The Young Rascal from Buckland

by Lothithil
Buckland, The Early Years:

Mischief in the Marshish
Chaper One

    Frodo lifted his head slightly as he bowed over his task.  Had he heard a dog barking?  He listened for a long moment, then relaxed.  'Guilty nerves', he chided himself, then turned back to his work.
        It was a fine full patch, one he nor any of his fellow 'borrowers' had found before.  The bells were broad and the stems thick, and the sight of them made his mouth water in culinary anticipation.  He culled the patch carefully, leaving no evidence of his activity.
        Frodo had little fear of discovery, for he could, and had, eluded and out-run Farmer Maggot's farmhands, many times.  He knew his way around the farm well, because of his frequent nighttime visits.  Today he was working in the full light of day, because the other young hobbits at Brandy Hall had said he was afraid of Maggot, and he would prove them wrong.  In truth, the Farmer terrified him, with his huge dogs and stout cudgel, but Frodo had seen him ride away early that morning toward Stock, wrapped up in his red hood and scarf that he wore to market.  He would be gone for hours yet; plenty of time to fill his bag and his belly.
        His bag was nearly full already with his morning's efforts, but this proud, mature patch of mushrooms could not be passed by.  He stuffed his bag to bulging.
        There it was again!  Dogs barking!  In a twinkling he was off at a run, bent over and speeding down the ditch.  The barking was distant, but too near for Frodo's comfort.  He had not realized how close to the Farmer's house he had come.  He flew along the familiar path, keeping low and moving as silent as a hobbit could when burdened with a sack of vegatables half his own size.  This cutting led to a dyke, and beyond that the road and the River.  Once he reached the Ferry, he's be safe, or so he believed.  He laughed as he left the faint baying behind; the Lawless Baggins had struck again!
        The dogs sounded again, and nearer.  Frodo reached the dyke and scrambled up the bank.  It was steep and slippery, and Frodo had to grasp the tussocky grass at the brink to keep from sliding back down.  He braked his fall, sighed with relief, then gasped as a hand closed upon his collar.
        He was hauled out of the cutting and into the road.  There was Farmer Maggot!  With a fist full of Frodo's tunic in one great work-worn hand, he neatly relieved him of the bag of pilfered vegetables with the other.  Frodo wriggled to escape, but was held firm.
        "So 'ere's the one what's been raiding me gardens!" growled Farmer Maggot, fierce as one of his wolfish dogs.  "You'd be not much more 'n a mouthful for ol' Fang over there."  The dog was a black-brown brute with short hair and what looked to Frodo like a hundred teeth. It licked its loose jowls and barked throatily.  Frodo was far too frightened to notice that it was barely more than a puppy.
        "Mrs Maggot will be nearly to Stock by now.  She wondered why I insisted that she wear my old red things to market.  How she will laugh when I tell her who our little thief is,...or was," he added menacingly, and Frodo trembled, caught fast in the Farmer's unrelenting grip and seeing his fate written in the weather-beaten face.  "I'd feed you to me dogs, if I had not a touch o' pity for poor Miss Primula.  She'd be sorry indeed to see what her son has become.  So, instead I'll do what she would do, were she alive to feel the shame."  And with those words, the farmer turned Frodo over his knee and laid three hard licks across the young hobbit's breeches with his broad hand.  Then he released Frodo and whistled.  Two more dogs appeared at his side, bristling and growling.  Maggot said to his dogs, "See, lads, next time this young varmint sets foot on my land, you can eat him.  Now see him off!"
        Frodo was already running, but the dogs were at his heels until he reached the Ferry-landing.  His heart was in his mouth, between his tearing eyes and stinging back-side.  He ran with everything he had, praying that the  Ferry was still on the west-bank, and that these rabid wolves Maggot had set on him would not follow him onto the raft.  He prayed also that no one witnessed his undignified retreat, empty-handed and humiliated.
        The dogs halted at the Ferry-markers, but kept up their noisy racket, and Frodo felt his cheeks burning as the sound attracted the attention of the Bucklanders across the River.  His shame would not end this hour, nor this day, if old Rory got wind of this tale.  Frodo poled the raft over the slow brown water, and vowed to himself firmly never to set foot over the Brandywine River again!

