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Trials and Tribulation
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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2
II

II


In January Torto broke the injunction against stealing, and was brought to the Lockholes and housed in one of the cells. As Frodo promised, Mayberry Brandybuck was brought to Michel Delving for a week to teach the lad how to knit stockings, and within a few days Torto was industriously applying himself to the idea. He found his enforced stay remarkably inviting at first, for he’d never had a bed so comfortable and warm before; and to receive four meals a day served without him having to assist or set the table or anything of the sort appeared luxurious in his eyes to the point of decadence. By the end of the second week, however, he was bored and homesick, and wildly jealous of all the fun he was certain his younger brother was having without him.

Realizing the lad needed to see his family, Frodo sent a wagon to get them early in the third week.

"Well, son, and how ye be doin’?" asked Guido Broadloam as he came within sight of Torto’s cell, twisting his cap between his two hands.

Torto’s face involuntarily lit up to hear his father’s voice. "Well ’nuff, Da," was all he’d say in spite of the pleasure he felt at seeing his parents, brother, and sister. He showed them the stockings he’d finished knitting and explained how Missus Mayberry said he was one of the best she’d seen at turning heels, and how you had to make each pair the same size and color.

Quince appeared interested, as did Tribbals, whose bright little eyes were busily examining her brother’s room. "What for those?" she asked, indicating the jug and basin that stood on the washstand.

"For water for washin’," Torto explained. "They’re big on washin’ here--insist I wash afore every meal. And they have a tub, too, and I can bathe when I want to. It’s only a hot bath on Highday, but I can bathe in cool water any time."

Tribbals appeared suitably impressed. Unlike children of Men, Hobbits of most ages tended to enjoy bathing.

The visit was a happy one, particularly as the family was offered a meal by Missus Whitfoot, the Mayor’s wife, who today supplied the food for those held in the revised lockups.

Frodo watched the visit with a feeling of relief. He’d felt terrible having to bring the lad to Michel Delving for a month, but what was he to do but keep the word he’d given them? Otherwise he’d not be respected by them, and their behavior would only grow worse rather than better.

Quince was the soberest of the bunch, for she knew how rare it was for a Hobbit to be held in a room with no access to sun or sight of green fields for days on end. But she could see how well her son was being treated, and how gently the warders spoke with him. At least Torto was comfortably housed and had been given worthwhile work to do, although it was hard to imagine that there were indeed folk who’d need those stockings he was knitting. But although she’d not say this to her husband, she secretly felt that her children needed to realize that there was another way to live, and proper standards for behavior they should follow. However, she strongly suspected the only one of the three of them to truly understand they ought not to try to take everything they saw was Tribbals, the one of them expected by most to understand the least.

When the visit was over the wagon bore the family back to Whitfurrow, Tribbals giving Mr. Frodo another big hug before they left; and two weeks later Torto rejoined the rest.

Finding the weaner pigs had proven a bigger challenge than obtaining the chickens, for most farms that had once raised pigs had been heavily depleted of swine during the Time of Troubles; but at last Frodo found a remote farm in the North Farthing where Lotho’s Big Men didn’t appear to have made much of an inroad on the herd of pigs the farmer’d been breeding for decades. Frodo found himself paying dearly for the piglets, but he felt it was worthwhile as he heard the dispatches from Whitfurrow.

Mallard Smallburrow had been shocked at the sentence given to Torto and Tito Broadloam and the idea that Frodo Baggins himself was loaning chickens to him that would, in the fullness of time, be given to the Broadloams; but he couldn’t see any other method at the moment to build up his flock once more. It was quickly obvious the hens were all good layers; and as spring returned to the Shire he found six of the hens were going broody on him. By the first of May his flock had increased marvelously, and he happily set the two Broadloam lads to repairing secondary pens and henhouses, soon sorting out the chicks from the separate clutches along with their mothers. By the time the year was up his flock had increased to forty hens and three roosters, and he relinquished the promised eight birds to the Broadloams without rancor.

Tribbals sat in her father’s lap happily enough on market days to hear the stories he told, and now other children were beginning to approach her, at first tentatively and then more confidently, to invite her to join them in their games and activities. She also proved a good one to deal with the pigs, watching them closely and noting when one or another was off its feed or appeared less than healthy, at which time she’d fetch her mother to check it out.

Quince Broadloam was thrilled to have the stock to tend, and as several of the hens began going broody soon after their arrival she watched them closely, and insisted that the family "useful items" be cleared well away from the chicken coop that rats not have an easy time approaching the poultry yard and hen house.

