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At Bag End, Wedmath had been a miserable month.
The unusual heat had made Sam cross--the lettuce had bolted and many of the flowers were going to seed too soon. What made it worse to Sam was that he just couldn’t seem to put his heart into the garden anymore.
Frodo also was not in a very good mood. He was anxious about Gandalf for one thing, and for another he was finding it humiliating to wind up his affairs in Hobbiton. Going in to settle his accounts, he was constantly assured with many winks and knowing smiles and conspiratorial nods that, yes, he would find living in a smaller home in Buckland less expensive. It was obvious that almost no one believed his story of financial problems, though what they thought he was really up to, no one would say to his face; and what was said behind his back, he never knew.
But the worst problem for both Frodo and Sam to bear were the Sackville-Bagginses. They had taken to dropping in unannounced on the slightest pretext. Sometimes it was Lobelia. Sometimes it was Lotho. Sometimes it was the both of them. They wished to see the rooms; they wished to measure the rooms; they wanted to inspect the fireplace; they wanted to check the cellar; any and every excuse imaginable was bringing them to Frodo’s door. Lobelia was merely rude and thoughtless--if the mood struck her to check the color of the paint in the back hall, then check it she would, no matter the inconvenience to someone else. Lotho, however, was intruding for the sake of intruding, just to make Frodo’s life miserable. He had always hated Frodo, and was enjoying this petty revenge. Both of them were inveterate snoops, as well, so Frodo had to watch them every minute, to make sure they did not go rummaging in drawers, or picking through his private papers.
But what terrified Frodo was what happened one afternoon, when he heard them coming up the path for the fourth time that week. He suddenly realized that he was reaching for the Ring, as if it were the most natural and normal thing in the world to put it on and escape. And part of his mind was saying “What could it hurt, just to go invisible, and get away from them? How could there be any danger, here in the heart of the Shire?”
He jerked his hand away as if from hot coals, and fled out the back door, mouthing to Sam in the back garden “S-B’s”. He went for a long walk, leaving poor Sam to deal with them on his own, and did not return until the stars came out.
In addition to his garden work at Bag End, and helping Mr. Frodo prepare for the move, Sam was also doing his best to leave everything well in hand for his Gaffer and sister Marigold, the only one of his siblings still living at home. Of course, they thought it was because he was moving to Buckland with Mr. Frodo, not because he was leaving the Shire altogether for who knew how long.
One afternoon, just before teatime, he returned home to Bagshot Row, his mind on a couple of small jobs he thought that he would do that evening. He had noticed a wobbly leg on the kitchen table, and he had in mind to put up the shelf over the sink that Marigold had been wishing for. He came into the kitchen to find the Gaffer and Marigold there, with Marigold’s best friend, Rosie Cotton.
For an instant, he met her gaze, and it was as though the whole world spun away and there was nobody in it but them. With an effort, he wrenched his eyes away, and managed to say “Hullo” without a catch in his voice.
He sat down in his place at the table, and took the tea his sister poured for him, managing to answer the Gaffer’s questions about his day in what passed to his ears as a normal tone of voice, though he felt as if he were miles away.
“Yes, sir. I had to throw that whole bed of lettuce on the compost--bolted, all of it, and bitter as gall.”
“Well, son, it ain’t somewhat you could help, what with all this unnatural heat. You going to sow something else in?”
“Not likely, I’m not, to leave it for those--” he stopped, as the language that came to his mind was not fit for his sister or Rosie to hear. “those new owners to have. I’m just going to cover it with a hay mulch, and let it go.”
The Gaffer shook his head. He didn’t hold with what Mr. Frodo had done, selling to them Sackville-Bagginses. He had dark thoughts on the matter, and was firmly convinced that somehow Lotho had found some kind of hold over Mr. Frodo to make him sell.
Rosie and Marigold were listening to this conversation in silence; the Gaffer was old-fashioned, and didn’t hold with lasses butting into male conversation. Rosie was concerned.
Ever since their early tweens, Rosie and Sam had an understanding. Somewhere they had passed the line from childhood friendship into true love, and without it ever being said, neither of them had ever doubted they would one day share their lives. Yet Sam knew there were things he had to do before he settled down.
But never before had Sam avoided her, as he had been doing since the middle of April. Another lass might have the idea that she was losing her lad’s love, but Rosie had no such doubts about her Sam, who was as true as they came. Something else was going on, and it had to do with Mr. Frodo, of that she was sure. Like most of his neighbors and acquaintances, Rosie did not believe he had run out of money. She suspected that he had heard from his Uncle Bilbo, and was planning on taking off to join him.
And taking her Sam away with him, he was.
He’d be back. She knew it. She could wait. But she did hope he’d speak before he left.
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