The Family Tree
Chapter Two

        Frodo's shame did not die in that hour, nor on that day after his meeting with Farmer Maggot.  For a whole week Frodo was to endure penance ordered by Rorimac, the Master of the Hall, who was Frodo's guardian.  He had been set to dusting the old books in the Master's study, and to oil the old crackling leather spines and covers.  His punishment was made worse by the mockery of his peers, the scores of young fellows living in the vast Hall.  Merciless in youth, they taunted the capitulated Baggins, compounding his misery.
        Now he sat alone in the library, carefully wiping decades of dust from an old manuscript of family linage.  He had long hours to reflect bitterly on his ill fate, and to feed the rebellious flames that grew in his heart.  He thumped the old book aside, heedless of it's ancientry, and stalked to the window to look out at the trees that stood tall behind the High Hay, which ran along the eastward side of the Hall.  No one would miss him, he thought glumly, if he were to disappear into those dark trees and never return.
        In that moment he most missed his parents, whose untimely death had stranded him here, one child among many, instead of the loved and protected child he had been; the treasure and pride of his doting parents.  What a cruel world this was, he thought, and then the tears were no longer for himself.  They flowed down his cheeks as memories came to him slowly of his mother and father, indistinct and fragmented.  Shocked, he realized that he could barely recall his mother's face.
        'How can you wallow about in self-pity like this?' he scolded himself.  He wiped his eyes and sniffed, then turned back to his chore.  He would not again dishonour his mother's memory.  Angry with himself, he rubbed the book cover with excessive force, and was dismayed as it came apart in his hands.
        He gaped at the ruined book.  Now he would never get back into the Master's good grace!  Vainly, he tried to pat the cover back together, but the old leather was too worn.  It crumbled in his hands.  As the young hobbit contemplated places where he might hide this disaster, the library door opened suddenly, and Frodo was caught in a guilty spotlight.
        An older hobbit stood in the doorway, seeming suprised to find anyone in the musty old study.  "Hullo!  And what are you doing in here on such a fine summer day?"  He saw the damaged book in Frodo's hands then, and with an exclaimation took it from him.  "And did you do this, now?  Well, there's no need to cry over it.  These things can be mended."
        To Frodo's intense embarassment, he realized that there were tears on his face.  He dashed them away angrily, and said in a breaking voice, "'m not crying!"
        The hobbit looked briefly at the manuscript in his hand, then down at Frodo's proud but splotchy face.  "Ah, I see.  Forgive me, my lad.  I have come in at a bad time.  Master Rorimac gave me permission to borrow a couple of his books.  Why don't I just take this old thing, too?  And when I get home to the Bag End, I will fix it up a treat, and have it back before anyone thinks to look for it.  What do you say to that?"
        Frodo lowered his proud eyes in genuine graditude.  "Thank you, sir."
        Bilbo smiled.  He was plesed to find a young hobbit in a library, and one so senitive and spirited.  "Frodo, isn't it?  Drogo's boy?  I am glad to know that you read, young Frodo.  Too few do, and I didn't realize that old Rory had taken time to teach young ones their letters."
        "Mum taught me, sir" Frodo said in a small voice.  "I only read a little, sir."  He opened his mouth to confess the true reason that he was in the study, but Bilbo interrupted him.
        "You must call me 'Uncle Bilbo', my dear boy.  Actually we are cousins,  but that's no nevermind.  Can only read a little, eh?  Well, you are in the right place to learn more.  And when you have, then you will know how much you still do not know."  Bilbo frowned.  "Did that make any sense to you?  I doesn't to me, no matter how many times I say it."
        Frodo did not have a clue what his cousin was talking about, but he smiled at him shyly.  Bilbo was kind and friendly, and Frodo felt his heavy heart lifting a little for the first time in many days.
        "That's better!" exclaimed Bilbo, patting the child's shoulder.  "Now keep at it!  I will see you later at supper."  He left the room with the torn book under his arm, humming a tune.

[posted on Middle-earth message board 02-19-03]
author's note:
In the back of my mind while I wrote this portion of the story, I was comparing Bilbo's journey to the Lonely Mountain with Frodo's to Orodruin, the similarities and the reversals; growing peril, sanctuary, peril again, perilous sanctuary, etc., until you aren't sure when you are safe and when you are not.  Nothing so dark in the text... just in my head.  I need some tea... enjoy, and thanks for reading!

