Will Whitfoot was surprised to find a letter from Mayor Gamgee in the missives Dorno handed him. Will rarely visited Michel Delving any more, and hadn’t been even to Hobbiton since the birth of young Merry Gamgee--or Gardner as the family was increasingly coming to be known.
He opened the envelope and carefully extracted the enclosed letter. Dorno stood by curiously, noting the smile and shake of the head his grandfather was giving. “What is it, Ganda?” he asked. “What does Mayor Sam say?”
“He wants to make certain as we come to the Free Fair this summer,” Will answered him. “Seems that mannikin sculptor of the King’s has decided the Shire needs a statue or two, and is sending one to be placed in accordance with the pleasure of the Mayor, Master, and Thain; and those three have determined as it ought to go into the grounds for the Free Fair.” He smiled at his older grandson. “What do you say, Dorno my lad? Shall we go see this new statue, do you think?”
A week before the Free Fair was to begin a heavily tarped wagon arrived from the North from Annúminas where the King’s sculptor was working on the new capitol for Arnor. This wagon was driven by two Dwarves, and was accompanied by still another who rode behind a tall, golden-haired Elf on a great horse. Not many Elves traveled openly through the Shire; most of those who’d lingered in Eriador had removed to Rivendell. Many looked on this one with his unusual companions with great interest and surprise.
The small group paused at the Floating Log for their first night in the Shire, leaving early in the morning to take the road West to Hobbiton. All watched with interest as they passed by. Companies of Dwarves passing East and West along the Road had increased again in the years since the Travelers had returned to the Shire, although companies also followed the Men’s road South of the Shire’s borders. Most of the innkeepers along the Road welcomed Dwarf custom and gladly accepted their coin, making certain to keep in stock the darker ales such patrons preferred. But their second night in the Shire the company stopped not at an inn but in Bag End in Hobbiton where they spent the next few days with the Mayor and his wife.
Will and Mina Whitfoot had offered to sell their house in Michel Delving to Sam and Rosie, but the latter pair had refused it. Hobbiton and Bag End were their home, and they’d not have another. Sam instead had a set of rooms he took so regularly in Michel Delving’s inn they were now dedicated solely to his use and that of whatever family members might accompany him during the three to four days a week he saw to the Mayor’s duties. Two days before the Free Fair was to open Sam returned to Michel Delving alongside the wagon and the Elf’s horse, and led them into the fairgrounds. There they were met by Master and Thain, who’d arrived the previous night, and there was a prolonged discussion held about where the statue was to be placed and whether or not there would be an official unveiling. However, once the sculpture was straightened and its wrappings removed and all of them had actually seen it, they agreed immediately as to where it should be set, and that they’d not insist on any ceremony regarding it.
So it was that those arriving at the Free Fair that year found a sculpture sitting on the edge of the dancing floor near the ale tent. It wasn’t a particularly formal piece, for all it was done of fine silver-green marble. It showed a grown Hobbit sitting on an ale barrel with a Hobbit lass seated in his lap, his left arm about her, his right slightly raised as if gesturing as he told her a story.
Dianthus Sandheaver stood there for quite some time with her younger sister Primula, and the younger lass could tell her older sister was enthralled by it. Trying to understand what about it so caught Dianthus’s attention, Primmie examined the lass’s features. “You know who this reminds me of?” she asked. “Cyclamen Proudfoot, that’s who. You know--the one who came to stay with us and help out last summer when Mum was ill.”
Dianthus gave the lass’s face in the sculpture a thorough evaluation, then smiled. “You know what?” she said. “I think you’re right! But then the one who made the statue has stayed in Hobbiton and knows her, and so would very likely use her as a model for it.” But her own eyes were drawn back to the face of the grown Hobbit.
Primmie sighed and tried again to figure out what about the statue’s face so attracted her sister. Finally she said, almost grudgingly, “The da has a nice face, I suppose.”
“You think as he was her da, do you?” Dianthus asked.
“Well, isn’t he?” Primmie asked. “He is smiling at her just the way Da looks at us when he tells us stories, you know.”
Her older sister smiled. “Yes,” she said, “I suppose he does.”
“It’s too bad they broke the finger off when they were bringing it here, though,” Primula continued. “Do you think as it could be fixed?”
Dianthus’s smile became deeper but more solemn as she shook her head. “No, Primmie, the statue’s not broken.”
The younger lass was becoming impatient. Finally she pulled on her sister’s arm. “Aren’t you done yet, Dianthus? I want a candied apple, you know, and Cando’s promised to buy it for me.”
Reluctantly Dianthus let herself be pulled away from the sculpture of the Storyteller.
Later Will and Mina were led to the statue by their older granddaughter, and they spent a good deal of time admiring it.
In after years this statue was surrounded by a small garden in which white Elven lilies and a variety of kingsfoil that had large white blossoms and broad leaves grew in profusion. But everyone knew Mayor Sam had at times some odd ideas as to what was right and proper. By the time he finally gave up his office the tradition of Elven lilies and kingsfoil about the statue was so entrenched that none would consider changing to more colorful flowers; and the missing finger seldom seemed to be noted any more.
And behind the ale tent the tradition of story telling to the children of the Shire continued, the one telling the tales this year always sitting on an ale barrel as depicted in the sculpture. The children of the Shire knew that there was no other way for it to be done, after all.