Nothing of Note
Chapter 57: Frauds and Flowerboxes
Bilbo was up late that night, thinking and jotting notes onto his
notepad, only to scratch them out and jot down others. It was a serious
situation, and the irony did not escape him that he, probably the only
hobbit ever officially dubbed 'Burglar' in the history of the Shire,
should be the one to be robbed. Who would have ever thought it...
It was late before he blew out his lamp, and even later before he
stopped getting back up from his bed to light a candle and add another
thought to his list.
The night was long; he had restless dreams of being caught in a
hedge, and all his buttons were coming off. He scrambled among
the thickly fallen leaves looking for them, but they kept slipping
away... and then it wasn't his buttons that were missing but his
ring.... He woke up in a mild panic, threw aside his pillow reached
over to pat at the pocket of his weskit that hung by his bedside,
reassuring himself that it was safely on its chain. It seemed a long
time before he could relax enough to sleep again.
In the morning he awoke with thoughts already spinning. Looking over
his notes with tired eyes he continued to annotate them as he sipped
and blew at his tea. He made more corrections and additions in-between
pouring and flipping pancakes, and by the time he had reached the
washing-up stage he was feeling much better about the whole thing. Yes,
here was a plan that just might work.
Fetching his writing set, he quickly wrote out two letters, addressed
and sealed them, dropping them into his hat where it sat on the entry
bench. He grabbed an apple and a handkerchief, tucked them into his
pocket and smoothly snagged his hat with one hand as he reached for the
doorknob with his other. He put the hat on his head, paused, took
it off again to remove the letters from under it, replaced it on his
head and went out to the post.
Preoccupied with his own thoughts, he skipped rapidly down the steps
and had already walked a good ways along the road before he realized
the blue-and-yellow skirt walking just ahead of him belonged to Daisy
Gamgee, going the same way. He increased his pace.
"Good morning, Mr. Baggins," she greeted as he came up alongside her.
"Good morning, Miss Gamgee," he replied cordially, noting the marketing
basket on her arm he added "Are you going to town, then?"
She gave a small bob of a curtsy as she walked. "Yessir, I am. Can I fetch something from market for you?"
"Eh, no, no thank you, but I do have a couple of letters that need to
be posted today. Would you be so kind as to take them in for me?"
"Of course! No trouble at all," she said. Pausing, she pushed her curls
back from her face and lifted the proferred letters from his hand,
tucking them into the wide pocket on her apron. He fished in his
pocket and drew out a coin, a little more than was needed for the
postage. She dropped it into the pocket along with the letter, and
asked "Anything else I can do for you, sir?"
"No, no thank you." Then not wanting to seem too abrupt, he politely
extended the conversation a little further, walking just a few more
paces with her. "How is your mother?" he asked.
Daisy gave him a brief half-smile as she went. "She's doing a little
better, since that healer you sent came by, thank you, sir. She still
tires easy, but says her aches aren't near as bad. I'll be letting her
know you've inquired?"
"Yes, yes that would be fine. Oh. And if you could let your
father know I would like to speak with him, whenever you get back, it
would be much appreciated. Thank you very much." He gave a nod of
farewell and touched the brim of his hat politely, then turned back
towards his own home.
"Yessir, I'd be glad to," she returned over her shoulder and continued
on her way. She was a dutiful lass, he had no worries that the letters
would go astray.
Bilbo, seeing that he was spared the rest of the walk into town
returned to his own yard. Closing the gate, he started up the steps
then stopped with surprise. Sometime in the night his front windowbox
had broken! He remembered now that it had been listing slightly before
- now it was tipped sharply down, one end come completely off; its
darkly earthen contents spilled out onto the grey flagstone below, peat
and earth together; pale yellow and white roots, both old and new, were
blindly groping up out of the tumble of dirt like tangles of broken
He went up to it and poked at it, turning over a couple of the spoiled
plants. They were crusted in dirt, wilted; broken stems hanging their
heads sadly. No saving them. He examined the wood that had come
away; the small grooves of beetles and wood-borers trailing over it;
inverse noodles. Feeling the ends of the wood, split with crumbly
brown-white rot he found it soft to his touch. Considering its
condition, it was surprising the box had held up as long as it
had. He pressed the sponginess of it, and found his thoughts
turning to Lotho and others like him who rotted away with hidden
weakness, eaten at from the inside, spilling out neglect and leaving a
mess for others to clean up. Bad roots, and negligence....full of
vermin. He shook his head and frowned at the mental image as much as
the broken box.
It would have to be fixed.
He blinked. A half-formed idea in his head suddenly gelled and he knew
what he was going to do. He had considered putting in a few primulas,
but only as a joke for Frodo, for when he got back. Now he was quite
certain he was going to put them in and it was in earnest. He was
glad he had already sent for the Gaffer.
About an hour later, Hamfast Gamgee listened to him, then stood and
looked at the ruined windowbox. He nudged the broken end with his
gnarled toes. "I'll have this fixed right as rain for you soon as I
can, Mr. Baggins; though I'm afeard it will need to wait just a day or
two, askin' your pardon... I'll get it swept up right away, o' course.
