Lily came home from the market well before elevensies in an unusually somber mood. Frodo endeavored to draw a smile from her but could not. She silently turned to her chores of the day. He noticed again she had been very quiet of late, as though sad, and yet she would not speak of whatever it was that occupied her thoughts, not even to him.
Frodo was not angry; it simply was not in him. How could he be angry with her for having her feelings? And yet even being able to acknowledge this, he also admitted to himself that he was at his wits’ end. In a slightly desperate mood, he decided it was time to resort to his usual final refuge in these matters: he would ask Sam.
He kissed Lily gently on the cheek as he pulled on his winter cloak. “I’m going for a walk, sweet. I need to see Sam about starting the new vegetable garden next month. I shouldn’t be gone long.”
Though she did not look at him, she acknowledged his words with silent nod. His heart contracted painfully.
With a steadying breath, he swallowed the lump in his throat. “I think it’s going to get quite a bit colder, today. I’ve stoked the fires in the kitchen and the greatroom, and our bedroom... is there anything I can do for you while I’m out?”
She looked at him only for a moment. The sadness in her eyes caused his heart to sink a little.
“No, thank you, Frodo-love, I have everything I need... don’t catch a chill out there.”
“I won’t. Don’t hold elevensies for me; have some yourself. I’ll be back before luncheon, dearest,” he assured her, and kissed her brow. It was so unlike her not to kiss him back.
He stepped out onto Bagshot Row and made for Garden Hill. The wind had picked up considerably in the short time that Lily had been home. He was glad he had decided to bundle up; it felt like rain. He looked at the sky as he walked, then turned around to look due north; yes, the storm clouds were gathering there. He turned back again and walked faster.
Lily had not been eating as well lately, and suddenly he wished he had spoken with Sam before today. Well, there was nothing for it now; he would just have to hope for the best.
Sam answered the door at his knock, and tried to take Frodo’s cloak for him.
“That’s all right, Sam. Thanks just the same. I don’t think I’ll be here long. Can we talk for just a moment? And can you please remind me to ask you about this spring’s vegetable garden before I go?” He was a little breathless.
“Aye, Frodo. What’s worritin’ you? Here, take a seat, warm your feet by the fire.”
Frodo removed his cloak, without thinking, laid it on a chair, and sat down in front of the welcoming parlour fire. He then stood up again just as quickly and paced the floor.
Sam shook his head just a little. His friend needed help, and it had to be something to do with being married... he could read all the signs.
Frodo stopped for a moment to look at his friend. “Sam, Lily has been so quiet -- quiet for weeks now. Today she came home from her morning at the market and -- and she can’t seem to smile, not even a little. And it isn’t time for her monthly courses, as it’s just past... I’m at a loss, I truly am.”
Finally sparing a glance at his friend, he drew his brows together. “Sam?”
Sam stood with his hands stuffed into his pockets and his shoulders hunched, a sure indication he was uncomfortable.
“Frodo, I think you’re going to need to talk t’Rosie on this one. Beggin’ your pardon, that is.”
Frodo blinked, struggling to imagine how his friend, dear as he was, might already know what he was going to ask before he asked it. But it seemed this was exactly the case.
With a nod of his head, Sam turned down the hall. “She’s in the kitchen. Come on in, Frodo.”
As soon as Sam had announced Frodo’s arrival, he vanished, leaving Frodo alone with Rosie. It was all becoming stranger by the moment.
Rose smiled at him but she, too, seemed preoccupied, or tense. She was lovelier than ever these past few months, as her delivery approached. Her skin really did seem to glow. Frodo had seen it week by week as they visited back and forth between their homes. He felt a slight pang, not of envy, but of sadness, mostly for his Lily, when he thought of the joy Sam and Rosie would soon embrace.
He immediately chastised himself. Everything happened for a reason. Gandalf had taught him that. Time belonged to the Creator; it had never belonged to mortals, nor even to Elves. They would simply have to wait until He gave them a child of their own.
