Lindor Greenwillow finished the last of his translation and examined the sheaf of papers he had lying in front of him. Bagginses and Baggers, Sackinses and Sackvilles and Bracegirdles--they were swimming around in his head. But beyond the lists of names and dates were indications as to the long histories of the Hobbits themselves, and they were fascinating.
“You’re finished?” asked Analisë as she looked up from a copy she was making of a book of poetry she’d received from one of the Elves from Rivendell.
Her husband nodded. “I hope I have it all translated properly. Some of the Sindarin is quite archaic. It appears that Elrond Halfelven himself saw some of the first Hobbits to come into Eriador from the valley of the Anduin. Many appear to have come over the passes there east of Rivendell.”
“They did? Then they also came into Eriador from east of the Misty Mountains?” At his nod Analisë thoughtfully capped her own bottle of ink and then carefully sprinkled drying sand over her work. “It appears that save for the Dwarves, the races of Arda all awoke somewhere in the east. Does it say why they came over the mountains?”
“There’s talk of long droughts and wildfires, and some of orc assaults on their communities. It appears that the land was long in great trouble, and perhaps the Enemy himself was adding to their problems.”
“Certainly,” Analisë said, tapping her now wiped pen thoughtfully on the table top, “if orcs were involved Sauron must have been encouraging them to their work. I wonder what he sent the orcs to do?”
Lindor shrugged as he frowned down at the scroll. “Stealing their foodstores, or killing wantonly, most likely. Although there are some indications some of the Hobbits might have been carried off alive.”
His wife looked shocked at the idea. “Alive? For what reason?”
The Man shrugged. “Who knows for certain the purpose?” he said quietly. “However, we know he has ever abused his slaves and sought more. And there are always his breeding programs for orcs to think on.”
Anelisë’s face twisted in distress at the idea of such a thing. “Hobbits taken to serve as a basis for orcs? Although it appears that Saruman at least was using Men in his own experiments, and we know both Sauron and his master both abused Elves for that purpose....”
Both of them shuddered. At last she set her bottle aside and turned to consider more closely the stack of paper before her husband. “Since you have it finished, how long do you think it will take you to do the proper number of copies? This has taken you several months, after all.”
“Not that I’ve worked on it all that long at a time save for the last two weeks,” he sighed. “I’m not certain how long it might take me. Perhaps I could call upon Hildigor or Teregion to assist me--they both write a fair hand, after all.”
She nodded her agreement. “I believe Halladan would be willing to allow his son to assist in the work,” she said. “And I know that it will be with pleasure that the children of Master Bracegirdle will receive their own copy.”
“I hope that Master Frodo will find his copy interesting,” Lindor said, and smiled into her eyes. “Is there any of the poppy-seed cake left, beloved?” As she started out of the room he added, “I’d like to finish at least one copy soon to give to Master Alvric for his own library--he appears to find the Hobbits of the region endlessly fascinating.”
She paused in the doorway. “Perhaps as a wedding gift for him and Mistress Gorse?”
They shared a pleased smile. Yes, the perfect gift--if it could be finished in time.
“Mummy--which dress should I plan on taking to Bree to wear for the wedding?”
Bartolo Bracegirdle paused in the contract he was copying for a Hornblower client to look over his shoulder, feeling somewhat dismayed by the discussion going on in the passageway outside his study door.
“The yellow one, Lyssa,”
“Mother, how long will we be in Bree for the wedding? Will I be able to spend a day with Ronica, do you think?”
“And I wish to go to the dance they’re going to have at the Guild Hall on the Highday--Aggie’s told me of it!” Begonia must be back in her bedroom, her father decided.
“A dance?” Enrico must have come out into the passageway at his sister’s announcement. “I won’t have to go, will I, Mum?”
Barti had hoped that the rest of the family had forgotten about the wedding in Bree, for as time passed he found he had less and less interest in making the journey in February. It was likely to be a chilly, damp drive, he knew; and the idea of purposely traveling such a long way concerned him. However, it appeared that he could not decide they should not go without risking much argument.
“It’s a fool thing,” he muttered to himself as he turned back to his copying, “marrying in February!”
After a time Delphie came in to sit at her own desk, immediately reaching to draw her inkstand toward her, then slipping a sheet of stationery out of the tray of her letters box. “Do you think we ought to invite the Watercresses to dine with us again at the Pony?” she asked him. “And should we perhaps write ahead to reserve the same rooms?” Noting her expression, Barti realized his wife had a good idea as to his personal reservations about going, and was intending to let him know there was no way in Middle Earth she intended to miss Master Alvric’s wedding.
He shrugged. “I suppose.”
She gave a satisfied sigh. “Good then--I will write now.”
“And have you prepared a wedding gift for them?”
She nodded. “Yes. You know that punchbowl set at Vito’s shop? The one decorated with violets? One of the Silvertoe children broke another one of the cups, and Vito was so angry he declared he should sell it for a single silver just to have it gone before anyone breaks any more of it. I mean, Jessup managed to break the tray and one cup, and now a second cup’s gone. It was such a bargain, I could not pass it up! I mean--a single silver for that fine bowl with eighteen cups and the ladle? It will make a perfect wedding gift for Master Alvric and Mistress Denra!”
He had to admit it was indeed a good price. However.... “Don’t you think as it’s a bit--extravagant--for folks as aren’t even relatives?”
