Young Baggins-Part 2 - The Maggot Mushroom Scheme
The days began to seem shorter while Melilot visited. Frodo found out that his mother's cousin was Melilot's mother, so, in a way, they were related. They called each other cousins, though really they were second cousins, or something along those lines.
"Family, anyway," Melilot would say, "I suppose it doesn't matter how or in what way." And Frodo would agree.
Days were spent in the woods, hunting for mushrooms or treasure. Melilot and Frodo talked about a great number of things, mostly of Frodo's parents, for Frodo found it comforting to talk of things he remembered. Melilot knew that he didn't want to forget any one thing about them at all, so in a way, she was helping him remember.
"Because of the heat these days, it's rather hard to find mushrooms," Frodo told Melilot one day, "You have to know where to look."
"You know these woods better than me," Melilot said, "Where are we headed?"
"Down to the woods near the creek," Frodo said, but at that moment, Frodo misjudged where to put his feet at they tramped down the hill. He slipped and fell, tumbling head over heels. Melilot reached out to help him, but lost her footing as well. The two hobbits tumbled one after the other down the hill, then bumbled off a small ledge onto the riverbank, Frodo first, then Melilot on top of him.
Frodo made a queer gasping noise as he lay still in the mud.
"Frodo! Are you hurt?" Melilot exclaimed, as she sat. Frodo help up a hand as he panted for a moment, feeling his ribs.
"I'm all right," he said, "only winded."
"I'm very sorry," Melilot apologized.
"It's my fault, really," Frodo replied, "I wasn't watching where we were going." He looked 'round and gave an exasperated sigh.
"And the mushrooms are all picked over!" he groaned, "Curse those little Brandybucks!"
"Any other suggestions?" Melilot asked, pulling grass out of her red curls. Frodo thought for a moment, then looked at Melilot with a mischievious glance in his blue eyes.
"Oh dear," Melilot mumbled, "What now?"
"Farmer Maggot has mushrooms," Frodo said, grinning to himself.
"Are we going to go ask him for some?" Melilot asked.
"You can't be serious! Ask him?! No! He's mean and he has dogs!" Frodo exclaimed, "No, to get mushrooms from Maggot, you've got to sneak 'em out."
"Wouldn't he be angry?" Melilot asked.
"Well, he's gotten angry once before," Frodo said, "but I've gotten away with it a few times."
"You have?" Melilot sounded astonished.
"Well, a hobbit-lad runs out of things to do when all his cousins avoid him," Frodo said, "Are you coming or aren't you?"
"I don't know..." Melilot was hesitant.
"Oh, come!" Frodo exclaimed, "Where's your sense of adventure?"
Melilot thought for a moment, considering how lonely Frodo had been till she came to visit, then answered:
"All right, then! Let's go!"
The hobbits stood and Frodo took the lead, taking them to the top of the hill and through the woods and to the dirt road that would lead them to Farmer Maggot's home.
In a fifteen minute's time, the two were about three yards away from Farmer Maggot's door, and Frodo stopped to conspire with his accomplice.
"Listen," he said, "I know where the mushrooms are, so you follow and keep a look out behind me. And you're going to have to keep absolutely quiet. Maggot's dogs hear everything."
"Won't they smell us?" Melilot asked.
"Maybe," Frodo said, "if they do, always follow me. We'll make for the woods by the Ferry if he finds us." Frodo then turned and snuck down the lane, first motioning for Melilot to keep quiet.
They crept up to the door and around the hill of the hobbit-hole. As they rounded the corner, Frodo suddenly stopped.
"He's chopping wood," he whispered. Melilot listened and could hear the definite sounds of an axe hacking rythmically against wood.
"What are we supposed to do?" Melilot asked.
"We'll crawl around behind those bushes," Frodo replied, and dropped onto his stomach and used his elbows to pull himself forward. Melilot followed him as they wiggled their way behind the thick pine bushes. Maggot's constant chopping of firewood pierced the quiet day and cut the air of anticipation that hung about the hobbit-children.
They slipped around the back to where Mrs. Maggot's kitchen garden grew. There, in the far corner, grew a bunch of thick, juicy mushrooms, calling to be picked and eaten. Frodo and Melilot immediately dove into the bunch and began tearing up handfuls of mushrooms, for though hobbits are stout creatures, it is possible to narrow down a single weakness in all hobbits: mushrooms. And here grew the prize mushrooms of Buckland, large and soft. The young hobbits greedily yanked at every mushroom in sight, occasionally gnawing at one or two *(by the way, note to the ignorant: don't do this at home. Shire mushrooms are different than ours. Our mushrooms can be dangerous and potentially poisonous.)*
"How are we supposed to carry all these?" Melilot whispered.
"Stuff them in your pockets," Frodo instructed. Melilot obeyed, and soon both hobbits had bulging pockets. But all too soon came the sound of harsh, almost morbid barking of dogs.
"Shut-up, you!" Frodo heard Maggot yell, "What 'you yellin' at?"
"Isn't it about time we split?" Melilot asked. Frodo looked torn. What a decision for a young hobbit! - mushrooms or escape...mushrooms or escape...?
