The Lord of the... whatever, Book I, Chapter 5:

A Conspiracy Undressed

   "Well," said Morrie, as the laughter subsided, "we'd 
best be going ourselves.  I'm looking forward to a meal 
and a pint of ale."  Across the river the hobbits could 
see the cheerful glow of neon lights blinking in the 
windows of Brandy Hall.

   Long ago, Gorhendad Oldbuck (Morrie's great-great-great-
grandfather, his great-great-uncle, or his third cousin once 
removed, depending on which branch of the family tree you 
trace) was the town drunk of Bywater.  People called him all 
kinds of names -- Drunkenbuck, Alebuck, and the like -- but the 
name that stuck was Brandybuck.  Unfortunately for him, he 
lived at the time of the Shire's great experiment with 
prohibition.  Unhappy with the dry state of affairs, he moved 
across the Brandywine River and set up his own little country, 
where the alcohol flowed freely.  Pretty soon, the greater 
portion of the Shire's population was packed into a small strip 
of land between the River and the Forest.  The mayor of Michel 
Delving finally admitted defeat and repealed prohibition.  Most 
hobbit folk returned to the four farthings, but Brandybuck and 
his family had set up a nice home in Bucklebeltland, so they 
stayed behind.  To this day, Bucklebeltland is still known for 
it's cavalier attitude towards the Shire's laws (making it the 
perfect place for Frodo to hide out from tax laws and bill 
collectors), and also for the fine quality of its many pubs.

   As the ferry-boat moved away from the shore, Sam peered 
uneasily at the darkly swirling water, convinced that an armed 
elf-princess would jump up and bonk him on the nose.  Knowing 
the Bucklebeltlanders' reputation, he wasn't sure that he liked 
the idea of taking a boat piloted by Morrie (after all, Frodo's 
parents Gordo and Primadonna had died in an accident involving 
drinking and boating).  "Um, about that bridge," he offered, 
"couldn't that Black Rider fellow just ride across and attack 
us on the other side?"
   "Samwise, my butt," grumbled Morrie to himself, "Samfool 
is more like it."  Aloud he answered, "It's clearly posted that 
you have to take boats eastbound, and since this is the last boat, 
we'll be safe."
   Peering into the murk, Sam could just make out a dark figure 
walking around on the west bank.  The figure moved towards the 
bridge, but noticing a sign it turned dejectedly and disappeared 
into the night.
   "Here we are," declared Morrie as the ferry pulled into its 
slip.  "Coming, Sam?"  Looking around, Sam realized that Pipsqueak 
and Frodo had already scrambled ashore.  "C'mon, Sam, Crickhollow 
is just around the corner and Fatty's getting dinner on."

   Entering Crickhollow, Frodo could tell that his friends had taken 
great pains to set it up just like his old home at Bag End.  All of 
his posters were already up on the walls, his fish were swimming happily 
in an aquarium set up in the corner, and they had even left a pile of 
his dirty laundry beside the T.V.  He felt ashamed that they'd gone to 
all of this work and he was going to have to leave them.
   "Dinner smells great," said Pipsqueak to Fatty, who was just coming 
out of the kitchen, "but after sleeping under a tree last night I need 
to wash up first.  It's bath time."
   "Which order shall we go in," said Frodo.  "Smartest first, or cutest 
first?  You'll be last either way, Master Pipsqueak."
   "No fear!" said Merry, "There are two tubs back there.  You're left 
with the shower, though, Sam.  In a class-based society such as this you 
really can't expect a servant-boy like you to enjoy the same luxuries as 
your betters."
   As the three travelers filed back to the washroom, Sam was muttering 
something about ". . . first one up against the wall when the revolution 
comes."  Soon, though, the sound of splashing and wallowing was mixed 
with the sound of Pipsqueak's favorite bathing song.

   Rubber Ducky, you're the one,
   You make bathtime lots of fun,
   Rubber Ducky, I'm awfully fond of you;

   (woh woh, bee doh!)

   Rubber Ducky, joy of joys,
   When I squeeze you, you make noise!
   Rubber Ducky, you're my very best friend, it's true!

   (doo doo doo doooo, doo doo)

   Rubber Ducky, you're so fine
   And I'm lucky that you're mine
   Rubber ducky, I'm awfully fond of -
   Rubber ducky, I'd like a whole pond of -
   Rubber ducky I'm awfully fond of you!

