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Disclaimer: The Lord of the Rings and all its characters and settings are the property of the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien, New Line Cinemas, and their licensees. These works were produced with admiration and respect, as fan fiction for entertainment purposes only, not for sale or profit. This story and all my others may be found on my website, http://budgielover.com. My thanks to my dear Marigold for the beta.
Sam’s First Midsummer Faire
Sam tamped the soil down carefully around his cherished larkspur, snipping off a wilted leaf in the process. He had chosen his best pot, the white one with green leaves painted around the rim, the one that would show off the blushing lavender blooms to their best advantage. It had to be perfect; he had been growing this particular flower for the Midsummer Free Faire in Michel Delving for months.
It was Sam’s first time to attend the Faire. Michel Delving was a fair bit from Bag End, but Mr. Bilbo had hired a pony-cart for himself and young Mr. Frodo, and he and the Gaffer had been invited along as they usually were. This time the Gaffer had felt Bag End’s gardens were in right enough shape that he and Sam could be spared for a few days. When an excited Sam declared he wanted to enter the flower-judging contest, the Gaffer had grumbled good-naturedly about the almost-tweenager forgetting his place. But Mr. Frodo had encouraged him and old Mr. Bilbo too, and as Sam gazed at the lovely flower before his eyes, he knew that he had the winning entry.
He caressed the soft petals gently with a calloused finger, marveling at their beauty. He had started the plant from the best seed in Mr. Bilbo’s garden and nurtured it as it grew, carefully re-staking the tall stalk until it now stood over a meter high. Larkspur came in a variety of colors; shades of blue, purples, lilac, white, rose and pink, but this one was lavender, just the color of a Shire morning before dawn. Sam was more than proud of the flower – he loved it.
With a last glance at the plant to be certain that it was displayed at its most flattering angle, Sam dragged himself away from the display table. There were so many things to see and do. He had promised to meet Mr. Frodo to assist him in sampling the new pipe-weed varieties and to have luncheon. Then he was to report to the livestock area, so best see as much of the Faire as he could.
The Faire was the highlight of the hot season and hobbits looked forward to it all year. July 27 was marked on Shire calendars months ahead of time. Some adventurous folks even came from as far as Bree to show their livestock and sample the food and catch up with friends and relatives. Sam had arranged to earn a little extra money by working in the goat barns, and he looked forward to it. Sam liked all animals but goats were his special favorites. They were such amiable creatures, sturdy and intelligent and gifted with their own brand of grace.
Sam was mucking out a stall when the judging started. Like the rest of the barn hands, he abandoned his shovel and leaned against the top railing of the pen, crossing his arms on the wood to watch. There were six goats in this judging, all fine looking animals with clear eyes and good coats, behaving well as their handlers made them stand for inspection. The finest-looking goat, to Sam’s eye, was one registered as “Anna.” No contest, really. The owner, a pretty hobbit-lass, also caught his eye and Sam found himself straightening up against the rail and attempting to brush dust and straw off himself.
The handlers were leading their goats around the pen so that the judges could check their conformation and gaits. As the pretty hobbit-lass passed, Sam found himself walking alongside her outside the pen. When he realized what he was doing, he blushed a furious red and hoped frantically she hadn’t noticed.
Anna won, as anyone with eyes could see she would, Sam thought. Maybe as she took the goat back to the barn, her blue ribbon affixed proudly to her collar, he could speak to her. (The lass, not the goat.)
He was back before she was, running his fingers through his sandy-blond hair and patting off his shirt and breeches, small puffs of dust glinting in the sunbeams for a moment to swirl off into the distance. He managed to maneuver himself next to Anna’s pen and became very busy restocking the feed bins.
The lass brought in the goat and removed the ribbon to affix it proudly next to Anna’s name on the placard on the pen. ‘Now,’ thought Sam. ‘Don’t you muddle this, Samwise Gamgee.’
“Hullo,” he said brilliantly.
The lass turned to him and he caught his breath at her beautiful eyes. “Hullo,” she returned, a faint blush pinking her features.
Then Sam was stuck. He struggled desperately. “Nice goat, that.”
The lass smiled and Sam’s heart leapt. “Isn’t she? Such a pretty girl. Her name’s Anna. And I’m Camillia. Camillia Took.”
A Took? Sam hoped he wasn’t putting himself forward, talking to one of the gentry. “Camillia’s a lovely name. Right beautiful flowers, those. Camillias.”
The lass smiled again and Sam decided suddenly that the feed bins were full enough. That was his last duty of the day. He screwed up his courage. “I’m Sam Gamgee. Me Gaffer does the garden for Mr. Baggins up in Hobbiton. Mr. Bilbo Baggins, that is. Well, Mr. Frodo, too, o’ course, but it’s Mr. Bilbo that…” Aware that he was beginning to babble, Sam trailed off and blushed.
“Would you like to see my larkspur?” he asked desperately. “I’ve got it entered in the flower contest later. It’s lavender instead of the usual colors.”
The lass tilted her head, curly hair shimmering in the sun that streamed in through the chinks in the barn roof. “I love flowers. We have beautiful larkspur in Tookland. They’re planted along all the back fences. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lavender one.”
