Nothing of Note

by Primula

Chapter 66: Gifts

It had taken nearly a week, Bilbo reflected as he closed the drawer on his writing desk, and September was moving on apace but it had been time well spent.

At last he had the final witnessing signatures he needed for the adoption papers - and he was very pleased with himself that he had managed to go about it so quietly, as if it were simply one more thing that was needed for the original Will. After all, there'd been more than enough stir about all this business already, and the legal difference would mean little to most Hobbits, even if it were their business which it was not.  He considered it sufficient that he would begin referring to Frodo as his nephew, and they would become used to it in time. Only one remained to be added and, as before, it was Frodo's.

The time was going by so quickly, there was so much to be done. He had spent a fair bit of time setting up his household with two hobbits in mind; opening up and freshening Frodo's room in what he hoped was a welcoming way,  rearranging the furniture so there were two overstuffed chairs conveniently near the hearth instead of one and so on. His pantries were well stocked and he had even cleared away some of the assorted whatnot from the coat racks to be sure there would be two clear places, right at the end nearest the door.  He found he was getting rather excited about it all, it felt like planning a party.

Over the intervening days he had considered what sort of celebration he ought to have. One thought had been throwing an 'adoption party,' but he wasn't sure Frodo would appreciate that much attention to it, at least not when it was so new to them both. Better to just have a 'birthday' party together, a regular birthday, really together.  But perhaps a nice big party was still called for.  A cheery, busy birthday party, one with plenty of hobbits, and music, plenty of food and presents for all!  After all, Frodo was important to him and he saw no reason to hide that. What better way than a rousing social, with cakes and wine and...? He imagined the mirth and good cheer that a hillfull of Hobbits could create and nodded in agreement with himself, muffling that small part of himself that objected to all the crowding.  A birthday party wouldn't have anything to do with the adoption, after all.

Just the prospect of a party was pleasant to think upon. And it being his birthday too, he needed to give thought to presents. The other hobbits didn't worry him, but he would have to think of a good birthday present for his new nephew. Something suitable for someone living at Bag End.... Styles were slightly different in Hobbiton than in Buckland, and the farmer's clothing that Frodo had been accustomed to wearing would really be somewhat...unsuitable for his new station. Not that he was ill-looking in them...

Bilbo looked at the newly cleaned row of hooks in the entry. An umbrella, a nice coat, or a hat?  No, those things would be needed, of course, but they weren't exactly stylish. Much too mundane for a present. Too practical.

He went along the hall to his own wardrobe and opened the doors, seeking inspiration. Scanning along the neatly folded stacks of shirts and breeches, his gaze glanced past his nightshirts and housecoats to his collection of weskits. Sage green, daffodil yellow, deep brown, plum...Ah...

He reached in and lifted two daily-wear tweedy weskits out of the way. With a slight tug, he pulled from the stack his very favourite special-occasions weskit; the deep red-burgundy one that shone in the window's light as he laid it out on his bed. He unfolded the wrapping that kept it from dust and fingered the bright brass buttons. Smoothing the collar, he considered it thoughtfully, trying to picture Frodo wearing something so grand. Yes. That would do nicely. But not too close of a match, no, no - he would need something that was just for him. Like it, but unlike.  And the tailor would need time to finish it properly, before the 22nd!

It was off to the tailor then! He took up the weskit, as an example and leaving the forgotten wardrobe doors hanging open, went out.

By tea-time he had his order underway. Thanks to the tailor being at home and happily ready to drop his other work in favor of a lucrative special project - for though he assured him it would be ready in plenty of time, Bilbo offered a bonus on delivery to assure that it was.  His own burgundy weskit provided a sort of pattern to start with, and the two of them had spent nigh on three hours fingering over the very best fabrics that could be found anywhere in the local area.  When Bilbo finally settled on an elaborately stitched and shining brocade that had been brought in clear from the borders out towards Tuckborough, both of them felt it an accomplishment.  It was almost a paisley, reminding him of leaves or flowers, gold, maroon, a bit of deep blue. He had some fine brass buttons in a box somewhere in his guest room, if he could find them. They would go most nicely with it. Very stylish at any party.

