Hobbits in the Basement Part II - In which an alliance is made
In Which a Life is Saved
The library door slammed behind me. I slunk down the dark corridors excitement pounding through my veins. It was now well after curfew, but somehow I wasn't afraid of being caught out of my dorm. My mind was focused on one thing. "I knew it!" I said excitedly to myself "I KNEW IT!" I was so happy and not to mention relieved! I wasn't crazy! They were real! There were hobbits in the basement! "I knew it I knew it I knew it!"
Mentha had shoved me out of the library after swearing me to secrecy. "Who am I going to tell?" I had responded "Who's going to believe me for that matter?" She had let me go reluctantly and here I was, skulking back to my dorm after dark and praying I wouldn't run in to Madame Humbert.
I hurried through the deserted great hall. I was truly late. The halls were all dark and slits of light came out from under the student's doors. I ran even faster, hurtling up the stairs, my foot caught on the rug, which had been purposely raised. I went sprawling for the fifth time that day. My glasses flew off and I landed hard, knocking the air from my lungs. I lay coughing for a moment until I heard giggles as a door near me was opened a crack. I sighed exasperatedly. Didn't they ever get sick of this? I got up on my hands and knees and began to search for my glasses through blurred vision.
The sound of footsteps started coming toward me accompanied by gasps and whispers. The giggles died away, the corridor became utterly silent. The footsteps stopped. I could make out the figures of two black shoes standing in front of me.
"Here, let me help." Someone put my glasses into my groping fingers. I shoved them onto my nose and looked up at the figure in front of me. It was that new girl who had been in my conversation class that afternoon. She was about my height, but she was much more slender. She had wavy; bordering on curly blonde hair that fell down her back and light green eyes. She held a hand down to me. I stared stupidly at her.
"Erm.... I don't mean to be rude or anything, but...What on earth are you doing?" A small amused smile flickered across her face.
"Helping you up." She said. My hearing must be going... I thought she just said...
"Why?" I asked utterly confuddled. She smiled in earnest now.
"Because I'm polite." She said. I was bewildered. What was she going o about? Still unsure, I took her outstretched hand and she pulled me to my feet.
"Uh...thank you." I said. I was still confused. What was going on? Was this some kind of trick. Nobody was EVER nice to me willingly.
"What's your name?" she asked
"Amelia." I said rubbing the spot where my ribs had connected with the floor.
"I'm Sarah North." An introduction? This was getting serious! I didn't know what to say. Sarah smiled at me again. I wondered how many times a person could smile in the space of three minutes.
"So," she said. "Do you make it a habit to fall five times a day?" If it was meant to be a joke, I didn't laugh. Sarah continued. "Anyway... I'm new here and, I couldn't help but notice... well you kind of go it alone don't you?" What was she doing?
"Well, you seem kind of lonely."
"I'm not lonely."
"That's good. But... I was wondering, since I don't know anybody around here... can I hang out with you?" I was downright shocked at this one.
"Why in God's name would you want to do that?"
She laughed. LAUGHED! Did she think she could just waltz on in here and be friends with anyone she liked? She obviously didn't realize how things operated here. She didn't know her entire social life was at stake.
"You act like you don't want any friends." Sarah said still chuckling.
"I don't- I mean, I do, I mean... " I broke off. I was sounding like an idiot. "Look, I appreciate what you're trying to do, but I don't need your charity and it would be better for us both if you just go on avoiding me. Trust me on this one." Sarah smirked.
"I'm not a very trusting person." She grinned again. "Come on, let's go back to your dorm. I've already finished my work. I thought I'd help you with those essays." She motioned for me to follow. There were more whispers from the onlookers in the doorways. Couldn't this kid take a hint?
"Thanks but no thanks." I said and, not knowing what else to do, I walked briskly past her to my room. Flopping on my bed I wondered if she'd really meant what she'd said. It would be nice to have a friend, but I knew that hanging out with me would earn her the same treatment that I suffered through every day. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy, let alone Sarah North, who seemed so nice. So, I decided that, eventually Sarah would realize that I was right. She'd leave me alone and get on with her life.
I was wrong. Sarah did NOT leave me alone. She seemed convinced that I was best friend material. Everywhere I went she was there, smiling. I had never known someone to smile so much! Over the next month she waved at me in the halls, she chose me as her lab partner in science; she even took to sitting at my lunch table, though I never talked to her. It was all I could do to shake her off before I went to the library to see Mentha and the Hobbits.
Mentha had enough sense to know that once I had discovered the hobbits, there was no point trying to keep me away. She informed Master Burton of my new knowledge and, after much convincing on Mentha's part, he agreed to let me help care for them. Mentha explained that although Togo was sixteen and Pansy was nine, they were still quite young as hobbits go. I knew that of course but it was odd having to take care of somebody older than me.
