A Posy of Pansies by elwen of the hidden valley

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All the characters and the settings (save Pansy and her family) belong to JRR Tolkien. This is non profit fanfic.


Pansy Berrydown was a bonnie lass. Everyone in Hobbiton said so and Bilbo was certainly not going to disagree with them. She had a figure rounded in all the right places and a mass of glossy chestnut curls that she dressed with ribbons and even the odd flower on special occasions. It was said that her baking would make an elf sing. But Bilbo knew there was more to Pansy than looks or baking skill.


Her eyes were the greenest green and twinkled when she laughed, which was often. And she had a way of making every lad she spoke to feel that he was special . . . that he could be the one. But it wasn’t until her coming of age party that she made it clear that Bilbo Baggins could be the one for her.


As at any thirty third birthday party there was lots of food and plenty to drink, as well as presents for all. Pansy’s doting parents had commandeered Farmer Brownlock’s pasture, just off Bagshot Row, for their only daughter and all the neighbours had been invited. Most of the rest of Hobbiton also turned up just to be sociable. As Pansy’s family were not some of Hobbiton’s wealthier inhabitants it was understood that as long as they brought food or drink to add to the supplies all were welcome. As all hobbit pantries contain a little extra in the corners it was no hardship to bring a basket and soon tables groaned under the weight. Some of the attendees were deep in their cups whilst others piled their plates high with sandwiches, scones, pies, flan, buns, cake and any number of other delicacies. If the presents supplied by her parents to later guests tended to lean more towards the mathom nobody really minded. The party was the thing.


Bilbo was a little later arriving than he had intended as the first lot of scones he baked to bring with him had burned. He had been standing in his bedroom trying to decide whether the green weskit with the gold acorn buttons or the gold one with the carved horn buttons looked better with his garnet suit. It was as he selected the green and opened his drawer to find the correct cravat that he recognised the unmistakable odour of singed currents and had to run back to his kitchen in hopes of rescuing them. But it was too late. His scones were blackened and so hard that when he accidentally dropped one, it bounced. With a sigh he had rolled up his sleeves and started again.


The dancing was well underway when he was greeted at the gate by Daisy and Will Berrydown. He had accepted a slightly battered shoehorn with good grace and went on to proudly add his sultana scones to the provender on display. (He was rather proud of this second batch. They had risen to perfection.)


Suddenly two fine fingered hands slipped around from behind to cover his eyes. There was a merry giggle and then, “Guess who?”


It wasn’t difficult. Bilbo would recognise that giggle anywhere. “Pansy Berrydown,”was his emphatic pronouncement. He was rewarded with the removal of her hands and another giggle. As soon as he was released he spun around to meet those emerald eyes. “And what’s my reward for guessing correctly,” he asked with a twinkle of his own.


Pansy’s dimples flashed. “A dance of course. Come on.” With those words Bilbo allowed himself to be lead willingly to join the two lines forming for the next round. It was three dances and several minutes later that they both fell, laughing onto a grassy bank and it was several minutes after that before either of them had breath to talk. Pansy recovered first.


“You haven’t wished me Happy Birthday yet,” she chided with a mock pout as she untangled a hair ribbon.


Ever the gentlehobbit Bilbo jumped to his feet, executed a perfect bow and with an expansive sweep of his hand said, “Happy coming of age Pansy Berrydown.”


Pansy tugged him down with another giggle. “Sit down you silly goose! We’ve known each other these ten years. You don’t need to bow to me.” Then she added archly, “Not that a lass don’t like it once in a while.”


Now it was Bilbo’s turn to grin. “Be sure to let me know whenever you feel the need to be bowed to again. I’ll be happy to oblige.” And he meant it. He could think of no lass who deserved it more.


Pansy slapped his arm playfully. “I don’t know about a bow but I could surely do with something to drink.”


Bilbo was on his feet again at once. “Apple juice?”


