Truth: 8. Don't Count Your Chickens

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8. Don't Count Your Chickens

'Two months you say? Two months under the Ban!'

'That's right,' Ted Sandyman said sententiously. 'He broke six mugs of beer, after all.' He took a sip from his thankfully intact mug. Old Linden was not poking his stick at folks' legs these days, as a matter of fact, he wasn't even coming round to the Green Dragon for a mug lately. What would be the use? ...unable to say a word to anyone, and nobody talking to him...

'Aye, and you got paid for the one of yourn he broke,' an old gaffer said.

'That I did,' Ted said righteously. 'One thing you can say for the Thain, he does things up right, for all he went off to foreign parts and come back taller than any self-respecting hobbit oughter be.'

'You still singing that old song?' Tom Cotton said, sitting down next to the miller. 'I'd figure you'd've learnt a new verse or two...'

'What're you on about?' Ted grumbled pleasantly.

'How about him adding the Westmarch on to the Shire? Good, rich land... two of my sons have gone out West and have farms of their own now.'

'O yes,' Rusty Burrows said, 'and let us not forget the son of the Thain, making free with the lasses of Hobbiton and Bywater...'

'I'd heard 'twas the other way around,' Ted said with an unpleasant gleam in his eye, 'That he was standing talking with a lass and she threw herself at him.'

'Understandable, I s'pose,' Ches Claybank put in. 'After all, he'll be Thain someday, sitting on all that gold, hobbits bowing to him and hanging on his every word.'

'He'd be a catch, all right,' Rusty agreed.

'What lass?' the old gaffer asked.

'Goldi Gamgee,' someone answered. Rusty Burrows gave a shocked exclamation; after all, the Mayor's son was walking out with his eldest daughter. He didn't like the sound of this.

'The Mayor's daughter?'

'The same,' Ted said with a shake of his head. 'Blood tells, you know. He may be mayor, sure enough, but blood tells...'

'You got something against gardeners?' Rusty Burrows snapped.

Ted Sandyman backed down quickly. Rusty had his share of muscles from digging and spading and wrestling weeds out of the ground. 'No, naught, of course not,' he said. 'But her father went off to foreign parts, you remember, as no decent self-respecting hobbit oughter.'

Though it went against the grain, Ted put a coin down and motioned to the serving lass to bring Rusty another mug, on him. Mollified, the gardener sipped his beer and nodded thanks.

'I hear your Daisy's walking out with the Mayor's son,' Ches said. 'He showing any signs of taking hisself off to the outlands?'

'Naw,' Rusty said. 'Lad's solid, got sense like the old gaffer did before him.' He raised his mug to the memory of old Hamfast Gamgee and added irrelevantly, 'There's one hobbit who knew his potatoes... Now what was I saying? O yes... When I asked him if he were going out to the new land, he said, "What for? Got everything I need right here!" Sensible, he is.' He received a general murmur of agreement, especially among fathers who'd lost their sons to the allure of a holding of their own.

There was a chorus of welcome as several more hobbits arrived, the Mayor's three older sons among them.

'Frodo-lad, come sit here, I've got your mug waiting,' Rusty said, and the other hobbits exchanged knowing glances. There looked to be a wedding in the offing. The lad would reach his majority after the New Year...

Frodo joined the grown hobbits, sipping his mug appreciatively. It had been a long day of digging, and he was ready to relax. Merry and Pippin sat down with their own half-pints to listen to the talk. They'd nurse them as long as they could, for at their age it was all they'd get.

'You having any trouble with foxes?' Ted said suddenly to the air. The hobbits around him scratched their heads, gave the question due thought, and then Ches answered, 'What are you on about, Ted?'

'Lost some hens this week,' Ted said. 'Something got in and took them out. Twice in one week, my youngest has gone out to feed 'em in the morning and found one missing.'

'How'd he get in? Don't you coop 'em up at night?' the old gaffer asked.

'Of course I do, I'm not daft!' Ted snapped. 'Dunno yet how he got in, unless he lifted the latch.'

'A fox?' the gaffer laughed. 'Check your fence. He's probably digging under somewheres and you missed it.'

'Aye, and if there's the least little hole up under your coop he can slip through, them foxes are tricksy that way,' Rusty said.

'What about a stoat?' Ches put in. 'They can slip through smaller holes than foxes.'

'You'd all better check your fences and coops,' Ted said gloomily. 'Two in one week.' He brooded in his near-empty mug until another magically appeared before him.

'Drink up,' Ches said kindly. 'Fox cannot lift the latch, after all, nor stoat for that matter. Likely you'll find a hole under your wire on the morrow, patch it up, and no more hens go missing.'

Ted nodded thanks and took up the fresh mug. He sipped, a pleasant glow spreading through him as the talk washed around him.

'Where's Hodge this night?' Ches asked, seeing the Gamgee tweens at their table with a few others from the area. 'Don't he usually come down with you? He's old enough for half a pint after a long day.'

'He's guarding the henhouse,' Ted said. 'If he don't fall asleep, we may find out who's stealing hens.'

'What's stealing them, you mean,' Ches corrected.

'Whatever,' Ted said, sipping his beer.

'Where's the Mayor this fine evening?' the gaffer asked.

Frodo answered, 'He's down in Southfarthing for their strawberry festival. He'll be back in a day or two.'

'Strawberry festival?' the gaffer said, surprised. There were no strawberries ripe around Bywater.

'They're warmer than we are here, remember,' Rusty said knowledgeably. 'Their season is ahead of ourn.'

'Ah, yes, that's right,' the gaffer said. He smacked his lips. 'Could use a fresh berry or two right now. Getting right tired of preserves.'

'Spring's near done, summer'll be here before you know it,' Rusty said, finishing off his beer. He rose and clapped Frodo on the shoulder. 'Which reminds me, tomorrow's an early day, got lots of hoeing to do, so I'm off.'

Frodo took the hint and, taking a last sip of his own beer, he rose.

'Thanks for the mug, Rusty,' he said shyly. He still wasn't used to calling Daisy's father by his first name.

'You're very welcome, lad. You keep working as hard as you did today and we'll have the biggest gardening business in this part of the Shire.' He put an arm around the younger hobbit's shoulders and the two walked out companionably, talking over plans for the morrow's work.

'Meant to ask him if his dad's going for Mayor again,' the old gaffer said.

Ches shot him a keen glance. 'You traipsing off to Michel Delving to vote?'

The old gaffer puffed out his chest. 'Of course I am,' he declared. 'Allus do. Iffen I'm going to complain about 'im, then I'd better have a hand in the voting, or I ain't got no right to complain, now, do I?'

'Mid-year Fair's not that far away,' the innkeeper put in, wiping a spill on the next table. 'I'm closing down the Dragon, week after next, going to the Fair, going to vote for Mayor Samwise. He's been a good 'un.'

There were general cries of "Hear, hear," and Merry and Pippin Gamgee were gratified to join in drinking a toast to their dad.

***

The next morning at breakfast, Frodo mentioned the miller's problem with disappearing chickens. Sam turned to young Robin. 'Have we had any chickens go missing?' he asked.

'No, Dad, there's just as many as ever,' Robin said. Of course, he'd never counted them, but there was no dearth of chickens flapping from the coop when he opened the door of a morning.

'Well, check the fencing and the coop,' Sam said. 'We don't want to start missing any.'

'Yes, Dad,' Robin said obediently.


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: lindelea

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 4th Age

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 01/30/04

Original Post: 08/11/03

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