The Tailor's Tale by Kathryn Ramage
Summary: An extremely brief Frodo Investigates! mystery. Frodo's tailor presents him with a perplexing problem.
Categories: FPS, FPS > Frodo/Sam, FPS > Sam/Frodo Characters: Frodo, Sam
Type: Mystery
Warning: None
Challenges: None
Series: Frodo Investigates!
Chapters: 3 Completed: Yes Word count: 2913 Read: 6306 Published: March 23, 2008 Updated: March 23, 2008
Story Notes:
This story takes place shortly before Yuletide, 1423-24 (S.R.).

The Frodo Investigates! series

1. Chapter 1 by Kathryn Ramage

2. Chapter 2 by Kathryn Ramage

3. Chapter 3 by Kathryn Ramage

Chapter 1 by Kathryn Ramage
"It's a mystery to me, Mr. Baggins, but I daresay you could tell the heads and tails of it," said Tollo Threadnibble, Hobbiton's best tailor. He was a cheerful-faced hobbit of middle years, more lean and limber than most of his age. He sat cross-legged on the floor of the second-best parlor at Bag End with the tools of his trade spread neatly around him. He performed the task denoted by his name, nibbling gently on the frayed end of a length of thread until he had formed it into a sharp point, which he stabbed through the eye of a basting needle with a well-practiced, one-eyed squint. Then he opened the other eye and looked up at his client, who stood before him, arms outstretched to either side, and wearing the chalk-marked, tacked-together pieces of a pale blue velvet jacket and cloth-of-silver waistcoat.

"Why don't you tell me more about it?" Frodo invited him.

Mr. Threadnibble was happy to comply. "Well, you know as how I sell buttons, Mr. Baggins?" he began. "Silver, brass, carved bone--only the best for my gents as is lost a button or two off a coat or waistcoat, or wants a change. Well, Miss Potts- D'you know Miss Pachysandra Potts?"

"A maiden-lady of fifty or so who lives in Overhill?" said Frodo. He wasn't well-acquainted with the lady, but she was a neighbor of his cousins Ponto and Porto. He had seen her once or twice, and recalled her as a shy spinsterish-looking woman.

"That's her. Her father used to have all his clothes from me--even his best suit, that he was laid to rest in. Miss Potts used to sit in the parlor by when I went to call upon him for his fittings, and hand me my scissors or thread a needle if I was otherwise kept busy." The tailor rose from his seat on the floor and circled behind Frodo. "She'd come by the shop sometimes too, to help him pick out a cloth as was becoming for a new suit, or to pick up the finished article. There was nobody else in the family, you see. She had the care of him after her mother died when she was a lass, and she never looked for a husband of her own." With a few quick darts, he basted together the tuck at the back of Frodo's jacket, taking care how the seams lay at his shoulders. "You can put your arms down, Mr. Baggins, and we'll have that jacket off you in a trice so I can get at the waistcoat. I know how particular you are about the cut of your waistcoats."

The tailor resumed his story after Frodo had removed the jacket. "Now, I didn't see much o' Miss Potts after her father passed on last spring. There wasn't no reason, as I don't make ladies' garments. I'll say as much as I missed seeing her. A pleasant miss, she always was, and knew her sewing--not just buttons and hems and a bit o' embroidery, but the tricks o' the trade. Then one day a month or so back, she comes into my shop.

"'Mr. Threadnibble,' she says, 'I want to buy a set of buttons.'

"I've only gents' coat-buttons, I tell her, and naught suitable for a lady. But it's gents' buttons she wants. Well, it seems odd to me, as there's no gentleman in her house these days, but I bring out my trays o' buttons so she can look 'em over. And look she does.

"'It's so hard to decide,' she says to me. 'Which ones do you like best, Mr. Threadnibble?'

"That depends, I tell her, on what I'd like 'em for. The sort of coat they're to be put on, you see. You'll want silver buttons on this waistcoat I'm making for you, Mr. Baggins, and on that coat if it's to match, but silver won't suit on a black broadcloth or tweed." Mr. Threadnibble gave the waistcoat a light tug in the small of the back, and smoothed the fabric down before he fixed it in place with a pin. "No, won't do at all. I explain the same to Miss Potts, and ask her what sort o' coat she wants these buttons for.

"'A wedding-coat,' she answers me.

"'A wedding-coat?' says I, surprised as anything. I asks her, 'Are you getting married, Miss Potts?'

"And she answers back, 'I hope to be.'

"Well, now, I keep myself up on all the news in this part o' the Shire, Mr. Baggins. Gents'll gossip as much as ladies, and a tailor gets into some right interesting conversations while he's hemming a pair o' trousers. I heard tell from Mr. Milo Burrows the last time I was at the Old Place that your cousin, Miss Angelica that was, had a baby boy last month over to Michel Delving, and she and her husband Mr. Whitfoot named the little lad Adalmo. And it was old Mr. Falco Chubb-Baggins as told me how Chief Shirriff and Mrs. Gamgee named their new baby after you, and what talk it caused amongst the Bagginses, though I say it ought to be no surprise to anybody. But I never heard from nobody that Miss Potts was keeping company." There was another gentle tug, and another pin placed. "I thought as she might want these buttons for a present, to give the gent a push in the right direction, as you might say. So I picked out a nice set o' carved bone and made 'em up into a parcel for her. She pays for 'em and carries 'em off."

