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Where the Love-light Gleams
‘Hard to credit, what with the disagreeable nature of the Tooks,’ Ferdi said dryly.
‘Now, Ferdi!’ Pimpernel remonstrated, but her husband only laughed.
‘Indeed, they take great care of me,’ Pippin said. ‘My least wish is their greatest desire! Why, should I express the slightest longing, say, for honey-cured bacon from the North Farthing, it’ll appear on my breakfast table within a day or two, allowing time for a swift messenger to ride northwards and back again with a sackful of the stuff.’
‘I thought you were looking well-fed,’ Merry said with satisfaction. ‘D’you suppose it would work, in my case?’
‘I do not know,’ Pippin said thoughtfully. He turned to Diamond. ‘What is your opinion on the matter, my dear?’
‘I think that Merry would have to express his wish to the Thain, and the Thain would have to repeat that wish in the hearing of the steward, as if it were his own in origin, for such an event to have any promise whatsoever,’ Diamond answered.
‘Ah, that clears things up marvellously,’ Pippin said. ‘Offer me any wish, with a sufficient bribe, of course, cousin, and I will repeat it in the hearing of the most excellent steward of Tookland as if it sprang whole and in its entirety from my thought.’
‘A sufficient bribe?’ Merry echoed, bemused.
Pippin harrumphed like an old uncle and fixed Merry with a gimlet eye. ‘Do you think Northfarthing honey-cured bacon grows upon trees?’ he demanded. ‘It comes dear, very dear indeed, especially when one takes into account the cost of swift pony and rider!’
‘Unless of course the swift rider is the Thain’s special assistant,’ Ferdi said, leaning back with a grin. ‘In which case his salary covers all such expense. It helps, of a certainty, that said assistant owns the fastest pony in the Shire.’
‘Ferdi!’ Pippin said severely. ‘How ever am I to chisel gold out of my Brandybuck cousin’s hide if you insist upon being so dashedly truthful?’
Pimpernel and Diamond were laughing out loud by this juncture, and tea ended very merrily indeed.
-- from All that Glisters, Chapter 4.
Chapter 1. Where the Love-light Gleams
'Northfarthing honey-cured bacon,' Ferdi muttered to himself.
'Beg pardon?' Farmer Oatley said, turning back politely. 'Was there something else? Did you want some bacon along with the ham, perhaps?'
'No, no,' Ferdi said, but thinking twice about the matter he lifted a hand. 'A goodly suggestion, Master Farmer, indeed. Why not throw in a bag of bacon? I can tie it on my back as easy as anything.' The head cook could put the bacon in the deepest storage hole; it'd keep a while, and Ferdi'd not have to return all the sooner to the North Farthing.
'Tie it on the back of the saddle, lad,' the good farmer said. 'Them hams, and the sides o' bacon we grow, such-like weighs enough to stun a goblin, they do. Some say t'wasn't a club old Bandobras used to knock off that goblin chief's head, but a ham!'
'Goblins came upon him on a picnic, did they?' Ferdi said.
The farmer laughed heartily, and then said, 'The next time you come, you ought to bring a pack-pony with you. Hams hanging from either side of your saddle, and the saddlebags full of cheese, and bacon tied over all--you going to be leading that pony, instead of riding him?'
'I'm just a great ham myself, or so my wife tells me,' Ferdi said with a grin. 'What's one more ham atop the load?'
'Still, if you're to be back before the morning,' the farmer said with a look at the sky.
Ferdi wasn't worried. Certainly the Sun was kissing the horizon, but then she was early to bed this time of the year. He'd have to ride through the long winter night to manage it, but he'd come to the Great Smials before second breakfast. Did he not ride the fastest pony in the Shire?
'Lastday's nearly over. Last day o' the year, hard to believe!' the farmer added, and Ferdi pulled his mind back from its wanderings.
'I think every year goes by quicker'n the last,' he said obligingly.
'That it do, young fellow,' the farmer agreed. 'And you're to ride through the night, I gather, that the Thain may have my good ham for his Firstday breakfast?'
'He won't be up all that early,' Ferdi said. 'He'll have seen the old year out, as you know...'
'Ah, yes,' the farmer said. 'Don't we all?' He stifled a yawn at the thought. 'Gets a little harder, every year.'
'Don't see much point in't myself,' Ferdi said practically. 'Old year'll see itself out, whether we stay up to see it out or no.'
'An' the new year'll come creeping in, whether or not we're there to open the door,' Farmer Oatley said. 'But who'll answer the knock of the First Footer if everyone goes off to bed?'
'Well, if everyone goes off to bed, there'll be no First Footers out and about, will there?' Ferdi said reasonably.
The farmer was scandalised at this idea. 'I don't like it!' he said, shaking his head in a decided manner. 'I don't like it at all! Why, where'd the luck come from if no First Footers knocked at the door?!'
Ferdi conceded the point, and considering the matter privately, he thought perhaps he might do a bit of First-Footing himself that night, if he happened to pass a farmstead or hamlet in the middle night. After all, the first hobbit to walk across the threshold after the clocks chimed midnight, the passing of one year to another, brought with him the luck for the arriving year--if he were properly gifted, that was: a bottle of ale or wine to conjure a year's worth of joy for the giver, along with other symbolic gifts such as a coin for wealth, a loaf of bread for provision and a new-made article of clothing for prosperity. Yes, he thought, it ought not to slow his pony too much to add a little bounty to the burden. And bread and ale in the saddle would help the miles to pass more pleasurably, and help keep him awake into the bargain.
*Title taken from the lyrics of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" by Walter Kent (music) and James "Kim" Gannon (words), 1943
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