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Written for Shirebound's and Belegcuthalion's birthday present (they didn't mind sharing, whew!), I thought I'd post this here for a bit of light relief from the continuing angst elsewhere on my list of things-to-do.
The Dancing Lesson
‘One, two, three, one, two, three!’
Frodo stumbled over clumsy tween feet and stopped abruptly, blinking at Bilbo. ‘It’s hopeless,’ he mourned. ‘I’m never going to “catch my balance”, as you say!’
‘Of course you will, my lad!’ Bilbo said heartily, casting about in his mind for a solution. He brightened suddenly and darted to seize the duster someone had jammed into the umbrella-holder. ‘Here we are!’
‘What?’ Frodo said, dumbfounded.
Bilbo plucked a feather from the hapless duster and with precision tucked it into Frodo’s breast-pocket. ‘There you are, lad, a spot of Elf-magic!’
‘Elf-magic?’ Frodo echoed.
‘Got this duster from old Elrond himself, a parting present,’ Bilbo prevaricated. ‘You’ll go light as a feather on your feet, see if you don’t!’
‘I don’t even want to go to that old dance,’ Frodo began.
‘You’ll go, my lad!’ Bilbo interrupted. ‘You’ll go, and more, you’ll enjoy yourself immensely, or I’m a dwarf!’
‘You’ve worn a dwarf hood in your time,’ Frodo said, fighting a grin.
‘Come now,’ Bilbo said, tying on Salsify’s apron more securely—the article of apparel was supposed to make him more lass-like, adding verisimilitude to the lesson. ‘Let us begin again. One, two, three...’ He led the lad through the steps of the waltz and stopped again. Perhaps it was, indeed, hopeless. ‘It would be better, lad, if you didn’t tread upon the lasses’ toes...’
But then... a bright idea came to him.
‘We’re going about this all wrong,’ he said cheerily.
‘I could have told you that,’ Frodo answered.
‘Come now,’ he said. ‘I’m—an Orc, yes, that’s it, or a Spider, or even that Gollum-creature, and I’m blocking your way to your greatest desire.’
‘The exit?’ Frodo said helpfully.
‘Something like that. In any event, you take my hand again, and put your other hand here at my back as if you’re trying to move me aside without my knowing... and we must coordinate your footwork, for if you trod on their toes in the dark, they’ll know where you are...! So once more, one, two, three...’
Success. At last, Bilbo instructed Frodo to lead him to a chair, sit him down, and fan him with the duster he’d stuck into the apron sash.
Both found themselves sneezing at the result.
‘Really, I must tell Sally to beat the dust out before she puts it away in future,’ Bilbo said.
‘I do believe you took it away from her in the midst of her dusting,’ Frodo said.
‘I did?’ Bilbo said in surprise.
‘You wanted to demonstrate some move or other you’d made with Sting, as I recall,’ Frodo said, ‘and it was the nearest thing to hand.’
‘Was it?’ Bilbo said.
‘And then when a knock came at the door you stuck it into the umbrella stand,’ Frodo said.
‘Well I never!’ Bilbo said. He mopped at his forehead with his pocket-handkerchief. ‘In any event, lad, it is time for tea, and then time to wash and dress for the dance. If you just remember your lessons, you’ll sweep the lasses, see if you don’t!’
‘Orcs—Spiders—Gollum,’ Frodo recited with a gleam in his eye.
Bilbo laughed heartily. ‘Well don’t tell them that!’ he said.
‘I wouldn’t dream of it,’ Frodo said. ‘But may we not stay home by the fire, instead, and read?’
‘Lobelia has put it about that I’m teaching you to be a hermit,’ Bilbo said, wagging a stern finger.
‘What a pleasant prospect!’ Frodo said, adding at the raising of one of Bilbo’s eyebrows, ‘When one considers all the mamas who will be pushing their daughters at me!’
Bilbo laughed again. ‘Dance with them all!’ he said gaily. ‘You’re only young once, my boy.’ He pushed Frodo towards the kitchen. ‘Now go and put the kettle on for tea!’
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