Nothing of Note
29: Wagging Tongues
Bilbo didn't know it, though he might have guessed, but his recent
excursion and return had started a new wave of minor tales circulating
much of the Shire. Occupied as he was with recovering from his illness
and working with the Gaffer on the layout of the year's gardens he had
not taken the time to go to the Inn nor had many visitors; thus the
tongues were allowed to wag as they would without any correction for a
time. It was nearly a week from his return before any of it reached his
Lobelia had shared one that very
morning that made him grimace to recall. She and Lotho had showed up on
doorstep bearing yet another
bottle of her vile medicinal concoction and a small packet of tea that
she brewed but would not drink herself. He pretended to drink
some - it smelled unpleasantly of moss - but managed to avoid
actually getting any past his lips. After they had eaten most of his
cakes and finally been shooed out
the door, he poured it out the back. He counted his teaspoons, stifled
his lingering cough and
rehearsed being very healthy so he could turn them away if they came
back whether he was healthy or not. He had noticed Lotho pacing off the
size of the parlour to see if their furniture would fit. Just
remembering it made him almost bend the spoon he was holding.
They would not be coming back in anytime soon if he could help it.
Lobelia had carried on about some tale being told in town, that
'everyone knows.' It involved his having been seen paddling around on a
log in some bogland, singing and flapping there too, no doubt (her own
addition) and how could he bring such shame to their communal name this
way? It was said he had been hunting ducks, catching them with
his bare hands too, and that he had pulled out a knife and threatened
some innocent children with it! And oh, how could he? Didn't he know
there were other people hurt when he did these outlandish things?
Didn't he have any pride in his family name? Whatever was he
He slammed the spoon
drawer shut too hard and it stuck at an angle. He had to stop
and pry it back open and close it again properly. It didn't improve his
He frowned his way into the kitchen to rinse out his tea kettle, and
frowned over the empty cake-platter as he rinsed away the crumbs. The
ill-will that lay over his thoughts didn't begin to lift until he
opened the door to go out, looked up at the
morning sun and heard Sam
laughing at something in the garden around the side; a bit of light
breaking in on
his overcast mood.
Young Samwise had been a real ray of sunshine for him. The sturdy lad
was not quick to learn, but he was determined. He had been back to
Bilbo for three lessons now and could write his name without help. He
was slowly working his way into more of the alphabet letters and Bilbo
felt he was close to 'cracking the code' that would associate the
letters with sounds and allow him to read. It had been a joy to work
with him in the lazy afternoons and both of them were a bit
disappointed when Daisy really wasn't needed to come to Bag End anymore
the Spring chores began, calling Sam away to work. Bilbo promised him
he would still be able to come by whenever he could.
It had been
a while since he had taken the time to work over basic lessons, there
were too few who were, well, teachable. Now, young Frodo over in
Buckland. There was a good, teachable hobbit. They'd made great
inroads on studies together the last couple of visits, but it had been
quite some time since he'd seen the lad. Too long. Now that he
about it, he'd hardly laid eyes on him since they had given each other
birthday presents last fall though they'd exchanged a nice note or
Having the same birthday would have made him easy to remember, even if
more adventurous than most... He missed him.
Bilbo's cough was receding at last and he was glad it no longer
ambushed him with paroxysms but had become a more controllable tickle.
His mood had brightened enough that the sun was shining both inside and
out as he pulled on his brown coat
and went into the yard to have a look at the gardening progress.
The ground was nearly tilled, but it was still just wet and heavy
enough to make it a slow job. Halfred and Hamfast were struggling with
it as Samwise dutifully tugged his small wagon of compost along,
shoveling it out
to be tilled into the ground. Nearby, May was helping Daisy to hang up
a collection of newly laundered workclothes and towels to dry.
Bell sat in a chair they had carried out into the sunshine so she could
supervise without overtiring. Daddy Twofoot was out also and could be
glimpsed between pickets as he slapped a new coat of whitewash on
his bit of fence. All in all it made for a busy and somehow comforting
He settled onto his favorite bench knowing he would not be allowed to
help and joined in their conversation for a while. The talk was mostly
of the weather, the condition of the ground, the quality of seeds, what
was already done and what needed to be done. The usual things, not
challenging but soothing. After the compost was spread, Sam was
given permission to take a break and with Bilbo's encouraging smile,
to sit by him on the bench. The Gaffer frowned slightly, and Sam saw
it, promptly shifting his seat to a sunny spot on the ground instead.
It was the Gaffer's way, and Bilbo would not naysay him. Sam seemed
happy enough where he was that it didn't really seem worth protesting.
Sam picked up a twig and carefully drew in the soil, S-A-M. He
smiled up at
Bilbo, who smiled back, glad he was proud of his accomplishment. Slowly
and thoughtfully Sam circled it with the twig, then started talking.
