Written for the Seven Deadly Sins challenge on HASA.
Lotho Sackville-Baggins watched the trap mad old Bilbo was driving, returning through Hobbiton, headed for the Hill and Bag End. This time as he wasn’t alone--a taller, more slender figure rode beside him, dark-headed, youthful, watchful.
Lotho recognized the young Hobbit who rode beside Cousin Bilbo--it was that Frodo who’d raised such a stir amongst the other lads last summer at the Free Fair, winning a wager that had cost the Sackville-Baggins lad his pocketknife. The rumor was that Bilbo had decided at last to exercise his right and duty as family head for the Bagginses to bring Frodo Baggins back to Hobbiton from Buckland and Brandy Hall, and was making this orphan lad his ward.
There wasn’t a great deal in the trap that Lotho could see--a small wooden chest, a large trunk, a couple cloth bags and a basket. Oh, and an open crate that was filled with books. Books! More books for Bag End--that place that seemed infested with the foul things? Why would Cousin Bilbo allow even more in? He certainly didn’t need them!
Bilbo was talking, probably spinning a tale or something--that being what the old fellow seemed to like doing most. He saw the eyes of the lad looking at the old Hobbit with disbelief, then lighting up, and as the trap passed Lotho, its passengers unaware of him watching their progress through the village, heard the clear laughter as Frodo responded to whatever outrageous thing Bilbo had just said to him, throwing back his head and closing his eyes as he chortled.
Lotho just caught the look of satisfaction and pleasure Bilbo cast sideways at the taller young lad who sat beside him on the bench, saw the pride in Bilbo’s smile and posture, saw one hand leave the reins to close over that of Frodo where it rested on the rail before him.
In that moment Lotho found himself--found himself envying the lad who rode by Bilbo, envying the pleasure and pride he saw bestowed on this interloper--this foul orphan! For all the fine clothes and expensive possessions his parents lavished on him, Lotho found himself envying the rough-clad young Hobbit who rode by Bilbo for the simple love that the old Hobbit was displaying toward him. And Lotho was shocked to realize he’d give almost anything to trade places at that moment with Frodo Baggins.
“Where’d you get the knife, Sandyman?” Lotho asked young Ted when he found the miller’s son practicing throwing said object again and again at the post that rose at one side of the walkway from the lane into Hobbiton to the mill.
“Lifted it from that Baggins lad,” Ted grunted as he retrieved it once more and then returned to the line he’d drawn himself to throw from. “He’s swimmin’ in the Water, he is, and left his clothes with a rock lyin’ on ’em to keep ’em from blowin’ away. Found this in the pocket, and three farthing pieces--and a handkerchief.” The tone of voice as he named the last object showed his deep contempt for such signs of gentility and breeding. He gave a flick of his wrist, launching the knife at the post again.
Before Ted could retrieve it, however, Lotho was reaching for the knife where it quivered, its point buried deep in the wood. It looked familiar, somehow. It took a solid tug to pull it free of the post, but at last he managed and held it in his hand. On examining it, his face darkened into rage. “He’s carried it!” he growled. “He’s carried my knife, and he’s used it!”
“What you mean--your knife?” Ted asked. “How’d he end up with sommat what was yours?”
“He took it from me--last summer at the Free Fair in Michel Delving!”
“He stole it? Him? Frodo Baggins?” Ted obviously was beginning to feel a bit of respect for the newcomer to Hobbiton.
“No--he didn’t steal it--won it from me, he did,” Lotho explained.
The admiration quickly drained out of Ted’s face. “Oh, if he won it, then....” He reached to take it from Lotho, but Lotho pulled it away. “Oh, come on, I’m the one what lifted it!”
“But it’s mine!”
“It was yours, but it’s mine now. Give it!”
Lotho closed it and stowed it in his pocket. “Go lift another. It was mine, and I want it back. He’s got no right to keep my knife, and especially not to carry it or use it!”
