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The Acceptable Sacrifice
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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95
95: Plans Set in Motion

95: Plans Set in Motion




Dear Uncle Paladin and Aunt Eglantine,

I am hosting Uncle Saradoc and Aunt Esmeralda--at their request--at a dinner here at Bag End on September 16th. It will probably be an early dinner, for I find now I must rest more than I once did, and they plan to arrive in the early afternoon.

I ask that you join us, for I find there are things which have not been said as yet that need to be spoken before more lives are destroyed by what I carried. I do not wish the lack of understanding between you and Pippin to continue. He has been terribly distraught, particularly after he saw one he came to care deeply for almost destroyed in a similar situation in Gondor.

You do not need to reply to this note, but I do expect you to arrive at Bag End before three in the afternoon three days from now. I wish to see all made right before it is too late.

Your loving nephew,
Frodo




The letter, in an envelope sealed with wax into which Frodo had impressed that star stickpin he wore, had just been placed in his hands by Sancho Proudfoot, who hadn’t stayed to see the Thain open it. Paladin read it again, then handed it to his wife. “It appears the King’s Friend is giving a dinner to which we are being summoned,” he said, feeling equal parts shock, insult, and, he realized, relief.

“Apparently,” Eglantine said quietly. Isumbard and Ferdibrand had left with their wives and children shortly before noon, announcing they were going to visit Folco in Overhill for a couple days. “Oh, Pal, do you think that Pippin is all right?”

“Apparently he went to Bag End first, before he headed for Buckland. I’m certain Frodo wouldn’t let him go until he was calmed down and unlikely to do himself an injury.”

“I suppose,” Lanti said slowly, “he might just have decided to remain there, for after all he did go there first. Maybe we’ll see him when we get there.”

Paladin Took had his reservations on that idea.

*******


“Give Frodo my love,” Merry said as his parents prepared to mount the ponies that would take them to Hobbiton.

“Will you stay here at the Hall while we’re gone?” his mother asked.

“I’d like to,” Merry answered, “but I think I’d best be at the Crickhollow house in case Pippin shows up again. If either Uncle Pal or Aunt Lanti starts in on him and he feels compelled to leave again, he’ll need someone to be there for him when he arrives. If only they’d just listen to him.”

“If only you’d just tell us what happened to the four of you,” his father muttered. Merry had the grace to flush. Saradoc looked at him thoughtfully. “We do need to know, son, if we all are ever to find our way through it all properly.”

“I know, Dad. It’s just that--that much of what happened was very hard, and I have a hard time talking of it. I guess I’m a lot like Frodo that way.”

“While Pippin wants to tell it, and to his parents, and they won’t listen proper,” Esme sighed. “I love my brother so, but he seems to be far more afraid of what he might learn than I can imagine.”

“It would help,” Merry commented, “if they’d both stop thinking of Pippin as being just a lad. I mean, he left off being just a child long before he swore fealty to Denethor. And he’d been doing his best to help me and the Ents and all before that. Elrond wanted to send him back to the Shire, but he refused to let Frodo go without him, for fear Frodo would--would forget how to laugh if he wasn’t there to keep reminding him how. And he was right, you know--we all so needed to keep remembering how to laugh.

“Well, you’d best be off,” he continued, “if you’re to make good time today. And tell Frodo I expect him to give me a full account as to what he’s been up to once his birthday is over. I don’t quite understand why he’s asked us to stay away until after that. Tell him I intend to be there in early October. I won’t have him go through that again on his own.”

“Go through what on his own?” his mother asked, suddenly feeling alarmed.

Merry flushed, but pulled away. “He’ll know what I mean,” he said. “Ride carefully, Mum, Dad.”

Saradoc assisted his wife into the saddle, and then at a nod to Mac, who’d be accompanying them and going on to the Ivy Bush to take rooms for them for the night after the dinner with Frodo, the two gentlehobbits swung up into their own saddles. The three then turned their steeds toward the Buckleberry Ferry. Once they were no longer to be seen Merry at last mounted Stybba and headed North toward Crickhollow.

*******


Frodo drowsed in the garden chair in his private portion of Bag End’s garden, and in his dream saw Aragorn riding through a wilderness area, his face intent. “Oh, tall brother,” he tried to tell the Man, “I don’t want you to see me as diminished as I am. There’s so little of me left. Better you just remember me as I was, you know.”

“Frodo? Are you all right?”

