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64
The Gaffer's Farewell

With many thanks to RiverOtter for the beta!


~~~

The Gaffer’s Farewell


“Elanorellë,” Rosie said, turning from where she was flattening dough that would soon be transformed into scones, “will you please run down to the Row to Number 3 and ask your Gaffer if he’d like to join us this afternoon for tea? Tell him as I’m fixin’ brambleberry tarts as well as scones with sultanas baked in.”

“Yes, Mummy,” the little lass said. “Shall I stay ’n’ come up with him when he’s ready?”

“Yes, do that, child.”

The lass was out the door and tripping down the steps to the lane in a heartbeat, and Rosie smiled as she heard the back gate close behind her daughter. Ellë was as good a lass as had ever been born within the Shire, she thought, and she was so pleased as this beautiful child had been give to her and her Sam. And if her two gaffers didn’t both dote on her, much as her Uncle Frodo had! She hoped that the child appreciated just how deeply she was loved, as well as the quality of them as loved her. Couldn’t be many who was as well and thoroughly adored as her scrap of a lass, after all. She’d even managed to hold a good portion of the King’s own heart in her keeping, too, Rosie believed.

As for the Gaffer--well, he wasn’t doing too badly, but he wasn’t doing particularly well, either. Sam had been watching him for some weeks, and was down to Bagshot Row two-three times a day, keeping a close eye on his aging father. He’d been down this morning and had a good breakfast cooked before old Hamfast had managed to quit his bed. His last words to the Gaffer was that he’d be back this evening to help with the planting of the taters and parsnips and onions the old Hobbit wished to do that day. But Sam had needed to ride to Overhill to check out some bedding plants at the nursery there, and would have to see some of them planted immediately on his return, which meant he’d not be able to help his old dad until this evening at the earliest.

Rosie could walk down just before tea and walk back with her father-in-love and Elanor, her arm about him to lend him balance as they made their way up the Lane to the steps; and Sam had built railings alongside the rear steps to help his father in his infrequent visits to Bag End. “Wish as he’d choose to live here with us, old as he is,” she murmured to herself as she turned her attention back to the scones and saw them properly layered and then deftly cut into triangles.

Once the scones were in the oven, she peeked into the nursery, the room immediately opposite the master bedroom she’d shared with her beloved Sam since they’d been married by Master Frodo as deputy Mayor. At the moment the room was shared by Frodo-lad and Rosie-lass, although she thought that fairly soon Frodo would be ready for his own room. Both were still asleep in their cots, Frodo-lad with his Uncle Frodo’s blanket over him, the one embroidered with a great dragonfly, Rosie snuggled under a pink blanket knitted for her by Mistress Eglantine from the Great Smial. Soon enough, she knew, her son would be resenting naps, and the cradle in the corner would hold the child she bore now. She smiled, certain that Master Frodo would be very happy to see Bag End filled with the large, loving family he’d always wished for.

She was headed for the privy when she heard the back door open. “Mummy?” Elanor called, with a tone to her voice Rosie had never heard before. “Mummy? Where are you?”

Rosie turned back toward the kitchen. “What is it, our Ellë?” she asked.

“It’s the Gaffer, Mummy--he’s lying on the ground and can’t get up!”

The Hobbitess went still. He was rather aged, after all. In as calm a voice as she could manage she asked, “Is your Sam-dad home yet, sweetling?”

“Yes--he’s in the glasshouse as he built near the workshed.”

“Go and call him. Tell him as the gaffer’s not well. Understand, lass?”

“Yes, Mummy.” The child disappeared back out into the garden, headed for her father’s workshed. Her mother watched after, a coldness in her chest she’d not felt since she saw Sam’s grief-stricken face on the night he’d returned from the Grey Havens. There would soon be another piece torn out of his overlarge heart, she knew.

*******


By nightfall the Gaffer was tucked up in one of the extra bedrooms at Bag End, and Sam and Drolan Chubbs, the healer who’d served most of the folks who lived in the vicinity of the Hill, were with him. The Gaffer had appeared to waken, but had not seemed to know those around him. In the kitchen Rosie sat in the rocking chair Frodo Baggins had given her for his birthday after she’d married Sam, Rosie-lass in her lap and Frodo-lad squeezed in alongside her, Elanor sitting on the corner settle with her cloth doll she’d named Evenstar. Elanor was singing as she sat her doll on her lap, carefully smoothing the long, silky threads that served as the doll’s dark hair. Rosie realized that Elanor was singing a song that Master Frodo used to sing to her, an Elvish song that managed to sound both sad and hopeful at the same time. As Rosie remembered it, Master Frodo sang that mostly in the last month before he left them.