Pansy grew immensely fond of me as the weeks passed, and I became fond of her. Togo however, remained suspicious and cold towards me. You can't blame the poor little bloke though. Men did destroy his home. I wondered why he disliked me so much but trusted Mentha. When I inquired to the petite librarian about it she changed the subject and ignored the question. Forget that thought I guess.
Sometimes when I went to see Pansy and Togo I would bring a Tolkien book. Pansy liked the adventures of the fellowship, but her true favorite was Bilbo Baggins' tale of stolen dwarf gold and dragons. She'd always ask me to read the same scene, in which Bilbo confronted the foul dragon Smaug. She'd heard it so many times she could recite right along with me:
"I am the friend of bears and the guest of eagles. I am Ringwinner and Luckwearer; and I am Barrel-rider!"
Turns out, that Master Tolkiens' stories about the Bagginses were told in hobbit homes for centuries. The events in them happened so long ago, no one knew what was truth and what was fiction. Lots of hobbits thought they were just stories. Pansy however, was a true believer. She would grab a stick from the firewood pile and pretend she was wielding the great sword Sting and slaying the giant spiders in Mirkwood. Togo, being cynical as he was, would sit in his chair and roll his eyes. He hardly ever spoke to me, and when he did, his words were short and curt. I could only hope he would warm up to me as I got to know him better.
I was heading back up to my dorm one evening after a visit when I bumped into Sarah.
"Hello Amelia!" She said like she always did.
"Hello." I said and moved to keep walking but Sarah stopped me.
"What have you got there?" I showed her the book I was holding, J.R.R's Two Towers. Togo rather liked the battle at Helms Deep and I was making an effort to be nice to him.
Sarah's eyes widened. "Are you a Tolkien fan too?"
"Why?" I asked
"Because Tolkien is my favorite author in the entire world!"
I started backing away, doubt seeping into my thoughts.
"Look, if you're putting me on to get me to like you-" She interrupted me before I could finish.
"Three rings for Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf Lords in their halls of stone-"
I stared at her dumbfounded
"Nine for mortal men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne- Shall I go on? I know the rest."
I gaped at her. "You've got to be kidding me!" I said. "You've got it written on your hand or something!"
She lifted both palms.
"No I haven't. My father read "The Hobbit" to me when I was seven and I've been hooked ever since."
"What's your favorite book?"
"Boromir. The bloke doesn't get enough credit in my opinion."
I shook my head in disbelief. "Why didn't you TELL me you were a Tolkien fan?"
"Well, how was I supposed to know YOU were one!"
She grinned at me, and for the first time, I grinned back.
"Have you got homework still?" She asked.
"Want a hand?"
Having a best friend was a new experience for me. At first, it was a bit odd. I was used to going everywhere doing everything alone. It was definitely something to get used to. It was a welcome change when I realized it was okay to talk to her. I found that I WAS lonely. As much as I wanted to deny it. And when Sarah wasn't there, I found myself wishing she were. Though the pranks and torments of the other kids continued I found it easier to bear with Sarah around. Much to my dismay, Sarah was being shunned and ignored. She claimed that she didn't mind and stuck stubbornly by my side.
The more I got to know Sarah, the more I liked her. In mindset, we were twins. She believed that life was too short to waste on trends and gossip. She was a true-hearted Tolkiener, and always ready with a smile or a joke. She told me that there had been a movie made of "The Fellowship" and "The Two Towers." And was aghast when I said that I'd never seen either. She went off on this long ramble about how great it was and rattled off several actors who were in it, and how the director looked like a hobbit ect. ect. When I inquired as to who played the part of Frodo she said:
"Some Iowa chappie called Wood. His accent tends to lapse a bit but he's got smashing eyes!"
I never told Sarah where I disappeared to in the evenings, although she begged me to tell repeatedly. Mentha had said, tell NO ONE and I assumed that NO ONE included Sarah.
"Pansy are you all right?" I said, "You've been awfully quiet tonight."
Pansy jumped when I said her name. She'd been acting strangely all evening. Opposed to her normal boisterous self, She just sat quietly on the rug, as close to the fire as she could get. She looked up at me with innocent eyes.
"I'm fine Amelia, I don't know what you're talking about." She said, and tucked her feet up under her skirt.
Togo sat up a little straighter in his chair. "Are you sure? You've been looking a bit off-color lately, and you cough-"
"Togo, I'm fine! I don't know why you two are fussing so much!" She abruptly changed the subject.
"Amelia, Will you read the spider battle again?"
"Again? You've got it memorized now."
