She had not been looking where she was going, and walked straight into him, dropping most of a large basket full of fresh vegetables on her foot, and crying out. He helped her pick them up and asked if she were all right. She wasnít really, but said she was.
When she began to limp away after making polite farewells, he followed her and suggested she sit for a while. He offered to take the basket; she gave it to him, already under the spell of his eyes. He offered his arm to her and she took that as well, and they walked to one of the many tables set up in the center of the fair. Then he sat down next to her and talked to her about the carrots and mushrooms in her basket, asking if they came from Farmer Maggotís stall.
How did he know thatís where they were from? she queried, and he laughed and told her he was well acquainted with the quality of Maggotís crops, from long ago. He had an enigmatic way of speaking, to be sure. He then smiled at her, as if the rest of the story about Maggotís crops really wasnít important.
Mostly they talked of nothing, nothing at all, for nearly an hour. She was mesmerized by his beauty, the perfect symmetry of his face, his hair, his mouth, even his skin, the like of which she had never seen. Maybe he was not all hobbit? He presented such a calm demeanor! He seemed completely unaware of himself...
More than anything else about him she remembered his eyes, impossibly blue, and impossibly beautiful. She had tried not to stare, but caught herself doing so, many times, in the course of their conversation. He did not seem to notice this, either. In fact, he was intent on her.
She trembled again at the memory of his gaze -- and avoided it now as they sipped their hot tea. Surely he knew the effect he had...? But no, he still seemed completely unaffected.
She had been amazed by it, even at her young age then. There had been many hobbits who made silly excuses to talk to her and then made fools of themselves by thinking they could have their way with her. She knew she was not unattractive, but there was no excuse in such behavior. They were loud and boorish. She despaired of meeting one who was not. Surely there must be a kind and gentle one, soft-spoken, and thoughtful, like her dear father.
Well, there was Samwise Gamgee. He was quite sweet, but he had been smitten since childhood with her cousin Violetís friend, Rosie Cotton. Rosie lived in Bywater, and Lily and Violet in Deephallow, miles away, but they had been to visit Rosie on several occasions, and Lily met Samwise a few times as a result. All she knew of him was that he was a talented gardener who worked with his father in Hobbiton. He had been polite on each occasion when their paths crossed. She knew Samwise had a good heart, and a pure soul. Rosie was very lucky that they were promised to each other. It was almost a betrothal.
But for an hour or so on that summer day, Lily had spoken with a hobbit possessed of the purest soul of any she had yet seen; with each passing moment in his presence she could actually feel something change within her. She could not say what it was, but something important, something deep and strong, was happening to her heart. He had not yet asked her name; politeness dictated she could not ask his unless he asked hers first. If it had not been for the arrival of his friends, she might never have learned that his name was Frodo Baggins.
"Frodo!!" called a very young voice from behind Lilyís seat at the fair table. She turned and saw two young, fresh-faced hobbits approaching them at a fast clip. She got the immediate impression that they did everything quickly. The older one looked to be in his mid-twenties, with curly blonde hair, a very mischievous smile, and laughing blue eyes. He was dressed very smartly indeed. The younger hobbit was not even in his tweens yet. He couldnít be older than 16 or 17 if he was a day. His hair was light brown and longer than the older hobbitís, and very curly. He looked to be bursting with pent-up energy. He, too, was well-dressed.
The younger one called out again, with a distinctive accent she had never heard before, "Frodo! Frodo Baggins!" He drew out the long oís in the first name. She wondered where in the Shire he was from...
The older hobbit ran to catch up to the younger one. "Hullo, Frodo! We didnít expect to see you here today!" he said, smiling.
Lily had looked back for a moment at -- Frodo -- that was his name. He was smiling at both hobbits and clearly knew them well. He stood to greet them, stepping away just enough from his bench to exchange a firm embrace with each, and got a back-thumping from the older one.
She realized that she had not once thought about his -- Frodoís -- age. She could not place it at all, no matter how hard she tried. He looked to be very near to his coming of age, but again, somehow, much younger? She decided it must be his demeanor. He had a very young face, but an older demeanor. How unusual he was!
They were laughing all at once, talking about someone named Sam. Well, there were plenty of Sams in the Shire, she thought. How odd it would be if it were the Samwise she knew, but surely it couldnít be -- could it? She let the question go.
"Frodo, where are your manners? Arenít you going to introduce us to this lovely lass, then?" said the older one, suddenly smiling at her. She blushed. Having the full attention of three attractive hobbits all at once was even more than she was accustomed to; although the youngest one seemed almost to be in a daze, she thought -- for he was staring at her nearly open-mouthed.
"Pip! Close your mouth before something flies in there!" the older hobbit said to him. Pip, as he was called, closed his mouth but looked no less dazed.
"And donít stare!" the older one chastised, although he had been smiling all the while. He wasnít truly angry then, she thought. Curious.
