His brow worried into focus, Bilbo bent over the closely written pages scattered across his desk and scrawled heavy black lines over a much-altered passage.
Festooning the chairs, table and floor were stacks of fresh parchment; bits of paper ornamented with exquisite illuminated letters; and untidy piles of maps, sketches and random jottings. Pots of colored ink—blue, red, green and silver—stood on a shelf alongside a fine sheaf of gold leaf.
His graying hair stuck out like thistledown around his old head. Shreds of pipeweed speckled his dressing gown, and he had forgotten to brush his toes.
He threw down his quill and grabbed hold of a small scrap of light brown paper covered with hasty writing. In the middle was a hideous figure drawn in grey pencil.
“The artist got you down pretty well, old fellow,” he muttered to the drawing. “Tom wanted manflesh… William… let’s see…” He picked up his pen.
“Yer can’t expect folk to stop here for ever just to be et by you and Bert. You’ve et a village and a half between yer.” He took a big bite off a sheep’s leg he was toasting, and wiped his lips on his sleeve.
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