Melilot left a week later to return to her home. Frodo caught himself before he cried, though he was very solemn for a few dark days afterward. Melilot had become his favorite cousin twice-removed-on-his-mother’s-side, or something like that, and he missed her terribly, though she did promise to come back again.
But since she left and Frodo was once again alone, Frodo put forth an attempt to become comrades with his cousins of Brandy Hall. His attempt succeeded beautifully, and Frodo became the center of attention among the younger Brandybucks and received the respect from the elders.
Years passed slowly, but in an abundance of food and satisfactory. Frodo was nearing his “tweens” when the eccentric gentlehobbit from Hobbiton began to call. He was Bilbo Baggins of Bag End on the Hill, and he had come to make friends with his older cousins and, perhaps, choose and heir to take Bag End, instead of the Sackville-Bagginses. Frodo became quite fond of the old hobbit and admired his youthful chipper that he somehow maintained in his age. But when Mr. Baggins asked that Frodo come visit him, Frodo’s cousins began to talk.
“He’s nothing but a crackpot, Frodo, you keep an eye on him,” one said, as Frodo packed his bags.
“I’ll be all right, it’s only for this weekend,” Frodo said.
“Aye, but he’s known to be visited by dwarves and that queer wizard,” another said, “Gandalf the Grey, they call him. He’s the one that responsible for taking Mr. Bilbo away for so long. Keep your eye out for him, too.”
“I’m sure there’ll be no wizards this weekend,” Frodo said, with the same tone of voice one might use when predicting the weather.
When Frodo was finally ready, he bid farewell to his aunts and uncles and cousins, and set out for the Buckleberry Ferry.
Frodo met up with Bilbo at the Brandywine Bridge, after an hour or so on the river, which had made Frodo quite anxious. But seeing Bilbo made him feel a little lighter. There was something comforting about visiting another Baggins.
“Let me give you a hand with those, my boy,” Bilbo said, taking some of Frodo’s bags.
“Thank you, Mr. Baggins,” Frodo said, hopping onto the Bridge.
“I trust your trip went well,” Bilbo said.
“Well enough,” Frodo said, “although you may guess that I’m not fond of rivers.”
“I could guess as much,” Bilbo said, giving Frodo a sympathetic smile. They turned and began their walk down the Road.
“It will be a bit of a walk before we get to the Hill,” Bilbo said, “but you’re young, I’m sure you can handle it.”
“I’ll be fine,” Frodo said, “Will you be all right? You did have to walk all the way down here.”
“And you had to ride all the way up here,” Bilbo said, “It is a slight inconvenience for the both of us, but, I daresay, we will not regret it in the end.” Frodo smiled.
“I suppose not,” he said, “I hear you have a marvelous place.”
“It’s home,” Bilbo said, modestly, “and it’s always nice to have a home to come back to, when you’ve see as much as I have.”
“I should like to hear some of those stories, Mr. Baggins,” Frodo said.
“Would you?” Bilbo sounded slightly shocked, “You’re not too old?”
“Too old?” Frodo echoed, “No! I’ve always wanted to hear you tell your tale. No one can tell it quite like the one who saw it done.”
“That’s quite true,” Bilbo said, “Forgive me, my boy, I didn’t mean to sound so surprised. Only it seems the youth these days know the tales so well, they can tell them to me! Though they’re never quite correct…”
“Well, no offense to your hobbits of Hobbiton, but from what I hear, a good handful are gossips with well-lubricated jaws and minds like steel traps,” Frodo said. Bilbo laughed.
“You’ve heard right,” he said, “One can never keep to himself anymore. Steel traps, yes, only some have been out so long, they’ve rusted shut! They never remember when you tell them to keep quiet or go away!” Frodo threw back his head and gave a hearty laugh. Bilbo smiled at the youthful hobbit.
The two hobbits, though the age difference, found they were able to talk all the way up to the green door of Bag End. Frodo did catch sight of the neighbors of Bag End, but only two: an older hobbit with greying hair and a young lad with auburn curls and rosy, round cheeks.
