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The Ties of Family
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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10
Fostering

Fostering

Daisy Boffin clung to her husband Griffo in sheer shock. “You can’t mean it! I can’t have a younger brother and sister--I can’t!”

Frodo sat on a settle with his arms around his updrawn knees, his head resting on them. Gander Proudfoot and Lyria Bottomly stood looking at her with a mixture of compassion and embarrassment. Brendilac Brandybuck had an expression of sheer wonder. Oridon and Ordo Goodbody both looked affronted for about everyone involved--affronted Daisy should have remained ignorant of the presence of the twins until today, affronted Gander and Lyria hadn’t told her, affronted that Frodo would have had to be the one to do this, affronted that they and Brendilac would have to be there in such circumstances.

It was three days after the Free Fair where Frodo Baggins had given the office of Mayor back to Will Whitfoot. Frodo had managed to find these other five before he’d left the fairgrounds that day and insist they meet here at the smial of Griffo and Daisy today; it appeared that the worst had indeed happened--neither Dudo nor Emerald had bothered to let Dudo’s daughter know about the birth of the twins. Until the other day when he was speaking with Fosco and Forsythia, he’d simply taken it for granted that Daisy had known, but that she’d been treated as he had, just as Emerald had discouraged him from visiting them while Emro and Lilac Gravelly had refused his gifts. He felt tired and in some pain, for his neck was still draining, and he was still grieving for the twins’ own isolation from their natural family.

Griffo finally spoke. “Why weren’t we told? How was this information hidden here in the Shire of all places? And how is it that Frodo knew, and we didn’t?”

Gander’s embarrassment increased. “Bilbo and Frodo have, of course, as heads of the family, insisted I let them know of significant changes in the family’s circumstances, even if I thought Dudo and Emerald ought to have told them themselves. When they asked me to marry them, then, I contacted Bilbo; when Daisy announced she and Griffo were marrying at Michel Delving I contacted Frodo; when the twins were born I contacted Frodo; when Dudo died I contacted both you, Daisy, and Frodo. I’m surprised you didn’t see the twins when you went to the funeral. When Emerald died, I contacted both of you again, and I was surprised you didn’t insist on seeing them, Daisy; I had no idea you didn’t know about them.”

Daisy shook her head. “I saw several bairns at Dad’s funeral, but Emerald wasn’t holding any of them; afterwards she just left with Lilac Gravelly and Alyssum Tunnely, so I assumed the bairns they were holding were theirs. How was I to know they were hers and Dad’s? And at Emerald’s funeral there weren’t any children.”

Frodo said, his voice somewhat muffled as his face was still to his legs, “I think Lilac was seeking to discourage us from taking them from her, me as family head for the Bagginses and you as their grown sister, so she apparently insisted they stay at her house. She and Emro couldn’t have children of their own, after all. I contacted Gander, and he told me that Lilac and Emro had been caring for them and wished to foster them and were good with them, so I didn’t insist on anything further.” He sighed and raised his face. “I ought to have insisted on seeing the two wills then, but I didn’t.” He reached out to the mug of water he’d accepted earlier and sipped from it, set it down carefully. “We were all remiss, it appears.”

Lyria gave herself a shake. “Emerald said she’d contact you, Daisy, when the twins were born. I don’t know why she didn’t. I know that your father was very shocked to learn that, as old as they were, he and Emerald were suddenly expecting; it was more of a shock when the babes came early and it turned out they were twins.

“He’d had a bad patch there at the end of the winter, when he caught that case of ague that just kept lingering. He wasn’t quite well when the twins were born, you know. Then so shortly after he died so suddenly during the night.

“The birth was easy enough for Emerald, as small as the two of them were, but she had difficulty feeding them, as she didn’t have enough milk. Alyssum was wet nursing the two of them, so she and Lilac were both over there frequently, helping Emerald. She was, after all, quite elderly to give birth, much less try to feed twins. It took a good deal out of her.”

