The Lord of the... whatever, Book I, Chapter 4:
A Short Cut To Mushrooms
In the morning Frodo awoke refreshed. He was lying in a bower made by
a living tree with branches laced and drooping to the ground; his bed
was of fern and grass, deep and soft and strangely fragrant. The scent
was almost intoxicating and Frodo was dizzy with light-headedness. He
jumped out and went down.
Sam was sitting in the grass near the edge of the wood quietly giggling
to himself. Pipsqueak was standing studying the sky with open mouthed
awe. There was no sign of the Elves.
"They have left us some fruit and drink, and bread," said Pipsqueak.
"Come and have your breakfast. The bread tastes strange, but
wonderful! I didn't want to leave you any, but Sam thought it might do
you some good." At this the hobbits laughed under their hands at Frodo.
Unperturbed, Frodo sat and sampled some of the Elves' bread. It was
brown and sweet and had an unusual peppery tang that he couldn't
identify. Sam came and sat by him as he broke fast. "What's the plan
for today?" asked Pipsqueak.
"To walk to Bucklebelt as quickly as possible," answered Frodo, and
gave his attention to the food. Odd as it was, it seemed to make him
feel better and better.
"Do you think we'll see those Riders?" asked Pipsqueak cheerfully.
Under the Elven bread's spell, a whole troop of Black Riders did not
seem so alarming to him.
"Yes, probably," said Frodo, "but I hope to get across the river
without their seeing us."
"Did you find out anything from Gildor?"
"No, not really."
"Did you ask about the smell?"
"We didn't discuss it," said Frodo with small embarassment.
"You should have. I am sure it's terribly important!"
The hobbits eyed Pipsqueak for a moment before they all broke out into
peals of laughter that they did not understand.
"My," gasped Frodo after regaining some control over his mirth, "this
is fine bread!"
They soon broke camp and started again their long trek. After a while,
Frodo called a halt and the Hobbits discovered that they had walked too
far to the south. After some small debate, they made straight East into
a wood that offered some shelter against the coming rain. As they
marched, Sam thought he caught a glint of steel in the distance and
stopped short. As he turned his head to look, Sam could have sworn he
saw an elf-maid heavily armed and camoflauged peering from behind a bush
at him, but when he blinked, nothing was there.
"What's the matter, Sam?" asked Pipsqueak.
"What? Oh, nothing master Pipsqueak, sir. Just the rain playing tricks
on me, I suppose. I could use a rest for a bit, and that's a fact."
To this they all agreed and made for the shelter of a majestic Elm.
Frodo propped his back against the tree-trunk, and closed his eyes.
Sam and Pipsqueak sat near, and they began to hum, and then to sing
Yo! Ho! Ho! and a bottle of rum!
Fifteen men on a dead man's chest,
The cabin-boy and Cap'n, an outrage to some.
But me Parrot on me shoulder, he's the best.
An the scurvy dogs a lyin' in davy Jones' locker
Will rise at the latter day - oh what a shocker!
Yo! Ho! Ho! they began again louder. They stopped short suddenly.
Frodo sprang to his feet. A long-drawn wail came down the wind, like
the cry of some fell and lonely creature: (heh) (hehhehehheh) (snicker)
(SLAP) (SPANK) (heh) (heheh) (heheheh) (snicker) (heh) (Bwwwaaaahahahahahahaa!)
(heheheh) (..........heh) It rose and fell, and ended on a high
piercing note. Even as they stood, it was answered by another cry
fainter and further off, but no less blood-chilling.
"What do you think that was?" asked Pipsqueak in a terrified voice.
"That weren't no bird I ever heard."
"It wasn't any bird or beast," said Frodo, "There were words in that
cry, though I could not catch them."
No more was said and the Hobbits quickly gathered their gear and moved
on through the woods. Very soon they came to a clearing and beyond to
fields planted with poppy and a strange variety of mushroom.
