As Frodo topped the rise, he stopped under the trees and surveyed the Bywater pool. The surface of the water far below glistened as tiny, wind-stirred waves caught the sun. The smell of green growing things and warm tilled earth drifting up from the fields below was intoxicating. Frodo sighed and felt utterly contented. This had to be the loveliest spot in the entire Shire! Just below the crest was a small hollow that looked as if someone had once started the building of a new hole. It didn’t look finished, but the effort had created a small flat place just below the crest upon which he stood. He looked into this shady grotto and was shocked to see the body of a girl lying on the ground below him. He started and immediately drew back, not wanting to disturb whoever it might be.
The figure didn’t move. Whoever it was was either deep in sleep or,… Frodo stopped. He hadn’t seen her face, her head was below the cliff, tucked in where Frodo had not been able to glimpse it from his vantage point. Perhaps she was not just sleeping? Perhaps there was something wrong? Perhaps she had fallen from the very crest that Frodo had just been standing upon? Frodo couldn’t just leave her there without at least making sure that nothing was amiss. While it was certainly not uncommon to find a hobbit lad taking a nap in the woods after a hard day’s labor, a lass in a similar condition was not usual in the least. He crept back to the edge of the crest. She was still there, motionless. Frodo leaned forward as far as he could from the crest, but he could still not get a clear view of her face to tell if anything was wrong. If he came around below her, he would surely disturb her slumber, if she was indeed just sleeping, and he didn’t wish to do that. Perhaps if he leaned a bit further…
Too far! The crest, which had been thinned from the digging below it, was made of nothing but light, dry soil. It could not hold the whole weight of a hobbit lad, even one so slight as Frodo. As he leaned out, the small shelf let go and before he could catch himself, Frodo and a large portion of the crest, tumbled down to the level below, to land in a heap on the very startled and quickly wakened hobbit lass. Frodo landed squarely on her and heard her gasp and cough as the air left her lungs. Dirt and fine dust followed and though Frodo quickly got off of the girl, she was obviously in distress and having difficulty regaining her breath. Frodo took her hand and clumsily patted her back – as had been done to him when he’d had the wind knocked from him. She finally seemed to catch her breath and roughly pulled her hand from his.
“Who!?…,” she said between gasps. “…what?!”
“I am sorry,” Frodo exclaimed. “Entirely my fault, of course! I was concerned that you were all right, seeing as you were lying so still. I should have called out, but didn’t want to disturb you if nothing was amiss.”
The young girl, for girl she was, Frodo now saw, was still having difficulty breathing. The dirt from the hill covered her dress and the fine mist of dust that was now settling coated her curls. She couldn’t have been much older than Frodo himself, and Frodo had the strangest notion that he had seen her before somehow, although when, and in what context, he couldn’t possibly imagine, being as he was so newly arrived at Bag End. The girl was starting to get some control of her coughing, but still held her side as if in pain. Frodo’s heart sank as he realized his little escapade had really injured her.
“Please, are you alright? I would never forgive myself if I thought I had harmed you!”
“My!” She drew a breath. “I don’t believe so,… I was more startled than anything. It isn’t every day that someone falls out of the sky on you!” Her voice was soft and cultured, and a bit justifiably indignant. It had the slight lilt of a hobbit from Buckland, not of Bywater. Frodo looked at her closely, again wondering if he knew this girl. She looked up at him and brushed dusty hair from her face to reveal a pair of bright green eyes the color of new leaves. Frodo was sure he would have remembered a lass with eyes like that. “What happened?” she asked, with an obvious effort at civility, as if she were not at all sure she would approve of the answer. Then she looked up and saw the raw dirt that was now exposed on the cliff above her. “Oh, my!” she repeated, softly. “You fell all that way? It’s a wonder you didn’t break your neck!” She looked him over closely, but after a moment seemed satisfied and picked up the basket that had been by her side. It was now half filled with dirt. She sighed and began to struggle to her feet. Frodo stood quickly to help her. It was quite apparent that she was in some pain, at least, if not greatly injured.
“You are hurt!” he exclaimed. “Please, you must come up to Bag End, let me get you something for your ease…”
The girl stood cautiously and started brushing the dirt from her clothes. She was careful of her right side, Frodo noticed, right where his knee had landed, he thought ruefully.