“The question now,” Frodo said quietly, “is what do we do to provide for their future? They are Bagginses, after all, for all that they’ve been raised in Westhall as Gravellies. I started visiting them secretly when they were eight, a couple years after Emerald’s death. Emro and Lilac brought them to the Free Fair, and Aunt Eglantine recognized the Gravellies and asked how they’d come by children, as she knew Lilac had none of her own. Lilac, after all, was a Banks before her marriage.” All nodded. “Then Aunt Esmeralda noted the resemblance between the lad and me when I was small. That made me realize that I needed to check out the situation, find out whether or not the children were well cared for. In my visits I saw they obviously were well dressed and fed, and comfortable with their mum and da. They knew about their own parents, knew there were relatives, but had been told, apparently by Lilac, that we didn’t care about them. They’d been told that the family head was Bilbo, but that he was crazy and that he’d left the Shire; they weren’t aware I was now family head and that none of us received any news of them from their foster parents. They thought that we were all ignoring them. They were not aware of your existence, Daisy--I learned that just the other day when I spoke to them at the Free Fair.”

He sipped again from his mug. “I must tell you that, with my current--situation, I can’t take them, not at this time, although I’d definitely planned to do so, once I got back. I’ll do anything to make certain they have a good home and a proper education. Both are very intelligent, and learned to read from Emerald before her death. They’ve been thrilled with the books I’ve given over the years, but they’ve had to hide them from Lilac, for she has discouraged them from reading. They are also both very caring individuals, and have survived the attentions of a Bracegirdle--Bedro Bracegirdle, who stalked them for years--a situation apparently Emro and Lilac weren’t aware of, or at least not the full extent of the harassment he gave them. And both are excellent dancers--I taught them before I left the Shire.”

“Why can’t you take them now?” asked Daisy.

Frodo turned his shadowed eyes to hers. “I haven’t a great deal of endurance, Cousin, not since I woke in Ithilien.” None of the rest truly understood what he meant by that, but it was plain just looking at him that he was not as he’d been before his disappearance. “If it weren’t for Sam and Rosie, I doubt I’d have been able to be here today,” he added.

As the discussion continued, he again pillowed his head on his knees, and at one point Daisy addressed a question to him, and they realized he’d fallen asleep. All paused as they contemplated him.

“No,” Griffo said softly, “he couldn’t take them, not now.” He looked at the rest. “Do any of you know what happened to him--out there?”

All shook their heads. Brendilac sighed. “He was badly hurt, I know that. Merry will talk about the King and meeting him and what the Golden Wood is like and what Rivendell is like and the nature of the Elves they met, and he is quite eloquent in describing Minas Tirith and Edoras, Gondor and Rohan and their people. But although he will speak of Ents and admits he met some orcs, he can’t bring himself to describe exactly what they went through. He has a very nasty scar on his forehead, and the same is true of Sam Gamgee; and Frodo, Merry, and Pippin all have signs of scars on their wrists and ankles indicating all three of them were tightly bound for a time. Then there’s Frodo’s finger....”

“What about his finger?” asked Daisy.

“Something happened to his hand--he lost the ring finger on his right hand. None of them will speak about it. The Thain won’t believe what Pippin has tried to tell him, so Pippin and Merry have finally moved into the Crickhollow house that Frodo had bought from the Master. Frodo gave them the house to live in, and now he’s returned title to the Brandybucks on condition those two are allowed to stay there as long as they need it.”

“But,” Gander asked, “why would they ‘need’ it?”

Brendilac shrugged. “All four of them have returned markedly changed.”

Daisy rose to approach her cousin, and realized he had a bandage beneath his collar. “It looks as if he has quite a boil on his neck or something,” she commented, and she retreated back to the sofa where she and Griffo had been sitting together.

It was finally decided she and Griffo would go to Westhall and check out the smial and see the twins. Griffo was shaking his head. “I must say this has been quite the day for surprises, what with seeing up close how--tired he has become, learning Daisy has a sister and brother she wasn’t even aware of, and learning they were twins. Who would have believed such a thing--twins among Hobbits?”

Brendilac shrugged. “There are records of such in Brandy Hall, but not for generations.” He rose and gently set his hand on Frodo’s left shoulder. “Frodo? Can you wake up now?”

Frodo woke suddenly, startled awake and for an instant looked fearful, then relieved. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t sleep well last night.” He stretched, and several of them could see that what Brendilac had said about the missing finger was true, although he didn’t appear aware of their interest, for he was looking down and had reached up to rub at the back of his neck.