Frodo woke suddenly, realizing Brendi was leaning over him. The grey haze had lightened some since earlier in the day, and he blinked, hoping to dispel it further. He smiled, unaware how sweet that smile was and how it caused his cousin to respond with a twisting of his own heart. “You caught me dozing, I fear, Brendi.” He felt something nudge at his hand, and realized the cat was in his lap, purring, and now that he had awakened was intent on getting some attention. He began to scratch its chin as he asked, “And how did your meetings go with Benlo?”

“Very well, although if looks were daggers I’d have bled to death the first evening I spent in Hardbottle, going to the inn there with him. Bartolo’s nose is so firmly twisted by Benlo’s defection I suspect next time he goes out in the rain he’ll drown.”

“I just hope it doesn’t spark him into turning to follow Timono’s path,” Frodo said, looking at where his right hand caressed the cat’s ear.

“I don’t think it will. He’s deeply in love with Delphie, and she insists he not do anything that will ever cause their children to lose their respect for him. Marrying her has to have been the best move he ever made, although the Bagginses are tied more closely to the Bracegirdles than ever through it all. I still cannot understand how members of the two families seem to find one another as they’ve done. At least in this case the Baggins side is proving more influential than was true when Otho married Lobelia.”

“Otho had too much of the Sackville in him--more than the Baggins side, I think; and the Sackvilles are pretty close to the Bracegirdles, after all,” Frodo said.

“I rode a good deal of the way along the Road with Pippin.”

“When he was headed for the Great Smial?” At Brendi’s nod, Frodo sighed. “I wish it had turned out better.”

“So, another fight. Was it Paladin or Eglantine this time?”

“Uncle Pal. Did that thunderstorm hit down there in Hardbottle?”

“No, although it could be seen passing far North of the village. Why?”

“Well, storms seem to spark a lot of our nightmares. I dreamt that night again of hearing fighting below me and thinking it was Aragorn trying to rescue me. I almost always dream that during storms. Pippin dreamt of searching for Merry so they could stop me from going off on my own, and was crying out, calling for Merry. It woke up everyone, and Uncle Paladin--he yelled at him, and said he was childish and irresponsible.”

Brendi felt a surge of anger on Pippin’s behalf. “Pippin may be full of jokes and all, but when things need doing, he does them. Cousins Sara and Esme both swear he’s been a steadying influence on Merry lately, which is something they’d never thought to see. Anything needs doing, if he can do it, Peregrin Took is their Hobbit of choice any more; and Sara is truly impressed by how perceptive he is. He’s been there working alongside Merry more and more this last year, and when he is finally Thain he’ll be a fine one, I think.”

Frodo was nodding, and, Brendi noted, rubbing at his shoulder as if it were beginning to ache again. Frodo asked, “You received the will?”

“Yes, and have reviewed it. It is excellently written. Apparently having served as deputy Mayor for Will Whitfoot was an excellent apprenticeship in the law for you. Has Will suggested you serve as a lawyer for the Shire?”

Frodo gave a twisted smile. “Yes, actually.”

“Will you do it?”

Frodo’s face grew sad as he looked down at the cat lying in his lap. “No.” He looked at back at Brendi. “I wasn’t interested then, and now--” he shrugged. “--I don’t have time.”

Brendi decided to purposely misunderstand him. “Why do you say that? You’ve been doing little more than writing. Seems you have time enough.”

Frodo gave him a long look, then turned to examine the hedge. “Good,” he said gently. “Pando’s not there.”

“Pando? Sancho’s lad?”

“Yes. He likes--likes to spy on us--through the hedge.” He stretched, then encouraged the cat to leave his lap. “Come into the hole.”

Frodo led the way into the smial and on to the study, where he carefully unlocked the drawer of his desk and brought out a number of documents and folders, and a small envelope sealed with wax into which he’d pressed his stickpin, the stickpin which he wore constantly and had become his signet. “Oridon ought to be here soon enough.” He sank down into his chair, setting the papers and the envelope onto the desktop, then relocked the drawer. “We’ll be meeting in the old cold room.”

“Why there?”

Frodo gave another twisted smile. “No windows,” he said.

Brendi sighed. “That’s right--Sam admitted to me he’s listened at the windows from time to time.”

Frodo’s smile widened, although his eyes were still sad and thoughtful. After a moment of mutual quiet there was a knock at the open door as Sam looked in. “You come in, did you, Master? Would you and Mr. Brendilac like somethin’ to eat? Shall I bring you some o’ your tea?”