Frodo stashed a few more mushrooms into his pockets, but by then it was too late.
"Snitching mushrooms, eh?" Frodo looked up to see Maggot, with his axe in his right hand, standing in the way of their escape.
"Run, Meli!" Frodo shouted. He didn't see where she went or when, let alone how, but in the next moment, he found himself backing away from Farmer Maggot's wide figure, alone.
"You're the little Baggins orphan, aren't you?" Maggot said. Frodo didn't answer.
"Are you a mute Baggins as well?" Maggot said. Frodo shook his head, trembling.
"So tell me, what are you doing in my wife's garden, hm?" Maggot continued. Frodo remained silent.
"Do I need to find your tongue for you, young Baggins?" Maggot asked.
"No, sir," Frodo answered.
"Then what were you doing in my mushroom patch?" Farmer Maggot's face was now only two inches away from Frodo's, so close that Frodo could smell the hint of mushrooms on his breath, and though Frodo loved the taste of mushrooms, the smell reeked terribly. Frodo blinked away tears and answered:
"Mushroom hunting?!" Maggot looked livid, "Is that what you think of my farm: that you can just roam in off the street and take you pick of the best mushrooms in my wife's garden?!"
"No, sir!" Frodo said, trembling.
"But that's what you did!"
"I'm very sorry, sir! It won't happen again!"
"As I recall, young Baggins, those are your exact words from the last time I caught you in my mushrooms!"
Frodo made no plea to help himself; he was already a goner. Maggot would feed him to his dogs and not even a carcass would be left of him! Frodo closed his eyes in a silent prayer and hoped it would not hurt too much.
For a moment, Maggot did nothing at all. Frodo ventured to open one eye to see what had become of the vicious hobbit, but in that moment, Maggot whipped out a long cane and swatted Frodo across the backside with a resounding-THWACK!
Frodo lept nearly two feet in the air, utterly surprised by what had just happened. He felt like he had just sat on a hot iron and surely the heat would burn away a hole in his breeches. Then again, Maggot gave him another THWACK!- and Frodo fell on his face, catching himself with his hands. Somehow, Maggot managed to lay another THWACK! right across where the previous THWACK!s had been laid. Frodo's eyes stung with tears, but he would not let his enemy see him cry.
"Seems to me that since you ain't got a father," Maggot was saying, "I've got to be the one to teach you these things!" He grabbed Frodo by the shoulders and yanked him to his feet, forcing him to walk. Frodo could hardly feel his legs, since all his mind was bent on the pain in his backside.
"Fang! Wolf! Grip!" Maggot was calling his dogs, and suddenly, the terror of terrors met Frodo's eyes: three great wolf-like dogs with fangs about 3-inches long stood snarling in front of him.
"Next time this lad is on our land, you can eat him," Maggot said, as the dogs snarled loudly at Frodo. Frodo could no longer contain his fear, and, tearing himself from Maggot's grip, he broke into a run and was soon on the road to the Ferry.
"Frodo! Hold up half a moment! Wait for me!" Frodo could Melilot's voice following him, but he couldn't make his legs stop their frantic pace, even for his cousin. Within a few moments, however, Melilot had caught up with him.
"Are you hurt?!" she asked him.
"Just terrified!" Frodo replied, over the sudden barking, and then he realized it: they were being chased! Frodo looked over his shoulder and saw the three dogs closing in on him and Melilot. Their yellow eyes glared with an evil light against the afternoon sun and their teeth shone a terrible white.
"Great Arda, Frodo! He's sicced his dogs on us!" Melilot screamed. No one could blame Frodo if in this moment he uttered some words that aren't worth repeating...
They were chased into the woods, pursued by the constant snarling and yelping of the three terrors. Neither Frodo nor Melilot dared to look back, for fear of how close the wolfish dogs really were.
They were nearly to the Ferry when the dogs finally gave up and turned around and ran home. Perhaps it was because they had heard their master's call, or they truly were fed up with their pointless chase. Frodo never figured out which it was.
He and Melilot paused against a tree to rest. Both were nearly wasted, but Frodo hurt too much to sit down. Melilot sat, however, to pull out a splinter that had got caught in her foot. She tossed Frodo a mushroom.
"Saved a few," she told him.
"Thank you," he said, but somehow, the taste didn't seem as tantalizing as he once thought it would. He let it fall to the ground, and he wiped a sleeve across his sweat-drenched forehead. That's when he heard a queer noise. He looked down at Melilot. Her head rest against the tree bark and her shoulders shook in laughter--laughter!!
"What is so funny about this?!" Frodo demanded to know. Melilot only shrugged.
"I have no idea," she said, "maybe it's just all the ridiculous trouble we went through for a bunch of mushrooms." Frodo saw her sense, and soon began to laugh as well. However, neither of them ever attempted to venture into Farmer Maggot's garden again.
That night, the supper meal at Brandy Hall was a chicken stew, with celery, peas, and a whole lot of...mushrooms! And no one noticed the exasperated looks exchanged between a young Moss and a young Baggins.
To Be Continued...