Sancho Proudfoot had driven to the other side of Bywater to advise the Cottons and especially Marigold that the Gaffer had taken a bad turn, while one of the Chubbs lads had gone into Hobbiton to fetch Daisy and May. Rose had written notes to send to the Northfarthing to advise Sam’s brothers, as well as notes to the Great Smial to summon Master Peregrin and Master Meriadoc, who was visiting in Tuckborough with his younger cousin and his wife. She knew that her Samwise would want those two by him at this time, the three of them sharing so much, having gone together on the quest and all missing Master Frodo as they did. The Chubbs lad was to have left the letters with the Quick Post once he’d called on Daisy and May. She only hoped they would arrive in time.

She looked up as Drolan Chubbs came down the passageway from the bedrooms. “He’s as well as he can be,” he said without preamble as he entered the kitchen to find the mistress of Bag End seated with her children for comfort. “It appears to have been a brainstorm, and a bad one at that. I can’t say as how long he might have.”

Rosie nodded. “I see,” she said quietly. She lifted Rosie-lass higher and pushed herself out of the chair. “I’ve sent for the others as I could.” At his nod she continued. “My poor Sam.”

Again he nodded. “Yes--he’s been through it, what with losing his Master as he did and all he appears to have done before that. I’ll be back in the morning.”

She saw him to the door, Frodo-lad following behind her and watching after the healer from behind his mother’s skirts. Then she went back into the kitchen to find Elanor still singing her song, her doll now held to her cheek for comfort, her eyes blurred with tears. For a moment Rosie looked down on her firstborn, then smiled her own, watery smile. “Come, lass,” she said gently. “We’ll need t’be gettin’ some rooms ready for company. Will you come and help?”

After a moment Elanor gave a small nod, and stood slowly and thoughtfully, laying Evenstar gently on the settle before coming to take her mother’s outstretched hand.

*******


They’d settled Hamfast Gamgee in the bedroom nearest the kitchen, privy, and bathing room, where the old Hobbit would be warmest and they’d have easy access for fresh water as needed and to make it easier to empty the chamberpot as necessary.

Once they had the Gaffer undressed and Sam had clothed him in one of Mr. Frodo’s softest and warmest nightshirts, Drolan Chubbs arrived to join Sam in evaluating his condition. At last the healer had drawn Sam out of the room where their voices wouldn’t carry.

“Brainstorm, Sam. And it looks a bad one at that.”

“But might he recover, Mr. Drolan?”

The healer shrugged. “Might be--anything’s possible, as I think you know better than I; but there’s no reaction to anything on his right side, and that’s not particularly a good sign.”

Sam nodded.

Together they went back into the room, and quietly the healer explained how the old Hobbit’s body would need to be moved at least once an hour, and how the arms and legs needed to be worked so that should any ability be restored on that right side his limbs would be best able to respond to the Gaffer’s will.

After the healer left, Sam stayed for a few minutes by his father’s bed, then went to the kitchen to again begin brewing the tea he used to make for his Master, those last two years of Frodo Baggins’s life within the Shire. Athelas, chamomile, willowbark.... Drolan had said it wouldn’t hurt, and might possibly help. He could hear Rosie talking to Frodo-lad and Elanor as they prepared the next room for Marigold and young Tom; the messages shouldn’t reach the others for a day or two, he knew. Whether May and Daisy might choose to stay there at Bag End no one knew as yet. Ah, there was the bell!

*******


“Marigold, May ’n’ me’ll take it in turns to watch with him,” Daisy explained to Sam.

“And I’m not good enough to sit with him? Why not?” asked Sam rather coldly.

Daisy seemed startled. “I thought as you’re Master of Bag End now as you’d be too busy is all. And there’s so much that’ll need to be done to keep him clean, you understand.”

Sam was plainly affronted. “I’ll remind you as I’ve already been a dad three times and have the fourth on the way.”

“It’s not quite the same, cleanin’ a bairn and cleanin’ a grown Hobbit, Sam,” Daisy said rather delicately. “I mean, you’ve not had to do this, while Moro ’n’ I’ve done it afore when it was his mum as needed tendin’.”