Yes, his lad was going to cut a fine figure for their birthday.

Still musing over the festivities, he walked home. The white gate swung under his hand with a creak  and he looked at it critically, noticing for the first time that it really needed a new coat of paint. The tidy yard was passable to inspection, but when he opened his door, the clutter and piles that spilled out from the edges of each room seemed to jump out at him. 

If he were to have a party, the old hole could stand with a little cleaning up, he had to admit. He turned around and went back out again.

Down the Hill at Number Three he found Bell Gamgee out in her yard, propped up in the sun with a few pillows, stitching a bit of embroidery along the hem of an apron. Some sort of flower, he didn't really look close enough to see.

He gave a polite tap at the unlatched gate and entered the small yard. "Mrs. Gamgee! Good day to you. I've good news to tell. I've decided I'm going to have a nice, big party to celebrate my own and Frodo's birthday when he arrives - we're on the same date, you know. The only problem is my hole is in need of a bit of cleaning up and I'm looking to hire some helping hands. Is Daisy available?"

Bell raised her brows at him, and looked thoughtfully quizzical. "Daisy will be back soon, she's just down the lane. I'm sure she could lend a hand, Mr. Baggins. She'd be glad of it.  But are you so sure a big party is really what you want to have? Begging your pardon, if I'm interfering..." 

"Of course!" he blurted, then backtracked. "Not of course to your interfering, I mean. Of course to my planning a party..." he paused, for Bilbo respected that quiet reserve of motherly wisdom that Bell Gamgee always seemed to hold within her frail frame. In spite of his initial reaction to any kind of questioning of his actions, he did want to know why she would have reservations. "...but, please tell me. Why wouldn't I?"

Bell looked up at him and lowered her embroidery into her lap. She went straight to the point.  "I don't think your young Master Baggins would like it." She held up a hand to still Bilbo's reaction and continued softly and patiently "He's still just finding his way, Mr. Baggins.  Keep it quiet this year, and let him settle in a bit. You should have many a year ahead of you where you can have something larger, when he won't feel like he's an outsider in his own home.  Or, as my Hamfast would say, plants need a bit of time after being put in the ground - you can't just go stepping all over them right away."

"But..." he wondered now if his half-formed plans were so definite after all. "I want him to know that he's worth it - he's important to me...that he deserves a nice, big party..." he was having difficulty framing his thoughts now that he had to say them out loud.

She pushed back a wayward strand of hair from her face and neatly tucked it behind her ear. "Begging your pardon, but that's tomfoolery. He'll know that he's worth it without any such fuss. And worth far more to you, Mr. Baggins." She gestured at him with her threaded needle for emphasis. "Because you've taken him in and befriended him!  A friend doesn't need lavish gifts to know they are loved. Why, if money is what makes them love you, or feel like you love them, why that's no love at all." She gave him a significant sidelong look.

Bilbo blinked, feeling slightly embarrassed. "And if anyone should know that it should be me, is that what you're saying?"

Bell relaxed and sat back against her pillows. Lifting up her embroidery again, she smoothed the fabric with her thin hands and tugged the thread snug. "I think you are his gift and he's yours, that's all. And I wouldn't presume to tell you how to do anything, Mr. Baggins, it wouldn't be my place." she said it mildly and he saw the twinkle in her eye.

"But you will anyway, won't you? And I'm most grateful to you for doing so, Mrs. Gamgee."  He nodded. "I'll think on it, but I do believe you have the right view - I've so little experience with this sort of thing but I'm willing to learn. And no, I don't want that to be how we start off at all, quite the opposite, and I hadn't really thought that it might seem that way to him or to others, the money and all..."

"So..." Under her hands the smooth and tiny petals of a pansy began to take shape. She ran the yellow thread through the muslin. "Will you still be needing your home cleaned? Just so I can tell Daisy..."

