Being a letter from Applecider Bolingbroke to Lancogard North-Took, Dep.-Shirriff of the Northfarthing. Salutations an’ all me respects to the Honorable Bounders: May their tea biscuits never crumble.
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My Dear Sir,
I hopes this letter finds ye well, whensoever ye should happen to read it.
Followin’ me previous note from Hobbiton-Bywater I left Farmers’ Fair, proceedin' to Yondershire via Brockenborings. Arrivin’ in due course at Nobottle I went straight to the Offices o’ the Watch to look you up.
Deputy-Shirriff Greengrass’s wife Salga tol’ me you were in an’ out thrice in the past fortnight. Most recently four days ago with a haversack belongin’ to Bounder Dogberry at Rushock, a cape, and a bar of soap, whereafter you’d set decisively out with the bit in yer teeth, and “That Sort of Look” on yer face.
Whatever lead yer onto, I hopes you en’t about to start a fresh batch ‘o Nonsense.
(I almost wrote that with a straight face: Please employ all possible Nonsense at yer disposal. But do bring yer woolies; autumn be turnin’ cool these days).
Wonderin’ how best to proceed alone, I took meself to the pub. You weren’t kiddin’—the brew were staggeringly subpar. So I concentrated on me plate o’ stuffed cabbage, an’ set me thoughts to stew.
The “flagrancy” o’ this Bilious Beer Debacle still bothers me. Even as far as Bywater, folk were gossipin’. The more I think about it, the more it smells like a curtain.
I do wonder, though. ... A flap o’ such public disquiet be bound to draw the perpetrator’s eye as well as All Concerned Hobbits’. ... The thought occurs, Lance. Until I learn what heading (if any) you’ve made amidst the Horrible Hops, I wonder whether a spot of dual investigation with a streak o’ discretion might be to our benefit in sussing out the undercurrents at play.
What we need, Lance, is a means o’ canvasing the Yondershire’s agrarian community what don’t draw overt attention as Bounders an' outsiders in the process.
And I think I knows where to get one.
It merely be a question o’ catchin’ her at home.
Growin’ up in Long Cleeve as yeh did, I can only assume Life’s Occasional Maladies required the odd visit to Bambridge Apothecary on the upper market commons of (funnily enough) Bambridge Lane, over the Roarin’ Bull. Respectable a practice as ever there were.
What yeh may’ve not taken note of at the time, is its connection to me family.
The Popwells of Long Cleeve be an honorable stock, the missies an’ matrons o’ which have a long family tradition in the practice of midwifery. A natural (one might even say productive) match fer a Hobbit lad fresh from apothecarial schooling. Thus, forty Delving May Day Fairs past, the sparkling brown eyes of Deidre Popwell met those of Bandobras Bolingbroke, me father’s younger brother but one.
Uncle Bandobras moved his newly-founded shop to Long Cleeve, an’ there he stayed.
Vistin’ Long Cleeve were always a treat growin’ up. The four sprouts born o’ this union be rare an’ blithe as me own sibs all ‘round. But likeness in age an’ temperament led to a particular rapport twixt meself an’ the third o’ the batch: Forcythia. A merry spirit, both assiduous an’ pragmatic. Not so versed in music nor the mythos of the Wide World of Skinny Big Folks, I’ll nevertheless hear none call her unlearnt. For she waltzes circles ‘round you or me where it comes to the lore of medicaments, an’ physicking.
She also be one of the few persons I know what can come home sayin’, “Ach I’ve still got blood all over, luv; can we hold tea till I clean the scalpels?” without undue cause for alarm.
Genial though she be to her fellow creatures in general, Cousin Cythie loves above all the company of animals. Me own penchant fer Companions o’ Fur an’ Feather be but a recent development compared to hers: This were a girl what’d stop a family stroll half an hour straight to talk to a capercaillie, if’en ye’d let her (Ye’d’ve been a year or so ahead of her at school, Lance – possibly same class as her brother Ioan – but if you recall an incident with a badger escaping “Show’n’Tell” runnin’ amok half a day afore aught could catch it, thar were her).
Reconcilin’ this love of fauna with her dual heritage in medical pursuits, Forcythia threw herself with aplomb into a most rigorous study of all lore pertaining thereto. And her life now be given over to the full-time application thereof:
She is, in brief, an animal doctor.
An’ here I comes to the meat o’ me circuitous logic:
She be exactly the sort of ‘unobtrusive’ observer we needs just now.
Fer while swabbin’ a housecat’s ear mites do be a part o’ the job, her biggest clientele – by far – are Yondershire’s farms.
Forcythia rides the farm circuit, tendin’ to larger patients what cannae be brought round to ‘er own domicile in Long Cleeve (word is she be responsible for the two-headed lamb born ter Cyril Threepwood’s ewe survivin’). Half her days be spent on the road makin’ house- well? ... barn-calls, all about the Yondershire.
Farmers gossip. As they do.
If anyone’s going to catch a broader net of chatter on the state o’ Yondershire’s agrarian woes than her, I’d like to know who it be.
I says we take ‘er into confidence an’ pick her noggin on the matter.
Cythie lives at the north edge o’ town, where footpaths offer easy access to the high moors where she gets herbs for her poultices an’ such. Should you have a means or need to contact me, whatever yer up to, direct Whisper or the Quick Post thence, care of:
Forcythia M. H. Bolingbroke
Physician of Beasts & Birds – Medicine, Chirurgeries, General Care
Heatherwild Lane Upon Cotsbrook
Long Cleeve, Yondershire
(Goat’s Cheese & Honey for Sale: Inquire Within)
I'll be settin' out first thing tomorrow, and leaves this here message in the hands o' Salga Greengrass at the Offices o' the Watch.
Best of luck to both of us in our endeavors,
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