12. Keeping Secrets
Mr. Frodo got the clothes pegs for me that same week, and he didn't whittle them, either -- he paid my brother Nibs to make them! Sam chortled when I told him.
"There now, I wondered how he'd do it, when he said he'd get 'em for you. I didn't figure he'd take up whittling, not Mr. Frodo!"
I was pegging out the laundry one bright morning while Sam staked the tomato plants. I had kept the garden weeded and watered when he was busy round the Shire, but the tomatoes were his special pride, and I daren't touch them.
It was good having him home – things were getting back to normal at last, though he was still planting trees everywhere he went. I teased him about it sometimes.
"You'll have us living in Greenwood the Great again, like Mr. Frodo says the first hobbits did. It'll be Shire-wood the Great before you get done!"
"Nothing wrong with that, neither," he said, and he picked me up and swung me around till we were both giddy with laughter. "Just so I leave a few open spaces for gardens and such."
"Right, well, leave room to grow some pipe-weed, Sam Gamgee! We don't want to run short again!"
I spun round to find Merry Brandybuck had come in the gate behind us. We hadn't never heard him, we'd been making so much noise with our foolishness.
"Where's Frodo, Sam? I've come to carry him off to Crickhollow, by main force if I have to. He's buried himself up here at Bag End long enough. He promised us a visit months ago, and it's time he paid up."
"I'm glad to hear it, Mr. Merry! It'll do him good to have a change, get out with hobbits a bit. Doesn't do nothing but work on that book of his, and he needs a breath of fresh air."
Sam had tried to coax Mr. Frodo to go round the Shire with him, but Frodo wouldn't budge from Bag End. I wondered if Mr. Merry would have any better luck, but I underestimated him.
I guess he had a fight on his hands, but he won it in short order. I carried afternoon tea into the study for them, and I had all I could do to keep a straight face. Mr. Merry was all smoothness and charm, taking the tray from me with a smile, but Mr. Frodo sat stiff in his chair with his face like a storm cloud, looking like he'd just lost an argument.
Which he had, for they rode off together the next morning.
"We'll see you at Michel Delving for Mid-Year's Day, Sam!" Merry called over his shoulder. Mr. Frodo lifted a hand in farewell but didn't speak.
"And that's only a week away, Rosie! Are we ready?" Sam turned to me looking a bit distracted, as if it had just occurred to him that Overlithe was almost upon us.
"Oh, I think so, Sam. I've got a fine piece of lace to show, that I made last winter – and if Angelica Baggins has one as good, I'll eat it!" I was proud of my lace, and Sam grinned at my vehemence. "And I've got strawberry preserves to show, and some to sell, too, and Marigold's coming this week to help me finish that quilt for the quilt show. Are you bringing garden stuff? You haven't had much time to get ready, working all over the Shire like you've been."
"Too true, lass." He sighed. "But I can bring sparrow-grass – that comes up all on its own without much help from me, thank goodness, and we can bring peapods to sell – not many folk grow them, the sweet ones, so there should be a market for 'em. I don't think I've got nothing to show, though. Been too busy to think about it. Maybe at the Autumn Fair – I might try some milk-fed pumpkins."
"Yes, do, Sam! I've heard tell of those and never seen one – I bet there's lots of hobbits have never seen them."
"Good enough. I'll even show you how to do it, Rosie, but you've got to keep it secret, mind."
"I kept your secret all last year – guess I can keep another one."
He gave me an odd look. "What secret did you keep?"
"About the Dark Lord's Ring."
"You knew about that? Who told you?" His light, teasing tone was gone, suddenly, and it felt like a shadow came across the sun. I didn't answer him.
"Wait. There's only one person could've told you, only one who knew -- Fatty Bolger. Now how did Fatty come to be telling you? What did you have to do with Fredegar Bolger while I was away?"
"What did I have to do with him, Sam Gamgee? I cooked for him, is what I had to do! I made him a cheesecake and Marigold made him a mushroom pie, and we went to his house and got him well-fed and tipsy and talkative, so's he'd tell us where you went, you and Mr. Frodo! Because you didn't trust me enough to tell me yourself, you just went off into the Wild and nearly got yourself killed, and took your own sweet time coming back, too! You can call yourself lucky I even waited for you!"
I was crying by now. I flung the bag of clothes pegs at his head and ran inside.
The kitchen was cool and dim after the garden. I pumped some water and washed my face and arms, and made a pot of tea. I didn't feel all that good – queasy, kind of. Sam and I had rarely had an argument, and this one had blown up out of nowhere.
