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Proper Proprieties -- by Larner

Author: Larner
Title: Proper Propriety
Topic: Two Sides: Is it proper to invite one's servant to a social occasion?
Rating: G
Beta: RiverOtter
Author's Notes: For Celeritas for her writing anniversary. Perhaps a bit late, but heartfelt for all that. Beta by RiverOtter.
Summary: Aunt Dora Baggins is surprised when she realizes Samwise Gamgee is to attend the family supper at the Party.
Word Count: 1980



Proper Propriety


Dora Baggins examined the front door of Bag End with satisfaction. Obviously it had just been freshly repainted, and the brass of the doorknob had been brightly polished, as had the fob at the end of the bell pull. “Excellent!” she said to herself. “Bilbo is obviously making certain that the place is ready for whatever guests might make their way into the hole during the party. Only right and proper, seeing that our Frodo is coming of age on that day!” She almost hated to touch the bell pull, knowing she might possibly mar its smudge-free state. Then she chided herself for being a silly, at which she gripped it firmly and gave an authoritative pull. She could hear the bell inside tinkle cheerfully, and a moment later the door was opened by the gardener’s lad, that Samwise Gamgee.

Sam’s wary expression melted swiftly once he was certain who it was at the door. “Miss Dora!” he said, drawing the door open fully and stepping aside. “Do come in. Although I must tell you as old Mr. Bilbo ain’t here—gone off to Michel Delving on business, you understand. My Mr. Frodo, now he’s here. He’s in the dinin’ room, seein’ to the silver.”

“And you are helping to prepare for the party Thursday next?”

“As I can, of course, ma’am. But today I’m only helpin’ out in the kitchen some, what with all the things as there is t’do twixt now and then. Need t’get back out in the garden, though. The last time as that Missus Lobelia was here, if she didn’t trample the lilies outside the study window, tryin’ t’peer inside and make certain if’n Mr. Bilbo weren’t hidin’ there on her. Shall I see you through to the dinin’ room, Miss Dora?”

“If you will, Master Gamgee.”

He flushed at that, closing the door after her and throwing the bolt. “In case them awful Sackville-Bagginses drop by again—they haven’t been givin’ the Masters a bit of peace, what with all their tryin’ to find out if’n the rumors of Mr. Bilbo writin’ them out of his will is true,” he explained as he wiped his hands on the toweling he had girt about his waist as an apron. “If you’ll come this way?” So saying, he led the way past the second parlor and study door to the dining room.

Dora Baggins had to admit young Samwise was turning out very well. He was already beginning to fill out, and had a sturdier physique than had his rather wiry father. His face was pleasant, his expression responsible, and when he smiled others had to smile in response. And there was no question that he was devoted to her nephew’s welfare. One had only to see him accompanying Frodo about the village on errands, or to hear him standing up to whatever snide comments that terrible Ted Sandyman might fling Frodo’s way, to know that he was Frodo’s man, plain and simple. And he was even more gifted with flowers than his father, which was saying a lot! She simply could not imagine a better one to serve the needs of their beloved Frodo!

He knocked at the door to the dining room, which was open. “Mr. Frodo, sir—it’s Miss Dora come to see you.”

Frodo turned. He was neatly dressed in a dark green shirt under a tapestried waistcoat in greens and maroons with a few golden flowers here and there. What a difference, she thought, from how she’d first seen him on his arrival from Buckland, then in sturdy but relatively plain Hall cloth. Over his good clothes he wore one of Bilbo’s aprons for protection, and he had a polishing cloth in one hand and a silver ladle in the other. “Aunt Dora? How wonderful! Do come in! Oh, but Sam, are you able to go into the village for me and fetch five more fresh hens from the poulterer? It appears that we will need more to feed the Dwarves when they arrive. I paid them already this morning when I went in to give them the order, so don’t allow old Sourloam to convince you it’s to be paid again. Speak to his daughter if you can—Jonquil has a better memory for things like that than does old Marcho.”

