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17
A Matter of Attraction

Written for the LOTR Community Potluck Challenge. For Lindelea for her birthday.


~~~

A Matter of Attraction


Lobelia Bracegirdle stood looking sourly at the sprays of her name flower hanging from the windowbox under the parlor window of her parents’ home. It was her twenty-third birthday, and she didn’t wish to spend it at home in Hardbottle, in her mother’s garden, looking at the windowboxes there. She’d wanted to spend it in Hobbiton as a houseguest of Bilbo Baggins in Bag End. What were the gardens of her family home in Hardbottle compared to the gardens surrounding the Baggins home on the Hill? And there had been lobelia planted in the windowbox right beside the front door, alongside the geraniums and nasturtiums. She’d seen them just last month when she’d visited Cressette again and just happened to take a walk up the hill! Surely this could be no coincidence! He must have been thinking of her since her formal visit there last summer during the garden party she’d attended with her cousin Cressette Sackville. It was while on that visit she’d heard Mr. Baggins—dear Bilbo, she’d thought of him--advising one of his Boffin relations that he was planning a house party this month.

But the desired invitation to visit at Bag End—properly chaperoned, of course—had failed to arrive in the post. And when she’d approached Mr. Baggins in the marketplace in Hobbiton to inquire about whether her invitation had somehow become lost, he’d expressed startlement that she had ever expected such a thing.

Why couldn’t he appreciate that he was just exactly the type of gentlehobbit she had always dreamed of marrying? True, he wasn’t especially good looking, although he was far from ugly. Truth be told, her hair was her best feature, so neither he nor she had a good deal to be overly proud about. His looks didn’t much matter, then. He was smaller than she, but that she considered a plus, as she felt it a good thing that her husband should look up to her. There was no question that Bilbo Baggins was decidedly more than comfortably well off, and that he had connections to all of the wealthiest and most prominent families in the Shire, owned the most desirable home in the Westfarthing, and had those beautiful gardens that she so adored. True, he was rather bookish in nature, but she was certain she could break him of that; and, if not, his love of reading might yet be utilized to keep him sufficiently absorbed and distracted that she might have a free hand in the ordering of the house--and of items for herself.

Why had he spurned her so? It just wasn’t fair! She felt terribly embarrassed, and was certain that everyone throughout the region of the Hill must be talking of her naďveté in assuming that she, whose family resources had been exhausted by a father plagued by bad business dealings, would be welcomed as a houseguest in Bag End, or thought of attracting the attentions of the likes of Bilbo Baggins, perhaps even dancing with him! He was reportedly the best dancer in the whole of the Shire, after all. What might it have been like to be his partner?

But within her bosom beat a passionate heart, one that yearned for the respect her father’s profligacy had denied her. And Bilbo Baggins was the first whose attentions had excited her, caused her heart to flutter! She’d had such dreams of a successful union with such a husband, one who could provide her with lovely, valuable gifts, and on whose arm she would excite envy rather than pity from other Hobbitesses. What was she to do when it appeared this love was lost to her?

She drifted out of the gardens of her father’s home and toward the village center. A cup of tea at the Cuppa and More could perhaps lighten her mood, she thought vaguely. She believed she just might have the price of it in her reticule—the results of slipping a few coins off of Cressette’s mother’s dressing table during her recent visit to Overhill. Certainly she deserved a good cup of tea and perhaps a sweet currant bun or two. But just short of the teashop she was stopped short by the clop of hooves. She turned to see four gentlehobbits, all well turned out, riding northwards through Hardbottle toward the Three-Farthing Stone. Her attention quickly fixed on the tallest of the four, his hair a decidedly warm dark brown, with eyes green as alder leaves, his riding cloak billowing about him and showcasing the intricate embroidery that decorated his rich waistcoat and the collar and cuffs of his well tailored jacket. His expression was genial, and his smile most reminiscent of Bilbo Baggins. Realizing her eyes were fixed upon him, he dipped his head politely as he rode nearer.

“What are you looking at, Baggins?” demanded one of the other three, a Goold if she knew her Hobbits. “We’ve no time to waste if we’re to arrive at Bilbo’s before dinner.”

“Best return your attention to the road, Drogo,” advised another, who had the looks of both a Boffin and a Took to him. “There are all number of children here in Hardbottle, and my experience is that they tend to pop out from behind garden gates and run across the lanes right under your pony’s nose with no warning at all.”

The tall Hobbit gave each of his companions a glance. “Good advice,” he responded as he passed Lobelia with no further attention. “And I intend to eat well in Bag End this evening. Cousin Bilbo sets a fine table, after all. Do hurry, Otho,” he called after him to the fourth, who was lagging behind, and urged his pony forward.

So, that was Drogo Baggins, was it? He’d probably been seeing to some of his business dealings in the Southfarthing, then. It was said he had farm shares in the Goold pipeweed plantation. Goolden Lynch was said to be fine leaf, although nowhere as popular as Hornblower Brand or Old Toby. And there was no question he was a fine figure of a Hobbit, well rounded and with as fair a face as a lass could wish for.

Pfft! for thoughts of Bilbo Baggins. Drogo Baggins was a far better catch, she reckoned. And he was younger than Bilbo, closer to her own age. She could definitely do worse! No, she’d forget Bilbo and set her cap for his younger cousin who was said to live in the older Baggins family hole at the foot of the Hill. With her attention mostly fixed on the retreating Drogo, she barely gave the fourth rider much thought, although she automatically smiled as she realized he, too, was nodding politely to her as he passed, his attention more evaluative than had been that of his companions. He favored Bilbo more than did Drogo, and she suspected this was Otho Sackville-Baggins, Bilbo’s cousin. Another to keep in mind, perhaps.

She watched after the four of them as they reached the edge of the village and turned to ride across country toward Hobbiton. Well, denied one Baggins, certainly she had a chance at another. They were all well off and all related to better than half the Shire by blood or marriage. As long as she had the chance to rejoice in those lovely gardens and perhaps inherit some of the delightful—and expensive—ornaments she’d seen in her visit to Bag End! She fingered the watch chain she’d lifted from Bilbo’s own room and that she wore as a bracelet around her wrist. At least she had this to remind herself of her first true attraction. Hopefully it was a promise of more from the same source in the future!

With that thought in mind, Lobelia went into the Cuppa in search of that cup of tea and two—no, three!—currant buns.

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