“No, I shouldn’t need….Bag End, did you say?” She glanced quickly at Frodo. “Are you that young Mr. Baggins, then? I had heard you’d come up to Hobbiton.” She shifted somewhat uncomfortably and passed her basket to the left hand. She held out her right in greeting. “Mae Burrows, since your name I already know. I am staying with the Brownings of Bywater.” Frodo took the proffered hand, not sure what to say. He remained concerned; she still seemed to be favoring her side.
“You are most gracious for someone who just received the full weight of a foolish hobbit on top of you. I cannot possibly see how you could not be furious with me!” Frodo was beginning to feel quite embarrassed with himself. “I really must insist you allow me to escort you. If not to Bag End, then to where ever you might find some comfort.“
Mae took a deep breath, testing, and a look of pain crossed her face. Frodo winced also. “Perhaps a sit down would be in order,” she said after a moment. “I seem to have not escaped completely unharmed, though I doubt it is more than the wind knocked out of me.”
Frodo quickly offered her his arm and the two of them walked up the hill towards the roadway. It was a little way to Bag End, Frodo had walked on an indirect path to the overlook, but he had done so briskly and was further from his new home than he had anticipated. The walk seemed to be getting harder on Mae as they went on. She wasn’t complaining, but her courtesy made Frodo feel even worse. At long last, they approached the door of Bag End. Frodo was quite relieved to help Mae into the smial.
“Bilbo!” he called. There was no immediate answer, but Frodo could hear his uncle in one of the back rooms. “We have a guest, could you help me?” He brought Mae into the dining room and cleared a chair by the fire of the quills and papers covering it. Trying to conceal her discomfort, she eased herself down into it. “Some tea.” Frodo made the comment as if deciding what to do next – it was not a question. He hurried to the kitchen.
“Hullo?” Bilbo Baggins asked from behind Mae’s chair. She turned, with great care, for such motion was still painful, and smiled at him.
“Mr. Baggins. So good to see you this morning. You see I have finally managed to get myself invited to Bag End.”
Bilbo laughed. “So you have, Miss Burrows! But not for a professional visit, I hope! Is my nephew well?”
“Quite healthy, I assure you.” Mae gave Bilbo a wry look. “And quite…solid?” She laughed softly. “We had a bit of a mishap this morning above the old sand pit. He fell out of the sky on me.”
“What?!” Bilbo was aghast. “Oh, dear! What happened? My child, you must tell me how you got into this state!” Bilbo looked to the kitchen where Frodo was just coming back with a tray laid out with tea. He was looking quite sheepish, or so Bilbo thought, and was still coated with some of the dirt that covered Mae. “My dear boy, what have you been up to this morning?”
As the tea was consumed, Bilbo pried the brief tale from them. He sat back at the table, his feet crossed in front of him and his hands contemplatively interlaced across his belly. He looked quite disapproving at first but after explanations were given and apologies provided, he sat up and shook his head smiling.
“I suppose there’s no real harm done in the end. Still, miss Mae, a young lass like you shouldn’t ought to be so unguarded even in the heart of the Shire. What if someone of less moral character than young Frodo here found you lying there? You really should be more careful.”
Mae blushed a bit and cast her eyes down. “I know, but it was such a lovely morning, and I had been up very early looking to restock my herbs. I found that spot before and as no one has ever disturbed me up there, I didn’t think twice.” She smiled warmly at Bilbo. “I’ll be sure to be far more careful from now on.”
Bilbo smiled back with the same warmth, it was clear to Frodo that he liked Mae and that they were somewhat acquainted. “Excuse me,” he began. “But I am at a bit of a loss here. It’s clear that you and miss Mae know each other, Bilbo, and she knew of me before this morning, but I have yet to be properly introduced.”
“Bless me!” Bilbo laughed. “You are right, my boy! And it’s no wonder you’ve never met miss Mae, she’s apprenticed to our midwife! We’ve had no call for her skills in this house in many years.” Bilbo winked merrily at both young hobbits. “Not while I’ve lived here at least.”
“Dore Browning also tends the sick, and mends broken bones.” Mae added. “Although, Mr. Baggins is one of the healthiest hobbits I have ever met and has never had need of her services in that area either.” She turned and looked at Frodo. Her green eyes narrowed in thought. “You know, I do believe we HAVE met before. And I might have just remembered when. You lived in Brandy Hall as a child, did you not?”
“Yes, till recently, I did.” Frodo answered.
