My birthday mathom to all!
“I have had it up to my ears, watching you merely nodding politely to the lasses when they try to catch your eye, Frodo Baggins. I expect you to get out there at our party and actually dance, do you understand?”
“Don’t but Bilbo me, my boy! You deserve some happiness, which you won’t find if you continue to mope about Pearl Took throwing you over how many years ago now? It’s been far too long for you to continue nursing a supposedly broken heart.”
Frodo’s voice became stiff. “If I’m to be considered a full adult and Master of Bag End as of our birthday, don’t you think it’s up to me to decide whether or not I wish to pursue finding a Mistress for the hole? It’s not as if you felt compelled to marry in all the years you’ve lived here since your mother’s death.”
Pippin rose from his bed and pressed his ear against the door. Apparently the two Bagginses were in the kitchen, engaged in one of their rare arguments.
Bilbo gave a great sigh. “And who would even consider marrying me, what with my reputation for having left the Shire without warning and ignoring public opinion ever since? Not that Lobelia Sackville-Baggins would have allowed any Hobbitess sufficiently willing to put her own reputation on the line by considering me as a potential husband to go unmolested, mind you. I strongly suspect that’s why more than one no longer grieving widow has suddenly thought better of inviting me to dinner on Highday next.” Pippin thought that the old Hobbit sounded rather bitter, not that he blamed Bilbo, considering just how nasty Lobelia had proven herself when she felt people who should share her disgust at the old fellow’s flouting of tradition and typical Hobbit sensibilities just might be warming up to him in spite of her.
Bilbo continued, “So far she’s been relatively circumspect with you, but that won’t last once she’s accepted that the rumored adoption and the resulting change to my will are long-established facts. However, there is the matter of you being quite a popular young fellow in your own right. All she’s ever tried to do to ruin your reputation has managed to blow up in her face—or it has so far, at least.”
The noise Frodo made could only be described as rude. “Lobelia isn’t the only Hobbit matron who hates me,” he said.
“But no one pays much mind to Lalia Clayhanger Took,” Bilbo returned, his tone eminently reasonable. “Or, rather, no one who doesn’t live within the Great Smial, at least. Not even a good percentage of the Tooks feel she is the infallible example of proper Hobbit feeling and behavior that she considers herself. Besides, Ferumbras may detest me, but he respects you and your innate wisdom and displays of uncommonly common sense and responsibility. He may be wary of your ability to exact revenge, but has had to admit that you only do so when the one on the receiving end definitely deserves it. After all, Ferumbras is eminently fair minded in spite of his prejudice against eccentricity.”
“And just who does he believe taught me to behave responsibly?” demanded Frodo.
Bilbo retorted, “Your Uncle Rory and Aunt Menegilda and cousins Saradoc and Esmeralda, of course. But all of this is avoiding the main issue, which is that you are to give the lasses a chance, and you are going to have some real fun during this party of ours. For it is not just my birthday, after all. If you don’t dance at least once with Narcissa Boffin I will personally turn you over my knee, and you know fully well I can and will do so. Don’t give me that look, Frodo Baggins! I may be ancient, but I’m still more than a match for you!”
“I would, and try sitting there at the Party looking pathetic and long-suffering once the music starts, I shall—right there in front of everyone! And what’s more, I will gladly enlist Gandalf to see to it that you itch unbearably under your braces if you aren’t out there dancing with the rest!”
For some reason the idea of that caused Frodo to begin laughing merrily, and Pippin found himself smiling in response. Good, then; Frodo would be dancing! For Pippin had plans to see him dancing with Melilot this year, Melilot Brandybuck and Estella Bolger--and Pimpernel and Pervinca, even! But, if Narcissa Boffin truly fancied him as Bilbo had indicated, Peregrin Took intended to see to it that Frodo danced a good deal more than once with her. Now, he loved his sister Pearl past bearing, of course, but he was so glad that Frodo hadn’t married her after all. Pearl wasn’t the Hobbitess for his beloved Cousin Frodo, not at all—she was nowhere the cook their mother was or that Frodo himself was, and she hated doing housework. She’d live in the Great Smial once she came of age, undoubtedly married to Isumbard. She was good at seeing things planned and done, particularly when others were doing the doing. But Frodo would need someone who was as happy in an old dress helping with the spring cleaning as she was in an elegant gown exchanging pleasantries with Cousin Lalia. Someone as much like Aunt Esmeralda as possible!
“Now, you remember what I’ve said, Frodo,” Bilbo cautioned as the two of them came down the passageway toward their rooms. “You will be out there enjoying yourself, hear?”
“I hear and will obey, Uncle,” Frodo capitulated. “Can’t have Gandalf putting a spell on my braces, after all!” And with another laugh he went into his room and shut the door.
Bilbo murmured, “I only want to see you happy, my dear, dear lad.” He was apparently just outside the door to Pippin’s room. Pippin discovered he was nodding in response to Bilbo’s last pronouncement. He, too, wished to see Frodo happy, almost more than he cared about the future happiness of Merry, even. If anyone deserved to be happy, it had to be Frodo Baggins!