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A Mother's Work  by Dreamflower

 [AUTHOR’S NOTE: Frodo is nine ( 6 in Man-years). Primula knows her husband, brother and nephews are all of age, even if they don’t act like it…]


The clock on the wall, a gift from Drogo’s cousin Bilbo, whirred and clicked. The little doors opened, and the tiny Dwarf popped out and struck the bell with his miniscule hammer. Eleven strokes. Primula sighed, put down her knitting, and made her way to Drogo’s study.

“G-E-R-O-N-T-I-U-Eth” came a childish voice.

Drogo chuckled, and Frodo frowned. “It’th not funny, Papa!” There was an intake of breath, and then Frodo said forcefully “Gerontiussssss!”

Primula, peeking through the open door stifled her laughter, as Drogo wiped his face. Frodo had recently lost two front teeth, and was very frustrated by his consequent lisp. When he concentrated very hard, he could still produce the “s” sound, but the result was usually a spray of spittle, with no front teeth to contain it.

“I see,” she said sternly, “that the two of you have lost track of time over lessons again. Rory and Gilda expect us to elevenses, you know, and we are already late!”

Now she laughed at the way they scrambled. Being late for a meal was no small thing for a hobbit. Luckily, her brother’s apartment was only a short distance down the sloped passage from their own.

Still, she needn’t have worried. They had not yet begun to eat, though the food was ready on the sideboard in the Master’s private dining room. Rory’s older son Saradoc and his wife Esmeralda had yet to show up. Merimac was standing by the sideboard, and attempting to snatch a scone, only to be foiled by a slap from his mother’s hand.

“Merimac Brandybuck! You are no growing lad; we’ll wait till all are here!” said Menegilda sternly. She turned to the new arrivals. “Good morning, Primula, Drogo! How are you today, Frodo?” she asked, reaching down.

He gave her a hug. “I’m fine, Auntie Gilda!” He paused, “Oh, and how are you?”

She hugged him back firmly. “I am very fine indeed, Frodo. Especially now that you are here!”

He grinned “Tho--I mean *SO* we can eat?”

She blinked, and used a finger to wipe her eye, “Almost! But we still must wait for--ah! Here they are now!”

Saradoc and Esmeralda entered hand in hand, with apologies, but no explanations, for their lateness. At Gilda’s arched eyebrow, both of them blushed fiercely, and the other adults all chuckled knowingly. Frodo looked puzzled. “What’th tho funny?” he demanded.

Merimac swooped him up, tickling. “It’s very funny, don’t you think, for Sara to be late for a meal?”

Frodo stopped his squirming and giggling, and said in an unsatisfied tone, “If you thay tho, Uncle Mac!” For he used the courtesy titles with his adult cousins.

“I *do* ‘thay tho’, little Frodo-worm!”

“I’m not a worm!” was the indignant response.

“You thquirm like a worm!” He tickled the lad once more.

“*Thtop that!” Frodo squealed.

“ ‘Thtop what?”

Frodo took a very deep breath. “SSSSStop ssssaying that!” he said forcefully.

Merimac put his cousin down abruptly, and took out a handkerchief to wipe his face. The laughter in the room was all directed at him now. He shook his head ruefully. Bested by a nine-year-old!

Primula openly grinned. Frodo had not necessarily meant to spray his cousin’s face, but it was quite funny to see.

“That’s enough,” said Rory. “We shouldn’t let the food get cold.”

Soon they were all seated round the table busily eating. Primula kept an eye on Frodo’s plate, making sure he took some of the meats and vegetables on the sideboard, and did not load up with only sweets or mushrooms. He was quite greedy, especially, for mushrooms, and had to be reminded not to get more than his fair share. He was also going through a bit of a growth spurt--she noticed him taking his plate back for fourths, and smiled to herself. It was wonderful to see him with such an appetite.

Meanwhile she was conversing with Esmeralda, on her other side. Sara and Esme had been married nearly three years now, and she and Primula had become very good friends. She knew Esme’s older sisters much better of course--Primrose and Peridot had been her best friends all her life, after all, though she saw them much less often now they were grown. She gave a tiny sigh at the thought of their eldest sister Pearl, who’d been killed in a fall from a pony long ago, and then shook the melancholy thoughts away.

The two were discussing a bit of knitted lace Primrose had sent her sister, which Esmeralda was wearing at her throat. It was in a pattern Primula was unfamiliar with, and she wondered if Primrose would send it to her.