“I thought so. I met you once long ago. You had fallen from a tree along the Brandywine and my mother, Daisy Burrows, who was the midwife in Buckland, was called to your aid. I remember she brought me in to see you when my father and I went to retrieve her. I was just a tiny child then, and so were you, but my mother brought me in to see you in your sick bed. I remember you looked so sad and miserable and you had a huge bruise on your forehead.” Mae touched her own forehead in illustration. “My mother said ‘You see here, little Mae, what comes of hobbit children being too adventurous for their own good?’ She told me to take a good look at you and to remember your fate the next time I tried to climb a very big tree.” Mae laughed. “I did remember, and have never fallen from any tree. But, it seems, you didn’t learn that lesson as well.”
Bilbo roared with laughter and Frodo felt himself blushing again, although he could not help but smile. “Well, yes,” he admitted. “I know that happened, but I have never had any memory of the event other than not being let out of doors most of that spring! If I had met you then, it is not a wonder I didn’t recall it.”
Bilbo nodded. “Yes, it was a near thing, my boy. I don’t think you could have been more than a lad of 8 years. No one knew how you got so high in that tree but it was a terrible fall. It’s a wonder you survived at all, but I’ll wager it was in no small part due to Missus Burrows’ care.”
Mae nodded and smiled again. “Yes, my mother is a wonder. She’s delivered most of the children in Buckland for the past 30 years – she’s positively legendary. I only hope that I may one day be as learned and well loved.”
Bilbo leaned forward and patted her on the shoulder. “I am sure you will, my dear. From what I’ve heard you’ve had a good start on that road. Although don’t expect we Bagginses to provide you any claims.” He puffed himself up pridefully. “We are as healthy as horses and intend to stay so.” He winked at Frodo.
“Well, I am glad to hear it!” Mae laughed. “If all I have to do is deliver babies for the rest of my days I shall be glad indeed.” She sipped the last of her tea and stood. Frodo noticed the sit down had seemed to have done her good. She stood without wincing and was breathing much more easily. He thought she still looked a bit pale, but that could have been from the dirt that still covered both of them. “Now,” she said, “That’s all settled, but I really should be on my way. I thank you for your hospitality Mr. Baggins… Mr. Baggines… I should say. Considering the circumstances of our first meeting, you’ve made it into a most pleasant morning.”
Bilbo insisted that Frodo get a cart for miss Mae. Although it was but a short walk to Bywater, and she would normally have dismissed the idea, this morning she accepted the offer graciously. She would never have admitted it, but her side still hurt and was beginning to stiffen. She wondered indeed if Frodo had broken her rib when he had fallen, but she had no wish to make him feel guilty. Even if it were a broken, there was nothing that could be done other than rest and care. There was no benefit in making both of them feel poorly about the situation. As it was, the young hobbit kept looking sideways at her to assure himself that she was, indeed, all right. It was at least better than the looks of remorse and embarrassment he had been giving her on their walk up to Bag End. She had almost wanted to laugh at his chagrin – it was most charmingly endearing. As the tiny cart reached Bywater, Mae pointed out the home she shared with the Brownings. Frodo halted the pony and hopped down to help Mae from the cart. He grasped her waist, most gentlemanly, to lift her out of the cart, but at his touch, Mae could not stifle her cry of pain. She regretted her outburst immediately when she saw the look of concern return to his face.
“I’ll be fine!” she gasped. “Please don’t trouble yourself! It is nothing that a few days rest in the fine care of Mrs. Browning won’t cure.” She stepped more gingerly from the cart, this time Frodo only offered his arm to steady her. “Your concern is quite touching, but I truly will be alright.” Mae stood beside the cart, still a little breathless but trying to look pleased. She looked up, smiling to reassure him, and for a moment was held in his searching gaze. The intensity of his expression warmed her cheeks and she found it difficult to look back at him.
“Alright,” Frodo laughed, “If you are going to insist on absolving me of all blame, I will let you, but at least when you are fit for it, could I invite you for tea again? It seems the least I can do – and it would assure me that you had survived my less than gentle treatment.”
Mae nodded, and forced herself to look him in the eye. “I would be delighted to visit you and Mr. Bilbo again! Ah ha! And now I have managed twice what Dore hasn’t been able to ever do – get myself invited to Bag End.”
“Well, don’t suggest that I fall on her! One embarrassment of that kind is quite enough for this hobbit, thank you!” He took her hand and kissed it graciously. Mae immediately felt the blush rising again but said nothing.
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.