It was unlike Rosie to be this quiet. Though she had stopped washing the dishes, she kept her eyes fixed on them.
“How are you, Rosie? Well, I hope? How much longer is it now? Two months?”
“Aye, but I wish it were tomorrow. I feel fine, thanks for asking, just a little tired. Can’t complain.” Rose gave a particularly tight twist to the rag she was using, revealing her tense feelings without words.
“Rosie, I am sorry to disturb you, but I need your advice.”
Rosie still did not look up from what she was doing. She sighed and spoke in a resigned tone. “It’s about Lily, isn’t it?”
Frodo was taken aback. “Yes.”
Rose began muttering to herself, continuing to stare at her dishes rather than at Frodo.
“Some people just can’t seem to keep to themselves. They have to go poking their nose into other people’s business, whether it belongs there or no. It’s almost like they get some foul pleasure out of seeing someone else discomfited.” She gave the rag another stiff twist for emphasis.
Rosie then turned on Frodo, shaking her finger angrily, and stopped. She checked the fury that was just under the surface about to burst out. She took a deep breath, and let it out slowly.
“I’m sorry, Frodo. I just get so angry --!”
Frodo’s eyes had widened at her look and her tone. “So I see.” He endeavored to soften his comment with a smile.
Rosie felt her anger lessen just a bit. Like everyone else, she was helpless to his charm. She released a heavy sigh and began.
“I’m sorry. It’s my fault. I knew I shouldn’t leave her alone, but it was only for a moment... Oh, goodness gracious, that makes her sound like a child, and she ain’t, but still... I mean, she’s so tender hearted, you know.”
Rosie shook her head to clear it, and took a steadying breath. “In the market today, some of the Hobbiton gossips, well, there were really only two of them...” She glanced at Frodo. “Aye, I’m sure you could guess who. Be that as it may, it seems they decided it was time they learned Lily’s business, all in the name of being neighborly, of course. The miserable old meddlers.”
Frodo did not miss the increasing edge in her tone. Concern began to take hold of him. He carefully leveled his voice, “What did they say?”
“They asked when you planned to start a family. Lily ignored them, as is her way. So they began to chitchat, loud enough for anyone near, or not so near, to hear what they were saying, that maybe ‘Mad Baggins’ could not beget any heirs after spending all his energy on traveling, or was it that she was being a smart lass, and making sure she didn’t have to share because she only married him for his wealth; you know, making sure he didn’t get any heirs? Or maybe he married her because no one else would have her, because she couldn’t produce any heirs, you know, ‘nine-fingered Baggins and his fruitless wife.’ I told them they were a bunch of henpecking busybodies with vinegar for blood and hearts as black as coal. They offered apologies -- well what might pass for apologies -- and spoke like it was some kind of jest. I told them it fell flat all around, and they’d do well to learn some manners. Oh, Frodo, I am sorry. I’ve never seen Lily flush like that. I was afraid she would faint on the spot. Somehow she held up. But she didn’t speak another word. I’m so sorry.” Rosie began to cry.
A myriad of feelings had played across Frodo’s face during the telling of the story. He went to Rose and wrapped one arm around her shoulders, and took one of her hands into his.
“Dear Rose,” he assured her gently, “thank you for being with Lily, so that she didn’t face them alone. And thank you for standing up to them; I sometimes forget my reputation. I did not want to believe--” He faltered. “And -- I had hoped it would not come back to haunt Lily, especially not like that.” He carefully banked his own fury. “I am sorry you had to hear it.”
Rose turned to face him. Her tears had ceased, but still she was sad.
He gave her an encouraging smile. “And, I must tell you,” he went on, “that I heartily approve of your retort. I know Lily will not tell me any of this for fear of hurting me, but I needed to know; and so does Sam. We cannot dictate what they say or think, but we can live well and happily in spite of it.”
Rose threw her arms around Frodo and held him as tightly as her increasing condition would allow.
Frodo smiled in surprise and gently returned the embrace. He looked at her questioningly, and when he realized that Rose could not read his face the way his Lily could, he asked, “What was that for?”
