Sam's Rose: 5. Ruffians

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5. Ruffians

in which Lotho makes his move and Rose makes a promise

Mayor Will Whitfoot never made it to Bag End. He came alone after all, in spite of Da’s warning, but in the end I don’t suppose a couple of Shirriffs would’ve helped him any. The ruffians waylaid him just where the East Road meets the road to Bywater, a little west of the Three Farthing Stone. Right in the middle of the Shire. They turned him around and carried him straight back to Michel Delving and locked him up in the old storage tunnels there, what came to be called the Lockholes. He was the first, but he wasn’t the last.

It had been a week, pretty near, since Mr. Odo and them went to call on Lotho. Only a week, but in that time things had gone from bad to worse.

The next day after they called on him, Lotho was out on Bywater Road east of Hobbiton with a gang of Men, and they were felling all the trees along the road. A few hobbits who had houses there came out to protest, but Lotho had his answer ready.

“I’ll pay for the damage, my friends! I’ll pay for the damage. We need the wood, I’m afraid. Have to build houses for the hobbits being relocated by the new Hobbiton Sand Works, you know! Can’t stop Progress, no indeed, but we can’t have anyone left homeless. Just bring your claims to Bag End and I’ll pay for the trees.”

Old Petunia Bunce wasn’t having any, whether he paid her for the wood or not. “Just you leave my trees be, Lotho Pimple! You let folk live in peace in the holes their grand-daddies dug a hundred years agone, and you won’t need to build no new houses for ’em. Sand quarry, my eye! Stuff!”

He turned ugly then, grabbed her by the shoulders and marched her back to her own front door.

“In you go, granny, and mind your manners! You keep a quiet tongue or you’ll be looking for a new house yourself.”

And when her son came out to protest this treatment, one of the ruffians threatened him with an axe.

Early in the week the residents of Bagshot Row were turned out. Lotho was there and a crowd of Men with him, along with Ted Sandyman and his cronies. When anyone was slow in moving their belongings out of a smial, Ted and his friends just went in and dragged everything out, throwing it in the dirt, never mind what got broken or spoiled. Lotho had a couple of wagons on hand to cart away furniture and such – to the homes of friends or relatives, if people could arrange that, or into “storage” in the cellars of Bag End. But the folks who let their belongings go into the Bag End cellars were sorry later, for it never seemed to be the right time for Mr. Lotho to have their things returned to them.

The Gamgees’ bits of furniture came to the farm, of course. There wasn’t all that much – a few bedsteads and a pile of featherbeds, pillows, and quilts, the old kitchen table and benches, notched and gouged from forty years use and six children, a couple of rocking chairs, a baby cradle. The Gaffer piled their clothes and kitchenware and garden tools all higgledy-piggledy in a wheelbarrow and stumped down the road with it, while Marigold trotted beside him, begging him to let her push it, it was too heavy – oh, please, Da!

But all the food they had put by for the winter, the dried apples and tomatoes, the bacon and sausage and cheese that Mari had helped us to make, and taken her share of it home – Mr. Lotho made them leave it all behind. No one from Bagshot Row was allowed to take their food supplies with them; it was all gathered up by the Men and taken away. And any pipeweed that was found, the Men took that, too.

“For fair distribution later,” Lotho said grandly. “No hobbit will go hungry while I’m in charge, rest assured of that!”

I guess folks were wondering how he'd gotten to be in charge, but he was surrounded by big, rough Men, and no one dared ask. The Gaffer sat in our kitchen muttering about it far into the evening. The houses weren’t built yet, nor even begun, that Lotho had promised for the hobbits of Bagshot Row. The homeless families found shelter where they could, and the Gaffer and Marigold were with us.

“Oh, hush, now!” my Mum told Mari, when she tried to thank her. “This is as much your home as Bagshot Row, my dear, and I’m pleased to have you and the Gaffer with us -- though not pleased at the reason for it, be sure of that! And there’s food enough for all of us and to spare, so don’t trouble your head on that account.”

Nibs gave up his bed to the Gaffer and went to sleep on the settee in the front room, but Mari slept with me, like she did in the summer. She emptied out her bundle on the bed – her clothes and her old rag doll, a piece of lace that had belonged to her mother and that she was saving for her wedding, someday in the future, a few other small treasures. She had another, smaller bundle as well, and she slid the latch shut on the bedroom door before she opened it.

"The Gaffer told me to leave these," she whispered, "but I couldn't do it, Rosie. Even if he never comes back….."

A few shirts, an old hat, a worn pair of breeches, a book. All wrapped in a faded grey cloak. Sam's things. The rest of his stuff had gone with him to Crickhollow; this was all he had left behind.

I picked up the book and ran my hands over it -- just touching it seemed to bring him close. This was his greatest treasure, I knew that much, and I was surprised he hadn't taken it with him. But then, he knew when he left that they weren't staying in Buckland. Knew they were going far from the Shire and into danger, most like. So of course he wouldn't take it along. The book was proof, if any proof were needed, that he had intended to come back.

I opened it up and stared at the graceful lettering running down the pages. I couldn't read, and no more could Marigold. Girls of our station didn't learn to read, and often enough the lads didn't, either, though Da had taught my brothers. But I knew many of the stories in this book, for Sam had read them to me. On blustery days when we couldn't walk out, or in the winter when it was too bitter, we had sat by the kitchen fire, snug as bugs, and he had read to me from this book. I handed it back to Mari and turned away, before my tears could stain it.