“Certainly, Master,” Sam said, knuckling his forehead. “As soon as I’ve seen to them lilies as Missus Lobelia stepped on this mornin’, sir. And is there aught else as I should see to about the pavilions for the Party?”

“I don’t think so at the moment. Bilbo has most of it well in hand, it appears, so I’ve decided to leave the pavilions to him for the moment. He should be home in a few hours at any rate. And have you heard whether Hamson and Halfred will be coming? Where will they be staying?”

“Hamson’s brood’s to stay with the Cottons, and Half will be at Number 3 with the Gaffer and us. Half will be bringin’ a number of bushes and trees in tubs to set up here and there around the Party Field, and Moro Burrows has promised some fine green ribbon to make bows about them. Should be right festive, if’n you take my meanin’.”

“It sounds delightful. And, remember—you will be eating in the family pavilion with us, so be certain you wear your new waistcoat.”

“Yessir, Mr. Frodo. I won’t disappoint you, you can count on that. If’n you’ll excuse me, Master, Miss Dora.” Again he knuckled his forehead and gave a brief inclination of his head. “I’ll be about what needs doin’, then.” And with that he was gone off toward the kitchen, removing the towel as he walked. Within a minute they heard the back door to the smial close behind him as he went out.

“Samwise Gamgee is to eat in the family pavilion?” asked Dora Baggins, feeling alarmed. “Is it right to invite one’s servant to a social occasion? And, after all, he is not related!”

Frodo appeared surprised. “What’s the harm, Aunt Dora? The Gamgees are all but family to Bilbo and me, after all. I mean, they are up here every day for one reason or another. And Sam isn’t exactly a servant—he’s the gardener’s lad and as such is a craftsman in his own right, and does at least as much if not more to see to the upkeep of the place as does his father.”

“But he’s been in seeing to the kitchen----”

“He volunteered to do that because he knew I was busy with polishing the silver and that I must meet with Ponto and Iris just after tea. His sisters Daisy and May are both about the place, too—we hired them for the day to help prepare the guest rooms for the Dwarves, after all. But they aren’t servants—just the ones we usually hire to help with what we can’t see to ourselves when it’s needed.”

“Will they be in the family pavilion for supper, too?”

“What? And why? They aren’t family, and have no interest in being about when family business is seen to. But Sam has agreed to help make certain that all is properly served to those who attend the family meal, so deserves to be allowed to eat with us, don’t you think? How will he be able to keep an eye on things to direct the servers if he’s made to eat elsewhere? And I’ll wager he has a better idea of what various members of the family are up to than even you do. He’s very observant, and quite the quick study, you’ll find.”

“But—a servant—all right, an employee, if you will—is not on the same level as a member of the family! After all, he is a working Hobbit.”

Frodo’s face had gone pale, and his cheeks were growing quite pink. “I will remind you that Bilbo and I both serve as copyists, and that Cousin Porto is trained as a lawyer, as are a number of our Took and Bracegirdle relations. Are we to exclude them or the Goodbodies, who are our bankers of discretion, from the family meal when they are indeed relatives simply because we utilize their services? And most of the apples for the pies to be served that are beyond what can be offered by our own orchard are coming from that of our cousin Griffo Boffin—does that make him a mere tradesman to be paid off and not invited at all?”

He set the ladle down on the table, and laid the cloth over the pot of silver polish. “This is a party to which we’ve invited at least half the Shire, after all. Most of those who will attend practice a trade or profession of one kind or another, and most are folk whose services we utilize on a regular basis. Many are farmers in whose farms we hold farmshares, and others have businesses in which Bilbo or I have invested—and the greater part of those are related to us. Face it, Aunt Dora—we Bagginses are well connected throughout the Shire, from Greenholm to Buckland, and from the northern marches to the Brandywine to the south; and our relations cover every level of society. Are we not to invite the Bunces, who have many who hire themselves out to work as servants, when they are related to us through the Goolds? Are we to exclude the Burrowses just because they help excavate and build most of the homes within the Shire?”

