3. Frodo's Gift
The hobbits slept late the following morning. Sam's dreams held the echo of music that rang like crystal, and stars that seemed to hang lower and burn brighter than they ever had at home. He woke at last to brilliant sunshine framed by the round window and a tantalizing aroma of ham and eggs from the next room.
For a few moments he lay still in luxurious comfort, running his eyes around the little bedroom. If the room was small, the bed was large and piled high with feather mattresses and big square goosedown pillows, soft as clouds. The headboard and footboard were intricately carved, but evidently not of Elvish work, for the style of the carvings reminded him strongly of the furniture he had left behind in Bag End. A hobbit had done this work, and looking closely at the headboard, he found scenes of the Shire set one after another in carved, leafy frames.
Here was the front door of Bag End, the rather rough figure of a hobbit sitting on a bench beside it, smoking a pipe. There was the inn at Bywater, its door hospitably open and a plume of smoke rising from the chimney. Another view of Bag End, the garden this time, and Samwise grinned as he recognized his old Gaffer leaning on a shovel, his expression as irascible as he remembered it. An inside view of Bag End came next, Bilbo sitting in his favorite chair and beside him on a low stool, a hobbit child holding a book.
"Why, it's me!" Sam muttered in amazement. "That's me, and old Mr. Bilbo teaching me my letters. But who in the world carved all these pictures?" Fascinated by his discoveries, he scrambled to the other end of the bed to examine the footboard. The scenes of the Shire continued there: the old Mill set beside the Water, Bagshot Row as it had looked when Sam was a child, Brandy Hall with its hundred windows, and on the far right side, a young hobbit with a mischievous expression in a patch of mushrooms, a half-filled bag in his hand.
"Well, I know who that's meant to be, right enough!" Sam was chuckling to himself, when a couple of sharp raps sounded on the bedroom door and a merry voice called, "All right in there, I know you're awake! Come on out and have breakfast, Sam, or do you want breakfast in bed?"
"Don't you dare, Mr. Frodo! Just give me a moment!" He flung on his clothes and hustled into the outer room, where breakfast for two lay spread on a table washed in sunlight. Frodo sat at one place smiling up at him, and Sam felt an uprush of happiness at the sight of him. It still didn't seem real that he was here, and the long years of separation were over. He thought it would take a while for that joy to seem commonplace.
"What were you doing in there, old lad?" Frodo demanded cheerfully as he poured the tea. "I could hear you creaking about and muttering to yourself for a long time. I thought the smell of breakfast would pull you out here in a hurry, but I finally had to knock, or it would have been cold."
"Just taking my bearings, Mr. Frodo," Sam answered around a bite of ham. "Looking over the ground, you might say. Or the bed. Who carved the headboard in there? It looks like hobbit work, but I thought you and Mr. Bilbo were the only hobbits here."
Frodo watched him from the corner of his eye, a grin tugging at his mouth. "What if I told you I carved it myself? And the footboard too, mind you."
Sam stopped chewing in astonishment. "You? Now Mr. Frodo, I never knew you to so much as whittle a stick, so don't ask me to believe you did all those pictures! That's fine carving , that is, you can see the expressions on the faces just as plain, and every scene as clear as day. How would you learn to carve like that?"
Frodo laughed outright. "Well Sam, I'm afraid I shall have to ask you to believe it, for that bed is my own work. There are wonderful woodcarvers among the Elves, and they taught me. It took a long time, of course. But even here the sun doesn't shine every day, and the carving was a good way to pass wet days before the fire. And then toward the end Bilbo couldn't get out much, and I didn't want to leave him. He enjoyed watching those pictures of the Shire take shape."
Sam nodded thoughtfully. "I can see that he would have. Well, you're a marvel, Mr. Frodo. I often wondered what you’d be doing with yourself in Tol Eressea, but I must say I never thought of woodcarving!"
Frodo pushed back his plate and poured himself another mug of tea. "Well, you know, Sam, the Elves are at it all the time, making beautiful things. We didn't see that so much in Rivendell, we weren't there long enough, and then we were always caught up in the Quest, going and coming back. But here I had time to notice what they were doing, and the things they make are wonderful. And they were so patient about teaching me ....."
His voice trailed off. After a bit he asked almost shyly, "Did you like the one of you and Rose?"
Sam looked blank. "Me and Rose? Begging your pardon, Mr. Frodo, but I must have missed that one. But I'd dearly like to see it! Wait now and I'll go look again." He got up quickly and went back into the bedroom, but though he looked closely at each carving, there was none of Rose that he could find.
"Look on the other side of the footboard, Sam," said Frodo from the doorway.
Samwise walked round the end of the bed. The footboard extended right to the floor and there were more pictures on this side. In the very center was a raised wreath of roses intertwined, and inside the wreath a bridal portrait of Sam and Rose. Frodo's carving had caught their very expressions on that long-ago day, Sam looking shy and proud and happy all at once, Rose glowing with youth and love.
"My word, Mr. Frodo!" Sam groped behind him for a chair and sat down heavily, not taking his eyes from the picture. "You caught her to the life, that you did. "Twas just like that she looked the day we were wed, and she didn't change all that much, Mr. Frodo, not through all the years. She got laugh lines, you know, and her hair got gray, but her smile was just the same, and her eyes." His own eyes had filled with tears, and Frodo came behind him, laying his hands on Sam's shoulders.
"I'm glad you like it, old lad. I hoped you would."
Sam reached up and gripped Frodo's hand. "You couldn't give me no better present, Mr. Frodo, nor anything I'd treasure more.
"When we went off with the Ring, all those years ago, I had to leave Rosie, but I had you. And then when you went to the Havens, I thought my heart would break, but I had Rosie. But these last months ...... she died on Mid-Year's Day, Mr. Frodo. And then I didn't have neither of you. I didn't know what to do with myself, and that's the truth."
Samwise rubbed at his eyes with his sleeve and stood up, going over to the bed again. "Now, what are all these other pictures? I never looked at this side at all, or I'd never have missed that one of Rosie." He began in the top left corner, and saw himself, a sword clutched in both hands and a monstrous spider crouching over his head. "Ugh! Now Mr. Frodo, you didn't need to be carving that! I'd as soon forget about that monster!"
Frodo laughed and came to his side. "No, Sam, that's one I do want to remember. If it hadn't been for you, I would have been dinner for that monster, and I don't choose to forget it. Or the other times you saved my life. Look, here's the room at the top of the orc tower -- I'll never forget waking up and finding you there, when I was expecting an orc with a whip! "
Sam shook his head, but looked in silence from one picture to another. There indeed was the tower room, and himself holding a beaten-looking Frodo in his arms. In the top right corner he was bent almost double, carrying his master up the slope of Mt. Doom. The last carving showed him at the Sammath Naur, holding Frodo's hand and plainly urging him away, while the mountain erupted above them and rocks fell from the sky.
"I did this side of the footboard last, after I had really learned to carve. Because this was for you, Sam; these were the pictures I really wanted to make. To say thank you. To let you know I never forgot you, even though I couldn't stay in the Shire. And your wedding portrait, because I was so glad you had Rose to make you happy. "
He turned to look at Samwise, and he was smiling through tears. "I know I've said it before, Sam, but I'm glad you're here."
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.