Bilbo’s aging Aunt Camellia had been at Bag End for one whole week and Bilbo was nearly beside himself with that nervousy feeling that she brought into his comfortable hobbit hole with her. He was already nervous enough having only been back in the Shire for a month or so, his toes itching to return to the road the entire time. He missed Gandalf. He missed Elrond. He missed the dwarves and he mourned Thorin Oakenshield, who had been slain in the Battle of the Five Armies.
Aunt Camellia, one of those terribly annoying Sackville-Bagginses that Bilbo tried so hard to avoid, had arrived promptly at tea time dragging a large, black, traveling bag along behind her. It looked like the sort of bag that might contain enough clothing to tide one over for a very long visit.
Being a polite nephew, Bilbo answered the door with a ‘welcome’ and an ‘at your service’, though serving Aunt Camellia, or any of the Sackville-Bagginses was the last thing he truly wanted to do on that particular afternoon. He’d planned to while away the day in his lovely and peaceful garden and perhaps even do a little fishing with his nephew Frodo.
He needn’t have worried about serving her though as she pushed inside and announced that she’d come to take care of him!
“Longo and I have been so worried about you,” she explained. “Honestly, Bilbo, what’s gotten into you—going off on adventures and all? Keeping company with wizards and dwarves and who knows what other sorts of creatures! What would your poor father have thought? He was such a respectable hobbit. There always was something queer about you. I warned Balbo about marrying into the Took family!”
And take care of him she did. It was as if Camellia Sackville thought that being adventuresome was a disease that one could recover from if one were fed enough chicken soup. From the moment she entered Bag End she’d cooked and cleaned with an energy that Bilbo found remarkable for a hobbit of her advanced age. She’d rearranged his pantries and larders, dusted and sorted all of the many volumes in his library to the point that he could no longer find so much as one of his favorite books, beat the carpets, polished the silver, and starched his shirts. And she fed him.
Before the long journey to the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo had enjoyed six meals a day but he’d learned to live on a considerable amount less since then. It seemed that Aunt Camellia was determined to feed the Took out of him. There were meat pies and seedcakes, breads and pastries, crumpets and scones with honey. There were roasts and stews, and rashers of bacon and eggs. There were potatoes—boiled and mashed, fried, re-fried and home-fried. There were potatoes in soups, potato toppings and potato pancakes. Bilbo, who once loved food and feasting as much as anything else in life, had begun to miss being hungry and he felt even more Tookish than ever. He’d rather a hundred giant spiders than one Aunt Camellia Sackville! Plus, at her age, and impossibly thin with a decided limp, she looked rather like Gollum into the bargain.
He’d only just managed to sneak past her this morning with the help of the ring, disappearing before she could force a third breakfast on him, no doubt followed by hot tea and cakes. He could hear her calling out for him in her raspy Gollum voice from the dining hall.
“Bilbo! Oh, Bilbo! I’ve made a nice meal for you! Raspberry muffins, and ham and potato puffs!”
Bilbo thought longingly of Elrond and elvish bread and the strange warmth that spread through one’s limbs upon consuming the stuff. There wasn’t a potato in the whole of the Shire that could come close to giving the feeling of elvish bread when laid on a stomach hungry from a long day’s march.
It was quiet here in the library and Bilbo sighed as he pulled a sheet of parchment out of the cubby hole in his desk. Removing his quill, he dipped the tip into his inkwell and began to scratch letters onto the paper.
There and Back Again
In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole and that means comfort…