“So, I go to the trouble of liftin’ it, and you get to keep it, is that how it is?”
“Yes, it’s mine, I tell you!” He folded his hands into fists.
Ted stepped back, looking warily at Lotho’s hands. He’d been punched by Lotho more than once, and had not desire to repeat the experience. “Oh--all right, keep it then. But don’t go askin’ no favors o’ me, you.” He spat on the ground, turned, and hurried into the mill.
Lotho turned back toward Hobbiton, toward his parents’ hole. Each step he went the anger he’d felt toward Frodo grew. “He took my knife! He carried it in his pocket! He used it! He’s got no right!” he muttered to himself again and again as he came closer home step by deliberate step. “He took my knife! He carried it....”
By the time he reached the door he was furious. Lobelia was in the entranceway, dusting each clothes peg carefully. She turned in surprise. “Lotho, dearest? What’s wrong?”
“It’s that--that Baggins!” he spat. “I found out he’s been carrying my knife and using it, even!”
“The one he won from you last summer, cheating?” she demanded.
“Yes!” He was glad to see that his mother was as righteously angry as he himself was. “He had it in his pocket, he did!”
“But you got it back?”
“Good! Good for you, son! He has no right in Middle Earth to keep your things--not ever! You’ll show him how a Hobbit ought to behave, my big lad!”
Yes, he would show the Baggins brat just how Hobbits ought to act--and the next time Frodo Baggins was found with something that was Lotho’s by rights he’d know--he’d know the wrath of the wronged! And with that thought in mind, an ugly smile curled the lip of Lotho Sackville-Baggins.
Wherever that Baggins brat went, the lasses watched after him--anyone with eyes to see could see that happening, Lotho realized. Or rather--anyone with eyes to see save Baggins himself.
Even Lotho had to admit that Frodo Baggins was quite handsome, particularly as well dressed as old Bilbo insisted he be most of the time. No longer did Frodo wear shapeless trousers and plain braces over the simplest and most sturdy of shirts as he had on his arrival from Buckland; Bilbo insisted his clothing be well tailored and subtly if tastefully decorated, and of shades that truly suited the young Hobbit’s fair coloring and dark hair. The buttons on his neat waistcoats were of finely carved bone or shell rather than of wood; and those on his best jacket Lotho suspected were of brass.
And the lasses noticed--oh, how they noticed. The lasses noticed, and Baggins himself continued on in blithe ignorance of the spell he cast, never realizing just how the lasses he passed were seeking to capture his attention by swooning in his path or almost forcing him to look down their bodices.
And the worst of those Lotho saw looking after Frodo each day was that Daisy Gamgee. How dare Daisy seek to capture the attention of Baggins? She might be merely a gardener’s lass, but Lotho saw just how well she was now filling out the bodices of her dresses, how trim was her waist, how shapely her ankles, how delicate her feet and ears. He saw how fine the lass’s eyes were, the delicate coral of her lips that required no artificial coloring to capture the attention of a likely lad....
All that was wasted on Baggins--he was too youthful and innocent. Now, if only Daisy would look at himself. Lotho Sackville-Baggins could show her the attention she so clearly desired--he would show her that attention, in fact. No, you simple, besotted female--it’s me you ought to be paying attention to, not that foolish, blind soul. I could help awaken that fine body you’re sporting--could weave my fingers into those shining curls of yours, could kiss those lovely lips. Oh, I’d make a Hobbitess of you!
Not, of course, that there was more he wished of Daisy than that--she was, after all, merely the gardener’s lass. No, when it came time to wed he’d find a Hobbitess of his own station to take as his wife--now, she was young yet, but he could dream of the day when Pearl Took would be ready to wed. Her father might be but a farmer now in his own estimation, but he was Ferumbras’s most likely heir--certainly the Thain was insisting he spend the bulk of the winters at the Great Smial where he might learn the intricacies of Thainship from Ferumbras himself. And Pearl was herself beginning to blossom. Not as tall or lithe as Daisy Gamgee, but nearly as lush of body, and far more aware of her own ability to fascinate than was Daisy. And she, too, was focused now on that ignorant, unaware Frodo-lad!