Just then, one of the maidservants came in with the post. There were several letters for the Master and Mistress, a letter for Merimac--Primula spotted the handwriting, and his blush as he took it--it must be from Linda Proudfoot. There was a rather thick one for Drogo, clearly from his sister Dora--she wrote to him twice a week, long letters filled with advice and gossip. And there was a package from Hobbiton, addressed to “Master Frodo Baggins”. What had Bilbo sent now?

The others looked curiously, as Frodo grinned eagerly and grasped the package. “It’s not their birthday,” said Rory, puzzled. Bilbo was more than generous on birthdays and at Yule.

Drogo chuckled. “I’m afraid Cousin Bilbo likes to do the unexpected. He’s very fond of Frodo for some strange reason,” he chortled here at the indignant looks from his wife and child. He was fond of teasing. “so he sends the lad gifts sometimes for no particular reason at all.”

“Can I--I mean, may I open it, Papa?”

Drogo nodded, and Primula said “Take it away from the table, Frodo. If you are quite finished eating, you may open it.”

Frodo gave a briefly conflicted glance at his plate, and quickly popped the last mushroom into his mouth. Then, taking the package, he hopped down from the table and carried it over by the hearth, and began the process of taking off the string and brown paper that covered it.

There was a wooden box, and a letter lay atop it. Frodo picked it up, and Drogo got up from the table and went over to sit on the floor by his son. “What does it say, Frodo?”

With a look of intense concentration, Frodo read the spidery handwriting aloud.

“Dear Frodo,

I had planned for you to receive thith--*this*--gift for Yule. But it--*was*--not delivered in time. Thinthe--*since*--it arrived, I could not wait for another Yule for you to have it. I hope that you enjoy playing with it, my lad, and will tell me of all the Adventureth--*Adventures*--you have with it when I--*see*--you again.

Your Uncle Bilbo”

With an exclamation of anticipation, Frodo lifted the lid, and his blue eyes grew huge. “Oh my!” he said. He reached in and took out a small figure--a tiny hobbit. Drogo reached in and took out another figure, a small Dwarf. While Frodo examined the little hobbit, which bore an uncanny resemblance to his beloved Uncle Bilbo, Drogo reached in a pulled out a Dragon. It was cunningly constructed of bronze, with a suitable fierce expression. A large key was mounted in the side, and Drogo turned it a few times. The dragon’s wings flapped back and forth, it waved its long neck, and the mechanical “whirr” sounded much like a subdued roar.

Primula grinned. The rapt look on both Frodo’s and Drogo’s face was identical. She turned to say something to her brother, and realized he, too, wore an expression of fascination. In fact, her nephews did as well.

“What else is in the box?” asked Merimac, getting up and going over to join Frodo and Drogo. He reached in and began to pull out tiny Dwarves--thirteen of them.

“Good heavens!” said Rory. “Did he send the whole story?”

Drogo put the Dragon down, which was immediately picked up by Merimac. He reached in again. “Here’s three Trolls!”

As if drawn by a lodestone, Saradoc and Rory got up and joined the others on the floor. Frodo stood back, his eyes wide, as his father and uncles plundered the box. (“Bless me! Here are some Elves!” “Look at the goblins!” “Ugly things, aren’t they?” “I wonder if they really looked like that?” “Are there any giant spiders?” “No. Pity.” “Look, the sofa pillow would make an excellent Lonely Mountain!” “Is Gandalf in there? Aha! There he is!”)

Primula watched in amazement, and her eye was caught by Frodo, who stood watching the adults with a perplexed expression. While he would be only too happy for them to play with him, this *was* *his* present! But they were grown-ups--how could he say anything? All of this was obvious in the look of appeal he cast to his mother.

She looked at Gilda, who was on the verge of laughing openly, and Esme, who looked rather astonished at the sight of her husband on the floor like a lad of ten.

Primula cleared her throat loudly, and all of the males looked up at her. “I really think, lads, that you can’t have much of an Adventure without the Burglar!”

Guiltily they looked at Frodo, and Drogo had the grace to blush. “I’m sorry, son! You have the Burglar--you shall have to direct us in this Adventure!”

That was all the invitation Frodo needed, and he sat down happily. “Well, see, Papa--they have to start over here. The hearth can be the Shire…”

Primula shook her head, and exchanged a knowing look with Gilda. Esme leaned over, and whispered “Do they ever grow up?”

Menegilda grinned. “Not when there are shiny new toys about.”

Primula just smiled and watched her two children--husband and son--playing so nicely with the other lads.


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