"It is curious," said Frodo, who didn't pay much attention to local gossip unless he was investigating a case. "But there might be a simple explanation for why no one's seen or heard of Miss Potts's suitor. Perhaps he lives elsewhere, in another part of the Shire some distance away. They may have been in correspondence with each other, perhaps for years, and they've courted through letters. If he's expected to come to her soon, she'd naturally want a present for him."

"Yes, that so, but you haven't heard the rest of this odd story, Mr. Baggins. It don't end with the buttons. A week or so afterwards, Miss Potts comes back to my shop with the same parcel in her hands. 'D'you want to return those?' I ask her, thinking as her plans to marry an't come off as she hoped, poor lass.

"'No,' she answers me. 'I want you to make a suit o' clothes to go with 'em.' Did you ever hear such a thing before, Mr. Baggins?" Mr. Threadnibble stepped around to Frodo to face him with a puzzled expression. "Me, make clothes for a gent I never measured, nor even set eyes on!"

"Perhaps she wants to wear the suit herself," Frodo suggested.

"A lady?" Mr. Threadnibble was scandalized.

"I've known ladies of the highest birth who've worn trousers."

"If you say so, Mr. Baggins." The tailor was polite, but doubtful. "I expect you've seen more o' the world 'n me and seen odder things 'n a lady wearing trousers, but I never seen the like here in Hobbiton or abouts. Miss Potts wouldn't--and if it was so, it'd have to fit her, wouldn't it?"

"Yes, I suppose so," said Frodo.

Mr. Threadnibble couched down in front of him and gave another gentle tug to the skirt of the waistcoat. "How's that feel, Mr. Baggins? Not too tight about the waist, is it? You've got such a small waist and like a trim fit, and it's too easy to pinch in on--not like some o' my gents with tums who likes their waistcoats loose-fitted."

"It's fine. Not pinched at all. Go on with your story, please."

"Well, I tell Miss Potts the same as I told you, that I never made a suit for a gent I never saw, and she says, it makes no matter. He's about my size, she tells me, and I can make a suit to my measurements."

At this, Frodo smiled. "And did you make the suit, Tollo?"

"That I did, just as Miss Potts asked. I helped her pick out a bolt o' the best black cloth, and a nice bit o' brocade for the facing, and started in to work on it. She comes by now and again to see how far I've got, and helps sometimes just as she used to."

"How did you fit it?"

"On my dressing model," said Mr. Threadnibble as he began to fix pins at the lower edge of the waistcoat, taking care to form the tapered points to a nicety. "It's not so good as a live hobbit to work on, but I can't wear it while I'm working on it. I couldn't get 'round to the back. It's all but finished now and I expect Miss Potts'll be by to take it any day. She wanted it afore Yule. It's my guess she intends to give it to her sweetheart then, but I've never seen head nor toe of him, and nobody I asked knows a thing about it. Now why can't he have his own tailor make his clothes for him, or come to me to have the work proper done? It's no fault o' mine if the suit don't fit--I've done my best. And why don't she ever put a name to him?" When he finished his task, he rose and began to gather up his things.

"Will you have this suit of mine ready by Yuletide?" asked Frodo as he carefully removed the pinned-up garment.

"That jacket won't be no trouble, Mr. Baggins. I've only to stitch it up proper, but that fancy-work you want on the waistcoat'll take a bit o' work."

"I was hoping to wear it on the second day," said Frodo. On the first night of Yule, at the close of the old year, hobbits traditionally wore worn-out clothes and costumes made of tattered rags to cast into a bonfire. On the second day, they liked to bring out their newest and best finery. "I'll make it worth your while, if you can have for me by then."

"I'll do my best, Mr. Baggins!" the tailor assured him. "And you can make it worthwhile by telling me what this odd business of Miss Potts's means."

"I can't tell you that," Frodo said, his eyes twinkling, "but I can tell you what to do when Miss Potts calls for her suit. Ask her if she wants you to wear it."

Mr. Threadnibble's mouth dropped open. "You don't mean to say...?"

Frodo smiled. "Ask her, and see if I'm not right."
Chapter 2 by Kathryn Ramage
Soon after the tailor had gone, Sam brought in Frodo's tea. He'd hoped to have it ready while the tailor was still shut up in the parlor with Frodo, for he was always a little leery of leaving Frodo alone in the company of someone who could ask him to strip down to his smalls and touch him all over, even in a purely professional capacity. Sam usually liked to be present whenever the tailor came for a fitting and act as a sort of chaperone, but that had been impossible today. With a new baby in the house, Elanor just entering the over-active toddler stage, and Rose more busy with both children since Mrs. Cotton had gone home to her family farm, he was urgently needed elsewhere.