The Barrel-Rider
Chapter Three

        As all the Brandybucks and their guests gathered to take their evening meal, Frodo looked towards the Master's table from where he sat with the other children in the Great Hall.  He could see Bilbo, sitting next to Rorimac.  He remembered Bilbo vaguely from visits early in Frodo's youth when the old hobbit had come and told him and the other hobbit-children of his adventures with the Dwarves against the dragon.  Frodo remembered the tales well.  He hoped Bilbo's presence would mean that there would be some storytelling tonight after supper, so he endured the teasing of his table-mates in good humour, even laughing with them without rancor.  He kept one eye on the head table as he helped himself to a generous dinner; his appetite had been off since he had been disiplined.  Now he ate well and smiled, and the other children soon caught his excitement and whispered to each other in anticipation.
        The young ones were disappointed when dinner was over and Bilbo retired with the Master to talk and smoke.  As they were herded out of the room by the aunties, Frodo thought he saw a twinkle in Bilbo's eye turned toward him.  He walked out of the room and down the hall to the chamber he shared with other hobbits near his age, and prepared to go to bed early.  Bilbo would probably make quite a long stay, as he usually did.  Perhaps there would be stories tomorrow.
        "Primula and Drogo's boy? Are you sure, Bilbo?  The lad's an uncontrollable rogue, since his parents passed away, may they rest in peace.  Not but what I'd be sorry to see him go, now that I consider him.  The lad can be charming, when he wants to be.  Menegilda's quite taken with him...but did you hear about his visit to Bamfurlong?  You'd be taking on quite a job of work, adopting that boy!"
        "Oh, I don't think so.  The lad is spirited, like his father before him.  Old Drogo was a bit of a rascal himself, as I remember.  We used to do some willful things as lads together."
        Rory muttered something around the stem of his pipe that sounded like "...Tookish Bagginses..." which Bilbo pretended not to hear so that he didn't have to point out to Rory that the Tookishness was on Frodo's mother's side, who was Rory's sister Primula.
        "Anyway, I thought the lad is old enough to learn his letters properly.  I owe my mother's sister's daughter that much, to see her only child is given every opportunity.  He is a Baggins, after all, and I can teach him more if he were with me in Hobbiton than I can in this noisy warren of yours."
        Rory grumbled some more, though he was actually pleased that Bilbo had taken an interest in the boy and had suggested taking Frodo away with him.  He felt responsible for the lad, being his closest kin after his sister Primula had drowned with her husband, but he was never quite able to foster the boy.  'Too much Took in him!' he would complain, after yet another failed act of discipline.  The child was wild, but still dear to the hobbit, being one of the oldest children in the Hall and looking so much like his dead sister, too.
        Bilbo could see that it was going to take time to get Rory used to the idea, so he puffed on his pipe, blew a smoke-ring, and changed the subject.  Time, and a willful young hobbit, would doubtless do his arguing for him.
        Bilbo's visit ended, and Rory gave no thought to his nephew for many days, until the lad was brought into the Hall one afternoon by a half-panicked hobbit-mum.  The boy was soaking wet, wrapped in a blanket and smelling like the river.  "It's that Mr Bilbo, sir! fillin' their empty heads with dragons and adventure!" complained the anxious woman.  "I fished this one out of the River, where he had foundered, tryin' to ride a barrel on the Brandywine!  Half-drowned he has been, and that close to joinin' his poor mum and da..."  and then the lady burst into tears and hugged the shivering child to her bosom.
        This prank earned Frodo another week in the study, a job he was rather beginning to enjoy, at least when old Rory kept away.  The Master would sometimes sit behind his desk while Frodo worked, holding a book and watching Frodo from beneath his bushy brows.  He made Frodo feel rather self-conscious. 
        When he was not there, Frodo would carefully open the books he cleaned, and tried to work out the meaning of the symbols scrawled in various hands.  He knew how to draw his name, and very little else, but he enjoyed looking at the maps he occasionally found, or the fading inked pictures some of the volumes contained.
        One day he arrived at the door of the study and found the Master and Bilbo talking together.  He froze on the threshold; the books Bilbo had borrowed were stacked on the desk, and the book Frodo had damaged was right on top, lying open beneath Rory's eyes!

posted on Middle-earth message board 02-20-03

TFOTR, chapter 5, (paraphrased)
        Fredegar objects- no one goes into the Forest!
        Merry- Brandybucks do, when the fit takes them,...Frodo has been in once...

and so my mind spills forth...

