Frodo watched after Sam with envy—envy for his skill with his flowers, envy for the love he shared with his Rosie, envy for the freedom he knew to do what he pleased with his days once his work was done without the weight of responsibilities toward tenants and family and partnership agreements and farmshares and properties Frodo himself held as Bilbo’s heir and the Baggins of Bag End and the Hill, envy of the fellowship he knew with his brothers and sisters and father as well as his friends. He envied Sam’s sturdier build and greater endurance. He envied his ease with about anyone he must deal with daily—beyond Ted Sandyman and Lotho Sackville-Baggins, at least.
At last Frodo gave over the moments of self-indulgence he’s allowed himself. Merry and Pippin were supposed to be coming soon from the Great Smial, and Freddy and Folco from Budge Hall where they’d been spending the past week. He had a smial to prepare for the arrival of his friends amongst his relatives.
Sam watched as Merry and Pippin arrived together at the Green Dragon and swung down from their ponies, intending to leave their mounts at the stable here before joining their older cousin up at Bag End for a few days’ visit. How he envied Frodo’s ease of friendship with such Hobbits of quality, and his welcome in the fine homes of his closest companions from amongst his many kin.
There were times when he envied his Master so—the ownership of Bag End; the fine clothes he looked so well in; the fascination shown him by almost every lass in Hobbiton, Bywater, and Overhill over the age of ten; the freedom he knew to read and study anything he might wish to investigate at any time of the day or night; the respect shown to him by everyone within the Shire (save, of course, for Ted Sandyman and the family of Lotho Sackville-Baggins); the welcome he might expect at Brandy Hall, the Great Smial, Budge Hall, and about every other great home within the Shire at any time he might take it into his head to turn up on the doorstep; the freedom to wander all over the Shire and poke his head into whatever happenings that might draw his attention; the ability to stay up all night and sleep all day if he might wish without having schedules to keep in order to earn his daily bread.
“Hey, Sam—there you are! We’ve been waiting for you to show up!”
Sam forgot his envy of his Master as he turned his attention to where Tom and Nick Cotton, the Twofoot lads, and Sancho Proudfoot awaited his arrival. “I have a half here for you,” Tom smiled, “and Rosie’s promised she and some of her lass friends should be by soon.”
The idea that his Rosie was coming warmed Sam’s heart and made his whole body tingle with the pleasure of anticipation.
Frodo and Sam had come into Hobbiton together to do some marketing, but paused near the greengrocer’s stall at the sight of Lotho Sackville-Baggins carefully positioning that silver-headed walking stick of his grandfather’s he’d affected to trip up the potter’s lass. It was too late to stop the inevitable as the poor child stumbled over it and went sprawling, her load of mugs and bowls flying from her arms and crashing to the ground all about her.
Frodo felt his fury take him, and surged forward to throw a blow into the face of Lotho, striking away that expression of delight in torment his detestable older cousin had been entertaining as he avenged the lass, and looking forward to seeing to it Lotho paid for the goods lost due to his foul “prank.”
Sam, on the other hand, had noted Ted Sandyman positioned to take advantage of the distraction his companion had contrived to raid the jeweler’s stall and then that of the Hobbitess who roasted whole fowls, who’d just placed two recently finished fowl on a platter, ready to carve them for her expected patrons. The jeweler stood to lose two necklaces, three fine bracelets, and five rings if Ted had his way; while the cook stood to lose a half-days’ earnings. No, Sam thought as he felt his own wrath rise up—he and Mr. Frodo between them would see to it that things were set right this day. He, too, surged forward.
At times it appeared that everywhere he looked Frodo Baggins saw naught but pretty, desirable lasses. Daisy Gamgee at least no longer did her best to throw herself in his path; now she’d finished her apprenticeship as a seamstress and embroiderer she was being courted by Moro Burrows, and a fine couple they made. May Gamgee had been more subtle in her attempts to draw his attentions over the last few years, but now she, too, had a beau and had forgotten him. The hurt he’d felt after Pearl threw him over had dissipated years ago; she was married to Isumbard now and they were expecting their second child already. He saw his Cousin Daisy walking hand-in-hand with her husband Griffo Boffin, still as happy as if they were yet newlyweds instead of having been married for over a decade; and with them were Cousin Angelica and her husband Rico Clayhanger. Angelica had always been quite the beauty of the family, he knew.
And just then Sam walked by, his arm about Rosie’s waist, Tom Cotton on his sister’s other side, entertaining the two of them with some story he was telling, Sam and Rosie with that easy intimacy to them as together they laughed; and Frodo felt suddenly that admiration he felt toward Rosie’s beauty and lovely disposition turn into something quite different—something ugly. It was all he could do to rein in the unexpected, inexplicable urge he experienced to run forward, knock Sam to the ground and away from that so desirable and delectable young lass and sweep her into his arms, pressing his own attentions and kisses on her. All thought of his own companion and planned business for the day were forgotten in this sheer surge of lust he found himself battling.
Gandalf saw the expression of frustrated admiration Frodo couldn’t quite hide as it appeared they were surrounded by a surfeit of very lovely young women from amongst Hobbit-kind. How Frodo had managed to keep from being swept anew into a relationship and the marriage and family he’d wanted since his parents died and his own childhood family had been destroyed the Wizard wasn’t certain; in fact, he found this particular situation to be somehow ominous.
But then—suddenly he realized that Frodo’s expression had changed, becoming predatory and ugly—until it was replaced just as unexpectedly by shock and dismay. Frodo was clenching his fists, and digging his fingernails into the heel of his hand. “No!” he was murmuring,