With that, Barmy swung the
gate wide, and stepped aside. But, as he pedaled away, Fido could see
that the Gatekeeper was eyeing Stingo curiously. He wondered, not for
the first time, why he found Stingo so disturbingly attractive. What
was it the young lad reminded him of? Why did his touch send thrilling
shivers down his tights? What was Randolf's real reason for insisting
he accompany them? Why did fried fushrooms always land buttered side
down? He was certain Stingo had the hots for him. Why else would the
lad have groped him when they fell off their bicycles in the woods?
Fido was ashamed to admit he'd enjoyed the touch of those slim, inquisitive
fingers. But If he takes liberties with me, Jam will kill him!
Presently the Robbits pulled up in front of the inn. Jam leaned on
his handlebars and stared up at it's ugly rain-streaked concrete walls
and rows and rows of dirty windows, and felt his stout, Robbit heart
sink into his feet. He had imagined himself draining a quiet pint or
three of foaming ale in a snug little half-timbered Robbit burrow, and
here was what looked like a third-rate knocking shop which probably
served second rate beer! He pictured painted floozies standing in the
yard all dressed in black lace, and evil-smelling pimps peering out
of the red-lit upper windows.
"We're surely not putting up here for the night are we, Mr F—Mr
Underpants, are we?"
"What's wrong with it?" asked Fido. "Randolf recommended
“I expect it’s cosier than it looks on the outside,”
said Perry, dismounting from his bicycle. Stingo pulled up alongside
Fido, and as he bent down to take off his bicycle clips, Fido’s
eyes were involuntarily drawn to the leather cycling pants stretched
tightly over the young Hobbit’s firm, round bottom.
“If those pants were any shinier, I swear I could see myself in
them,” he said softly.
"I wish..." said Stingo, blowing Fido a kiss..
"The filthy pervert!" muttered Jam under his breath, and wondered
if Fido knew Stingo had the hots for him. "His chest is too well-developed
for a Robbit in his tweens and those tight leather riding pants are
really pervy. "If he takes any liberties with Mr Fido, I'll
kill him, so help me!"
They wheeled their bicycles through a wide arch and left them leaning
up against a lamppost. Fido led the way across a shadowy courtyard,
and halted before a large doorway flanked by two rearing donkeys carved
in stone. The door was open and a welcoming light streamed out to greet
them. Above the door swung an illuminated neon sign whose pink letters
announced: "The Dancing Donkey by
Burleyman Butterbore". Fido stepped forward, and was nearly
knocked down by a gangling man with a shock of bright red hair and a
thin, pinched face. He was all elbows and knees, and was bustling out
of one door and in through another with a tray laden with plates of
fried bacon and mushrooms.
"Ah - that's better!" said Jam.
"Can we—" began Fido.
"—Alf a mo, mate!" shouted the man breezily and vanished
into the lounge-bar. In a moment he was back again, rubbing his thin,
knotted hands together expectantly.
"Evenin', gents!" he said, bending double to address them.
"What can do?"
"I beg your pardon?" said Fido, unaccustomed to the man's
"What-can-we-do-for-you-me-old-mucker?" repeated the man.
"Oh! Bed and breakfast for four please - Mr Butterbore is it?"
"Burleyman's the name; inkeepin's the game, squire," said
the man with a nod and a wink.
"We have reservations."
"Pardon?" asked Fido.
"Fag-F-Underpants," stammered Fido.
"Fag Funderpants?" said the man, straightening up in surprise
and running his fingers through his untidy hair. "Now what does
that remind me of..?"
"OH, NOT AGAIN!" said Jam and Perry in unison.
"My name is Underpants," said Fido wearily.
"Not Fag Funderpants?"
"No - just Underpants."
"Because I wouldn't want to be responsible for you missing any
important messages on account of my getting your name wrong, would I,
"Do you have a message for me?" asked Fido in alarm.
"Not if your name's Thunderpants".
"So you keep saying, Squire. But you could be anyone. There's queer
folk abroad tonight and I can't be too careful."
"I TELL YOU MY NAME IS UNDERPANTS AND
I HAVE A RESERVATION!" yelled Fido
"Alright - keep your 'air on, Squire. Let me check." The innkeeper
rushed off and came back clutching a dog-eared note book.
"Underpants, you say?"
"Not Fag Funderpants? There's a bookin' 'ere for a Miss Fag Funderpants...or
it might be Thunderpants; there's a bit of egg got stuck on it, so it's
'ard to be sure.."
"Do I look like a woman?"
"No... but your young mate looks like he could pass for one if
'e swapped the leather pants for a nice gingham frock—"
"—I've 'ad about enough o' your sauce, My good man!"
interrupted Jam roughly. "You'd better find us our rooms double
quick, or you'll have Jam Spongee to deal with!"
"Alright, alright - hang on a mo... ah 'ere it is: 'Underpants
& Co. One parlor and one bed. Separate barf. Smokin' preferred.
See attached note from Wizard Randolf'. I knew I'd 'eard the name
"What does the note say?" asked Fido.
"That one that's attached."
"Where is it, then?"
"No idea, Squire, Marge must've put it somewhere for safe-keeping,
or maybe the cat 'ad it."
"The missus, Guv. Meggot Butterbore".
"Then why do you call her 'Marge?"
"Cos she spreads so easily," replied Butterbore.
"Disgusting!" muttered, Perry.
"Well when 'Marge' finds it, or the cat brings it up, perhaps you'll
let me know," said Fido, testily. "It might be important.
Now can we see our rooms please?"
"Of course, Guv - Hi Marge! MARGE, you idle baggage!"
"Coming Burley!" A rosy-cheeked woman shot out of a door and
came to a skidding halt at their feet, wiping her hands on her apron.
"Take this tray into the lounge bar and be quicker about it than
you was gettin' 'ere, woman!" bellowed the Innkeeper. "Follow
me, gents, we 'ave some nice, snug burrows in the Norf wing built special
for 'obbits. On the ground floor as they prefer; on-suite mushroom-fryin'
facilities as they like it. Nice big bedroom for four. I'm sure your
party will be comfy. This way now!"
He led them down several winding passages, and opened a large, round
green door. "This is the parlor. The barfroom is two doors down
the 'all. 'Ere is a nice gas 'ob should you fancy a bite o' mushrooms
in the night."
Stingo and Perry made straight for the bedroom.
"Ugh," exclaimed Jam, wiping his fingers across the greasy
"Marge must've sat on it , Mr Spongee, I'll get 'er to clean it,"
Butterbore said over his shoulder as he followed the two Robbits into
"I noticed some dwy wot on the walls," said Perry.
"Well, Mr Pantypluck, dry rot is as dry rot does as we says in
Bree. Stop me if I'm gettin' too technical."
"And the beds are a little hard..." complained Stingo, pummeling
"And at no extra cost, Guv."
"These sheets are stained," said Perry.
"That'll be the Seamen, Sir. They will keep their sou'westers on
Jam sniffed the curtains. "Strange smell..."
"Mice, Squire. Marge'll flush 'em out while you're at supper."
"You really have worked out your patter, haven't you?" said
"Not really, guv, this is a different fing. It's called wit."
"Where's the privy?" asked Jam.
"The craftsman who built this wing was a stickler for comfort and
simplicity," replied Butterbore smoothly.
"How thoughtful," said Stingo.
"That's all very well, but what about the privy?" repeated
"Well, Guv, what we're talkin' about in privy terms is a detached
facility wiv open air access."