Hard Chioces
Chapter Four       

        The very book Frodo had damaged was lying open before Rorimac's eyes.  The new leather was bright and smooth on the binding.  Frodo turned white, frozen where he was with one hand on the door-latch.
        "What are you doing up here, boy?" growled Rory.  "Your penance was over yesterday."
        Frodo gulped.  He had lost track of the days, and had come out of sheer habit.  He stuttered out the first excuse he could think of.  "I...I wanted to borrow a"
        Bilbo laughed and waved Frodo to his side.  The boy obeyed instantly.  "Look here, Frodo my lad.  Here is your name," and he pointed at the open page on the desk.  Frodo looked, and recognized the shape of the letters his mother had said spelled his name.  They were at the end of a line that connected lots of other lines like a map, but they were all straight or sharp bent, and had other words scrawled about that he could not read.  "Can you tell me what it says right under your name?"
        "No, sir." Frodo confessed.
        "You see, Rory, the lad must be tutored.  We can't have Drogo and Primula's son growing up illiterate.  And he's a Baggins... That's all right, my lad,"  Bilbo said to him kindly, "It says 'September the twenty-second'  That is my birthday, too, you know."  Bilbo beamed at the lad, who smiled back tenatively.  "Run down to the kitchen, now, and bring us back some tea, would you?  Three cups!" he called after the running child.
        Frodo dashed off to obey Bilbo's request, but heard with his quick ears Rory's comment, "Well, you do have a hand with the boy, I see..."
        Frodo took his tea with his cousin and Master Rorimac, who behaved rather stiffly throughout the meal, but spoke very courtiously to him.  Frodo listened politely as the older hobbits talked, answering only question directed at him.  He hoped that if he was very good, Bilbo would tell stories that night.
        As he piled the dishes to return to the kitchen, Bilbo asked him in a whisper in his ear, "What story would you like to hear tonight?"
        Frodo glanced apprehensivly at the Master, then said very softly, "Elves, sir."  Bilbo smiled at him and ruffled his curly hair.

        Frodo did not get to hear any stories about elves that night, but he was not disappointed; Uncle Bilbo told them many other tales, all about the founding of the Shire and of Buckland.  Frodo loved hearing such tales, having always been keenly interested in histories and legends.  He sat with the other hobbit-lads and lasses, listening raptly.  Bilbo ended the evening with a story about old Master Gorbadoc 'Broadbelt', Master Rorimac's father and Frodo's own grandfather.  Everyone was laughing when he ended, and Rorimac was in such good humour that he actually patted Frodo on the head as he passed to say 'Good night' on the way out of the Hall.  His own grandson Meriadoc was already down the hall and squeaking for a snack before bed.
        Things went smoothly for the rest of the summer, and Frodo managed to stay out of trouble, or at least to avoid being caught at it, for he seemed to be unable to stay away from situations that lead easily to mischief.  He began to face each day warily, as if he knew luck was running out on him.
        One day, as he was playing a game with the other children outside the front of Brandy Hall, Frodo saw a small boat coming down the river toward the dock where the Ferry was moored.  He paused in his game to watch it, remembering how his parents used to enjoy short jaunts on the river.  The little craft was carried slowly to the dock, but the single occupant seemed to be having difficulty mooring the boat.  Closer now, Frodo saw that the boater was a lady-hobbit.  There was no older hobbits nearby, and since she was in danger of being swept past the dock and down-river, Frodo disobeyed Rorimac's order for him to stay away from the river.
        He caught her thrown rope and tied it off deftly, and then stepped on the gunwale to steady the craft for her to step out.  She disembarked gracefully, but before she could utter her thanks, Frodo felt his ear twisted and he was hauled back up the bank.
        Rorimac was furious, and he scolded Frodo soundly as soon as he was calm enough to speak clearly.  Frodo endured the harangue stoicly, though he still smarted from the beating Rory had dealt him once he had brought the lad inside.  He offered no excuse, and said nothing but "Yes, sir," and "No, sir," until Rorimac ran out of threats and curses.  He went to his room without supper or dinner, but he felt too queasy to eat, anyway.  He sat on his bed and stared out the window at the treetops far way, holding in a bleakness that seemed too big to contain.
        After dinner, several of the younger hobbits dared to approach Rorimac and told him what had happened before the older hobbit had come out of the Hall and seen Frodo at the riverbank.  The young lady hobbit who had been assisted out of her boat came to him and demanded to know why her gallant rescuer had been disiplined.  Too proud to apologize to a child, Rorimac relented and sent food up with one of the aunties for Frodo.
        She returned in dismay.  Frodo was not in his room.  A quick search proved that the boy was nowhere inside Brandy Hall.  Night had fallen, so Rory gathered all the hobbits he could with lanterns to go out and look for the child.  Menegilda was furious with her spouse, and shoved him out of the house with a lantern to go looking with the others.
        They returned empty-handed.  The Ferry-man had not seen him, nor the bridge-keepers.  So the lad could only be in one of two places; fallen into the River, or lost in the Old Forest.
        Rorimac called in the searchers for the night, ignoring the glares his wife dealt him.  He told everyone to be ready in the morning to begin searching for his nephew.  As he said this, he realized it was the first time he had ever thought of the boy as his own kin.  He got no sleep that night.