“The Gamgees,” Bilbo said, “Wonderful neighbors and even better gardeners. The father’s called Hamfast, and the boy is Sam.” Frodo saw Sam look up his direction, so he waved. Even from afar, Frodo saw Sam blush and turn back to his pot of leafy greens.
“He’s a shy one,” Bilbo mumbled to Frodo, as he opened the great green door to the hobbit-hole.
The hall ways of Bag End were rounded, in the same manner the door was. There were little hooks in the front entry for coats and cloaks, and there were walking staves in the corner. Bilbo’s parlor was in a disarray, but his kitchen was clean.
“Look over the parlor for the moment,” Bilbo said, “I’ve been trying to work on my book, but my study began to overflow, so I moved some things into the parlor.” He had moved into the kitchen as he spoke, “You must be starving, Frodo, look’s like we’ve been out so long, we’ve missed afternoon tea!”
“I suppose the world isn’t going to come to an end if we miss one,” Frodo said, standing with his bags in the parlor, trying to take on Melilot’s care-free manner, even though he could feel his stomach gnawing at his back bone.
“Nonsense, my boy, I’ll just cook up something bigger,” Bilbo said, “I don’t know how you feel, but I cannot wait for supper or elvensies, I need something now. Oh, Frodo, don’t feel you need to stand there! Put your bags anywhere! Come on in, I put some tea on before I left.” Frodo set his bags beside the window and made himself at home in a chair in the kitchen. Bilbo set a tea cup in front of him as he still chatted away.
“I’ll show you around later on, after we’ve had our fill, and perhaps take you down to the Gamgees. I can fix up the spare bedroom for you and, oh, dear…”
“What is it?” Frodo asked.
“I forgot,” Bilbo said, “the last guest I had broke the spare bed, right in the middle, and I’ve been meaning to get it fixed, and, dear me, I have forgotten. Can I make you up a bed in the sitting room, by the fireplace, just for this evening? I am sure Master Hamfast can quickly fix up the bed in the morning, so it’ll just be for tonight.”
“I have no objection,” Frodo said, “It doesn’t bother me.”
“There’s a good lad,” Bilbo said, “You’re all together too easy to please!” Frodo laughed.
“I suppose when you’ve lived at the Hall with thousands of others, you rather have to be easy to please,” he said. Bilbo looked thoughtful and placed a hand into his pocket.
“I suppose you do…”
They had their tea and some lovely little cakes that Bilbo made, for Bilbo was known to make lovely things, and then Bilbo gave him a grand tour of Bag End. After that was through, Bilbo decided to go see Master Hamfast about fixing the bed. Frodo followed him, meaning to meet the whole family, but stopped to talk with young Sam outside Number Three.
Sam was working on transplanting some pea sprouts and looked up to give Frodo a long stare.
“Hullo,” Frodo said.
“Hullo,” Sam mumbled, looking down at his sprouts, then up again at Frodo, “You’re Mr. Bilbo’s nephew, aren’t you?”
“Well, sort-of,” Frodo said, “‘Cousin’ is closer to the mark. And you’re Master Hamfast’s boy, aren’t you?”
“Youngest son,” Sam said, “but Marigold is younger.” Frodo crouched beside Sam, taking a look at his work.
“Are these peas here?” he asked.
“Will be when they’re grown,” Sam said, patting the dirt.
“Is this something your father makes you do?” Frodo asked, innocently, but Sam looked a little indignant.
“I do it myself ’cause I like to,” he said.
“No harm, lad, that’s all right,” Frodo backed off the subject in a hurry. Sam grabbed another sprout and pot and began sifting dirt into the pot.
“You’re in your tweens, aren’t you?” Sam asked, looking up at Frodo again.
“Twenty, yes,” Frodo said, “I’ll bet you’re about nine.” Sam’s face brightened, thrilled by the fact that Frodo had over-guessed.
“Eight,” he said, “but I’ll be nine in two months. Your birthday is September 22nd.”
“How did you know that?” Frodo was eager to know.