Sam’ expression was still rather stony, and quite as stubborn as Master Frodo’s had ever been. “You think as I’ve not had to help do this? I was by them when it was my Master as needed tendin’ as if he was a very bairn, I’ll have you know. Him was asleep for days that first time, and I wasn’t leavin’ it all to the Elvish healers. And I know as how important it is to keep his skin cleaned and him turned, and to work his arms and legs so’s he’ll be able to move should he wake up proper.

“After all,” he added, “the Gaffer’s my dad, too.”

Daisy had to concede defeat. “All right,” she said. “We’ll take it in turns.”

He nodded, then said, “And I’ll take three hours of the night watch. Got used to it while we was travelin’.”

She nodded, and so it was settled.

But that night when he came in to take his turn, she stayed by him for a time. “You said as you needed to do this for Mr. Frodo?” she asked quietly.

For a time he stayed silent, but at last he gave a slight nod, then said softly, “He was stabbed with a Morgul blade. That’s a kind of knife--got a brittle blade to it, it does, made to break off deliberate in the wound. It’d been majicked--there was a spell on it, a wicked spell, meant to turn him into a wraith. Oh, he fought it, but it took all his mind fixed on it to do the fightin’ proper.”

He turned to look up at her, and she could see the pain in his eyes. “Member when you and Moro was fittin’ him with shirts and you was upset as he was so thin?” At her nod, he continued, “And did you touch his left arm?”

She thought, then admitted, “It was terrible cold, it was.”

“Yes, terrible cold. That it was.” He turned to look down at the Gaffer, and picked up his right hand and began to chafe it and work at it. “That was from the wound--the wound from the Morgul knife. Took us two weeks to reach Rivendell and a few more days to get that shard out of there. It almost took him then. After that, whenever he wasn’t feelin’ well his shoulder would ache, and when he was worst his left hand would go cold, and his whole arm. Sometimes he could barely move it. But most of the time you couldn’t really tell as he’d been hurt bad, though--he’d hide it well.”

“Ceptin’ when he’d rub at his shoulder,” she commented.

“Yes, that. He would be rubbin’ at it from time to time, and a good deal there at the end.”

“Did he die, Sam? I mean, that’s what some say, as he didn’t want to die here, here in the Shire where so many didn’t pay him no mind, so that’s why he went away.”

He turned his head away slightly. “I’ve heard that, too; but, no, he’s not dead--not so far as we can tell. Certainly he was lively enough when he went aboard the grey ship with Gandalf and Elrond and the Lady and all. Stood at the rail at the back and held up his starglass for us to see as long as we could. We stood there all night, there on the shores of Mithlond, and watched after till we couldn’t see it no more.”

He sighed as he began to bend and straighten the Gaffer’s elbow and wrist. “Oh, we watched. Learned as the King come north, too, hopin’ to say goodbye, but he didn’t make it in time. He said as he sat his horse on one of the hills as looks down on the Havens and looked out to Sea--saw a flash he’s certain as was the ship findin’ the Straight Path, leavin’ Middle Earth altogether.”

He went silent, and finally switched to rolling the shoulder before continuing. “We can feel him, sometimes, when we’re near the Elven trees. I’ll go down to the mallorn and feel him, sittin’ ’neath the White Tree on Tol Eressëa, and Strider says the same when he visits the White Tree of Gondor. It’s not all the time, but we feel him there enough to be certain as he’s much better. Usually it’s just a feelin’ as we’re not alone, and someone calm is there aside us. Often he’s singin’, or so it seems. Sometimes he’s not alone--got some Elflings aside him or somethin’, I’d guess, tellin’ them stories.”

She smiled across at him, remembering the many stories Frodo Baggins had told them over the years since he came to Bag End.

“He was a good Master to you, Sam Gamgee,” she said softly.

“The best,” he agreed. “But more than that, he was my brother of the heart. Never seemed as he was that much older’n me, not like Ham and Hal, you know. It was like I grew into bein’ ’bout as old as him. We never knew that was ’cause of the Ring. I just thought it was due to him bein’ special--only just how special he was I didn’t learn till we was well on our way.”

He switched back to the hand, covering up the shoulder and most of the arm. Gently he opened and shut the fingers. “He loved the Gaffer, Mr. Frodo did. Worried about him, and how he might be doin’ with us gone. When he heard what I’d seen in the Lady’s Mirror he was right worried, not what any of us could do anything about it to stop whatever it was as might send him off, away from Number 3 with what he could carry away in his bit of a barrow. First thing as we got back and found out as what had happened here in Hobbiton and about the Hill, him was demandin’ as we make certain as the Gaffer and Marigold was both safe.”