Chapter Five

        Rorimac got no sleep that night, and neither did Frodo.  It was dark and cold and creepy in the Forest.  He regretted his rashness, running away like a baby, but it had been so unfair!  He was only helping... Frodo swollowed the thoughts that came to him.  'So life isn't always fair', he told himself firmly, 'and a good person can be in the wrong place at the wrong time'.  He squared his shoulders and turned about, trying to find the path he had been following, the path that had disappeared like magic when his lantern had sputtered out in the draft.
        This seemed to be unquestionably 'the wrong place'.  The trees towered over him, and their closely woven branches kept the light of the moon from helping the forlorn hobbit to see.  He felt the silence of their enmity but he ignored them as best he could, focusing on trying to find a familiar turn or trunk to lead him back before he was missed, and oh! would he be in trouble then!
        He walked about until he was shaking with chill and exhaustion.  Miserably, he seated himself on the sawed ring of a tree-trunk that he had found in a clearing, and looked up at the little patch of stars that the trees grudgingly permitted to shine down into their domain.
        Out of the corner of his eye he saw the light again, or thought he did.  That had been what had drawn him out on this wild quest; he had thought that it had been Elves, travelling through the Forest.  He had told himself that if he could see them, just one of them, then it would be worth spending the night in the Forest.  But the lights had vanished and not reappeared, until now.  Frodo stood up in excitement, his teeth chattering, and he saw that the light did not disappear; it was coming toward him!
        It could have been old Rory with Farmer Maggot and all three of his dogs, for all Frodo cared; he hurried toward the bobbing light.  But it was not they, or anyone Frodo had ever seen before.  It was an old grey man, tall and thin, but bent over and unthreating.  And in his hand was Frodo's lantern, relit and sparkling brightly.
        "What's this?" said the old man, "What's this?  You are a little young to be out in the Forest alone, waiting to guide old travellers to the gate.  What is your name?"
        "F...F...Frodo, S...s...sir!" stuttered Frodo through his chattering teeth.  "L...lost, s...sir!  Help?"  The old man immediately wrapped his grey cloak around the shivering child, and lifted him easily in his arms.
        "I must say how much I appriciate your coming to escort me.  Without your lantern I should have been hopelessly lost."  The old man spoke softly to Frodo, who was trembling so violently that he could not respond.  The man continued to speak softly to him, and gradually as his chill lessened, he relaxed and then fell asleep against the warm shoulder.

