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To Tell a Tale  by Lindelea

Chapter the Tenth: The Knight Has Been Unruly
in which Gandalf is not so close as he used to be
contributed by Dreamflower


Pippin was absolutely awash. He could hear his belly sloshing. Still, it had worked--he had finished his pitcher of water, and now Sam, who was watching him this morning, had gone to fetch more. Pippin had been pretty sure that it would work out that way, as Sam hated to ask servants to do anything. If he hurried, he could make good his escape before Sam returned. The gardener was not nearly so wise to his tricks as were his cousins.

The first order of business, though, was rather urgent. He swung his legs over the edge of the bed, and stood up. He found himself just a little dizzy, but it soon passed, and then he drew out the chamber pot. It took him rather longer than he expected, but then that had been a lot of water.

He grabbed his breeches from where they hung, neatly folded at the foot of the bed, and tucking his nightshirt into them, made his way to the door. He opened it.

And found himself staring at a familiar set of white robes.

“Gandalf!” he squeaked.

“Peregrin Took! Were you going somewhere?”

“No,” said Pippin dejectedly. He turned and walked back to the bed, shedding his trousers as he walked; and tossing them back to the foot of the bed, he clambered back in and plumped himself down with a sigh.

Gandalf chuckled silently. Secretly he was pleased to see that nothing more than a boring convalescence had at least temporarily banished the sober and responsible Knight of Gondor, and brought a return of the irrepressible tween. It was good to know that Pippin’s youth had not been entirely lost to the experiences of the Quest. Out loud he said “Sam saw me in the corridor, and asked me to look in while he fetched more water.”

“Oh.” Sam must know him better than he thought. Or Frodo and Merry had warned him. Pippin heaved a mighty sigh. “It’s so boring in bed, Gandalf!”

Gandalf came in and sat in the chair by the bed. “Perhaps a tale would help the time pass more quickly. What would you like to hear?”

Pippin brightened immediately. Stories from Gandalf were not offered often. “The evening before we reached Minas Tirith, when the long march from Cormallen was nearly done, after we'd eaten you were telling us about knowing Bilbo when he was young.* I’d love to hear more about that.”

Just then the door opened and Sam came in, bearing a pitcher and three cups. “Mr. Pippin, since you was so good about drinking all your water, I thought mayhap a bit of fruit juice would be good for a change. It’s that orange kind they have down here.”

Pippin blushed. Sam was so kind; he shouldn’t have tried to trick him. “Thank you, Sam. Gandalf’s going to tell us a story about Cousin Bilbo!”

“Really?” Sam grinned, and after setting the tray down and pouring each of them a cup, he climbed up to sit on the bed next to Pippin, just as eager for the story as the young knight.

Gandalf started to take out his pipe and then refrained. Pippin was not to smoke or be smoked around until Aragorn pronounced him well.

“In the days of my friend Gerontius, the Old Took, I was a frequent visitor to the Shire. I always made it a point to be at the Great Smials for the Lithedays, when I would bring fireworks. On the particular occasion I am thinking of, Bilbo was a few years younger than you, Peregrin--perhaps twenty-two or twenty-three…

Bilbo was excited, as he always was, to go and visit his Took relations. There were almost no lads of his own age in Hobbiton, and he still thought lasses rather silly. But in Tookland, there was his cousin Siggy, who was exactly one month older than he, and his very dearest friend. And then there was his older cousin Adelgrim, who in spite of having recently come of age was as full of mischief and ideas as any tween. And yesterday Bilbo’s mother Belladonna had received a note from Aunt Mirabella Brandybuck that she would be there with his Brandybuck cousins. They were all very young, but her oldest, Rory, who was twelve, adored Bilbo, and tagged everywhere after him when they were together. Perhaps if Bilbo had younger brothers, he would have found it annoying, but as it was, he was quite flattered by little Rory’s attentions.

And to top it all off, there would be fireworks and a wizard! A lad couldn’t ask for a better holiday!


“Yes, Papa?”

“Is your travelling case packed? Bring it out to the trap if it is!”


When Bilbo, Belladonna and Bungo Baggins all arrived at the Great Smials, they noticed a good deal of commotion going on in the south garden.