Delphie gave him one of her best amazed expressions. “After all the time he spent teaching you and Persi? And he was sent by the King himself, you’ll remember. What would you have had me do--send one of those awful vases Deri Grubb turns out?”
Barti felt himself color--that was indeed the gift he’d suggested sending to Sancho and Geli at their marriage, although Delphie, furious at him, had sent instead a set of dishes that she’d inherited from their Baggins grandparents. “It’s not as if we were sending something paid for by your earnings!” she’d said when he’d protested. “And you know you don’t really like them, while Geli’s always loved them.”
“How are you sending them out to Bree--or are we to take them in the coach?”
“No--Vito’s cousin is going out next week to pick up a consignment of cloth come from south-aways, so he’s to take the set with him. Vito has the perfect packing case to send them in--they ought to be well protected. After all, it wouldn’t do to show up with them on the day of the wedding.”
“I’m not certain--Men don’t appear to have exactly the same practices as do Hobbits. However, as long as they arrive in time for the wedding, I suppose it doesn’t matter.”
She rose enough to kiss him on the cheek, and immediately his mood brightened.
“Do you think as Master Bernigard will allow Persi to go with us?” she asked as she slipped the first of her missives into an envelope and turned it to address it.
“I don’t see why not,” he returned, having just set blotting paper expertly over his finished document. “You sent the letter saying as when the wedding was to be, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did. And the last report we had from the Great Smial indicates Persi is doing exceptionally well.”
Barti smiled with satisfaction. “Well, he certainly ought to, being our son as he is.”
“Do we leave on Trewsday?” she asked.
He glanced out the window. “Perhaps it might be better to leave on Monday, in case of changes in the weather. We could always spend an extra day in Kingsbridge if we need to....”
Persi arrived home on Sunday, having been given a ride by a farmer who’d been to the Great Smial to purchase seedcorn and was now on his way back further south. By Sunday evening the carriage was mostly filled, and the Greenmans had agreed to look after Feathers and the smial while they were gone. Before they went to bed Delphie and Pet saw to it the kitchen fire was built up, setting in it a number of bricks, with a pile of flannel bags set on the nearby work table. Monday morning, it was:
“Mummy, why can’t I take my blue dress I had from Gammer Alma?”
“Alyssa, you have outgrown that! Be reasonable, child!”
“But it’s my favorite!”
“I can’t find my other hawks-eye shirtstud, Mum.”
“Did you look to see if Feathers batted it under the dresser, Ricki?”
“Begonia Bracegirdle--if you think you are wearing that dress while we are traveling, you have another thing coming! Delphinium, will you look at the lass!”
“Oh, sweet stars and water, Gonya--that will never do! Have you not seen the frost on the windows this morning--you’ll freeze! And, no, you’re not taking it, and if you start pouting about it you shall not go to the dance on the High Day, do you hear? I said traveling clothes--you get back into your room and get one of your warm flannel dresses on, and your blue cloak.”
“You mean I might wear my new blue cloak, Mummy? I never thought you would, for it’s so fine!”
“Morsel--this is why we bought that cloak for you! Now go! Petunia--oh, heavens!”
“You don’t think it’s not appropriate, do you, Mother?”
In a soft voice. “Appropriate? Oh, sweetling! It’s just that you look just like my own mum when I was a child. Your Gammer Melianslace was always judged quite the beauty, you know. I’d only never realized how you have just the shape of her face before--it’s the way you have your hair arranged, I think.”
“You like it this way, Mummy? I thought to try it because of the picture you have of her on your dresser.”
A slow, thoughtful nod, accompanied by memories of summer picnics in the garden and holding soft kittens in the sewing room--Melianslace Grubb Baggins had been quite the seamstress in her day, and had adored cats.
“I have the flannel bags ready for the bricks, for when we’re ready.”
A door opened, and a breath of crisp air moved through the room. “Mum--the ponies are ready, whenever we are---- Oh, I say! Petunia, you look stunning! You should always wear your hair like that!”
It was wonderful to see the color fill Petunia’s cheeks and the pleased expression in her eyes--it was Begonia who usually was complimented on her dress and beauty rather that Pet.
Bartolo came in with the leather case filled with documents he meant to go over with Master Alvric once they reached Bree, and paused. He examined his second daughter and something melted a bit inside him. “Very nice, dearling,” he said in a rather thick voice. “If the ponies are harnessed then we’d best be getting ready. If you’ll please get the bricks in the flannels....”
Still smiling that pleased, surprised smile, Petunia bobbed her head at her parents almost shyly and disappeared back into the kitchen again.
“Oh, Delphinium--she looks so much like your mother. When did she manage to grow up? Why haven’t I noted before?”
Ricki carried one food chest of cooler foods while Persivo carried the second one that was lined with heated brick tiles and held warmer foods prepared last night and finished this morning, with room for the pasties they were to pick up at the inn as they passed it. Once all were within with heated bricks at their feet and in their laps and between their hips and the doors, Persivo scrambled up onto the box, a knit hat warming his ears and his thickest, softest scarf about his neck and the highly respectable cloak given him by his new Master about his form. He took up the reins in his mittened hands, released the brake, and they were off. One quick stop as the barman brought out the order made the day before, and they left Hardbottle behind them, headed for Frogmorton and the Great Road, the three lasses and their mother raising their voices in the wedding song.