Drunkard of Bag End, The: 3. Sam

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3. Sam

in which Sam remembers

Well, he's gone, and I guess I don't have to worry about him no more. There's them who'll look after him now – Mr. Gandalf and Mr. Elrond, and the Lady. I hope they can give him the healing he needs. They'll do it better than plain Sam Gamgee, I know, but yet I wish it could've been different; I wish the Shire and me could've been enough.

They can't never love him like I do. How could they? He saved my life, and that more than once, and I saved his. When he lost hope, there in Mordor, he looked to me and I had hope enough for both of us. And when I lost hope myself, we kept going anyway – and we didn't need hope, because we had each other. When I thought we were done for, the Mountain shaking itself to pieces under our feet, I still kept hold of his hand, and he kept hold of mine. There's no one, not even my sweet Rosie, can take his place in my heart. And it's maybe presumptuous for me to say it, but – I don't believe there's anyone could take my place for him. But I won't be seeing him no more, not unless I take Ship myself one day, and that's too far ahead for me to look to right now.

I can't bear it, I want to say, but I know better than that. I learned that much in Mordor, if I didn't learn nothing else – you bear what you have to, whether you think you can or not. We made it to the Mountain because we had each other, and I still have him, in a manner of speaking. I have everything he left to me, his smial and most of his things – he didn't take no more with him than what he could carry on his pony, that last ride to the Havens.

It soothes my heart, having his things all around me. The first day back, I thought I'd never be able to go into his study again, it would wrench me so. And then when I finally did go in – it took me a few days to get up the courage – why, it comforted me as if he had reached out across the Sea and taken my hand.

He left his second-best pipe. I had to smile when I saw he'd taken his best one, and I wonder if he'll find any decent weed there in the Elven country. But there, Mr. Gandalf likes his smoke, too, so maybe he will find some, at that. But his second-best pipe is here in the study, sitting right next to mine in the stand. I like seeing it there, and I pick it up sometimes and think of his hands holding it, and us sitting in front of the fire in this room smoking, many and many a time.

That's the thing, you see – I've got so many memories of him. I wasn't no more than nine when he come here to live, but I knew him before that, from when he'd come to visit Mr. Bilbo. My mother told me he used to carry me piggyback, when I was only just big enough to grab his hair and hold on! I don't remember that, of course, but it's a happy thought. When I carried him up the Mountain, I was giving him a ride back, is all.

He was twenty-one when he came to stay, and most tweens don't want anything to do with such a little fellow as a nine-year-old, more especially when the tween is the heir of the house and the nine-year-old is the gardener's brat. But Mr. Frodo, he wasn't like that. Even in those days he was kind and courteous to everyone he met, nor he never put on any airs about being Mr. Bilbo's inheritor. And to me he was better than a brother.

He was about three years younger than my brother Ham, and a year older than Halfred. You might've thought if he was going to take up with any of us Gamgees, it would've been with them, but that's not the way it worked out. Ham had left already to apprentice with my uncle Andy in Tighfield, several years before Frodo came. And Halfred was still at home, but he was working with the wheelwright in Bywater; gone all day and holding up his end at the Green Dragon, as the saying goes, till closing time.

But I was right there in the Bag End kitchen, where Mr. Bilbo was teaching me my letters. In fact, I don't know to this day if it was his idea or Mr. Frodo's, for him to teach me – Frodo, he came in the fall, around his birthday, and it was after the cold weather started that year, when the Gaffer didn't need me in the garden, that Mr. Bilbo started teaching me. We'd sit at the table side by side while he showed me the letters, and Mr. Frodo, he sat in one of the rocking chairs by the fireplace, reading. When I'd done my lesson for the day, Mr. Bilbo would tell us stories of his adventures, and sometimes I'd crawl up on Frodo's lap while we listened. I remember us laughing sometimes, like when the Trolls were turned to stone, and I'd be leaning back on his stomach, bounced around by his laughter, till I near fell right off his lap onto the floor.

When I got big enough to be some use, they took me along once in a while, on their hiking trips over the Shire. Him and Mr. Bilbo were great ones for exploring, trying if they could meet up with travelers who'd give them some news, Elves or Dwarves or such like. When I went along, I gathered wood and kept the fire going, fetched the water and made the tea, and I thought I was earning my keep, sure enough. Mr. Bilbo was generous about paying me, and the coins were right welcome at home. Now when I look back on it, I suspect he was trying to find some way of helping the Gamgees, without it looking like charity. There was still four of us youngsters at home, and things got a little tight sometimes.

Mr. Bilbo was like that, always looking after folks that needed help, and he taught Mr. Frodo to be just like him. When my mother was ill, they came to our place every couple of days with fresh bread or a baked chicken for us, and some little thing to tempt Mum's appetite, blancmange, maybe, or a currant jelly. I don't know where they got it all, now I think about it – they could both cook, of course, but not like that. Wherever they got the food, they kept on bringing it, even after Mum passed away. For a good month afterward they took care of our family, till we got over the first grief and could take hold again.

