Nothing of Note
Bilbo awoke groggily in the early morning to muffled thumps and clangs coming
from the other side of the wall. He blearily sat up and rubbed
the sleep from his eyes. Frodo was gone, having apparently slipped out
without waking him and the 'bit of a window' as Frodo had called it
showed a patch of sky no bigger than a grapefruit; what he could see of
it indicated it wasn't much past dawn. He slowly dressed for the
day, yawning, and folded the blankets. Cracking open the door he peeked
out into the hallway: several voices were carrying on in the adjoining
room, there was the sound of water sloshing and something
sizzling. But of course; if this bedroom used to be a pantry a
kitchen nearby made sense. He wondered if it would startle anyone to
have him show up unannounced in their kitchen that morning, he wondered where Frodo
was. He knew a handful of the Brandybuck family and had a passing
acquaintance with several of the inhabitants of this sprawling Hall, so
why did he feel like a burglar? Must be leftover from their
unorthodox entry to the hall the previous night.
A baby began to cry and was hushed, two lasses went by in the hallway
talking rather loudly for the early hour. He sat back on the bed
listening to their skirts swishing against the sides of the passage and
wondered what was being cooked. He remembered the food of Brandy
Hall and had no concerns about quantity; Old Rory still kept a good
table, and no one in the Hall need ever go hungry. His son
Saradoc had been taking over the more arduous duties of Master as time
went on, but Old Rory was easily still hale enough to preside over a
laden table and to wield a spoon and fork with the best of them.
He had just decided to go looking for Frodo when the door quietly
cracked open and a bright blue eye framed with dark curls peeked around
the corner at him. Seeing him up and dressed, Frodo swung the door the
rest of the way open and gave him an apologetic smile.
"I wasn't sure if you would be awake yet."
"Is it always this noisy here in the morning?"
Frodo rolled his eyes. "Not always. It figures it would be an omelette
day right when you visit. Salvia and Viola are the self-proclaimed
queens of omelettes but they're none too gentle with the cookware. I'm
surprised they don't crack as many plates as they do eggs! Still, they
do serve it up nicely. I hope you like omelettes? There's pancakes too,
if you'd rather."
Bilbo couldn't help but ask. "What are they stuffing them with?"
"Oh, any number of things. They usually have several cheese ones, or you can stuff your own."
"I think so. Yes."
"Now I like the sound of that." said Bilbo amiably following his young
host to the adjoining kitchen. The air was redolent with fragrant steam and toasting bread. They threaded their way through the
bustle past a huge griddle and a wooden table covered with bowls of
assorted veggies and meats. A colossal bowl of scrambled eggs stood
ready to cook. A large colander heaped with empty shells went right
past Bilbo's face, borne in the hands of one of the cooks.
He ducked away. "Of course." A small lass, her arms full of early
spinach leaves collided with his legs. Frodo took his arm and
gently pulled him out of the confusion into the dining area on the
"We all pretty much serve ourselves at breakfast," he said, handing
Bilbo a plate and fork from a stacked sideboard. "And I'm afraid I'm one of
the dish-washers this morning, but I'm going to see if I can trade with
someone so we can go out walking."
Bilbo followed Frodo to a sort of window in the wall between the
kitchen and the dining room. Frodo held out his plate and a plump,
pink-cheeked matron slid a folded omelette onto it. Bilbo
followed his example and likewise had his filled. She glanced up at him
as she reached for the next plate.
"Good morning! Are you visiting?"
Ah, so they do notice if you don't live here, thought Bilbo. Or at
least some of them do. "Yes, I'm a relative of Frodo's." he said
politely. "Thank you so much for the omelette."
"We've plenty and to spare!" she smiled then turned away to tend some
youngster who was struggling with a large circle of cheese. Bilbo
nodded thanks to the back of her head and turned to see where Frodo
wanted to sit.