Frodo exchanged glances with his cousin. “Yes, I’d welcome some of the tea, Sam. And perhaps some cold meats and bread and cress, brought to the old cold room. Brendi, would you prefer tea or ale or, perhaps, a glass of wine? Oridon will prefer ale when he gets here--some of that from the keg from the Dragon, I think.”

“You’re meeting in the cold room, Master?”

“We’re doing some planning for my birthday, Sam, among other things.” Frodo’s gaze was steady, even a bit amused.

Sam’s expression indicated he was considering Frodo’s words. “If you say so, Mr. Frodo,” he finally said. “I’ll go off and fetch that to the old cold room for you then.”

“Thank you, Sam,” Frodo said gently. But as Sam disappeared down the passage toward the kitchen the indication of amusement faded, and he looked thoughtful, a bit sad, and very weary. “Bless you, Samwise Gamgee,” he whispered.

Brendi looked at him closely. “Have you ever considered taking up play-acting, Frodo?” he asked in a low voice.

“I don’t wish to tear his heart in two any more,” Frodo said, simply. “Come.” And he picked up the papers and the small envelope and led the way after Sam, through the kitchen and at last to the old cold room where for years Frodo had done his bookbinding.

There were a number of cartons, boxes, and crates about the walls, two of them near the door with their lids half on and half off. As Frodo closed the door behind them he said, “I’ve forbidden him and Rosie to come in here until after my birthday.” Together they went to the worktable, around which were ranged three chairs. Frodo walked to the other side, and setting the papers he held on it he sat heavily, again clutching at his shoulder, obviously in some pain. He closed his eyes, his head back, breathing deeply. “I am so--so very tired,” he said through clenched teeth, “of this hurting.” He let out his breath somewhat raggedly. “At least,” he said, “it won’t be that much longer.”

As the wave of pain appeared to ease at last, Frodo pushed one of the bound documents over toward Brendilac, that and the small envelope. “Please check that for me, Brendi, and tell me if it’s done properly.”

The lawyer recognized once more the deed to Bag End. He took it and noted it had been amended, most properly, granting the title to Sam and Rosie as of September twenty-first. As he watched the lawyer reviewing the document Frodo said, “I admit that--that I’ve anticipated some things--a bit. And to make certain that no one questions his right to the property--I have that.” He indicated the envelope.

“What is it?” Brendi asked, although he had a good idea as to what it contained.

“A penny of the King’s coinage. I asked him the other--the other day if he had a coin, and he gave me that. In return I gave him a carving of a Shire house Fosco gave me a few years ago, in token of Bag End. I don’t--don’t think he realized what it was all about. I want the coin given back to him on the eighth.”

“Why on the eighth?”

“Because I will truly be gone--one way or another, and he should have returned by then, and--and should be coming to terms--to terms with being the--Master of Bag End. It’s all to be done on the eighth. I’m hoping I----” He stopped and took a deep breath. “I’m hoping I can make it into Hobbiton and Michel Delving before I must go. I have business I--I want to see to personally.”

There was a rap at the door, and at a nod from Frodo, Brendi went to the door and accepted the tray Sam had prepared, then closed the door as Sam retreated back toward the front of the hole.

There was a parchment envelope lying on the tray with the food, inscribed with a most elegant script. Frodo took it, carefully opened it, and read the enclosed letter. His cheeks had gone rather pink, and his shoulders appeared to relax. “Good,” he said quietly. “Then we don’t have to--don’t have to leave until the twenty-first.”

“You will be going elsewhere for your birthday?” Brendi asked.

“Yes.”

“Who is the letter from?”

Frodo looked at the missive for some time before answering, “Lord Elrond.”

Brendi straightened, hope returning to him. “You will be going to be with Lord Elrond?”

Frodo went quite still, examining his cousin carefully. “You are to tell no one, Brendi. No one is to know until October eighth.”

“What made you decide to go to Rivendell?”

“I did not say I go to Rivendell. I will meet with him and his party on the birthday.”

“He is coming here--to the Shire?” When Frodo made no answer, he continued, “Everyone says he is the greatest healer in Middle Earth; yet you said that--that he couldn’t give you more than the--illusion of healing.”

“Maybe--maybe if his own--power hadn’t been diminished when--when the Ring was destroyed.”

“Why would his power be diminished by that?”

Frodo took a deep breath and shook his head. “The greatest power wielded amongst Elves for the past age and a half has been done through the power wrought into the Three. Sauron--Sauron tied the power of the Three, Nine, and Seven to his own Ring.”