Pip glanced away from her then and at Frodo instead. Frodo smiled at him as a kind older brother might.
Something seemed to register in Frodo then, and he turned to face her. "How could I have been so thoughtless!" he exclaimed. He took her hand and looked directly at her. Her heart leaped into her throat at the touch of his hand. She averted her eyes for a moment. All thought left her each time he looked --
He was speaking once again, and Lily had to remember to breathe, with his gaze directly on her like this... She had a slight problem with fainting when overly excited; Mum had taught her how to try to breathe evenly if she felt faint.
"I am terribly sorry, miss. My manners have flown, and I have no excuse at all, other than that your beauty is a true distraction. My name is Frodo Baggins. Iím from Hobbiton, just up the way. Would you please forgive my ill manners, and tell me your name?" He smiled again, disarming her utterly.
"L - Lily. Lily Burrows. Iím -- Iím from Deephallow." Her voice sounded small against the sounds of the fair all around them.
"Miss Lily. Iím very pleased to make your acquaintance." He kissed the back of her hand lightly, then released it. This was all very standard; it was somewhat gallant, but still completely within accepted practice. Lilyís heart, still in her throat, stopped when he kissed her hand.
Frodo did not seem to notice. His attention had been diverted to his friends, as he made more introductions.
"This is Meriadoc Brandybuck, from Brandy Hall," he said, indicating the older hobbit, "and Peregrin Took, from Tuckborough. Merry, Pippin, Miss Lily Burrows."
"Very pleased to meet you," said Merry, and he too kissed her hand, almost in imitation of Frodo; almost as if heíd never done it before. It made her smile. Pippin, the young one, merely stammered.
"Y - yes, very p - pleased indeed, Iím s - sure..." Pippin barely took her hand. He really had the most charming accent. She wanted to ask where it came from -- perhaps only from Tuckborough? She regained her voice and her breath, out from under Frodoís blue gaze.
"Thank you, Iím pleased to make your acquaintance," Lily replied to them both. She turned to Frodo, desperate to start a bit of light conversation to keep from voicing her thoughts... about how fair he was, and how kind... she forced a smile, though it really was not too difficult.
"These are old friends, then?" she asked brightly.
"Oh, yes, the best of friends, and second cousins as well...wonít you sit with us, you two? Miss Lily and I were talking about Farmer Maggotís crop."
There was plenty of room at the table. Merry turned to Pippin before they sat down. "Hey there, Pip, be a good lad, bring us some ale... and some cider for the lady."
Lily saw a little gleam in Pippinís eye.
"Only one ale, Merry?" he said, and walked away, smiling.
"Wait up! No, two for me!" Merry yelled after him.
But Pippin was already gone.
"Frodo, how did you meet this lovely hobbit-lass?"
Frodo spoke just under his breath. "Merry! Youíll embarrass her!"
Lily was blushing; it was true. All this talk of loveliness and beauty was undoing her, but nothing so much as when Frodo looked at her and smiled...
"We ran into each other a few minutes ago," he said, smiling at her again.
Lily spoke up, glancing only once at Frodoís smile before turning to Merry. "Heís being too kind. I ran straight into him, truth be told."
"True enough!" Frodo laughed. "But weíve had a good time talking, all the same."
Pippin was back already with the drinks, two in each hand.
"Hereís cider for the lass, an ale for Frodo, and myself, and lastly, Merry." He grinned at Merry and took a seat next to Frodo.
"Only one?" Merry groaned.
"The day is young yet, Merry," said Frodo, laughing again. He only sipped at his ale, while the other two started to down theirs.
"Thank you so much for this," Lily said to Pippin.
"My pleasure," he replied. He seemed more relaxed.
"Pipís father is the Thain!" Merry expounded, sounding for all the world like he said it on a daily basis. He was already finishing off his ale; Lily tried not to stare. Even her older brother couldnít down an ale that fast.
"Merry! For pityís sake, give it a rest!" bemoaned Pippin. Frodo was chuckling, still sipping his ale.
"Is that true?" Despite herself, Lilyís eyes had gone as wide as saucers.
"Yes, itís true," Pippin said. "I just donít like being reminded. I donít feel ready to be Thain someday."
"Pip, get used to it -- youíll never feel ready, or be ready!" Merry laughed heartily, and then all three of them were laughing, even Pippin. This had to be a running joke. Lily smiled, somewhat relieved that Pippin was not truly being picked on.
Rather jauntily, Merry inquired, "Miss Lily, do you have an escort today? If not, Iíd be happy to escort you home. Deephallowís down in my neck of the Shire." He didnít seem to be leering. Lily thought he was harmless, but couldnít be completely sure.
"Yes, thank you, I do have one, my mum is here shopping with me today. We came up with Violet, my cousin. My mumís bound to be looking for me soon, Iím sure. I canít stay much longer, pleasant as itís been to talk to all of you."