“What’s wrong with your neck, Frodo?” Daisy asked.

He shrugged. “Started draining the other day is all. Nothing to be concerned about,” he said. Lyria and Daisy exchanged raised eyebrows. He looked at Daisy.

“Griffo and I will see them at least, and talk to the Gravellies,” she told him.

“Good,” he said. “I must get home.” He finished his water, rose and went to the door, accompanied by his cousin. He put on the cloak he’d worn, although it was a warm day, took the water skin that hung with his cloak, and after giving her a quick peck on the cheek he headed off toward the square, then Bag End. She looked after him, concerned.

*******

Daisy and Griffo’s interview with the Gravellies didn’t go particularly well, and they didn’t see the children. “Maybe we ought not to have warned we were coming,” Daisy said as they left. “I wonder if they sent them elsewhere to keep us from talking to them?”

Griffo shook his head in disgust. “That they’d tell them that their relatives didn’t care about them when the truth was they hadn’t told us is unpardonable.”

“They might believe it is true. What if Emerald wrote me a letter, but didn’t mail it when she was distracted by Dad’s illness? She’d very likely feel hurt I didn’t care enough to come see them before Dad died, and might have told the Gravellies that I was apparently angry about the children being born. After all, Frodo knew about them only because Gander told him.”

“You heard what Frodo said--they weren’t even aware they had a sister.” Griffo shook his head. “Someone in the village ought to have told them about you--you lived here for years, after all.”

At the inn they met with Oridon and Ordo, and Ordo quickly went out to search out the twins. He found them at Alyssum Tunnely’s house, and hurried back to the inn to apprise their sister. Daisy and Griffo headed that way, and found the two teens sitting on the wall out front. They raised their heads at the approach of the strangers, and Daisy got her third surprise concerning them--that the lad was almost blind. She stopped dead, and closed her eyes. “Oh, sweet Valar,” she murmured.

Griffo was shocked, for he’d never heard his wife make such an oath before. He looked at her with concern, then back at the two teens.

“She looks like Cousin Iorhael,” the lass was saying.

“Iorhael?” Griffo said, feeling decidedly odd.

“Our cousin Frodo--he said his name in Elvish was Iorhael,” the lad said.

“Yes, he’d know what his name was in Elvish,” Daisy said. “Bilbo would have been certain to tell him that.”

“Are you one of our Baggins cousins, then?” asked the lad.

“I’m your sister, Daisy. I just learned the other day you existed.”

“Did Mum and Da know you were coming today?” asked the lass.

“Yes.”

The lass’s face became angry, and decidedly like Frodo’s when he was beginning to assume the Look. “I knew there was some reason she didn’t want us home today. Aren’t you glad we didn’t go to the hideout?” she said to her brother.

“I don’t know how much more we ought to put up with,” the lad said. “I know Mum and Da love us and all, but they ought not to have left us ignorant of our relatives. Iorhael was right about that.”

“He didn’t tell us that--that you....”

“That I can’t see well?” asked the lad.

“Yes, that.”

“He isn’t well,” the lad said. “It probably slipped his mind.”

“How do you know he’s ill?” asked Daisy.

“He admitted it at the Free Fair when we found him, and the Elves said the same,” the lass replied.

“You spoke to the Elves?”

“Yes, when they were done singing about him and how he lost his finger.”

“How did he lose his finger?”

“Getting rid of the bad thing is about all we understood.”

“What bad thing?”

The twins shrugged simultaneously, which was rather disconcerting to watch. The lad said, “He told us before he left that he had received something bad, and that he had to get it away, out of the Shire, to protect us. He didn’t tell us what it was, though. But the words of the song the Elves sang, they were about Frodo of the Nine Fingers, and they said it was like Beren coming to be called Beren One-Hand, although we aren’t certain what that means.”

Daisy paled. “But Beren was called Beren One-Hand only after he wrested the last Silmaril from Morgoth’s iron crown, and holding it burned his hand away. What could Frodo have had that would cause the Elves to sing about him, or would cost him his finger?”

“The untrustworthy guide did something to him, after the bad thing took him over,” the lass said.