Sam walked her over to the flower stalls and they spent some time admiring the beautiful blooms. Each pot sat on the table with a little card before it, listing the grower’s name and the type of flower. Sam’s heart swelled when Camillia immediately found his entry, exclaiming, “Oh, Sam! It’s just beautiful!”
Then something small dashed between them and leaped up to the flower table. Sam had a glimpse of a sleek orange-colored body and a long tail, then the kitten was bouncing on the table and Sam’s beautiful larkspur was tipping. He snatched for it but the slender stalk continued to fall, and crashed to the table with dirt spilling from the pot.
Camillia stifled a shriek and seized the little animal. “Marigold! Bad kitty! Naughty girl!”
Sam stared in horror, unable to move. The kitten, now quite content in her owner’s arms, mewed at him questioningly. The beautiful plant lay on its side, leaves squashed, petals shaking.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” whispered the lass. “Is it broken?”
With shaking hands, Sam carefully lifted the tall stalk by the stake and righted the pot. Miraculously, it did not seem to be damaged. He checked it in disbelief, running his fingers along the thick clumping of blooms. It wasn’t broken.
The two simultaneously released the breaths they had been holding. “It’s not hurt,” Sam assured her, wonder in his voice. Still apologizing for the rambunctious kitten, Camillia helped him scoop the spilled dirt back into the pot and tidy up the table. Sam blushed as Camillia’s hand happened to brush against his own, just for a moment. A grin blooming on his own face, he sent the kitten a silent thanks for the slight mishap.
“What’s this, then?”
Mayor Will Whitfoot stood behind them, his portly self looking rather like an overstuffed dumpling in a white apron that heralded the fact he had just been judging the pie-baking contest. Blackberry juice and strawberry smears decorated his front, and he looked anything but mayoral at the moment. The two young hobbits fought down giggles, not daring to look at each other.
Evidently not expecting an answer, the mayor looked past them to the flower table. “Ah, good job, young Samwise,” he said approvingly. “Beautiful flower, that. A delphinium, is it?”
“No sir,” replied Sam, recovering the use of his tongue. “It’s a larkspur. They look just the same, though.”
The mayor nodded decisively, as if Sam had confirmed what he already knew. “And young Miss Took. I saw your mother earlier over at the quilt judging. It’s your birthday today, isn’t it?”
Camillia nodded shyly. “Yes, sir. My 17th.”
Whitfoot beamed at her. “Many happy returns, young lass. Now if you two young people will excuse me, I have a cake-baking contest to judge.” The mayor surprised them both with a short bow, then took his round self off eagerly to continue his official duties.
“I didn’t know it was your birthday,” said Sam in surprise, then realized that was a ridiculous thing to say. They had just met, after all. “I mean … er … happy birthday.”
“Thank you,” said Camillia with a smile that caught the breath in Sam’s throat.
“Urm,” Sam struggled. “There’s a dance tonight after the judging’s over. Would you like to –“
“Camillia!” The call jolted them both. Before she could reply, it came again. “Camillia-love, where are you?”
Camillia blushed. “I have to go,” she murmured.
Sam caught her hand, shocked at his own boldness. “Will I see you later?”
She smiled at him. “I’ll collect Anna before it gets dark.”
As Sam watched her leave, he decided that the fairest flower in the Shire wasn’t on the judging table at all.
* * * * *
Sam won first prize for his larkspur. The congratulations of the other contestants and the bright blue ribbon didn’t mean as much to him as it would have the previous day, though he was pleased and proud to be the winner. Mr. Frodo (with the Gaffer’s permission) stood him to a mug of ale in celebration and also an excellent dinner, shared with his uncle and Sam’s da. Mr. Bilbo and Mr. Frodo seemed almost as proud as the Gaffer, and Sam basked happily in their praise.
But his mind was on getting back to the goat barn before dark. And he did, barely. Camillia was already leading Anna out of her pen, tucking her blue ribbon into a small satchel.
“Will you be coming back ‘ta the Faire again next year?” asked Sam, when they had shared the news of the rest of their day.
“I hope so,” Camillia replied. They stared at each other for a moment.
“I want to give you something for your birthday,” said Sam abruptly, cursing himself for not having a poem or gentle words to say like Mr. Frodo certainly would.
The lass looked surprised. “But you don’t give someone a present on their birthday –“
“I know,” Sam interrupted, then blushed. “But this is special.” He reached into the cupboard above the feed-bins and drew out his blue-ribbon larkspur. He had stored it there since the flower table was dismantled. He pressed it into her hands with a shy grin. “Will you take it?”
“Sam, I couldn’t,” she protested.
Camillia looked down at the beautiful plant, then raised those lovely eyes to Sam. “All right,” she said. “If you will allow me to give you something.”
Pleased beyond measure that she had agreed, Sam nodded. Cradling the flowerpot in one arm, she reached up and gently drew his head down and placed a single kiss on his cheek. Then she reluctantly led Anna from the barn, gazing back at Sam all the while.
Sam stood for a long time in the darkening goat barn, smelling the warm rich scent of manure and listening to the sleepy rustlings of the beasts not yet collected. His first Midsummer Faire, and his best. He would remember it all of his life.
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