"Just so you can tell Daisy? Nay, Mrs. Gamgee. So you can know if I'm being a good child who will listen to you or if I'm going to go stick my hand on the oven to see if it's really hot." he gave a light chuckle. "Yes, I will still want Daisy, but only for a bit of repair on some torn clothing I think. Not for the cleaning."

She kept her eyes on her work, shaking her head. "Torn clothing again? There is more of a young Hobbit in you than one expects, Mr. Baggins. One would think you've never outgrown bramble-forts and burrowing under hedges the way your clothing is so often needing repair. Your young lad is a fine match for you. You need someone older than yourself to keep you in line."

Bilbo had to laugh at that, and gave her a little bow. "You're feeling quite cheeky today, aren't you?"

Her eyes closed as she turned her face to the sky. "It must be the sunshine. Doesn't it feel nice? Now off with you, young scamp. I'll send Daisy up for the mending when she returns."

"Young scamp?" he snorted with a false bluster. "Well! Next thing you know you'll be telling me to act my age."

"Oh no, don't ever do that," she smiled, and waved him away.

In the late afternoon, the still day began to pick up a soft breeze; the sun slowly made its way down toward its Western nest of gold.  He stood out on his front steps and contemplated the newly repaired windowboxes, neat and trim and filled to overflowing with new flowers chosen for their autumnal blooms.

Lightly puffing on his pipe, he found he was at peace with Bell's advice. He reveled in the simple pleasure of the rich scented smoke, the flowers ruffling and the leaf-shadows beginning to dance across the mossy flagstones. Between the stones near his feet, tiny flowers dotted the pillowing thyme and baby-tears spread their minuscule droplets of green out in a soft wave. Beside the bench, the variegated peppermint lifted up in cream and green, only beginning to die back with the colder nights, red stems like a miniature forest that begged to be explored by an idle imagination.

There is so much life in the Shire... he thought, and much to explore even here.

Down below him, fields lay green and golden or shorn brown with harvest. The Water shone among the trees in the distance and above him, the very first touches of color had begun to show on the edges of the leaves.

And I don't have to explore it alone...

He puffed on his pipe again, contentment surrounding him even as the soft smoke. He still delighted in the a fine present he could give to Frodo, the weskit that was being made up... And he was the other gift... He reconsidered that other part of what Mrs. Gamgee had said, and turned it over is his mind. It was difficult to think of himself being a gift to anyone, though he could easily see Frodo being a gift... Still only fair it should work both ways.

If he wasn't to hold a large, boisterous sort of party then, what should he have? Now that he really thought about it, there wasn't enough time to do up a large gathering properly anyway. Why, the writing of the invitations alone would take much too long.

If he ever did have the fabulously large party he imagined, he would probably have to start planning for it a good year or more ahead. For he could imagine quite a lot; food, music, dancing, toys, yes, maybe some sort of fancy toys from outside the Shire even. Such a gathering wouldn't even fit in Bag End! Someday, yes someday, he would have a right proper party for himself and Frodo. Something the whole Shire would be talking about for months.

But for now?

'Let him settle in,' she'd said. And she was right. He had just been transplanted, after all. He nudged a bit of mulch that had fallen from a windowbox off the flagstones with his toe. Repotted. After all, if he had a party, who would be there that Frodo knew well? Almost no one. It would really have been his party, not both of theirs. Something small then.  A few relatives and friends... or just the two of them, even?  He wished Frodo were there so he could ask him what he thought.

He hadn't originally planned on giving away many birthday presents that year, mostly small gifts of sharp cheeses, a few bottles of wine. All of it would only improve with age and could be given away the following September instead.  No loss there.

And this year... again, she was right. This year it was best to concentrate on just Frodo. This year was just for them, the mutual gift of each other's company and sharing a plate or two of cake perhaps.  Without thinking of it, he found himself feeling for the button on his breast pocket. He opened it and withdrew the folded bit of paper that he kept there. Unfolding it once more he scanned over the brief letter.

... I am still planning on being there in time for our birthday... if you will still have me....

It was time for a most magnificent gift, if Frodo would have it.  It was a perfect match for that magnificent gift of his own.