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THE BIRTHDAY, S.R. 1402
Frodo smiled. He had feared that his “Hundred-weight Feast” would fall rather flat after all the to-do last year. And he had anticipated that he might be feeling a bit melancholy on this first birthday without Bilbo. True, he was missing him--how could he not? All his life they had celebrated this day together. Twenty-second Halimath was known among Baggins family connections as The Birthday ever since Frodo had been born. But he could not feel truly sad or lonesome tonight, as he sipped his rich Buckland Red, a gift from his Uncle Rory. Not quite so good as Old Winyards, but very mellow on the tongue. Why, Aunt Menegilda had even come, the first time she had set foot in Hobbiton in years. But her objections to the possibility of having to meet Lobelia Sackville-Baggins were gone, since Otho had removed the family to their holdings in the Southfarthing not long after Frodo’s inheritance had been finalized. It was too humiliating for the family to watch Frodo “taking their rightful place”.
He wished Sam and Marigold were not quite so shy--they were trying to keep rather to themselves, feeling a bit intimidated by the Brandybucks and the Whitwell Tooks--Paladin and his family, and by the Boffins and Bolgers who were there--only twenty guests in all, yet all of them near and dear to him.
He glanced under the Party Tree, where Esmeralda was reassuring young Pippin. It would be his first time to play his fiddle at a party, along with his aunt. She had just begun to teach him on his visit to Buckland last summer. Young Folco had his flute as well, and was already playing a sprightly air. But Aunt Esme had given up on coaxing Merry, though she had hopefully brought a tambour with her. Perhaps Pimmie might play it instead.
Merry and Fatty were talking to Sam and his sister, trying to get them to relax. Sam, of course, knew Merry very well. They’d always been playmates on Merry’s visits when he was younger.
Yes, this was the kind of party Frodo enjoyed--only the closest friends and kin, not half the Shire.
Wherever you are, Bilbo, he thought, I know you are thinking of me. He smiled to himself. I’ve seen to that.
“Master Bilbo?” The door to the hobbit’s apartments stood open, and he could see his small guest sitting at his window, gazing west. The old hobbit looked pensive, and Elrond suspected that he was not looking towards uttermost West as an Elf would, but to a much nearer, yet still inaccessible place: the Shire.
“Ah, Lord Elrond, do come in.” His voice sound cheery enough on the surface, but the Elf could hear the brittleness underneath. “I would like to thank you for making me so welcome here.”
“It is my pleasure, Bilbo,” said the Lord of Rivendell with a smile. “I am glad that you have chosen to come and dwell among us, now that your journey to Erebor is completed.” He paused. “You seem a bit preoccupied tonight.”
“It’s of no matter,” Bilbo replied lightly.
“Very well, I shall not press you. I sought you out this evening because Gandalf gave me a task.” He took forth from his robes a small package. “He left this in my care, and said that as he was certain you would be here on this date, I was to give it to you.”
Bilbo’s face lit up with frank curiosity. “Now, the Wizard should have known you should have given that to me yesterday. I shall have to tweak him for forgetting Shire etiquette when next I see him.” He reached forth and took the small parcel, done up in brown paper and string, and with an envelope tucked beneath the knot. Puzzled, he took the envelope out, and turned it over.
He beamed, and tears gathered in his blue eyes, as he saw it was addressed to "Uncle Bilbo Baggins, from his devoted Frodo". With trembling hands, he broke the seal and drew the letter forth.
Elrond discreetly withdrew, smiling to himself.
“My dearest Uncle Bilbo,
Always, as the byrdings, we have gifted one another on The Day, free of the restraints imposed on others unfortunate enough to have been born on another date.
I do not know where you are, but wherever it may be, I hope that you find yourself warm and comfortable, with plenty to eat and drink, and a nice fire and a roof for your head. I know your opinion of the less comfortable aspects of Adventuring, and hope that you are being spared them.
I gave this package to Gandalf with my instructions as soon as I realized you really meant to go through with your plan to retire from the Shire. For I am very selfish, Uncle, and wanted you to remember me on this special day.
You have gifted me already with everything: not only Bag End, and your wealth, and the headship of the family, but with years of your love and guidance. I know already that I shall miss you dreadfully, but you’ve done your best for me, and I know you deserve this last chance to see the Wide World and all your old friends.
I know that you will sometimes be homesick for the Shire. I hope that this little gift will help to assuage that a bit, and help you to remember me whenever you use it.
Gandalf promised me that he would see to it you received this at the right time.
I remain always,
Your loving cousin,
Tears were streaming down the old hobbit’s face, and he held the letter to his heart for a moment, before giving a mighty sniff, and turning to the parcel. He carefully untied the knot, and drew away the paper.
It was a pouch. He opened it, and smelled, and gave a great smile.
It was Old Toby, the finest leaf in the Shire. He’d long been making do with Breeland leaf, or the stuff the Dwarves used.
Ah, Frodo, my lad, he thought through his tears. I always knew you were the best hobbit in the Shire.
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