Disclaimer: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and all their characters and places are the property of the Tolkien Estate.

The Party Next Door

I always knew no good could ever come out of a Baggins marrying a Took. Why, everyone on The Hill knows how those Tooks are. They live across The Water after all, and they are friends with elves and what have you. And that Belladonna Took was Old Took's daughter. The stories they used to tell of him in the old days! They say there was fairy lady in their family long, long ago. Of course, they had had money but that doesn't say anything, does it? It wasn't like the Baggins had no money. The Baggins are an old family, very respectable and quite wealthy. Or they wouldn't have a house on The Hill, would they? It's a very nice place The Hill is - you get a view of the river from the windows. 'Tisn't every hobbit in the Shire that can have a house on The Hill. A very respectable address it is indeed.

The Baggins' fit right into The Hill. Never knew a Baggins that wasn't a gentle hobbit. They never had mad adventures. Not like the Tooks at all. But Bilbo? Well, he was half Took after all. He lived all alone you know. And such a large Hobbit hole he had. Bungo Baggins built it, I remember.

It was that party in April many years ago. That's where it all started. All that poetry writing and being friends with elves and dwarves and wizards.

I knew something was afoot a day before that party took place and I'm never wrong in these matters. Gandalf came by to The Hill. I saw him speaking to Bilbo. I hadn't seen the old chap in years. Wouldn't even have recognised him if it weren't for that hat and those strange clothes he wears on his feet. He's a nice old thing of course, but you never knew what could happen when he was around. He hadn't come by here since that little Hobbit-boy from across The Water went off sailing in a ship to other shores. He used to bring along fireworks with him and tell us wonderful tales of goblins and princesses. Nice they were, but never did a visit go by without one hobbit-girl or hobbit-boy getting mixed up in some mad adventure or the other, and all because of him. They used to go and climb trees or go off to visit elves or set sail in large ships!

But I was speaking of Bilbo.

Now, we folk of the Shire like to be friendly with everyone. And we love parties. When a hobbit here has a party he calls every hobbit he knows and some he doesn't and we take presents along and there's loads of singing and dancing. Of course we eat. You don't need to have a party for a hobbit to eat! The tales I could tell you of some of the parties we've had over the years.

But it just isn't done that you have a party and invite strangers to it and none of your neighbours. Well, Gandalf may not be a stranger but he certainly is strange! I'm not one to be rude about a person's appearance, but he has plenty of hair on his face but none on his feet. That's why he has to wear those thick clothes to cover them.

Not that I was prying into Bilbo's affairs, mind you. To each his own, that's what I always say. There I was, just tending to my garden. It was such a fine day and I've had some lovely lilies this year. One can never care enough for one's garden, you see. Well, there I was, as I said, minding my own business, and looking after my pretty flowers when I see a sign drawn on Bilbo's door. A very queer sign it was too. I didn't know Bilbo was repainting his doors and windows. He had painted them just a week before that. I saw him doing it. A very nice green he painted the front door. Quite pretty it looked. Perhaps he didn't like the colour any more. Or perhaps he just wanted a picture on his door to make it look even prettier. Well, it was his money to do what he liked with. Not that that's important to the story, of course.

As I was saying, I knew something was up. I had smelt the seed cake Bilbo was baking in the morning. He does make a splendid seed cake. I've had it once before. I'd gone to borrow a little sugar you see, and Bilbo, whatever you say about him, he's a polite one, he is. He's a Baggins after all; just like his father before him. Always greets me each morning ever so nicely.

So there I was tending to my plants and there they came. Dwarves! I even checked twice, thinking it might be a tall hobbit but no, they had long hair falling from their chins just like Gandalf does. And they wore clothes on their feet too, but nicer ones than Gandalf did. Walked right past my garden and rang the bell on Bilbo's beautiful little door, so loud that I could hear it where I was standing. I nearly had a fright and almost lopped off a few of my roses with my pruning shears. And they kept coming. So many of them! Thirteen of them there were. I counted. Not to be nosy, but my dear garden does need extra care this time of the year. Those laburnums now, they can give you a little trouble if you don't care for them well and proper.

And then there was Gandalf along with them of course. My, he knocked on Bilbo's poor door with his staff so hard that the new little picture drawn on it got knocked out. He even left a dent on the door. Just when Bilbo had painted it.

Whatever next, I ask you! I had such a shock with all these comings and goings; I nearly forgot to have my tea. Gandalf is enough by himself for trouble to start brewing, but dwarves? Though they dressed respectable enough, I'll grant you that. Just like us, nice colourful clothes they wore, all green and yellow and red and blue like my snapdragons, not at all like that dull grey thing that Gandalf always wears. And my, but they had colourful hair too. I suppose they carried their presents for Bilbo inside their cloaks.

They shut the door and went off inside for the party. I could smell the coffee Bilbo was brewing and the buttered scones they had. Must have been nice. But the din they created! All that singing and dancing. It was a nice song though, from what I could hear of it. I had to go inside for my own tea. But they were noisy. Though why they sat and sang in the dark like that I don't know. Everyone else on The Hill had their lamps lit and a fire or two were being lit in the woods.

I thought it was a tea party, but I could see that Bilbo had them stay over for supper too. I like to stand outside for a while in the evenings and watch the river. What's the use of a house on The Hill if you don't spend some time each day watching the river? That's what I always ask. And then they stayed the night. I could see through Bilbo's window while I was having my second dinner that they had finally turned on a lamp. I even heard a scream once. Why, it was such a shriek I'm sure it could be heard over The Hill and across The Water. Late into the night they went on. I do wonder what they were doing, giving Bilbo his presents perhaps. They didn't leave until after breakfast the next morning. I saw them leave, all thirteen of them, while I was watering my roses. I counted them again. Funny people they were, just one breakfast before they set off! And Bilbo hadn't even come to the door to see them off.

But I knew from that day on, funny things were going to happen. Bilbo was part Took after all. I've never been wrong in these matters. I could feel it in my bones.

And what do you know but some time after they left, off he went too and without even finishing his second breakfast! I could see through his window later it was half-eaten and the dishes unwashed! He just ran off past the great Mill and across The Water, without his hat on, leaving Gandalf standing there by his dented little green door. And he even left his walking stick behind. Of course, we thought he was never coming back. He was away more than a year, after all.

I knew it. Those Tooks.

The End