Jus' the rebuildin' needs waitin' and as for the flowers, well sir,
it's late in the season for 'em, hardly any bloomin' time left in 'em
anymore. How about some nice chrysanthemums instead?"
"A day or two is fine, but not more. And I know, I know it's late for
them, but I want some primulas. Only primulas. As many as you can
manage, any color, in all of the windowboxes. Are there any in the
greenhouses, perhaps? I would like them as soon as possible, by
tomorrow if you can. I'll pay top dollar for them if that's what it
Hamfast shifted his feet and seemed slightly uncomprehending. "Primulas."
"Primulas." the Gaffer repeated, squinting as if he hadn't heard right.
"Yes. I insist."
"You want 'em in all of the windowboxes, this late?" He twisted his cap
in his hand then gestured with it at the windowbox. "If'n I can
suggest, I've some truly grand mums that..."
"Primulas." said Bilbo very firmly. "No, nothing else will do. No
chrysanthemums, not this time. No." he held up a hand. "I'm sure
they're quite grand, but no. Maybe later, afterwards. Not now."
The Gaffer took a breath, then just stood for a moment, opened his
mouth then shut it. He opened it again, shut it, then stuck his tongue
in his cheek thoughtfully. "I'll try to find some, sir."
Bilbo was relieved. "Thank you, Gaffer - I knew I could count on you."
Hamfast pursed his lips."Yessir. Will that be all, sir?"
"Yes... but I'll let you know if anything else comes up. Thank you!"
The Gaffer nodded, took a breath again then let whatever it was he was
going to say go unsaid. Instead, he bobbed in assent and shambled off
around the Hill towards the gardens.
Bilbo went back inside to think and plot and eat.
He rapidly mixed up a batch of piecrust, rolling out a set of uneven
circles and heaping them with apples and spices. Folding them over he
set them in the oven to bake. Back at his writing desk, he rummaged in
the drawers until he pulled out a nice thick sheet of creamy parchment,
all flecked with dried leaves and petals. It was the most official and
fancy looking paper he had, and extra large, so it would do well.
He laid it out on the table, weighed down the corners and got out his
best pen and ink.
After a few moments of ordering his thoughts, he chuckled and started
writing. The rich, sweet scent of the baking apple tarts began to fill
the smial. He consulted a handful of the documents and books that
he had in his den and began carefully penning what he hoped would look
very much like an official Will to anyone who didn't know better.
When the last bits of sand trickled through the slender waist of his
half-hourglass, he got up and pulled out the browned tarts, setting
them in a row to cool. He realized too late that he'd gotten ink on one
of them and rubbed at the hot crust nearly burning his fingers. Giving
up, he finally broke off the offending chunk of crust and brought the
rest of it back with him, popping it lightly from hand to hand because
of the heat. As he sat down, he took a bite and sucked air in to
cool his mouth, unwilling to wait for the tart to cool further. It was
hungry work, translating.
It was some time before he sat back and gave it a good look: Before him
he now had a rough translation at best; a nice mix of Dwarvish,
Elvish and Westron. Very elaborate looking. He had Frodo's name in a
nice prominent place in the middle, surrounded by official looking
words that he knew would be gobbledygook to Lotho's eyes. If the tween
managed to find anyone who could ever translate it for him, he would
find an amusing (to Bilbo) rebuke regarding his behavior and character,
along with bits of proverbs about honesty and some random snippets of
historical events. He penned a few flourishes to the corners, and
set about copying fake signatures onto the bottom of it.
The tarts which he had wanted warm were now cold, but he ate two more
of them anyway. By the time he started in on his fourth one, he had
what he judged to be a reasonable facsimile of a Will, complete with
assorted official-looking details. He finished the tart and
licked his fingers, making a face as he licked bitter ink along with
apple syrup. He reached for his handkerchief, found he didn't have one
and ignominiously had to go from room to room with his ink-blackened
tongue hanging out until he found a napkin he could wipe it off on.
Sometimes it was a good thing, living alone.
His dignity restored, he went back to his den. Lacking red
sealing wax, he finally had to settle for a deep orange wax that he had
leftover from a scented candle. It dribbled this carefully over
the rolled parchment in a nice fat circle, and stamped it with an
elaborately carved brooch that he had picked up on his travels. For a
finishing touch, he affixed a couple small ribbons. Very officious.
He had a fifth tart to celebrate finishing it. Set just inside the main
compartment of the desk, it looked very Legal. While he was at it, he
pulled out several other things from the desk compartment and packed
them away. No reason to have them rummaged through, after all. He
added various old letters and bits of scratch paper to the pigeonholes
to keep it from looking empty.
The real Will he placed in a large pottery jar, sealing the wooden top
with more wax both to keep out any moisture and to be able to tell that
it had been left unopened. By this time the afternoon was waning;
it had been a good days work. He tucked the jar under his arm and
took up a sixth tart to eat as he walked to Farmer Cotton's place. He
knew it would be safe enough there, no questions asked.