A Hobbit About Town by Lbilover

Originally written in 2006 and based on Elderberrywine's wonderful 'Shire Morn' series. I love her Fatty Bolger.


“Why, would ye look at what just come in.” Ted Sandyman, the Miller’s son, jabbed with his thumb in the direction of the entrance to the common-room of the Ivy Bush tavern. Heads swiveled. “If it ain’t Mr. Fredegar Bolger hisself. The one what rumour ‘as it is tupping Mistress Lobelia Sackville-Baggins.”


The hobbit in question was indeed Mr. Fredegar Bolger, more commonly known as ‘Fatty’ (for the peculiar reason that he was, in fact, the very opposite of fat). He stood on the threshold of the common-room, a quizzing glass raised to one eye. The inn, as was customary of a summer’s evening, was crowded and noisy, and a blue haze of pipe smoke hovered over the assembly of garrulous hobbits.


“Quite the dandy, ain’t ‘e?” jeered Ted, and his friends guffawed. “’E looks like a ruddy peacock.”


Fatty Bolger, having apparently located whatever it was he had been searching for, lowered his quizzing glass and began to stroll across the room, the very picture of unhurried indolence.


A low murmur of comment followed him as he sauntered past tables filled with fascinated hobbits. These hobbits with their homespun clothes and clay pipes had never seen such an object in the Ivy Bush in their entire lives.


From the top of his artfully disheveled brown hair, to the tips of his pomaded, perfectly coiffed foot curls, Mr. Fredegar Bolger was the epitome of the fashionable hobbit-about-town. His slender torso was encased in a jacket of bottle green wool that fit him like a glove, and his ivory satin waistcoat was lavishly embroidered with flowers in vibrant shades of pink and yellow and purple. His pale biscuit-coloured trousers were woven of the finest wool, and cut to perfection, while the starched points of his shirt collar were so high that he could only turn his head with some difficulty. His intricately folded cravat was almost blindingly white. A variety of fobs and an ornately chased silver pocket watch hung about his person, while the scent of attar of roses trailed after him.


Ted and his cronies stared at the dandified hobbit with ill-disguised contempt as he neared the rough wooden table where they held court. Ted winked at his friends and said loudly, “I ‘ear tell that Mistress Lobelia’s done gone and got ‘erself a new toy, lads. A very colourful toy, so they say. What do you reckon ‘as got into the old lady, playing wi’ toys at ‘er age?”


“Gone cracked, like that Brandybuck upstart at Bag End,” said Rollo Twofoot, seated at Ted’s side. He made a circling motion with one finger at his temple, and grinned.


“Aye, I reckon you’re right. Any road, that one takes ‘is pleasure in the garden, so’s I’ve ‘eard, while Mistress Lobelia takes ‘ers with ‘er new toy. There ain’t no accountin’ for tastes, eh Rollo? Quality.” And he turned his head, hawked noisily and spat on the sawdust-covered floor. The spittle missed Fatty Bolger’s foot by less than an inch.


Ted and the others hooted with mirth as Fatty came to an abrupt halt. A look of fastidious distaste crossed his features as he stared down at the unwholesome-looking glob on the floor, and they laughed the harder, elbowing each other and imitating his facial expression, overcome with hilarity at their own wit.


At that moment, a barmaid carrying a heavy wooden tray filled with foaming mugs of ale came threading her way through the tables. She eyed the newcomer up and down. “Out of the way, love,” she said, and there was an appreciative look on her pretty face. It was clear that she did not share the others’ disdain for the fashionable Mr. Bolger.


“But of course.” Fatty smiled at her with the utmost charm, sketched the slightest of bows, and obligingly stepped aside. But he mistakenly moved in the same direction as the barmaid as she tried to go around him, and they ended up face to face once more.


A very comical sort of two-step ensued as Fatty and the barmaid each attempted to get out of the other’s way. They dodged first to the right, and then to the left, but succeeded only in mirroring each other’s movements. Fatty, who was looking quite embarrassed, began to apologise profusely. “I do beg your pardon… so frightfully sorry… dreadfully clumsy of me…” The barmaid erupted into helpless giggles, and held on to her precariously tilting tray with some difficulty.


She was by no means the only one laughing. Ted, Rollo and the others were practically crying with laughter as the giggling barmaid and the flustered dandy feinted back and forth. But their amusement abruptly turned to alarm when Fatty, apparently tripped up by his own feet, suddenly stumbled forward with an exclamation. His arm flew out in an attempt to catch his balance, and hit the wooden tray a solid blow from underneath. As if in slow motion, the ale tankards flew up in the air, and came down with a crash and a splash right in Ted Sandyman’s lap.