“What untrustworthy guide?” asked Griffo.

“They had an untrustworthy guide, Iorhael and his friend. He did something very bad to Frodo, but it still saved him from the bad thing, which was worse.”

“How do you know all this?” asked Daisy. “Did Frodo teach you Elvish?”

“No--he’s taught us a few words, but that’s all,” the lad answered. “But as the song was sung we could understand a great deal of it. It was like we could see it, see Iorhael and Perhail crawling up the mountain.”

“Who’s Perhail?”

“That’s the Elvish name. We think it’s his friend Sam.”

Daisy and Griffo looked at one another, neither fully understanding what the twins told them. At last Daisy said, “Then you’ve seen Frodo several times over the years?”

“Yes, since we were eight. He told us then to call him Iorhael, so if Mum found out about us meeting a stranger she wouldn’t know it was him. We didn’t find out his name in Westron is Frodo until the last Free Fair before he left, when we heard him telling stories and we heard folks calling him that. Then we realized he was Frodo Baggins and is our cousin.”

The lass added, “He has come to see us at least twice a year since we were eight, but although we waited after they came back, he didn’t come. We insisted we go to the Free Fair this year, for everyone was talking about how he was going to be the new Mayor--only he told us he couldn’t do it any more, that he had days when he couldn’t do much of anything.”

The lad sighed. “We told him we’d help him as we can, but he doesn’t want to let us do that--says he’s the grownup and the family head, and he ought to take care of us.”

His sister nodded. “But he’s not strong enough now.”

The lad suddenly asked, “Are we really part Brandybuck and Took?”

The two adults were taken aback by the shift in topic. Daisy said, “Well, Took, definitely. But although Frodo’s mum was a Brandybuck, our side isn’t particularly strong in the Brandybuck blood. We have more Boffins and Bolgers on this side of the family.”

“Yes, our real mum was half Boffin--Iorhael told us that.”

The gasp behind them took all by surprise. They turned to find themselves looking at Lilac Gravelly. “What are you doing, talking with my children?” she demanded.

Daisy found her Took side was suddenly quite strong as anger filled her. “I will remind you, Lilac Banks, that they are my younger sister and brother, about whom I’ve known nothing until the other day when my cousin Frodo finally told me of their existence. If I’d known of them it is likely I’d have left them with you for raising, had I been told after they came to live with you; but the fact is I have the right and responsibility to know them now that I know of them. Even Frodo had no idea that Griffo and I hadn’t been told they were born.”

“I don’t see what right Frodo Baggins has to know about them,” Lilac blustered.

Griffo bridled. “He is the head of the Baggins family and has been for the past nineteen years. It is his responsibility to know about the Bagginses of the Shire, whether you like the idea or not. He is only doing what he is supposed to be doing, keeping an eye on his family.”

“Well, these two have been raised as Gravellies.”

Daisy snorted. “Gravellies who are able to read, who are able to talk easily to Elves, who have a smial waiting for them on the other side of the village, who strongly take after both the Baggins and Took sides of the family? You want to consider them just as Gravellies, you can go on making fools of yourselves. But the fact remains that they are Bagginses.”

“And how does anyone know they can talk to Elves?” Lilac asked.

“Because we did that at the Free Fair--we talked to the Elves who sang. They’ve met Ior--Frodo before.” The lad’s tone was very matter-of-fact.

“How do you know that?” she demanded.

“We asked them,” his sister answered.

“And why would you care about him? You’d not seen him until the Free Fair two years ago.”

“We’ve known him for years,” the lass corrected her. “He first came to meet us when we were eight. He saw us two or three times a year. Now he isn’t well enough.”

Her brother added, “He’s taught us to find mushrooms and berries and to fish--and to dance. He’s a good dancer.”

Daisy nodded. “He is the best dancer in the Shire--or he was.” She looked at Lilac. “Frodo Baggins is also the most responsible Hobbit in the Shire, and cares about those who have been placed under his protection. It is why the Shire has recovered so swiftly from the Time of Troubles, and why we wanted him for Mayor for a proper term. But he had decided not to accept it, and apparently he is ill.

