It was dark when four tired
Robbits cycled over the last railway-crossing and drew near to the village
of Bree. They came to the East-gate, but found it shut. Then they tried
the South-Gate, and found that shut too.
"Why don't we twy the Norf Gate?" lisped Perry Pantypluck,
adjusting the crotch of his bright yellow trousers, as he dismounted
from his bicycle.
"Because there isn't one," snapped Fido.
"Drat it, Mr Fido, Sir," complained a short, fat Robbit with
exceptionally furry feet. "Didn't I say we should have taken the
"How many times do I have to tell you not to call me 'Mr Fido'.
We're supposed to be traveling incognito, Jam Spongee. If any name must
be given, it's 'Underpants' - have you forgotten?"
"No, but begging your pardon Mr F- I mean master," blustered
Jam Spongee, "the wizard's Underpants simply don't fit a respectable,
gentlerobbit like you, and it was powerful cruel of Mr Randolf to insist
you put 'em on, so to speak."
"Not as cruel as this confounded saddle," said Fido. "My
bottom is killing me. But it can't be helped: the train is the first
place the Enemy would look for us".
"I thought so, too," said Stingo, a handsome, rather effeminate-looking
Robbit in tight leather pants. He ran his hand playfully over Fido's
firm young bottom and bent down to adjust his bicycle chain. "And
it's sooo romantic cycling by moonlight."
"There's something very fishy about that Stingo," muttered
Jam to himself. "Taint nat'ral for a Robbit to be so thin, nor
so good lookin', or to wear such tight, leather riding britches, whether
they wears well or no. "If he takes liberties with Mr Fido,
I'll kill him".
Fido mounted his bicycle and led them toward the West-Gate. One of
the Big Folk was loitering outside as they arrived. "What do you
want at this time of night?" he asked gruffly.
"We have reservations at the inn here," answered Fido.
"Robbits! Three Robbits out of the Shire! And what's more, one
of 'em's wearing some pretty hot cycling pants," said
the Gatekeeper to himself. He stared brazenly at Stingo for a moment,
and then opened the gate just far enough so that Stingo would have to
squeeze past him to get in. Perry was disgusted to see the strapping,
firm-thighed, young Robbit rub his codpiece against Fido's leg, and
kicked the door open to separate them. "If he takes liberties
with Mr Fido, Jam will kill him", he muttered to himself.
"We don't often see Shire Robbits on the road at night,"
continued the Gatekeeper. "They usually takes the 8.48 from Crickhollow.
Or the 12.25 Weathertop express. Or the slow train from Farthingstone
to Deephollow which connects with the 14.40 to Buckleberry Ferry. Unless
it's late. In which case they'd have to wait two hours for the 17.20
which only goes as far as Straddle. Then again, there are no trains
at all to Bree from Buckleberry on Mondays, on account of Monday being
the Sherrif's birthday. But as you're from the Shire, and it's a Monday,
you'd know that..."
"We DON'T LIKE TRAINS!", snapped Fido.
"You don't say, Mr -?"
"They're draughty and full of smelly old men in dirty raincoats",
"Is that a fact, Mr -?"
"And they don't serve mushrooms", said Jam.
"Don't they - Mr?"
"And the toilet seats are wearly filfy", added Perry.
"Are they? Then you'll pardon me for asking what four such particular
Robbits want in Bree on a cold, Monday night - Mr, Mister...?"
Fido gripped his sword. "A gentlerobbit's name and business are
his own, private property," he retorted haughtily.
"Just as you like, Sir," sneered the Gatekeeper, casting a
suspicious eye over their bulging rucksacks. "I'm sure it's no
business of mine if you're carrying a little more cash than is wise
in these parts, or perhaps one of you is concealing a valuable jewel
about their person?"
Fido gasped, and tightened his grip on his sword.
Jam stifled an exclamation and gripped his bicycle handlebars.
Perry just gripped his bright yellow trousers.
