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Bilbo POV

In which Bilbo reflects on his female kin, asks about a rascal, and reacts to what no one wishes to say.

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Men are able to assist Fortune but not to thwart her. They can weave her designs but cannot destroy them. They ought, then never to give up as beaten, because, since they do not know her purpose and she goes through crooked and unknown roads, they can always hope, and hoping are not to give up.

Machiavelli, The Discourses, 2:29

Mid-afternoon, 8 Halimath, 1389

'Please, please, Esmeralda, do sit and don't fuss!' Bilbo cheerfully scolded his cousin as she served tea in a cozy and well-worn parlor of Brandy Hall. He had arrived but a scarce hour before, coming across the Bucklebury Ferry just past noon with three crates of chickens, a wagon of turnips, and two extremely exuberant children. It had been an interesting crossing, and he felt that he well deserved this tea for having survived it.

Bilbo did not refuse the large helping of rhubarb crisp she spooned onto his plate, nor the toasted slices of sweet bread she tucked along one side, nor the chunk of golden, nutty cheese that was slipped into the last remaining open spot the plate, but he did chuckle and admonish and tease until his lovely cousin filled her own plate and sat. For several minutes there was silence from Bilbo (a rare occurrence) until he had made enough of a dent in the meal to take the edge off his hunger. Only then did he lean back into the soft leather chair and give Esmie his full attention.

Great-granddaughter of the Old Took, more than a few said she was like all three of Gerontius' daughters come back to life in one person, with Belladonna's intelligence, Donnamira's beauty, and Mirabella's tenacity. Bilbo was not one of them.

He knew he always took exception to anyone claiming to be as smart as his mother, Bella; she had no match and few could approach her. Grandfather, Father, Gilda, Rum, Ta, certainly not Alder. Gandalf. Perhaps a few Elves. Maybe Balin. Bilbo knew he was just being stubborn, but it was a point of honor to insist on his mother's unparalleled brilliance. The most remarkable of the three. Even Gandalf spoke of her with respect, and the old conjuror never spoke politely of anyone save Master Elrond. His sense of fairness won out, and he admitted to himself that while Esmie might not be nearly as sharp as any in the august company, she was significantly more clever than most hobbits. Especially in this smial.

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Read the rest of the chapter on Rómenna - Ch. 1, Respectable