Brendi thought. “I see,” he said quietly. “Then--then why do you go?”

“I won’t--I won’t survive past October sixth if I stay. When the memories hit--it tears at my heart, which already is--failing. I may not last that long. I will not have Sam see me flee my body with--with the horror of the memories on me. I’ve managed--managed to hide them from him so far. He is meant to live, Brendi, to live fully, and not always in--in my shadow. He followed me through horror after horror. He has found his Light. Let him live in it.”

Frodo looked away, once again rubbing at his shoulder. “I now wish--wish I’d done what you suggested--took my own advice--perhaps courted Narcissa. Now--” he turned to meet Brendi’s eyes, “--now it is indeed too late. I was so foolish.”

Brendi’s face was pale. His eyes were stricken as he searched Frodo’s face. “I’d rather not lose you, Frodo,” he said quietly.

“One way or another, Brendi, I will leave. Grave or ship.”

“But I don’t understand how, if Lord Elrond can’t help you now, leaving with the Elves could possibly help you get better.”

“They have offered to take me to those who can help me--if, of course, I survive to arrive there.” Then he was clutching the wound on his shoulder again.

“But you said they told you the--the Morgul wound can’t be healed in Middle Earth.”

“Yes, I did.” Frodo’s voice was very quiet.

Brendi searched Frodo’s face for some moments. “The letter from Lord Elrond you let me see--they’re taking Bilbo--taking him to the Undying Lands?” Frodo’s return gaze didn’t waver this time. “And you, too? How, Frodo? Why the two of you? Because--because you carried that thing?”

“You can’t tell anyone, Brendi, not until after the will is read on the eighth.”

“Do Merry and Pippin know?”

“No one knows save the Elves and me--and perhaps Aragorn. I doubt that anyone would be able to hide it from his foresight. Although Freddy and Budgie Smallfoot know that--that I didn’t expect to live past the sixth. They were planning to come and be with me, to hold my hand and try to help me keep grounded when--when the time came.”

“Why do they know that?”

“Budgie is a healer--he saw me when I collapsed in July--knows how fast I’m fading. He told Freddy before I could--before I could swear him to secrecy. They promised to help break it to Sam--afterwards.

“When will you tell them--Merry, Pippin, and Sam?”

“Merry and Pippin will know--after I leave the Shire.”

“That’s not fair, Frodo!”

“They can’t go with me, Brendi--they can’t look to follow me this time.”

“You haven’t told Sam, either?”

“Not yet--I’ll tell him--along the way.”

“You’ll tear their hearts right out of the three of them, Frodo.”

Frodo took a harsh breath. “I’ve been to see them all--for the last time. They’ve already been through too much because of me. Please--let me go knowing they saw me last--fairly happy. I’m fading so quickly now. I’d have them remember me as I was--not diminished.”

They could hear approaching voices on the other side of the door, and then it opened to admit Oridon Goodbody, Frodo’s banker of discretion, carrying Frodo’s Elven cloak. “Sam asked me to bring this to you, Frodo,” Oridon said as he approached the table where Frodo had risen. “Strange place to meet, in an old cold room.”

Slipping the cloak over his shoulders, Frodo sank back into his chair and took a mug from the tray, examined it briefly, handed it to Oridon, then a second one to Brendilac. Taking the third, the one that didn’t contain ale, he drank deeply of it, sat back for a moment with his eyes closed, then opened them and looked at the two opposite him with a purposeful air. “I’ve been advising Brendi, Oridon, that this is the last time I will meet with you. I am transferring the bulk of my estate to my adopted heir as of my birthday....”

Brendi noticed that Oridon’s face indicated he was as deeply stricken as the lawyer’s own heart.

*******


After Oridon and Brendi had both left, Frodo sank again back into the chair where he’d sat at the last beside Brendi as they finished their final conversation. One more detail completed. He was almost done with the Red Book--he expected to receive the last chapter he’d sent to Freddy tomorrow. It was the last chapter he expected to copy into the volume, and then he would pass it on to Sam.

He knew that Brendi was right about how much his actions would hurt Merry and Pippin; but how could he tell them? He knew there was no way in Middle Earth he could slip away from Sam to join the Elves at the rendezvous at the Woody End; if he tried, it was likely Sam would himself summon Merry and Pippin to hunt him down to find out what was going on. And so he had gently let Sam see hints that he was considering leaving the Shire himself, retiring from it as had Bilbo. Sam had seen that Frodo had brought his saddlebags into his room, and that things were being slowly sorted out. He couldn’t ignore the recent increase in the exchange of correspondence with Elrond--Sam certainly recognized the Elf Lord’s handwriting.