Frodo was pulling on the old smoking jacket he'd been wearing before Mr. Threadnibble had called, and was smiling to himself as he did up the buttons. A light snow had begun to fall over Hobbiton and he gazed out of the window, watching the flakes float down. "Domestic crises all smoothed out, Sam dear?" he asked.

"Little Frodo's quieted," Sam reported as he set the tea tray down on the table. "How he does howl! He screams a lot more'n Nel did at that age. And she's wore herself out and been put down for her nap. Rose's taking a nap too. She was hunting all over-" he hesitated, blushing. "She's missed her best petticoats."

"They'll turn up after the next wash," Frodo said complacently. "They always do, don't they? She'll have them to wear to the festival. It's a pity I can't have Tollo Threadnibble make a few things that fit me properly, but he doesn't do that sort of clothing and he'd be terribly shocked if I asked." As he turned from the window to accept the teacup Sam offered, he gave him a quick kiss. "I was just thinking, Sam--isn't love wonderful?"

"Is that what you was talking about with him?" asked Sam.

"No, not exactly. He had an interesting story to tell me, and I had some advice to give him." Between sips of hot tea, he told Sam the tailor's story, and Sam seemed as baffled by Miss Potts's behavior as Mr. Threadnibble had been. "Don't you see, Sam? A lonely, middle-aged lady has had to care for her father since her youth, and never had a romance or a chance to find a husband of her own. But she's on friendly terms with her father's tailor, who very likely called as regularly at the Potts household as he does here. She sometimes helped out with the fitting and sewing, and he says she's a good hand at it. After her father's gone, she must have discovered that she missed the companionship of those calls, and decided to visit him for herself. Since our good tailor doesn't make ladies' clothing and she no longer has a male relation who requires a tailor, she had to find an excuse to come to his shop and a reason to call on him again afterwards."

"You think that's what she's after? Marrying him?"

"Oh, it's an odd way to make a proposal, but she mayn't have had any other way to make her feelings known. She's rather shy, you see. and Mr. Threadnibble is rather self-effacing. He wouldn't realize that a lady might consider him attractive, and wouldn't dare court a lady he felt was above him. She'd have to take the first steps, and I believe that's just what she's done. If he does as I advise, we'll see if I'm right." When Sam came up and put both arms around Frodo from behind, Frodo leaned back against him and sighed. "I hope he takes my advice, Sam. The two of them deserve to be happy together. You know how I feel--everybody ought to have the chance to be in love. Goodness knows how glad I am I took the chance myself when I saw it, and understood." He twisted around to nibble the lobe of Sam's each and they shared another, longer kiss.

Then Frodo pulled back suddenly, eyes wide. "I hope I'm right, Sam. If I'm wrong and Miss Potts shows up with another bridegroom for her coat, then poor Tollo Threadnibble will be horribly humiliated. He'll probably never forgive me. Oh, dear! I may have to seek the services of another tailor."
Chapter 3 by Kathryn Ramage
More light snow fell on the second night of the Yuletide festival, but it wasn't enough to keep the hobbits in their homes. The bonfire in the Bywater Market Square, left from the "tatters" ceremony of the night before, was rekindled and brought to a towering blaze. Hot food and drinks were served at the Ivy Bush Inn, musicians played on the inn's courtyard, and boughs of fresh pine and colorful bunting were hung everywhere.

Frodo wore his new finery under his best blue woolen cloak, and danced with the few ladies who asked him, for the second day of Yule was traditionally a time when ladies could do the asking for a change. He had a dance with Rosie, but regretfully not with Sam; both were able to come to tonight's party, since the Gaffer had agreed to look after the children.

The Gamgees were dancing together and Frodo had gone to get some refreshments, when he spotted Mr. Threadnibble among the crowd. The tailor was wearing a new black coat with brocade facings on the lapels and carved bone buttons. He was arm-in-arm with a lady whom Frodo recalled seeing once or twice before.

When he saw Frodo, the tailor smiled and came over to speak to him. "Nothing I like more'n seeing a bit o' work I'm proud of out-and-about on a customer. The best publicity for my trade I could ask for. That waistcoat turned out nicely, didn't it?"

"Beautifully," agreed Frodo. "Thank you for so finishing it so swiftly."

"And it looks well on you. It's always a pleasure to dress you, Mr. Baggins. There's not a gent in Hobbiton who has better taste, I always say."

"You look very handsome yourself tonight, Mr. Threadnibble," Frodo replied. "That's a fine coat you have on, and it fits you very well. I would call it your best work. You did as I suggested?"

"That I did, Mr. Baggins, and I'm more glad of it than you know! It's a wonder you saw what she was after and gave me a hint, else I wouldn't ever've known. I might've missed out..." He turned to find his companion and held out a hand to beckon to her. As she came forward, the tailor said, "May I present Miss Potts, who's to be my wife in the new year?"
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