“Aunt, are you well?” Hyacinth asked as she leaned over Lobelia’s bed.
Lobelia lay quietly under her coverlet, one of the few things she’d accepted that had been sent to her from Bag End. Lotho had, after all, had that made for her before they moved into the grand smial, a gift to mark their arrival at the top of Hobbiton society, or so they’d believed. She turned her head slightly to look at the younger Hobbitess, noted the caring reflected in her face, the true concern in her eyes. “For the moment,” she was able to rasp out. Talking had become difficult. “Sit down.”
Hyacinth Bracegirdle did as ordered, taking Lobelia’s wizened hand in her own. “Would you like some broth, Aunt?”
The old Hobbitess shook her head slightly, all she could manage. “No. Won’t be long.” She fumbled her left hand under the covers where she kept two letters by her, brought them out, held them to her younger cousin. “Read--please.”
Hyacinth took them as she’d done daily since Lobelia had taken to her bed. She unfolded the first and began to read, the letter Frodo had written Lobelia expressing his own grief at Lotho’s death. Then she began reading the second one:
My dearest Cousin Lobelia,
I have been overwhelmed since Bartolo pressed the deed for Bag End back into my hands. I cannot begin to tell you how much this means to me, for I cannot easily return to the borders of the Shire again, and indeed have been warned against doing so for very long at a time. Bag End has been the one place where I have been truly happy since the deaths of my parents so long ago, where I knew finally the joy of belonging, where I knew Bilbo’s unconditional love, where I have known acceptance and pleasure and laughter.
I have not been fully well since my return, and it rankles to be dependent on others, although it appears that this is as it will continue for me. To know I might return to what I still think of as my own home, to hear Sam again puttering in the gardens I know he loves so well but that I never thought myself able to give to his keeping and care once more, to hear the children playing on the Row, to hear the Gaffer’s constant stream of advice and aphorisms, to hear in the distance the soft movement of the Water and the wind in the grass of the Party Field, to smell the flowers blooming outside my windows--it is an easing to me.
I don’t know how long I have left--but hope that before I must leave I might finish much of what I’ve begun, to see the Shire restored indeed, to see the last of the fear and resentment leave our folk. I hope to finish with all the documents that had filled the Mayor’s office. I hope to see all those who serve the laws of our land rededicated to seeing the law used not to take from others but to fulfill all. I hope to see the trees Sam has planted and will continue to plant take root and begin to spring up in place of those cut down on Sharkey’s orders. I hope to see the gardens begin to bloom. I hope to see the delight in learning I see in the eyes of those such as my young cousin Pando and in Dorno and Cando and Dianthus Sandheaver and my younger Brandybuck and Took cousins enriched. I hope to see those who were dispossessed willing and able to share the bounty they know with others. I hope to see at least the first of my Sam’s children born to him and his Rosie. I hope to see Pippin and Merry freed from their reticence and able to speak more freely of what has happened to all of us. And I hope to see you again, glad of your decisions.
I’m sorry I cannot come to visit you now, for I find I cannot travel throughout the Shire as I once did. Know that I give thanks for the loss of the great barriers that once divided us. The great journey I had to make outside the walls of this place was well worth it, to know the end of that.
May the Valar keep you, and the stars continue to shine upon you.
With my love always,
Your cousin, Frodo Baggins
Lobelia smiled as she finished reading the second letter. “Read it again,” she requested, and Hyacinth complied. As she finished it, she noted that Lobelia’s eyes had shut, and she was still smiling softly, even gently, in her sleep. Then she realized that this was more than sleep which had claimed the older Hobbitess.
“Oh, Aunt,” Hyacinth said softly, caressing the cooling hand. “Oh, Aunt, at last it’s over. Rest well.”
Bartolo read the will to those gathered, including Peregrin Took as representative of the Thain and Benlo Bracegirdle as head of the Bracegirdle family and Roto Sackville as head of the Sackvilles. Benlo seemed pleased enough with what he heard, while Roto just seemed relieved. Other than a relatively small bequest to Hyacinth, Lobelia had left the bulk of her estate to the deputy Mayor to provide for reparations for those who’d lost so much during the time of troubles. When he was done with the reading Bartolo closed the will with obvious frustration on his own part, and gave it into Benlo’s hands. “Well,” Bartolo said, “I’ll be providing you with those of her deeds I have access to, but it will be your look out to get the rest of hers and Lotho’s properties sorted out. I hereby wash my hands of the rest.”
Benlo looked at his younger cousin with interest. “Well, you might not have made out too well with the way she rewrote her will,” he said, “but in the end you did far better than you might of done. If you’d been closer to Timono, there’s a good chance you’d be in Michel Delving this moment. Be glad, cousin, you were honest, for I doubt Timono’s going to come out of this well at all.”
Bartolo shrugged and looked away. “Maybe you’re right,” he said grudgingly. “But I’d still have liked to have Bag End myself.”
“At least you’re honest about it. But I suspect in the end you’d have found as little comfort there as did Lotho and Lobelia. It’s back in the hands of the one who’ll see it best cared for and who will see it shared as is proper.” Benlo sighed. “Now I get to go through all those deeds myself. Not looking forward to that.”
Bartolo gave a wry smile. “I don’t envy you, Benlo.”