Rose had reached the thinnest edge of her endurance, for Elanor was teething and kept up a constant thin, piercing grizzle.
She'd put her to the breast; Elanor bit her so sharply Rose yelped. She'd given her a dummy to suck on, a clean rag dipped in cold water, but Elanor only spat it out and cried harder. She'd rubbed clove oil on Elanor's gums; Elanor clamped down on her mother's finger and wouldn't release it without a struggle.
Rose felt tears springing in her own eyes. She'd have run to her mother-in-law for help, but Bell was away in Frogmorton; Rosie's mother was full busy cooking for the harvesters working the Cotton farm this week, and Sam was in the Green Hill Country checking on the reforesting work there. So Rosie was left in Bag End alone, save for Mr. Frodo, with a fretful babe and a week's worth of baking to do with one hand.
"Oh, Elanorelle, oh babe, hush, hush," Rosie begged, holding the little one to her chest and rocking back and forth. "Please, hush."
Elanor only wailed so hard the rolls of flesh under her chin wobbled.
Frodo set down his pen and listened. Wherever was that horrid noise coming from?
His own rooms lay at the far end of Bag End's long central hall from the front door, the kitchen, and Sam and Rosie's room. They'd wanted him closer (to keep an eye on him, no doubt), but he'd been adamant, feeling that the least he could give them was a modicum of privacy. This way, too, any visitors had to pass Sam's scrutiny, which Frodo was selfish enough to be grateful for.
It sounded like crying; it must be Elanor. She was generally a quiet baby, but every once in a while she did let fly. Frodo bent to his writing again.
Ten minutes later, when the wailing had only gained in volume, he slammed the book shut and went to find out whatever was wrong with the child.
The noise was loudest outside the kitchen doorway, so Frodo peered inside. Elanor was in her basket by the window, crying and red-faced with fury, while Rose grimly kneaded bread dough as though she were trying to throttle it.
"What's amiss, Rose?" he called, half-shouting to make himself heard.
"She's teething, Mr. Frodo, and I'm that sorry, but I've tried everything I know and there's nothing'll soothe her. I must just get this dough set to rise, then I'll take her for a walk so we'll be out of your way."
Frodo crossed over to the basket and peered in. "Here now, Miss Gamgee, what's all the fuss about?" Startled, or intrigued by the new face, Elanor stopped sobbing. Hiccupping softly, she stared at him with wet blue eyes. Frodo gathered her up gingerly, and held her out at arm's length. Still silent, Elanor shoved her fist in her mouth and fixed an intense stare on him.
Rosie slammed the dough on the table, collapsed into a chair, and dropped her head in her hands. "Rose, Rose! Please don't cry," Frodo pleaded. With Elanor balanced awkwardly on one hip, he patted Rose's shoulder.
"Sorry, Mr. Frodo," Rose choked out, scrubbing her face with her hands. "It's just frustrating, that's all. Sam can charm her without even trying, but I seemingly don't have the knack of it."
"Ah, Rosie-lass, don't be jealous." Frodo stroked her curls gently. "When she's older you know that Elanor will turn to you for the things only another woman can tell her. And she's lucky to have two such loving parents."
Rose sobbed harder. "I know, I know, but that don't make it any easier when there's chores to be done and Sam's away and my ma with her own hands full..."
"No need to worry, Rosie." Frodo straightened up, still holding the baby. "Where's Elanor's blanket? I'll wrap her up and we'll go for a walk, the two of us, until you've had a chance to get the bread in the oven. Shall we go visit your grandmother Gamgee, Elanor?" he addressed her.
A snuffling laugh escaped Rose. "Bell's away in Frogmorton, to be with May while her babe's born."
"Perhaps we'll just stroll around the Water, then, though I was looking forward to some of Bell's seedcakes," Frodo said ruefully.
"I'll make seedcakes for you, never fear; it's the least I can do. But are you sure about this, Mr. Frodo? I know you've got work to do, writing and all. And what if she cries?"
"I didn't spend the first twenty years of my life in Brandy Hall without learning how to look after a hobbitchild, my dear. Don't worry - Elanor and I shall be fine."
Rose kissed Elanor's still-flushed cheeks and smoothed the golden fuzz on her head. "Look after Mr. Frodo, sweeting. And bless you," she added with a glance at Frodo.
As he left the house, with Elanor settled in the crook of one arm, he could hear Rose's high, sweet voice beginning to sing in time to the thump of dough on the table. Frodo set off down the Hill towards the Bywater Road. "There's much to show you, little starflower, and not much time, I'm afraid. Today let us visit the most beautiful river in all of the Shire..."
This story is set in mid-late August, 1421 S.R., when Elanor is approximately 5 months old (a little young to be teething, but not unknown).
"Grizzle" is a Britishism meaning "cry or whine". I've heard it used for babies before, but if any UKers out there think this usage is incorrect, I'm willing to be persuaded. Just drop me a line.