Too Many Tooks by Kathryn Ramage

The next morning after breakfast, Frodo went next door to Adelard's house. As he walked through the edges of the garden near the slope of the hill, he met Ferdi and Adelard's three daughters gathered in a little group, and stopped to ask the girls how Everard was.

"He's still shut up in his room," Ada reported. "Reg has been trying to convince him to come out for days now, but he won't hear of it."

"He can't hide away forever," said Ferdi. "I must say I'm disappointed in him. I know he's had a terrible shock, finding his friend Toby dead-" the girls gave horrified little squeaks, "and then having their whole secret out in the open for everyone to talk about, but I don't think it's as bad for him as he fears. If he'd only be brave and face up to things, he'd be all right."

"I think he's waiting for the Brandybucks to go, and Melly too." Isalda glanced toward the green at the center of the garden, where Melilot and Merry were talking together. "They've all made it clear what they think of his treatment of her. Dodi told me what her mother said about it."

"Well, we can't blame them, can we?" said Flora. "Even if he is our brother."

"I'm sorry for Ev," said Ferdi, "but he's brought much of it on himself. Perhaps it's best that Melly goes back to Buckland with the rest of her family. Once she's gone, and he gets over poor Toby's death, Evvy might become more like his old self again."

"Are you going to see Evvy, Frodo?" asked Isalda.

"I might, if Reg will let me. But it was your father I wanted to speak to. Is he in?"

"Father's always in," Ada said with her customary laugh, and gestured toward the ajar study door.

When Frodo went to the door, he found Adelard was not at his usual seat by the fire, but was sitting at his desk, staring at a dyed and embossed leather packet; this packet would normally be rolled into a neat little cylinder and tied with thongs, but it was now opened and spread flat on the slanted desktop. Frodo could see that there were five narrow pockets sewn into the inner lining, and in each but one was a small bone-handled knife. Adelard held the fifth knife, which he had been using to carve his latest piece, in his hands. The finished carving stood on the work-table.

Frodo tapped gently on the open door; at the sound, Adelard turned quickly, startled. "Oh, Frodo, it's you. What is it?" He slipped the knife into the empty pocket with some difficulty, for his hand shook.

"I came to tell you," he said as he entered the room, "I've found out who beat Togold Clover all those years ago. I've seen them, and I don't believe they were involved in Toby's death. Uncle Paladin wanted you to know that the two are apparently not connected."

Adelard let out a sharp, hysterical bark of a laugh, and sounded so like Everard had when Frodo had last seen him that the young hobbit grew alarmed.

"Uncle Addy, what's wrong?" He shut the door and came forward anxiously. "Please, tell me what's happened?"

"You're a very bright lad, Frodo. You seem to know so much. Do you know about this too?" Adelard waved his hand over the packet of knives spread open before him.

"Know about what?" It took Frodo a moment to understand. "Has one of your knives been taken?" But the set was obviously complete. "Oh, I see--one was gone, and now it's been put back." He felt a small chill creep up his spine as the implications of this were borne upon him. Who could have taken it? And why? Was it the one that they had been searching the field for the day after Toby's murder?

Adelard laughed again. "I was surprised to see it returned to its proper old place. Very much surprised!" Observing the older hobbit's agitation, Frodo thought that 'shocked' or 'stunned' would be more appropriate descriptions. "I'm pleased to have it back at last, but I can't help wondering... Who do you suppose could have put it here?"

"I don't know," Frodo answered, "but I can guess." He had been considering the possibilities--who would have the opportunity?--and an idea was already beginning to form.

"Can you?" Adelard looked up at him in amazement.

"Yes, and I think I can find out if I'm right almost immediately... if you will excuse me, Uncle?"

If he was right, and the knife that had been returned to Adelard was the one that had killed Toby, only one of two people could have taken it away from the grove and put it back in the packet. Only two people would have a reason to. Whether one or both of them were involved in Toby's murder remained to be seen.

