While We Dwelt in Fear: 16. Rules

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16. Rules

Two loud, solid sounding thuds reverberated through the rooms of #3 Bagshot Row. “An odd way ta go ‘bout knockin’ on a body’s door ” Gaffer Gamgee thought to himself as he made his way to the front door. He threw it open to find himself staring at no one. Leaning forward he looked to the right then to the left. To the left he saw the backs of a Man and a hobbit heading back toward Hill Lane. He shook his head. Men in the Shire It still galled him to see them stomping about with their heavy booted feet in his homeland, that he should live to see such a thing. A movement caught his eye as he started to shut the door. A piece of paper, nailed to his door, fluttered in the breeze. The Gaffer tore it down then shut the door against the cold of the day.

He looked at the paper. Scribbles. Meaningless squiggles that taunted him. This must be important for some empty-headed, daft bugger to be ruining his front door to post it. But he couldn’t make sense of any of it. Sam could . . .

Sam.

Why did that ninney-hammer of a scatter-brained . . .

No. Hamfast caught hold of his thoughts. He swallowed down the lump that had formed itself in his throat. He wouldn’t think those things about his lad who . . . who . . . well, who might be . . .

He didn’t want to even think the word. As rough and thorny as he always behaved, he loved his family deeply. It just wasn’t his way to be all warm softness with his affection. It could only come out in harsh jests or words that seemed to others to be insulting. But they knew. His lads and lasses knew he loved them. Hamfast knew what was being said in the Ivy Bush and the Green Dragon. His hearing wasn’t that far gone that he hadn’t been able to catch the talk at the tables near to his. Dead. There, he’d let the word come up in his mind. They all were saying his Sam and the others were dead. And he could say naught against it, as he’d not heard from the Brandybuck Mistress since just a touch afore Yule. She had said they were alive yet. She had said so. But he couldn’t tell his old friends at the inn and tavern. She had asked it be kept quiet, and he weren’t about to not keep her trust in him. If only she would write again.

That all brought his thoughts back to the paper he held in his hand. He looked at it again, made a decision then went into the kitchen to talk to Bell.

“What twas that all ‘bout, Ham?”

“Twas ‘bout this, whatever it be,” he said as he slapped the paper down on the table. “It means a trip to Olo Proudfoot in this evil cold weather.”

“Must ya go? Surely we can find out ta matter without you goin’ out.”

Hamfast looked at Bell. She looked so fragile to him. Two winters past she had been badly ill, and it seemed she had never recovered her former self. Even chilly summer nights had her cuddled up in a shawl and lap robe. Come winter, she had even taken to wearing knitted coverings on her feet. There she sat at the table where once a whole large family had sat, on the side nearest the fire, all bundled up worrying about him getting cold.

“I don’t see how’s we can be findin’ anythin’ out, my love, without Old Olo readin’ it for us.” Hamfast was interrupted by a more normal sounding knock on the door. “Well,” he said smiling at Bell. “Maybe ya got you’re wish, love ” With a wink for his wife, he left the kitchen to answer the door.

“Comin’, comin’ ” The Gaffer hollered as the knocking continued. He opened the door to find Daddy Twofoot and Dimm on the doorstep. Dimm held a familiar looking piece of paper in his hand.

“Well, old codger, do ya let friends in ta door or does they get to stand ‘bout shiverin’ in ta cold?” Daddy’s words sounded rude, but a smile teased the corners of his mouth.

“If they just be comin’ to spout like that, they can freeze to ta doorstep and wait ta thaw to free ‘em up,” came the Gaffer’s reply as he stood back and waved the Twofoots in. “I see as ya got yourselves one ‘o them papers. Right rude of some’un to just go poundin’ a nail in your door to give ya somemat what ya can’t read anyway.”

“Aye,” replied Daddy as he and Dimm walked over to the parlor fireplace and stood with their backs to it while pulling off their hats. “We figured that we’d best be a’seein’ Mr. Proudfoot and findin’ out what this says. Might ya wish to come with us, Ham?”

“Aye. Let me be gettin’ my outside things on, and I’ll tag along. I can use ta walk, I be thinkin’. Been settin’ ‘bout too much. Bell,” the Gaffer hollered into the kitchen, “I be headin’ off with Daddy and Dimm. We’re goin’ to find out ‘bout these papers.”

