For Cathleen and LoveThoseHobbits for their birthday.
As they walked from the bridge over the Water toward Bag End, Sam Gamgee found himself juggling several letters he held, trying to ascertain who might have sent each of them. “Don’t know exactly why Nipsy’s decided as he must bring all my letters to me at the Green Dragon,” he complained. “Why not just leave ’em with the Gaffer at Number Three?”
Frodo gave a short laugh. “Well, he apparently hasn’t been convinced you are quite living any specific place, Sam. First you were staying with me at the Cottons’ farm, and then you were everywhere throughout the Shire finding out how many trees were lost and where homes needed rebuilding and those awful monstrosities of Lotho’s needed taking down, and now you’re busy with replanting and have been seeing to it that Bag End was finished for me to return to it. I suspect he figured that the stable at the Green Dragon is the one place he could count on you visiting at least every fortnight or so.”
“If you say so,” Sam commented before at least three of the letters he’d been holding fell out of his grasp. “Paper and ink!” he exclaimed, stopping in frustration and leaning over to pick up each one.
“And look who’s just chose t’come home to Hobbiton at the last!” said someone, and Sam twisted to see that Ted Sandyman was behind him. “Thought as you was too high ’n’ mighty to mix with the likes of us,” Ted sneered.
Scooping up the last envelope, Sam straightened to give Ted a cool stare. “And just what do you think as you mean by that?” he asked.
“Oh, it’s just that you don’t seem t’think as you owe anything to us here in your own village,” Ted said. “Off, trapessing all over the Shire, here and there as the whim takes you, not carin’ aught for those as seen you born and bred.”
Sam gave a single, unvoiced laugh. “Do you hear that, Frodo? This one thinks as I don’t care for my own!”
Frodo, who’d turned when Sam stopped to retrieve his dropped post, stepped to the gardener’s side. “Hmm,” he said. “He seems to forget that you oversaw the building of the home he lives in now.”
“I had a home already,” Ted insisted.
Sam snorted. “You call that ruin as Lotho had built for you a home? Maybe so, if’n you can call a place with cracks in the masonry, windows as are either stuck closed or won’t fasten proper, and with a pump as don’t work a home. It had t’come down, or it was like to fall down and hurt anyone with bad enough luck to pass it by when it did so. I’d call it an accident as was bound to happen soon.”
“But I was comfortable enough in it!”
“And when the floor caught fire from that stove as was in it, what then? Or when more roof tiles blew off—a good quarter’d been lost already!”
Frodo put his hand on Sam’s shoulder, and Ted could suddenly see the gap where he’d somehow lost his ring finger while he’d been gone. “It does not behoove the Lord Perhael of all of the Free Peoples of Middle Earth to listen to the nonsense spouted by such a one as this,” he said, his eyes cool as they examined the former Miller’s son. Ted felt his scalp prickle, for it felt as if the gaze Frodo Baggins was giving him were stripping him naked, leaving him totally open and vulnerable to the consideration of the others from the village who’d begun to gather to observe the confrontation going on between these two of the Travellers and that scapegrace Ted.
Sam raised his right hand to lay it over that of his Master’s, and it could be seen that his ring finger, at least, was still intact, and sporting quite a fine ring, one Ted had failed to truly notice or examine before. It was heavy, and obviously of great worth. Sam’s fingers might be broader and blunter than those of Frodo Baggins, but they were well kept, and that ring on his hand appeared to be proper to it.
Ted blustered, “Well, not that you’re any better than him, Frodo Baggins—disappearin’ as sure as old Mad Bilbo did! And now you’re more often in Michel Delving than you are here, playin’ at bein’ Mayor, all speeches and banquets, and forget common Hobbits and what they need.” He was pleased to see Frodo’s face go pale, with but a spot of color in his cheeks.
Sam’s gaze was also cool. “Well, if’n it’s beneath the dignity of the Lord Perhael to pay this one no mind, that’s true also for the Lord Iorhael, or wouldn’t you say so, Frodo?” He shifted his attention to his Master, who raised a brow and offered him a crooked smile in return.
“Well reasoned, Sam. Ah, well! Your sister left word at the stable that I have a chicken pie baking in the oven in Bag End. Shall we go and have our supper then?” he asked.
The two of them turned their backs on Ted and walked away, underlining their dismissal of him. And it was only as they did so that he realized that Sam wasn’t walking his accustomed half step behind his Master as he’d always done before he’d left the Shire, but was fully at Frodo’s side. And if the cloth of his waistcoat and the embroidery on it wasn’t as fine as anything the Master of Bag End had sported for years!
And just what had they meant by that talk of lords such as no Hobbit of the Shire had ever heard tell of? he thought as, shunned by those who’d been watching who now followed the example of Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, he was left standing impotently in the middle of the road.