Elanor set the music box (real Dale-work!) on the mantel and stepped back. The tinkling melody began.
The evening light had faded from the windows, and warm lamp-light filled the parlor in Bag End. Close by the fire sat Mother Rose, sewing after putting the babies to bed. All about the hearth gathered the family and extras, for Merry and Pip had invited friends.
Elanor brought the Book of Tales to her Sam-dad. He caressed the brown leather with a work-worn hand and opened the cover. She leaned over his shoulder to look at the first page. In his square, utilitarian hand it read:
"Fairy Tales of Middle-Earth
Being a Compendium
Diverse Peoples and Places
Suitable for the
Instruction and Amusement
Persons of All Ages
As Compiled by
"What story shall I read tonight?" he asked. "Elanor-love?"
"I like 'The Swans', Da, but you know I've heard them many times. Let one of the little ones pick."
"Huh, I'm not so little!" Frodo made a face at Elanor. "Can you read 'Birds and Feathers'? It makes me feel like I'm swooping throught the air."
Rosie-lass piped up from the stool at her mother's feet, "I want to hear 'Spiderwebs', with all the colors. It makes me think of the Queen and her pretty ladies."
"How 'bout 'Cloak-Ties', and I can kill the orcs. Grrrr-aagghh!" Merry-lad stabbed Pip with his imaginary knife. Both lads fell tussling on the rug before the hearth.
Goldilocks looked up from watching her mother. "Is the story of 'The Lady in the Water' wrote down yet?"
"Now you know as Mrs. Maggot's a busy lady," said Sam. "She'll send it along when she gets the time."
One of Pip's little friends tugged on Sam's sleeve. "Mistuh Gamgee, Mistuh Gamgee!" he whispered.
"Yes, Hommie?" Sam bent down to catch the boy's request.
"When we was workin' in the flowerbeds, you said as I could pick sometime."
"Why, so I did. And so you shall, lad. Where shall I start?"
"At the beginnin', please, sir."
"What better place to start than the beginning." Sam turned the page to the first story, and began to read.
"The King of the Mark had three sons. The eldest, his father's heir, was wise and just, and loved by all. The second son, who would be his brother's war-leader, was a doughty fighter and a great leader of men. But the youngest son was fair and brave and gay and adventuresome. … "