Nothing of Note
Bilbo reached Hobbiton as the afternoon shadows were just starting to
stretch their arms over the road to meet with the slowly drifting
Water. As he came down the last stretch of lane, the Cotton family on
their way to visit a relative for dinner all cheerfully filed to the
side to let his cart trundle past. Little Rosie pulled wet fingers out
of her mouth and waved at him. Yes, he was home again. The square was
scattered with hobbits beginning to pack up the days work, packaging
their purchases, fetching last-minute groceries or just sitting on the
benches, basking in the late sun. Some waved and offered passing
greetings, a few glanced at him then turned to speak to their
companions in low tones.
He turned the cart and pony in at the Green Dragon's stables, his pony
as glad to be back as he was. Too weary to even think of cooking supper
at home, he went in the familiar doorway of the Inn and settled
somewhat heavily at a small table.
"Mr. Baggins! Haven't seen you for a while. Off on a bit of trip?
What'll it be?" the Innkeeper's older son, whose name he never could
remember, stood at his elbow, leaning over to swipe a damp cloth across
the surface of the table and to drop a clean, folded napkin in front of
Bilbo ignored the blatant hint for information on where he had gone. He
noted his waiter was only a little older than his Frodo. "Whatever the
special is today is fine. A cold drink also, something mild."
"Yessir." The server was only mildly disappointed. Where he worked he
heard everything eventually, and it would only be a matter of time
until someone else would be bending his ear and filling him in on Mr.
Baggin's latest excursion no doubt. He thought Bilbo a bit of an odd
bird, but kind, and he knew he was generous with his tips. His feet did
not falter to bring the dinner as quickly as he could.
Bilbo sat at the table, closed his eyes and rubbed at his temples. His
Frodo. Why was he thinking like that? He had no claim to the lad, not
really. Who was he, to think he could just yank some other hobbit out
of his home... He sighed. It felt like the still wooden chair beneath
him was faintly swaying and bumping along, a memory of the ongoing
motion of the cart in the past hours. As soon as the fragrant,
well-laden plate was placed before him, he tucked into the hot shepherd
pie, buttered squash and cool ale, washing away the hunger and the
dust. It had been a long road home; it was never as pleasant coming
back as it was going out.
With a warm meal inside he finally felt a little more up to visiting,
but it was still early enough in the evening that there weren't many
others there to join in. The small talk with the other patrons
petered out fairly soon when he was not forthcoming about his own
personal affairs and soon settled into the all-too-familiar circle of
well-trodden topics, the small doings of neighbors and relatives. After
a few laps around the peaceful but uninteresting conversational track,
he bid them good-evening and rose to walk home.
He checked #3 on his way, but there was no sign of the Gamgee family
having returned yet. He did notice several of the apple tree
saplings still in their burlap wrappings in the yard. They were
embedded in heaps of wet sawdust from the Mill and were standing at odd
angles in a row along the fence - an empty water bucket and a small
shovel in their midst - like bunch of lanky strangers loitering
together. Poor old Hamson. He had told Hamson that he only needed to
plant as many as he was sure of, the locations for some being matters
of dispute. Apparently the younger Gamgee was not sure of many
locations at all. There would be plenty for the Gaffer when he got back.
Up the smooth stone steps he lifted his feet, home at last. He had
barely had time to drop his pack and pull off his dusty coat before the
bell rang and the Post delivered a large stack of correspondance all
tied together with green twine. The somewhat winded lad who brought it
lingered hopefully until a small coin was pressed into his hand then
skipped back down the steps. Bilbo winced slightly as his front gate
banged shut none too gently. He shook his head over how much could pile
up in such a short time of being gone. Still, it was good to be home,
yes it was.
Dropping the packet on the table, he worked his way along the side of
the smial, trotting along the hall and ducking into each room to open
windows, then started a small fire in the parlour's hearth and set a
kettle to heat. Poking at the crackling twigs, he reached up and
fished a tin down from the shelf above the kitchen mantle. Sprinkling some
spices from it onto the new coals helped chase away the musty scent of
disuse that seemed to linger whenever he was gone. The smoke whiffed
past him with the scent of overdone raisin-toast.