She nodded softly. “Mr. Frodo was always a carin’ soul.”

He gave her a sideways glance, and a half smile softened the concern of his expression somewhat. “’Ceptin’ when he wasn’t noticin’ just how you and May thought as him was the most fascinatin’ creature as ever was in the shape of a Hobbit?” he asked slyly, his attention again apparently fixed on his father’s hand.

She flushed. “Oh, go on with you, Samwise Gamgee!” she said, swatting at his upper arm.

He gave a soft laugh. “Nah, it’s fer you to get to bed now. I’ll watch him the next few hours. Go on--the Gaffer’ll be fine with me--and if’n aught happens I’ll call you--never fear.”

*******


It was near dawn when Hamfast Gamgee opened his eyes and looked about the room curiously, his attention finally coming to rest on the patient face of his son. “Hal?” he managed, his voice rather slurred.

Sam straightened. “No, Dad--it’s me, your Sam. You know your Sam?”

The old Hobbit’s brow furrowed on the left side. “Sam?” he said. “You, Sam--where’s--where’s yer Masser?”

Marigold was coming in to spell her brother at the moment, and heard the question, seeing the wave of pain swiftly cross Sam’s face and quickly be schooled away.

“He’s gone, Dad,” Sam said softly. “Went west--years agone.”

“Go--yer Masser. Tank-- ’im.”

Sam was confused. “What?” he asked.

“Go--tank--Masser.”

Marigold could see the confusion grow, and noted the younger gardener also looked somehow horrified. “I can’t go now--not with Rosie and the children, Gaffer!”

The old Hobbit was shaking his head as best he could. “No,” he said, “no go. Go--Masser---thank him.” He swallowed thickly, apparently surprised to note how difficult this simple act had become.

Marigold came to her brother’s side and helped him sit their father more upright, and watched as Sam expertly offered the invalid’s cup. The Gaffer managed three swallows before he began to choke on what he’d taken, and Sam had to lift him up over his shoulder and pat his back to rid the lungs of the tea he’d accidentally inhaled.

Once they had their dad settled once more and he’d been able to properly swallow a bit more of the tea Sam had prepared before indicating he’d had all he could accept at the moment, Sam explained, “I’ve been by you some time, Dad. Marigold’ll be by you now for a time. You rest and get stronger, hear?”

Hamfast flicked his eyes at his son; but there was now some confusion to be seen there before he closed them. In minutes his troubled breathing filled the room as he slipped back into a disturbed doze.

*******


Sam slept perhaps three hours before he woke once more, rose, dressed, and after seeing to his own needs came to the Gaffer’s room to see how things were progressing. May was carrying out the chamberpot while Daisy was smoothing fresh sheets over the figure in the bed. “Goldi’s taken the other sheets out to the laundry kettle,” she advised him. “Good thing as you had the oilcloth on the bed, it is.”

He nodded. He suspected there was going to be a good deal of laundry in the next few weeks--if the Gaffer lived that long, of course.

*******


A routine set in. Every day the Widow Rumble came up and spelled them all for a few hours. Rosie did most of the cooking, although the Chubbses and the Proudfoots sent up tureens of soups and stews, and the Twofoots kept them well supplied with bread. Merry, Pippin, and their wives arrived, and each took over a three-hour stint with the Gaffer as well as assisting Rosie as much as she’d allow.

Tom and Sam saw to the planting the Gaffer had wanted done, while Merry and Marigold saw to much of the upkeep of the Bag End garden. On the third day after their arrival Diamond and Estella tackled Frodo’s old room, seeing much of what was there packed away for Frodo-lad for when he was older, sorting out Frodo’s clothing under Sam’s supervision and thinking where much of it could go.

“There’s not many who could wear much of what he had, there before he left us,” Estella said as she held up one of the jackets Frodo had barely worn. “He’d become so thin.”

“Not that Frodo-lad is particularly plump,” Diamond said, looking at the child where he stood in the doorway watching their activities with interest.

Estella examined the small lad for a moment. “Not yet; but there’s a sturdy quality to him Frodo never showed until he was an adult. I have a feeling he will end up broader in the chest than Frodo ever was.”