"I know these fields!" cried Pipsqueak. "We've wandered farther south
than we thought. These are Michel Delving's fields."
"Who's that?" asked Sam.
"I'm sorry. You'd know him better as Farmer Maggot, I think."
"One trouble after another," said Frodo. "I've been horribly afraid
of Farmer Maggot ever since he caught me trying to steal some of his
mushrooms as a lad. He beat me and then showed me to his wood shed.
'See, lads,' he said, 'next time this varmint sets foot on my land, you
can eat him. Now see him off!' They chased me all the way to the ferry
and I've never got over the fright!"
"Well, it's time you made it up, then, cousin," said Pipsqueak and
headed off across the fields.
"Don't you worry, master," said Sam, "I won't let no one beat you this
time, and that's a fact." Frodo screwed up his courage and set after
them, to what doom he knew not.
Suddenly, as they drew nearer to the farm-house, a terrific groaning
and grating broke out, and a loud voice was shouting, "Twig! Branch!
Elm! Come on, lads!"
The hobbits stopped dead and very soon the gate opened and three huge
logs came rolling out into the lane and dashed towards the travellers,
barking fiercely. They took no notice of Pipsqueak but two of them
cornered Sam and looked at him in a way that can only be described as
woodenly. The largest and fiercest of the logs halted in front of
Frodo, bristling and growling in a deep timbre.
Through the gate came the largest man any of the hobbits ever saw.
"Hallo! Hallo! And what may you be wanting?" he asked.
"Good afternoon, Mr Delving," said Pipsqueak.
The farmer looked at him closely. "That's Maggot to you, master
Pipsqueak - Mr Paragraph Took, I should say!" he cried with relief.
"It's been a long while since I saw you about these parts. It's a good
thing I recognised you; I was about to set my logs on you after the
queer vistor I had this morning."
"Who would that be, Mr Maggot?" asked Frodo.
"You didn't see him? He left not half an hour ago. All dressed in
Black he was and as foul smelling a customer as you could hope to meet.
Came riding right through my poppies, he did, and right up to my door
bold as you please. 'This path don't lead no where,' I said to him, 'your
best way is straight back to the road.'
"'I'm looking for Baggins,' he hissed at me.
"'Who are you?' says I.
"'Your name's "M"?'
"'Yeeeessss, that's right, my name's M. Now will you tell me if
Baggins comes? I will bring gold!' he said.
"'Oh no, you won't,' I said. 'You'll bugger off back the way you came
and double quick! You can use the path this time.' I set the logs onto
him but he struck a match and they shied away even as he stormed out
right over my poppies again! Now then, Pipsqueak, who're your
"Well, this is Sam and that's Frodo Baggins," said Pipsqueak.
"Well, if that isn't queerer than ever. You best come inside," said
Maggot and waved his arm for them to follow him.
Later, they all passed the news while waiting for Mrs Maggot to finish
preparing dinner. Frodo and Sam learned much about Mr Maggot and his
doings. He told them that the guard logs were given to him by his
brother who lived in the enchanted part of the old forest (or 100 acre
wood as it is known in latter days) and told them also of his dealings
with the Elves and their lust for the distillation made from his poppies
known as Morofeen that brought Mr Maggot most of his business these
"Haven't seen much of old Bombadil in a long time though," Maggot said,
"lives in the old forest, too, he does. Used to buy my mushrooms by the
bushel-full, but now with all the ill news and all, I can hardly push
off my special 'shrooms to the Hobbit teens down Bucklebelt way."
Then the table was set with all the hobbits could eat, and the
centerpiece was a large bowl of steamed mushrooms.
"I'm sure our master Frodo still has a liking for mushrooms, I
daresay," jibed Maggot.
"How did you..."