Lily sipped at her cider and tried to catch another glimpse of Frodo without being seen, but it was no good. He was looking at her again, his ale forgotten.
"Uncle Bilbo wouldíve been happy I ventured out to the Fair today," Frodo said to his friends. "He --"
"Uncle Bilbo? Oh, pardon me, I interrupted... do you mean Bilbo Baggins?" Lily asked.
"Yes, have you met my uncle, then?"
"Oh, no, not exactly. Our family was invited to his 111th birthday party. My father knew him just a little. Did he reappear that night, after he disappeared, I hope?" she asked in complete seriousness.
"I think thatís been a good six years ago now... no. No, he went to a place called Rivendell. Itís not in the Shire," Frodo said. She heard wistfulness in his voice, and saw it in his face.
"Not in the Shire? Are there towns beyond the Shire? Beyond Bree, I mean?" Lily was very intrigued, and her expression gave it away.
"Yes, many towns -- " Frodo began, but Merry cut in.
"Well, at least sheís got an open mind!" he cried, smiling. "Frodo, how is it that the smart lasses are drawn to you all the time? What do they see in you, thatís what I want to know?!"
"Merry!" Now it was Pipís turn to protest. "Youíll embarrass her!" He turned aside to Lily. "Donít pay any attention to him."
Frodo spoke to his cousin, but was looking at her. "Merry, canít you at least let me speak to this sweet lass in peace? Iím sure sheíll have to go soon." He then turned to Merry and smiled; again it reminded Lily of a benevolent older brother -- like her brother Will when he was in a good mood.
Lily realized Frodo had just said he wanted to speak with her in peace. He called her a sweet lass...
"Oh, all right!" Merry grumbled. "Címon, Pip. Frodo found this fair lass first." Merry got up to go, and Pippin followed suit. The two hobbits bowed low to Lily, although Pippin did so with more of a flourish.
"Itís been a pleasure to speak to you, Miss Lily," Merry said. "Frodo is a dreamer, though. You need to know that. Heís not your typical hobbit. Goes off and reads books, and thinks about adventures, and Elves and such. Not really your type, Iíd say." He smiled, and threw one last look at Frodo. Pippin smiled sweetly at her, and then they were gone.
"Youíll have to pardon my cousins. They really were only teasing," Frodo assured her, watching them go.
"What are Elves? Or, who are Elves?" Lily asked boldly, her curiosity getting the better of her. "Do you really go on adventures, or even think about going on them?"
"I donít really go on adventures. I go for long walks in the countryside all round. I love the Shire too much to leave it. My uncle goes on real adventures. As for Elves..." he frowned, as if at a loss for words.
"Lily! Lily!" came a voice. It was her mother; an older version of herself, so closely did they resemble each other. Violet was with her as well, and stood shyly by waiting for the adults to exchange their hellos.
Frodo stood again and stepped out to greet Lilyís mother. He extended his hand to hers and kissed it, bowing slightly, just as before. "Itís a pleasure to meet you, Mistress Burrows --?"
Lilyís mother smiled and nodded, charmed by Frodoís manners.
"And -- is it Miss Violet?" he kissed her hand as well. Lily was surprised; she had only mentioned Violetís name once to Frodo.
"My name is Frodo Baggins," he continued. "Your daughter and I had a rather abrupt meeting --" at this, he smiled at Lily -- "and she may have a bit of a sore foot for a day or two, but Iím sure sheíll mend as good as new. We have had a lovely talk in the meantime. I have enjoyed it very much. You must be very proud of her."
"Yes, that I am, Mr. Baggins... are you related to Bilbo, perhaps?"
"Yes. Heís my uncle. Lily tells me all of you attended his grand birthday party." Frodo had that wistful smile again.
"Yes, and lovely it was, too, with some very grand tricks to go with it!" she laughed.
But it was time, and Lilyís mother turned to go. "It was very nice to meet you, Mr. Baggins. A good day to you."
Lily stood next to Frodo, feeling frozen where she stood. The thought of leaving him... they had only just met... Deephallow was so far away...
"I - I must go now. It has been very nice talking with you, Mr. - Mr. Baggins. Frodo."
"Till we meet again, Miss Lily," he replied, but Lily knew this was a formality. Again he took her hand and kissed it, then let it go. Again her heart stopped. "I have enjoyed the pleasure of your company today. Are you quite sure your foot is all right?"
"Yes, yes, quite sure, thank you k-kindly," Lily stammered. He was looking directly at her again, his eyes seeing straight into her soul it seemed. She looked down, gathered her basket of vegetables, and stepped out from the bench. She turned to join her mother and Violet. They each bobbed a curtsey to Frodo as he bowed to them. She turned back one last time to see his face.
"Goodbye, and thank you, again," she said.
He smiled at her and called, "Good day to you, Miss Lily."
Lily did not see Samwise Gamgee approach Frodo just after she turned. She had not looked back again, for fear he might see her tears.