Tribbals kept a close eye on the Road. Frodo Baggins used to travel frequently between Hobbiton and Buckland and had usually traveled the Road; however, it wasn’t until early May the first year after the return of the Travelers that he set out on a walking-trip to see his Brandybuck relatives, and when he passed through Whitfurrow along the way he was riding with a farmer and didn’t stay his journey in the village where he used to live. On his return he rode a pony alongside his cousins Merry and Pippin, and the three did pause as Tribbals, having seen them coming, stepped out into the way.

"Best stop," Pippin said, surprised to see a small child step into the road before them. "Who is it who would allow so young a child to wander so out into the road?"

Frodo, however, recognized the small figure, and swung out of the saddle once he’d brought Berry to a halt. "Well, hello, Mistress Tribbals," he said smiling. "You look to greet us?"

"’Lo," she responded. "You come at last."

"Yes, I’ve come this way at last. Tribbals, this is my cousin Peregrin Took, and my other cousin Meriadoc Brandybuck. Merry, Pippin, this is Tribulation Broadloam."

"Come see pigs?" she asked.

"I’m not certain we have time," began Merry, but at a look from Frodo he shrugged. "Oh, all right."

Looking at the condition of the front garden for the place, they left their ponies in the small meadow opposite the Broadloam home and followed the child around the smial and through the maze of sheds and piles of hoarded things until they came to a great pig sty in the back. Three young pigs rooted in their trough, although one paused at their approach and hurried to the side of the pen to look up at them. Tribbals reached through the slats in the sty walls to scratch its head, and it rubbed enthusiastically at the pen wall, obviously pleased at the attention. Merry looked at the three pigs and then at Frodo with interest, although Frodo pointedly ignored his cousin’s questioning eyes.

The back door for the smial opened and Quince came out, then stopped in surprise at the sight of three grown Hobbits at the wall of the sty with her daughter. "Tribbals?" she called out. "Who’s that with you? You there--what are you doin’ with my daughter and my pigs?"

Frodo turned, both amused and apologetic. "Pardon us, Mistress Quince. Tribbals stopped us as we rode down the West Road and insisted on showing us the pigs. They are obviously well cared for, and love Tribbals dearly."

Immediately contrite, Quince came hurrying out to greet them. "Master Frodo? And what are you doin’ here? Them’s the other Travelers as is with you, right? Master Meriadoc, Master Peregrin? Welcome, welcome, masters! I’m proud to have you see the pigs, I am! May we offer you some tea?"

The inside of the hole was far cleaner and more tidy than any of the three had imagined it would be, and the kettle had been properly polished almost to the point of being in danger of developing leaks. Frodo immediately decided to see to that need as soon as he could. All three of them accepted their tea with courteous thanks; and if the cups had chips on their rims and had obviously had their handles glued back on countless times they chose not to comment on it.

"We’ve slaughtered one of the piglets, you see, for we was in need of the meat, and we’ve sold one of them to Master Mallard, even; but we’re going to see the others raised right, we are, Master Frodo. And Tribbals is delighted with them and helps me care for them, she does. And once we earn them chickens she’ll see to it as they’re cared for right well. We have plans, Tribbals and me!"

"That’s good, Mistress Quince," Frodo assured her. "I’m so pleased at how well you and the lads and Master Guido are doing, you see. And to not receive a single complaint from your neighbors since January is wonderful. The sty is well wrought and kept marvelously clean. I am very impressed."

"Tribbals and me--we keep the pigs clean, we do. It’s only a story that pigs is dirty--given the chance they’d prefer to be clean. Only need somethin’ to keep cool in when it gets hot, they do, for they can’t sweat like people can. We’ll be fixin’ a pool of sorts for them--the water from the spring is clean and cool."

"You seem to know a good deal about them," Merry noted.

"Me da, he was always one to raise pigs, you know. Swore as they was smarter’n most Hobbits. And these’ve been right good’uns, you see. Oh, Master Frodo, sir, you done so well as you’ve done by my family. And who knows--mayhaps we’ll be able to teach Tito and Torto as how to act right, mayhaps!"

"I will certainly hope so," Frodo assured her. "But now we must be on our way, for they’re expecting us early in the morning in Hobbiton." And with as great courtesy as he’d have shown his Aunts Lanti or Esme he rose and took his leave, and soon was ready to swing up into Berry’s saddle.

"Wait, Mer Frodo," Tribbals called out. "I give you your hug first."