"Oh, I remember you all-right, Mr Baggins!" A cough from Sam drew
"I'm afraid Sam has heard about your beating me and is a little wary of
you, Mr Maggot," put in Frodo quickly, secretly waving Sam into closing
"Well, I'm sorry I beat your master, Sam, but he oughtn't have thieved
my mushrooms. Least of all those kind. Only for special customers I
grow them. Cost me a bundle, your Mr Frodo did, and right sick he would
have been, too, if he'd've eaten them. No, these mushrooms are better
for you and me!" said Maggot digging another spoonful of buttery
fungus onto his plate.
After a respite and a further dinnner and another respite, Mr Maggot
offered to take the travellers to the Bucklebelt ferry in his cart to
avoid any strangers waiting to waylay them on the road. When all was
prepared and the cart loaded, it was well after dark and Frodo worried
they might miss the last ferry and Morrie both. But his fears were
eased when after the hobbits climbed aboard the cart and were hidden
under a tarpaulin, Mr Maggot lifted mightliy on the two levers and set
off at a great pace down the road. They were bumped and bruised as the
cart's single wheel endeavored to find every crack and rock in the road,
or so it seemed to Frodo.
To break the agony of their journey, Frodo slipped on the ring and
called in a cooing voice, "Ohhhhh Saaaammmm. Sammy Sammy
"Now cut that out, Mister Frodo! It not funny trying to get me all hot
and bothered just so's you can laugh at me, and that's a fact!" Sam
"Oh, Sam, I'm only having you on. No need to be upset." said Frodo.
"Well as long as you're not trying to have it off with me, we'll get
along just fine, and that's a fact!"
"Do you end all your sentences with and that's a fact?" asked
"I don't know what you mean, Mister Pipsqueak, and that - " The
hobbits rolled with laughter for the rest of their trip.
An hour later they felt a sharp bump as Mr Maggot dropped his load
heavily. They could hear him whispering to someone on the road.
"Don't you come a step nearer, missy! Who are you and what do you
want?" There were sounds of a struggle and then a sharp high-pitched
yell followed by the sound of something large being dropped into the
river. Soon, Mr Maggot opened the make-shift cover concealing the
hobbits and bade them get out.
"What happened, Mr Maggot?" asked a very worried Frodo.
"Well, there was this queer looking lady in the road holding up the
brightest sword ever I saw. I went up to her and her face was painted
all green and brown like. She's an elf if ever I saw one, but why she
looked so fearsome, I do not know. Anyway, she takes a swing at me with
her sword, but missed her mark, so I gave her a shove just to learn her
who her betters are, but I shoves too hard and wouldn't you know -
straight over the side of the Bridge she drops right in the water. I
looked for her and thought of calling you all out to help me, but she
disappeared just as any frog might do. No sign of her now, though."
As he was finishing his tale, the sound of hoof-beats approached and
they all were relieved to see Morrie riding up across the bridge to
"There you are, Frodo!" he cried "I was worried when you didn't
arrive by nightfall, so I came looking for you. Hallo, Mr Maggot!"
"Good Ev'nin to you, master Moribund! Well, I'll leave you all now and
get myself home. I hope you'll stop travelling and settle down, Mr
Frodo, now you're here with us."
"Thank you," said Frodo, "and thanks for all your kindness."
"Well," he said after Maggot had gone a fair distance, "what are we
waiting for? Let's get to the ferry."
"Begging your pardon, Mr Frodo, sir," said Sam, "It seems to me we
could cross just as well by this here bridge, if you take my meaning."
The hobbits' blank expressions showed they clearly did not. "Why can't
we just cross here the way Mr Morrie did and save ourselves some time
and maybe trouble of another sort? We'd be a dead target for that
elf-maid - or whatever she was - us riding on the water, and that's a
....." Again Pipsqueak and Frodo howled with laughter, and Morrie led
the way down the side of the bridge to where the ferry was tethered.
This chapter of this epic work is presented through the courtesy of
Kent Butler <rincewind-aaaaaaat-worldnet-dawt-att.net>.
Copyright © 2000 by the author. All rights reserved. Some variance between this
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