Pansy’s eyes widened. “No indeed. I’m of age today and I’ve a mind to try a mug of cider,” she announced, although Bilbo noticed that she checked upon the whereabouts of her parents first.


Now Bilbo Baggins was known to take after his father, Bungo, who was very respectable. But on the quiet you might say, he had also acquired some of his mother’s Tookish nature, which was a little more prone to mischief. So getting Pansy’s drink took a little longer than it should, as the two halves of his nature compromised on mugs that were half apple juice and half cider. By the time he had organised this and navigated the wildly twirling dancers on the return journey Pansy had already acquired another companion.


Bilbo Baggins and Will Goodbody had never got on. Will was one of those hobbits who had an opinion on everything and considered it to be the only one worth having. Pansy, however, seemed to be enjoying his company at present. This was not hard to understand as Will was reciting a very poorly composed ode to the glory of her eyes. Bilbo waited for a gap in the conversation and, when it did not arrive, cleared his throat politely. It was clear Pansy had not heard him amid the general hubbub as Will was intent on holding all her attention. It was equally clear, from his sidelong glance, that Will had heard his rival but was determined to ignore him.


Bilbo’s eyes narrowed. “I have your cider, Pansy.” He was certain his father was rolling in his grave at the unforgiveable sin of interrupting another’s conversation but he was in no mind to be usurped by the likes of Will Goodbody.


The word, “cider” had the desired effect and Pansy leapt up at once, her face dimpling prettily. “Thank you kindly, Master Baggins.” And to his delight she accompanied the thanks with a dainty curtsy before taking the proffered mug. She took a long swallow, smacked her lips and then paused with a frown, clearly expecting something.


Bilbo tasted his own mug and held back a wince. He liked his cider neat and the apple juice made it too sweet for his taste. “Is there something wrong with your drink? I can fetch you some apple juice if it’s too tart for you,” he offered.


“No. It’s fine. I’d just expected more of an . . . effect.” She waved in the general direction of Billy Twofoot, who was rolling around under a table, snorting loudly at one of Holman Gamgee’s notoriously bad jokes.


Bilbo grinned. “It’ll take a lot more than one mug to get as tipsy as that. And it’s maybe not a good idea for you to drink too much until you’re more used to it.”


That’s when Will got up and, sensing a way back into Pansy’s circle of attention, snatched the mug from her and took a good swig himself. “Ha! Bilbo Baggins you’re a liar. This isn’t cider.” He grabbed Pansy’s hand. “He’s doctored it!” He asserted in a half truth, tipping the evidence onto the grass and thrusting the empty mug back into his enemy’s hand. Pansy’s face turned white and her hand flew to her throat before turning into the shelter of her saviour’s willing arms. As Will gleefully ushered her away Pansy looked over her shoulder and her eyes said it all.


“How could you?”


Bilbo could only stand there, open mouthed. To run after them and explain that it was only “doctored” with apple juice would only sound like another lie, particularly with no evidence. The resulting fuss would also probably draw Pansy’s parents, who would no doubt be angry that Bilbo had “doctored” their daughter’s apple juice with cider.


So Bilbo set down the remains of his own drink, returned to his large, empty smial on the hill and tried to ignore the revelry in the field below.


Once or twice he had sought out Pansy but Will was always close at hand and after a while he gave up . . . telling himself that perhaps it was not meant to be after all.


It was six months later that the engagement of Pansy Berrydown and Will Goodbody was announced. They would be married as soon as Will had dug them a new smial in the bank down by the Water. Bilbo had tried to talk Will into digging a little higher, as the Water had been known to overflow its banks in occasional wet springs. But, as usual, Will had asserted that he knew best and suggested that “Mr High-and-mighty Bilbo Baggins” should keep his nose out of other people’s affairs. The couple married some time during Bilbo’s adventure.


He had heard tales over the years that theirs had not been an altogether happy marriage and they were never blessed with children. Bilbo felt a little guilty that he considered such was not necessarily a bad thing. Pansy deserved children to love but he suspected Will would not have been the best of fathers.


