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(AUTHOR’S NOTE: Bilbo and Sigismond are nine--or six in Man-years. Belladonna is not sure if they will survive to be ten…)
A MOTHER’S WORK: BELLADONNA
Belladonna sighed, and took up her quill. She was going to have to be a bit circumspect. Her brother Hildibrand would probably find the true events to be amusing. His far more staid and conventional Bunce wife, Myrtle, would not.
“My Dear Hildibrand and Myrtle,
Bilbo could not have been more pleased that you allowed little Sigismond to come back to Bag End with us. The two of them are enjoying their visit immensely, and are finding many ways to have fun together…”
Many more ways to have fun than Bilbo could ever have thought of by himself, anyway.
“The first day, they went berrying, and brought home quite a bounty; I was able to make blackberry crumble for supper, much to their delight…”
And she and Bungo had been up with them both much of the night, dosing them with ginger tea, for they failed to mention that they had already eaten more berries than they actually brought home, and then spent the night with tummy-aches.
“Then on Highday morning, Bungo took them down to the Water to go fishing. I am sorry to say they had no luck catching fish, but they enjoyed themselves splendidly all the same…”
And came home dripping wet, as they had managed to fall in, and had to be hauled out by an exasperated Bungo, who had a trout on his line at the time it happened. Of course, he lost the fish.
“Sigismond’s loose front tooth came out that morning, and I hope that you do not object to the fact that Bungo rewarded him for it with a farthing. It is a Baggins custom to give children a farthing for each milk-tooth they lose. Your son was quite surprised, but I was at pains to remind him that this was not a Took custom and that he could not expect such a reward when he was at home.”
Perhaps, thought Belladonna, that had been her mistake. Sigismond had immediately grasped her point, but not quite in the way she had intended.
After luncheon, Bilbo and Sigismond had gone back out to play. Bungo had gone to his study to work on the household accounts, and she had taken up some of her mending. The only sound to be heard in the smial was the ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece and the light breeze that stirred the curtains, bringing in the early summer fragrance of the lilacs and pinks in the garden.
So Belladonna had been quite surprised to suddenly hear a smart rapping at the kitchen door. Puzzled, she had put down the little pair of Bilbo’s breeches she had been mending and gone to answer.
She threw open the door, and stared in stunned consternation at the sight before her: their gardener, Tam Goodchild, had each lad by an ear. Bilbo and Sigismond looked up at her cheerfully--in spite of the fact that each of them was sporting a split and bloody lip.
“I’m sorry, Mistress Baggins,” said the gardener, with a look of sincere distress, “but I found ‘em pounding away at each other down by the well.”
“Lads!” she exclaimed, completely shocked. “I cannot believe that you were *fighting*!” And this was true. Hobbit children almost never came to blows, and Bilbo and Sigismond were such good friends, she could not begin to imagine what would cause them to do such a thing.
“We weren’t, Mama!” said Bilbo.
“No, Aunt Bella, we weren’t fighting!”
“I seen ‘em,” repeated Tam.
She looked at Tam, who looked very hurt at the children’s disclaimer. “I know you did, Master Tam, and I am so very sorry that you had to deal with my son and my nephew so. Thank you.”
He nodded solemnly, and then turned a stern gaze down to the lads. “Kin-folk shouldn’t be a-fighting, Master Bilbo,” he said quietly, before he turned and went away back to his work.
“But, Mama--” Bilbo protested.
“Not another word from you, Bilbo Baggins! Or you either Sigismond Took! We will let your *father* deal with this!”
Bungo had looked down at the little miscreants glumly. “Not only were the two of you fighting, and were caught in the act, but you continue to lie about it. Bilbo, I am sorely disappointed in you. And Sigismond, all I can say is that we will be forced to cut your visit short…”
“Papa! No!” cried Bilbo. “Please don’t make Siggy go home!” He clutched at his cousin as though he thought he would vanish in an instant.
“Uncle Bungo! Yes, we were hitting, but we *weren’t* fighting, really, really--we *weren’t*!”
Belladonna and her husband exchanged puzzled looks. What on earth was going on? The children seemed perfectly sincere; perhaps they had been *playing* at fighting? The two of them had been enthralled at the tale of a famous Elven fighter that Bungo had read to them.
“If you weren’t fighting, what *were* you doing, then?”
Bilbo grinned, and then winced and put a hand to his rapidly bruising mouth. “We were just trying to knock our teeth out!”
“Yes, Uncle Bungo! We thought it would be good to have some farthings when we go with Auntie to the market tomorrow! And besides--I wanted Bilbo to knock all of mine out before I go home, or I won’t *get* any more farthings!”
The look of shock on her husband’s face was priceless. Belladonna had to fight down the urge to burst out in laughter.
She had left her flustered husband to explain that only teeth which fell out naturally qualified for a farthing, and gone to the kitchen where she had laughed hysterically, until the tears ran down her face.
Now she continued her letter.
“The lads did misbehave just a bit. However, Bungo has given them essays. After they spent the morning writing about the importance of teeth in eating properly, I have no doubt that they have learned their lesson.”
Just then she heard the front door to Bag End slam, and heard the patter of little feet running towards the study.
“Mama! Siggy fell from the roof-tree and has a bump on his head!”
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