“Well, here we are, Gamgeeves,” I said, when I had concluded my splash in the healing element and he was combing my feet, “back at good old Bag End, Hobbiton NW1. And just in time for second breakfast, too. I must say it’s pretty fruity to be back in the old metrop. Not that I didn’t enjoy our little jaunt, but looking back it does seem a bit much to have had to hoof it all the way to Mordor and back again just to get rid of that bally ring. I wish there’d been an easier way of breaking off my engagement to that goof Madeline Sackville-Baggins than bunging the blighted little gewgaw into Mount Doom. Still, there you are, and the road goes ever on, as my Aunt Bilbo used to say.”

“A very apt observation, Mr. Frodo, sir.”

“And what a time we’ve had of it, eh? What with Pippin Fotheringay-Took and Merry Phipps-Brandybuck losing their way in that orchard and getting rescued by the gardener, and poor Aunt Gandalf taking that nasty tumble and having to be practically brought back from the dead, and old Reggie Aragorn turning out to be the heir to the throne, of all things. It does make you think. But I say, Gamgeeves,” I said, for a sudden thought had struck me, “it certainly was a stroke of luck old Sauron being away at a garden party in Gorgoroth, so that all we had to do was give the slip to a couple of his groundskeepers and there we were on the spot.”

At this a dreamy sort of look came into the chap’s face.

“If I may, Mr. Frodo, sir,” he said, “the favourable conclusion of our endeavour is not wholly ascribable to good fortune. You see, while you were recovering from the shock of your encounter with that spider in the wine cellar of Cirith Ungol, I fell into conversation with Mr. Gollum, who, as you will remember, had previously served as Mr. Sauron’s gentleman’s personal gentleman. During our fifth round of beers he happened to mention that his former employer, in addition to his career as dictator, was secretly in the habit of writing romantic novels under the pen name of Primula Proudfoot.”

“Primula Proudfoot?” I said. “Why, didn’t she write Only a Westfarthing Lass and Under the Mallorn Tree?”

“I could not say for certain, sir. In any case, armed with this information I secured an interview with Mr. Sauron, and we had what you may call a tête à tête.

“Gamgeeves,” I exclaimed, amazed, “you didn’t blackmail the blighter?”

“I would prefer to say merely, sir, that when once apprised of the alternative courses of action open to him, Mr. Sauron proved willing to facilitate our plans.”

“Gamgeeves,” I said, “you’re a wonder. All that is gold does not glitter, as the fellow said.”

I shook the noodle, lost in wonder.

“And Gamgeeves,” I added.

“Sir?”

I heaved a sigh, for what I was about to say would wring the heart, but the Bagginses are nothing if not magnanimous.

“You remember that coal of white mithril with the purple spangles, the one which you said could not properly be worn in polite society?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You have my permission to donate it to the mathom-house at Michel Delving.”

“I took the liberty of doing so this morning, sir.”

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