Dora could feel herself flushing. “It’s only, my dear lad, that we are Bagginses, after all. What will people think when they see the gardener’s lad at the family supper?”

“That we are taking good care of the steward for our property,” Frodo responded rather stiffly. “Bilbo had asked Master Hamfast to serve as steward that night and direct the serving, but he refused—said he’s too old for keeping track of servers. And I assure you that as Cousin Mello Boffin’s family has been hired to serve us at table in the family tent, it is not as if they are truly servants, either; and it will be at their table that Sam will be sitting. It’s not as if we were settling him at the Baggins table as if he were my brother, after all—although I might consider that for the future!”

*******


By the time Dora left Bag End, she had a good deal to think on. Samwise Gamgee—steward for the Bagginses of Bag End? But, on consideration, that did help her accept that he would be attending the family dinner, now that Frodo had put it that way. To be the steward for a family of such importance in the history of the Shire as the Bagginses? It brought to mind the stories that she used to read secretly at night when she couldn’t sleep in the days she’d spent a good deal of time at Bag End with Uncle Bungo and Aunt Belladonna.

“The old Kings—they had Stewards, didn’t they?” she murmured to herself as she walked home again. “And they were even considered lords of the realm, if I recall correctly.” And it was with a song Aunt Belladonna used to sing about the Faithful Steward of Gondor on her lips that Dora Baggins returned to her own hole. Not, of course, that there really was a Gondor, after all—that was just a story. Just a story, but one she’d always loved, not that she’d admit it to Bilbo.

With that thought, she closed the door behind her and went in search of a good cup of tea, and maybe a seed cake or two.

Comments

( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
shirebound
Aug. 16th, 2010 11:48 pm (UTC)
Most of those who will attend practice a trade or profession of one kind or another, and most are folk whose services we utilize on a regular basis.

That's wonderful logic. And the idea of Sam being Frodo's 'steward'... I had never thought of it like that before. How splendid.
blslarner
Aug. 18th, 2010 12:45 am (UTC)
Yes, I do believe Frodo was at heart very logical as only a Baggins could be, although he was also a romantic in the best Took tradition. And what better thought in his and Bilbo's heads than that the Gamgees are their stewards, those who care for the place and see to what they cannot, and who keep an eye on it when they must be gone?

And again, Frodo would, as would Bilbo, think in "lordly" terms, which would appeal to Dora's hidden romantic corner, I'd think.

Thanks so much, Shirebound. Glad you enjoyed this!
dreamflower02
Aug. 17th, 2010 12:46 am (UTC)
I love the idea of Sam as Frodo's Steward. In the end, he truly was! He accepted the responsibilities as well as the rewards of Frodo's life!

Wonderful insight into the topic!
blslarner
Aug. 18th, 2010 12:52 am (UTC)
I do think that Bilbo would have instilled into Frodo a sense of the chivalric traditions, where stewards were more than mere servants, and often close both in friendship and status. That Frodo would refuse to think of the Gamgees, and particularly Sam, as mere servants just seemed right. And the steward for a feast of this sort would be expected to be at hand so as to direct things, but wouldn't necessarily be sitting at the head table, of course.

Frodo has always struck me as more an intellectual than a practical sort, and thus he'd want a factotum who was capable of doing all the physical things about the upkeep of a home like Bag End that he either couldn't do, or would prefer not to do. And I'd think that he'd see it more as a partnership, if you will, than strictly in terms of master/servant. Thus, I think he'd find it easier to see his relationship with Sam as a friendship than Sam does.

And thanks so for the feedback!
dreamflower02
Aug. 18th, 2010 01:35 am (UTC)
Thus, I think he'd find it easier to see his relationship with Sam as a friendship than Sam does.

