For Awallen for her birthday, and for all the Mums on here!
“How long since the last one?” asked Doncella Sandybanks of Bell Gamgee.
“Just afore Yule, ’bout the twentieth o’December if’n I member right,” Bell said, her eyes concerned as the other Hobbitess pressed her ear to Bell’s belly. “But ev’ry other time by now, I was feelin’ things.”
Doncella straightened, smiling reassuringly. “Well, it’s not so unusual for there to be nothing to feel. It’s early yet. And each time is different from the others--you ought to know that by now.”
“I know, Missus Doncella; but----” Her voice faltered.
“But what?” the midwife asked.
“Well, it’s my birthday, you see. And I’d hoped t’tell Ham, as my gift t’him, you understand.”
Doncella smiled consolingly. “He’ll be just as glad tomorrow, or the day after. Or even next week!”
“But what if’n I’m wrong? What if’n it’s one of them evil growths? Or if--if’n it didn’t quicken?”
The midwife examined Bell’s eyes, a thoughtful expression on her face. “Well, your eyes don’t speak of any growth. And there’s no heaviness there, or sign of any unusual drainage. No, I don’t think you need to fret any.”
“But I can’t help but fret, what with nothin’ t’feel.”
The midwife indicated Bell should replace her skirt. “Well, I want you not to worry until next week. I want you to come on Mersday, and we will see what we can see at that time.”
Disappointed and depressed, Bell took her leave and headed back to Bagshot Row. She’d been planning just how she’d give the news to her beloved husband, but now....
She got home to find Halfred sweeping the pavement in the dooryard. It appeared several of Ham’s pots had been smashed.
“What happened here?” she asked.
“It’s the bairn--he tripped against Dad’s pottin’ table there, and if’n it didn’t fall over! I repotted four plants, but there’s a few as was too damaged t’do aught with.”
“And where’s Sam now?”
“Daisy’s took him in t’change his clothes--again! Him was a right mess. And there’s a bump on the side of his head where one of the pots hit ’im. Didn’t hurt him bad, but he was wailin’ fit t’raise the dead!”
“Young Ham up at Bag End t’help his dad?”
“Nah--Uncle Tom sent t’borrow him--there’s somethin’ t’do with a balky cow havin’ trouble with the calvin’--thinks as since the cow likes Ham mebbe she’ll be better with’n him about.”
“The one with the white flower on her shoulder?” At the lad’s nod she sighed. “Then it’s likely as him won’t be here for the rest of the day. And what about May?”
“She’s still helpin’ Missus Rumble. Her husband fell this morning, you member. It appears as him has a broken shoulder, and the healer’s with them still. I’m sorry, Mum--we’ve all been that busy no one’s been able t’start nothin’ fer luncheon.”
Further disheartened, Bell went into Number 3 to begin preparations for what looked to become a late noon meal. The hole was only partially straightened, and the second broom stood against the parlor table, alongside a distinct hill of dust that was even now attracting the attentions of the cat.
What a day for disappointments!
Then she went into the kitchen. The worktable was covered with the makings of a cake, and the batter had been started and abandoned, apparently as a result of little Sammy’s mishap with his father’s potting table. “I warned and warned Ham t’put better supports on that table,” she muttered under her breath as she tried to decide whether to finish the cake or to pull out bread and cold meats and maybe that cheese Mr. Bilbo had given them last Highday. Well, considering the dull appearance of the batter it would be best to put that back into order! But, to be reduced to having to bake her own birthday cake?
Within a half hour the batter had been poured into pans and the flour and other ingredients put away again, and she had the table clean and was rapidly preparing food for the noon meal. At least she didn’t have to worry about Hamson, as he’d likely not be home till nightfall, if he didn’t stay the night at the Cotton’s farm. Daisy came from the back of the smial and set Sammy, a bandage wound about his head to keep a damp compress in place over his bump, on the floor of the parlor with his farm animals to keep him busy while she saw to the finishing of the straightening. “I’m sorry, Mum--I’d left the sweepin’ only so’s I could get the cake made afore you come back; but then the table fell and Sammy was such a sight! I had t’bathe him and see him changed.”
“There’s naught t’pologize for, lass--at least you was here t’see t’him when him was hurt.”
Halfred came inside and saw the yard broom put away, and now set to to prepare the table for the meal to come. “That’s done. And we’ve enough extra pots Dad won’t be havin’ no trouble with the rest of the seedlings. No great harm done, at least. And Sammy looks t’be all right--nothin’ bad nor nothin’ like that. And here, Mum--let me finish that! It’s yer birthday, after all. You go sit down and rest a time--hold Sammy.”
It was a relief to be shooed off to the parlor and allow Half to take over. True, she knew the cheese and ham would be erratically sliced; but it would be sufficient for them all. “Here, my best lad,” she crooned as she held our her arms to her youngest--so far, at least. “Let me see the bump now. No, I won’t be a-hurtin’ you.”
“It fell, Mummie,” he whispered into her ear. “It fell, an’ it hurted me!”
“So I hear. Ah, but it’s not so bad after all. And yer sissie’s done a right fine job seein’ it cared for. She’s a good lass, yer sissie. I bet as ye’re right glad as she was here while Mum had t’go into the village.”
“Yeah. Better now, with you.”
She felt herself smile as she retied the bandage and held him tight. “Is it now? Now, that’s right nice fer a mum t’hear her faunt say.”
She felt him stiffen. “Too big fer faunt!” he declared
Smiling more broadly to herself, she stroked his hair from his eyes. “And are ye now? Too big fer laps, then? Too big fer snuggles?”
She could feel his alarm at the thought. “No, Mummy--not too big!”
