Nothing of Note
Chapter 69: Presents
Bilbo set the last plate in its place on the shelf with a small ringing
of pottery. Beside him, his newly adopted nephew covered the
butter with a clean cloth and put away the last of their birthday
Nephew. Uncle. He turned the titles over in his head, some small part
of him still not comprehending that it was a sealed bargain, so to
speak. A done deal. This young hobbit working beside him as
naturally as if he had always been there would remain beside him
forever. Well, maybe not forever in the technical sense of the
word... on the other hand, he being by far the older of the two made it
possible, from his viewpoint. Forever for him, and perhaps a nice long time for Frodo. He hung the dishtowel up to dry by the
stove and straightened it, considering the Dwarvish terminology for
their various family relationships.
Fili and Kili had been nephews to Thorin. Would Frodo regard him
as they had regarded their uncle, even dying to protect him? He
glanced over at Frodo, whose dark head was bent over a pie-plate,
trying to scrub off the last of the burnt-on sugar. It was a
strange thought; he wasn't sure he would know what would be expected of
him if faced with such devotion - he couldn't decide if it would flatter
him or make him protest. Probably protest. He sincerely hoped it
would never need to be found out. What was the Elven word for
Nephew? Did they have one? They must... there was that one
fellow, the one in that tale who had been... hm. He was the nephew
of... he rummaged around in his memory and came up dry. Well, he
could always look it up later.
He gave the towel one last tug. Yes, he had a nephew now. He
did. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End had a nephew. It was a pleasant
thought. And it was pleasant working together in the comfort of a warm
kitchen after having such a large and satisfying breakfast too. They
worked well together, conversing in words few, small and comfortable;
simple things spoken out of contentment.
Both full and warm, they moved back to the parlour where their chairs
awaited them by the fire. Tiny silver rivulets were still leaving a
tracery of lines along the window-glass but the storm was beginning to
blow itself out, trundling past them towards the distant and waiting
When one is not out in it, it is a very soothing sound, rain, he reflected. Without
the wind so furiously tattering them, his mums, phlox, asters and
snapdragons bobbed and waved with a gentle gratitude for the softer
rains of a passing storm, their windowboxes streaming with an overflow of water. The sun was only beginning to show again,
bringing the wet sky into sudden and intermittent brilliance with each
break in the clouds, brightening the darkened wet leaves to green
He settled comfortably into his chair in the parlour and put his feet up on a stool. Frodo soon joined him.
His nephew knelt by the fire for a moment, prodding the logs back to
wakefulness and adding a new one. "Now," he said, looking back at Bilbo
as he took his own seat. "Tell me all about this past month. What's
been happening? You did say you had a few tales to tell me, when I
Bilbo gazed at the fire as it tasted the new log, licking with its
small tongues of flame. "Did I? Oh yes. Now that I think about it, I'm
not really sure it was worth mentioning..."
"What wasn't worth mentioning?"
Bilbo paused a moment. When he has alluded to the small adventure with
Lotho and company in the letter, he had been fully intending to share
it with Frodo. If there was anyone he could tell such a tale to, it
would be him, wouldn't it? So why did he have such a hesitation
now that it came to it? Why did he shy away? He considered the
paths that faced him.
He didn't think the lad would gossip. No, and it wasn't a lack of
trust... nor was it that he wanted it to be completely secret;
why if anything he had been bursting with wanting to tell
someone. He was proud of how well it had been pulled off and a
little boasting on his own cleverness to an appreciative audience would
have been a rare treat.
He dithered, his hand straying to his pocket for comfort and fingered the worn edge of the pocket-flap.
That was it. How could he
explain it without having to tell about his Ring? How could Lotho
and the others have possibly missed seeing him otherwise? It was
part and parcel of how the tale had come about, or even been possible.
He hadn't intended to keep secrets from Frodo, he didn't want to. It
felt odd, this strong reluctance to mention this one thing... He
buttoned the pocket flap, then unbuttoned it. Well. It was his,
and there really wasn't any reason anyone else had to know about
it. What good would it do? And worse, what if it made Frodo
curious about it, and then he wanted to try it on, or even share it?