Exactly. Of course it would be harder for Sam to see himself as an equal, and I go with that in my own stories.

I also feel Frodo being raised in Buckland could have been a factor; it always seemed to me that Buckland was a sort of "frontier country" where everyone, gentry and working hobbits alike would be expected to pull their own weight. Class distinctions, I think, would have been less important there than in say, Hobbiton or the Great Smials.

blslarner
Aug. 19th, 2010 03:11 am (UTC)
And here I agree completely! I've always suspected that life in Brandy Hall was a good deal more democratic in nature than one might find elsewhere in the Shire, and that all would be required to get an education, even the servants. Thanks so much!
bfb
Aug. 17th, 2010 12:49 am (UTC)
Hooray for Frodo standing up for Sam! I loved all the varied professions you came up with and all the little details behind Bilbo's party and how it was organized. The dialogue was splendid, as well-- very authentic and natural!
blslarner
Aug. 18th, 2010 01:02 am (UTC)
Welcome to the community! I've always thought in terms of the practical side of the Shire, or so you'll find if you read my other stories. In my-verse, after his return from Erebor Bilbo, having realized he wants to expand his library, gains begins a correspondence with Elrond and borrows texts that he copies and translates so as to better understand the history of the world and the Shire. Finding there are no bookbinders near enough to use, he learns how to bind his own books. The copying and transcribing then becomes a sideline, with him copying legal papers and records for "money for leaf," as I have him put it once. When Frodo comes, he helps copy texts for Bilbo, and because he has a beautiful hand is used to copy wedding certificates, to prepare piles of invitations to parties, to write out certificates of birth and death, and also to copy legal papers and texts people wish to prepare aa gifts for birthdays, Yule, weddings, and so on.

I also postulate an economy in which those with some money invest in farms in return for a share in the produce, and will invest openly or secretly in various business ventures until the businesses are sufficiently successful to allow the ones running them to buy their partners out and take full control of profits and losses.

And I'm so glad that you felt the dialogue was authentic and natural sounding. Thanks so much!
bfb
Aug. 18th, 2010 04:59 am (UTC)
Wow, that is so awesome and interesting. I love imagining how the Shire functioned behind the scenes and it's good to see I'm not alone in that aspect. I've definitely read some of your other stories on Many Paths to Tread, by the way. Thoroughly enjoyed them as well. :)
blslarner
Aug. 19th, 2010 03:14 am (UTC)
I'm adding stories as I can to MPtT, but don't have all of them there yet. All my Tolkien fanfiction is posted on Stories of Arda and at FanFiction.net, as I don't know for certain when I'll get them all transferred.

Thanks so!
gamgeefest
Aug. 17th, 2010 01:14 am (UTC)
Aunt Dora learned a very important lesson - never belittle a Gamgee in front of Frodo or Bilbo! Glad that she found a way to reconcile with the idea, comparing Sam to the Stewards of Gondor (now isn't *that* a thought!) - not that there's really a Gondor of course. ;)
blslarner
Aug. 18th, 2010 01:04 am (UTC)
Oh, yes, she's learned that Frodo doesn't take well to people considering Sam as merely a servant. And I suspect the dear lady did have a hidden romantic side to her psyche that secretly indulged in "escapist" literature. But I really doubt she thought there really WAS a Gondor. Glad it gave you a smile, GamgeeFest!
labourslamp
Aug. 17th, 2010 04:29 am (UTC)
Lots and lots of good things in this ficlet--things which I hope to comment on further when I have the time!