Frodo turned and knelt down. "All right, Tribbals," he said quietly. And with grave gentleness, when she hugged him he hugged her in return, murmuring something in her ear. She giggled as she let him go, and watched him mount his pony.

"That yours?" she asked.

"No, this is Sam’s pony. We had to leave her at first in Bree, and then got her from there to Buckland, and now I’m taking her home to Sam. Since I walked to Brandy Hall, I could ride Sam’s pony home to him in Hobbiton."

"I see, Mer Frodo. Well, you come ’gain, see?"

"When I can. Perhaps I’ll try visiting Buckland again this summer or something. If not this summer, definitely next year."

"All right. Go well, Mer Frodo."

"Stay well, Tribbals."

"Now," Pippin commented once they were out of sight of the Broadloam smial, "that was interesting. You have provided them with those pigs?"

Frodo shrugged and stayed quiet.

Merry and Pippin looked at one another over their stubborn cousin’s head. Merry, making a point of not looking at Frodo, said, "I understand you asked my Dad to send someone here to assist in the construction of a sty and a chicken coop."

Again Frodo merely shrugged.

"Why would you go out of your way to help Greencap Broadloam?" Merry persisted.

Pippin gave his older cousin a thoughtful look as Frodo remained quiet, his jaw set. Catching Merry’s eye, he suggested, "I think it’s the lass, myself. It’s obvious she’s set her cap for him--or she would have, if she wore one."

Frodo glared. "Pippin, she’s but a child!"

"And you never could resist a child that indicated she liked you, and you know it, Frodo Baggins. And is that where those chickens you purchased from Bori are intended to end up?"

"It is none of your business, Peregrin Took."

Pippin again exchanged looks with Merry over Frodo’s head. "You heard, that, Merry my lad! None of my business, is it? Hmmph!"

Merry was shaking his head. "Guess we’ll have to get Sam to tell us."

Frodo’s glare increased in intensity. "Sam knows nothing about it. And if you truly are convinced Sam knows all of my business, you are definitely wrong. Besides, he’s busy becoming used to being Rosie’s husband. Leave him alone!"

The next time they saw Sam alone, Merry and Pippin made a point of asking him what he knew of poultry and piglets Frodo was reported to have been buying; and Merry was shocked to realize Frodo had been correct, and that there were things of which Samwise Gamgee was ignorant about the business of Frodo Baggins.

It was over a year before Frodo again rode to Buckland and back. On the way he stopped briefly in Whitfurrow and accepted again the hospitality of the Broadloam smial and saw their chickens and pigs. On the way back he, Merry, and Pippin stopped only long enough for Pippin to raise Tribbals up to give Frodo his hug while he sat his pony. It was very hot, and Frodo didn’t look particularly well, Quince and her daughter agreed; but he was as courteous as ever.

Frodo had purchased two great hams smoked by the Broadloams in return for a pile of fine blankets and a bolt of cloth; and had sent a fine kettle, teapot, and set of mugs in trade for two dozen eggs. He’d quietly made another bargain with Greencap when the year of storytelling was done, that he’d purchase a milk cow for the family if Guido would continue the story telling. In the second spring of the Traveler’s return the promised cow and a calf were delivered to the smial, and Guido quickly made a bargain to graze them in the field opposite his smial in return for the meat of a large hog once it was butchered. Guido and the lads constructed a most marvelous byre for the two cattle, and at Quince’s insistence cleared away more of the piles of useful items, selling some of the metal to the blacksmith in Pincup who’d expressed interest in obtaining some raw materials while sending old bottles and glass to a glassblower in Michel Delving.

Greencap and his sons were finally realizing there were constructive ways to dispose of some of their acquired salvage; and not only was the property about their smial beginning to be cleared, but the smial itself began to look more prosperous as their round door and window sills and shutters acquired a smooth coat of lilac paint, and new curtains appeared on the windows.

The Broadloams didn’t completely change their ways, of course; but Mallard Smallburrow commented to Frodo at the Free Fair that he was amazed at how much the village of Whitfurrow appreciated the changes about the place, and how it wasn’t as much of an eyesore for those traveling the Road, and how much his grandchildren looked forward to Market Day when they could expect to hear Greencap’s marvelous stories told.

"And did you know that their daughter Tribbals can bake?" he asked. "Who’d have believed it of a child like that, moon-touched and all? Yet on Market Days when the children gather to hear her dad’s stories she’s begun bringing biscuits her parents insist she baked herself, and they are marvelous! My wife’s been talking with Quince of the possibility of Quince and Tribbals opening a bakeshop in the village."