“For goodness’ sake, Bella, what are your relations up to now?” Bungo pretended exasperation, but he was quite fond of his wife’s relatives, though he did not even pretend to understand them.

She gave him a dimpled grin and tossed her chestnut curls. “I’d have no clue, save that my sister Mira seems to be in the thick of it. And is that little Rory? All dripping wet?” The Baggins family pulled up the pony-trap and clambered out, as a stable hobbit came to take charge. Bella walked up to her brother, Hildibrand, who was father to Bilbo’s cousin Siggy. “What’s going on, Hildi?” she asked.

“Oh, the younger lads were playing at ball, and little Mondo Bracegirdle got peeved that his team was losing and kicked the ball right out into the middle of the pond. Our intrepid Brandybuck nephew Rory just dove right in, to the horror of everyone, and swam out after it! Now everyone’s in an uproar--many of those watching were sure he would drown, and some of them seem offended that he didn’t.”

“Oh goodness gracious!” exclaimed Bella. “Everyone knows Brandybucks are half fish. What’s Mira up to?” For she could see her younger sister taking her temper out on someone.

“That’s the Bracegirdle lad’s parents.”


Bilbo had spotted little Rory, being held closely to his mother’s side. He was wriggling and trying to get away; since she was busy with her tirade and had baby Asphodel in the other arm, he finally managed it. He was dripping wet and grinning. He looked over and saw Bilbo, and took off.

Mira looked at him, and shook her head, and let him go.

“Bilbo!” cried the lad.

Bilbo had just enough time to brace himself before the wet youngster slammed into him. “It’s good to see you Bilbo! Did you see what I did?” he asked proudly.

Bilbo felt consternation at suddenly having his clothing all wet, but he politely ignored the indignity. “No, Rory, I did not. But I heard about it. You were very brave. I should not have dared to do such a thing.”

“Well, of course not. You’re a Baggins; you can’t swim.”

There was no use arguing with such perfect logic, and Bilbo was not even inclined to try. He returned the child’s hug, and then suddenly felt a slap on his back.

“Hullo, cousin!” said Sigismond.

“Siggy!” Bilbo’s happiness was nearly complete. “Where’s Chop?” This was Adalgrim’s nickname. As a small lad, his mother had foolishly insisted on calling him her little “Lambchop”. When he grew older, he would only answer to “Chop”.

“Oh, he’s busy with some boring grown-up stuff. He’ll slip away from it soon, if he can.”

Just then another Took cousin came by. Siggy reached out and snagged him. “Flambard, have you seen Chop?”

“He’s with Grandfather, greeting the wizard,” said Flambard, and shrugged off. He was not in Bilbo’s little circle of friends. His mother was a Sackville and he took after her side of the family.

But all three of the cousins looked at one another in glee. “Gandalf’s here!” they exclaimed.

Just then Mirabella, finished with her lecture to the Bracegirdle lad’s mother, came by to get Rory. “Come along, Rorimac. We need to get you into some dry clothes. You can find Bilbo and Siggy again later.”

Bungo looked over at his son. “I think you need to go change as well, son.”

Bilbo looked down at his breeches. They were all wet round the knees, and soiled with mud and pond weed. “Yes, Papa,” he said. He went to get his case from the trap, and Siggy came along with him.


Later that evening in the main dining hall, Bilbo sat with Siggy, and with Rory and little Faro Boffin, who was Rory’s age, and was the son of his Aunt Donnamira, at the children’s and tween’s table. They were eating with a good deal of concentration and very little talk, for even with young hobbits, food is a serious business.

“I wish I had more of those lovely roasted potatoes,” said Rory longingly, casting an envious look at Bilbo’s plate, for Bilbo had not finished his yet.

“I am fond of you, Rory, but not that fond,” said Bilbo, stabbing one of the little potatoes and conveying it to his mouth.

Just then Bilbo felt a slap on his back. He turned and grinned. “Chop! It’s good to see you!”

“Hullo, lads,” said Adalgrim with a wide and mischievous grin. “I’ve found better provender than this, to be had with little enough effort. Come along! You, too, Rory and Faro. Your small size will come in handy--”

A short time later, they found themselves ensconced in an out-of-the way cellar, the possessors of several pies and pastries of both the sweet and savory variety, not to mention a jug of ale, and another of sweet cider.