"I want you to have it, Rose," she said, when I'd got control of myself. "The book and his old cloak. I want you to have them, to remember him by."

It was like Mari, when she had so little, to give the half of it away.

"I don't need nothing to help me remember, Mari. I'm waiting for him to come home."

She wrapped the cloak around the book and pushed them into my hands.

"You keep them, Rose. I – I think he'd want for you to have them. If he ever comes home, you can give them back to him."

"If he comes home, Mari?"

She avoided my eyes. "I want to believe he will, Rose. I want to believe he's still alive…. but…. it's near three months, and there's been no word. No word at all. I'd think we would have heard something by now."

It was a thought that had been sneaking through the back of my own mind, and I hadn't let myself face it. It came hard to hear it said right out loud. I unwrapped the book and slid it under my pillow, shook out the cloak and threw it around my shoulders. It even smelled like Sam, fresh air and pipe-weed and smoke from autumn bonfires, and I pulled it close about me as if it had been his arms.

"Three months or three years, Marigold Gamgee," I said fiercely. "Or ten years! However long it takes, I'll still be waiting."

She came and hugged me, and we went to bed without another word.

The next day I brushed Sam's cloak till it was clean and soft, and steamed the wrinkles out of it. I hung it up on my hook by the door. Mum watched what I was doing, but she
didn't say anything.

That was the day Da hid the pipe-weed. He said later he didn't know what made him do it; it wasn't anything he reasoned out, but he went up attic and emptied half a barrel of good leaf into a linen sack and brought it down to the kitchen.

"Sew this closed for me, Rosie-girl," he said, and when I'd done that, he took it in their bedroom and stuffed it in a pillowcase and set it on their bed, just one more pillow among the others.

A few days later – it was after they'd waylaid the Mayor and dragged him off to the Lockholes – four of the ruffians came into the farmyard in the early afternoon. Da went out to see what they wanted, and Mum and I watched from the window.

He greeted them pleasant enough. Da always tried to be civil to people, whatever he really thought of them. It was something he pounded into us youngsters from the time we were little.

"Good manners cost you nothing! You'll catch more flies with honey than vinegar any day of the week -- just you try and remember that, Jolly!"

It was often enough Jolly he was talking to – my twin had a sharp tongue if you riled him. It was a nagging worry to all of us, that terrible year, my brother's temper. There was many a hobbit ended in the Lockholes for speaking up out of turn.

Those Men Lotho brought into the Shire didn't waste their time on being civil. Even from the window, I could see Da's fists bunch up and his face go hard, and he came to the door and called my brother.

"Nick, go up attic and bring down that barrel of leaf from the north corner."

The ruffians stood waiting, and when Nick brought the barrel down, Da carried it out to them.

"Sure that's all you've got, little man?" the leader asked sneeringly. "This barrel's half empty!"

"There's five pipe-smokers in this household. We go through a lot of leaf," Da said, truthfully enough. "You can go up attic and look for yourself, if it suits you."

The Men looked at the kitchen doorway. They could've gotten in, if they crouched over, but they'd have had a hard time getting up the stairs. I guess the same thought occurred to them.

"We'll take your word for it this time – but you'd better not try nothing! The Boss, he means to be obeyed, and don't you forget it!"

They left, and Da came in looking like he'd aged ten years, and slumped down in a chair by the table.

"Tolman? What was that all about, do you think?" My mother sounded frightened and I was, too. What in the Shire was going on, when ruffians barged right into our yard and bullied my father?

Da shook his head. "I don't know, Lily. I honestly don't know. Fix me a bite to eat, won't you? Then I'm going up to the Big House and have a word with Mr. Odo. There's something afoot that I don't understand."

But Mr. Odo had no answers for him. The ruffians had been to his house too, and cleaned out all his pipeweed – the best Southern Star it was, from the Southfarthing – and stole his prize pony besides, that won the trotting race last Mid-Year's Day. And worst of all, Mr. Fredegar had gone.

"It was the pony," Mr. Odo told Da. "He tried to reason with that fellow, that ruffian- leader, not to take her. Well, I ask you, Cotton, what use is a pony to those big brutes? It's not as if they could ride her! But this fellow just sneered and said she'd do well enough to haul bricks for Lotho's new Mill. Our Lightfoot, hauling bricks! She won't last six months at such work; she's not bred for it! They were no more than gone when Freddie came out with a change of clothes and some food in his saddlebags and rode off for the Tookland."

"The Tookland?" Da said. "What's he hope to do there?"

"Stir up the Thain to stand against Lotho. He says – and he's right, you know – with those deep holes they've got at the Great Smials, the Tooks can keep these ruffians out of there. If anyone can hold out against Lotho's devilry, it'll be the Thain."

Mari and I listened in amazement. Fatty? Fatty Bolger, of all the hobbits in the Shire, was leaving his comfortable home to stir up resistance to the ruffians?

"Will wonders never cease!" my mother said, and that about summed it up.

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.

Story Information

Author: jodancingtree

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: General

Rating: General

Last Updated: 03/15/04

Original Post: 02/09/03

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