A week later the family of Greencap Broadloam was approached by one of the Goodbody bankers of discretion offering them the aid of a silent partner to open a bakeshop, and by mid-August the enterprise was open, and was declared a success by the end of September by a much gratified Mallard Smallburrow.

But when in late October three dozen assorted biscuits were sent to Hobbiton to the home of the former deputy Mayor, the thank-you letter sent back to Whitfurrow hadn’t been written by Frodo Baggins but by Samwise Gamgee, who explained simply that he was grieved to report that Master Frodo had left the Shire to retire amongst the Elves as had his Uncle Bilbo.

I’m sorry I can’t send any of your biscuits to him, the letter continued, for there’s no regular post betwixt the Shire and where he’s gone. But he left me word of the friendship as he’s known with your family, and of how highly he’s come to think of you, and has asked as I’ll keep an eye on your welfare for him, and assure young Tribbals that he’ll never forget her.

Quince quietly read out the letter to the rest of her family, and then surrendered the missive to Tribbals, who squirreled it away in her room.

Samwise Gamgee and his wife and daughter rode to Buckland in the early spring, Sam with his daughter before him on the pony he’d ridden home to the Shire two years previous, Mistress Rose on the pony Strider that Frodo had ridden at the same time. As they rode back a small girlchild stepped out into the Road to intercept them, a child Sam realized was moon-touched--perhaps moon-touched, but also very determined.

"You come eat biscuits," she insisted, and the three of them had finally slipped from their ponies and followed her into the smial.

They were overwhelmed by the courtesy and hospitality offered them by the child and her mother, her brothers scurrying to bring more plates of biscuits and mugs of tea and plates of deviled eggs and cress at a word from their parent and sister. At last, once she’d decided their guests ought to be full, the lass looked fully into Sam’s face. "Where Mer Frodo?" she asked firmly.

A deep but dignified sadness filled Sam’s eyes, but he answered steadily enough, "He’s gone, lass, gone from the Shire."

"Him come back?"

He gave a slight yet decided shake of his head, not taking his eyes from hers. "No, he can’t come back again. He’s gone too far."

"Where him go?"

For some minutes Sam didn’t answer, and at last admitted reluctantly, "To Tol Eressëa, there in the Undying Lands. He went with Lord Elrond and the Lady Galadriel and Lord Gildor Inglorion and other great Elves, and old Mr. Bilbo and Gandalf. He can’t come back again, for ships can’t return from there."

"Why?"

Again there was a long pause. At last Sam sighed, "Because it scoured him right out, what he had to do, lass, scoured him out and left him empty. He did what he could when we come back, but he couldn’t do more, so when the chance was offered him he took it." He swallowed and looked down, then back to her eyes. "He gave all he had to save Middle Earth, you see, there outside, when him and me went to Mordor."

The child just kept looking at him with her wide-open, surprised expression. Finally she said, "Him should come me. Me give him hug--him feel better then."

Rosie gave a strangled, sob-like sound as she held her own small daughter close to her. "Dearling," she said thickly, "if’n love alone could of helped him heal, he’d never of needed to leave Bag End, for there was all anyone could of wanted and more. But he was fadin’, and we couldn’t fill him faster’n he was emptyin’ out. He needed his emptiness filled, and his scars healed. He needed his Light answered, and the shadows cleansed away. They can do that there, you see. The Powers can come near him there, and give him hope again, heal him."

Tribbals appeared to be digesting this news, and at last she examined Sam. After a time she pointed to his watch chain. "That his."

Sam gave a nod. "Yes, that was his. He left it for me, to show as I’m Master of Bag End now. He adopted me, he did; made me his heir; left all he’d had and might of had, all he’d been and might of been, to me." A tear rolled down his cheek. "Or at least he left most to me--a bit he left to others."

The child nodded. At last she said, "Him was good--a good Hobbit. Him teached love. Him tell me it’s love as makes the Sun rise high. Him whisper't in me ear."

"Yes, dearling, that he did, and he’ll never quit lovin’ those as he’s known."

Again she thought, then smiled. "You come--see pigs, chickens, cows?"

Sam and Rosie exchanged looks, but agreed.

Greencap they found in the byre, just having finished forking old straw into a battered barrow. He looked up as they entered, plainly taken by surprise, his eyes somewhat wary until he realized they were being led by his daughter. "Hullo," he said, his expression becoming obsequious. "Guido Broadloam at yer service, Master, Mistress." He gave a sidelong examination of the visitors’ daughter, then smiled more directly at the tiny thing. "Welcome, small mistress," he said with a more honest warmth.