A determination welled up in him, he didn't know from where. He
would not share it. It was his. He furrowed his brow and frowned,
both at his own reaction and the realization that he couldn't tell his
tale then, not without having to seriously rework it... and that would take
time. He glanced over at Frodo, then back at the fire.
Frodo waited a long moment in silence, then glanced down. His voice
sounded slightly disappointed, but not as badly as Bilbo had been
fearing. "You don't have to tell me. Maybe another day. We have
plenty of those now, you know."
Bilbo relaxed, though still caught in a strange guilt, as if he'd
suddenly been allowed to go free when he expected to be questioned for some
offense. He turned his gaze back to the younger hobbit,
though he didn't quite meet his eyes. That gaze, it was too intense sometimes.
"I apologize, Frodo. I truly do. I just... don't seem to be able to
recall enough of it right now. As you said, another time." He
smiled to lighten the mood that had so suddenly fallen upon them.
"How about a song, or a bit of poetry? I recall you had a better
voice than mine. We don't have to have a crowd to have a nice
recitation or two. It will make it feel more like a proper party."
"I can't think of any right now," Frodo tentatively smiled back. He considered
briefly. "Except working songs. That's all I heard during the harvest,
even in the evenings. Do you have any about birthdays? Not that insipid child's
rhyme, but something better?"
"About birthdays? Yes, that would suit the occasion, wouldn't it? Hm.
Let me think... Oh! Yes, I might have one. It's more a general
party-gathering sort of idea, not birthdays in particular but it fits
one of your harvesting tunes too, the 'Heave the Hay, the Wagon's
Nigh. You know it?"
"Oh, yes..." Frodo hummed then sang a couple lines obligingly:
"Heave the hay, the wagon's nigh,
Lift up the grasses, sun is in the sky..."
"Yes, yes. That one. Now let me try." Bilbo hummed, trying to warm up his throat.
Over the hills, drawn to the fire
Come all the lads, lasses fine attired;
See how they dance, stepping to the song,
Parties and cheer, here where they belong.
He paused. "Humm, humm... How does the middle part go? I seem to have lost it..."
Frodo sang the bridge,
"Summertime grows the grasses,
Harvest-time mows the grain..."
"Yes. Ah. Thank you. Sorry. Hummm..." He continued:
How the sun shines on the lasses,
The lads with bright eyes,
In their homes filled with cheer,
May their songs never die.
And now we go back to the main part of the song...
To every home, 'neath every tree,
For every season this will always be;
Families and friends in light of fire,
Loyal and true, hobbits of the Shire.
To tables filled, to the glasses too,
Lifting in toasts everyone they knew,
Hobbits of past, same as today,
Songs never change, never fade away.
How the sun shines on the lasses,
The lads with bright eyes,
In their homes filled with cheer,
May their songs never die
Sorry, my voice really isn't what it once was, and even then I wasn't the best of singers..."
"I liked it. Well done!" said Frodo. "I've never heard those words. Where did you learn it?"
"I made it up myself, some time ago; it's simple enough to do when you
have a tune all ready and at hand. They were singing that Wagon
song here, when I was out walking a couple days ago and it brought it
back to mind."
Frodo raised his brows. "You made it up, just like that? I wish I could do that."
"It's not so hard. And you know, it's brought something else to mind
for me." He slapped his knees and got to his feet. "I have something I
want to give you - no, don't get up. I'll be right back."
Bilbo got up and quickly went to fetch the birthday package from its
hiding place in his room. He adjusted the silken wrapping concealing
the bright cloth, still quite pleased about how it had turned out.
The brocade waistcoat, complete with the buttons that Bilbo had chosen
for it, had been finished barely in time. The tailor had done his
work well though he had wrung his hands enough while Bilbo was
inspecting it one would wonder. It was no shoddy work and should hold
up for many years if it were cared for. The smooth weight of the
folded cloth felt pleasing in his hands.
He brought it back to the parlour where Frodo patiently waited.
"I'm sorry, I was thinking of later in the day but I simply cannot wait
any longer. It's my birthday but it simply doesn't quite feel like it
unless I've given out a present. Here - take it!" he smiled, handing it
into Frodo's somewhat hesitantly extended hand.
