Nothing of Note

by Primula

Chapter 65: Letters

With the legal matters being settled, Bilbo found a fine, almost sweet anticipation in this coming birthday that he hadn't felt for many a year.  The days seemed to stretch out before him, and the 22nd seemed very far away.  After so many birthdays, he thought, the novelty of it all does wear off a bit. But this one will be a birthday to remember, for the good of it, I hope.

Mulling upon it while he ran his errands and entertained his visitors, he found it hard to concentrate on the topics of conversation at hand, his mind kept drifting to all he wanted to do to get Frodo's room ready for him, to wondering if Lotho would ever dare to try any shenanigans again, even to whether or not the Gaffer would mind having another hobbit's worth of vegetables to have to tend in the garden. But, he happily realized that that was all it was now, just mulling. All the fretting and worrying were gone, or nearly so. There was no more threat of himself or his worldly goods being parted from his chosen heir until he was good and ready for it to happen. He liked being in control... it was comforting.

It was still only the first week of September, though he felt that time really ought to be moving faster after the way the summer had flown by.  He inventoried his pantries to see what he needed to have them ready for two hobbits instead of one, and rationalized indulging in several treats that he wouldn't normally have kept, just because he fancied Frodo might like them. He knew parents were expected to have restraint in stocking treats for their children, lest they spoil them, but he was no parent. He was an uncle. And uncles spoiled nephews all they liked, didn't they?  He remembered Frodo had a fondness for apples, and was glad for the new saplings that had been planted. There would be plenty and to spare.

The hardest part of it was trying to decide whether to tell Frodo of this certain shift in their relationship in a letter, or to save it for when he came back for their birthday. He felt positively bursting with the news at times, and yet also strangely reluctant; he wasn't sure why - his best guess was that he was still trying to get used to the idea himself. He finally decided he would only send a small note, and save the rest for when he could speak to his...nephew...face to face. 

Even with this decision made, he sat at his writing desk for the better part of an hour, indecisively putting it off before he could make himself pick up the pen and try to write something out.


My dear Frodo,

I take pen in hand to write to you, not because there has been any change in events worth noting here but because I find the days are longer than I first anticipated they would be. Nothing of note has really happened here excepting one tale regarding a certain tween relative of ours that you might find amusing.  Remind me to tell you about it when you come. I am quite looking forward to your pleasant company by the fireside this winter.

I do hope you won't mind too much, but I fear I've given young Samwise permission to bake our birthday cake - a moment of lapsed judgment, perhaps, but we'll have to take our chances. If that is the only adventure the two of us share it will be a wonder. I hope all of your preparations have been going smoothly, and that your travels will likewise be untroubled. 

Enclosed you will find additional travel monies, trusting they will not find their way into the wayward hands of the Brandy Hall youth this time.

With fondest regards, your.....

Bilbo paused and tapped the quill on the edge of the inkwell a few times. Your...

Your...

He paused and considered, then carefully penned:

"Uncle" Bilbo


He looked at it for a moment, then blew on the ink gently to dry it. It felt odd, assigning himself that title. No, he just wasn't quite used to it. The quotes around the title helped, a small cushioning for him, just in case it was taken poorly he could always feign it wasn't serious... not that he really thought it would be taken that way.  Now that he thought about it, he was more afraid he wouldn't take it well than Frodo wouldn't.

He folded the money carefully into the paper, sealed the letter and meticulously addressed it. Looking at the Brandy Hall address, he weighed the packet in his hand and wondered if it would be the last time he wrote to the Brandybuck's bustling rabbit-warren of a smial.  Well, at least the last time he wrote to Frodo there... after trying to imagine what life was like for his...nephew...there, he had been looking at it with different eyes than he used to. He had found himself renewing some old acquaintances out that way by correspondence. Making it his business to keep in touch with the leaders of the various Farthings, he had deliberately placed himself in the position of being able to go just about anywhere he liked without ever being considered a stranger to those whose lands he crossed. Besides, the hospitality of the well-off was always better, if it could be had.

Renewing those old ties was a good thing, especially if he was going to be tramping around the Shire with another hobbit in tow. He would have to be sure that Frodo remained well-connected to the Master, and the Thain also. Too bad their children were so much younger than Frodo - maybe as they grew older, that difference would matter less and he could forge some sort of connection for his heir that way.