She laughed softly.
There was a knock at the door, which Daisy went to open. There was a quiet exchange, after which her daughter turned to call, “Mummy--it’s Mr. Bilbo--says as he’s got somethin’ as he’d wanted to bring down!”
“Well, don’t keep him on the doorstep, lass--show him in!”
“Thank you, my dear,” she heard Mr. Bilbo say in response to some comment Daisy made. “You--take this for me? Nonsense, child, it’s far too big for you! No, no, I’m quite glad to carry it for now! And your mother is in the parlor?” He appeared in the doorway, carrying quite a large chest in his arms. “Well, hello, Mistress Bell. I must say that you are looking well today, and I wanted to thank you for the invitation to your party this evening that the Gaffer just conferred upon me. It’s just that I wished to bring you this....”
He brought the chest to her and set it down with a grunt on the floor at her feet, and then knelt to undo the latch. “I can’t really say that this is intended to be a gift for your birthday, you must understand--just something I was asked to pass on. This belonged to my distant cousin Primula, the one who drowned in the Brandywine about the same time that little lad there was born. She did a good deal of needlework, and collected a goodly amount of equipment associated with it. Did knitting and hooked woolwork and embroidery, don’t you know.”
He popped the lid open to display a tray filled with items for sewing and embroidery--needles and scissors, a ruler and sheets of steel pins of different lengths and gauges. Bell felt her jaw drop at the wealth of pins alone! Then he lifted that tray, and beneath it was a second filled with needles of all sizes for knitting; below that were hooks of all sorts--of steel, bone, wood, and wrought iron, for other woolwork. Below that were bobbins for bobbin lace. When he lifted out that tray he exposed yarn--all kinds of yarns in a wide variety of colors and sizes and degrees of coarseness.
“Almost all who do woolwork and needlework within Brandy Hall have all these things, you see. And Primula’s son Frodo--you remember him, don’t you? Yes- of course you do! Well, to keep it short, Frodo wished these to go to someone who could use them and would truly need them. And when I suggested perhaps you might be able to use them he was delighted with the idea!
“Now, there is more--I still have her sewing box itself up at Bag End, and her knitting bag, and another chest filled with threads and finer yarns. The fabric she had left I gave to Menegilda and Esmeralda for use there in the Hall itself--they are always needing fabric, it seems, considering all who live there under my cousin Rory!”
Bell was stunned. Yes, she’d done hookwork and some knitting, and of course she sewed. But to have such a trove of needles and hooks, bobbins and materials? She couldn’t quite believe it was being offered her!
Mr. Bilbo, however, was looking uncertain. “Of course,” he said tentatively, “if you feel uncomfortable accepting things like this from someone who’s dead....”
She looked up to meet his eyes, as she leaned down to set Sammy on the floor and took a ball of burgundy yarn into her hands, reveling at the warmth and luxury of it. “Uncomfortable? Oh, no, Mr. Bilbo, sir--it’s only--it’s only as it’s so wonderful!” She held the yarn to her face and felt herself smile. “It’s so much, ye understand, sir. And it’s wonderful! Why, I’ve but three hooks for woolwork t’my name. To think of havin’ so many, and so many differnt sizes! It’s but a bit overwhelmin’ like.”
He appeared relieved. “Oh,” he smiled, “I’m so glad you like them. I’ve asked your husband to bring down the rest when he comes down for luncheon. I so wanted to see them in the hands of someone who could really use them and would appreciate them, after all.” He reached out a finger to touch the ball of yarn she held. “Drogo would see different colors and textures of yarn and would buy some for her, so she always had more than she could use. And she had quite the collection of hooks, I must agree. Her mother left her several, and it seems that once it became known she used them hooks and knitting needles became the most likely gifts others would give her for their birthdays. There’s quite a nice roll of them in her knitting bag that Drogo made for her....”
Bell allowed Sam to hold the ball of yarn while she ran her fingers through the tray of hooks and then through the knitting needles. “I can’t believe such as me could have all these,” she murmured.
Bilbo nodded. “They’re yours for the asking, Mistress Bell.” He nodded into her shining eyes, and she realized they were now indeed all hers.
There was a thud at the door, and Daisy ran out from where she’d been helping Halfred to open it again. Bell could hear Ham’s voice from the entranceway. “Here, lass--take this work bag--Mr. Bilbo says as its meant fer yer mum. Think as it’s big enough, d’ye? And I’ll carry in the sewin’ box. Half--there’s another chest out in the barrow--carry it in fer yer mum, won’t you?” He came into the parlor carrying a finely joined wooden sewing box, its sides carved with a vine of ivy. “Ah, Mr. Bilbo, sir--does she like it?”
Mr. Bilbo was busy replacing the nested trays. “She certainly appears to, Master Gamgee.”
Hamfast gave a grin to answer Bilbo’s satisfied smile. “Well, I’d think as she ought t’do so, sir. It’s a treasure as ye’d give her--a treasure fer one as is more’n a treasure fer me!”
Bell found herself answering her husband’s grin----
----and at that moment she finally felt it--that tiny flutter that told her that the small life begun in her was finally beginning to make itself well known.
“Well, Hamfast Gamgee,” she said, “and just wait until ye hear as what there is fer you fer my birthday!”
She looked at the work bag with the wooden stand for it that Daisy was setting up carefully beside her. “And I’ll be bound as this’ll come in right handy,” she added. And inside she felt the flutter repeat itself. Yes--there’d be one more Gamgee in this hole in a few more months, and it would have the best selection of blankets of any child born in Hobbiton, thanks to this gift from old Mr. Bilbo!