While the water was heating he fetched the packet of letters to the
kitchen table and pulled the twine loose. He spread his letters out on
the table to sort through all of them. Fetching his pen and ledger, he
decided to get as much of it as he could out of the way before retiring
for the evening. A letter from Dora, billing for the apple trees,
two birthday party invitations, a tea-party invitation, the
grocer's bill, the bill from the stables... The usual things...ah, and
a note from that lawyer. Setting the rest aside in neat stacks,
he slit open the small envelope and unfolded a closely lettered,
somewhat sterile card that indicated Mr. Egnog Banks, Attorney at Law,
would be arriving in Hobbiton Thursday next. Hm, he
thought, a lttle less than a week then. He considered his
empty pantry and household in general disarray - there was work to be
The water was steaming hot. He pulled off the kettle and splashed it
into a wide basin for a quick washing up. The washcloth steamed as he
wrung it out, and the amount of dust that came away on it when he laved
his face made him wonder what he must have looked like at the Dragon.
It felt wonderful. He hung the cloth to dry and emptied the basin into
the sink, then started a second kettle for tea.
Much refreshed, he opened Dora's note. Scanning over her
carefully-spaced rows of handwriting, he soon found the gist of it to
be that Home is Where the Heart Is and that she had heard he was
traveling again. She thought he traveled too much and was never shy
about letting him know it. He tossed it into the wastebasket and
reached for the bills, only stopping to light a lamp and close the
windows back up as the evening began to settle over the Hill.
By the time the paperwork was done he was stiff, yawning and a little
peckish. Latching the door, he banked the fire and padded down the hall
to his bed. At the larder he paused to get a small bedtime snack, and
surveyed the general emptiness of the shelves. He really had been
neglecting things here - tomorrow must be a baking day. Perhaps two
baking days were in order. Yes, that would be the way of it. Nodding to
himself in agreement, he took up a small plate with a rather dry end of
a loaf on it and continued down the hall.
His bedroom seemed strangely big to him, huge in fact. As he dressed
for bed he couldn't help but think of Frodo, back in Buckland. Why,
this second wardrobe alone was larger than that room back there. He
measured out the width of it as best he remembered. Yes, Frodo's entire
bedroom could fit inside the second wardrobe. Amazing. He started
to close the shutters on the bedroom window, then swung them back open.
The moon was just starting to rise, and the evening was somewhat mild.
It would disperse the last of the stuffiness inside.
He hung his coat up and took down his yellow dressing gown, laying it
out where it would be ready in the morning. He smoothed out the fabric,
ruminating. Why had he been so reluctant to bring up the idea of more
than a summer visit? Was it cowardly? In his heart of hearts he
had to admit he was afraid his offer would have been rejected. Why
would a young, bright hobbit want to come live with a stuffy old
bachelor? He had never been in such a position before, usually he
was the one in any transaction who got to choose whether something
would happen or not. He had never really had to extend himself in
this way, taking such a risk of being unwanted. Not by someone he cared
for. It was not a little frightening.
"Oh, Bilbo, you silly old thing," his imagination chided him in Frodo's
voice. "Why would I want to go halfway across the Shire from my friends
just to live with some strange old relative all by myself?"
He shook his head to shake away that thought and got dressed for bed.
Well, Bilbo comforted himself, it might not be that bad. No sense
in imagining doom. And better to have things ironed out with that
lawyer-fellow first anyway. No sense in getting up any hopes when I'm
not sure about the details of it myself. There was planning to be done.
He climbed into bed and pulled the covers up, shivering slightly as he
waited for the sheets to warm. Crickets sang outside his window, but it
seemed very quiet. He blew out the candle and lay in the dark, watching
the slight movement of moonshadowed leaves on the floor, fluttering in
their faint pool of white. Somewhere out there, a tiny bit of moonlight
would be coming into a very small room.
And, he smiled, the room would probably be unoccupied.
"Goodnight, Frodo." he whispered softly, and drifted off to sleep.