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[Index]

1
Chapter One

Samwise Gamgee slowly made his way around the side of Bag End, his eyes fixed to the ground. He was careful not to trample any of the flowers in the garden that everyone knew was the best in Hobbiton. The threat of winter frost was past and some of the prettiest flowers were opening. The snowdrops and daffodils made a nice contrast to the green and browns of the hobbit hole they surrounded.

Sam's mother had complained about him being underfoot at home, so the Gaffer had taken him to work, where he had more space to run around in. Sam liked helping his dad at work and was happy to spend some time with him. Mr Bilbo didn't mind and would often tell him tales from his adventure. The elves especially seemed magical to Sam and he longed to see them for himself after hearing Mr Bilbo's description of them. He had told Mr Bilbo this one day and found that Master Frodo agreed with him.

Sometimes Frodo would come out to play with him and they would talk about their plans to visit the elves some day. Master Frodo hadn't known anyone but Mr Bilbo when he arrived at Bag End two years earlier, so Sam had taken it upon himself to show him round and the two of them had become fast friends. Sam enjoyed having a friend older than him. Master Frodo was different from his brothers who never had much time for him as he was so much younger than them. When he was out in Hobbiton with Frodo, everyone treated him as if they were the same age and weren't constantly telling him it was bedtime before it got dark. Frodo sometimes told him tales of his own adventures growing up with his family in Buckland. Sam would then get into trouble for coming home needing to be patched up after trying to recreate them. When Sam wasn't helping his father in the garden at Bag End Frodo taught him new tricks. Sam could now whistle louder than Frodo and they always made sure to run away before Mr Bilbo caught them.

Today Sam had been put to work planting some seeds but he had been distracted when a spider fell into the first furrow he made. The spider was small and fast so Sam had not taken his eyes off it since in case he lost it. Sam was pretending that the spider was playing with him and he wondered where it was leading him. He was careful though to keep note of his surroundings. This spider was much smaller than the ones Mr Bilbo saw in Mirkwood and was probably not as evil, but it still might be planning to trap him. He was concentrating so hard that the knock on the front door made him jump. When he looked down again the spider had disappeared. Oh well, visitors were rarer and might be more interesting than spiders anyway. He ran to the front of Bag End and peered around the side.

The figure at the door could not have been a hobbit, he was so Big. Sam had to turn his head up to the sky to see the top of his hat. He was dressed all in grey - a very boring colour, Sam thought. His hat was grey and pointed at the top, he wore a long grey robe with grey shoes covering his feet. Even his long beard was grey. Sam had heard of such things as shoes and beards but they surpassed anything he could have imagined. One of the Big People had come to visit. This was definitely more exciting than spiders! Sam tried to think if this could be someone right out of Mr Bilbo's adventure.

The door opened and Sam saw Frodo's head peep out round it.

"Wow," he heard Frodo say. He'd never seen anyone so big either.

The Big Person smiled and said, "Hello, young hobbit. Does Mr Bilbo Baggins still live here?"

"Y-yes, he does," Frodo replied, "but he's out at the moment. You don't look like a dwarf or an elf at all. Are you - would you be - the wizard that sent Bilbo on his adventure?"

A real live wizard at Bag End? Sam could hear the excitement in Frodo's voice and he held his breath, waiting to see if Frodo's guess was right.

"I'm sorry, I quite forgot my manners. I am Gandalf."

Both Sam and Frodo recognised the name from the tales Mr Bilbo had told them. Sam hadn't imagined him to be quite so big though.

"Frodo Baggins at your service," he said with a bow. "I'm sure Uncle Bilbo won't be long. Why don't you come in and have some tea and cake while you wait?"

"Thank you, I will."

Frodo and Gandalf disappeared inside, Gandalf having to bend his whole body so he could get through the door. Sam retraced his steps until he reached the small window at one end of the kitchen. Guests were always offered hospitality when they entered a hobbit hole, so that was where Master Frodo would take the wizard. Sam was still too small to see over the top of the window sill, low though it was. He climbed a little way up the trellis fixed to the hill on one side and, holding on carefully, peeped inside.

The wizard was sitting hunched up over the table while Master Frodo made tea. Sam couldn't hear what was being said, but Frodo seemed to have lost any nervousness and was chatting away happily with Gandalf. Watching them drink tea and eat cake made him realise he was hungry himself but he was too curious to let it bother him just now. He could eat any time, but seeing a wizard - the wizard from Mr Bilbo’s adventure! - was special.

Again, a noise at the door made him jump. Mr Bilbo must have come home. This time though Sam's position was precarious and he almost lost his grip. He hoped nobody had heard him scramble to keep his position. When he had found his footing again he looked back to the window. Frodo had left the kitchen and the wizard was now looking in his direction. Sam stayed very still, now hoping he couldn't be seen but then Gandalf winked at him.

Now Sam did fall off his perch from amazement. He decided it might be safer to stand underneath the other window that opened into the kitchen. He made sure his head was just below it so he couldn't be seen, but he pressed his ear as close as possible and he could just make out what was being said.

“Seems a shame to waste such a nice afternoon sitting inside,” he could hear Mr Bilbo saying.

Sam agreed with him. There were many more things to play with outside than in.

"There's a bench under the apple tree, just right for a bit of smoking and talking."

Frodo and Gandalf obviously agreed with him for Sam heard their voices getting fainter as they left the kitchen.

Sam again crept to the front of Bag End, moving more slowly and quietly this time to avoid been seen or heard. He hadn't got very far when suddenly all he could see in front of him was grey. He gasped in surprise and looked up.

"Have you been eavesdropping?" Gandalf asked, dropping to one knee so Sam could see his face. He waggled his enormous eyebrows, and in his fascination, Sam forgot to be frightened.

Sam squirmed at being caught and resisted the urge to run away. "I was just playing. I never meant no harm by it."

"It is wrong to listen to others' private conversations."

"Yes, sir," he said, although he didn't really understand.

"You just remember that, young hobbit, and you'll get on fine in the world."

"Yes, sir, I will, sir."

"Now, should you be in Mr Baggins' garden?"

"Yes, sir, I'm his gardener's son and I'm going to be the gardener here myself one day." It was Sam's dearest wish.

"I don't doubt you will."

The wizard smiled at him and suddenly he didn't look quite as big and fierce any more. Sam ventured a smile back and Gandalf patted him on the shoulder in return.

"Sam!" His Gaffer shouted and Sam looked behind him.

His father appeared from around the back of the hole. "What have you been up to?"

"Nothing, dad, I was just talking to the" - he almost said wizard, but thought better of it, knowing his Gaffer’s opinion of wizards - "Big Person."

"What Big Person?"

Sam turned around to show his dad, but Gandalf had vanished. Just like a wizard, he thought.

***

Thanks to Tiriel for the beta

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