This is the text of a speech delivered by BH at the Green Dragon Inn, Bywater, on 4th July 2020; intended to introduce her to the hobbits who were regulars at that establishment, many of whom she had but recently met. It is taken from her notes, which are held at the Mathom House in Michel Delving. This event preceded her sudden and unplanned departure for Minas Tirith.
Greetings to you all, my most excellent (and only slightly inebriated) hobbits.
[There is some disagreement from the floor at the use of the word 'slightly'.]
Most of you don't know me, so I will take a few words to introduce myself. And if I should bore you (and I see by the way some of you are staring in your tankards, I already am) I only hope that Barmy's magnificent beer will be sufficient consolation.
A toast! A toast to Barmy Rootknot, and the best beer in the West Farthing!
I am Belladonna Haymarket, at your service.
And I am pleased to make the acquaintance of so many fine hobbits; even if some of you (mentioning no names, Matzo) have the appalling habit of leaving half eaten pies lying around in silly places.
[Interjection here from Matzo, complaining that the pie in question was left on the table (where BH happened to be dancing at the time, an incident that occurred a couple of weeks earlier).]
Some of you may know that on the Birth Certificate my two names have been run together. This is because after I was born my father (bless his soul) went to market at Big Digs and sold his crop for ready cash. And then he stopped in at the Bird and Baby for a few not-so-quick ones, before going down to the Records Office.
If my name is too much for you, you can call me BH. I also answer to Market, as in 'Hey, Market!'. Don't you just love hobbit children, aren't they wonderful!
[Laugh.] [Note: She is most often called Bell by those close to her.]
I hope you will forgive me if I do not recite my full genealogy. Being hobbits, I know this will disappoint some of you: but I can tell that others are less patient, and if I start giving details of my fifth cousins twice removed I'll have ripe South Farthing Reds bouncing off my nose before the hour is out.
[Expressions of hobbittish disappointment from the floor, that the genealogy is to be curtailed.]
I stand corrected. Actually, those look like very juicy Marish Bumpers you have there, ready to throw: so I will try to be brief. Another toast, to the tomatoes of the Shire. May they ever be ripe, juicy, and aerodynamic!
My father, Hereward, kept a large nursery garden, and travelled the Shire looking for new varieties. The only thing he wouldn't grow was pipeweed. I know this will annoy some of you: but he thought it was a filthy South Farthing habit, and wished it had stayed there. "Them South Farthings," he used to say. "Them South Farthings can take their Longbottom Leaf and shove it up their long bottoms!"
[Cry from the floor of: "Them's fighting words in the south!"]
I myself do not smoke, but I do not object to it as my father did. So if a pipe of Old Toby gives you pleasure, be my guest and puff away.
My father died twenty years ago, just before my 30th birthday, leaving me a garden that contained a specimen of every vegetable cultivar grown in the Shire. My mother Briony left us after the funeral, and I never saw her again. She went to 'go on adventures'.
[Expressions of sympathy from the floor.]
She was a Took on her mother's side, and fell in love with my father as a young hobbit, in his travelling days. After that, she found married life rather a disappointment. I have no doubt that the gaffers and gammers amongst you remember the scandal well, and I can tell by the whispered conversations that you're busy reminding everyone else about it.
They say there are few things as strange as news from Bree, but in my experience there is nothing in the world faster than Shire gossip. Another toast, my friends, to the gaffers and gammers of the Shire: may their tongues never grow weary!
[Toast, amid a certain amount of whispered conversation.]
So, there I was, a young hobbit just out of my tweens, with a garden to run. Which I learnt to do the hard way. But now, after twenty years, I have passed Haygarth on to my younger sisters.
So here I am, Belladonna Haymarket, at the age of fifty. The perfect age for a hobbit, neither old nor young, and free to do as I choose. I may have been a gardener by profession, but by inclination I am a scholar and a traveller. And so, I have set off in my mother's footsteps: trying to find where she went, in the hope she still lives. Just like her, I have taken to going on adventures.
One last toast before I wrap things up, a toast to scandalise you all. A toast to going on adventures!
[Toast, only partially observed amid cries of outrage. At least one hobbit hurls their mug to the floor in disgust.]
I have journeyed throughout the Shire now, as my father did. And I have even been to Bree a few times. But I have never found my mother. She travelled in the Shire for a while, but her trail runs cold in the North Farthing, about sixteen years ago.
However, I have found that I love the journey more than the inn. As great as the Green Dragon is, and Barmy's heady ale, and spicy pies, I would not love them half so much were it not for the long day on the road that brought me here. Yet, despite all that, the roads past Bree are dark and dangerous. And I would not go there unless driven by desperate need.
[Shudders of agreement from the floor.]
I am happy to dwell in the Shire. I share a house with my aunt, over in Whitwich: she cooks for me, and looks after the place when I am away. As I often am, roving all over the Shire and Breeland.
And that is me, Belladonna Haymarket. A hobbit not so different from the rest of you.
[Taps her skull, rolls her eyes, and generally makes herself look crazy.]
Blessings of the day upon you all. Farewell. And may the hair on your feet never wither.