When he left Adelard's study, Frodo went straight to Everard's room. The two were there together, Everard and Reginard, the younger sitting on the bed and the elder in a chair set beside it. They were in the midst of a heated discussion-

"But I can't face her, Reg! She must hate me."

"Nonsense! You know Ferdi told you she doesn't. At least have the decency to say goodbye to the girl before she goes-"

They stopped when Frodo came into the room. He addressed Everard first, "All right, Ev, no more lies. Did you take the knife?"

Both brothers stared at him, blankly astonished.

"The knife?" squeaked Everard. "I didn't do anything with it. Frodo, I swear to you, I never saw it! There was only Toby, lying there, and all that blood..."

"Frodo Baggins!" Reginard roared, leaping to his feet to seize Frodo by the arm. "I told you to leave my brother alone! Uncle Paladin says he's innocent, and you aren't to badger him."

Even though Reg was larger and stronger than he was, Frodo held his ground and refused to be budged. "I have to do it, Reg," he said, resisting the efforts to shove him out. "I must have the truth. If it wasn't Everard who took the knife, then it must be you."

Reginard released his arm. "How- How do you know that?"

"No one else could have," Frodo replied, and tried to force Reginard to talk. "You found it in the grove, didn't you? You took it. What did you do with it?"

"I didn't kill him!"

"Then why did you take it?" Frodo persisted. "The truth, Reg! If you aren't responsible for Toby's death, then the truth can only help you, and help your brother. Now, tell me."

"You seem to know it all already," Reginard said grudgingly. "It's just as you say: When I reached Evvy, I saw the knife lying on the grass, near the- ah-body. I picked it up and put it in my jacket pocket before anyone else came. I don't think Evvy even noticed it. Did you, Ev?"

Everard shook his head and stared at his brother, bewildered. "No. But, Reg, why-?"

"It was one of Father's," Reginard told him, then explained to Frodo, "I recognized it instantly. It's an old one, with a bone handle, part of the set Father uses for his wood-carvings. They have his initials carved into the hilts."

"You don't think Father..?" Everard asked, horrified.

"Oh, no!" cried Reg, with a wary glance at Frodo. "Certainly not! Father's not stupid enough to leave something that so obviously points to him. I thought that someone else left it there, to implicate him, and so I thwarted them."

"What did you do with the knife?" Frodo asked again.

"I put it back with the others. Father keeps them in the desk in his study when he isn't using them. He came out to meet us when I brought Evvy back to the house that night. While he was taking Evvy to his room, I washed the blood off the knife and put it back in its place before I joined them."

"Neither of you took it from the study in the first place?"

"No!" both brothers cried at once, Reg indignantly, Everard with the same horrified tone. "Now, does that satisfy you?" Reginard demanded. "Have you got what you were after, Frodo?"

"Yes, I have. Thank you."

"And you won't accuse Father?" asked Everard. "He's been terribly upset by all of this, and he didn't even know Toby."

"No," said Frodo. "Your father is quite safe." But he wasn't looking forward to telling Adelard where his knife had been.

He went back to Adelard's study, where the older hobbit had put away the packet of knives and was pacing the rug nervously. "Ah, Frodo," he said with an anxious little smile. "You weren't gone very long. You didn't even leave this house."

"No, Uncle. I didn't need to." Frodo decided to come out with it. "It was as I guessed: Reg told me he was the one who brought your knife back to this room."

"Reg..?" Adelard looked completely baffled. "But how- ah- Where on earth did he find it?"

"In that grove in the meadow," Frodo said as gently as he could. "It was lying in the grass near Toby's body."

Adelard's face went white and his eyes widened in shock. His legs seemed to give beneath him, and he sank down quickly into the chair by the hearth.

"He says he didn't take it from here," Frodo hastened to add. "He told me that he saw it when he found Everard, knew it was yours, and hid it to protect you. There's no proof that he's guilty of Toby's murder, Uncle Addy. We don't know that it's so."

But Adelard did not find comfort in this reassurance. He let out a low, agonized moan and, with his head in his hands, began to weep.
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