"I might be..." began Stingo, coquettishly. "But you'll
never guess where I keep it".
"Let me try," said the Gatekeeper, scratching his head. "It
wouldn't have anything to do with that enormous codpiece you've got
strapped to your breeches, would it?"
"It might," giggled Stingo.
"Well in that case, young master...I think I shall leave it where
it is. I'm not sure I fancy the thought of handling a jewel that's been
in a Robbit's pants."
"Shut up, Stingo!" hissed Fido.
Stingo apologised and wondered for the umpteenth time why the handsome,
strapping Robbit hadn't made a pass at him. "After all," he
said to himself, "It isn't as if I haven't given him enough opportunities.
I've been coming on to him ever since we left Fag End, and the closest
I've got to a feel was when we fell off our bicycles in the woods. But
if I make the first move, Jam Spongee will kill me".
Fido laid his hand on his sword and squared up to the Gatekeeper: "Will
you let us in?"
"Without names you'd best find somewhere else to sleep tonight."
"Underpants," said Fido, quietly.
"Beg your pardon, Sir?"
"Underpants," repeated Fido, slightly louder.
"Did you say 'Underpants?"
"Now - look here-"
"No! 'Underpants' is my name," said Fido with a grimace. "Mr
Underpants of Bywater".
"And I suppose your three companions would be 'Mr Shortpants',
'Mr Longpants' and 'Mr Thinpants"?
"No." said Fido, pointing to Jam Spongee. "This is my
manservant, Mr Jam Underfoot of Overhill, that is Mr Perry Pantypluck
of Longbottom, and this is Master Stingo Shortfoot of Robbiton".
"And fine, Robbit names they are, too," said the Gatekeeper,
"apart from 'Pantypluck. "
"His mother was in Lingerie for many years." explained Fido.
"You don't say?" retorted the Gatekeeper. "I don't have
a problem with 'Pantypluck' - it's 'Underpants' that bothers me".
"Have you twied washing them at forty dwegees?" suggested
"Or stretching them over the handlebars of a bicycle?" added
"Pipe down, both of you!" rapped Fido.
"Yes, put a cork in it!" added Jam, giving Stingo a sharp
slap on his curvaceous leather-clad bottom.
"Ouch - that hurt!"
"You'll get more than a slap if you don't stop acting the fool,
"Promise?" retorted the pert Robbit with a pout.
Jam scowled at Stingo, and wondered, not for the first time, why Randolf
had insisted they take the young Robbit with them. "What use will
he be?" he'd asked the Wizard. "He can cook, and sew and cycle,
and he'll be company for Fido when all other company avails nothing."
"But I'm Mr Fido's manservant!" he'd retorted, hotly. "I've
always done for Mr Fido since he were a lad." "Stingo can
do things for your master that would be impossible for you," the
Wizard had replied. "What things?" Jam had wanted to know.
"You'll see". And with that he'd been content. But now he
was getting really cheesed off with the mincing ninny. "If
he takes liberties with Mr Fido, I'll kill him", he muttered.
He kicked Stingo's bicycle over, and squared up to the Gatekeeper.
"Now look ere, whatever-your-name-is," he began, adopting
the tone he used to avoid paying for more than one round in the 'Blue
Tit', at Bywater. "Taint right to keep us awaiting out here
in the cold night air, because my master has a name that amuses you.
We're respectable Robbits, so don't 'e start treating us like some no
good, bicycle thieves!"
"The name's Barmy - Phil Barmy, and I'm glad it's not Underpants,"
said the Gatekeeper. "You're names are your own, no doubt, but
you'll find there's others in Bree who might be very interested in your
"What do you mean?" asked Fido sharply.
"You'll find out, soon enough."
"Will you let us in now?" demanded Jam.
Barmy puckered up his thin lips and spat out a mouthful of tobacco juice.
"By all means, but you'll find there's queerer folk at the 'Donkey'
than your Master Stingo, and not all of 'em's as friendly!"