Pride and Prejudice for Hobbits
“Several answers today, dear,” she said, beginning to sort through the envelopes. “Auntie Emmie and Uncle Chilly,” she said, “and Auntie Eddie and Miss Boffin…the Sackville-Bagginses – do hope she’ll keep her hands off the spoons – and, oh, look, dear, Mr. Frodo Baggins!”
She smiled winningly at Pearl.
“Brilliant,” said Pearl. “I’m sure I can’t wait.”
Pearl was well and truly tired of hearing about Mr. Frodo Baggins of Bag End. Her mama had gone over to Brandy Hall before Lithe to fetch Pippin and had come back with tales of how well Frodo Baggins had settled down since the disappearance of that queer old Bilbo, and how handsome he had become.
Pearl certainly did not need to be told how handsome he was – she had eyes in her head, after all. She had always thought him to be an exceedingly fine-looking hobbit, and when they had both been tweens and more in each other’s company, one look from those sparkling blue eyes had been enough to reduce her to incoherent stutters.
As for his settling down, she was not so sure. The last time she had seen him, at Yuletide in Buckland two years ago, he had assisted Pippin and Merry Brandybuck in stealing a giant pudding from the kitchens and replacing all the Yule candies with lumps of coal. He had seemed gleefully uncontrite when given a dressing down by Master Rory, in front of the whole hall, for being old enough to know better and setting a bad example for the youngsters. “Settled down, indeed!” she said to herself.
“Pearl, that is no way to speak of a respectable young gentlehobbit like Mr. Baggins,” said her mama severely. “I expect you to make yourself agreeable to him.”
Pearl bit back a protest. She knew that it was important for her to find a husband before Pimmie came of age – otherwise she might end up an old maid like Auntie Eddie – but she hoped she might have some choice in the matter. Frodo Baggins might be very handsome, but from everything she knew he was sorely lacking in hobbit-sense. She didn’t know what sort of husband he might make.
“Yes, mama,” she said meekly. “Of course I will.”
Frodo, along with Merry Brandybuck and Fatty Bolger, opted to hike from Bag End to Great Smials, and they arrived late at night on the day before the party, worn and dusty from the road. They had missed supper, and most of the household had gone to bed, but Paladin and Pippin were waiting up for them with a tray of sausages, bread, and cheese.
Pippin launched himself enthusiastically at Frodo, saying, “It was too bad of you lot to be off adventuring without me, while I’ve been stuck here inside with a lot of silly girls and their dresses!”
“Peregrin Took!” his father admonished him, but the look in his eyes suggested he felt the same way.
Frodo released his young cousin, who went on to greet the other lads with equal enthusiasm. Paladin shook Frodo’s hand cordially.
“It’s good to see you again, lad,” he smiled. Frodo could detect no sign, yet, that Paladin expected him to pay court to his daughter. He relaxed slightly. Matchmaking mamas were a sight easier to deal with than fathers with high hopes.
The three weary travellers sat down to their dinner. Pal poured brandy for himself and Frodo and watered wine for the lads. Pippin sat between Merry and Fatty, filling his fists with slices of sausage and cheese.
“Pip, that’s not fair,” complained Merry. “You know we haven’t had dinner yet!”
While the three younger hobbits squabbled, Pal said to Frodo, “I’m glad you could make it.”
“I wouldn’t have missed it for all the Shire,” Frodo returned. “I have been hearing of little else all summer!”
Pal rolled his eyes. “Neither have I,” he replied conspiratorially. “I shall be glad when it is over.”
The hall was in too much of an uproar the next morning for Frodo to get a chance to greet his hostess, Pal’s wife Eglantine, or the young lady in whose honour the party was being held.
“I still have some of those firecrackers I stole at Bilbo’s party,” said Pippin, as he and Merry sat down next to Frodo with their plates of breakfast.
“Brilliant!” said Merry. They looked at Frodo expectantly. Frodo said,
“Peregrin Took, you should have known better than to steal anything from Gandalf.”
“Oh, I know, subtle and quick to anger,” said Pippin breezily. “I think we should stick them in the cake in place of candles.”
Merry grinned. “It’s still in the kitchen, right?” he asked. Pippin nodded. An expression of fierce concentration appeared on Merry’s face. “Right,” he said. “So you and Frodo will – “
“Whatever it is, Merry Brandybuck, we shall do no such thing!” interrupted Frodo.
Merry and Pippin stared at him. “Frodo, where’s your sense of fun?” asked Merry, sounding greatly betrayed.
“Come on, Frodo, I’ve been saving these firecrackers for seven years for this!” added Pippin.