Rose sniffed and smiled, “Frodo Baggins, I’m so glad you and Sam are best friends. I told him right away, only because I didn’t know what to do. And Sam said much the same things as you, though not quite as tactful-like.” Rose laughed. “He asked if I wanted him to tell you, but I thought I should. That way you’d know from someone who was there.”
Frodo nodded his thanks to her, and said his goodbyes to them both. He fetched his winter cloak from Sam as he passed him on his way out, and returned to Bag End.
He found Lily standing in the greatroom holding herself, her arms wrapped around her middle, and her hands chafing her arms, all the while staring into the fire.
Frodo wanted to take her in his arms, but the words Rose had related were still ringing in his ears -- and he had not even been there at the market to hear them spoken in person, as Lily had. He could only imagine her hurt. He stood next to her, gazing into the fire.
He waited several long moments, hoping she would open to him. He did not care what others thought of him, but Lily would care. But more than that, what they had said of her... He could feel the anger building within him, once more, and consciously quelled it. Anger solved nothing, he reminded himself, and would cloud his ability to reason, and more importantly wedge its way between Lily and himself, a thought not to be borne.
Lily was not forthcoming, and Frodo could bear it no longer.
“Lily, I am so sorry...” He choked on the words.
She turned to him quickly, but kept her arms wrapped about herself. She briefly met his gaze, then glanced about the room as she talked.
“You know...” She shrugged. “No, Frodo. This is not your fault. They were just being what they are, the village hecklers. Every village has them. They pick on everyone, looking for the worst whether it is there or not.”
Frodo was astonished by her understanding, but confused by her continued sadness. “Then -- what is it that still troubles you so?”
Lily returned to gazing into the fire and asked in a very small voice, “What if they’re right?”
Frodo had to force himself not to shout. “Right about what?”
There was now a catch in Lily’s voice. “About me?”
“What about you? I know you did not marry me for my wealth. What an absurd thought. You’ve more than enough of your own...”
“No, Frodo.” The tears began to pour down her cheeks, uncontrolled. “What if I cannot have children?” Lily began to sob.
Sudden understanding hit him. The old biddies had struck at Lily’s deepest fear, bringing it to light for all the world to gawk at and mock.
“We don’t know that,” he tried to soothe her.
Lily took a step back. “We don’t know that it isn’t true, either. We’ve been married for so long and still, there is no child!”
Frodo needed to think this through carefully before speaking. In his mind, he called on Ilúvatar to enlighten him; he knew he was treading on dangerous ground. Taking a steadying breath, he spoke softly.
“Lily, what if it not you? What if it is me who cannot sire them?”
Lily flashed him a wide-eyed stare, then her face crumpled once more. “Frodo, you do not know the whole. I should have told you before we married...”
“Told me what?”
“We Burrow lasses are not known for our breeding abilities. My mother lost more children than she bore.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that she miscarried several times before carrying each of us to term, and miscarried several times after my birth. Daisy did not conceive right off. She lost one before Pearl.” Lily wept. “I should have told you.”
Much became clear to Frodo for the first time. “That’s why you were sad whenever we spoke of children.”
Lily nodded miserably.
A peace settled over Frodo. “All this time you have fretted.” He could not bear the thought of his wife shouldering such an unfair burden any longer. “Lily, will you love me less if we have no children?”
The horror on Lily’s face was answer enough, but she was compelled to say the words out loud as well.
“No, Frodo, of course not. It’s just... I wanted to give you that gift. I know you believed you would never have any children of your own. I wanted at least one for us. I have prayed –- we have prayed since the day we wed -- since before we wed -- that we might be blessed with children. The darkness has been removed from you. Mayhap it’s my fault. Maybe there’s something wrong with me... perhaps it would have been better if you had married someone who could have given you children...”
Frodo’s eyes flashed angrily for a moment, and his voice took on a desperate edge. “Lily! There could never, ever be anyone else for me; there could only be you -- there is only you -- there will be only you -- my precious gift from Ilúvatar, from before we met, all the years ago... now and always.”