“I do know this about my cousin--he cares deeply, but won’t take on what he knows he can’t do or finish. I think this is why he wouldn’t agree to run for Mayor--he isn’t well enough to do a good job now.”

“That’s what he told us, that he could barely make it through some days,” the lad said.

“He cares a great deal about the two of you and sees you as very intelligent and deserving of a proper education.” She again looked at Lilac. “The choice is now yours--to allow your children to grow and accept their part as Bagginses as well as the children you have raised, or face losing them completely, for they are Bagginses no matter how strongly you wish them to be Gravelly through and through.” She straightened. “I’ll be speaking with Will this next week. Frodo can, apparently, make it to Michel Delving. We’ll set up a meeting to plan for their education and training, and a proper introduction to society. They don’t have to leave here for most of it, although they should do some traveling through the Shire to learn what the Shire is like.

“There’s one more thing of which you need to think--Griffo and I have no children of our own; so unless we do what my parents and Emerald’s parents did and find ourselves with children at the closing of our lives, we will most likely see these two as our heirs. Do you understand?”

Lilac looked at Daisy, her mouth open and her face white. Assured that Lilac had a great deal to think of, Daisy nodded. “I’ll be leaving now. However, I will have you know I intend to know my brother and sister. You’d best get used to the idea.” She turned to the two of them. “Your names again?”

“I’m Fosco--”

“--And I’m Forsythia.”

“As I told you, I’m your sister Daisy.”

The three hugged. She smiled. “I’ll see the two of you again quite soon.”

Griffo smiled. “And I’m Griffo. We’ll see you soon.” He also hugged them both, rose and nodded to Lilac. “Mistress Gravelly, it’s a pleasure to meet you, and I look forward to knowing you better.” Lilac blanched at the tone of his words.

That night Forsythia did a search of the house while her mother was gone to Gander’s house with Emro. At last she found, in a box at the back of the wardrobe, what she was seeking, letters addressed to Hobbiton. She took them to Fosco’s room and read them to him. When Emro and Lilac returned, the two teens were waiting in the parlor for them, both faces set with what Daisy would have recognized as the Look.

“You took the letters our mum wrote to Frodo and Daisy and never sent them.” Fosco’s voice was full of anger. “No wonder they didn’t know about us!”

“But they wouldn’t have come....”

“Daisy would have come. Iorhael would have come!”

“Who is Iorhael?”

“It’s Frodo’s name in Elvish. That’s what the Elves were singing at the Free Fair, about him--about Frodo Baggins, except they called him by his name in Elvish. He did come, came for us, to make certain we were happy, to make certain we were well. He came two or three times every year for eight years. Do you understand? He cared for us, and still cares for us. He’s never tried to take us away from you, just tried to add what we needed because we are Bagginses and have a lot of Took blood, like he does.”

Forsythia said, “You made everyone here think that our own sister was jealous of us, because you didn’t send our mum’s letters to her. You tried to make us think our other cousins didn’t care, but the truth is that you hid us, kept hiding us. Did you really think we would stop loving you because we could love them? Or that their love would make us not need or want yours? We knew Frodo cared for us and loved us, but that didn’t stop us loving you and Da. But finding these letters certainly shakes our love for you. You tried to make us live a lie for years. I’m ashamed of you.”

*******

When the note came about the meeting in Michel Delving, Fosco accepted it, read it, then read it to the family as they sat at the luncheon table. The meeting was set for the following Starsday. He then started out of the room after setting the letter before his sister.

“Where are you going, Fosco?” Emro demanded.

He turned slowly. “I’m going to decide what I’ll be wearing to that meeting. Forsythia and I are going with you.”

“Nonsense----”

Forsythia, having finished reading the note over herself, folded it and set it in front of her da as she, too, started for her room. “Oh, you can believe we are going. Try to make us stay home and see where it gets you. And they already know we plan to come--we sent a note yesterday.”

Lilac was fit to be tied, and Emro stared after the children with wonder. Finally he looked at his wife and shook his head. “Now and then it is so very obvious they are not Gravelly. I wonder if those folk down in Michel Delving will be able to keep them under control?”

She sighed. “I don’t know. I feel that I’ve lost them, Emro.”