Or he might look at Narcissa Boffin. Fortumbald had left his widow and daughter well provided for. She was as tall as Daisy, or taller; she was more spare than either Daisy or Pearl and her bust nowhere as full. But there was passion there, behind those intelligent eyes, and he’d love to awaken it--mold it to his liking.
As for Frodo Baggins--it was unlikely now he’d ever learn the full meaning of lust.
“Lotho! Are you ever going to do something today?” demanded his usually doting mother.
Do something? Why would Lotho Sackville-Baggins need to bother himself with merely doing something? He wasn’t a working-class Hobbit, after all. He shouldn’t be required to do something merely to fill the time. After all, his father had managed to invest cleverly and the family had an excellent income coming in without the need for Otho himself to dirty his hands in farming or gardening. If Otho’s son wished to spend a day or so in indolence and idleness, it certainly wasn’t to the detriment of his mother’s comfort.
Finally roused by his mother’s insistence he at least get out from underfoot if he wouldn’t help in the ordering of their home Lotho rose from the sofa where he’d been indulgently lounging with a half drawn from his father’s finest keg of beer and a bowl of delicately seasoned mushrooms and slouched out of the house, pulling his best jacket on as he sauntered down the walk.
As he passed a tobacconist’s stall in the marketplace his clever fingers lifted a bag of Old Toby and slipped it within his pocket while the Hobbit running it had his attention drawn to Griffo Boffin and his father, who were discussing the merits of various pipes on display. There! He’d always thought there ought to be some purpose to allowing Griffo to continue on as a resident of Hobbiton! As he went by the confectioner’s stall he tried to snag one of those net bags of spun sugar mints, but the substantial Hobbitess who sat behind the counter fanning her sweating face and steadily sampling her own wares was watching too closely and slapped her suddenly closed fan down on his wrist, causing him to drop it with a wordless cry of pain and startlement. He went on, but with a glare over his shoulder at her, a glare she was returning in kind before turning her eyes to the young mother and her brat approaching the stall now.
He was more successful passing the fruiterer’s stall--it wasn’t until he was well away that the farmer who ran it realized Lotho had pocketed two apples and was biting into a third, and Lotho merely ignored his cries of protest.
Eventually he found his way around the Hill and out into the field opposite it. He slouched out into it and leaned back against the great oak that grew there and allowed himself to slide into a sitting position on the ground amidst its great roots. So seated, he drew out a second apple as he watched Begonia Rumble hanging out clothing on the hedge in front of her smial while her husband spread manure over the vegetable patch; he could see Bell Gamgee sweeping her dooryard while little Marigold knelt in the dust before the neat picket gate, carefully picking off aphids from the line of nasturtiums that grew there; and Daddy Twofoot and his lad were stacking firewood.
Up the hill he could see the Gaffer on the outside of the hedge, carefully trimming it to neat perfection, that younger lad of his following behind with a basket, gathering up the branches, twigs, and leaves, while on the bench by the stoop Bilbo sat by that foul Baggins ward of his, books in the laps of both and a board with paper affixed to it in Frodo’s hand while the older Hobbit offered instruction in how to best copy whatever it was Frodo was copying now.
In the distance he could hear old Noakes whistling his dog to fetch a straying sheep back toward him, and calls from a farmer’s children to one another as they stood watch over a recently seeded field with piles of stones to hand to chase off the birds that the seeds have a chance to actually spring up and produce their own bounty.
As he watched the industrious activities of the residents of the Hill, Lotho shook his head. No, he’d rather know a bit of sloth from time to time, himself. His lip curled as he watched Frodo and his industrious copying. No, working wasn’t the way Lotho chose to spend his day.