Lily’s tears continued to flow, and he could barely hear her anguished whisper.
“But what if I’m never able to give you a child?”
Frodo thought his heart might break, and then words from an earlier time with Lily filled his mind. He remembered what she had said to him once, on the road to Rivendell, when he told her about Weathertop. Her tear-filled voice had pleaded, ‘I need you here... I need you now... all of you... I did not marry you only to stop loving you as soon as I learned of something I did not like... Do you think so little of me as to believe I could not accept you wholly?’
He swallowed hard and spoke softly. “Lily, I did not marry you because you could give me a child. I have dreamed of holding our child in my arms, of having that child gaze up at me with your hazel eyes...”
Lily interrupted him. “I’ve dreamed of them having your blue ones.”
They smiled at each other, and Frodo continued gently. “...but that is not why I married you. Any more than I married you to be healed of the darkness; for I did not know that would happen. I married you because I could not bear to be parted from you. I did not marry bits and pieces of you. I married all of you. I accepted you before, and I accept you now. Do you think so little of me as to believe I would cast you aside because you could not bear me a child?”
Lily was stunned. The words... the words she had shared with him after Weathertop. Her deepest fear was now exposed by the light of Frodo’s love, so it vanished; but the sorrow remained.
“But what if we can’t have any children, Frodo?”
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, and we’ll cross it together. But that bridge isn’t even in sight yet. These past months have been a blessing, Lily. They have been bliss. Our love has grown and deepened. When a child comes -- when a child comes -- we shall have all the more to offer, the greatest gift any child may receive: parents who love each other; parents who are best friends, as well as lovers.”
Frodo searched her eyes for reassurance that his words had been heard and believed.
Lily searched his as well, not knowing what she was looking for -- hope?
He took a step toward her, and she did not back away. Tears were still streaming down her face, and her lips trembled. Taking a final step, Frodo closed the space which separated them. He cupped her face in his hands, his fingers in her curls.
Lily continued to search his eyes. Frodo slowly lowered his head until his mouth was barely touching hers.
She closed her eyes.
He whispered against her lips, “Lily Baggins...” he kissed her... “I...” he kissed her again... “love...” he kissed her once more... “you...” The final kiss he gave her was deeper.
Lily melted against him. But Frodo had the oddest sensation he had forgotten something important. He carefully extracted one hand from her curls and slipped it around her back. He looked into her eyes, and saw the sadness still there.
“I have seen you with little Pearl, and seen the longing in your eyes. You’re wonderful with her.”
Lily smiled and blushed. “...and you,” she replied.
She was delighted to see the slight blush that crept into Frodo’s cheeks.
Frodo dropped his eyes, then raised them to hers again, and his voice was rough when he spoke. “You will be a wonderful mother. I know it.”
The sadness eased in Lily’s eyes. “And you will be a wonderful father, my dearest husband.”
Again Frodo blushed, only deeper, and dropped his eyes to stare unseeing at the slight space between them.
Lily found this terribly endearing. From somewhere deep inside her, hope began to grow. She lifted a hand and slipped her fingers into Frodo’s dark locks. “They’ll have chestnut curls like yours...”
Frodo raised his eyes to hers and smiled. “I had hoped they’d have auburn...”
Lily giggled, and then searched his eyes earnestly. “Do you think we shall have any children?”
Frodo gazed intently at her. Finally, after all these months, the ever-present unspoken question had been voiced, and he knew that only a completely honest answer would satisfy.
“Lily, I do not know what the future holds. I do know that should we be blessed with children, they will be loved and have the most wonderful of mothers. For now, I am content to leave the timing in Ilúvatar’s hands. There is so much to learn and understand. Our Creator hears our prayers and at the same time knows what is best. I shall trust to that.”
It wasn’t exactly the answer Lily had been looking for, but she realized it was the answer she needed to hear. She nodded her head in agreement and reached up to seal it with a kiss.
