School went better after that. During the lads' break time, Balco taught Fosco how to fight, while the others watched and offered their own suggestions. We could hear them shouting while we tidied the schoolroom – "Get him behind the knee, Fos!" "Grab his arm!" "Get him! No!" "He's down….!"
Sam came in one day grinning. "Sounds like you're training young guardsmen out there, only for hand combat, like! When're you going to start fencing lessons, Mr. Frodo?"
"I'll save that for you, Sam, when you're Mayor."
"There you go – about the time you're Thain, I'd say that'll be."
"No, I plan to be the Hermit of Bag End, when I get past being schoolmaster," said Frodo cheerfully, and Sam grimaced.
"That's too near the truth for a proper jest, that is. You don't hardly see no one now, save Rose and me, except for the lads. You need to get out more, Mr. Frodo."
To my surprise, Frodo nodded. "I believe you're right, Sam. Shall we walk into Bywater this evening, see who's at the Dragon?"
After supper, we all walked into Bywater, but I turned off at the farm lane to go visit my mother. I still wasn't feeling well, most days, and Mum was getting a name as an herb woman, after all her years doctoring our big family. Maybe she'd know something better than peppermint for this everlasting queasiness.
She gave me a little sack of candied ginger and another of raspberry leaf tea – and a skein of the softest, most delicate wool in her workroom.
"Walk all you can, and when you sit down, put your feet up," she told me, "and don't say nothing to Sam for at least a month, just in case."
"Don't you think he'll guess, looking at me?"
She laughed and drew me over to a rocking chair. "Not unless he's a good bit more noticing than any menfolks I've had to do with, Rosie! They don't see much, unless you hit 'em over the head with it."
Sam and Mr. Frodo came back with Da, and we had a late snack before we started home.
My father saw us to the door with a hand on Frodo's shoulder. "I'll have the neighbors at your place tomorrow day, Mr. Frodo. We'll see if we can't sort this out for the good of all concerned."
"What was that all about?" I asked, as soon as we were in the lane.
"Getting the farmers together to see about the Mill, Rosie," said Sam. "Seems like Ted has been slow about rebuilding it, after Lotho's monstrosity was tore down – he's only about half done, and harvest coming on. Says he ain't got the money to finish."
"Which might be true enough," said Frodo. "And he'd find it hard to get workers, too, as unpopular as he is. It's asking a lot to expect one hobbit, all alone, to build something of that size."
I remembered the long ride to Frogmorton Mill, during the Troubles. "I'd think the neighbors would help him, if only to have a mill in the village," I said.
"That's what I think, too. And if money is the issue, I've still got some of what Lobelia left me, to help hobbits hurt by the Troubles."
I heard Sam laugh in the darkness. "She may come back and haunt you, Mr. Frodo, you use her money to help Ted Sandyman! I doubt that's who she had in mind!"
"Maybe not, but he was hurt as badly as anyone, and worse than many others. In any event, Rosie is right – having the Mill here will help everyone in the neighborhood. And if Ted is kept occupied with his proper business, he may drink less and cause less misery to his family."
"Maybe," Sam said doubtfully. "Drinking or not, Ted's always been a troublemaker."
The neighbors gathered in the parlor two evenings later, and it was an occasion! Mr. Frodo looked every inch the Master of Bag End in a brocade waistcoat and fine linen shirt with ruffles at his wrists. The white jewel round his neck flashed in the firelight and I saw several of the farmers staring at it, as I passed around stuffed mushrooms and sausage pockets. Sam served the drinks, and I about burst with pride, he looked so fine. It was fun to have company, after so many months of just the three of us rattling around the place.
There was a lot of discussion and a little shouting, but in the end it was all settled like Mr. Frodo said. The farmers would help rebuild the Mill, Ted would go back to running it, and Mr. Frodo would put up the money.
They were mostly very grateful for Frodo's help, but there was an awkward moment when old Longo Boffin remarked sourly, "Aye, and it's only right Mr. Baggins pays the damages – wouldn't have the problem in the first place had he not sold Bag End to that worthless cousin of his!"
I was afraid Sam would empty the brandy decanter over the fellow's head, and there was a gabble of consternation from the others present, but Mr. Frodo stilled it with his hand.
"Never mind, friends, I'm afraid there's some truth in that. I could hardly have found a worse buyer for Bag End than I did. So we'll call this my reparation to the community, and make the new Mill better than the old."
They went home soon after that, and Mr. Frodo sat before the parlor fire with his feet up while Sam and I carried glasses and plates out to the kitchen. He looked worn out, his arms hanging over the sides of the chair and his head flung back, eyes closed.
"Why is he so tired?" I whispered to Sam while we washed up. "It's no more than nine o'clock, and he looks so exhausted, you'd think he'd been pitching hay all day in the sun, not visiting with a couple dozen neighbors."
"Don't know, Rosie. I could've brained Longo, though – of all the churlish things to say! If it had been up to him to save the Shire by giving up everything he owned and going a long journey into darkness, Sauron would be ruling Middle Earth tonight!"
"What he said was true, nonetheless." I jumped and dropped a plate, which shattered on the floor. Frodo had come in so quiet, we hadn't known he was there.
"I sold Bag End to Lotho, and that's what started the trouble. It's up to me to make things right, as far as I can." Sam started to contradict him, and he laid a finger across his lips. "I didn't like it either, Sam. Truth hurts, they say. Good-night."
I couldn't bear it. I'd heard enough of what happened to them on the Quest to know the whole Shire ought to be hanging honors around his neck, and here some curmudgeon was blaming him instead, and he was taking the blame! I hurried after him down the passage and grabbed his hand.
"Mr. Frodo, I've never thanked you, and I should have. The rest of them maybe don't understand, but I know what you did, and what it meant. Thank you for saving the Shire, Frodo Baggins."
He looked down at me and the light was dim in the passage, so I couldn't hardly see his face. But he lifted my hand to his lips and kissed it. "You're welcome, Rose Gamgee," he said, and then he went in his bedroom and closed the door.
Sam was very quiet as we got ready for bed. I blew out the candle and cuddled up to him, and I could feel him trembling in the dark.
"I'm glad you went after him like that, Rosie. I couldn't think what to say, nor he wouldn't've listened anyway, but that was exactly right. There's no one like him, not in Middle Earth! The King himself – he's a great man and a good one, but he didn't suffer half what Mr. Frodo did, and he's got a kingdom to show for it. What's Mr. Frodo got? His home near destroyed, his hand maimed, all the laughter gone out of his eyes, and the folk who should be thanking him are bellyaching because they don't like who he sold his smial to, when he went into exile! Reparation! It's them as needs to make reparation to him, for being so ungrateful!"
I held onto him, rubbing his back and stroking his hair. He didn't say no more, but I could feel him shuddering for a long time before his breathing evened out and I knew he was asleep.
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.