"It isn't as if anything has really changed," he told his flowers after he had posted the letter and gone out to make use of the remaining sunshine of the day.  "Really, everything is exactly the same as it was before." 

The flowers nodded their heads in agreement as the breeze ruffled their petals.

"So, I've no reason to be feeling out of sorts about it. In fact, it's all precisely as it should be."  he continued, patting down the soil around their stems and pinching back a few spent blooms. "There. How's that? You look just fine, much better than I do in this old coat. I'll have to give some thought to a new one, something bright for the party..."

He heard the bell at his door and turned from his amiably attentive flowers.  Leaving them nodding agreeably to no one, he went round the bushes, brushing away the dirt from his hands and knees. Down the slope, the post-lad was skipping his way out the front gate and a letter lay just within the open front door. 

He reached for it eagerly, a small flutter in his heart that it might be from Buckland, just as quickly flattened as his hands turned it to find the all too familiar seal of Dora. He sighed.

Carrying it inside he tossed it onto the table and went to get a drink first, then stood by the table sipping at his drink while he contemplated the waiting envelope. Considering  a moment, he decided to get it over with. He set down the cup and cracked the envelope open, tapping the paper into his hand.


Greetings to you, Bilbo, from your most concerned Dora,

I cannot begin to express to you the worries and fret that tidings of your doings have brought. I was so surprised I had my best hat knocked clean off my head and then nearly stepped on, can you believe. If something like it happens again, I shall have to pin my hat on before hearing the news. Especially with hats costing so much these days. Your great-uncle Largo always sent me a new hat for his birthday, and how I miss them.

Your second-cousin, twice-removed, Peabo, you remember him, was visiting this week and said all of Hobbiton was positively in an uproar over you and our somewhat distant relations being estranged, though I do approve of your taking in my nephew. The apple never falls far from the tree, so I do hope you realize that all relatives are still relatives, and we're all eating slices from the same pie.

I fully expect you to properly introduce me to him, I've never had the pleasure of meeting this (by all words) neglected, destitute son of our poor dearly departed Drogo, what with him living so terribly far away.  Why Drogo had to go and drown himself way off in Buckland of all places is beyond me. You would think he could have at least moved back to Hobbiton first if he was planning on being so careless, not to speak ill of our dearly departed, of course. I recall he always was quite enormous. If the son is anything like his father, I do hope you've well stocked your kitchens. Now I must run, your cousin-twice-removed Dingo is showing those dogs of his at the dog-and-pony show this afternoon and I'm running the bake sale.  You needn't worry, I'll write again soon and tell you how it went.

Yours with concern for yours and that young Frodo's welfare, with greatly affectionate sincerity,

Dora

p.s. Second-cousin Peabo is to be wed to Gladiolus Hardtoe this winter, can you believe it?  That family has enough daughters to run a quilting bee all by themselves. What will happen next? - D.

pps. Third-cousin Sweetpea will be having a tea party and 'coming of age' party in March. Don't forget it. She's the one with the aunt off in Frogmorton, the second of those sisters. You know the ones. Bongo will be leading the music, so I hope you will attend. - D.

ppps. Great-uncle Gumbo's annual cook-off will be in the South pasture this year, since the North one was purchased by those goat-herding Sandyhills and the goats about destroyed his onion patch. Young Rumbo's wine-cake mustn't be missed. You really ought to attend one of these years, Bilbo. Your neglect of your family duties is quite shocking at times. - D.

pppps. Also, you really ought to catch up on your correspondence. I haven't heard from you in ages. It's a good thing you have me to keep you up on your social necessities! - D.


He shook his head over it. What sort of aunt was she, that she had never even taken the time to meet her own very-true nephew, when Bilbo had to go to such lengths to be an uncle? And then to chide him about family duties. He rolled his eyes, and tossed it into the wastebasket.  If she took the time to meet Frodo herself, then she would get a bit more respect in his eyes.  He would wait to see if she did.

Going back out, he found Sam raking the edge of the yard with his wooden rake, gathering up all the flower trimmings that Bilbo had left into a neat pile. He was softly singing a simple tune as he contentedly worked.  The Gaffer was hauling mulch to the more delicate plants nearby. 

"Sam."

The lad stopped singing and looked up at him. "Yessir?"

Bilbo smiled at him. "I'm sorry... I interrupted your song."

