Frodo sat in the cosy armchair near the fire, humming a snatch of some near-forgotten tune of Uncle Bilbo's and contentedly nibbling on some hot buttered toast. It was, he had found, rather pleasant to be the master of the rather large hobbit hole that was Bag End. He still missed Bilbo's presence occasionally, but he was hardly lonely.

Before Bilbo's disappearance, Frodo had never really considered what it would be like once he was gone. Although Bilbo had undoubtedly been getting 'old' in hobbit terms for some time, he had given the impression that he would just go on and on, and Frodo had found it easy to ignore the various murmurings in the village. Since they all thought Bilbo rather odd anyway, it was hardly unusual for them to be talking about him.

Had he considered it however, Frodo thought as he sipped his tea, he would probably have predicted something rather gloomier than the reality of his new life. He would have assumed that Bilbo would have gone for good – not just from Bag End, but from the whole of Middle Earth. Being fairly certain that he was still alive made the whole prospect rather cheerier. He felt rather as if he was simply looking after the house for Bilbo while he was off visiting friends or family.

The freedom of it too was something that Frodo had never expected. It wasn't exactly as if Uncle Bilbo had ever tried to control his existence in any way, but it was the small things – like eating whenever and whatever he decided, going for one of his many walks in the forest without having to tell anyone where he was headed or when he would be back, having visitors without worrying that maybe they would be unwanted guests.

Now that he was nearing the fateful age of fifty, Frodo could see that he was perhaps just as queer as his predecessor in that he too still looked rather younger than his actual age. Since his parents had died so young, there was no real way of knowing whether it was simply a bizarre family trait – but what else could it be? Unless, joked his friend Peregrin, the wizard Gandalf had put some sort of spell on the Baggins bachelors, perhaps thinking that looking younger would make them seem more attractive to the local ladies – certainly the interest in them had been far less than might be expected for the owners of such a large hobbit hole and such a widely discussed fortune since Bilbo's adventures long ago.

Frodo however was quite content. He wandered far around the Shire, either with his friends or alone, and felt no particular desire to find a wife. A wife, he felt, would not understand his liking for the woods or his poring over the maps in Bag End. No, he was far better off as a well-off bachelor.

He poured himself more tea. Yes, things could stay like this, and he'd be happy.