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1. S.R. 1342
"That's the last of it, then, Uncle Bingo?"
Bingo Baggins nodded curtly to his nephew. "Yes, Bilbo. I don't care for how this business was carried out. I think your father would have been disappointed."
Bilbo took a pouch out of his pocket, and slid it across the desk. "I don't think I would have been the one to disappoint, if I may be honest, Uncle Bingo. Uncle Longo resented my father for many years. He passed that on to his son Otho. Perhaps I shouldn't have been so impulsive when I left last year, but Uncle Longo and Cousin Otho shouldn't have been so quick to declare me dead."
Bingo took up the pouch, and emptied it, eyes widening in surprise. He counted out several of the coins, putting them in a separate pile. The silence stretched. Finally, he said "This is far too much to cover your things that I purchased back from Longo and his family." He shoved the other pile back.
Bilbo shook his head. "I may be Family Head, Uncle Bingo, but I believe that the other Bagginses trust you more. Put the rest of it to good use for the benefit of the Family."
"Thank you for coming, Mr. Grubb."
"It is always a pleasure to do business for you, Mr. Baggins."
Bilbo led the lawyer into his study, where tea awaited.
"My condolences on the death of your Uncle Longo, Mr. Baggins."
"It's no secret that my Uncle and I didn't get along, Mr. Grubb, though it is always sad to lose family. It is on that account that I have summoned you. I have heard some disturbing things about my cousin Otho since his father died."
Mr. Grubb inclined his head in response. "Your cousin has been making investments."
"I'm talking about a rumour I've heard concerning a property in Bywater. He wishes to buy the farm the Cotton family is leasing. If he does so, it will go hard for them, for he has other tenants in mind."
"What do you wish to do about it, Mr. Baggins?"
"I'd like you to arrange for the Cottons to purchase that farm themselves." He reached into a drawer of his desk and lifted out a small bag that seemed heavy for its size. It gave a satisfying "clink" when he put it down. "I do not wish to appear in the matter myself."
"M-Mr. Bilbo!" Hamfast stammered and rose. "I didn't expect to see you here!"
"I couldn't let my gardener wed without a gift, after all, Master Hamfast!"
"But-- you could've sent it down the Hill by post!"
Bilbo chuckled. "And miss a chance to meet the bride?" He smiled at Bell. She wasn't a beauty, but she handsome. She returned his smile, her face transformed. It was easy to see why Hamfast had been smitten with her.
Bilbo reached into his pocket, and took out a pouch. It was heavier than its size would indicate. Bell stood up and came to his side. Their eyes grew huge as they opened it.
Hamfast's mouth opened, then shut. A hobbit never refuses a gift. But--gold!
Bilbo smiled. It was little enough, but it would give them a good start.
Bilbo looked at Frodo's ashen face, and placed an arm about his shoulders. This was hard for Frodo, but he was very proud of the way that the lad had kept his head, and worked alongside the adults without flagging.
The Shirriff approached him. "Seems Mr. Rumble fell asleep with his pipe a-burning, Mr. Bilbo. 'Twas good fortune his missus had gone down the Hill to help her neice with the new babe. I don't rightly know as what she'll do now, with him gone."
It was hard. The Rumbles had never been blessed with children, and now she was a widow alone in the world.
Bilbo nodded, as he recalled the strongbox at Bag End, and the dwindling legacy of Smaug.
"She will not be left in want."
The younger hobbits thought he had not understood their tales of what had happened, but he'd understood enough. Enough to know to whom he owed Frodo's life.
"Mr. Bilbo, Mr. Frodo said as you wanted to see me...
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