Even when I got too big for lessons, Mr. Bilbo would call me in from the garden to take a mug of tea with them sometimes, and he was still telling us stories. We didn't never get too big for his stories, neither one of us. I suppose in all the Four Farthings, we may have been the only ones who believed Mr. Bilbo's tales, and it was just one more bond between us.

After Mr. Bilbo left and Frodo was alone at Bag End, he was lonesome, at loose ends you might say, for a couple of months. He'd lost both his parents when he was a little lad, and I guess Mr. Bilbo was the one who took their place for him – and then Mr. Bilbo up and left him. It hit him hard, and though he wasn't one to wear his heart on his sleeve, I knew it. I was at Bag End early and late, those days – it seemed only fair, after the way him and Mr. Bilbo had been to us when Mum was taken.

Sometime in those early years as master of Bag End, he went on a walking trip and broke his ankle. He lay out all day in the cold before I found him, and he was a long time recovering. I all but moved into Bag End that winter; the first month or so, till he could hobble around on his own, I slept in the guest room down the passage, with my door open so I'd hear him if he called.

I suppose I got closer to him that winter than I ever was again, until the time came that we left the rest of the Fellowship behind, when he ran from Boromir. With his ankle splinted up, he couldn't get out, and it was a cold winter, so he didn't get many callers. His cousins came for Yule, two or three of them all the way from Buckland, and they brought Mr. Pippin with them – little Master Pippin, he was then, and he was a mixed blessing, if you take my meaning. He kept things lively, right enough, but I breathed a sight easier when they took him away again. Between short-sheeting all the beds and mixing dried nettle from the herb cabinet into the tea canister – a bitter brew that made, let me tell you, and Mr. Frodo asking me, tactful like, if I was sure the water was quite at the boil when I poured it in –!

But most of the time it was just the two of us. We did a lot of reading, sitting by the fire in his study, him with his injured ankle propped up on cushions. I taught him how to toast cheese over the fire, and he taught me to play checkers. You'd a thought I'd have learned to play long before, but my Gaffer didn't hold with games, thought 'em a waste of time, with so much work always waiting to be done. But even Mr. Frodo couldn't read all the time, and it gets wearisome being laid up. The games were a pleasant pastime for him and so I told the Gaffer. After that he didn't say no more about it; he was fond of Mr. Frodo and wanted him happy.

The best part of that winter, though, was the poetry. We'd been reading a lot of Elven poems, and I said they were beautiful and all that, but not just what you'd want for every day. And he laughed, Frodo did, and said we'd better make some Hobbit poetry ourselves, as it didn't look like anyone else was likely to, since Mr. Bilbo left. That got us started, and I guess we wrote a few hundred pages, between us. Mr. Frodo wrote a long piece about the founding of the Shire, and then another one on how the Oldbucks crossed the River and became the Brandybucks. I didn't care so much for history, but I did a few short poems about moonlight and trees in the winter and suchlike, before I got onto writing comic verse.

Just the once Mr. Frodo wrote something humorous, and that was a story in itself. It was a bright winter morning, but very cold, and there was a draught from the study window that was giving him goosebumps. I tried to get him to come in the kitchen where it was warmer, but his ankle was hurting him – he'd got up to walk some the day before, and it wasn't as strong yet as he thought it was. He didn't want to move, and he didn't think he should have to move; it was his study, and he wasn't going to spend the day in the kitchen!

"I know, Sam; why don't you make us some mulled wine? That'll take the chill off, and damp down the pain in this blasted ankle besides. Heat it over the fire in here, and I'll read to you while you're making it."

Well, it was a mite early in the day to be drinking, but why not? The old gossips would have a thing or three to say about it, but who was to tell them? So I mulled the wine, and we had a glass and then another. It took the chill off very nicely, and after a while I made some more.

I guess we were on our fourth glass apiece, when there started to be an awful banging and pounding on the front door. Mr. Frodo looked at me, and I looked back, and we knew we were in for it. There wasn't but one person who ever made such an uproar knocking on the door of Bag End, and that was Lobelia Sackville-Baggins.

"What in thunder brings her out on a day like this?" Mr. Frodo demanded. "You'd think she'd freeze to the seat of her carriage!"

"She don't freeze that easy, Mr. Frodo, no more than a pickle crock. She's too sour." Goes to show I'd had a little too much of that wine, to be saying such a thing about one of his relations, but he laughed till he was lying back in the chair gasping for breath, and all the while she was pounding away at the front door like she meant to knock it down.

Then it stopped, the noise, and there wasn't a sound. "Go reconnoiter, Samwise," he whispered. "See if she's leaving." I went to the front of the smial where I could get a peek at the road, and pulled back from the window just in time.

"Mr. Frodo, she's going around looking in all the windows! She'll be here any moment!"