I yawned and looked at my watch. It was nearing one o'clock in the morning. Thank goodness it was a Friday.
"Not tonight, Pansy. I've got to sneak back upstairs before somebody Wakes up and notices I'm not there."
I groaned as I forced my stiff legs into a standing position. I gathered up my books slowly. I didn't want to go back upstairs.
Pansy picked up the last book and handed it to me. I ruffled her hair.
"See you tomorrow." I told her
I left them a bit more worried than when I had arrived. When I ruffled her hair, Pansy's head had been too hot to be normal. Still, if she said she felt all right-
I reached the top of the stairs and peeked out from behind the secret bookcase. All clear. I slipped out and shut the door with a soft click. As I was leaving, I noticed a light on in Mentha's office.
That's odd. I thought. I made for the door, but then stopped. Why would Mentha be awake at this hour? I turned and went to the office door.
Mentha was inside, holding a large suitcase and a stack of yellowed papers.
"Where are YOU going?" I asked.
Mentha jumped. "Amelia! Oh dear what a fright ye gave me child!"
"Sorry, but, where are you going at this hour?"
"I- I'm takin' the weekend off. Goin' to the country."
"In the middle of the night."
Mentha sighed, set the suitcase down, and sat on it.
"Amelia, this trip is off great importance. I'm goin' to be gone for several days, and I wouldn' trust the care of the hobbits to anyone but you. So, I'm leavin' you in charge."
Me? To ME? I stared at her wide-eyed.
"Oh Amelia you'll be all right. It's only a couple of days."
"But- but class-"
"Oh I've already taken care if that. I've had you exempt from four classes a day."
I got up and did a little victory dance around the office. Mentha took my arm.
" Amelia, be serious for a moment."
I sat down with a plunk on the floor in front of her.
"The safety of Togo and Pansy is most important right now. We must keep them safe until I get back"
""I promise, I will, but what's so important?"
Mentha lowered her voice "This trip could change the course of everythin' in their future. For the better, or for the worse."
The clock in the hall clanged an out of tune melody. Mentha seemed to come to herself.
"Gracious! Look at me, sittin' here runnin' my mouth when you oughta be asleep!"
She got up off the suitcase and ushered me to the door.
"Come, come now, to bed with ye! And mind ye don't get caught on the way back up."
I was sleeping soundly a few hours later, with the blankets pulled up around my chin to ward off a draft.
I woke with a start. A slit of light had fallen across my face. I peered around the room through blurry eyes. Where was the light coming from? Then I saw- the dormitory door was open. Why would the door be open? Everyone was asleep. Was someone in the room that shouldn't be?
I heard scrabbling on the floor. Fear jumped into my throat. Or something?
Whatever it was, was coming closer, crawling along the floor. I glanced at my roommates. Didn't they hear it? It was about three feet from my bed. My breath was starting to come faster. What the heck was crawling on my floor?!
I resisted the urge to duck my head under the covers, though I desperately wanted to. The thing was less then a foot away. I felt a tug as it grabbed hold of my blanket to pull itself up. I opened my mouth to scream-
A small hand clapped over my mouth before I could utter a sound.
"Amelia! It's me! Be quiet!"
I pulled the fingers away from my face.
"Togo? What in the name of heaven and earth are you doing?"
I could see him now, standing in the light from the door, his hair tousled and his eyes wide and scared. I sat up and reached for my glasses.
"How did you get up here? What's going on?"
"It's Pansy...she...I couldn't find Mentha...we need to get help."
"Help? Why? What's wrong?"
"Pansy's sick. She said she's really cold, but I've put four blankets on her and she's sweating. She keeps coughing and she makes raspy noises when she breathes. We've got to do something now!"
I got out of bed straight away.
"I knew something was wrong! Go! Get back downstairs. I'll get some help and be right behind you." His face looked so worried it compelled me to say: "Calm down everything will be okay." He nodded and padded silently out of the room. As I pulled my bathrobe over my shoulders, the reality of the situation hit me. Get help? Who was I going to get? The only other person besides me who knew about the hobbits was Mentha, and she was gone. Then it occurred to me. There was one more. Master Burton knew. But I had no idea where his office was. The only people who went to his office were troublemakers and new students. New students? Sarah! Sarah had been there! She knew where it was. But, that would mean I'd have to tell her my secret. Could I trust her? I decided I had to. Pansy's life may be at stake. I slipped out of the dormitory and down to Room Four, Which was where Sarah was housed.
I slid open the door and crept inside, praying I wouldn't wake anyone else up. I was a bit worried about waking Sarah. Would she come? Then I saw dim light coming from the direction of Sarah's bed. I breathed a sigh of relief. She was awake and reading under the covers with a flashlight.