“You best be dressin’ warm and walkin’ careful, Hamfast Gamgee,” came Bell’s soft reply.

“That I am, and that I will Dimm’s along to keep a watch on our old feet. We won’t be longer than needs be.”

The three hobbits walked slowly on their way into Hobbiton. The Widow Rumble in #1 had gotten a piece of paper as well, but she had not felt up to battling the cold and had told Daddy and Dimm that they could represent her interests and gave them her paper. Dimm walked behind his Father and the Gaffer, letting them set the pace and be better positioned to help if one of them started to fall. They soon sat in the parlor of Olo Proudfoot’s cozy warm home, feet toward a toasty fire with steaming mugs of tea.

Olo slowly read the papers making sure they said the same things. Except for one thing, they were all the same. Except for two things they were the same as the notice that had been nailed to his own door. He looked up at his guests and his heart ached. He knew and cared for them all and now, now he could hardly be delivering worse news.

“I shall just explain most of what is here. Most of it is exactly the same as the notices that were posted on every door in Hobbiton this morning, though there is an important difference on your copies.” Olo looked from Daddy to Dimm to Hamfast. They sat with trusting looks on their faces. He cleared his throat, looked back down at the papers in his hand and continued. “This is a listing of rules. It actually declares them to be The Rules of the Shire and states that copies have been nailed to the door of every single residence in the Four Farthings. It is a long list, and none of it good news. I will just read a few of them to you for now. I will come to your homes in a few days and go over them in detail so that you can learn them.”

At the sound of shuffled feet, Olo looked up again.

“Naught that be good news?” Dimm asked in his quiet voice.

“No, Dimm. I’m sorry to say that is the case. Let me see, there is now a limit of two arm loads of wood a day for each household. Wood plies are to be divided up into arm loads so that the Sherriffs that come around may keep check on what is being used. All inns and taverns are to be closed by the end of this week. There is to be no home brewing of ale or making of wine. No traveling by hobbits without first obtaining the proper permit. Gathering of goods and stores will be carried out by the Sherriffs and the Chief’s representatives as needed.” Olo looked up and into each wide-opened set of eyes before him. “But there is worse than this for you, I fear.”

The Gaffer had not heard much past the “two arm loads of wood a day”. How could he possibly keep Bell warm with so little wood? But the word “worse” caught his ear. “Worse, Olo? Sounds like we’re to be kept cold ‘n hungry, yet there be worse?”

“It is where your notices differ from the others I’ve seen today. Your’s, Daddy’s and the Widow Rumble’s have this added at the bottom.

‘This is an eviction notice. You are to be moved out of your residence at’ . . . and here it is different, listing each of your addresses on your own notices . . . ‘by 12 o’clock, noon, on the twenty-first of Afteryule. You will move your persons and your effects to’ . . . and again there is a different address on each notice.”

“That makes it on ta morrow,” Daddy said nearly as quietly as his son. His mouth hung open in disbelief.

“Yes, I hate to say that you haven’t much time.”

“Does it be saying where we’re supposed ta go?” The Gaffer stared into the fire, away from Daddy and Dimm, away from Olo.

“It does,” said Olo. “The street is named. There is a map as well to show it’s location. Each address is a different number but all on the same street.”

“You’ll still be neighbors then, Da.” Dimm gave his father a nudge. “Where be this here street, Mr. Proudfoot?”

“It is called “Lobelia Lane.” It appears to run along the north side of the Grange.” Olo suddenly felt the stares of three pairs of eyes upon him. He knew full well why they stared so hard.

“That be meanin’ . . .” started Hamfast.

“That be meanin’ them shacks! ” cried Daddy. “Them black, ugly, poor built shacks them Men has been a’workin’ at! Thought they be for some sort o’ storage buildins’. Don’t look to be fit for . . .” He couldn’t bring himself to say the words.

“For living in?” Olo quietly finished the thought. “No, they don’t. But that is indeed what the map indicates.”

“Who be doin’ this, Mr. Proudfoot?” Dimm whispered. “Who is it be thinkin’ they can be movin’ my Da and ta Gamgees and ta Widow Rumble out o’ their homes?”

“It says at the bottom of the page, 'These Rules and the eviction notices are enacted by order of the Chief of the Shire.'

“And who be this 'Chief' ?” the Gaffer asked.

“Well, Hamfast, the signature reads: Lotho Sackville-Baggins, Chief of the Shire.”

