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Unconfounded Relatives

11. Unconfounded Relatives

The Tooks and the Brandybucks began to visit regular starting the first spring Mr. Frodo spent in Bag End, and Mr. Bilbo and he’d visit them, too, usually taking a walking trip to get there and back again. I guess often they’d meet their Elves or Dwarves along the way to Brandy Hall or on the way back home again, or maybe both ways for all I know for certain. The one thing I do know is that visits to Bag End by the young cousins increased once it were certain Frodo belonged there now.

At Midsummer Fair in Michel Delving that second summer, Mr. Bilbo adopted Frodo official as his heir, although he didn’t announce it real loud, mind you. But it seemed that soon everyone in Hobbiton and Bywater knew that Mr. Frodo Baggins would be the Baggins of Bag End when he come into his inheritance, except for the Sackville-Bagginses, who it seems never got to hear that bit of news. Twere a big shock for them, that last big birthday party when old Mr. Bilbo turned eleventy-one and went off again with a bang and a flash, and Otho and Lobelia and Lotho Sackville-Baggins found themselves continuing on as just them other Bagginses.

Now that Mr. Frodo was officially adopted, Mr. Bilbo was given control of Mr. Frodo’s inheritance from his dad and mum, which consisted of the smial in Whitfurrow and all its contents, an interest in a farm in the Marish that Mr. Drogo and Missus Primula had bought shares in, and a bit of money--not a great deal, but enough to have kept him comfortable for several years, mostly income from the farm and the hole, which was let to a family of Boffinses. Kept the place right up, they did; and on consultation between Mr. Frodo and Mr. Bilbo and old Mr. Rory Brandybuck, they decided to sell them that hole, if they’d have it, which they decided they did. Got a right good bargain on it, too, for Mr. Frodo didn’t want to make too much more of a profit on it seeing as he’d been receiving rents on it since not long after his folks drownded, and he didn’t ever want to live there again hisself, not that he’d need to now as he was Mr. Bilbo’s heir and would be able to live in Bag End. They only kept for Frodo some of the old furniture as meant the most for him, and put most of it in storage and brought a few pieces into the smial. Oh, and all of their books and a few odds and ends. And Mr. Bilbo had the money saved in trust for when Frodo come of age.

But the income from the farm they turned around and invested in more shares, and Mr. Bilbo studied the lands and crops about, and give advice to the young farmer who let it on shares, and soon that farm was doing far better than it had afore, and Mr. Frodo’s income increased more than double. It were years afore I learned to what they turned most of that income--seems Frodo had it going to a banker of discretion in Buckland, and had him look for likely lads or lasses who was short on money to be prenticed and help pay their fees. Or if a young lass was looking to get married but she didn’t have a good enough dowry (or a likely lad couldn’t afford a good place to take his bride), suddenly her folks would be notified there was an anonymous bequest to her from an elderly relative on their grandmother’s side in the lass’s favor--but nobody ever figured out which grandmother’s side it were from, if you take my meaning. Seems this banker of discretion had a right romantic side, although he kept immaculate records, and he enjoyed the search for likely recipients for Mr. Frodo’s bequests with a glad heart.

The rest of the income got invested in small businesses here and there about the Shire, and many a lad with a desire to become a merchant found he had a silent partner who helped get the business going for a share, and once the business was sound, he was willing to be bought out modestly, and that money would go into a new business somewheres else, or maybe into shares on a different farm. And a few lads who was found to be particularly bright would be asked to join the staff at Brandy Hall or the Great Smials where they’d get an education as well as a job, and then they’d be encouraged to start a business with a silent partner once they come of age and decided to strike out on their own.... Don’t know how many folks Mr. Frodo and old Mr. Bilbo had helped in this way, but it must have been a right good few over the years, and the whole Shire benefited as we got more merchants who knew how to read and write and figure good and to keep records, and more businesses that worked right well. I’m only just starting to go over that banker of discretion’s records, myself, now as I’m the Master of Bag End.

It was just after our mum died my sister Daisy come back home to Hobbiton from her prenticeship to our Auntie May, who was a seamstress and broiderer in Tighfield. Daisy was right handy with a needle, she was, and could do about anything with cloth. Since she hadn’t yet seen a lad or gentlehobbit she fancied, she moved back home with us, and she quickly began teaching her skills to Our May. May had taken on the laundry work Mum and she used to do together, and she started doing repairs now and her business began to improve.

Old Mr. Bilbo used to use the services of the Goodbody’s tailor shop in Hobbiton to make his clothes and those for Frodo, but after young Arto Goodbody entered the business he stopped that. I don’t know why old Mr. Holman felt his son would be an asset to the shop, but he did try to give Arto every chance. But Arto just wasn’t cut out to be a tailor, I suspect. He didn’t use a proper pattern, for one thing--was sure he could just look at a body and use his eyes to cut the pieces and put them together. When Frodo had some new shirts made, he came out to show me what he’d got, and we both laughed fit to bust--one sleeve stopped short well above his wrist, and the other, which was so tight it cramped his arm, hung past his fingertips. And the buttons and the holes on the placket didn’t match at all, neither. Mr. Bilbo was that upset--he decided to change tailors, and he had May and Daisy make the new shirts.

