Mr. Frodo's birthday was September 22nd, and the Autumn Fair would be the following week in Waymoot. The Captains wouldn't be with us for the Fair; the Master of Brandy Hall wanted his son in Buckland for the annual Pony Meet, and Mr. Pippin was going with him.
"You ought to come with us, Frodo," Merry told him. "You haven't been to the Hall since I dragged you out of your lair in June, and you didn't spend the night that time! My parents think you've sworn off all allegiance to your Brandybuck kin."
"They know me better than that! I'll come for Yule, Merry – I've got the school to think of, as soon as the Fair is behind us. Before those youngsters have time to forget whatever they still remember from the summer."
"Oh aye, Cousin Frodo is a busy hobbit, Merry, not a useless gadabout like you and me!" Pippin said carelessly. I held the platter for him to take another portion of stuffed mushrooms. They were at dinner and we were serving them, to Sam's great satisfaction. He topped up Mr. Frodo's wine glass and moved to do the same for Mr. Merry.
"Speak for yourself, Pippin -- or rather, don't!" Merry was emphatic and he sounded annoyed. "You picked that up from your father last time you were there, and you'd do better to forget it. When has the Thain ever given you a task of any responsibility to show your usefulness, as you put it? My father definitely wants our help at the Pony Meet, and that means you as well as me. You have an eye for a good beast, and a fine hand at training a raw colt – the Master knows that well enough, if the Thain doesn't!"
I slipped away to the kitchen. Fosco was arranging the cheese tray, and I reflected that he'd turned out to be a useful lad, if ever there was one. And so was Mr. Pippin, all the more so for his lighthearted chatter – I could see the difference in Mr. Frodo since the cousins had been at Bag End. I wished I could bottle Mr. Pippin and keep him around for dark days.
Sam came in with a load of their plates, and I carried the cheese tray into the dining room.
"I'm hoping to get the Buckland school going after Yule, Frodo," Merry was saying. "My father agreed to it, so long as all he has to do is provide a place and the materials. It's up to me to find a teacher and line up pupils, and I've no experience with that sort of thing. I'm counting on your help, so you'd better plan on staying a few weeks."
"Do you need more slate pencils, Frodo? Or anything?" Pippin asked.
Frodo grinned down the table at him. "That depends, cousin. Does the schoolmaster at the Smials know he's making donations to Hobbiton School?"
"Oh aye, what did you think, Frodo – I just walked off with two dozen pencils and a bottle of ink? The copybooks, now, they were right in the school cupboard; I walked off with them. The pencils and ink he keeps in a locked drawer; those I had to ask for! He was very obliging about it, though, especially when I got him the use of a pony cart to go courting in. Has its advantages, being a knight of Gondor. The stableboys can't do enough for me – I give them fencing lessons when I'm home."
Merry leaned back in his chair, helpless with laughter. "If Aragorn could hear you now! How have the mighty fallen – a knight of Gondor giving fencing lessons, to get the use of a pony cart, in exchange for school supplies! For that matter, if the bard who sang at the Field of Cormallen could see Frodo of the Nine Fingers playing schoolmaster to a gaggle of dirty-faced hobbit lads!"
Frodo cut himself a slice of cheese from the arrangement on the tray. "Not at all, Merry – I make them wash their faces before we begin. Do I smell apple crisp, Rosie, or am I just having pleasant dreams?"
I took the hint and whisked off to the kitchen for their dessert. I so enjoyed listening to their banter, it was hard to keep my mind on serving. Sam would've been vexed had he noticed, but Mr. Frodo only winked at me.
The day of his birthday, I was on my feet all day. The Captains would be leaving in two more mornings, so this was farewell banquet as well as birthday, and I wanted it to be special. Stuffed duck with onion sauce, plum and apple jelly, baked potatoes in their jackets – I'd made a red velvet cake the day before, but I'd wait till just before dessert to put currant jam between the layers and pipe drifts of sweet whipped cream over the top.
