by Silent Draco
Part 4 of 4
Bilbo and Ham made their way down the road and around the Water, to many a cheer and farewell from The Green Dragon. The simple tune kept humming in their ears, and soon they began to sing verses, kicking up their heels carefully on the wet and muddy road. Up the lane they went, Bilbo leaning more often on Hamfast’s arm for balance as they came to Bagshot Row. Here they both paused for breath, Bilbo wiping his flushed face with a pocket-handkerchief. “You know, one should never run out the door without … well,” he chortled, “that’s a story told best another night again. Good night. Master Hamfast,” he bowed, and poor Ham almost fell onto the row as he bowed in turn. Bilbo continued up the lane, humming and singing.
Hamfast made it to his gate, opening it quite carefully and closing it even more slowly. The stones felt unusually tilted, and he was careful of the herb border. One step at a time, brought him closer, but he could hear Bilbo trying to use the correct key on the large front door, all the while singing faintly:
I’ll step right up, then step right back,
Step left back up and step right wide!
All of a sudden there came a groan and grinding wrench, as though a millstone had quite lost its senses and ground its way out. A faint, alarmed voice drifted down on the cool breeze. “Master Hamfast, may I beg for assessment, assistance please?” Ham wove his way uphill in alarm, wonder what could have occurred. He paused just shy of the lane’s end, gazing in wide wonder. “Oh my stars, Mister Bilbo, what happened?” He was greeted with a peculiar view.
“Mister Bilbo, sir, it appears you opened the front hall sideways, beggin’ yer pardon!” Ham peered once and once again, tilting his head barely sideways (the ground again threated to slip on him). Bilbo snorted, responding “Piffle! How can one open a hall when one opens a… door, and the door swings back as though a load of … bricks …? Oh, dear.” He looked quite carefully, squinting the while at the lamp, leaning like a young willow in strong winds. “Oh, dear,” he repeated, “Master Hamfast, does everything look awry for some reason?”
“P-perhaps, ‘twas something about that song, sir? It didn’t sound quite right, ye chorusing. Can ye close the door and tryin’ that again?” Hamfast was most flustered, thinking of how awkward this would make coming in with boxes and packages, let alone the peculiar trim the bushes would now require. After a reluctant nod and another gaze, he turned to the recalcitrant door, and thought. “Master Hamfast, I suppose that singing that odd couplet with a vigorous re-locking may help? And would you mind terribly, giving me an assist?” Ham approached and made a back for Bilbo to step up. Bilbo reversed the miscues, and the door closed with an affronted groan. A moment later, to their astonished eyes, everything appeared as it should.
Bilbo looked relieved, and with a twinkle in his eye, said “Then I believe we must have imbibed a bit more of that Dragon’s hoard than was quite proper.” While saying this, Bilbo stepped up, then back, click-clacking his heels the while. Stepping back to his left and a bound to the right, he unlocked the front door, turned and bade Ham goodnight again, backing inside all the while. The door closed to the sound of relieved laughter and a less eventful song.
Hamfast held his breath a moment and closed his eyes, fearing to see the worst. Opening his eyes again, everything looked as it should. Taking off his cap, he bowed slightly and murmured “good night, sir”, and warily made his way back to Number Three’s more comfortable and well-behaved door. Of three things he was certain: there was more to good Mister Bilbo than met the eye; there was something quite peculiar about foreign parts and folks; and he would speak aught of this to Daisy.