12. A Visit from a Favourite Nephew
'I heard a messenger came.'
'News from Hobbiton,' Saradoc replied. 'Young Frodo has resigned his post as Mayor.'
'No!' she gasped 'Whyever for?'
'Seems Will Whitfoot is recovered from his stint in the Lockholes.' He looked down at the paper again. 'Frodo says he only volunteered to be temporary mayor until Will was back on his feet.'
Esmeralda nodded, somehow unsatisfied. It seemed as if the Shire owed more to him after what he'd done. She thought back to the story the lads had told just yesterday, the wearisome journey through horror to the Fire. Today's story had been of healing and celebration, glory and honour showered upon the Ring-bearer and his companion. Ironic, that strangers, Big People at that, would show Frodo more honour than his own.
'There's more,' Saradoc said.
'Young Frodo says he's coming for a visit, if we'll have him.'
'If we'll have him!'
'Oh, all right, I put that in myself just to see what you would say.'
'You -- you are as mischievous as that young scamp of a nephew.'
'I know; he's a bad influence,' Saradoc grinned.
She changed the subject. 'When are we to expect him?'
'Well then!' Esmeralda put her hands on her hips. 'Why didn't you say so in the first place? There is so much to do! Plans to make...'
'What sort of plans?'
'Oh, you, Master of Buckland, you can plan crop planting and harvest but you do not understand simple hospitality. There's food! And sights to see! And we must have a party -- a dance, perhaps'
'I haven't heard of any plans on his part to marry, yet. He's Cousin Bilbo's heir, and now that all the mess has been straightened out he ought to be settling down. There are quite a few lasses here at the Hall who might make a good match.'
Saradoc threw up his hands. 'Do not talk to me of dances! I will go to one, but do not ask me to plan one!'
Esmeralda shook her head at him. 'Don't you worry, I won't! But what am I standing here talking for? I have work to do!' She whirled and flew from the room.
The visit was a happy one, for Saradoc and Esmeralda had always had a special fondness for the orphaned lad who had gone off to live amongst those odd folk in Hobbiton. They were glad to see that he had not been too badly warped by it, probably because of his solid Buckland upbringing before he was adopted by Bilbo.
He entered cheerfully into all the activities planned for his pleasure. Newlywed Samwise had not been able to accompany him, of course, but Merry and Pippin spent every free hour in his company and he was never lonely. They even rode to Bree to visit the Prancing Pony, and took a side trip to see Tom Bombadil and Goldberry once again.
The first morning of the visit, Esmeralda came from the kitchen to the breakfast table to find a mug full of wildflowers at her place. She met Frodo's eyes, and they crinkled in a smile. 'Thank you, young Frodo,' she said as she took her place.
Frodo left his chair and came around behind her. He dropped a kiss on top of her head and his arms circled her in a brief hug. 'You are welcome, old Aunt,' he teased gently.
'Go on with you, young rascal!'
With a last squeeze he went back to his place at the table and picked up his spoon. 'Mmmmm,' he said, 'I think your strawberries are nearly the size of Sam's!'
Esmeralda watched this special nephew as he plied his spoon, talking and laughing with his uncle and cousins. She remembered other bouquets, half-wilted, clutched in a grubby hand, brought to her on the couch where she lay for so many months to direct the domestic doings of Hall and kitchen.
Every morning another mug of freshly picked flowers appeared at her place, and she shared a secret smile with her nephew.
Frodo was too thin, to Esmeralda's thinking, and she made sure his favourite foods appeared at each meal. Each time another dish was laid upon the table, he would look up at his aunt and his eyes would crinkle with silent laughter. I know what you're up to, his look said. You are trying to make me as fat as old Uncle Merimac! She couldn't help laughing. It was only too true.
The first time she noticed the missing finger she grieved for the marring of the fine hand, but truly, the slim fingers were so often busy about something that soon she ceased to think of it. When Frodo was not out riding or walking with his cousins, he was sitting, but not idle. His hands carved wooden whistles for wee hobbits, fashioned sails for little boats, sketched pictures, gestured descriptively while telling a story, splashed skillfully in water battles in the shallows of the River... in other words, they were almost never at rest.
One day he was playing at Kings with young Peregrin. It was nearly teatime, and Esmeralda had left the last preparations to the cooks. It was a hot afternoon, and she felt the need to sit down for a few moments.
Frodo suddenly jumped his stone over three of Pippin's pieces. 'You can't do that!' Pippin hissed in outrage.
Frodo smiled cheerily. 'I just did.'
'But... but...' Pippin spluttered.
Frodo put a brotherly hand on the lad's shoulder. 'Pippin,' he said confidingly. 'Your problem is, you need to learn about strategy.' When Pippin looked up from the board, Frodo caught his eye and held it.
'You need to learn to plan,' he added. Something in his tone caught Esmeralda's attention, and she listened more carefully.
'I do know how to plan!' was Pippin's indignant response.
Frodo laughed. 'I am not talking about pranks or practical jokes,' he chuckled. Pippin actually looked as if he were becoming angry! Her easygoing, blithe, mischievous nephew! ...but Frodo's gaze remained locked with his and Pippin quieted and became thoughtful.
Frodo lowered his voice to emphasize his words.'How d'you suppose Merry drove those ruffians out of the Shire? He planned. He used strategy.' Pippin listened intently, nodding slightly as Frodo drove the point home.
'What would have happened if he had gone off without a thought in his head to confront them? If he had not planned and organized the hobbits in the Shire?'
Pippin had no answer, and suddenly Frodo laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. 'It is so hot! I need to cool off, how about you?'
Pippin grinned, and Frodo added, 'I'll race you to the River!'
Esmeralda went to the door to see the race. Pippin quickly outdistanced his older cousin and had already stripped down to his undertunic by the time Frodo reached the River. They had a glorious splashing water battle, in which many of the hobbit-lads and lasses joyfully joined.
The days sped by, and too soon it was time for Frodo to return to his home. 'Samwise will be fretting if he has no one to care for,' he joked. 'And he will get too fat on Rosie's cooking to weed the garden, if I don't go back to help him eat it all!'
Saradoc and Esmeralda together took him in a great hug. 'Oh, this has been good,' she murmured in his ear. 'Don't be a stranger, now.'
'Yes,' Saradoc agreed. 'Come back for a visit soon. If we do not see you any earlier than next Mid-year's Day, I will send a troop to carry you off!'
Frodo laughingly agreed, and turned to go. Merry and Pippin rode partway with him. 'After all,' Pippin said, 'We need to ride by Long Cleeve and see how my relatives the north-Tooks are doing.'
'Long Cleeve?' Saradoc had asked.
'Oh, aye,' Pippin had said. 'Wonderful folk. They set a good table!'
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.