Gandalf sat at the kitchen table in Bag End opposite Frodo, a bottle of wine and an empty cake plate between them. “Lotho Pimple has applied to become a Shiriff?” he asked, not quite believing what Frodo had told him.
“Yes, that he has,” the Hobbit assured him. “When I received the summons to Michel Delving from Will Whitfoot to discuss the application I was as surprised as you appear to be.”
“But why would the Mayor seek to discuss this with you?”
“Well, I’m the family head for the Bagginses now, and he is nominally still a Baggins. And as the Baggins family connections carry a good deal more weight throughout the Shire than do those of the Sackvilles, Will is far more concerned with my opinion of Lotho’s suitability than he is with that of Otho as the Sackville.”
“But what of the family head for the Bracegirdles? He is in the Bracegirdle family book as well, isn’t he, due to Lobelia’s birth?”
Frodo shrugged. “I’m afraid that Benbo and his son Benlo are just as appalled at the thought of Lotho as a Shiriff as I am. They don’t want such a bully and thief as he’s proved himself over the years serving in such a responsible position, after all, and further bringing shame to the Bracegirdle name. As for the Thain and the Master, well, Ferumbras and Uncle Rory as well as Paladin and Uncle Sara are all against the idea.”
“Why would he even wish to become a Shiriff? Lotho doesn’t particularly like having to walk about the Shire the way Shiriffs do, and I can’t imagine him happily heading off through brambles and bogs in all weathers in search of strayed cattle or sheep, much less trying to help lift ponies out of ditches or gullies.”
Frodo nodded as he took another swallow of his wine. “And can you imagine him trying to jolly a farmer who’s had a half or two too many into going home to bed before he becomes too much of an embarrassment by becoming maudlin and repetitive, or, worse, belligerent and wishing to break up the common room in the inn?”
The Wizard shuddered. “Or trying to break up a dispute between the mister and missus when they reach the stage of breaking crockery? Why would he want to be a Shiriff, anyway? Just wanting to look rather jaunty with a feather in his cap, do you think?”
The youthful Baggins shrugged. “He might be drawn by that idea in part, but I strongly suspect that he thinks it will give him more authority than Shiriffs really have. He’ll be the one who gets to throw others out of the inn instead of someone like Evert Strawflower in Bywater or Noki Brown down in Hardbottle telling him he has to go home and him having to do so because they’re the local Shiriff.”
Gandalf considered the glass he held for a moment. “So, Will is going to have to tell Lotho he’s not suitable, then. When do you think he’ll do so?”
“He’ll be meeting with Lotho tomorrow to tell him.”
Gandalf sipped at his glass of Old Winyards before commenting, “I don’t envy him that. Lotho’s not going to take that rejection well.”
“I know, and he’s going to blame it mostly on me, you know.” Frodo drained the rest of his wine and set down the empty goblet with a decided click. He shrugged again. “Not that I care much that he will hate me that much the more—considering he’s resented me since before I came to Bag End, it’s not as if I weren’t used to it by now.”
But Gandalf had a premonition that perhaps Frodo—and the Shire as a whole--shouldn’t dismiss the resentment of Lotho Sackville-Baggins quite so lightly. He sensed an ominous darkness growing around the son of Lobelia Bracegirdle Sackville-Baggins that he didn’t quite understand as yet….