Frodo suspected rather that he had lost them and only recently rediscovered them, but he let it go. He could think of any number of reasons why they ought not to sabotage Pearl’s birthday cake, none of which, he supposed, would carry any weight with his two younger cousins. Finally, he said, “Can’t you two go a day in your lives without pulling some prank?”
Merry and Pippin looked at each other. “No!” they said at the same time, gleefully.
“Well, please try, just for today.”
Pippin’s eyes went very wide. “Did you hear that, Merry?” he said. “I think Frodo does fancy Pearl!”
Frodo bit back a hasty reply in the negative. If that was what it would take to get his cousins to behave themselves for the day, so be it. He doubted that Pippin would carry the tale back to Pearl or her mother, at any rate.
The party went off without a hitch. Pearl knew most of her guests quite well, but nonetheless she was officially presented to them as they sat down to afternoon tea, the first of the three meals scheduled. She curtseyed before the assembled company, then took her seat as her Papa made a speech in her honour.
As soon as the speech was over and the meal had begun, her Mama leaned over to her and said, “That’s Mr. Baggins there, dear, sitting with Auntie Esmie and Uncle Sary.” She indicated the next table over subtly with her spoon.
“I know who he is, Mama,” Pearl muttered in return, but she stole a glance in his direction nonetheless. He, happily, was deep in conversation with the Master of Buckland, and had not noticed the exchange.
After tea, Pearl was corralled by ancient Aunt Prisca, who proceeded to enumerate every wrong perpetrated on her in the last year by Lobelia Sackville-Baggins. She listened with less than half an ear as she kept an eye on Mr. Frodo Baggins. She told herself it was because she feared he would pull some prank with Pippin and Merry Brandybuck, though if she had been truthful with herself she would have admitted that while he showed no signs of mischief, he was in very fine looks indeed and was quite the handsomest hobbit at the party.
At the moment, he seemed to be giving her graceless brother and his favourite cousin a very stern talking-to. Pippin appeared to be clutching something behind his back. Suddenly Frodo grabbed them both by their collars and steered them in her direction, a grim expression on his fair face. Pearl looked away quickly. She might make herself agreeable to him, but she didn’t want him to think her forward.
“Aunt Prisca,” said Frodo very gallantly, raising the old lady’s hand to his lips. Pearl bit her lip. She remembered Bilbo’s reputation as an outrageous flirt and hoped Frodo had not turned out the same way. It would be much more difficult for her to speak coherently to him if he had.
Aunt Prisca giggled like a tween and said, “You are very impertinent, Mr. Baggins!”
Pippin and Merry rolled their eyes at each other.
Prisca turned to Pearl. “Excuse me, Pearl, dear. I have not yet had a cose with your Aunt Emmie. Mr. Baggins, Master Merry, Master Pippin.”
As she retreated, Pearl wondered briefly whether the whole Shire were conspiring to have her make a match with Frodo Baggins.
“Cousin Pearl,” said Frodo, bowing over her hand. To her great relief, although he smiled, there was none of the flashing insouciance with which he had favoured Aunt Prisca. “Please allow me to congratulate you on a splendid party.”
Behind him, Pippin and Merry were making faces at him. Pippin mouthed something at her, pointing a scornful finger at Frodo. She thought it might have been, “He fancies you!”
“Thank you, Cousin Frodo,” she said. She scowled at Pippin.
Pippin said, with a wicked grin, “Well, Frodo, now that you two are reacquainted Merry and I will just be off and –“
“Don’t you have something for your sister, Peregrin Took?” Frodo said, with a hint of steel in his voice.
Pearl stared at Pippin, whose grin had vanished. He looked down, and scuffed his toes in the grass. Merry looked similarly abashed. Finally he said,
“Oh, hang it all, Pearl, Pip’s got some fireworks left over from Bilbo’s party and Frodo thought you might like us to set them off, nicely, after dinner.” He emphasized the word nicely as though it were a particularly sore point.
Pearl’s mouth opened slightly in surprise. “Really?” she said faintly.
Pippin scowled, but at a look from Frodo and a jab from Merry’s elbow he said, “Yes, Pearl, I saved them specially for you.”
This did not seem to be the whole truth, but Pearl laughed and kissed her brother on the cheek. “That was very sweet of you, Pip,” she said. “I think fireworks after dinner would be splendid! Why don’t you go ask Papa?”
Pippin and Merry shot each other another look and ran off to find her father. Frodo shot her an apologetic look.
“I fear Pippin may never forgive me,” he said, “but they were destined for your cake else.” He bowed over her hand again. “Please excuse me.”
Pearl assured herself that she was only the slightest bit disappointed that Frodo showed no particular interest in her. After all, there were plenty of other young gentlehobbits in the Shire, and if none of them were quite as handsome as Frodo Baggins, none of them were quite as peculiar either.
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.