“It’s Mr. Bilbo’s as well,” Sam said, “I go to his home during the week, and he teaches me about letters. I’m going to read and write soon.” Frodo smiled at Sam’s enthusiasm. Just then, the door of Number Three opened and Sam’s older sister, Daisy, came out with a basket for shopping. Frodo stood to his feet in respect, but stopped as she gave him a coy smile. Frodo was melted on the spot. He stared at her large, doe-like green eyes, trying to keep his jaw from hitting the ground.
“That’s Daisy, Mr. Baggins,” Sam was saying, but Frodo could hardly hear over his racing heart.
“How do you do, Mr. Baggins?” Daisy asked, still smiling brightly. Frodo rememberd himself and smiled back.
“Very well, Miss Gamgee,” he said.
“Mr. Bilbo says that he’ll only be a moment longer,” Daisy told Frodo, then ruffled Sam’s mop of hair, “I’ll be back, Samwise.” She turned and headed down the Hill, as Frodo watched her leave. When she was gone, Frodo turned to Sam.
“That’s your sister?” he asked. Sam giggled and nodded. Frodo gave a hard stare in Sam’s direction, but Sam only giggled some more.
“I won’t say nothing,” he said, turning back to his sprouts.
“Thank you, Sam,” Frodo said, as the door opened again and Bilbo appeared.
“Are you ready to head back, my boy?” he asked. Frodo nodded.
“I’ll be seeing you, Sam,” Frodo told the boy, as they headed back up the Hill.
“It was nice meeting you, Mr. Baggins!” Sam called.
“Call me ‘Frodo’,” Frodo insisted, calling over his shoulder.
“It was nice meeting you, Mr. Frodo!”
That night, Frodo was made quite comfortable on a mattress in the sitting room by the hearth. Bilbo sat in an old rocking chair and told Frodo countless tales, Frodo thought he must be in heaven.
“Were you never frightened?” Frodo asked, when Bilbo was finished.
“Many times,” Bilbo said, “but often those who do great things cannot think about themselves. Many are afraid in times like I have told, but the courageous are driven on by the fact that there is no courage without fear. Many people seem to think that if you are afraid, that you are not courageous. That is a lie. Courage itself is the fear of failure. So, in a sense, it is very possible to be afraid of many things and still be courageous, if your fear of failure is above your other fears. Many people have been afraid on their quests, but their fear of what may happen if they stop drives them past all their other fears. That is what makes people decide that they will either succeed or die trying.” Frodo looked at the old hobbit in admiration.
“I will remember that,” he said, pulling his blankets up to his chin.
“Do you like it here?” Bilbo asked. Frodo nodded.
“I like it a lot,” he said, “It’s quieter and there are no rivers. And you have lovely neighbors.” Bilbo smiled and rocked himself a few times before he spoke again. And when he did speak, he was very thoughtful and deliberate.
“I think, Frodo,” he said, “that you had best come live with me, so that we may celebrate our birthdays comfortably together.” Frodo could hardly believe his ears.
“Do you really want me to?” he asked.
“Frodo, I’m not going to live forever, though some people think so, and I cannot bear the thought of Bag End going to the Sackville-Bagginses when I’m gone,” Bilbo said, “and you are such a responsible and delightful hobbit with such an admirable spirit, I would like you to come live with me and have Bag End when I’m gone.” Frodo smiled so wide, he thought his face might break.
“I would love to, Bilbo!” he exclaimed.
“Would you?” Bilbo asked, smiling too, “I can get the papers drawn up this week, and you can return to Brandy Hall to pack all your things, and perhaps we can have you here in about two weeks. Would you like that?”
“I already said I would!” Frodo said. Bilbo laughed and rocked a few times.
“Well, with that happy thought, let us both go to bed,” Bilbo said, standing and patting Frodo’s head, “Good night, Frodo, my lad.”
“Good night, Bilbo.”
Frodo stared at the dancing flames on the hearth, smiling to himself, until, at last, he fell into a peaceful sleep.
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