There were several hobbits at the two tables by the windows, and a
group of younger ones clustered near the fireplace balancing their
plates on their laps. Frodo didn't join them, but headed for some
smaller empty tables on the side. There was a sudden pushing away
of chairs as half a dozen browned hobbits dressed for working in the
fields stood and carried their plates past him then went out a side
door into the morning, talking amongst themselves. Bilbo waited
until they were past then moved forward again, threading around the
A small curly-headed lad with two huge sugared buns in his hands dashed
past him from the direction of the kitchen nearly upsetting the plate
he balanced in his hand, a lass in hot pursuit pounced and grabbed the
child by the back of his collar, dragging him screeching back out of
the room. Bilbo raised his eyebrows questioningly. Frodo shook his
"That's Merry. They watch him night and day, but he can be quite the
conniver. Can you imagine this place being in his care someday?"
"Merry?" said Bilbo, vague about the significance of the name.
"Meriadoc. They call him Merry for short. He's Saradoc's son. Only one
so far." Frodo settled down at one of the smaller tables taking a
generous bite of his breakfast from the plate before it was even on the
"I see," Bilbo said listening to the outraged hollering that was now
emitting from that same child as he was dragged literally kicking down
the hall. Bilbo noted he was still clutching both of the buns to his
chest and was in fact attempting to eat one whilst yelling. "Well, we
all grow up someday. No doubt he won't be kicking like that when he's
"No doubt." agreed Frodo, rapidly demolishing his serving. "But when
he's older no one will be dragging him along like so much baggage
either... I hate to think what sort of damage that much determination
packed into one hobbit could do. If he sets his mind to it, nothing
stops him no matter how much of a whipping he gets."
"Hm." offered Bilbo, his mouth full.
The omelettes were very good, and Bilbo was bemused to see how quickly
Frodo went through his, rising and coming back with a refilled plate
which he was half through before Bilbo had finished his first one. No
one could eat like a hobbit in his early tweens. Bilbo got a second
serving but only finished half of it. Frodo obligingly finished
off the rest of it for him, along with his own third helping, then went
off to the kitchens to haggle about his dishwashing duties while Bilbo
He returned before long and offered a crooked smile. "We're free to go."
Bilbo could see there was more to it than that. "What sort of deal did you strike?"
"It doesn't matter." he said evasively. "A walk with you is worth any number of chores."
Bilbo accepted Frodo's wanting to be noble about it. He set down his
empty tea cup and didn't press further. "Just let me fetch my pack, and
check in on my pony."
They walked together in companionable silence for a while until they
were well away from the Hall and the main traffic of the road, heading North
this time. The morning was fresh and clear, the last of the night mists
that formed near the river were rapidly burning away. They spoke of
small things at first, of weather and water and wood, their conversation as
wandering as their feet. Bilbo began relating his narrative regarding
his own springtime walk that had turned into a small journey. It was
delightful to have a companion who understood. Frodo never stopped him
with questions like 'but why would you do that?'; he knew why Bilbo
had done what he had done.
As it went on, Bilbo found himself relating parts of
his tale that he hadn't even intended to include, the dream he'd had,
the seabirds bobbing their heads, even his own awkward tumble down the
steps of the tower clutching that wooden stool - it all just... flowed
out. It was rather more than the carefully cleaned-up-for-presentation
version he had thought about writing down, but it was wonderfully
freeing. He knew no gossip would find its roots in Frodo's good
heart, no jealousy or dark twists of his tale would come back at him,
no mangled echoes of truth as he sometimes heard from others who only half-listened, who only half-understood.
It wasn't until past luncheon that the tale
began to wind down and he realized his throat felt dry and thirsty from
had stopped above the River for a small snack and drink, spreading
their coats over the cool-damp ground and sitting on them to watch
the lazily moving waters far down the slope. Birds could be heard
faintly singing from the woodlands to the side. It was all very
peaceful, and quiet.
Bilbo plucked at the grass absently. "Frodo." he said, breaking a silence.
"Yes?" The startling blue eyes looked up at him from where they had been gazing across the waters at nothing.
"When you consider yourself, I was just wondering... would you say you have many friends?"
Frodo pondered this seriously for a moment. "Well, no. Not really. I
have many acquaintances, and people who are friendly enough but if you
mean close friends, no... I suppose I don't. I can't say it really
bothers me much, though. I mean, it sounds like it should, but I like the peace and quiet of being alone. Usually, anyway. You
"Yes, I understand. I am much the same way. While I enjoy visitors, and I know about everyone there
is to know in Hobbiton and many in other places besides, my very
best friends are few and far between. And some aren't even hobbits."
