Bilbo stood at the open window, humming beneath his breath while he stared out at the autumn-tinged garden and the trees beyond that were beginning to don their mantles of rust and golden brown. A fond smile curled his lips as the clear sound of hobbit laughter was carried to him on the light breeze.
Unerringly, he picked out the thread that was Frodo’s and his smile deepened. His lad was home again.
Soon four familiar figures came into view along the garden path. Bilbo watched their progress, leisurely progress for Sam paused several times to call Frodo’s attention to some flowering plant or other, and gradually his smile turned to a frown. Why, when did Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took grow so much taller than Frodo? And what were they doing dressed in that silly armour, like a pair of children playing at grown up? Their peaceful Shire wasn’t at war.
Then the confusion in his mind suddenly cleared, as if the breeze outside, springing up, had chased away an obscuring fog. Of course!
Silly old hobbit, Bilbo scolded himself. You’re in Rivendell, not Bag End, remember? Merry is an Esquire of Rohan now and Pippin a Knight of the Tower Guard. And Frodo has returned from ridding the world of that pesky Ring of yours that caused so much trouble.
But Bilbo didn’t like to think of the Ring and all the evil it had wrought. Perhaps it was no bad thing for his memory to fail at times, he decided, staring at his beloved nephew as he laughed at some jest Pippin had just made.
For he knew that there were memories that would always burn bright, never to be extinguished by the frailties of old age and a failing mind, such as the day he brought young Frodo Baggins, shy and awkward as a days’ old fawn, home to Bag End to be his heir. And then all the days and years that came after as they shared a comfortable life together filled with companionship and unspoken love. No, a hobbit could never forget those no matter what else might be lost.
Bilbo’s smile returned. Frodo. His dear, dear lad. Such a blessing he had been in Bilbo’s life, and now he was home again.
A familiar itch crept over Bilbo, one he recognised immediately: a poem was wanting to make its voice heard. Well, he’d just trot along to the Hall of Fire, settle down against a pillar with a mug of water and a slice of bread, and wrap his cloak tightly around him. Only then would the poem reveal itself to him, rising gradually to the surface of his mind, just as the joyful songs of the Elves rose toward the heavens.
He already knew what the last line would be, of course. It was queer, perhaps, but he always seemed to hear the last line first.
His lad was home again.
Ah yes, Bilbo thought with satisfaction, that’s how it would end.