Written for NancyLea for the Baggins Birthday Bash. Beta by RiverOtter.
“You really think as Mr. Bilbo’ll let you keep it?” Sam asked, peering down at the tortoise Frodo carried.
“I think he might,” Frodo said. “It’s not like a kitten that would need to be taken care of while we’re away from Bag End. It can live in the gardens, and I doubt your father would begrudge it.”
“He would if’n he finds it feastin’ on his tomaters,” Sam advised, looking suspiciously at the creature as if it had plans to attack the prize pumpkin the Gaffer was preparing for the Overhill Harvest Exhibition.
“We can put some boards up to keep it out of the vegetables, Sam. And besides, it’s my birthday, and most of them have been harvested anyway.”
Sam wasn’t so certain, but wisely kept further objections to himself.
“Oh, Master Hamfast,” simpered Lobelia, “how beautiful the dahlias are! I swear that you have indeed outdone yourself this year!” She looked about. “But your son ...?”
“Him’s off with the young Master,” the Gaffer said guardedly. “Been workin’ hard for weeks--deserves a bit o’ time fer hisself.”
“And young Frodo is not here to welcome his guests?”
He did his best not to glare. “As the guests ain’t serposed t’be here fer an hour yet, it’s not like he was needed right aways.”
As she headed for the kitchen door he stopped her. “No good, Missus Lobelia--Mister Bilbo locked the door ere he left to fetch the final packages.” And mostly t’keep you and yourn out shouldst yer come whilst him’s away, he thought.
“Nonsense,” she began, putting her hand on the latch. But he was right. Foiled, she turned about. “I’ll just look about the gardens, then.”
And I’ll just be a-followin’ after t’keep yer out o’ mischief! he thought.
The back gate squeaked. Sam was holding it to admit Frodo, who held a bundle wrapped in a handkerchief in his hands.
“Ah! One of the byrthings!” Lobelia trilled, her lips smiling as her eyes flashed daggers at Frodo. “And what is this?” she asked, reaching for the trailing edge of the cloth.
“Mr. Frodo’s present for the Gaffer,” Sam said hurriedly.
“Oh, do let me see it, won’t you?” she asked, lifting away the square of linen--and shrieked as the tortoise, alarmed to have its comforting cover pulled away pulled its head back and gaped its jaws open defensively. In a trice Lobelia Sackville-Baggins was but a memory in the garden as they heard the front gate clatter shut behind her.
For a moment they stared after her, before the Gaffer began to chuckle. “So,” he said, “you was tryin’ ter sneak that by me, eh? But with a watchdog like this ter keep the likes of her away....” He laughed aloud.
“Gaffer!” called Bilbo from the gate. “This sign--since when do we have a watchdog?”
Smiling in satisfaction, Hamfast straightened from where he’d been offering the tortoise some prime lettuce leaves. “It’s this-a-ways, Mr. Bilbo, sir,” he began.