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Mirimë paused in her tale, and poured another cup of tea. “I have missed tea,” she said.
She glanced at the other two hobbits, who were gazing at her with rapt attention. Bilbo simply looked as though he wished her to continue, but Frodo had a little furrow in his brow, and his lips were pursed in thought.
“What troubles you so, Frodo?”
“You were set to guard hobbits, to watch over us.”
Mirimë nodded. “Yes, I was. It was my task to see that your people flourished and grew.”
“Because that was the task my Lady set for me.”
“And why did she set you that task?”
“She did not tell me that. Your people were small and defenseless; to me that was enough.”
“But why were we to be kept a secret?”
“Frodo!” Bilbo interrupted. “Frodo, it is scarcely polite to interrogate a guest so!”
Frodo glanced over at his cousin, and shook his head. “I do not mean to be impolite, Uncle Bilbo, but these are questions that need to be answered. What was so important about the hobbit race that they needed guardians? And why was there a need for secrecy?”
He looked once more at Mirimë’s changing eyes. She might look like an ordinary hobbit matron at the moment, but he could not quite forget that she was not any such thing.
“I think you already know the answer to those questions in your heart, Frodo. Why does it distress you so?”
Frodo gazed at her again, and then dropped his eyes. He sat there silent for a moment, and then rose from his chair. “Excuse me, Mirimë. Thank you for an excellent meal. Uncle Bilbo, I think I will retire now.”
He abruptly left the room, and Bilbo stared at him in dismay.
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