When it was just the three of us at Bag End, we took our meals together. But when company came, no matter if it was just Mr. Merry or Mr. Pippin, we served Mr. Frodo and his guests by themselves, and Sam and I ate in the kitchen. Sam was adamant about that. He and Mr. Frodo had it out together the first time Mr. Merry came to call after our wedding.
"Sam, it's Merry, for heaven's sake! You don't think Merry is going to complain about sitting down to dinner with you and Rose – you sat at table together in Rivendell, to say nothing of all the journey after!"
"I don't say Mr. Merry would complain. I know he wouldn't, as sweet-tempered a hobbit as he always was. But it ain't what's proper, Mr. Frodo, and you know it. I'm your manservant and your gardener, and proud to be, and Rose is your housekeeper. And when company comes our place is in the kitchen."
Sam was that earnest, Mr. Frodo couldn't help but listen.
"You've been my best friend since I was a little lad, Mr. Frodo, and you'll never lack a friend so long as I live. It's not that. But you're my Master, too, and when company comes, I want them to see that I honor you. I don't want no one to think I'm presuming on friendship so's to not show you the proper respect."
Mr. Frodo gave in after that – though I heard him later that evening explaining to Mr. Merry that Sam had refused to eat with them, and why. Seemed like Mr. Frodo worried what people thought, too; only he was afraid Mr. Merry would think him ungrateful, treating Sam like a servant after Sam saved his life in Mordor.
I was bringing them some beer from the barrel in the cellar when I heard Mr. Frodo telling him about it, and I admit I hid behind the door and waited to hear what Mr. Merry would answer.
He laughed like it was all a good joke. "Frodo, my dear ass, of course Sam wants to treat you as the Master of Bag End. Think about it, cousin – you count Aragorn as your friend, but would you sit down in his presence, if he were standing?"
"Of course not, Merry, but he's the King! It's not the same thing at all."
"To Sam it's exactly the same thing. If the truth were known, Sam probably ranks you higher than Aragorn. The only thing that surprises me is that you prevailed on him to sit down and eat with you when you're alone here together. You must have been very persuasive."
I heard Mr. Frodo chuckle. "I appealed to his pity – poor old Frodo all alone in the dining room, while he cuddled up by the kitchen fire with his pretty new bride."
"Frodo! For shame!" Mr. Merry seemed to be taken by a coughing fit.
"Merry, I haven't had a real family since I was twelve. It's something I long for, the home life, the family meals, the warmth and laughter…."
"So you're going to make yourself part of Sam's family? Why not get married yourself?"
"No! I won't ask any lass to take that risk. After the Ring – I don't know what it may have done to me, my mind or my body. I shall never marry. But if Sam and Rose don't mind having me around as a sort of bachelor uncle…."
I didn't stay to hear no more. I slipped away as quiet as I could and took their mugs back to the kitchen. I told Sam I wasn' t feeling just so, and let him take their beer in to them, and I went back in our bedroom and cried. Poor Mr. Frodo.
I told Sam about it a day or two later, and the tears came to his eyes, too.
"There's not a lass in the Shire but would be lucky to have him, but if he's made up his mind not to marry, he never will. We'll just have to be family to him, Rosie. He's better than a brother to me anyhow, always has been."
"We'll name our first baby for him," I said, and got the best hug I'd had all week.
After that I tried to forget that he was Mr. Frodo Baggins, the Master of Bag End, and treat him like family. It came hard at first.
It wasn't no trouble living with him. He sat in his study reading, or writing in his big book, or sometimes he went out walking in the countryside, down the little lanes where the houses are far apart, or into the woods. When he got hungry he'd show up in the kitchen, brew himself a pot of tea and cut some bread and butter to take back to the study.
The first time he wandered into the kitchen like that, I fussed over him, trying to make him sit down and let me wait on him. He turned the tables on me, though – he pulled out a chair and made me sit in it, while he went about making the tea. When it finished brewing, he poured a cup for me and put cream in it, before he set the cream pot on the tray to carry it away. Then he looked down at me with that gentle smile of his.
