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22
Taken in Remembrance?

For Dreamflower for her birthday.


~~~

Taken In Remembrance?


“Well,” Longo Sackville-Baggins said as he poured himself a second cup of tea from his newly acquired teapot, “yesterday certainly was—interesting.”

Otho looked up from the slice of toast he was buttering to meet his father’s eyes. “Interesting, you say? Rather a disaster! For that—person—to appear, claiming to be Bilbo----”

He shook his head, apparently unable to properly express how improper the behavior of the one who’d interrupted the auction of goods from Bag End the previous day. Neither he nor his father was as yet willing to admit that the person was indeed Bilbo Baggins, who after all had been missing for a year and a day and had officially been proclaimed dead after running off against all propriety in the company of a troupe of scruffy, not to mention hirsute, Dwarves of questionable character. They had agreed that there was no way to ascertain that the Hobbit who’d appeared on the Hill with a pony and two trunks filled with who knew what kind of goods was indeed the individual he claimed to be, no matter how he addressed everybody present at the auction by name and insisted that this item be returned to his dining room and that to his study and the other back to his bedroom where each object had come from. Holman Greenhand and his apprentice, Hamfast Gamgee, gardeners to Bag End, had both answered to the interloper as if he indeed was their employer, and certainly young Mr. and Missus Rumble had greeted him happily enough. Even Ponto Baggins had acted as if it were truly Bilbo returned from the dead, while young Drogo had been ecstatic to order the auctioneers to cease and desist immediately!

For Longo the arrival of this—pretender—foiled his attempt to settle Otho and his difficult bride in their own hole long before their expected child should arrive. Longo was not thrilled with the idea of having a howling bairn in his smial at this time in his life, and was even less happy to contemplate having to deal with Lobelia on a daily basis for the foreseeable future. For the moment he was satisfied to know she was still in her bed, having insisted that yesterday’s upset had left her with the vapors, although he could think of no one less likely to suffer from such a malady than Lobelia Bracegirdle.

Otho had turned his attention back to his toast, which he was in danger of crushing to crumbs considering the force he used in spreading his currant preserves upon it. Longo eyed his son’s expressed frustration with a mixture of empathy and distaste, and carefully stirred a spoonful of honey into his teacup. When the pounding at the kitchen door started both of them turned their head that way in surprise just in time to see it burst open, a furious Hobbit stomping into their presence followed by an embarrassed Shirriff.

The one who insisted he was Bilbo glared at them, his gaze sweeping the table. “So Uncle, Cousin, this is where my teapot and butter spreaders ended up, eh? I certainly did not see either listed amongst the lots for the auction on the inventory list I obtained from Mato Burrows. When I could not find them anywhere in Bag End or described as part of the goods that had been auctioned off I suspected I should find them here.”

Longo had gone pale, save for circles of distinct pink on his cheeks and the tips of his ears. “I will have you know that my brother told me years ago that when he died I should receive this teapot and these butter spreaders to remember him by!”

Their unwanted guest gave a distinct snort of disgust. “You say that, Uncle Longo? Nonsense! First, you have always insisted that Dwarves were incapable of making anything that was the least bit delicate, although you have lusted for that teapot for as long as I can remember, even though it was not Father’s at all to begin with but was part of my mother’s dowry. And I know that she did not promise it to you, telling you plainly enough after Father died that she had no intention of letting it go to anyone but me. As for the butter spreaders, those were a gift from Grandfather Gerontius to me when I left faunthood, for I’d always thought them the most remarkable things when we visited with him at the Great Smial. He’d had them from the Elves of Rivendell, and was delighted to know that I appreciated Elvish work. So, I will have them back—now! And I demand to know if Lobelia got into my collection of silver spoons? I’m missing at least four of them, and they aren’t on the inventory, either.”

Longo turned to the Shirriff. “You can’t allow this person to demand we return things to him when he has failed to prove he is indeed Bilbo Baggins!” he insisted.

The Shirriff shrugged, holding out several pages covered with writing. “What can I do, Mr. Sackville-Baggins, sir? Mr. Ponto and Mr. Drogo Baggins and Miss Dora Baggins all say as he is Mr. Bilbo Baggins, as does Holman Greenhand as works for him, not to mention several others. And he knew well enough as such things as a silver teapot and a set of butter spreaders such as you have there were missing, and the descriptions he gave me match these, as do the descriptions of the missing items given me by Miss Dora and Mr. Drogo and Mr. Dudo, all of whom stayed in Bag End for a time after the deaths of their parents. I’m sorry, but since Mr. Bilbo’s not dead I must insist as they need to be returned, as they weren’t sold in the auction sale.”

Otho began a loud objection, but the Shirriff just shook his head and insisted that the items must go back to Bag End. In the end they took also the toast rack, whose decorations of pussy willow catkins matched still another item on the list held by the Shirriff that had been described by both Bilbo and Dora.

Bilbo paused before leaving, clutching the teapot, butter spreaders, and toast rack against his chest. “For someone who says he doesn’t believe in Elves and who has always spoken badly of Dwarvish work, you seem to like it all well enough to take what you please of it from my hole, Uncle Longo. And I do wish to have those spoons returned!”

“I tell you, I don’t have them and have no idea where they are!” growled Longo, glaring between Bilbo and the Shirriff. “Now, if you will allow my son and me to finish our second breakfast….” He looked meaningfully at the door. And as the one who insisted he was Bilbo left and shut it after him, Longo made a mental note to make certain that the inkstand in the study and the set of silver pens he’d also appropriated should be locked away out of sight before Bilbo should return to insist on searching his study.

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