"Psst! Sarah! Hey! Sarah!" The covers flipped back.
"Amelia? What are you doing?"
"No time to explain, just listen, go up to Master Burton's office. Wake him up and tell him to come to the library. It's urgent!" She was giving me an odd look. "I promise I'm not crazy! Will you go? Please! This is important!" Her eyes searched mine for a moment as if to find an answer to my strange behavior, but then nodded and got out of bed. "Thank you! Thank you! Please hurry!"
I left as quickly as I could.
Pansy was huddled under her blankets in her bed when I got there. Togo was by her side.
"Amelia." She said weakly. "I didn't want to worry you earlier, but, I don't feel very well."
I knelt next to the bed.
"I know, It's all right. Help is on the way."
She coughed. It sounded awful. Like there was liquid in her lungs. I felt her forehead; it was hotter than it had been that evening. I was at a loss as to what to do. I'd never dealt with this kind of thing before. Guilt was starting to build up inside me. I should've told Mentha earlier about Pansy. It might not have gotten this bad if I would have. This was all my fault.
Pansy whimpered and started to cry. "I want my mother, Amelia." She said and reached her little arms up to me.
"Oh sweetie," I said as I pulled her into my lap. "I know. I know you want your mum." I rocked her back and forth as she cried into my nightshirt. Not knowing what else to do, I started singing.
"The road goes ever on and on,
down from the door where it began,
now far ahead the road has gone,
and I must follow, if I can.
I continued to hold her and rock her until she fell asleep. At almost the same moment, I heard footsteps in the corridor, and the headmaster, Mr. Burton, stooped near in half to get in the door, entered. His frizzly gray hair was sleep-ruffled but his eyes looked wide awake. Behind him, looking utterly bewildered came Sarah.
Master Burton stepped forward. "What seems to be the problem?"
"She's really sick sir, She needs a doctor."
He bent low over Pansy. "Hmmmm. You are right. Let me see her." I handed Pansy to him. I thanked God that she didn't wake.
Master Burton wrapped a blanket around her and headed toward the door. "Stay here, I will return."
Togo stood up. "Wait a minute, where are you taking my sister?!" He started to move to stop him but Master Burton turned around.
"Peace Togo, she will be safe with me. Wait here." And with that, he was gone.
It proved to be a long night. We sat, long past dawn, waiting for Master Burton to return. Where he had taken Pansy, we didn't know. Sarah and I talked briefly about going upstairs for class, but it didn't take much to decide against it.
I didn't give Sarah any explanation as to why there was a hobbit hole in the basement of our school, and she didn't ask. She seemed to know that I wasn't in the mood for long explanations. I was consumed by worry for my little hobbit friends, both Pansy, and Togo. What if the worst happened? Pansy was all Togo had left. What would he do without her? Don't think about that! I told myself. Pansy's going to be fine! But what if she's not? Stop it! I was doing the Gollum thing again!
HOURS later, we finally heard footsteps coming down the stairs. I was sprawled on the floor, Togo was asleep in a chair, and Sarah was propped up on her elbows next to the fire. The steps grew louder and louder. We both stared at the door willing it to be... and it was. Master Burton crouched into the room. We both jumped up.
"Master Burton sir!" "Where did you go?" "Is Pansy okay?"
He motioned for us to be quiet.
"Don't wake the little one." He said. "Let him sleep." He smiled warmly. "I will answer your questions. Sit down."
"Pansy is going to be fine."
The air whooshed out of my lungs in relief.
"She has quite a severe case of pneumonia. The doctor told me that if I had got there an hour later, the results would have been disastrous. It was good that you sent for me when you did Ms. Godwin."
"But what doctor did you take her to Sir?" I asked. If I were a doctor, I would think it a bit odd if someone brought in a hobbit.
Master Burton smiled
"When you are as old as I am my dear, you will have accumulated several trustworthy friends in many fields of business. Pansy is now resting at my old friend Doctor Medson's medical clinic. He want to keep her over this next week, just to make sure nothing changes."
He smiled again. "And now, I can see you ladies haven't got a wink of sleep, I suggest you remain here until you are fit to return to class." He got up and headed for the door.
"I'll inform your teachers. Good day ladies!"
"Good day sir."
He was gone again.
Sarah looked at me.
"You've got something to tell me I think." She said.
I told her all I knew about the hobbits as we made up beds on the floor. When I was finished, she sat looking awed at me.
"I have only one thing to say and that is... Wow." She said.
"You're not mad at me?"
"For not telling you?"
"You don't find all of this a little weird?"
"Weird? It's bloody brilliant! Hobbits in the basement! What next? Elves in the attic?"
To be continued....