of our sort.”
“A prince,” Halfred said rolling up his eyes. “Far above us common folk. Remember that, ye lowly, unwashed clods of the earth. Come, brother. Let us once more sally forth into our humble sphere so that those far above our station in life may continue their privileged lives of luxuryness.”
“I follers,” Hamson said. “Remember, me sisters. No thinkin’ about the lads. Stick with thinkin’ about whatever else it is lasses think about. Milkin’ cows and such. Moooo!”
He tugged at one of Daisy’s curls. She jerked her head away and slapped hard at his hand, but she missed. He laughed and went out, his brother following, making clucking and mooing and tweeting noises and slapping each other on the back.
The two oldest girls helped their mum clear the table, and Samwise and Marigold went outside, hoping to get a look at Mr. Baggins’s new boy. The children lurked in the bushes by the fence waiting for him to appear.
“He give me a piggy-back ride once,” Sam confided to his little sister as he helped her climb up on the fence so she could see over. “Just t’other day.”
“Really? D’ye think he’d give me one?” Marigold said.
“Maybe, if I ask him nice,” Sam said.
“I might be scared,” she admitted. “Are his eyes really pools of…what Daisy said?”
“I don’t know,” Sam admitted. “I’m not rightly sure what that means.”
“He is frightfully pretty–for a lad,” Marigold admitted.
“He can run like a pony,” Sam said in awe. “And draw words, just like in a book. And swim in the water, like a fish. I bet he can do anything.”
They turned as they heard a step behind them. It was Daisy and May.
“Have you seen him?” May said just above a whisper, peeking out from the leaves.
“Not yet,” Sam said.
“Sam,” Daisy said a little too sweetly, “do you think…maybe you could…”
“Could what?” Sam said. May giggled and blushed.
“Maybe you could get a holt of something he’s touched?” Daisy lowered her voice still further.
“I’ve gotten a holt of a lot of things he’s touched,” Sam looked at her in bewilderment.
“I mean…” Daisy put her hands on her hips.
“She means,” May said, “could you maybe get somethin’ he’s touched and bring it back to us.”
“I’d give you this,” Daisy produced a copper piece out of her apron pocket. Sam’s eyes popped.
“I’m not stealin’ his things,” he said. “The idea! And if you try it, I’ll tell Mum.”
“I didn’t mean you should steal it,” Daisy said loftily. That was just what she meant, of course, but she wasn’t about to admit. “I mean…maybe you could take somethin’ of ours over there, have him touch it, and bring it back to us. That wouldn’t be so hard, would it?”
“He’s touched me,” Sam said with a naughty grin. “I’ll let you touch me if you like. Though I never thought I’d see the day when anybody paid me to let ’em touch me–let alone my own sister.”
Little Marigold squealed with laughter. May regarded her brother with wistful envy. Daisy rolled her eyes.
“Very funny,” she said. “I tell you what: s’pose me and May give you our hankies, and you take ’em over and drop ’em on the floor in front of him makin’ like it’s accidental, and…”
“And when he picks ’em up…” May said.
Marigold looked at her incredulously: “You’d blow your nose in a hanky he’s touched?”
“Of course not,” May said in horror. “We wouldn’t dream of such a thing. I would simply keep mine close to my heart.” She put her hand over her stomach, supposing that to be where her heart was.
“I’ll give you two coppers, one from me and one from May,” Daisy said. You could see she was trying not to lose her patience.
Sam thought to himself that he might just possibly get three if he kept at it long enough. But…but…
“I’ll do it for one,” he said. “Where are the hankies?”
He had to chuckle as the girls dashed back inside to fetch clean handkerchiefs. Marigold shook her head.
“Aren’t they frightfully silly?” she giggled.
Just then the door of Bag End opened, and their dad and Mister Bilbo appeared, along with the new boy, the older hobbits talking to each other, the younger one just smiling. Sam watched him through the leaves as he stepped into the sunlight, shining and tall against the brilliant hollyhocks that lined the fence. Sam drew a deep breath as they all burst into laughter over some remark Mister Bilbo made.
“No,” he said softly, shaking his head in dreamy wonder, as he rested his chin down on his arms that were folded over the top of the fence. “No. They’re not.”