"Samwise Gamgee at your service, Mr. Broadloam, sir--at yours and your family’s. My wife Rosie, and our daughter Elanor."

"Him Mer Frodo’s heir," Tribbals explained.

"Where’s Master Frodo?" asked Greencap.

"Gone away," Sam said shortly.

"Like old Mr. Bilbo?"

"Yes."

After a pause the Broadloam said, "It’ll be a great disappointment t’me lass there."

"So she’s made plain." Sam sighed. "She wanted to show us your stock, like."

And so, Tribbals and her father hand in hand, the two of them led their guests around the place and showed them the poultry, swine, and two head of cattle. "I’d of never thought t’keep stock," Greencap admitted, "but Master Frodo--he made a bargain with us. Who’d of thought as ’twould be so easy, keepin’ care o’ beasts like this, or tellin’ stories t’the children of a Market Day?"

Sam looked up sharply at him. "He had you tellin’ stories, did he?" At Greencap’s nod he shared a look with his wife. "Now, if that ain’t just like him, wantin’ the stories told." His posture softened somewhat for the first time since they’d met with Mr. Broadloam.

"Don’t rightly understand why, though," Greencap said, taking off his cap and twisting it between his hands. "But he did say’s he membered me stories from when we was lads, and said as me stories kept him sane. But what’d he do as might of drove ’im mad?"

"Did he indeed say as the memory helped him keep sane?" Sam looked thoughtful. "At the last he said as he could hardly member nothin’ of home at all. Both of us was in a bad way at the time, but it was worse for him ’cause he was havin’ to deal with It, and It was doin’ It’s best to take him at the time. It was so heavy for him, and he’d keep stumblin’, and there wasn’t no fresh water nor food." Guido realized Sam’s eyes were utterly serious as he added, "He was so very close to dyin’, he was."

All were silent for a time, and finally Guido asked, "How come he helped us this way, makin’ these bargains with us?"

"Don’t rightly know as what the details of the bargains he made with you was," Sam replied, "but I know as he always had a good reason for about anything as he did. But I suspect as once he knew about your lass here he’d of wanted to make certain as your family had it as good as possible, and that you all was bein’ give the chance to be the best you could be."

"But why give us pigs ’n’ the cows for me tellin’ stories in the village?"

"Why not? It was only 'cause of stories we was told when we was lads that he began to understand as to why we had to leave the Shire to protect it. It was only 'cause of stories that he realized as Strider was meant to be our King, and understood about the orcs as we saw about us when we went through Mordor. It was only 'cause of stories as he understood about Sharkey and what he was meant to be and he could feel sorry for all he'd lost, followin’ the Enemy’s way."

Sam straightened. "You have to understand, Mr. Broadloam, sir, that for my Master, especially as we was granted the grace to survive, he wanted for everyone to be the best as they can be. He’d do about anythin' to encourage folks to do what they can to make the world better. And if’n your stories help make the world better by keepin’ bairns amused or sparkin’ their minds to considerin’ things or such, he’d encourage it by whatever means. And if’n your lass here was willin’ to give him hugs to make him feel better, he’d of been moved in his heart, and would of turned Middle Earth upside down for her sake. You don’t understand how wonderful love and life is until you know hate and destruction, and he saw far too much of that from the Ring, you see. We both saw far too much of that in Mordor, but It made everythin' worse for him."

"Did ye know’s he was leavin’?"

"Rosie and me, we couldn’t help knowin’ as he was leavin’, but thought as he was goin’ to the Elves like old Mr. Bilbo’d done. That he was goin’ with the Elves--that he hid to the last."

"With th’Elves," murmured Greencap. "Him went with th’Elves? Then--then he can’t come back." He looked at Sam more closely, pity in his eyes. "Ye’re grievin’ still, I see. And I suppose’s the last bargain don’t mean much, although we’ve already accepted the cows." He gave a twisted smile. "But what’m I t’do, d’ye think? After all, I been doin’ it so long now, and’t means so much t’me Tribbals here." He looked down on her, his smile fond, and brushed her hair with his calloused hand, rested it on her shoulder. Sam saw the smile reflected in the child’s face, and considered.

When the Gamgees at last returned to their ponies in the small meadow across from the Broadloam smial Sam paused, looking across at the land around the place. "I’ll tell you what," he said, quietly. "You keep up the tellin’ o’ the tales, and I’ll see some fruit trees planted about your place."