Sam turned to consider his son, contrasting him with what he remembered of the child’s name-father, there the first time he’d seen Frodo Baggins in the gardens of Bag End. Frodo had not been a child then, but a tween, and a particularly tall and slender tween at that. Having never seen any Big Folk against whom to compare this stranger, Sam had mistaken him for an Elf, as fair and pale and otherworldly as he’d appeared to the gardener’s young lad at the time. That Elves would prove just under twice Frodo’s height was not something that Sam had been prepared to appreciate. Frodo-lad’s hair was paler than was Sam’s own, but not the gold of his sister’s; he was perhaps a bit tall for his age, but not unusually so, or so his father judged. But there was a native wisdom there in the child’s eyes that told Sam that he and Rosie had managed to properly name their first son after all. If Frodo Baggins were to see Frodo Gamgee, the gardener thought, he would know him right away without needing any other introduction.

But there was also a look of the child’s grandfather to him at the moment, particularly there about the eyes as Frodo-lad watched the two Hobbit ladies going through the things the child had previously never seen touched. You’re as much the Gaffer’s own grandchild as you are our son, he thought. Someone to remind us of more than just my closer-than-brother. He smiled slightly in spite of himself.

*******



That evening Hamfast Gamgee seemed more aware than he’d been since that first morning. There was no question now of him lingering longer, they all knew. Ham and Hal and their families had arrived, and were to stay at Number 3 that they not overburden Bag End. Their father responded to them as they came into the room where he lay, smiling in obvious recognition, although he’d not spoken since the first morning after he’d become bedridden. Daisy was sitting at the head of the bed, their father’s head pillowed in her lap, as the others filed into the room.

“Well,” Hamson said softly, kneeling so his face was even with his father’s. “I understand as you’ve been a-hangin’ on here, a-waitin’ fer us to come so’s you could see us all once more afore ye go. I suspect as Mum’s full anxious t’have ye by her once more. Give her our love, hear, Dad?”

The old Hobbit’s smile became a bit fuller.

“Love yer, Dad,” Ham said as he rose, laying a hand on his father’s shoulder before giving place to Halfred.

“You tell her--tell her as we’ve took care of you as much as you’ve allowed,” Hal said, his voice thick with the tears he was trying to control. “Tell her as even in the bad times yer wasn’t alone--and thanks to the Cottons for that.” He smiled across the bed at where young Tom represented his own family, who’d come earlier in the day to see the old Hobbit.

Hamfast stared deeply into Hal’s face, almost as if he were memorizing it.

Daisy touched the side of her dad’s face, and he looked up into her kindly eyes. “You done well by us and everyone you’ve been by, Daddy,” she said. “We love you so much, you know.”

There was the smallest of moves of the head as if he were trying to nod.

May was kneeling down by her father now, and he turned his eyes to meet hers. She was openly crying. “We love you so, Dad,” she said. “We’ll miss you, but you taught us well--we’re here for one another. We’ll get by. We’ll miss you somethin’ awful, but we’ll get by.” She ran her hand down his temple, then leaned over and gave him a hug, almost unwilling at the end to let him go.

Then it was Sam, with Rosie-lass in his arms. “Us and the children--we’ll do you proud as we’ve ever done, Gaffer,” he said. “Know that, Dad. We’ll always do you proud.”

For the first time the dying Hobbit tried to speak. At last he croaked, “Know--know you will. Tell Mas’ Frodo--tanks--you go--him.”

Again Sam’s expression clouded, but aloud he said only, “If’n I ever see him again, I will, Dad.”

For the first time old Hamfast smiled--as well as he could, of course, with but half a face adhering to his will.

“Gaffer?” said Rosie-lass inquiringly.

The Gaffer’s smile softened. “Swee’ lass,” he whispered. His eyes closed a bit as if in pain.

Sam hastily gave place to Marigold. When their dad opened his eyes again he looked a bit confused, as if he still expected to see the child there, but then he smiled again as Goldi reached out to take his hand, too overwhelmed to speak, reaching out and stroking his hair.

“Swee’ lass,” he said again as he’d said to the bairn. “M’ swee’ li’l lass.”

She laid her face in the hollow of his neck and held him almost desperately, whispering, “Love you! Love you! Love you!” over and over.

At last he looked up and caught Rosie’s eyes, standing in the doorway, and gave her a soft, lopsided smile, and she couldn’t help but smile back in the end.

From the hallway all could hear Diamond Took saying softly, “Mistress Rose--Missus Begonia Rumble is here, and she wishes to see Master Hamfast if allowed.”