Frodo knew there would be times in the future when she would weep again at not having a child, but now it might not be so desolate, nor might she blame herself so severely. Would that he could simply grant her wish. He would do anything for her. Did she know?
As he held her tightly in his embrace, he whispered in her ear. “Whatever is in my power to give, I shall. Only tell me what it is...”
Lily murmured against his lips, “Always love me.”
“An easy request to grant...”
At Rosie’s request, just after luncheon, Sam made his way up the Row to check on Frodo and Lily. He carefully opened the front door and started to step into the front hall when he heard murmured endearments in the greatroom.
Silently, he backed out the door and looked over the front garden; he settled on inspecting the roses. He wanted to ensure that his friends were not disturbed.
Sam knew each single rose bush and climbing variety in the garden by heart; before he knew it, he had been there for well over an hour. He was glad he was bundled as well as he was against the cold. The wind had settled, at least.
He wondered if he were being foolish, since it was a cold day, after all. Hardly a body came by to visit, not on such a day as this. As the time arrived for afternoon tea, he began to think he ought to just head home, when up the lane wandered a young hobbit lad whom Sam did not know, or mayhap he did. The lad reminded him of a stout little fellow in Bywater. If so, he was a long way from home.
Sam greeted him warmly, thinking the lad would pass by, but the youngster stopped at the gate.
“What do you need, lad?”
The child stared at the ground, then looked up hopefully. He timidly asked, “Is Mr. Baggins at home?”
Sam considered his answer. “Not today, my lad.” He wasn’t home to anyone but Lily today, Sam added to himself.
The child’s face fell. “Is he off on one of his adventures?”
Sam smiled to himself. “Yes, lad, he is. Quite the adventure.”
“When will he be back?”
Sam considered the question carefully. “Probably some time tomorrow should do.”
“Do you think I could come by and visit then?” Hope flickered in the lad’s eyes.
“Possible, it’s possible. Why do you want to visit Mr. Baggins? Does he know you?”
“Oh, no, no sir.”
Sam was not accustomed to being called ‘sir’, and smiled.
The child continued. “He doesn’t know me, at least not yet. I heard about him in the market today.”
Sam was instantly on his guard. “Oh?”
“I just thought I’d pay him a visit... and ask him about his adventures.”
Sam peered at the lad closely. “Is that all you heard?”
“Well, there was something about him having only nine fingers. Is it true?” The child turned wide eyes to Sam.
Sam was serious. “Yes, lad, it’s true. What else did you hear?”
“That his wife didn’t have any fruit, but that seemed like an odd thing to say, seeing how as no one has fruit this time of year.”
Sam choked down a chuckle. “Was there anything else you heard?”
“Well, one other thing.”
“What was that?”
“That he didn’t have any...”
“Any what, lad?”
“Well some rich folks won’t talk to someone like me. My mum does sewin’ for ‘em. She says that they won’t have nothin’ to do with me ‘cause they put on airs.”
Sam watched the child curiously and hoped this was going somewhere. “And what’s that to do with Mr. Baggins?”
“Well, in the market, they said he didn’t have any.”
Sam was now confused. “Didn’t have any what?”
“Airs. So I thought he might tell me about his adventures, if’n he had time.”
Surprise rippled through Sam, and he almost burst out laughing but caught himself just in time. He did not want to disturb the lovers inside -- that was after all the reason he was out here in the first place.
Sam clapped an arm around the young hobbit and walked him down the lane away from Bag End. “You come back after luncheon tomorrow, and when I see Mr. Baggins I’ll let know him that he has a guest arriving for a bit of adventure telling.”
“Oh, thank you, sir! Thank you!” And with that, the young lad tugged his forelock and headed home on the run.
Sam almost called after the lad, realizing names had been forgotten in the unexpectedness of the exchange, then chortled to himself. “It seems, Mr. Frodo, the adventure is about to take a new turn.” He returned to the front garden to continue to stand guard, so to speak. It seemed he was needed after all.