They were having a light tea in the study this day, saving room for the feast. I was waiting for the kettle to boil for tea and wrapping mushrooms in bacon to grill over the fire, for them to have with wine before dinner. Sam came in from the orchard to wash up. He took one look at me, then he came and swept me up in his arms and plopped me into one of the rockers by the fireplace.
"Sit down, Rosie lass, you look run off your feet! Don't you know better than to wear yourself out, in your condition?"
I stared at him in shock, and he ran gentle fingers over my hair. "Just when were you planning to tell me, lass?"
I shook my head, unbelieving. "How did you know, Sam? I would've told you soon; Mum told me to wait awhile, to be sure. But how –?"
"I haven't been a gardener all my life and not know raspberry leaf tea when I smell it, or not know what it's for, Rosie. I wondered why you were sick so much, but when I saw you drinking that tea, I knew. I've just been sitting quiet, waiting for you to get around to telling me."
I was half afraid to look at him, in case he was angry, or hurt. But when I finally looked up, he was grinning, and I flung my arms around his neck.
"Oh Sam – wait till I tell Mum! She said menfolks never notice nothing – she ought to know better, when it comes to you!"
He laughed. "I notice when it's you, lass, so best not try to put nothing over on me! So now I'm allowed to know, when do we expect little Frodo-lad?"
"In the spring, March probably. I hope it is a lad, Sam."
He hugged me very lightly, like I was made of fine china. "I hope so too, but either way, lad or lass, we'll make'un welcome. Now, do we tell Mr. Frodo, or are you still wanting to keep it secret?"
"I guess it wouldn't stay a secret much longer – I've already had to let out my waistbands."
"Do you mind if I tell them all three, when I carry in the tea tray?"
"Sam! I'm perfectly capable of carrying in the tray!"
I tried to get up, but he pinned me in the chair. "Capable of putting your feet up, too, for the first time today, I don't doubt. I'll be carrying the trays for some months to come, Mistress Rose, while you take care of my wife and our baby! Sit still now, and I'll get you a mug before I take theirs in to them."
I sat drinking my tea, and it felt good to rest. Sam had slid a stool under my feet, and I relaxed into the quiet. Pretty soon I'd have to get up and see about dinner – there was pudding to make, to go with the beef roast – Sam would see to that, on the spit over the fire – no one did a roast like Sam –
I guess I was starting to fall asleep, when a racket of noise and light burst into the kitchen.
"Oh aye, here's the little mother," Mr. Pippin cried, and I jumped up to find them all around me, Sam already looking the proud poppa, and Mr. Frodo's face shining like someone had lit a candle inside.
"Congratulations, Rosie!" he said, and the gladness in his voice was like bells ringing. "It's been many a year since Bag End was home to a little one, and the old place must be as happy about this as I am myself."
"A toast, Frodo! Break out the wine – is there any of the Old Winyards left?" Mr. Pippin was rummaging in the cupboard for glasses, but Mr. Merry came over and took my hand.
"A blessing on you both, Rose, you and the babe. You're to tell me, mind, if there's anything you need that I can provide."
"No more Old Winyards, Pippin, we drank the last of it when I sold Bag End. Sam, can you find us something to drink a toast?"
Sam brought up a dusty bottle of something-or-other – whatever it was, it was good – and they drank my health and the baby's, and Sam's, and Frodo's –
They won't be wanting much tea, after this, I thought. Mr. Pippin kept refilling their glasses, but I took just a little sip each time – babies and wine don't mix, Mum had told me that.
At last they each hugged me and patted my belly – for luck, so they said, and Sam and I were alone in the kitchen again.
"Do you think they'll still want bread and butter and cake?" I asked.
"After all those toasts, they'd better have something solid, or they'll be asleep by dinnertime! I think I should've saved the announcement for dinner, after all."
He looked at me ruefully. "I'd best eat something myself, or I won't stay awake to turn the roast."
He was so funny, and so sweet. I kissed him and laughed. You're a lucky child, little Frodo-lad, with Sam Gamgee for father.
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.