There was an appalled silence.


“Why you great clumsy oaf!“ Red-faced and furious, Ted leaped to his feet, mugs falling off his lap and clattering onto the floor. He glared at Fatty, who was staring at the results of his clumsiness with the queerest look on his face: it was almost as if he was trying to suppress laughter. Through some odd chance, he had managed to rescue one of the tankards of ale from the barmaid’s tray. Not even a single drop of it had spilt. “Ruined my best jacket and breeches you ‘ave,” Ted declared in outrage as he looked down at the spreading dark stains on his clothes.


Fatty Bolger pulled out his quizzing glass again, and raised it to his eye, surveying the damage. “Most awfully sorry, my dear fellow,” he drawled, “but really, one can hardly deplore the loss of such a jacket and breeches. Indeed, one might almost say that I’ve done you a favour.”


“A favour?” Ted clenched his fists. “Now you see ‘ere, you bloody-“ He broke off as he found himself pinned by a hideously enlarged brown eye, an eye that held a steely implacable look that sent a cold chill down Ted’s cowardly spine. “I be meanin’ to say,” he went on, backing a hasty step away from Fatty, his face as pale now as it had been red moments before, “’twere just an accident, and no ‘arm meant I’m sure.” He seized a napkin and began mopping at his breeches, looking anywhere but at Fatty.


Fatty smiled. It wasn’t a pleasant smile. He lowered the quizzing glass. “Oh, no harm meant at all, my good fellow.” He glanced around the table at Ted’s friends, who were staring at Ted with the utmost astonishment. Fatty’s smile deepened to true amusement. Lifting his hand as if toasting the outraged hobbits, he set the mug of ale to his lips and took a long swallow. His eyes twinkled over the rim.


“Ah, delightful,” he commented, with a quite different smile for the fascinated barmaid, who was regarding him with no little awe and respect. With his free hand, Freddy fished several shiny coins out of his waistcoat pocket. He placed them on the barmaid’s plump palm. “This should pay for the ale that was spilled by my infernal clumsiness. With a little bit left over for some ribbons for your lovely curls,” he added gallantly.


The barmaid stared at the coins, her mouth forming an ‘o’ of astonishment, then up at Fatty. She bobbed him a slight curtsy. “Thank you, sir,” she said breathlessly, and pocketed the money in the cloth purse at her waist. She knelt and swiftly gathered up the now-empty mugs from the floor, bundled them onto the tray and, with a saucy wink at Fatty, hurried away. Fatty watched her swaying hips recede with an appreciative grin on his face.


But while Ted might have had second thoughts about engaging in a dispute with the dandy, Rollo Twofoot had not. He glared at Fatty. “But what about my friend Ted, ‘ere?” he demanded truculently. “’is clothes is ruined. What are you a-goin’ to do about them, then?”


”I?” Fatty turned his attention from the departing barmaid, and observed Rollo Twofoot with a look of utter bafflement. “Why nothing. What should I do? But if you will take my advice, I should recommend burning them.” And Fatty sauntered off, leaving behind a table full of dumbfounded, speechless hobbits.


Rollo recovered his voice first. “’ere Ted, you ain’t a-goin’ to take ‘is cheek, surely? Let’s go after ‘im, teach ‘im a lesson or two.”


Ted would not meet his friend’s eyes, but said dismissively, “Ain’t worth the effort, Rollo.” He threw a coin down on the table. “Well, I’m for ‘ome. See you later, lads.”


***


Meanwhile, in a far corner of the common-room, Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee were greeting Fatty with delight as he joined them at their table.


“What was all the commotion, Mr. Freddy?” asked Sam curiously as Fatty dusted off the seat of his chair with a lace-edged handkerchief before flipping up his coattails and seating himself. “There ain’t been such a ruckus in the Ivy Bush since the day one of the Widow Rumble’s pigs got loose one morning on the way to market and disappeared. They found her right over there, snoozing by the fire.” Sam grinned reminiscently, while Fatty and Frodo laughed.


“Alas, dear Sam, it was nothing nearly so exciting. Just a trivial matter of some spilled ale.” Fatty turned the conversation to another topic, but a small, satisfied smile lingered about his lips.


~end~