The banquet for the heads of families and their wives and children held at the Free Fair was very much to the liking of Lotho Sackville-Baggins, and he was giving himself over fully to enjoying it all. He helped himself to his fourth serving of mashed potatoes, emptying the last from the bowl at their table before Aunt Lilac Hornblower could quite get to it for seconds, then was commandeering the gravy boat away from a Longbottom. He ignored the glares as he emptied the bowl of peas cooked with a cream sauce and pearl onions and bits of mushrooms onto his plate and as he helped himself to more buttered mushrooms from the large tureen in the center of all. There were no chicken legs left on the platter, so he watched until young Largo beside him had his head turned to answer a question put him by his aunt before slipping one off the lad’s plate and onto his own, then reached out to stab his fork into the meat carved from the roast leg of lamb just being placed on the table before them, taking the most choice slice of all for himself, ignoring his father’s own furious expression at having that prize snatched from him. There were sweet plums cooked in a sauce to try next, and a bowl of a small black fruit preserved in brine called olives it was said had been brought from far, far to the south, brought into the Shire by Bilbo Baggins, using the offices of his Dwarf friends.
As he took still another serving of spiced apples he could hear Aunt Lilac murmur disapprovingly, “Glutton!” Lotho gave her a sardonic smile. If this was gluttony, then he heartily approved of it!
As he strolled through those attending the last official picnic of the season being held in Baggins’s field west of the Hill, Lotho found himself looking about with pride. He was now the tallest of all the lads present, and he knew he was impeccably dressed. He’d brought with him his Grandda Longo’s silver-headed walking stick and thought it gave him quite a dashing air. He doubted Mr. Boffin there would recognize the carefully folded silk scarf Lotho wore over his shoulders and behind his waistcoat that Lotho had carefully lifted from the hedge where it was drying last month--he’d heard that the Hobbit’s wife had bemoaned to her neighbors that apparently a gust of wind had caught away the gift he’d had from his indulgent auntie from the Southfarthing and so it was lost. The finely folded linen handkerchief in his jacket pocket had been taken from the line on which Bell and May Gamgee hung out the wash they did for old Bilbo--it was far finer than anything Lotho’s less discerning mother would have purchased for her son’s adornment. Nor was old Ponto there likely to realize the silver shirt studs Lotho was wearing had come from his own dressing table, slipped out the open window against which said dressing table stood.
Not that his mother was likely to care if she realized the origin of several of the items her son was wearing--she herself was wearing the locket she’d slipped out of the guest room in which Esmeralda Took Brandybuck was staying at Bag End a few days earlier. Luckily the Master’s heir and his wife had left the previous day and no one else was likely to recognize it.
He walked by Daisy Baggins, visiting from the far Westfarthing, where she was standing with many other lasses and lads her own age and jauntily raised the walking stick to lay it indolently over his shoulder. She and several others glanced his way, he thought with admiration; but then he heard Angelica Baggins whisper to Rico Clayhanger, “Do you think as he realizes he has a great pimple on his cheek?”
It was Yule, and Lotho couldn’t wait until it came time to open the heap of presents that lay strewn so artfully over the table in the first parlor. His mother had been throwing tantalizing hints at what might be hidden in those packages for well over a week, although his father had sniffed with distaste. “You’ve gone beyond decency this year, Lobelia,” Otho had said with disapproval. “It’s not good for any young Hobbit to receive so much!”
Lobelia had waved her hand dismissively, raising her nose pointedly. “Tosh, Otho. He’s our lad and deserves all he’s given and more.”
“Nonsense! He’s become far too spoiled, wife, and is losing all sense of proportion!”
“That’s the Baggins in you speaking, Otho,” Lobelia had growled.
If that was what Bagginses were expected to be like, Lotho was glad to think he was more Sackville and Bracegirdle in nature. He enjoyed being as greedy as he could be. And one day, he thought, no one would say no to any request he might make. He made his way to the gift table and began counting those with his name upon them.