The Umbrella Thief by Kathryn Ramage

That same afternoon, Pippin paid a call on Frodo's behalf to one of the elderly gentlemen on the list.

"Yes, that's right," confirmed Mr. Falco Chubb-Baggins, who was nearly one hundred and, like Odo Proudfoot and the late Otho Sackville-Baggins, a first cousin of Bilbo's. He sat before his parlor fire with a woolen blanket around his shoulders to ward off the autumnal chill, filling the room with a haze of purplish pipeweed smoke. "I haven't seen it in a week. Now how did you get to hear such an odd bit of news, young Peregrin Took?"

"Frodo's investigating these disappearances," Pippin explained. "There've been lots of them, you see, and I'm helping him to find them."

At this, Falco's expression brightened. "Are you lads? By all accounts, Frodo's quite an expert on finding things. If you can get my umbrella back, I'll be most grateful. I've had it these fifty or sixty years, and it's an old and trusted friend. You'll know it by the falcon head carved onto the handle--a pun on my name, you might say," he finished with a chuckle, and regarded Pippin expectantly, ready to be of help.

"Frodo's asked me to go 'round and ask everyone where they went the last time they remember having their umbrellas with them, who visited them, that sort of thing. Who's been here to your house lately, sir?"

As the old hobbit launched into an account of his recent visits to friends and the Bywater shops, and a recitation of familiar names, Pippin listened patiently. He had heard this all before on his previous calls, and no doubt would again before he had been to see everyone Frodo had asked him to. He noted that Falco hadn't seen his grandnephews Wilcome and Sancho. Then Pippin heard a name he had never heard before:

"...and I saw Pum Pettygrow, of all people, at the Green Dragon last Trewsday. I asked him to come back with me here for a pipe, but he said he had other business to attend to. That was when I saw my umbrella last. I'm sure I had when I went into the Dragon, and missed it the next morning. Might've left it there."

"Pum Pettygrow?" Pippin repeated. "Who's that?"

"Oh, an old acquaintance from years gone by," said Falco. "I hadn't seen him in ages. He used to live in this part of the Shire, in a little cottage up beyond Overhill, but he's been away and only come back recently. Frodo will remember him--he used to be a great friend of Bilbo's."

Pippin mentioned the name to Frodo when he returned to Bag End and the two of them and Sam compared notes.

"Pumelo Pettygrow!" Frodo smiled at the name. "Yes, I remember him! He used to visit Uncle Bilbo when I first came to live at Bag End, and I gather long before that too."

Sam nodded. "The Gaffer always said that Mr. Pum was an odd old gent, even odder than Mr. Bilbo."

Frodo laughed. "So he was, but not in the same way, for all they were friends. Old Pumelo never went on adventures nor wrote books. He was a tinkerer."

"Metal wheels and gears and such-like," Sam interjected with a note of mistrust; he was a non-mechanical hobbit, and any mention of gears made him think of Ted Sandyman, whom he disliked intensely.

"I remember that he once gave us a marvelous little contraption," said Frodo. "You turned the wheels, and it showed you where the stars would be in the sky at any time of the night, and what phase the moon would be in, and when the sun would rise on a given day. It could even tell you when the moon would pass over the sun and cast darkness on the land at midday. An amazing toy. I think Bilbo took it away to Rivendell with him."

"Do you think he could have something to do with this?" Pippin wondered.

Frodo considered it. "He might've carried off Uncle Falco's umbrella from the Green Dragon, but I can't see him committing all these thefts. We would have heard his name before this if he'd been so much around Hobbiton. But, all the same, there must be somebody else involved in this. It can't be Sancho and Will. I don't say Sancho was telling the whole truth today, but the lads just haven't had the opportunity to be everywhere they had to be to take every umbrella that's gone."
You must login (register) to review.