Thirteen children Sam and Rosie had given birth to; thirteen families now gathered in Hobbiton to see their mother and grandmother laid to rest.
Countless folk gathered to Sam’s comfort--Pippin and his children, Faramir, who’d married Goldilocks Gardner, and Éowyn; Merry and his; their grandchildren; Fosco Baggins and his wife Cyclamen and their three sons and one daughter; his twin sister Forsythia and her husband Malmo Longbottom; Dianthus Underhill and her husband Fendo from the Westfarthing; children and grandchildren of many who’d known Sam and Rosie, Frodo and even old Bilbo Baggins before them. Moro Burrows stood near his brother-in-law--his Daisy had died not long before; Marigold Cotton stood on his other side, her husband Tom looking frightfully fragile as he watched them lay his sister’s body to rest in the good soil of the Shire.
Sam had barely spoken since the discovery that Rosie’d slipped away in her sleep. He who’d wept so often over the griefs and tortures visited upon his Master could be seen to have tears in his eyes now, but it was as if he didn’t even notice they were there. He seemed to be wandering somewhere else, at a remove from what was happening. A call on his name and he’d turn, suddenly come present, answer properly whatever comment was made, whatever comfort was offered. But then he’d slip off again, isolated by his loss.
“Come stay a time with us, Sam-Dad,” Elanor begged him. “Come and let your heart heal for a time.”
“Not yet,” he kept saying. “Not yet.”
After the internment all gathered in Bag End and its gardens, talking quietly, neighbors bringing platters of cheeses, boats of sauces, bowls of taters and vegetables, roasts of meat, great hams, cakes and baskets of breads. Faramir and Goldilocks had brought piles of seed cakes from old Bilbo’s own recipe, and it appeared only that could induce Sam to smile for a time, until some of his youngest grandchildren began seeking him out.
Even then Sam in time slipped away, and at last Frodo found his father atop the Hill, carefully weeding the ring of athelas, elanor, niphredil, and lilies that encircled the oak. The younger Hobbit approached his father and knelt down to work alongside him for a time until at last Sam appeared to notice him.
“You all right Da?” Frodo asked then.
Sam searched his son’s face, then shrugged and turned away. “As all right, I suppose, as I can be, havin’ my heart torn out yet again,” he said quietly. He turned back to his weeding. Soon after young Frodo-Third joined them, followed by Peregrin Took and Hamfast the younger. None pressed Sam, but he seemed to take comfort in their quiet company and automatic assistance.
A few days later Sam planted rosebushes and elanor over his wife’s grave. Most of the children left after the reading of their mother’s will, which left some dearly beloved memento to each child and grandchild and niece and nephew, and assurance of her love and continuing care for all of them.
I’m so glad for the time we’ve had together, she’d written. I rejoice the Valar give us this grace, Sam and me, to know you as we have. I know as your Gaffer won’t remain long now, and I’m sorry for that, knowing as how all of you love him and how as he loves all of you in return. But he has a seeking to do, a bit of healing on his own, have a part of his heart restored to him, afore he follows me. Stand by him as you can. And when the time comes, help him find his road and bid him farewell in gladness, for a part of his own treasure will come back to him as he give up years ago. I’m only going on first, will wait to save a place for him at the great Banquet, and then for each of you as you join us.
Be glad, for I was give his love, and I’ve known nought but joy in it.
Cyclamen Baggins, once Cyclamen Proudfoot, came daily to help as she could. Linnet’s grief at the loss of her beloved mother-in-law was deep, and Frodo was having a time of it trying to keep all going around his mother’s loss, his wife’s grief, his father’s continued isolation. Cyclamen and Hamfast the younger saw to a good deal of the upkeep of the hole, helped Lily, Dahlia, and Holfast prepare meals and clean up after, saw to it the marketing was done and the candles and lamp oil refreshed. Frodo-third was doing most of the work in the stable Sam had seen built in the corner of the Party Field, something he’d once suggested to his Master, and which he’d finally followed through on about a year afterwards. But although the family had kept poultry and riding ponies and a wagon, Sam had never invested in a trap or coach of their own.
One day Cyclamen looked into the study to see Sam sitting quietly at the desk, as he so often was these days when he didn’t slip out to the gardens to weed for a time, or up to the top of the Hill to sit beneath the oak tree there to look out at the Shire and then the stars as they appeared as dusk fell. “Mr. Sam, have you written the King yet?”
He turned and looked at her, surprised. “Written Strider? About what?”
“Telling him of Missus Rose’s death,” she answered him.
He looked at her somewhat bemused. “Yes,” he said dully, “I suppose as I ought to do that.”
Frodo-lad had heard the interchange, and after a time looked into the room to see if his father had begun the letter; but Sam sat there with an empty envelope and a blank piece of stationery before him, an open bottle of ink sitting in the well, and a quill pen on which the ink had dried twirling between Sam’s fingers.