“I’ll be hanged up by ma foot hair afore I see Lotho Pimple chief o’ anythin’ ” Daddy Twofoot hollered while stamping his two feet hard on the floor.

Olo sighed and kept still.

"That can’t be right ” It was the Gaffer again. “‘Twern’t no ‘lection. ‘Tweren’t no votin’. ‘Tain’t even ta right year, nor time o’ ta year. And ta Pimple would be bein’ Mayor, not 'Chief o’ ta Shire'. This be some sort o’ prank.”

“I fear it is no prank, my old friends. Before they got everything firmly in place with checking for permits, hobbits made it through from Michel Delving to several of the Shire’s larger towns, or so I was informed. Mayor Whitfoot has been arrested for traveling without a permit and is being held in the Lockholes.”

“Held?” Dimm’s quiet voice had sunk to nearly inaudible.

“The Lockholes are a jail now, Dimm. He is in jail.”

The crackle of the fire on the hearth and the tick of the mantle clock were the only sounds in the room for several long, slow minutes.

“This can’t be,” the Gaffer said through clenched teeth. “Told him, I did. I told Old Gandalf that bad would come o’ young Mr. Frodo sellin’ Bag End to them weasely, connivin’, miserable, sour faced Sackville-Baggins’. He didn’t seem ta pay me much heed, his thinkin’ seemin’ ta be elsewhere. All that twas catchin’ his ear that evenin’ were talk about . . . Well, he weren’t carin’ ‘bout Lotho Pimple sittin’ pretty in Bag End. But I told him naught but bad would come o’ it.”

Quiet settled over the room again as the four hobbits each tried to make sense of what they had read or heard. The clock on the mantle ticked away the time.

“Does it be known when there’ll be a give ‘n take ‘bout ta Mayor?” asked Daddy.

“There is to be no hearing, no trial, Daddy.” Olo didn’t look up, but he continued to stare at the floor at his feet. “It is on the list of Rules. ' Any hobbit found by the Sherriffs or the Chief’s Men to be breaking any of the Rules will be immediately arrested and sent to the Lockholes. No questions asked, no recourse given.' ”

“No recourse?” asked the Gaffer.

Olo looked up at Hamfast. “No chance to tell their side of the story. No hearing. No give and take.”

Quiet again. Despite the fire, the room felt cold.

“Then we’d best be a’leavin’ ya, Olo, and headin’ home ta pack ourselves up,” Hamfast Gamgee said while painfully working his way to his feet. “ ‘Tisn’t much time to get our things together, or we’ll all be bound for ta Lockholes.

All their slow way home the three hobbits trudged in silence. Dimm was wondering how he was ever going to get his Da, Widow Rumble and the Gamgees all moved in a day. He looked at the two elderly hobbits walking unsteadily ahead of him. He wanted to weep. It was all so unfair.

“Da Gaffer ” Dimm called. “We had best be stopping by . . . we’d best have a look . . .” he couldn’t say it, he just couldn’t call those shacks their new homes.

“Ya be right, Dimm. We’ll stop ta have a look.” Daddy said over his shoulder.

There were more shacks than the ones assigned to the three current Bagshot Row residents. With sinking hearts the three realized they were not the only ones being forced from their homes. They went to number five, the one Mr. Olo had said was to be the Twofoot’s, and pushed open the rickety door. The one room wasn’t very large, barely enough to hold a bed, a few chairs and a table. The fireplace was woefully small, and the tiny oven barely enough to bake two loaves of bread at a time. There was only one small window next to the front door, but two doors. The front door and a back door for getting to the privy. Dimm noticed that although there where seven of the shacks along Lobelia Lane, there were only three privies in sight. He sighed and shook his head. The dear old souls wouldn’t even have the dignity of their own privy. They would be sharing. He noticed as well they were set further away than usual, making for a long cold trip in this nasty weather.

“I think we’ll be sharin’ a bed, Da. There isn’t room for two.”

“I noticed, Dimm,” was all his father said.

The Gaffer didn’t say a thing. He couldn’t give voice to the fear in his heart. He could feel the drafts. The fireplace was too small. Two arm loads of wood a day would never keep one of these dreadful places warm. And his dear Bell’s health couldn’t bear the cold.

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Pearl Took

Status: General

Completion: Work in Progress

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 03/22/04

Original Post: 05/29/03

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