When Will died of a seizure many years later Pansy had to take in laundry to make ends meet. It seemed her husband had not thought to make provision for her upon his death, having preferred to spend all his spare coin on drink. Family rallied around and the Gamgee’s became close friends over the years. Bell regularly sent her husband down the hill with a basket of vegetables and pies and Bilbo had been known to sneak in the occasional jar of jam or honey, with Hamfast’s complicity.


 


50 years later


Bilbo surveyed the flattened mess that had been widow Goodbody’s neat front garden. The river had retreated some weeks earlier but it had taken a long time for the Goodbody smial to dry out. It was only fortunate that as soon as the river started to crowd its banks folks had gathered around quickly to remove her belongings to higher ground indeed it was said that the entire patronage of the Ivy Bush Tavern had turned out to help. The furniture had been stored safely in Tom Cotton’s barn and the rest of Pansy’s things they had managed to cram into her sisters tiny smial, which she shared until the land dried out.


Hamfast Gamgee was raking dried mud off what had been a lawn and Bilbo was pleased to see a few hardy spears of green revealed by his actions. The freshly painted round red door to the smial stood open and Bilbo could hear sounds of pieces of heavy furniture being moved and male voices. Just then Hamfast spied him.


“Hello, Mr Bilbo. We wasn’t expectin’ to see you. “He mopped his forehead with a blue spotted hanky and leaned the handle of the rake against his shoulder in a move that reminded Bilbo of a certain wizard of his acquaintance.


Bilbo smiled and held forth the huge and rather heavy basket he had been carrying on his arm. “When Bell discovered I was coming to see if I could be of assistance she pressed this on me, asking if I would deliver luncheon for the workers.”


Hamfast leaned the rake against the garden wall and opened the gate. “That’s my Bell. Come in and join us. I’m betting I’m not the only one who’d welcome a bite to eat. It’s been a long morning with no time for second breakfast.”


“Or elevenses either. Hello uncle.” Frodo sauntered out of the door and Bilbo had to chuckle. His nephew’s usually bouncing curls were stuck to his brow with perspiration, one sleeve hung down with the cuff undone, the other was still rolled up to the elbow, and he was covered in dust and smuts. Just as he reached to tweak aside the cover on Bilbo’s basket a thin and quavering voice drew him up short.


“Oh no you don’t, Frodo Baggins. You get in here and wash those hands. That goes for all of you.”


Bilbo’s eyes were drawn to the door of the smial where a frail and elderly hobbit leaned arthritically on her stick and his heart paused for a moment. The grey hair was still curly if thinning a little and her eyes were sunk in a nest of wrinkles but they were just as green. He stepped closer and she tilted her head to one side to squint.


“Well now. Bilbo Baggins. Seems time’s been a mite kinder to your bones than it has to mine. You’ve not come callin’ in a long time.” She shuffled aside to allow the egress of most of the Gamgee family, a couple of Cottons and Frodo, all looking slightly dishevelled but now with clean hands. Bilbo wondered briefly how they had all managed to fit into her little home.


“I thought it best. You know how Will was,” he replied as Frodo took the basket from him and Daisy Gamgee spread a cloth on the remnants of Pansy’s lawn.


Little Sam carried a stool from inside and Pansy settled her bent form with a grunt of relief, ruffling the lad’s hair with one clawed hand. No-one spoke, clearly interested in the exchange, as they laid out Bell’s bounty on the cloth and sat, cross legged about the edge. Bilbo joined them easily.


“Will’s been dead these ten years,” Pansy noted, accepting from Frodo a plate piled with sandwiches and a big slice of pie.


“Eight. I wasn’t sure of my reception,” Bilbo confessed as he reached to fill his own plate.


Pansy’s eyes twinkled and two dimples were just discernible amongst the wrinkles on her cheeks. “Well. I reckon as long as you’ve got a good flask of cider in that basket you’re welcome enough.”


 


END


 


 




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