"Lie down, Sam! On the floor, in front of the settee!"

I stretched out on the floor like he said, but I wondered how that was going to help – Lobelia might not see me, but she'd certainly see him, there in his chair. Then I looked, and he was gone! I heard tapping at the study window and, just faintly, "Frodo Baggins! I know you're in there!" and I lay there like a stone troll myself, staring at the empty chair. I found myself counting my breaths – seventy, seventy-one – and then there was the sound of a pony cart out on the road. A moment later Frodo was sitting in his chair again, puffing on his pipe.

I got up slowly, careful not to look at him. "Want any more wine, Mr. Frodo?" My voice sounded strangely squeaky, and I cleared my throat.

"I think perhaps we've had enough, both of us," he said. "You – er – didn't see anything just now, Sam."

"No, sir. I certainly didn't."

"No, of course not. That's the problem." He sounded rueful, and then he chuckled. "That's what I get for being an unwilling host to my unpleasant relative. Sam, I'm going to trust you with a secret."

I looked at him then, and there was an expression in his eyes I couldn't read. "You know I'll keep any secret of yours like it was my own, Mr. Frodo."

He nodded. "Yes, I know. Well then, Bilbo left me something else, besides Bag End and all his possessions." He held out his hand, and there was a gold ring in it, with a gold chain attached that ran to his belt. "He left me this."

"A ring," I said. "Well, it's a nice enough ring, Mr. Frodo. Why don't you ever wear it?"

He grinned and slid it on his finger. And vanished. My jaw dropped, and then suddenly he was sitting in his chair again, the ring lying in his palm. "That's why," he said. "That's how he got past Smaug, you see, and the Goblins…"

I was plain dumbfounded. "A magic ring! I didn't think there really were such things; I thought 'twas only in stories–"

"Apparently not, Sam. I shouldn't have used it just now – though Bilbo did, sometimes, and for the same reason! But Gandalf told me to keep it secret. He seems worried about the thing; I don't know why, exactly."

"Well, I won't tell no one about it, Mr. Frodo. Not that anyone would believe me, if I did."

"No, probably no one would believe it, but all the same – you're the only one who knows, Sam."

"And that's how it'll stay, Mr. Frodo. Are you sure you don't want me to heat up some more wine? You're shivering."

"No more wine; I prefer to keep my wits about me. Do you think you could hang up a quilt or something in front of that blasted window, to stop the draught coming in? That would give us some privacy, too, in case Lobelia comes back."

I went and pulled a good thick quilt out of the cedar chest and tacked it up over the window, and he sat in his chair scribbling away at something. Then I made some tea to warm him up, and when I brought it in he handed me the thing he'd been writing:

There was an old hag most unwelcome –
It's a mercy she calls very seldom!
If she bangs on the door,
We'll lie down on the floor,
You be mum and I'll play that I'm struck dumb!

Like I said, his gift was more for history than comic verse. It struck us funny that day, though, and we spent a pleasant afternoon writing little poems about all our friends and relations.

But I always remembered what he said, how he wanted to keep his wits about him. It stopped me, many a time, from taking a drop too much – my brother Ham, now, he liked his drink, and I'd seen him staggering and foolish too often. I looked at him, you might say, and I looked at Mr. Frodo – and it was Frodo I wanted to be like. I never saw Frodo overtaken by drink except just the once, and that this very summer.

It pretty near killed him; it was like he'd saved up a lifetime of inebriation and done it all at one go. I walked into his study in the dark, to see everything was in order and the windows shut, before I went to bed, and I fell right on top of him, lying on the floor. I thought he was dead, and it was a near thing, at that.

I won't never forget the shame in his eyes, when we finally brought him round and he saw the state he was in. It about broke my heart, and I thought – you think you've sunk yourself below reproach, Master; you think I'll believe, now, that you're the failure you make yourself out to be, but it won't never happen. I know what you are, and no amount of wallowing in the mire can change that.

But it brought me up short, it did indeed. If he was in such misery that he'd turn to brandy to drown his pain, he was far worse off than I had guessed. I feared for him, I truly did, from that day on.

Well, I don't have to fear for him anymore. The Lady won't let no harm come to him, nor Gandalf; not that there's any harm to be afraid of, I suppose, where he's gone. And maybe they can get through to him what I couldn't, that he's no failure, neither.

It comforts my heart, remembering those days before the Quest, when he was master of Bag End and I was his gardener, and his friend. He had a merry heart, and a kind one. He didn't never lose the kindness, and I hope he'll find his merriment again, as well, beyond the Sea.

To speak truth, I'm not sure I know who I am anymore, without Mr. Frodo to look after. But he'll be a part of me as long as I live; I wouldn't be who I am this moment, if he hadn't of been in my life all along.

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 - Post-Ring War

Genre: General

Rating: General

Last Updated: 04/08/04

Original Post: 08/15/03

Go to Drunkard of Bag End, The overview


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