Pride and Prejudice for Hobbits
4. Wedmath again
To his dismay, he found himself seated next to Eglantine Took, his hostess. She chattered away, and he wondered that she found time to fit food into her mouth between words.
“Pal and I were ever so glad you came, Frodo dear,” she said, “And my Pearl was very happy to see you.” She smiled at him significantly.
“Oh, yes, Aunt Egla, I expect she was pleased to see all her cousins again,” Frodo replied, stirring another lump of sugar into his tea. The oblivious act had worked, as far as it went, against Esmie, and he hoped it would work as well for her sister-in-law.
“Now Frodo,” Egla began, and she clucked her tongue. Frodo turned as innocent a gaze as he could muster on her and her expression softened. “Do say you will stay with us at Great Smials a while longer,” she said. “You must get so dreadfully lonely, living down under Hill by yourself like that.”
Frodo opened his mouth and shut it again. Egla’s purpose was quite clear.
“Come, I will not be gainsaid. Esmie tells me you have already been obliged to cut your visit to Buckland short by a fortnight over some business down in Hobbiton. Surely you have nothing so pressing at this time of year?”
Frodo sighed inwardly. He could not keep running from his relatives forever, or they would start to think him rude as well as queer. And at the very least, he could spend some time with Pippin, to make up for having taken Merry and Fatty on a trek through the Shire without him. “Of course, Aunt Egla, I should be delighted to,” he replied, though it was not, strictly, the truth.
Later that afternoon, as he stood on the drive waving goodbye to the Brandybucks, and Pippin, who was departing for Buckland with them, Frodo thought he detected a satisfied smirk on Eglantine Took’s face. Miss Pearl Took was much harder to read.
If only she weren’t quite so pretty, he mused, the not courting part would have been much easier. Frodo had rather remembered Pearl Took as a tongue-tied, freckle-faced, gangly sort of lass, but she had filled in a good deal in the two years since he had seen her, and her freckles had faded enough to be nothing more than a charming counterpoint to her glittering green eyes, fiery red hair, and luminously pale skin.
Frodo shook his head to clear his thoughts. “You’ve been reading too much elvish poetry again,” he told himself sternly. “There are plenty of pretty lasses in the Shire, and you’ve never troubled about them. Just be polite but distant, and by Yuletide she’ll be promised to some sturdy and respectable gentlehobbit and the matchmaking attempts will stop.”
He ignored the much quieter thought that perhaps he should settle down and get married. Even if Gandalf had never said anything so specific, he was growing more certain every year that he would one day leave the Shire on an adventure, possibly never to return. It would be simply unfair to involve a wife in such a matter, and surely the name of Baggins would lose what little respectability remained to it if he were to suddenly disappear, leaving a wife and children to wonder at his whereabouts and face up to, or hide from, the inevitable gossip.
Of course, it would make it much easier if he could speak openly of his plans to leave the Shire. Not in terms of the reputation of the name of Baggins, for that would surely suffer; but at least matchmaking mamas and their hopeful daughters would know not to waste their careful scheming on him. But that could not be done, at least not without jeopardizing the whole plan. Gandalf had, above all, stressed secrecy. And besides, if he were to announce that he were leaving, Merry and Pippin would immediately insist on coming with him, whether he told them he meant to walk straight into the mouth of a dragon or no. He had no wish to endanger the lives of his favourite cousins. No, there would be no talk of adventures until they were successfully returned from, if indeed success was to be found.
He wondered briefly what Sam thought of the whole affair. Sam had seemed curiously unconcerned by his stated intention not to court Pearl. He had expected a reaction more like, “You did ought to settle down, sir,” especially since he knew that all of Hobbiton was of the opinion that Bag End was much the worse for not having a mistress since poor old Mistress Belladonna died. Sam had no notion, of course, that Frodo meant to leave the Shire one day. He was probably just concerned that a new Mistress would disrupt the easy rhythm that life at Bag End had developed since Bilbo’s departure.
Frodo found that he had spent the entire afternoon musing on the incompatibility of wives and adventures, At dinner, he, Pearl, and Paladin were uncommunicative, but Eglantine, Pervinca, and Pimpernel did more than their part to hold up the conversation. After dinner, the ladies retired, leaving Frodo and Pal to their pipes and their brandy.
Pal said, “I’m sorry, Frodo. Egla was always rather a direct lady.” He smiled fondly at some memory of his wife.
“I’m not offended, Uncle,” said Frodo. He took a long draw on his pipe.
Pal chuckled. “No, but perhaps a touch embarrassed?” he suggested.
“Well,” said Frodo, “yes, I suppose I am.”
Pal blew a lazy smoke ring. “I’ll tell Egla she’s made her point, then, shall I?” he said.
Frodo felt his heart sinking. As long as it was nothing more than the well-meaning schemes of aunts and mothers, the matchmaking business was fairly harmless. When fathers started to get involved, he suspected, much more caution was involved. “Yes, sir,” he said, hoping he sounded less apprehensive than he felt.
Pal smiled appraisingly at him, biting the stem of his pipe. “I do hope you’ll give it some thought, Frodo,” he said. “I can think of few finer lads in the Shire for my girls.”
“Yes sir,” said Frodo again. He fidgeted with his pipe, wondering how soon he could excuse himself for his chambers without appearing completely impolite.
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.