His nephew took the package and laid it in his lap, waiting until Bilbo
had regained his own seating by the fire. He smoothed the silken
wrapping a couple times, then felt the heft of it. "What is it?"
"Open it and find out," replied Bilbo matter-of-factly. "It won't bite,
nor can you bite it. That's the only clue you'll get from me."
"Can't bite it, eh?" Frodo smoothed it again, turned it over and
shook it lightly. "Feels like something made of cloth." He
carefully pulled the ribbon and unfolded the silk covering.
"Oh my. Bilbo!" He slowly unfolded the shining brocade waistcoat and held it up. "It has brass buttons!" he grinned.
"Well, put it on! The ties should let you adjust it, but I had to take a guess on your size. Put it on!"
Frodo just kept smiling. "It's too beautiful to put on. I may just hang it on the wall in my room." he teased.
"Bah. Here." Bilbo took it from his hands and opened the one
button that was holding it closed at the top. He held it open.
Frodo obligingly turned and slipped his arms through the armholes, then
turned, running his hands over the buttons and buttonholes as he
"Well, how's it look?" He held out his arms and turned around,
then tried a thoughtful pose. With the fire beside him, the blues and
greens shone from the maroon-rust background, all highlighted with
gold. It looked high-class but not ostentatious. Perfect for him,
"A touch big, but we'll soon mend that. Now you look properly attired for a party. Finely attired indeed."
"It seems much too fine for me. It reminds me of that beautiful burgundy one you have..."
"I used it for the pattern, somewhat. Now we can match on our
birthdays." He came around behind him and adjusted the ties. "It's fine
quality, Frodo. If you care for it properly, it ought to last you many
years unless you outgrow it, of course."
Frodo smiled self-consciously. "I should have to grow quite a lot.
Maybe someday we can plan a party worthy of such a fine waistcoat. I
really do feel a bit overdressed for the one we're at right now. It
doesn't seem 'me.' "
"Nonsense. You're now a part of Bag End, Underhill, so you sometimes
need to look the part. We will be entertaining visitors
sometimes, important ones. You can choose some other things to go with
it yourself - you've a good eye for colour; I've seen that in the work
you've done on your maps. And we've very many places to visit
around the Shire, for you'll be coming with me. You'll need
clothing for all sorts of occasions, fine and common."
"But you aren't wearing your party weskit, it's only your tweed one." Frodo pointed out.
Bilbo looked down and patted his chest self-consciously. "Why so it is,
but I can change that right enough. Back in a two bites of a biscuit."
He went to his room and got his party weskit out of its wrappings,
wondering what the noises were he heard out in the hall as he did. It
sounded like Frodo was rummaging for something in his room. He
smiled, and buttoned up the weskit slowly, to give the lad time. Some
sort of homemade birthday present, probably. He could hardly expect
that Frodo wouldn't have wanted to give him something in return. He
wondered what it was, and hoped he could like it and not have to
pretend to. When he judged sufficient time had passed, he came
He had carefully composed his face to be 'unsuspecting' of any
surprise, but all pretense was scattered to the wind when he came back
into the parlour.
Frodo was standing by his chair with a quiet but pleased smile on his face, and filling his chair was a large wooden crate of...
"I'm surprised you didn't smell them, when we carried it all in last
night. I wrapped them twice over to try to keep them from being
obvious, but the scent was still noticeable to me even out in the cart."
Bilbo was still gaping at the quantity of them. "My mind was...
elsewhere at the time. I say, oh, they do smell heavenly now though."
He peered into the crate, inhaling the rich, earthy fragrance.
They were plump and fresh, heaped together with creamy white and brown
caps, shyly displaying softly feathered undertops. "Do I have to share?"
Frodo blinked. "Well....no....of course not. You... you may have them all, dear Bilbo. Happy birthday."
It was very brave of him to say that, thought Bilbo. He wants them
desperately, who wouldn't? He smiled. "We'll split them, then. Right
down to the last cap. Oh, look at that one. It's huge! Of course we
"But there's always room for mushrooms," said Frodo with impeccable hobbit logic.
"Agreed. There's always room for mushrooms. Where did you put the butter?"