Revenge is sweet.
This is a tale I prepared for the Songburrow Story Club last weekend. That night, we told stories from our childhood, and I dug out this one. A bittersweet tale, with the “sweet” part stressed.
If you like the story, check out my other tales here.
Of Thains and treasured biscuits
As some of yer know, I grew up in Brockenborings. When I was little, I used to run around a lot with me friends, looking for berries in the Bindbole Woods, fishing in the local streams and playing with the sheep grazing on the fields. However, even though we roamed far and wide, we never missed any meals back home. Not least because me ma enjoyed inviting the neighbours over for tea.
A proper tea, that is, one with good solid food served. Bread and cheese, ham, cakes, scones, jam, cream… and of course, me own favourite, biscuits. So we’d sit in the shade of the garden tree, or inside by the fireplace, sharing the local gossip, drinking tea and eating well into the evenings.
Since me ma put on a good spread of food on the table, I usually had all the biscuits for meself. Until that one time the Thain visited.
Now, this was the former Thain, old Ferumbras Took. As many of yer know, he was the son of Lalia the fat. Lalia usually put out a good spread for her teas too. Unlike me Ma, Lalia ate most of the food herself. So poor Ferumbras often went hungry from the table, nibbling on whatever morsels he managed to scrounge up in secret. More often than not, he ended up with biscuit. Over the years, he built up quite the craving for them.
One year, Ferumbras travelled north to learn more about the local sheep-herding traditions in Brockenborings. And Ma, local matriarch that she always wanted to be, invited him over for tea. I looked forward to this tea for days, because Ma put even more effort than usual into the food this time. There were sweet honey-cakes, fresh-made raspberry jam, clotted cream straight from the dairy… and jars of crunchy honey oat biscuits.
When it was time for the tea and the guests found their seats around the table, I helped ma plate up the food. Eyeing the biscuits, I even pocketed one or two for meself. “Finders keepers”, I said to myself as I found me place at the end of the table, eagerly waiting the rest of the honey oats once the plates reached me.
The Thain, who was the guest of honour, beamed when he saw the food.
“Ah, the fabled hospitality of Brockenborings”, he said. Everyone around the table smiled, meself included.
“The food is all made here in the village?”, he asked. Everyone around the table nodded, meself included.
“It all looks so good, but I’ll just have to taste a few of those biscuits. They are my favourite”
Everyone around the table beamed, minus one hobbit at the end. I had just taken a good sip from my tea cup, and the Thain’s happy exclamation lead to much gulping and coughing at my end. He was to eat MY biscuits? I found it hard to protest, though, not least because the elderly hobbit next to me was vigorously patting my back to help me, making my coughing much worse.
“Oh, please help yourself with as many as yer like”, Ma beamed, shoveling a hobbits dozen onto the Thain’s plate. She ignored my frantic wavings of protest, perhaps believing I was trying to thank the elderly back-patting hobbit next to me.
When the serving plates at long last were about to reach me, the Thain had finished his first serving, eagerly looking for more. My hands aimed for the biscuits when Ma snatched the plate back. While she shoveled the rest of the honey oats onto the Thain’s plate, my own hands ended up in the jam bowl.
“Mind yer manners, Lina”, Ma said and dragged me into the kitchen, telling me to clean up while she went back to the guests. I got good help from me dog, who happily licked the jam off my hands.
While I sat there moping and muttering about the huge injustices of the world, I spied a most lovely sight. A jar full of fresh-baked biscuits. Tied to the jar was a red ribbon and a neat hand-written note. “To the Thain, may your journey home be sweet and crunchy.”
Looking at the jar, I licked my lips and pondered. Surely, no-one would notice if I took one of those biscuits for myself? Just one?
So I did. My dog licked the jam out of his fur and came over, demanding one. So I gave him one, and had one more myself.
After a long tea, with much laughter and gossip, Ma went into the kitchen to pick up the Thain’s farewell gift. Let’s just say that she was not amused by the sight of her lassie and the dog curled up sleeping beside an empty biscuit jar.
So the Thain travelled home with a ham instead, a hastily written note tied to it with a slightly frayed red ribbon. And a good story too, apparently. When I visited Tuckborough and the Great Smials several years later, the Tooks chuckled and teased me about locking away their biscuit jars.
There’s just no keeping secrets in the Shire, is there…