Surprised, Greencap agreed.

Greencap and his sons never fully reformed, of course. Now and then they’d be caught "salvaging" something that clearly wasn’t intended to be salvaged; and the time Tito tried to sell shredded nettle leaves mixed with metal shavings and ground peppercorns by ascribing to the mixture healing powers it didn’t possess garnered a good deal of notoriety. The tween was sent off to Buckland to labor at the new Master’s side in his herb garden for the summer, and came home with seeds and plants he immediately began to cultivate a garden to see growing.

Torto married a Sackville lass from the South Farthing and brought her to the family smial in Whitfurrow; but it was plain that the true mistress of the hole was Quince, and after her her daughter Tribulation. Betony had two children before she developed a growth Tito’s herbs and the healers couldn’t help, and finally died and was deeply mourned by her sister-in-law, who along with her mother saw to the raising of Torto’s little son and daughter.

Tito never married, but remained there in the family hole to help care for the place, the animals, trees, and herb garden. Greencap finally died in his mid-eighties, and Quince died eight years later.

Before she died, Quince sent for Mayor Samwise. "I ask," she said from her deathbed, "that you see to it as my lass is kept care of, please, Master Sam. Her and Delphie’ll keep the bakeshop goin’, but’ll need some watchin’ so’s no one’ll take advantage of ’em."

Sam promised, and Quince, when she died two weeks later, was smiling as she took her leave of her progeny.

Torto and Betony’s son Pablo at last married a local lass; she died in childbirth, but their son Billigard survived. As Pablo had died a few months earlier of the lung sickness, Tribbals had a difficult decision to make. After having the bairn wetnursed by a local Hobbitess, finally she had Tito borrow a trap from a neighbor, and brother and sister drove to Hobbiton to Bag End with the infant.

Samwise Gamgee answered the knock, a book in his hand.

All had been surprised at how well Tribulation Broadloam’s health had held, for those born moon-touched commonly suffered from damage to their hearts and were prone to lung problems and usually died young, or so Sam had learned in his correspondence with healers from Gondor who were knowledgeable regarding the condition. Yet Tribbals had remained stubbornly healthy over the years, and didn’t appear to have lost what memories and capabilities she’d ever possessed.

"Tribbals? Miss Broadloam? And what can I do for you, Mistress?"

"Me nephew," she said as Sam led her and the bairn she bore to the parlor and saw her comfortably seated. "Me nephew, Billi--Billigard Broadloam. Him needs da and mum. His dead."

Sam examined the infant carefully before looking back into Tribbals’s face. "You wish me to help you find suitable folks for him?" he asked to clarify her wishes.

She nodded vigorously with obvious relief. "Yeh," she answered. "Let him learn. Him not take things not his. Him learn happy, know love. Mer Frodo--him teached you well how love. You love my Billi. Him tol’ me, long ago, it’s love as makes the Sun rise high."

Realizing just whom the determined soul opposite him intended to serve as the child’s parents, Sam took a deep breath. "Rosie and me, we’re too old to be his parents, Miss Tribbals. I don’t know how long as we’ve got left, but I suspect as it’s not but a few more years at best. And my son Frodo as’ll have Bag End after me--his children and Linnet’s is all grown up, you see."

"But you teached them love? You teached their childs love?"

"Of course...."

"And Mer Frodo--he helped teached you love?"

Sam took another deep breath before he nodded.

"Then one of them’s childs?"

And so it was young Hamfast Gardner and his wife Iris accepted little Billigard. Iris had recently lost her first child, but was still producing milk. Accepting this bairn eased her a great deal, as it did Tribbals.

As she prepared to leave with her brother, Tribbals paused in the dooryard, looking in through the yellow door of Number Three where Iris Gardner sat with her new bairn in her arms, smiling as he nursed and relieved her of her burden of milk. The odd Hobbitess smiled as she climbed onto the cart’s bench. "Yeh," she said quietly, "Mer Frodo’s love’ll teach him as he teached you and you teached your childs. Good--very, very good." She put out her hand to stop Tito from chirruping to the pony pulling the trap, and looked down on Hamfast the Younger and his grandfather. "Him’s your child now--you teach him love real good. And, Mer Sam--you see Mer Frodo, you tell him, tell him his love is still teached. You tell him."

And with a nod she indicated Tito should drive off, and the last sight Sam had of her was of her bent back, and the last he heard was her voice crooning, "It’s love, it’s love as makes the Sun rise high."

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