"The lads in town were tellin' a tale yesterday, Mr. Baggins. An'
seein' as it was about you and all, I listened a bit. I do love good
tales, though my Gaffer says we shouldn't listen to gossip, but this
one wasn't gossip, I don' think anyways."
Bilbo listened. Inside he tensed up slightly, waiting for the other
shoe to drop. What if Sam had heard that ridiculous tale Lobelia had
mentioned, the one that had him threatening children with a knife?
"Well," continued Sam, "I've been thinkin' on it and wanted to ask you
if it was true."
"They said you were seen far, far away from Hobbiton."
"I have been, yes. I traveled quite a pace this past trip."
"Well, they said you came out of a mist. Like magic. You weren't there,
and then you were. Right out of th' mist."
Bilbo smiled and relaxed. "Yes, I do recall being out on a misty day.
But there was no more magic than any other mist. It was a very thick
mist, very white. I remember being a bit surprised myself when a
farmer's cart came up to me right out of it. I can see where they might
have thought it was like that."
Sam said, "I never thought it was magic. Not really."
Bilbo smiled. "It's all right with me if you did. The world has many
magical things in it. I just don't happen to be one of them. What else
did they say?"
"That you came out of th' mist - though of course it was reg'lar mist -
and that you left a solid gold doll for a little lass in a poor family.
They were so poor, so poor they didn't even have proper clothes or
food and anything and you left 'em this doll, and it was solid
gold..." Sam was starting to get excited, recounting the tale.
"Yes, yes I did, in a way."
"You did?" His eyes grew very round in his head.
"But not in quite that way. Remember the mist? Tales change in the
telling. The family was a very kind family, and while they weren't
wealthy they weren't as poor as all that either. They had a snug home
and perfectly good clothes and fed me a good supper too. And I didn't
leave a solid gold doll, but I did leave a small gift of gold coins
hidden in one of their lasses' toys before I left."
"Why did you hide it?"
"Because if they knew it was there, they would've felt beholden to me.
I wanted it to be a surprise."
Sam knew all about being beholden to people. The Gaffer spoke on it
frequently. He nodded his head. "It was a good surprise, then."
"I hope it was."
"Why do they change?"
"I don't know... I suppose a good part of it is wanting to impress
someone. To have them think you are clever or important. What good is a
plain old everyday story for telling after all? Sometimes it is added
onto to make it more exciting. Sometimes it's someone not hearing
right, or misunderstanding what they see. Sometimes it's purely
made up, right out of someone's head. And it isn't always nice tales,
Another nod. His curly brown head was bent down as he poked at
the dirt with his twig.
"I'm sure you've heard others that were scary, or sad. They were
probably not quite true either."
"Are there any that are all the way true?"
"Some. And there are others that are all the way made-up. Would you
like me to tell you a real tale that really did have some magic in it?"
Sam lit up. "Oh yessir, please!"
"It's not a frightening magic, it's Elvish magic...and Dwarvish magic
He launched into a recounting of the moon-runes on the magic map, and
how Elrond showed them that they could only be seen when the moon shone
behind them at a certain time of month.
He could see most of it was going right over Sam's head and in
hindsight wished he had chosen something with less detail and more
action. He would have to think of a good one, more suitable for a young
hobbit next time. Sam was called back to work and Bilbo went back
inside to continue with his own task. He had been slowly translating a
verse from the Elvish and it had something to do with the moon, which
is what had brought that tale to mind in the first place. He
slowly stopped writing, unaware he had done so. The quill-pen dribbled
a bit of ink on his idle fingers as he gazed at nothing up toward the
Someday, he thought, I need to get back to Rivendell for a suitably
long stay so I have time to make use of their libraries. They had such
books, such maps... But then... I won't even need the libraries to
translate if I have great
heaping flocks of Elves all about me. What a nice thought that is.
Elves, whenever you want them. I'd
like to see the Lonely Mountain again, to visit with the dwarves, and
to see the men from Laketown too.
I wonder how fat old Bombur has gotten by now. Maybe I could even see
Beorn, if he
would let me anywhere near; he was an odd one though a bit frightening,
if I wasn't alone... I wonder if Gandalf would be willing to have a
tag-along. Perhaps I should ask him, next time he comes to the Shire...
Oh, Bilbo Baggins.
What are you thinking indeed? Here you just got back from a trip;
remember how glad you were to get home? Thinking of wandering
after Wizards already, are you?
Yes. I was glad to be
home. I am glad to be home. There's no place as peaceful and homelike
as this. But I would be glad to be off again also. Someday.
How the tongues would wag at that, if I left for another entire
year. I'm sure it would take at least that long to see everything
I want to see.
I couldn't just leave everything as it is for that long anyway. Lobelia
and Otho would be moved in before I was over the bridge. The only good
about it would be all of my spoons would finally be back together
again. Hmph. Yes, all melted down into one shiny pile, right along with
my coat and my sword and any other item of value they could lay hands
on. A fine dragon's bed that would make, just the right size for
the three of them.
I think I ought to look into stuffing my own omelette...