My Easter Gift to you all!
“How many sheds does that make?” Nick Cotton asked Sancho Proudfoot as they loaded the last detritus of the latest atrocity to be removed from Bag End’s gardens into one of Sancho’s wagons and secured the load.
“It’s the ninth as we’ve taken down,” Sancho said, rubbing at chilled fingers. “And I think as there’s at least six more to go.”
“At the very least,” agreed Nick with a glance over his shoulder and up the steps to Bag End, the bulk of the hill sharp-edged against the chilly blue of a midwinter sky. “I don’t know as what Sam’s goin’ t’do, the shape as the gardens is in. Him was so shocked when them come here, lookin’ for ol’ Pimple.”
Sancho’s expression was uncharacteristically grim. “They was all upset, and why not? Atween what Lotho done t’the Row and what that Sharkey and his Big Men done t’Bag End isself, t’wasn’t nigh anythin’ as it was afore they left.”
“The gardens is a travesty, and that’s a fact,” said Nick. He gave the load of timber an appraising look. “Where’s this lot t’go?” he asked.
“Over t’the old vineyard,” Sancho answered. “That’s where I’ve been takin’ most of what’s been pulled off’n here, once as it’s been emptied out of what’s been found stored in it, of course. We found our parlor settle and the kitchen table from our hole in this one, as well as most of the stonework from the parlor fireplace.”
“Think as there’s enough sound timber t’be found in all this t’help rebuild the winepress there?” Nick asked.
“They’re hopin’ as it might. What with all I’ve carted over there so far, they have a fair amount t’choose from. Although,” he added, indicating those crowded about the fallen oak down in the Party Field at the foot of the Hill, “I suspect as those will provide the wood as is best needed for it.”
Nick considered the distant Hobbits. “Don’t recognize any of them.”
Sancho answered, “Sawyers from over near the Woody End, or so they said when them arrived this mornin’. Goin’ to deal with the Party Tree and the roof tree from atop the Hill. Some of the wood’ll most like end up bein’ used to patch up damage inside Bag End, I’m thinkin’, and much will probably be used in rebuildin’ the press as Lotho had burnt t’cinders, and to provide barrels for the vintner. Old Winyards will be offerin’ excellent wine once more, it seems. Might take a year or two t’see all put right with it, but it seems Cousin Frodo and Sam Gamgee’s out t’rebuild most of what Lotho and that Sharkey destroyed. Our place is already almost finished—we should be back in Number Five soon enough, me’n’Geli and the childern. My da’s right surprised at how the Travelers are thinkin’ first of those as lost homes because of the Troubles.”
Sancho sighed, and turned to his patient pony, who stood between the traces with a blanket strapped to its back, the steam from its breath forming small, quickly dissipating clouds. “Well,” he said as he moved to climb up onto the wagon seat, “we’d best be off if’n I expect to return home afore midnight. Any word on whether old Missus Lobelia will be returnin’ here to Hobbiton?”
Nick shook his head. “From what I heard, she’s decided t’give Bag End back to Mr. Frodo—says as she can’t live where her son was murdered. Can you believe it, that a Hobbit of the Shire would actually end up bein’ killed dead in what was now his own home?”
Sancho agreed that this seemed beyond imagining, and settled himself onto the bench. “Hup!” he said to his pony, who shivered slightly before stepping out, apparently glad to be moving again. “Too cold for this one t’be a-standin’ about all still,” he said over his shoulder, and drove down the Lane, turning to pass through the main part of the village toward the Baggins holding that had once housed the richest vineyard in the Shire.
The weather was chill, but the earth began to warm as the Sun’s light fell on it throughout the lengthening days. Roots that had begun to wither away while a shed loomed over them gathered moisture from dew and the timely rains, and began to reach out, nursing the green shoots that would rise from them. Bulbs that had begun to shrivel took new heart as the Sun again warmed their resting places, and when at last the time was right, they sent up new leaves and stalks. Shrubs and bushes that had begun to waste away now began to bud out instead.
Life began anew in the gardens that had been ravaged by thoughtless Big Men and a maddened Wizard, in spite of the year of blatant neglect and abuse.
And when on April eighth, a year after two gravely injured Hobbits had awakened in Ithilien to find the world renewed about them due to their wearisome labors, those two now came to walk together in the renewed gardens of Bag End, and at their coming the flowers opened in gladness, welcoming the returned heroes with their own awakening.
“I swear, Mr. Frodo—I’ve had little enough time t’do more’n stir up the ground a bit, and perhaps pull a few weeds. I’ve not had time t’plant anythin’ new to replace what was truly gone. And none of these was bloomin’ yesterday.” Sam shook his head in the wonder of it all.
“I suspect they’re only glad to see you back again, knowing that you’ll see to it that they are all properly taken care of once more. Look there—the forsythia is truly glorious, and I swear the narcissus blooms are especially bright! And there’s even crocus blooming! A bit late for them, I fear, but how beautiful they are! And the daffodils and hyacinth are truly beautiful!”
“And look there, there under your window, Master---there was an especial ugly shed there. But the Elven lilies as old Mr. Bilbo planted there—if’n they ain’t growing up, happy as can be! That Sharkey, or Saruman or whatever his right name was—he couldn’t destroy the gardens after all!”
And there was some additional proper color to the face of Frodo Baggins, seeing all beginning to come right here, here in the gardens of his own home.