Or maybe not. Maybe it had been simmering for a long time and I hadn’t let myself think about it, how he hadn't told me he was leaving the Shire. I didn't mind that he went with Mr. Frodo. That was just Sam – he wouldn't leave Frodo to face danger alone. He'd be every bit as loyal to me, I knew that.
But I minded that he hadn't told me, hadn't trusted me with the truth. That I'd had to go and worm it out of Fatty, because Sam hadn't told me -- I minded that. And I had never told him so.
Well, I'd told him now! And he could think what he liked about me going to Fatty's house – it was his own fault, for not trusting me. I felt really sick, all of a sudden, and I slipped out the back door and threw up behind a rosebush. Sam was nowhere to be seen. I went back inside and lay down on our bed, right in the middle of the morning; pulled the quilt up over my head and went to sleep.
When I woke up, Sam was there, lying next to me on top of the quilt, watching me.
"I'm sorry, Rosie," he said. "I'm sorry. You're right, I should've told you. I was wrong to just go off like that, and you not knowing what was going on. I guess I am lucky you waited."
I worked one arm out from under the quilt and hugged him. "Oh Sam, it was so awful!
I just wish you would've come back right away, once the Ring was destroyed. Why did you wait so long before you came home?"
He shook his head. "Strider wanted us to wait, till he was crowned and wedded. We had to stop in Rohan for the King's funeral, and in Rivendell to see Mr. Bilbo – I don't know, lass. I guess we never thought what might be going on back home, or that you'd be grieving. And I don't know why not, for I'd seen plain enough in Galadriel's Mirror that things might not be right, in the Shire! All we thought of was the Ring, and once it was gone, I guess we didn't think at all, none of us." He stroked my hair. "Forgive me?"
I got both arms round him and hid my face against his chest. "Of course! I'm so glad you're home now, Sam. It was such a horrible year. And I wasn't "having anything to do" with Fatty Bolger – how could you even ask me that!"
"I'm sorry, lass. But you're so pretty and – you could've done better than the Bag End gardener, you know. Your Da's one of the chief hobbits in these parts. I reckon you married beneath yourself, Rosie."
"Samwise Gamgee! There's not a better hobbit in the Shire, and not another one I'd want to be married to! Just don't let me hear any more nonsense of that sort, or I really won't forgive you!"
He laughed and held me tight, and I began to feel queasy again.
"Rosie? Are you all right? What are you doing in bed, anyway?"
"I'm all right, just don't feel good." I sat up and pushed back the quilt. "What time is it, Sam? It must be near lunchtime."
"More like afternoon tea. Do you feel well enough to come sit in the kitchen? I'll make you some toast."
He kept his arm round me while we went down the passage and settled me tenderly in a rocking chair. In the middle of the kitchen was the biggest bouquet of flowers I'd ever seen, overflowing from a five-gallon pickling crock.
"Sam! Did you clean out the whole flower garden?"
"Close," he said. "I was that upset, I went for a walk along the road, and who should I meet but Fatty Bolger, out exercising his pony and trying to get some color back after being laid up ever since he got out of the Lockholes."
"Oh Sam, you didn't go and ask him about me!" I'll never be able to face Fatty again, I thought.
"Aye, I asked him – asked him if he was trying to cut me out with my lass while I was away. And he give a laugh I reckon you could've heard in Waymeet and said he would, sure enough, if he thought he could get away with it, but you -- you'd never look at another hobbit if he come riding on a camel and dressed in cloth of gold. Then he told me about you and Mari coming to his house and bamboozling the secret out of him. I told him he ought to be ashamed, letting a couple of lasses get round him like that, and he said he'd back the pair of you against any hobbit in the Shire, me included, and I better just be glad you were on my side! Which I am! Glad, I mean."
He came and knelt on the floor by my chair and took my hands. "And then I felt like the biggest fool ever born for doubting you, and I went and picked every flower in the garden, pretty near, for a bouquet to say I'm sorry. Good thing Mr. Frodo won't be back till next week; some of the little buds should be opened up by then!"
"Good thing," I agreed, laughing. "And now what about that toast you promised me? While you're feeling so foolish and all, and willing to wait on me…."
He didn't rise to my teasing.
"I'll wait on you all my days, Rosie-girl, and count myself lucky."
Married beneath myself? It'll take me all my life to be worthy of him.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.