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The formal dinner was marred for Frodo Baggins by excessive attention from one particular Man, a minor lord from a region of Gondor that produced primarily pigs, or so the Man had taken great pains to explain—at extreme length, as it proved. Frodo had tried several times to drift away, but it was as if there were an invisible cord that appeared to drag the minor lord behind in his wake, and as soon as Frodo began to listen to another discussion going on within the banquet room, the Man would tap Frodo on the head and begin again, pausing only to sip frequently from his wine goblet, which he’d had refilled each time a servant passed with a ewer of refreshments.
“Frodo does not appear to be enjoying himself at all,” Pippin remarked to Merry.
“No, he certainly doesn’t. First, he’s made to dress up as a prince of the realm, and then he can’t seem to shake that big piece of baggage for love nor money,” Merry observed.
Sam, who’d been following discreetly after Frodo to make certain that a plate of cheeses, vegetables, and fruits were always at hand for his Master, came over with a thunderous expression on his usually pleasant face. “Fool’s been drinkin’ far more’n’s quite good for him,” he muttered privately to the Ringbearer’s cousins with a backwards thrust of his head toward the offending Man. “Is beginnin’ to say things as perhaps ain’t quite proper for such a formal party.”
The three turned to look at Frodo. The Baggins’s face was growing pale, save for a small spot on each cheek, which was flaming. “May be time to interfere on Frodo’s behalf,” Merry decided, and led the way toward the twosome.
As they arrived near enough to hear the conversation, the Man was leaning over Frodo, saying something he’d intended to be private, then elbowing the Hobbit in the ear. “But, then, we’re both men of the world, friend Frodo,” the minor Lord said as he straightened once more.
Rubbing at his ear, Frodo straightened up, his eyes flashing as they usually did only when he was faced with some insulting foolishness spouted out by one of his indiscreet S-B relatives. Even this minor lord, thickheaded as he’d proved, paused, suddenly uncertain. “To be precise, I am not a Man at all, whether of the world or just of the Shire,” the family head for the Bagginses said, his voice cold enough to cause frost to form on a glass tumbler. “And I would prefer that you address me by my formal title. I wish you a good evening, my lord.” With that he turned away in a manner that not even this fool could mistake for anything besides dismissal, going toward where a number of Men were gathered about the King, a company this minor lord could not hope to be accepted among.
The Man turned helplessly toward Merry, whose face was now alight with amusement. “But I was told he does not answer to his formal title.”
Merry was plainly struggling to keep from laughing aloud. “He doesn’t.” With that, he led his two companions after Frodo, leaving the pig-lord gaping after them in obvious—and fruitless—distress.
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