        "Gandalf the Grey, at your service, Master Rorimac."
        The old man re-seated himself in the chair next to the fire, where he was being served tea by a very relieved Rory Brandybuck.  Master Brandybuck had taken his sleeping nephew from Gandalf's arms after he had heard the knock on the door in the grey hour before sunrise.  Now he looked at the old man again, his memory teased by the name.  "Not Gandalf the Wizard?!"  Rory remembered tales from his childhood of a wandering old man who had displayed the finest fireworks describable.
        "Yes, I am Gandalf," said the old man with a gleam of amusement in his eye.
        "I can't thank you enough for rescuing my nephew.  We had searched everywhere, and I was going into the Forest first thing in the morning..."
        "You would have been too late, Master Rorimac."  said Gandalf solemnly.  "What happened to drive him into the Forest?"
        The wizard's reprimand and shrewd question abashed Rorimac, and he confessed to the wizard his troubles with the boy.
        "Maybe I should let old Baggins take him in," muttered Rory at the end of his discourse.  "Not that I don't love the boy, I know now that I do!  But I don't want to pass on a problem, when it is of my own making."
        Gandalf looked kindly at Rorimac, but his voice was stern.  "This is not a 'problem', it is a young boy, a boy who needs guidance and understanding.  From what you tell me, Bilbo has a way with the child, and it just might be the best thing for the lad.  For you and Bilbo, too," the old wizard added softly, as if to himself.
        "You know Bilbo Baggins?" asked Rory.  He had never much given his attention to any of Bilbo's tales beyond the few he told regarding Buckland and directly relevent to himself.
        "As well as any, I suppose."  said the wizard with a laugh.  "He is a good sort, a real gentlehobbit, a cut from the finest cloth."  Rorimac nodded, for he agreed that Bilbo was, despite his strange adventureous tendancies, a hobbit of the highest caliber.
        "I shall give serious thought to this," Rory said, and he did.  And the more he thought about it, the wiser the words of the old wizard sounded.

the next chapter is the last one of The Young Rascal..., but is you are intrested, I will be delighted to share what I have finished of The Heir to the Hill, a work in progress, indeed, yet more stories touching those little 'unfinished tales' that intregue me so much, and, I hope, you as well

