Bamfurlong, Marish, The Shire
24 September 3018
The farmer's wife couldn't keep from smiling, a bit wistfully perhaps, as she listened to her husband recount the strange events of that afternoon to the three youngsters who sat by the wide hearth, sipping mugs of beer and listening with anxious faces to Farmer Maggot's tale.
Oh! he was relishing it now, she thought silently, but if the truth be known he would just as lief have foregone the experience - as would she. Near took the curl out of her hair, it had, seeing that great black horse lunging straight at her husband.
And it had promised to be such a pleasant evening....
The kitchen had been far too hot for a September afternoon and she had opened the door and all the windows in hopes that a cooling breeze would find its way off of the River. She sensed movement behind her and turned to see him enter, bearing a couple of baskets filled past capacity with fresh mushrooms.
"You'll be wanting some of those with your supper," he answered in response to her raised eyebrow. "We finished off the last batch at lunch." He smiled hopefully at her. It was all she could do to keep a straight face; he had just brought the last basketful to her that morning.
"You'll have your mushrooms, never fear."
He brushed a kiss on her rosy cheek as one hand strayed to caress another ample cheek.
"Go on, now!" Mock indignation vied with a girlish giggle as she shooed him away. "There'll be time enough for that later."
Later... She shuddered to think how close they had come to not having a later to look forward to. Listening to him now it might seem that he had already forgotten the fright he had given her. But he caught her eye when he reached that part of the story, and the look said, Don't you worry none. I'll always be right here for you.
She gifted him with one of her beautiful smiles, then continued her preparations for supper. She didn't need to hear the words to know what he was proposing to their guests, and a quick calculation told her there would still be plenty for all. A quiet word to their daughters was all that was needed, and in a short while the generously laden table was surrounded by fourteen hungry hobbits.
Mrs. Maggot sighed with relief, seeing that she had figured correctly; though the bowls and platters were soon emptied and every plate all but licked clean, every diner appeared replete. Even the dogs were content, cracking bones and gnawing rinds before the wide fireplace.
She refilled their guests' mugs one last time while her husband and sons went out to the stable, lantern in hand, to hitch the ponies to the wagon. She waited until the soft creak of the wheels halted outside the kitchen door before stepping out into the darkness of the yard. Instinct more than sight led her to where her husband sat, high in the driving-seat.
"Give this to Mr. Baggins, with my compliments," she instructed, handing a large covered basket up to him. His low chuckle told her that he knew its contents.
"Looks as though you'll be needing me to harvest more mushrooms, Mrs. Maggot."
"Time enough for that tomorrow." She laid her hand on his knee as she looked up at him. "I'm very proud of you, Will Maggot, looking out for these youngsters and all." She didn't add what they both knew; that black fellow had scared him too.
His work-roughened hand covered hers. The gentle touch gave a calm reassurance as they watched their guests emerge to throw their packs on board.
"I'll have your pipe filled for when you get home," she offered quietly, then stepped back into the light of the open door as Frodo, Pippin and Sam clambered into the wagon.
"You be careful of yourself, Maggot!" she called. "Don't go arguing with any foreigners, and come straight back!" No point in letting the youngsters know just how frightened this business had made her.
"I will!" Farmer Maggot's voice drifted back to her through the chill night air. Mrs. Maggot watched until the wagon disappeared into the gathering mist, the slow clop of the ponies' hooves gradually fading to silence. Only then did she enter the house, closing the door behind her.
It was going to be a long night...