He gave her an evaluative look. “If you hadn’t kept the letters Emerald meant for you to send, then this wouldn’t be as bad as it is.”

She dropped her eyes. “I only wanted bairns to love as my own, Emro, you know that.”

He put his hand on her shoulder. “They’ll understand some day.”

“I hope so,” she said quietly, then rose to clear the table.

*******

Will looked with interest at the two teens that accompanied Emro and Lilac Gravelly into his office as he indicated the four ought to take seats around a table. These, then, were the now infamous twins who were the children of Dudo and Emerald Baggins? Certainly the lad favored Frodo heavily, while there was no question the lass had both Baggins and Took blood.

Frodo arrived next, and entered the office quietly, pausing just inside the door as if examining what few changes might have been wrought here since he last entered as deputy Mayor just a scant couple weeks previously. His face was quiet, although it lit up with pleasure as he and the twins exchanged looks. He crossed the room and sat himself at the table.

“Hello, Iorhael,” the lad said, his tone gentle.

“Hello, Fosco, Forsythia,” he said. Then he looked at Emro and Lilac and inclined his head. “Mr. and Mistress Gravelly.”

Griffo and Daisy Boffin arrived next, followed by Gander Proudfoot, Oridon Goodbody, Brendilac Brandybuck, Everard Took, and Lyria Bottomly. All apparently gathered, they looked at one another.

The discussion was long, but surprisingly amicable. The wills of Emerald and Dudo Baggins were produced, Dudo’s from the archives here and Emerald’s by Frodo, while a copy of Emerald’s obviously made by Frodo along with copies of the inventory made when Emerald died were brought out by Gander. Also brought out were the birth certificates of the twins and the death certificates of their parents. One of the clerks who had worked under Frodo came in and set a large mug in front of him, received his thanks, smiled, and withdrew; later trays of tea were brought in with plates of biscuits and small cakes.

Frodo drank the water he’d been brought, refilled the mug from his own waterskin, and sipped from it as the talks went forward. He gradually relaxed increasingly into his chair, saying relatively little but watching to make certain the others remained on topic. The twins would be granted each one of the copies of the keys made for their parents’ smial, and a teacher would be sent to them four days a week from Tookland to teach them Shire history, the genealogy of their families--including the genealogy of the Gravelly and Banks clans, figuring, Sindarin, writing, herblore, the histories of Gondor and Arnor, and farming. They would be allowed to spend at least a week a month with their sister and her husband. They would spend one month of the summer visiting the rest of the Shire, learning about its layout and its people, and would be accompanied by a member of the Boffin family. They would be allowed to attend parties at the Great Smial. They would be included in any parties that left the Shire on the King’s business within Arnor. They would be allowed to inherit Emro’s and Lilac’s as well as their real parents’ interests in the farm. When they were twenty-five they would be allowed to take part in a group discussion regarding the final disposal of their parents’ smial and personal property. When and if Forsythia chose to marry, a suitable dowry would be provided her from her real parents’ assets, to which her foster parents might add if they so desired. They were to remain with their foster family and respect them and the family ties they had forged through them. But no longer would they be allowed to remain in ignorance of their Baggins, Boffin, and Took heritage.

When the meeting finally drew to a close, with the promise that between them Brendilac Brandybuck and Everard Took would write up a binding contract formalizing the final decisions made this day, at last Lilac Gravelly cleared her throat. She looked at the twins, who were looking at her expectantly, and then, looking down at the table top, she said, “A great deal of the reason we are here today is due to my actions years ago. Alyssum Tunnely and I were a great deal by Emerald’s side after she realized she was expecting, once the bairns were born, and after their father died. I’d learned by then that I wasn’t likely to ever have bairns of my own due to an illness I had when I was a tween. I was pretty desperate to have children of my own.

“Emerald was getting on in years when she found she was expecting, and she feared she might not survive the birth. Her concern for Dudo’s health once he contracted the ague that year was pretty strong, for he didn’t truly recover from it, and this added to her concern for the bairn. When her time came early she was frightened. Both were mightily surprised when they realized there were twins, and all were worried for their small size. But they were stubborn bairns, and they survived, although we realized when they were still small that Fosco’s eyes were weak, and he could only see things that were right before him, little that was very far away.