The Birthday Present
Chapter Six

        The old man had departed that morning, after finishing his tea and breakfast and checking on the sleeping lad.  Rory watched him limp slowly away, then returned to Frodo's bedside to check on the boy again.
        Miraculously, Frodo was no worse for his adventure, except for a sniffle.  He apologized to Rorimac for his foolish behaviour and was astonished and then alarmed when the old hobbit quietly accepted his apology, then grabbed him up in a hug.  Later that day, passing by the open door of the study, Frodo saw his Uncle Rory (as the Master of Buckland now insisted that Frodo address him) writing a letter at his desk.
        Frodo forgot about it as the summer expired and autumn arrived in a riot of colour.  He played with his cousins, who all seemed quite impressed with Frodo's new status, so much so that they did not tease him so much as before, nor dare him to attempt anymore foolish things.
        September was passing, and Frodo's birthday drew near.  He had never paid much attention to birthdays; in Brandy Hall, just about everyday was two or three persons' birthdays.  But this year he felt that he would make a change, and he thought very hard, and came up with an idea that pleased him.  He would give his Uncle Rory a bithday present.  He did not forget about his Uncle Bilbo, though he had not seen him for so long that he figured the old hobbit had quite forgotten about him. 
        Walking along the road south of Bucklebury, he found a pretty stone about twice the size of his fist.  He picked it up and turned it over, wiping off the mud to discover an interesting pattern of marbled crystal running through it.  He took it home and washed it, and it was very attractive to Frodo's eyes.  He took it to the stonemason in Bucklebury, and asked the hobbit in the thick leather apron to cut it in half.
        The busy hobbit stooped to peer into the young hobbit's eye, and asked him why.
        "Because my birthday is coming up, and I have only one gift for two different people!"
        The 'smith laughed and carefully tapped the stone so that it split neatly in two, and sanded down the sides and polished them so that their natural beauty was enhanced.  Frodo thanked him heartily and ran off home, clutching the gifts to his heart.  He hid them carefully beneath his bunk, waiting impatiently for the day of giving to arrive.
        Frodo tapped on the door of his Uncle's study.  It was his birthday today, and he wanted to give Uncle Rory his gift in private, so that no one would be offended.  To his suprise, Bilbo opened the door.
        "Well, well!  Look who it is!  And what have you there, young man?"
        Suddenly embarressed, Frodo took a deep breath to keep himself from stuttering.  " A birthday present for Uncle Rory."
        "Isn't that nice!  He will be delighted.  I think he is in the third parlour, finishing his tea.  Why don't you go down and find him."
        "Uncle Bilbo, I have a present for you, too."
        Bilbo smiled at the lad.  "And I for you, young Frodo.  We shall exchange them after dinner, do you think?"
        "All right!  Uncle Bilbo?" Frodo added shyly.  "I am glad you came."  He ran off down the hall.
        Dinner was delightful, and Frodo was pleased to enjoy a seat next to his Uncle Rory at the big table among all the adults.  He listened politely and kept his elbows off the table, even when most of his elders didn't.  He felt very grown up, and was even given a small glass of wine with which to toast his Uncle Bilbo's health.
        "And also, we drink to the health of my nephew Frodo, who is twenty-one years old today!"
        "Good health, Frodo!" cried everyone in the hall, making Frodo blush with pleasure.  He bowed clumsily.
        "And now, let's have a dance!"  Rory led his wife onto the floor and they waltzed while talented hobbits played fiddle and fife, skin and spoons.  Everyone rose to their feet and sang and clapped and swung their partners round.
        Bilbo drew Frodo aside for a private word.  Frodo had been waiting for this moment, and he handed his uncle the gift he had prepared.
        "Why, it is lovely!" said Bilbo, turning it in his hands.  "I shall set it upon my desk, so that I see it everyday.  Thank you, my boy."
        Frodo flushed with pleasure.  "It is just like Uncle Rory's.  It was the same rock, cut in two."
        "Then I shall treasure it even more, for now Rory and I share yet another precious thing.
        "And now, Frodo, I'd like to give you a gift.  But it is not the kind of thing you can put in a box or tie a ribbon around."
        "Is this a riddle, Uncle Bilbo?" asked Frodo with a grin.
        Bilbo laughed.  "No...well, yes, I suppose it could be seen like that.  I want to give you the opportunity to learn to read and write.  Would you like to come home with me to the Bag End and live there, while I teach you all that I know?"
        Frodo was stunned.  It was absolutely the last thing that he had expected, and was quite beyond anything he had hoped for.  He looked out into the room full of merry people, and saw his Uncle Rory, happier than Frodo had seen him since...than Frodo had ever seen him.
         He turned to Bilbo, and spoke slowly and softly.  "More than anything, except to change the past, do I wish to come with you and learn.  But, Uncle Bilbo... why?  Why do you want to do this?  Surely Uncle Rory has told you about..."
        "I think you had better come and live with me, Frodo my lad.  That way we can celebrate our birthday-parties comfortably together."  Bilbo laid a hand upon Frodo's shoulder, and said gently, "I have asked your Uncle Rorimac, and he has reluctantly given me permission to ask you.  He loves you, you know, but he cannot teach you all you need to learn, nor take you to the places I can show you.  He will be here for you, whenever you care to come and see him, and you will always have two homes, Brandy Hall and the Bag End."
        Rory came up at that moment with his wife.  Frodo ran to them, and then stopped, and cautiously laid his hand on his uncle's arm.  "O, Uncle Rory, Aunt Mene, may I truly do this?"
        "With our blessings, dear child," his aunt Menegilda said, kissing his brow.  Rory mussed his hair lightly, wearing a smile of paternal pride.
        "We need a scolar in the family, Frodo, and it is past time for you to learn. You have great energy and wit," Rory coughed meaningfully with a mock-stern glare that made Frodo grin sheepishly, "And we know that you will do great things when you are grown."
        "But now, you are going to dance with your Aunt Mene!" and she swept the lad away and showed him the simple steps, so that by the end of the tune, he was dancing well and passing from partner to partner.
        Rory chuckled as he leaned on the back wall next to Bilbo, smoking.  "You'll keep an eye on that boy, Bilbo.  He will steal more hearts than you have dragon's gold."  Bilbo shot him a sharp look, but the grizzled old hobbit only puffed his pipe and hummed with the music.

Thus ends this tale, The Young Rascal from Buckland.  Come back and visit Frodo in his adventures as The Heir of the Hill.

- Lothithil