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There, though Elrond had departed, his sons long remained, together with some of the High-elven folk. It is said that Celeborn went to dwell there after the departure of Galadriel; but there is no record of the day when at last he sought the Grey Havens, and with him went the last living memory of the Elder Days in Middle-earth. When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.

Bilbo was very rich and very peculiar, and had been the wonder of the Shire for sixty years, ever since his remarkable disappearance and unexpected return. The riches he had brought back from his travels had now become a local legend, and it was popularly believed, whatever the old folk might say, that the Hill at Bag End was full of tunnels stuffed with treasure. And if that was not enough for fame, there was also his prolonged vigour to marvel at.

Time wore on, but it seemed to have little effect on Mr. At ninety he was much the same as at fifty. At ninety-nine they began to call him well -preserved, but unchanged would have been nearer the mark. There were some that shook their heads and thought this was too much of a good thing; it seemed unfair that anyone should possess apparently perpetual youth as well as reputedly inexhaustible wealth.

But so far trouble had not come; and as Mr. Baggins was generous with his money, most people were willing to forgive him his oddities and his good fortune. He remained on visiting terms with his relatives except, of course, the Sackville-Bagginses , and he had many devoted admirers among the hobbits of poor and unimportant families.

But he had no close friends, until some of his younger cousins began to grow up. When Bilbo was ninety-nine, he adopted Frodo as his heir, and brought him to live at Bag End; and the hopes of the Sackville-Bagginses were finally dashed. Bilbo and Frodo happened to have the same birthday, September 22nd. Twelve more years passed. Each year the Bagginses had given very lively combined birthday-parties at Bag End; but now it was understood that something quite exceptional was being planned for that autumn.

Tongues began to wag in Hobbiton and Bywater; and rumour of the coming event travelled all over the Shire. The history and character of Mr. Bilbo Baggins became once again the chief topic of conversation; and the older folk suddenly found their reminiscences in welcome demand. No one had a more attentive audience than old Ham Gamgee, commonly known as the Gaffer.

He held forth at The Ivy Bush , a small inn on the Bywater road; and he spoke with some authority, for he had tended the garden at Bag End for forty years, and had helped old Holman in the same job before that.

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Now that he was himself growing old and stiff in the joints, the job was mainly carried on by his youngest son, Sam Gamgee. Both father and son were on very friendly terms with Bilbo and Frodo. It beats me why any Baggins of Hobbiton should go looking for a wife away there in Buckland, where folks are so queer. Small wonder that trouble came of it, I say.

But be that as it may, Mr. Frodo is as nice a young hobbit as you could wish to meet. Very much like Mr. Bilbo, and in more than looks. After all his father was a Baggins. A decent respectable hobbit was Mr. Drogo Baggins; there was never much to tell of him, till he was drownded. They had heard this and other darker rumours before, of course; but hobbits have a passion for family history, and they were ready to hear it again. Drogo, he married poor Miss Primula Brandybuck. She was our Mr.

Drogo was his second cousin.

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So Mr. Frodo is his first and second cousin, once removed either way, as the saying is, if you follow me. And Mr. Drogo was staying at Brandy Hall with his father-in-law, old Master Gorbadoc, as he often did after his marriage him being partial to his vittles, and old Gorbadoc keeping a mighty generous table ; and he went out boating on the Brandywine River; and he and his wife were drownded, and poor Mr. Frodo only a child and all. Boats are quite tricky enough for those that sit still without looking further for the cause of trouble.

Anyway: there was this Mr. Frodo left an orphan and stranded, as you might say, among those queer Bucklanders, being brought up anyhow in Brandy Hall. A regular warren, by all accounts. Old Master Gorbadoc never had fewer than a couple of hundred relations in the place. Bilbo never did a kinder deed than when he brought the lad back to live among decent folk. They thought they were going to get Bag End, that time when he went off and was thought to be dead.

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And then he comes back and orders them off; and he goes on living and living, and never looking a day older, bless him! And suddenly he produces an heir, and has all the papers made out proper.

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I know nothing about jools. Bilbo is free with his money, and there seems no lack of it; but I know of no tunnel-making. I saw Mr.

Bilbo when he came back, a matter of sixty years ago, when I was a lad. And in the middle of it all Mr. Bilbo comes up the Hill with a pony and some mighty big bags and a couple of chests. But my lad Sam will know more about that. Crazy about stories of the old days he is, and he listens to all Mr. Bilbo has learned him his letters - meaning no harm, mark you, and I hope no harm will come of it. But the Gaffer did not convince his audience.

And look at the outlandish folk that visit him: dwarves coming at night, and that old wandering conjuror, Gandalf, and all. But they do things proper at Bag End. That very month was September, and as fine as you could ask.

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A day or two later a rumour probably started by the knowledgeable Sam was spread about that there were going to be fireworks - fireworks, what is more, such as had not been seen in the Shire for nigh on a century, not indeed since the Old Took died. Days passed and The Day drew nearer. An odd-looking waggon laden with odd-looking packages rolled into Hobbiton one evening and toiled up the Hill to Bag End. The startled hobbits peered out of lamplit doors to gape at it.


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It was driven by outlandish folk, singing strange songs: dwarves with long beards and deep hoods. A few of them remained at Bag End. At the end of the second week in September a cart came in through Bywater from the direction of the Brandywine Bridge in broad daylight. An old man was driving it all alone. He wore a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, and a silver scarf.

He had a long white beard and bushy eyebrows that stuck out beyond the brim of his hat. Small hobbit-children ran after the cart all through Hobbiton and right up the hill. It had a cargo of fireworks, as they rightly guessed. His real business was far more difficult and dangerous, but the Shire-folk knew nothing about it. Hence the excitement of the hobbit-children. They knew him by sight, though he only appeared in Hobbiton occasionally and never stopped long; but neither they nor any but the oldest of their elders had seen one of his firework displays - they now belonged to the legendary past.

When the old man, helped by Bilbo and some dwarves, had finished unloading. Bilbo gave a few pennies away; but not a single squib or cracker was forthcoming, to the disappointment of the onlookers. The young hobbits stared at the door in vain for a while, and then made off, feeling that the day of the party would never come. Inside Bag End, Bilbo and Gandalf were sitting at the open window of a small room looking out west on to the garden.