The next day Sam said quietly he was going for a walk, and after his father left the hole Frodo went into the back store room and then to the tool shed to make certain no lengths of rope had gone with him, worried by talk he’d overheard years past between his parents when discussing Master Frodo’s last illness. However, he didn’t find any sign any rope or line of any kind, or any tool with which Sam might do himself an injury, was missing. Feeling reassured he returned to the smial, and finally went into the study himself and pulled out some stationery and composed his own letter to the King, describing the death of his mother, her burial, and that his father appeared well enough but was understandably experiencing grief. When it was done and he’d cleaned all the pens and quills as his father usually saw them kept, he went into the village and entrusted the letter to the Quick Post to be taken to the Bridge where it would be passed to the King’s messengers and sent on to Minas Anor.
Sam returned about an hour before sunset, ate lightly as he’d taken to doing, and then went into the study. For a time he sat again at the desk doing nothing; then when Frodo looked in again he was seated on the study sofa, reading a book of Elven tales Sam had always loved.
The next day Billi came up from Number Three and crawled into Sam’s lap as he sat in the parlor in the Master’s chair. “Tell me a story,” he demanded. For a time Sam sat silently and just looked into the little lad’s face; then he gave a small smile and began one, telling of how old Mr. Bilbo had gone off with thirteen Dwarves and a Wizard to seek his fortune, and how they’d been all captured by three great trolls until between the trolls’ own arguments and Gandalf’s disguised voice they remained in the open too long, and as the Sun rose on them the trolls had been turned to stone.
Billi laughed delightedly, and Frodo was glad to see his father’s face again showing some animation. Frodo remembered how he’d heard this tale told again and again, first by his Da, then by his uncle Ham, then by Uncle Merry, later by Uncle Pippin, and eventually by Fosco Baggins during one of his visits. And he remembered the one trip to Rivendell he’d made as a young teen, going with Uncle Merry, and seeing those three great stone trolls and realizing that this story was a true one. And Merry had smiled to retell the tale, then grown solemn and told of the second journey, of how Uncle Frodo Baggins had been stabbed with a Morgul blade and had ridden much of the way from Weathertop to here on the back of Bill, who’d proven a far younger and gamer pony than he’d appeared when he’d been purchased from Bill Ferny in Bree. Here for the first time in days Frodo had laughed, first as Strider had taken a rotten branch and struck one of the trolls with it, then as Sam had told his poem of the old stone troll, a poem young Frodo had always loved since his father first recited it to him when he was but a little one.
Frodo was glad to hear the laughter from his foster grandson, and to see life returning to his father’s eyes. Would his father actually go to the Elven Havens and journey West, and find Uncle Frodo again? He didn’t want for his father to leave home, to leave him, to leave Bag End where he belonged so much! He’d just lost his mother--must he lose his father, too?
Linnet came quietly to stand by him, and appeared to be studying his expression. Perhaps they’d been married too long. “He’ll not live that much longer, one way or another, dearling,” she said quietly. “Do you wish to see him waste away here, or follow his beloved Master at last and have that part of his heart restored to him before he goes?”
By ship or grave. Ship or grave. He remembered Fosco Baggins telling his father that the Elves who’d come to the Shire and who’d sung the Lay of Frodo of the Nine Fingers at the first Free Fair after the return of the Travelers had advised this was the choice his name father had faced. And now it was his dad’s choice. He forced himself to consider the options. Finally he looked into his wife’s face and murmured, “I suppose I must prefer he goes by ship.”
Linnet gave a pained smile, and then a nod. “Let him take a breather to restore enough strength, and then he’ll go,” she suggested. She sighed. “Although it will tear my heart out again when he does.”
After Billi was fetched away by his foster mother, Sam went again to the study and began writing. Dahlia paused on passing the doorway and glanced in, then came quietly to her father and whispered, “I think he’s writing the King at last.”
But when Frodo went in with a cup of tea he found that his father was going through papers from the drawer of the stationery box, papers he hastily returned to the drawer when he heard the creaking of the door, turning the key and returning the watch and chain from which the key hung to its customary place, hanging across the expanse of his vest. The envelope that had sat on the desktop for several days was still empty, and crumpled balls of paper lay in and around the fireplace opening.
“Having difficulty deciding how to tell the King?” Frodo asked.
Sam shrugged, then took a deep breath. “He’s my friend, and almost like a brother to me,” he said. “Why can’t I find the words to speak of it to him?”
Frodo had no answer to that. He set the cup down where his father could reach it easily and then placed his hand on his father’s shoulder. Automatically Sam reached up and placed his own hand over it, then turned to look more directly into his son’s face. He finally rose and reached out and pulled Frodo to him, holding him close without speaking. Then he went out the back door to the smial and up to the top of the Hill, where he remained until nearly midnight.
The next day Sam appeared more normal, but there were a couple times he turned as if he were going to call back something to Rosie as he’d become accustomed to doing in the long years of their marriage, then stopped himself. He checked out the place as if to see all was in hand, and resumed his regular routine of gardening for an hour in the mornings, a walk a couple times a week into Hobbiton or Bywater to sit for a time in the Ivy Bush or the Green Dragon, nursing a pint and listening to the gossip. He read, did a bit of translation, visited with whatever of the family was around at the time. But until the letters arrived for him midway through August he didn’t appear to be working on that letter to King Elessar or doing anything about preparing for whatever he would do next.