Sam blinked at him. "That's all right sir. I can sing it again anytime you like, sir."

"True. I suppose you can. Sam... you have some aunts, don't you? And uncles?"

"Yessir. I have...lots of 'em. Cousins too. Doesn't everyone?"

"No, some hobbits don't have many at all."

"Really?"

"Really." Bilbo stooped a bit, to be closer to Sam's height. "I like to learn new things, and you know what? I don't really know how to be a good uncle for someone. I thought maybe you would like to teach me. Tell me, do you see them often? What do they do with you when they visit you?"

Sam leaned his chin on his rake and thought about it very seriously. "Well, a couple of 'em live kinda far away, so I don't see 'em as much. But the others I do. I don't like it when they squish my face, or pull my foothair to see how long it is. But I like the cakes they bring, and sometimes we get to play games, if there's cousins. My aunts bring cakes. But you wouldn't be an aunt, Mr. Baggins. Aunts are girls."

Bilbo raised his brows and feigned surprise at this news. "Ah, you don't say! And what about your uncles, then?"

Sam grew more animated. "My uncle Andy is my fav'rite! He knows all kinds of tricks, and he's really fun. I like my uncle Andy. He takes me on walks sometimes, and knows how to make ropes out of just about anything." He illustrated, weaving his hands around in the air and dropping his rake. "Even cornhusks, and dandelion stems, he twisted them up at a picnic for me. He can do tricks with ropes, even walk on one! Or that's what he says, I haven't really seen him do it yet."

"And your other uncles?"

"Well, they aren't as fun. They mostly just talk to my Gaffer and smoke their pipes. I wish I had more uncles like my uncle Andy. I wrote him my name, just like you taught me, and he kept it. He folded it up real small, and put it in his shirt pocket, 'cause he said it was Sam over his heart that way. I liked that."

"So if I wanted to learn what it was like to be a good uncle, I should learn some tricks?"

Sam smiled at him. "I think you already have lots of good tricks, and stories too. You would make a good uncle, I think. And you're a boy. Uncles are boys."

"Well," said Bilbo nodding wisely, "in that case I'll take your word for it. Thank you for your assistance, young Samwise. Now you better pick up that rake before you step on it and smack yourself in the face."

"Oop." He bent down and retrieved his tool. "You're welcome, sir." He looked up past Bilbo. "Looks like you got a letter, sir." he said, gesturing.

Bilbo was surprised. Another letter?  Whoever would it be from? "Thank you, Sam," he said and went to take it from the hand of the breathless post-lad who politely waited by his gate, seeing him there in the yard.

He knew what it was the moment he laid eyes on it, and had a hard time getting the coin out of his pocket and into the lad's hand, so jolted he was by the sight of that familiar flowing handwriting. 

How could it be? How was it possible? He had only just posted his own letter that morning, there was no way it could be a reply.  Their letters must have passed one another on the road, thinking of one another at the same time...

He took it to the front bench and sat down, cracking the seal and unfolding the single sheet very quickly.  It was small and smooth and fluttered slightly in his hands.


My dearest Bilbo,

I know that it is only three short weeks until I shall be seeing you again, but I find I have missed your wit and humor, your ready company each day. Still, I believe it was right for me to come back to Buckland when I did. It has given me a chance to say a proper farewell to my old haunts as well as to a few friends here. I truly feel I am able to look forward to my upcoming shift to Hobbiton with a lighter heart than I would have otherwise.

I am still planning on being there in time for our birthday and will be bringing my belongings, such as they are, if you will still have me.

I don't know if you recall it, but I neglected saying farewell to young Samwise before I left and I do hope he wasn't too disappointed. He is a dear, stout-hearted lad, isn't he?  If you don't mind, I would like to include him in our birthday this year to sort of make up for it. I'm sure we can think of something he could do.

The Mistress and Masters, both the younger and the older, send their greetings to you. Or rather, the first two, the Elder Master having fallen asleep before answering when I inquired. I am sure he would greet you also if he were waking.

I eagerly anticipate seeing you once again,

Your Frodo


Bilbo read it over two more times, then went inside to carefully note the date for Frodo's arrival in his appointment book, decorating it with a few small doodles to make it appear festive.

He considered the letter again, then ever so carefully folded it small and buttoned it into the pocket on the breast of his weskit. Safely over his heart.