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For Anglachel for her birthday.
Frodo had merely given a twisted smile in response to Eglantine’s question, excused himself, and gone to welcome the Bolgers on their arrival at the door to Bag End. Esmeralda sighed and gave her sister-in-love a sideways look and a shrug. “He just refuses to address the question at all, Lanti. And I don’t begin to understand it, either. I know that since he was a teen Frodo’s looked forward to the day he’d marry and begin a family of his own. But he’s not really looked at a lass since the day Bilbo left, when he came of age and found himself Master of Bag End.”
Eglantine nodded her agreement, watching after Frodo as he politely took the cloaks of Rosamunda and Estella, preparatory to seeing them hung in the entranceway. “At least he was dancing with Narcissa that day and returning her smile. I was so certain then that he’d finally recovered from Pearl throwing him over as she did. But it’s been fourteen years now, and although he’s still behaving in that courtly manner of his toward the lasses, it’s as if he is totally oblivious to their charms. He ought to be married by now and filling Bag End here with all those children he’s always wanted to father.”
Merry listened to his mother and his aunt, silently agreeing that this was a most unsatisfactory situation. He, however, had his own suspicions as to just what the matter was, and he suspected it somehow had to do with that gold ring Frodo carried, as Bilbo used to do, in his pocket, a chain binding it to the loop Merry knew Frodo had carefully sewn inside the pockets of all his waistcoats and breeches.
The Bolgers were now joining those who’d already gathered for Frodo’s birthday celebration, and Frodo had returned to close the door. But he was lingering there a moment too long, staring down at the lane below, the lane that led to the Bywater Road and beyond to the Road, the one that led east and west out of the Shire itself.
“The wanderlust is almost ready to take him,” Merry murmured to himself. “It’s time, I think, to set Sam spying on him for me.”
“I agree,” Fatty said quietly, having silently come alongside him, his own concerned gaze noting that look of disquiet and longing on Frodo’s face, the look he quickly hid as he turned politely to listen to whatever question Estella was putting to him as he finally closed the door. “I don’t want him slipping away alone to find Bilbo as I know he wants to do, either. Whatever you can think to do to make certain that when he finally goes he doesn’t go alone, I’ll help you with it.”
And so a conspiracy was born.
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