Mr. Bilbo adored clothing, and had closets full of vests and jackets and shirts and pantaloons, and he just didn’t understand Frodo and how he was happy with only about seven of each. They’d had a row or two over that--Mr. Bilbo decided once that Frodo needed a new waistcoat and Mr. Frodo didn’t want it, preferred his older, comfortable ones, and they had a real set to. For three days Mr. Bilbo was sweeping around the hole trying to make Frodo go get the fitting done, and Mr. Frodo wouldn’t say nothing, just give him that look once he’d had his say that he didn’t want a new waistcoat, and certainly not one that was violet. Bilbo would glare at Frodo, and Frodo’d stand there all white and closed in, defying him to order him to go, and both were right put out with one another--until one day there was a knock at the door, and it was Gandalf again. He took one look at the two of them glaring at one another, and he demanded to know what on earth they was going on at. Mr. Frodo wouldn’t talk, just wanted to keep on glaring, but Mr. Bilbo wanted someone to agree with him, so he told the tale; and then if Gandalf didn’t start laughing, laughing so hard it was impossible for me to keep from joining in. Then finally our laughing cracked Mr. Bilbo, and he began to grin and then laugh, too. Then I saw Frodo’s face was starting to get some color back, and he could barely keep the corners of his mouth from twitching, and that made me laugh harder, it were so comical. Then finally Frodo couldn’t stand it no more, and he laughed, his eyes bright with merriment, and if he and old Mr. Bilbo didn’t just about fall all over each other laughing and holding each other up! You want to stop two stubborn Bagginses from quarreling, you call in Mr. Gandalf--he’ll make ‘em see how foolish both of them are being.

They agreed on a compromise--instead of a silk, purple waistcoat Mr. Frodo got a nice new green one of heavy linen which was a lot more practical and better suited his coloring, and a new cloak because the old one was miles too short, although Frodo’d have been happy wearing it forever, as it had come with him from Brandy Hall. The cloak was green, too, and good, soft wool; and my sisters made it for him and lined it with a golden linen. But after that Mr. Bilbo didn’t insist on any new clothes unless he were positive his lad had outgrown his old one or it was so worn that even Frodo’d have to admit it needed replacing.

Now that Frodo was a fixture at Bag End, the Brandybuck, Took, Bolger, and Boffins cousins began to visit right regular. It were interesting to see how young Mr. Merry had changed. He and his family had been visiting the Great Smials when Missus Eglantine gave birth to little Mr. Peregrin, and Merry took to Pippin the way Frodo took to Merry, the way Mr. Bilbo took to Frodo. Something about these Baggins-Took-Brandybuck menfolk, how they just become infatuated with babes and bairns and will do about anything for them. But Merry had begun to settle down, now as he saw what it was like when he’d been younger and on the go. He was the one trying to say No now.

Little Pippin grew up right quick, and it seems that young Merry-Lad was over at the Smials more often than at home, looking after the wee thing. Once Pippin took to his feet, he begun to run his cousin off his, he was that active. Now and then his folks would pack Merry off to Bag End just to give the lad a bit of peace, but it seemed that he just wasn’t happy without knowing what his infant cousin was up to. And when the bairn began to talk the first words he spoke was, “Where’s my Merry?”--or at least that’s what Missus Eglantine insists is true. Knowing how close they was to become, I guess I don’t doubt her none.

The second time Gandalf came, Pippin was three, and his folks had to go outside the Shire to Bree on some business, so they’d tried to get Missus Esmeralda, as Mr. Paladin’s sister, to take care of the lad and his sisters. She, however, was going to be in the Westfarthing attending the wedding of a friend, so she volunteered Mr. Bilbo. Why he agreed I don’t know, but suddenly we was inundated with lads and lasses, including Pippin, Merry, Mr. Freddy, and Mr. Folco Boffins. And this was just after the fight over the waistcoat.

Frodo agreed to keep the watch on the lads, and for the most part he did right well. The lasses spent most of their time down at Number 3 with my sister Marigold, learning to embroider under Daisy’s watchful eye. Miss Pearl had a good eye and steady needle, and she took to the work right handy. Miss Pervinca wasn’t really interested, and she kept convincing Marigold and Miss Pimpernel to sneak up the hill and spy on the lads. I was kept busy working in the garden, but I found Merry was now willing to help with a right good will, and he did his best to try to interest little Pippin in the work, but it were a lost cause. I gave the child a toy trowel my dad had give me when I was a tiny lad like him, and showed him a place where he could dig that it wouldn’t do no hurt; but in no time he were bored there, and I found him digging up the elven flowers under the lilac. Then Merry found hisself having to take the little one out of the garden altogether, and they went off to the woods in search of Frodo, Folco, and Freddy.

Pippin got bored with what Mr. Frodo was showing the older boys about the fingerlings in the stream, and he wandered off and got into the nettles, and then into the brambleberry vines and got stuck. Took a while to find him and get him unstuck, and I guess he were wriggling so they all got right scratched up afore they was through. He were crying hard when they brought him back, and I was right glad my aloe was doing well and that we had plenty of comfrey, and I ended up using a lot on all of them. And while Mr. Bilbo was off with Frodo and the bigger lads looking at where Pippin got lost from and to, old Gandalf found hisself taking care of the little one. Mr. Bilbo come back and found that Gandalf and Pippin was playing with Pippin’s wooden animals in the dining room, and were using his china to make them farms and the silver to make paddocks and pens. Mr. Bilbo got kind of white with worry about his china, but none of it got damaged--oh, I guess there was a bit of a chip in the lid of the butter dish, but that may have been there afore. But when he played with Gandalf that bairn was the quietest he could be, and I figure that, in his own way, wizards is as likely to become besotted with little ones as any Baggins, Brandybuck, or Took.

The next day I come in with a bunch of thin rods I’d cut for propping up young plants till their stems could support them, and slats from the roof of an old shed they’d torn down at the Cotton’s farm and that we’d brought home from one trip to use as kindling, and from then on when Mr. Gandalf made barns and byres and paddocks with Pippin he didn’t have to make do with the good china off the dresser. But we found that when little Pippin was ready to wear us all out, we could count on Gandalf to get him quiet and interested.


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