With looks at one another, the others gave way, and at a touch of her shoulder by her husband Marigold finally sat up, wiped her tears away, and tried to smile. “Love you, Daddy,” she repeated one last time as she stood up and gave way to the Widow Rumble.

“Now, what is this I hear, Hamfast Gamgee,” the now elderly Hobbitess said as she accepted the chair Hamson set for her. “You’ve decided to go out with some ceremony, have you? And didn’t give thought to me at all, all I’ve done for you these past years?”

But he was seeing past her pretense at being offended, and smiling up at her with an expression of indulgence. Begonia Rumble was now dashing at her own tears. “Well,” she said, her voice softening, “you were always a one for doing things your own way, weren’t you?”

There was a rumble in Hamfast’s chest, and they realized he was laughing.

No one could help but smile at that.

He was smiling on the half his face that responded to his will, and closed his eyes.

“I’m glad as ye’ve come up the Hill t’night,” Hamson said softly to the Widow.

“Couldn’t let him go, not without wishin’ him a fare-thee-well,” Missus Rumble said softly.

Sam, however, had been watching their father’s countenance, and his face had gone all solemn before unashamed tears began gathering in his eyes. “He was glad for it--but he’s gone now.”

All turned to look at the still body upon the bed, now gone more so as his spirit quietly stole away, pausing briefly to look down on all remaining in the room, then turning decidedly toward where another waited. Hamfast? Are you coming or not? We’ll need your taters for the Feast, you know!

Laughing within himself, lean and wiry and tireless once more for the first time in decades, Hamfast Gamgee hurried to take his beloved Bell in his arms.

*******


Begonia Rumble and Lily Cotton took over the task of preparing the body while the rest went out to the parlor to compose themselves. After a time, on the pretext of going to the bathing room to wash his face, Sam went to his room, fetched his Elven cloak, then crept soundlessly out the back door, went down the back path to the low place in the hedge that once had been jumped by Bilbo Baggins as he set out to leave the Shire after his eleventy-first birthday and later by Frodo, Pippin, and Sam as they made at last to follow him. He wandered the darkened lanes for a time, but fetched up, somehow, beneath the mallorn tree in the Party Field. He curled up there with his father’s old gardening hat pressed against his chest. “Oh, Frodo,” he whispered as he cried himself out at last. “How it hurts, how it hurts to have to say goodbye to the stubborn old Hobbit!”

He felt long, slender fingers combing through his curls, much as they’d done when it had been his mum he’d been mourning. Oh, I do know. To find you’re orphaned....

“He wanted me to come to you--thank you.”

Thank me? And for what?

“Dunno, Frodo. I don’t know at all.”

I don’t wish you to leave Rosie and the children--you know that. He knows that, I’m certain!

“I know. And I won’t!”

Good! You stay by them and see them raised well! And I’ll be having words with him when it’s our turn to see him--see if I don’t! Come to me to thank me indeed!

As he drifted into a sleep he felt Frodo’s arms hold him, felt him breathing into his ear as he softly sang the Elven song Elanor had been singing to her doll in the kitchen.

And so Merry and Pippin found him, and Pippin curled up beside him, sliding his arm beneath the Mayor’s head to pillow it.

“It will put your arm to sleep,” Merry pointed out as he pulled out his pipe and filled it with some Goolden Lynch pipeweed he’d found in a sealed jar in Frodo’s room.

“It’s worth it, if it gives him comfort,” Pippin murmured as one of the small store of matches Merry had found in the same place flared and said pipe was lit. “Why else do you think that Frodo allowed us to sleep on his arm that way all the years of our childhood, save to let us know just how much he loved us?”

Merry couldn’t dispute such logic, and merely smiled down at the two of them as he kept watch while Sam slept out his grief.

*******


All was gay about the table as those who’d been Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee came to join the Feast at last. Many looked up, and Frodo’s parents and those who would have been his brothers and sister came to claim him, drawing him to his place. But as he passed Hamfast Gamgee he paused.

“Why in Middle Earth did you want Sam to leave and find me?” he demanded of the former gardener for Bag End in the Shire.

“Leave ’n’ find you? Don’t be daft, Master Frodo!” the Gaffer said. “I only wished as when he come at last to you agin he thank you proper fer all as you give him, as he was taught.”

Sam flushed as the brother of his heart began to laugh at the long misunderstanding as it was finally made right.




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