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Lalia the Great
Lalia the Great—that was what they called her. Or at least that was what they called her to her face. But if they would call her that, that was what she would be. She would be the matriarch of the family whose name she’d borne ever since she married Fortinbras Took. And she would not allow herself to recognize that the name had been given her out of malice and jealousy. She would take the slight on her girth and apply it to her whole person. That was what she wished to be remembered for, her commanding personality.
Greed for Recognition
She held tightly to the pursestrings within the Great Smial, and insisted that the Tooks apply to her for remedies for their slightest wants. Yet there were never any economies applied to the purchasing of food. Starved as Lalia Clayhanger Took had been so much of her life for recognition and simple friendship, she refused to stint herself in the one commodity that had always brought her comfort—food.
Themselves deprived of broad ability to express their talents, the ladies under Lalia’s domination responded by cooking, and the Great Smial became renowned for the quality of the table set.
With a disapproving eye, Lalia watched the attention that Bilbo and young Frodo received as they moved through the dining hall. Foolish Hobbit had gone off on an adventure, and then acted as if it were something to be proud of! It wouldn’t surprise her in the least if his young cousin were to follow suit one day, in spite of his quieter, more thoughtful demeanor. She could see it in his eye—Frodo felt that the Hobbits of the Shire were far too set in their ways for his liking.
But to be free to wander freely again….
Lalia Took’s Wrath
“Careless chit! Look what you’ve done—spilled on me and wasted food!”
Those were among the gentlest words Lalia had for her latest handmaiden from amongst her husband’s kin. Poor Linden was alternately white with distress and red with embarrassment as Lalia’s imprecations rolled on!
Frodo held his cousin Reginard Took from stepping forward to protect the honor of the young Hobbitess he’d loved for years, and Bilbo was whispering in the ears of Linden’s brother Isumbard, “No, lad—you’ll do neither her nor yourself any good by going forward now. But be assured Linden will be avenged!”
Lalia slapped her son’s shoulder. “No need to look after that one thataway, Ferumbras my lad. She’s only interested in you because of your position and wealth.”
Ferumbras gave his mother a long-suffering sidelong glance. Had she totally forgotten what it was like to know a stirring for another? But, then, since long before his father’s death it had seemed that the only strong passion to which his mother might be stirred was for food rather than for love. How lonely his father had seemed in his last years, with her eye for the table rather than for her husband!
Lalia’s nurse looked at the heavily laden tray she was to bear back to her mistress’s bedroom and groaned, “That’s thrice the amount any decent Hobbit would want for a snack at bedtime!”
Cook shrugged. “She’s a glutton—no two ways about that,” she agreed.
Lalia’s eyes lit up as the bed tray was set across her ample thighs. “Oh, yes!” she said. “I do appreciate having more of tonight’s puddings!” She took up the large spoon provided her and dug out a generous bite of currant cake.
But when finished she whimpered, “If only I could eat more!”
The Slothful Life
“Herself lyin’ abed again, is she?” asked Cook as Lalia’s latest Took handmaiden came to collect a breakfast tray.
Pearl shrugged, but Cook kept on. “Fine thing it must be, able to keep under one’s covers past midmornin’, lettin’ others do all the labor. Not for the likes of Lalia to need to see meals prepared, served, and cleaned up after, nor to see to mendin’ and darnin’. It’s the others as do all manner of work here, not her.”
Pearl shrugged again and gave a noncommital smile, but was thoughtful as she carried the tray off to Lalia’s chambers.
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