“Chop,” said Bilbo admiringly, “how did you know that it would be so easy to raid the larder when the kitchen is so busy?”

“Easy enough, lad; when the kitchen staff are so occupied with serving the meal, they’ve no time to keep watch. Also, who would imagine anyone making a raid while supper is being served?”

“Chop, you are brilliant!” said Siggy.

“I know,” was the smug reply. “I’ve another idea as well. You know that tomorrow night are the fireworks?”

“Oh yes!” said Bilbo enthusiastically. Gandalf’s fireworks were something he looked forward to immensely.

“Well, why should the Wizard be the only one to have the fun of setting them off?”

The younger lads all gaped at Chop, in stunned admiration. Was there no one so daring as he? Bilbo hoped he might someday be like Chop, and not ever get all boring, the way most hobbits did when they came of age.


The fireworks were bursting overhead in showers of brilliant color. As Gandalf returned to his cart, he fetched several out, and then went back to where he was setting them off. As the Wizard darted off chuckling, Chop hissed “Now!”

The five lads emerged from behind the tent where they had been hiding.

Chop kept watch. They boosted Rory and Faro into the cart, and the lads emerged with a number of smaller fireworks. Then Bilbo and Siggy clambered up.

“Look at this,” hissed Siggy. He held up a rather large rocket.

“No,” said Chop, “the big one!”

Bilbo grabbed one: perfectly huge. He held it up.

“Yes, that’s the one! Hurry up, someone’s coming!”

They scuttled into the tent. Chop kept look out the door. Rory and Faro were gloating over their small haul.

“Here,” said Bilbo, handing the large firework to Siggy.

Siggy grabbed it. “Let’s light it now!” he giggled, and without further ado, pulled out his striker.

Bilbo had turned to say something to Chop, but at the hiss of the fuse, he turned back, horrified. “You’re supposed to stick it in the ground!” he exclaimed.

Siggy had done so. “It is in the ground!”

“Outside!” cried Chop. He rushed over, but it was too late--the rocket rose up with a whoosh! taking the tent with it, and shooting into the air, where it exploded into a brilliant shower of color, forming a huge tree that seemed to cover the whole sky, in a burst of loud explosions.

The young hobbits stared, transfixed, for just a moment. They had done that!

“Let’s get another,” said Chop, when suddenly they were cut off by a booming voice.

“Adalgrim Took! Sigismond Took! And Bilbo Baggins, of all people!”

Gandalf loomed over them, a squirming Rory and Faro in either huge hand. Their Grandfather Gerontius stood behind him, his eyebrows drawn alarmingly together, and a scowl to end all scowls on his face.

“Uh-oh” said Chop.


“Gerontius was only too pleased to allow me to set the older lads a punishment. Little Faro and Rorimac were turned over to their mothers. I set the other three to washing dishes--of which, by the way, there were hundreds. The three of them were covered in soot and smoke, and were a sight to behold, I tell you.”

Sam’s eyes were wide, as he imagined Bilbo a mischievous tween. If anyone but Gandalf had told the story, he would never have believed it. But he could easily imagine that it was something that Mr. Pippin’s and Mr. Merry’s grandfathers would have done--in fact, he could just as easily imagine Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin doing such a thing themselves. It was a good thing they were still too young for such mischief when Bilbo went away.

Pippin was grinning. “I never heard such a story about Grandfather Adalgrim before! He died before I ever was born.”

“Well, Gerontius was not very amused at the idea that a hobbit who had come of age was still behaving like a silly tween, and moreover, leading other younger hobbits into mischief as well. That is why he sent him to Whitwell and settled him on the farm there, to get his influence away from the other young hobbits. As for Bilbo, Bungo was none too pleased with him, either, and it was a good long time before he saw any of his Took relations again.”

Pippin laughed. “I wonder that I never heard about that before,” he said.

“Well, the farming life rather settled your grandfather down, as did marriage and five children. He became rather more respectable after that.”

“So, what else can you tell me about my relations?” asked Pippin curiously.

Gandalf laughed. “My dear Peregrin! You are quite insatiable!”

“Of course I am. I’m a Took! And wait till Merry hears what his grandfather got up to…”


* Unfinished Tales, Part III, Chapter III, “The Quest for Erebor”

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