“She wrote a number of letters to Hobbiton that year, and I’d always take them for her, promising to send them for her, only I didn’t. I knew she wasn’t likely to long survive Dudo, and I saw this as a chance to become a second mum to the bairns. I didn’t send those letters, fearful that if--if the Bagginses and Daisy knew there were bairns they’d insist on taking them and raising them in Hobbiton.” She drew from a woven bag she carried two bundles of letters and laid them on the table. “Here they are. She thought you were angry and jealous for the birth of these children, Daisy, and so she was bad hurt and became resentful toward you--and I--I encouraged her. I tried to make her think Mr. Baggins didn’t care, also; but his gifts arrived and kept arriving, so she realized he didn’t resent things and was soothed.

“Her last year she sickened, and again I’d take the letters she wrote and didn’t send them, and she thought Daisy didn’t want nothing to do with her and the bairns, so she wrote her will leaving the caring of the bairns to Emro and me, but they were to be allowed teaching to be provided by the Bagginses. She told us all this. When she died, I let on to Gander as she’d not written a will, and no one looked for it. Emro and me, we took the bairns and raised them as our own, and I--I told them their cousins from their parents’ side didn’t care. I didn’t realize that the Frodo Baggins that Emerald kept referring to was now family head for the Bagginses--thought it was still Mr. Bilbo, but he was gone now so I wasn’t worried he’d show up and demand to do right by the children. I didn’t accept any gifts from anyone outside the village, and let on to the folk of Westhall that the other kinfolk had been disgusted with the idea that Emerald and Dudo should have other children at their advanced ages. All were angry with you, Daisy, so that’s why no one else told you about the children.

“Forsythia found the letters a few weeks back, and we’ve had some discussions about it. She and Fosco were terribly angry and upset, and I know the knowledge of what I’d done hurt them both and shook their love for us. I hope all of you will forgive me. It was as though Dudo and Emerald were our uncle and aunt, and as if these were my own cousins, and I wanted them to be mine.”

Will reached out to the bundles of letters and read through the addresses, handed them to Frodo and Daisy, then was surprised when he realized a couple were addressed to the Thain. These he held for a time, finally gave them into Everard’s keeping. “Apparently she wished the Tooks also to realize these children had a call on them. Paladin will do right by them now, I think; and this will help him in accepting his responsibility to provide a good teacher for them.”

Emro, who’d been mostly quiet so far, finally asked, “Why are you insisting that these have ties outside the Shire? Why should they know about the histories of the outside countries or be part of parties going outside the Shire?”

Frodo sighed. “This is my part in the provisions for them,” he said. “They are almost the last of the Baggins family, for I’ll not be able to have children of my own, not--not after what I’ve been through. And, for the last two generations the Bagginses have been the ones who have forged the ties to outside, Bilbo between the Shire and the Elves and Dwarves, and me to the world of Men.

“The Shire cannot remain isolated now, no matter how many edicts Aragorn may make forbidding Men to enter here. We are part of the realm of Arnor and Gondor combined, and we need folk who are knowledgeable of the outer world to help our people deal with them. This is the least I can do--to provide an education for the remaining Bagginses so that our family will continue to serve the Hobbits of the Shire in our doings with that outer world.”

All looked to one another. No one could think of an argument to counter the statement and reasoning offered by Frodo. Finally all nodded, and Everard and Brendilac retreated to a corner of the room where they worked on the document. All others went out to the inn to eat luncheon. In the early afternoon they returned to the Council Hole where the document forged by the Brandybuck and Took lawyers was read and considered, and finally approved by all. Fosco and Forsythia were the first to sign it, followed by Frodo and then all others present. Finally Will signed it, and he indicated he’d like Everard, Brendilac, and Frodo to produce copies for all involved. It took the greater part of the afternoon to do this, and Frodo was rubbing at his shoulder a great deal as the day progressed, but finally all had copies, and after a final meal together in Will and Mina Whitfoot’s smial, they all dispersed back to their homes, although Frodo accepted the offer, one last time, to sleep in the room where he’d stayed when he served as deputy Mayor. The following morning he returned home to Bag End, his mind much at peace for the welfare of his young cousins.

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