Frodo had also indicated that he refused to have Merry and Pippin told as yet. Sam had recognized that the visit at Crickhollow in July had been intended to be Frodo’s leave-taking, and that the one in August was his way of reviewing his childhood. The dinner on the sixteenth would be his farewell to Paladin and Eglantine, Saradoc and Esmeralda. He hoped he’d hold up through it. He certainly hoped that what he told them that afternoon would help the Tooks accept the truth of what their son had experienced and accomplished, and that it affirmed Pippin was now indeed one of the most responsible of Hobbits in the Shire; he hoped that what he told his former foster parents would assist them in forming the questions to get from Merry the further details they needed to know and that Merry so desperately needed to unburden himself of.

But he didn’t want all his relatives coming now, in the time he needed to finish the preparations, as he quietly made a tic by each task that needed to be completed before he left. He couldn’t afford the distraction, for he knew just how weak he now was. And he didn’t want them to see him diminished. He truly could not anticipate how he would be from day to day--or, in the past few days, from hour to hour. He was having difficulty breathing when he lay down, and had begun gathering pillows to raise him up, making it easier to breathe while he slept. A couple nights in the last two weeks he’d actually slept in his chair with his feet on an ottoman and two pillows.

And how much of your reluctance to tell them is due to your fear of saying goodbye, Frodo?

Frodo knew this was true of him. He’d not truly said goodbye to anyone since the night his parents died. Was it superstition that if he repeated the words the same thing would happen--that he would never see them again? Yet--yet once I go aboard the ship that’s what will happen--I’ll not see any of them again, save possibly Sam, some distant time in the future when he’s free to follow after me--if he comes.

You can be certain that will happen, Iorhael. He will not wish to be alone or allow you to be alone when the proper time comes for the two of you to leave the bounds of Arda at the last.

I don’t know if I’ll survive to make it to Tol Eressëa.

That will be your choice. You are correct that once you go aboard the ship you will not see the others save for Sam while you remain within Arda. Is there any reason not to bid them farewell?

Save,
he thought wryly, for the fact I’m desperately out of practice.

Be honest with yourself, child--whose heart is it you seek most to spare being torn in two at this point--theirs or your own?

*You aren’t worthy of their caring.*


This time Frodo found himself shaking his head. “We don’t love one another based on worthiness,” he said softly to himself. “Hearts aren’t ruled by reason.”

He felt as if a warm hand had just been placed on his shoulder.

*******


“I can’t believe Uncle Paladin said such a thing!” Merry growled.

“Well, you’d best do so anyway. I was sitting right there on my bed when he said it, after all.” Pippin straightened in the chair where Merry had found him sleeping once he reentered the Crickhollow house, still wrapped in his cloak from Lothlorien, Troll’s Bane lying on the floor to the left, his saddlebags and pack spilled across the floor in front of him. Pippin shook his head at the memory, his face again stricken at the thought of it.

“Well, my Dad will have a thing or two to say when he hears of it--not to mention Mum. She said before they left that Pal’s unwillingness to believe is pretty hard for her to accept. After all, she wants to understand what we went through, for the sake of all of us. What did Frodo say?”

“That he’ll sort out the Thain. I have a feeling that Frodo’s being strongly tempted to unleash the Look; and my dad will find it pretty hard to stomach having the Old Took’s Look administered to him by a Baggins.”

Merry laughed. “I’d love to see that. Bilbo and Frodo were equally good at it, you know.” Then he sobered. “Did Frodo explain why he doesn’t want us there for his birthday?”

Pippin shook his head. “Would only repeat what he told us in the letter--that he won’t be home then and will be celebrating it with family he’s not seen for a time. I wonder if it’s the twins.”

Merry looked at him, surprised. “Twins? What twins?”

“You hadn’t heard? He has cousins that are twins that he’s kept hidden for years. Bard was telling about a meeting Frodo had about them in Michel Delving last year just after the Free Fair. Bard and Brendi were both there....”

Merry pulled himself up straight, amazed. “Brendilac was there?” he asked, his voice reflecting his shock. “He’s not said a word about it here!”

“He probably can’t--lawyers often are bound not to tell things by a vow of secrecy, and I’ll bet Frodo’s made him take it.”