He considered a moment. "Some of them are books, in a way. I often am at my best when I write my
thoughts rather than speaking them."
"I do that too." said Frodo, "but not like you do. You have such a way
with words. It seems more of a struggle to me, for you it comes as
naturally as drawing breath."
Bilbo had to smile at that. "I don't know about that, now. You should
see me sometimes, wracking my brain for a phrase or a word..."
"Still," insisted Frodo, "It is a gift I think. You have a gift with languages too."
Slightly uncomfortable with the adulation, Bilbo turned the topic away from himself. "Have you been studying much?"
"Not as much as I would like, through there is a bit of a library
I'm afraid most of the collection is rather dull. Records about
farming, who won the prize at the fair. That sort of thing. Oh!" he
brightened up. "There was a peddler, one of those who drive around all
the time in their carts, you know what I mean?"
Bilbo nodded, carefully keeping a politely interested expression on his face.
"He had something very
unusual this time when he came by - books! I mean, real ones, not just
recipes and picture-tales. He had those too. I got to look through them all. There weren't many, but some
of them were interesting. It made me think of you, with your marvelous
study and all of your books."
Bilbo knew the answer but thought he would ask anyway. "Did you buy any?"
As if a cloud had covered the sun, Frodo's face fell. "No. Not that
there weren't some I would have liked, of course. I couldn't afford
them..." he brightened slightly. "But I've been taking on some small jobs, saving up to buy some
when he comes around again."
"What sort of small jobs?"
"Oh," Frodo leaned back on his elbows and looked up at the clouds. "I
cleaned harnesses for a bit. I weeded. I moved furniture. I even
He laughed. "Yes, hard to imagine I know. Almost as hard to imagine as you babysitting." He chuckled at the expression on Bilbo's face at
the thought. "And what's worse, it was that little terror, Merry."
"That's the one."
"But if I can get a couple good books, all for my own, it will be worth
it. There was one, it wasn't very big but it was interesting. It had
maps, rather than a tale. All maps, of the Shire. I think it might have
been done up for a Postmaster. They were small, and so cleverly done. I
know it wouldn't further my language or history studies, but there was
"Yes! Charming about it. How do you always know the right word to use?"
Bilbo reached for his pack and flipped the top flap back to rummage inside.
"Because it is charming." he said, drawing it out into the sun.
Frodo gaped. He looked at the slender blue book in Bilbo's hand in
utter disbelief, then turned huge, disbelieving eyes on his friend.
"Where did you get that?!" he exclaimed in wonder.
"I bought it. From a peddler."
"Yes, it's the same one. Go on, take it! It's yours now."
Frodo slowly lifted the book from Bilbo's waiting hand, then suddenly
lit up with delight as the weight and feel of it made it real. He
turned it in the sun, to see the tooling on the leather, the silver
glinting. Bilbo sat and smiled as the younger hobbit opened it up,
noting the delicacy of his handling of the pages even in his
excitement. He enjoyed each and every drawing all over again with the
sometimes breathless and even awestruck commentary that flowed from the
book's new owner. Every page had something to be admired, to be noted,
to be pointed out. Even the white spaces along the edges.
"What's over here?" asked Frodo, running his finger in a circle on a white space.
"Mountains. Much larger than any we have around here..."
"And over here?"
"Marshlands. I never got all the way around them...."
One tale led to another, until Bilbo was afraid he was doing all the talking.
He wanted to hear what had been happening with Frodo also, but every
time he tried to turn the subject, the lad was reticent.
"Nothing really happens here. Not really. Every now and then there's a
little thing, like a boating party...." he paused, gazing at the
The silence grew longer.
"Well," said Bilbo, who knew what the problem was and decided to change
the topic. "Let's walk a bit more, shall we? What's further up this
way? I missed most of this the other day, it being so near to dark, and
it's been just long enough..."
Frodo accepted the offer gratefully. They brushed the bits of grass off of themselves and continued on.