"You cook three good meals a day, Rose, four if you count our afternoon tea. If I want something in between, I'm well able to find it for myself. I lived here a good many years alone, you know!"
To be honest, I might have resented it a little – a lass gets a bit possessive about her kitchen, even if it isn't properly speaking her own house – but his smile made it all right.
And it's family he wants, I reminded myself. Could I pretend he was Sam's uncle, like – someone I'd show respect for, but affection, too, and family feeling?
Before long I got used to him poking around the kitchen looking for a snack. I just kept on with my work and didn't pay him any mind, but I made sure there were always some seedcakes in the pantry, which I'd noticed he specially liked, and a good hunk of sharp cheese nearby.
Sam was feeling his way too. At first he tried to get Mr. Frodo to walk down to the pub with him in the evening, and he did go a few times. After awhile, though, seemed like he just wanted to stay home.
"You go on, Sam," he'd say. "I'm not in the mood for all that noise and commotion. I'll have a quiet smoke out in the garden and get back to my book."
Pretty soon Sam quit asking, and then he quit going himself.
"I don't enjoy it nohow," he told me, "thinking of him prowling round the garden alone, or sitting there at his desk hashing through all them dark memories. I know Mr. Bilbo told him to write it all down, but they're terrible memories, Rosie. It's not good for him to dwell on them like he does."
So Sam stayed home and joined Frodo in the garden for a comfortable smoke after dinner. Then he came in and dried the dishes for me, and he brought Mr. Frodo along with him.
"Will you read to us some, Mr. Frodo?” he asked one night. “I always did like hearing you read, and there's a lot I still don't rightly understand, about the Men of the West and all that."
Oh my clever Sam, he knew what he was about! He knew Mr. Frodo's passion for making sure we understood all the history of the Shire and how it connected to the old Kings and the new Kingdom that Elessar had restored. He might have rather listened to tales of the Elves himself, but teaching us history would keep Frodo in the bright kitchen and away from his own dark memories, so history it was.
One night Mr. Frodo begged off reading, saying he had a sore throat.
"But I'll challenge you to a game of checkers, Sam. Do you remember when I taught you to play?"
"Oh, don't I! Nor I haven't forgot what my Gaffer had to say about it, neither, when he saw you teaching me! Never had much patience with games, my Gaffer. 'Reading ain't bad enough, now you got to be messing about with little bits of wood! Throw 'em on the fire, Sam, and come get some work done!'"
They laughed at the memory, and Mr. Frodo dug the checkers out from the cupboard by the back door, while I set a cup of sage tea steeping for his throat.
That was a merry evening! Sam lost the first game, but he won the next.
"Best two out of three," said Mr. Frodo, "and the winner teaches Rose."
Sam won that one too, and I wrapped a warmed scarf round Mr. Frodo's throat and gave him his tea, then settled down for Sam to teach me the game.
I hadn't played games much, not since Marigold and I were little lasses playing jackstones on the smooth floor of the barn. It was fun, even when Sam turned all his men to kings and gobbled up my pieces. I hadn't expected to win, so I didn't mind, but Mr. Frodo rallied him.
"You are merciless, Sam Gamgee, absolutely merciless. Mopping up your little bride like that, you ought to be ashamed! But I have the cure for that, sir, to cut you down to size and teach you humility. Wait right here!"
He disappeared down the passage and returned a moment later with Mr. Bilbo's inlaid chessboard, balancing the carved figures of white and red stone.
"Now, Master Gamgee, come and learn the game of kings. We'll see if you clear the board quite so fast when you play chess!"
I watched while he taught Sam, and my word, but there was a lot to remember! In after years Sam got to be a good chess player, and he taught our children and tried to teach me, not too successfully in my case. But that first evening he was in a muddle trying to remember how each piece was supposed to move, and Mr. Frodo was well revenged for his defeat at checkers.
There was many another evening we played, and I got so I could beat Mr. Frodo at checkers once in awhile, though I never beat Sam. But that first night shines in my memory as something special – it really felt like family that night, and it seemed like the shadows could be pushed away for good and happiness come to stay, for all of us.
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.