There was a terrific flush, and a shout of "Whoa!" from Sam as he was scalded 
in the shower.  It wasn't long before all three were drawn back to the dining 
room by the smell of Fatty's roasted mushrooms.

   Now, if you've ever met a hobbit, you know that they love to eat.  For such 
little guys, they can pack away a lot of food, which is why you'd better
be sure 
you've a well-stocked larder before inviting a hobbit home for the weekend.  
Above all, though, hobbits loved mushrooms.  Hobbit gourmands had identified 
seven hundred and thirty eight varieties of edible mushrooms, and from the 
look of his waistline, you could tell that Fatty was familiar with them all.  
He'd prepared a sumptuous six course feast based completely around fungus.  
He started with a nice little appetizer of mushrooms stuffed with cheese, 
followed by a salad of morels, stir fried shitakes, grilled portabellos, and 
roasted truffles.  He ended it all with mushroom ice cream, but curiously 
everyone decided they were full at that point, and pulled their chairs around 
the fireplace to talk.
   "Well, I'm not sure exactly how to say this . . ." started Frodo when 
Pipsqueak interrupted.
   "Years from now," he began, "when someone writes the story of our
adventures, no one is going to want to dwell on this scene.  They'll want to
move ahead into the action, so let's not draw this out.  Let's just pretend 
that you already know that we know all about the Ring . . . "
   "But how?" protested Frodo.
   "Do you think we're idiots?" Morrie piped in.  "You'd never have a chance 
with Pipsqueak's cousin Cassiopiea without magical help.  You're my
friend, man, but I've got to say that you've got a face only a mother 
could love.  A blind mother."
   "Anyway," continued Pipsqueak, "let's just pretend that we've already
told you we're going with you, you've protested, and we've insisted.  
Sam's nice and all, but let's face it, he's a bit of a stick in the mud.  
Adventures will be a lot more fun with Morrie and I along."
   "You are a set of scoundrels!" cried Frodo.  "Bless you one and all." 
They all danced around Frodo (not that there's anything wrong with 
that) and Morrie and Pipsqueak started a song they'd apparently 
composed for the occasion.

   Farewell we call to hearth and hall!
   To hobbit lasses one and all.
   To Cassiopiea, Mary Jane,
   To Beth, and Ruth, and sweet Lorraine.

   To the wafflefoot twins with kisses sweet,
   To all the gals with those sexy bare furry feet.
   Someday we'll return to this corner of the world,
   And maybe even Sam will meet a nice hobbit girl.

   For now we're off on a quest of sorts,
   To meet the women found in exotic ports.
   We might find elf-maids with pointy ears,
   Or even kiss dwarf girls (after eight or nine beers).

   We must be gone, we must be gone.
   We leave before the crack of dawn!

   "Actually, guys, if it's okay with you, could we wait until about nine 
or so?" asked Frodo.  "I'm exhausted."
   "Well, of course we'll sleep in.  'Nine' just doesn't rhyme.  'We must 
be gone, we must be gone, we leave before the crack of nine'?  Old Bilbo 
would have never let me get by with a song like that," said Morrie.  "I've 
got it all set up.  We'll wake up at nine, Fatty will make up a nice breakfast 
of mushroom omelets, Sam will pack all of our bags while we have a nice 
leisurely smoke, and we'll be gone by noon.  Our route takes us hiking through 
the Old Forest."
   Fatty suddenly went pale.  "Wait a minute!  No one told me anything about 
the Forest!  I can't go in there, I'm afraid of trees!"
   "You're afraid of trees?  What kind of pansy are you?" demanded Frodo.  
"If you can't handle a few trees, you're not going to do us much good on 
the road.  Maybe you should stay behind and tell Gandalf where to find us."
   Fatty seemed relieved that everyone agreed to this plan.  After some 
final preparations, they all settled down to bed.
   After tossing and turning for some time, Frodo finally settled down 
into an uneasy sleep.  Eventually he fell into a vague dream in which he 
seemed to be looking out of a high window over a dark sea of tangled trees.  
When he turned away from the window to face the classroom, he noticed he 
wasn't wearing any clothes.  Just then, the teacher started to pass out 
an exam that he hadn't studied for.  In a panic, he woke up.

Book I, Chapter Four / Table of Contents / Book I, Chapter Six
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