“You’re probably right,” Merry agreed reluctantly. “I had no idea Frodo had cousins who are twins.”

“Nor did I. I’ll bet not even Sam knows,” Pippin said.

“He can’t keep anything from Sam,” Merry insisted.

“I’m not so certain,” Pippin said. “I bet there’s loads not even Sam knows--not for certain.”

“Well, when we go there after the birthday I intend to ask Sam about them.”

“When are we going after the birthday?”

Merry’s face was determined. “We’re going to be there this year for the anniversary, Pippin. We’re not letting him go through that again alone. You saw him afterwards last year, and how much distress he was in at the Ford and as we passed Amon Sul. We even mention Weathertop to him and he visibly winces. And he’s worse than me if anyone mentions wraiths or Black Riders or Nazgul.” He rubbed absently at his right wrist.

Pippin gave a sigh as he nodded sadly. “You’re right--we need to be there for him this time. I don’t want to see him get any weaker. At least he looked more himself while I was there. A lot of the anxiety that’s been growing in him is gone, Merry. His surprise when I turned up on the doorstep and his smile as he fixed me some of Sam’s tea was so much like he used to look when I was eleven, the winter I kept running away from the Great Smial to check on him and you.”

“He seemed much like then?”

“Just like then, the sympathy and the caring and the love.”

“But then he told you just to hurry off here, and didn’t put you to bed there?”

“Well, I told him you’d probably be waiting to see if I’d be coming back again, and so he agreed I’d best hurry to get back so you wouldn’t worry any more.”

“Bless the Hobbit,” Merry said, smiling.

*******


In Hobbiton Moro Burrows worked on the first of the two suits Frodo had commissioned for Sam. He’d finished the trousers and the shirt; Daisy was now working on the embroidery for the shirt--soft yellow sunbursts alternated with soft silver stars at Frodo’s request. It was such an odd combination, but she had to admit that it was coming out well. May was sewing the small clothes commissioned to go with the suit--she did the finest work available on the quality of linen being used.

The vest for this suit was unusual. Moro had gone out to Bree to the cloth market that used to be held at the Bridge Market just inside the Brandywine Bridge, and a trader from Annúminas had brought a large bolt of cloth in a royal blue brocade, quite heavy and rich. When he saw this cloth Frodo’s eyes had brightened. “Yes,” he’d said, “yes, precisely right for this suit. This for the vest and the inner facing for the waistcoat.”

Daisy and Moro looked at one another. Such a dark blue on a gentlehobbit? But Frodo had insisted, and certainly it looked remarkably well behind the shade of green chosen for the waistcoat. The shirt was a warm cream in color with its silver and yellow embroidery, and the trousers were black. The braces were of the same black as the trousers, embroidered with the sunbursts and stars again.

The second suit would be more traditional colors and fabrics--browns and golds with a soft gold shirt to wear under it, this time to be embroidered with vines and leaves, all of the finest linens and wools. Moro considered the garment taking shape under his hands as he pinned the panels of the vest together. This is fine enough, he thought, to be worn by the Master of Bag End himself.

*******


Timmins and Mags examined again the order Mr. Baggins had given them for the meal to be delivered to Bag End at eleven o’clock on October eighth--pheasant pasties; mushroom pie; trays of carrots and celery, broccoli and radishes; stewed pears; apple crumble; a rich beef and barley soup; string beans cooked with mushrooms and bacon; a sweet egg custard; roasted leg of lamb with the pastry made to catch the drippings; trays of boiled eggs; roasted potatoes seasoned with cheese, butter, and parsley; loaves of dark bread and pounds of butter to serve twenty-five, and a barrel each of dark and light ale.

“He’s not been here to eat since last spring,” Mags commented, “yet these is all the dishes as he’s always loved to have here. Is he getting back his appetite at the last, do you think?”

“All he’d accept while he was makin’ the order was cambric tea and toast with butter,” Timmins said, shaking his head with concern. “Although I’ll admit as he was quite enthusiastic about what in particular as he wanted brought.”

“And no question as he’s paid richly for it,” Mags added.

The two began considering which farmers they’d acquire the various foodstuffs from. They did have time to make certain they got the best from each purveyor. They wanted all the best served to Mr. Frodo and his guests, after all, fine gentlehobbit as he was, in spite of the fact he’d not eaten at the Ivy Bush in months. Mags so wished to feed him up, see him with some proper flesh on him once more.

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