Disclaimer: not mine, Tolkien's.

Otho straightened his cravat, tugged at his cuffs, and patted his pocket one more time. He took a deep breath, and pushed open the wooden gate. It squeaked in a friendly manner and shut with a gentle bang as he made his way up the path to the round blue door.

He looked back down the path as he reached the entrance of the hole, and then back at the door. Hesitating, he felt his pocket again; and then squared his shoulders, brought his hand up, and knocked.

There was no immediate answer, and Otho felt some of the tension ease out of him as he prepared to turn and go and come back another day. Then there were pattering footsteps from inside the hole, and an excited giggle, and the door opened.

"Hullo, Otho," said the hobbit-lass who had opened the door. "Shall I fetch Lobelia?"

"If you would, Ethel," Otho replied. Ethel grinned widely and scampered off, calling, "Belia! Visitor!" at the top of her voice. Otho fidgeted on the doorstep for a few more minutes, growing steadily more nervous as each one went by, and by the time he heard the rustle of skirts and the gentle sound of feet on rugs he felt ready to turn around and run away.

Lobelia Bracegirdle, Ethel's older sister, appeared from around the corner and Otho found his face stretching into a silly grin.

"Good morning, Lobelia," he said.

"Good morning, Otho," Lobelia returned primly.

"Would you . that is, how about a walk?" Otho stammered out, and Lobelia smiled.

"I would love a walk," she said, and picked up her lilac parasol from where it rested by the door. Otho returned her smile with his grin and offered her his arm. Taking it, Lobelia stepped out of the hole and closed the door behind her.

They set off at a leisurely pace down the road, Lobelia resting her gloved hand on Otho's arm. "A lovely day, isn't it?" Otho managed, after a few moments.

"It's perfect," replied Lobelia, smiling sideways at a neighbour. Otho swallowed and tried again.

"I hope your parents are well?"

"As ever. Their hands are full with Hilda, and Ethel will not help Mother at all."

"Oh. Dear me." Otho fell silent again. With his free hand he patted his pocket again.

They turned off the road down a shaded path, Lobelia using her parasol as a walking-stick, and neither said anything. At the bottom of the gentle hill, there was a stream running along cheerfully. The sunlight bounced off the surface and the air was full of the sound of babbling water and birdsong. Ahead of them there was a log, lying by the stream, and Otho paused. "Would you like to sit awhile, Lobelia?" he asked, brushing off dirt with his handkerchief.

She glanced at the log and then at him, her eyes cool, and finally nodded. "Why not?" She sat, arranging her skirts around her and watching the stream go by. Otho stood next to her for a minute, and then fumbled in his pocket.

"Lobelia . you know that I . well ."

Lobelia turned her gaze on him, and Otho felt his courage leave him again.

"Yes, Otho?"

"I . I think you ." he tried, and she smiled.

"If you are asking me to marry you, Mr Sackville-Baggins, then the answer is yes."

"Oh." Otho frowned. "Oh."

"Were you?" Lobelia asked.

"Yes. Well, I was trying to," Otho said. He pulled the slender silver ring out of his pocket. "I thought I was supposed to ask you."

"You were clearly never going to get around to it," returned Lobelia calmly, taking the ring from him and examining it closely.

"But isn't it the hobbit's part to ask the lass?"


Otho floundered for a moment longer. "Yes. Um." Then he pulled himself together, dropped on his knee by the log, and said, "Lobelia Bracegirdle, will you marry me?"

Lobelia pulled off her left glove and slid the ring on to her finger. "Of course I will. Now stand up before you ruin those trousers."

Looking down, Otho realised that the ground he was kneeling in was far from dry. He stood up and then sat down again, on the log by the side of his betrothed. "I love you, Lobelia," he said, and hesitantly bent towards her to kiss her cheek.

"And I you," Lobelia said, with a satisfied smile, and put her glove back on over the ring.