Nothing of Note

by Primula

6: Fool's Gold

Bilbo was awakened from his sleep by a small noise that he could not identify. He cracked open his eyes to see the nearly cold hearth of the Chubb home and for a moment could not remember where he was. Recalling, he wrapped his blankets warmly around his shoulders and closed his eyes again trying to recapture the fleeting wisps of his dreams; but not for long. Again, there came a noise.  The smallest of noises, a soft rustle of cloth and a child's breath. He lay still with his eyes shut and tried to decide whether to let the child know he was awake or not.  He didn't wish to startle them, or to get them in trouble for waking a guest, after all.

He listened as the quiet, careful padding feet came a little closer to him.  Small fingers gently poked around the ends of his blanket by his feet, making it almost impossible to keep holding still.  He finally gave up.

With his eyes still shut he whispered. " What are you looking for?"

There was a tiny intake of breath and the movement stopped.

He tried again. "It's all right. I won't tell. Maybe I can help you find it. We can look for it together." Never mind that he didn't even know what it was he was volunteering to look for. For all he knew he was offering to rob himself, though he doubted it.

A light, warm weight briefly settled on his legs. There was a shuffling of knees on the floor and small arms wrapped themselves around his shoulder and neck from behind.  He was given a brief warm hug then let go.  He opened his eyes and looked back over his shoulder to see who his late-night benefactor was. In the dimness, he could only make out enough to tell it was one of the medium-small ones  dressed in a simple sleeping gown and watching him.  The house was still, and the windows showed it was yet before dawn outside. 

"Maybe we should stir up a little light?" he whispered. There was a movement of the child's head, an agreement.  He sat up and untangled his blankets just enough to reach the hearthside, where he knew the poker lay ready for morning.  He stirred the embers as quietly as he could and then put one small bit of wood among them where it smouldered a moment.  He blew on it a little, then it caught.

The small flames seemed very bright. He turned to look at the child, who was watching them dance among the coals.  She couldn't be more than six, he thought, or thereabouts. One of those in the middle of this large family.

"What's your name?" he asked.

She just looked at him for a moment then whispered back, "Posey."

"What were you looking for, Posey?"

Her lip quivered a little. "Sunnyface."

He struggled not to smile. He didn't want her to think he was laughing at her. "And who is Sunnyface?"

"My bag."

Curiouser and curiouser. "A...bag?"

Posey nodded with great emphasis. "Sunnyface is my bag. I sleep with her. But I couldn't find her, and...and I couldn't sleep...and..."

"What does...she..look like?" He was honestly wondering about this.

"She's this big." said Posey, holding out both of her hands. She sketched a round shape that would fill her two hands and then pretended to hug it. "She's yellow. And she's lonely."

Bilbo added another small stick to the fire.  "Well then, let's have a look, shall we?"

The two of them shook out his blankets and checked his pillow.  He moved his pack and even checked inside it. Posey looked under the chairs and table while Bilbo crawled around on the rug checking under baskets and firewood. Finally giving up, he reached for the arm of the rocking chair to pull himself up. The chair tipped and something fell to the floor with a small thump.  Posey crossed the room so quickly he hardly had time to see what it was that had fallen before she had it in her hands, cuddling it with joy.

In the dim firelight he could see it really was a bag.  A small home-dyed yellow yarn bag with a simple face stitched into it with thick dark thread.

"May I hold your...may I hold Sunnyface?" he asked politely.  Posey beamed at him and gently lay the bag in his hands.  It was heavier than he had expected, filled with dry corn from the feel of it. The yarn had been loved to a fuzzy softness that blurred the smiling features. A very well loved little yellow bag, lacking though it might be in finer features such as arms, legs or body.  The toy of a child in a large family with small lands.

"She's beautiful." he said reverently, and somehow he really meant it. He gave the bag back into her hands. Suddenly an idea struck him. "Posey," he said, "Can you keep a secret? Would you like to help me with a little surprise?"

She nodded at him, then yawned.

"What is inside Sunnyface?"

"Corn. Father puts new corn in her sometimes." She seemed to feel this was quite impressive.  Bilbo made sure his face showed that he thought so too.

"Really? Do you think you could ask him to put new corn in her tomorrow? After I'm gone? I would like to do something special to Sunnyface's corn, if I may.  Just for tonight."

She eyed him, unsure. The bag was held close.

"I won't hurt her," he reassured. "I want to make her extra special. As a surprise,  for your Father and Mother. Let me show you..."

By the time dawn began to color the sky, Posey was safely back in her bed with her beloved bag, but it was considerably heavier. Bilbo sat wrapped in his cloak by the fire watching the very beginnings of a dawn and smiled at the little heap of dry corn that lay hidden near the hearth.  It looked to be a nice day.  Very nice.  His wallet was lighter, but so was his heart. After all what really was the use of dragon treasure except for opportunities like this?  If he could not use it thus, it might as well be a fool's gold; hoarded and useless as dragon's bedding.  If it could not help honest families like this, it was all mere ballast and shine.