Thanks so much for this little birthday present!
blslarner
Aug. 18th, 2010 01:05 am (UTC)
Am so glad it pleased you. Sorry it's taken so long to see it, but it's been written for a time, waiting to be unveiled at last. And you are so welcome!
lindahoyland
Aug. 17th, 2010 07:01 am (UTC)
A delightful story and very "Aunt Dora". I loved the idea of Sam as Frodo's Steward.
blslarner
Aug. 18th, 2010 01:07 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you think so, Linda. I do think that Frodo would think in terms of stewards and chivalry, and thus manage to finally get across to Aunt Dora that Sam is MORE than just a servant. Thanks so!
harrowcatliz
Aug. 17th, 2010 09:23 pm (UTC)
Another perfect gem Larner. And Sam as Frodo's Steward makes me go al crinkly with joy at the idea. Almost a good as your brothers idea...and it was good to see that slipped in too!
blslarner
Aug. 18th, 2010 01:09 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you like it, Liz. That Frodo should come to see Sam much as Aragorn came to see Halbarad and later Faramir just seems so likely. And I'm so glad you noticed the hint of brotherhood there--was hoping someone would!

Thanks so much!

Now--when are you going to write another story yourself? Heh!
pearltook1
Aug. 18th, 2010 01:23 pm (UTC)
Lovely, Larner! :-)

I think most Hobbits were related to most of the other Hobbits in one way or another. Good for Frodo and Bilbo!
blslarner
Aug. 19th, 2010 03:15 am (UTC)
I so agree, Pearl. And the importance of all those family ties would have been heavily reinforced in Frodo, I think. Thanks so!
althea_lady
Aug. 18th, 2010 11:05 pm (UTC)
It was a delight to listen to Dora and Frodo's conversation. I love how Frodo defended the decision to have Sam dine with the family, and I'm glad that Dora seemed to finally accept the idea. Having Sam as steward for Bilbo and Frodo is a lovely touch.
blslarner
Aug. 19th, 2010 03:19 am (UTC)
If nothing else, Sam WAS serving as the steward for the family dinner, and would have to eat with the family to do his job well. But I think Frodo already was recognizing how dependant he was becoming on Sam for his support. And it's fun to play with the sometimes conflicting nature of Dora's practicality and sense of decorum on one hand and her romantic fancies on the other.

Thanks so!
someplacetobe
Aug. 19th, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
Gosh, you always capture the hobbits so beautifully and wonderfully that I feel I'm in the room with them! It was an argument that I could see from both sides although, I confess, my agreement is with Frodo in this discussion.
blslarner
Aug. 20th, 2010 02:07 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you feel that way! I enjoy life in the Shire, although I find all of Arda admirable, I find. And I, too, agree here with Frodo. Thanks so!
mrowe
Aug. 19th, 2010 02:44 pm (UTC)
Not, of course, that there really was a Gondor, after all

*heh* I enjoyed this. If Aund Dora didn't exist, someone would have to invent her. And credit to Frodo for his side of the argument.
blslarner
Aug. 20th, 2010 02:09 am (UTC)
I myself am glad that the Master gave her to us, as little as he himself wrote of her and her life, other than to indicate she wrote reams of Good Advice! Yes, otherwise someone would have had to have invent her! And so glad you appreciate Frodo's reasoning! Thanks so!
antane
Aug. 25th, 2010 12:00 am (UTC)
Sorry to be so late in reading here, but good for Frodo for standing up Aunt Dora for Sam! Not a surprise of course, but still good for him, especially startling I'm sure Dora with the idea of settling Sam in the future at the Baggins table itself! :) Love also that Sam would stand up for Frodo, which is not a surprise either!

Namarie, God bless, Antane :)
blslarner
Sep. 19th, 2010 06:00 pm (UTC)
I thought that just a hint of foreshadowing was appropriate here. At the time there's little enough reason for others to realize just how much Sam will figure in the well-being of the world, much less how much of a friend he will be to Frodo. But with the more egalitarian attitudes Frodo has brought from Brandy Hall, I think he'd particularly be offended by his aunt's clinging to propriety; and with his reading he'd be more likely to liken Sam's involvement in the family dinner to the role of a steward.

And I'm so glad you were able to read and comment at last! Thanks so, Antane!
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )

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