Written in response to RiverOtter's birthday challenge posted at Henneth Annun. A series of true drabbles.
“Remember, children, that a proper Hobbit is always dependable. And it’s easiest to be dependable if others know from the start what you will and will not do.”
Bilbo nodded his acceptance of the wisdom of these words. Who would think to question the truth of them? He noted that his cousins Dora and Dudo were also indicating their agreement. Only Drogo appeared not so certain being predictable was necessary. He was looking to Belladonna quizzically. For the first time Bilbo noted the indulgent expression in his mother’s eyes that indicated that she might not quite agree with her husband....
A proper Hobbit was generous and hospitable. On Wednesdays it was Bilbo’s practice to let it be known he was “at home,” at which times he could expect his friends and relatives, of whom he had many, to drop in for luncheon and tea, and perhaps even for dinner. Always he had copious amounts of tea and cakes prepared, and a few extra fowl purchased the preceding day from the village butcher.
But as he watched that ambitious Lobelia Bracegirdle entering Bag End on the reluctant elbow of her local cousin he began questioning the wisdom of such open hospitality.
That Wizard Gandalf--he wanted Bilbo for an adventure he was managing? What kind of Hobbit did he think Bilbo Baggins was? And he thought perhaps Bilbo might like to be involved in a profitable venture? And he thought he would find the endeavor entertaining? Ah, no, thank you! Bilbo had no intention of getting caught up in some Big Folk’s idea of entertainment! Making certain the door was bolted shut behind him, Bilbo hurried to his favorite pantry, glad he was wise enough not to give in to the schemes of Wizards.
But he dreamed of fireworks that night....
“But why on earth did you think to pick the troll’s pocket?” Gandalf prodded.
How could Bilbo explain to the Wizard that he’d only thought to prove to the Dwarves--and himself--that Gandalf had been right in naming the Hobbit as the proper one to serve as the burglar for this quest? So far what good had he done? None! And a fine burglar he’d proved himself, seeking to pinch whatever he might find in a troll’s pocket and getting caught at it!
They’d do well to pack him off home right now--it might prove the wisest course.
Gandalf watched the eyes of the Hobbit light up as Elrond found the moon letters on Thror’s map, and saw Bilbo’s ears twitch as the words were read aloud. Wise of the Baggins to listen now and commit them to heart!
He’d done well, he knew, to choose Gerontius’s grandson as a companion for the Dwarves. Behind that fussy exterior was a far wiser mind than the Hobbit yet appreciated; and he’d undoubtedly prove far more capable than he’d yet shown.
But he’d felt the Creator’s urging in his heart at the sight of the Hobbit smoking on his doorstep.
It was a miserable and much thinner Bilbo Baggins who accompanied Thranduil’s guards into the Elven King’s pavilion. He was wet and sneezing, and looked absolutely wretched.
“It’s the heart of Thorin Oakenshield,” he’d said as he gave the Arkenstone into Bard’s hand.
Gandalf was humbled. Bilbo saw to the heart of the situation--there should be no such quarrel here, for were Thorin and the other Dwarves not caught in the spell of the dragon sickness they’d recognize the validity of the Men’s claim. Wise indeed was Bilbo Baggins proving himself! Now, to waken that similar wisdom in Thorin....
Bilbo was much changed, Gandalf noted. He still let it be known he would usually be “at home” on Wednesdays, but had less care as to who might choose to take advantage of that hospitality. Nor, if he was traveling abroad, did he appear to feel uncomfortable at the thought someone might come to call and find Bag End empty. He was paying more attention to his younger kinsmen, and had definitely scandalized the family by announcing he was now a practicing copyist!
The Shire might find Bilbo foolish since his return, but Gandalf found him a much wiser individual.
“Drogo and Primula died a month ago,” Bilbo told the Wizard solemnly. “They left their son Frodo an orphan. I’d thought, since he’s a Baggins by birth, that I should take him in as my father did with his father, his uncle and aunt when their parents died, but my Brandybuck kin have dissuaded me--for now, at least. But I don’t like the apparent intention of Menegilda to protect the lad. True he has a whispering in his heart....”
He looked up, clearly thinking. “Could you ask Lord Elrond how serious such a condition might be?”
A wise question.
“What is it?” Elrond asked, seeing the Wizard’s brows rise as he read the letter given him by the Dwarves passing through Rivendell.
“It’s from Bilbo--he’s decided to adopt that young cousin of his who was left orphaned about ten years ago. Frodo, I think the child was named.”
Elrond looked interested. “He’d adopt another? Why?”
Gandalf laughed. “To keep his Sackville-Baggins cousins out of Bag End for the most part. They’ve never seen eye to eye with him, and he appears to loathe them, and apparently with good reason. Wise of him to pick a more comfortable heir.”
Gandalf watched Bilbo and Frodo as they came together into the dining hall in Elrond’s house. Bilbo appeared somehow fragile, and Frodo defensive. Something had plainly occurred between the two of them while Frodo was visiting in the older Hobbit’s rooms earlier, and it had left Frodo feeling vulnerable and Bilbo terribly guilty.
Something, perhaps, to do with the Ring? Gandalf wondered. Had Bilbo asked his younger kinsman to give it back, perhaps?
Frodo gave Bilbo a sideways glance, and the Wizard saw pity and love there as well as wariness. Then It has not yet tainted their mutual wisdom....