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A Day of Rest
Spring 1432 SR
Sneezing, wheezing, shivering, cold and sweaty forehead. Even Sam could no longer deny what everyone else had seen coming for the last week. He was ill, an uncommon occurrence for him, and he was going to have to miss the meeting with the shirriffs in Frogmorton. Rose didn’t say it, but her expression that morning when she was awakened by his explosive sneezes made it clear that he should have listened to her on Trewsday. It was traveling to Michel Delving and back that did it to him. If he had stayed home and rested that day, he wouldn’t be laying here miserable now.
He listened to the high chiming of his children’s voices in the kitchen. Goldilocks was crying, Rosie-lass was complaining about something, Merry-lad and Pippin-lad were attempting to talk over their sister. Sam wondered where Elanor and Frodo-lad were. They should be helping Rose. He was getting ready to pull himself out of bed when a sudden silence ringed through the smial. Either Goldilocks and Rosie-lass were being seen to or first breakfast was being served.
Sam sank back into his pillows and tried to ignore the dull throbbing in his head. He pulled the blankets tighter around himself and willed the fire to stir itself. It didn’t. He closed his eyes, wishing Rose had opened the curtains before leaving. He’d open them himself but then she would know he’d left the bed. He was under strict orders to leave the bed only for the chamberpot. Not even the privy. Suddenly, walking more than five feet was deemed beyond his capability. He knew better than to argue.
A few more minutes passed and the door opened. Sam peeked and saw Rose carrying a tray. He sat up, his stomach grumbling eagerly. A true sign of how ill he was, he hadn’t realized he was hungry until now. Rose set the tray over his lap and propped up his pillows so he could sit comfortably. She draped his robe over his exposed shoulders and opened one curtain, letting in some light. She added a couple more logs to the hearth and prodded the fire back into life.
Sam watched her from the corner of his eye as he concentrated on his food: porridge with honey, toast spread with bramble berry preserve, and tea. Medicinal tea. Sam managed to swallow it without gagging or scrunching up his nose. He should have expected it, but the bitterness of the herbs tasted even sharper than usual after the sweetness of the porridge and toast.
Rose kissed his brow before leaving again, closing the door softly behind her. He ate his food and dutifully drained his cup. He placed the tray next to him on the bed and lay down again.
He didn’t remember falling asleep, but the next time he woke, both curtains and windows were open, a warm spring breeze wafted into the room, and the hearth fire had dwindled to embers. Rose sat in the rocking chair, mending clothes over an expanding belly. Sam watched her for a few moments, awed as always by her loveliness. Feeling his gaze, Rose looked up and smiled warmly.
“There you are,” she said. She set down her mending and came to his side. “Feeling better?”
Sam nodded but was immediately given away by a thunderous sneeze. Rose withdrew a handkerchief from her dress pocket and wiped his brow and nose. She poured him some water, then left to bring him some more of the medicinal tea, which he drank without complaint. While he struggled with the tea, Rose disappeared again, returning a few minutes later with his portable writing table. She settled this over his lap and snapped down its legs. From her never-ending pockets she pulled a stack of correspondence to which Sam had been meaning to reply.
“Where are the children?” Sam said, realizing belatedly why the smial was so quiet.
“I sent them off to Tom and Marigold’s,” Rose said. “They’re going to help them make baskets for the Spring Feast. They’ll be back for supper.”
“Finally got me alone, did you?” Sam teased.
Rose arched an eyebrow but smiled. “Not that you’re any good to me at the moment.”
Sam chuckled, for she was right of course. By the slant of the sunlight, it had to be near midmorning, and yet after all that sleeping he was still tired. Even if he could persuade her into bed, he’d likely be conked out again before he could do anything about it. Better to reserve his energy and work on his correspondence. He did manage to get a kiss from her before she returned to the chair and her mending.
Sam flipped through the stack of mail and saw that she had brought him only his personal missives. No business for the Mayor today. There were the usual letters from Merry and Pippin, as well as some letters from Halfred and Hamson - Sam recognized the scribes’ handwriting as well as he did his own. There was a rather thick letter from Diamond - not unusual as she tended to fill in the many gaps left by her husband - and even a note from Robin. And far down at the bottom, letters from Outside. Sam grinned, recognizing Strider’s hand, as well as Faramir’s and Beregond’s. There were even a few letters from Rohan. Eagerly anticipating news from afar, Sam began with the topmost letter and slowly, between fits of napping and sneezing, made his way through the pile.
Rose kept him company most of the day, disappearing only to fix him luncheon and tea. She listened as he read some of the news from the various letters and reminded him of accounts for putting into his responses. When he napped, she removed the table so it wouldn’t disturb his tossing, and when he woke, she rearranged the sheets and pillows around him. She brought him a stack of clean handkerchiefs and found things to do around the smial when he needed to use the chamberpot.
After tea, she remained in the kitchen to prepare dinner and the smells of boiling meat drifted down the tunnel to tease Sam’s nose and belly. He must be feeling better, for he was as hungry as ever. On the other hand, for all his sleeping, if he closed his eyes for any length of time he knew he’d be asleep for the rest of the night. He concentrated on his letter to Strider, determined to stay awake long enough for dinner.
When he heard his children return and the sounds of the table being set in the dining room, Sam snuck out of bed, washed at the basin and comb his hair back. He didn’t have the energy to change from his sleeping gown and saw no point in doing so in any case. He tiptoed down the tunnel and peeked into the dining room to see Elanor securing Goldilocks in her highchair and Rose serving the meal.
Goldilocks squealed when she saw Sam. This was followed by a chorus of Da-da’s, Daddy’s and Sam-dad’s as his children greeted him good evening. Sam kissed them all on their heads and met Rose’s eyes. She frowned but pulled out his chair and retrieved his plate from the bed tray she had set on the hutch. They all sat and Sam listened happily as his children told him about their daily adventures. The food tasted delightful and the ale went down cool and sweet.
Rose shooed him back to bed as soon as the meal was done, handing him a deep mug of the medicinal tea before he could make his escape. He went to bed, drank the tea and settled down, his eyelids already heavy. He was just regretting missing the children’s nighttime story when a soft knock sounded on the door.
“Come in,” he permitted and in came his children, Elanor carrying Goldilocks. They climbed up on the bed with him and Goldilocks crawled over to Sam’s lap. “It’ll have to be a short one. I’m afraid I’m right tuckered out.”
“No, Sam-dad,” Elanor said and took a book that Merry-lad had been hiding behind his back. “We’re going to read to you. Just lay back, close your eyes and we’ll tell you the story of Farmer Giles of Ham.”
“I get to be the dog,” Pippin-lad said.
“I get to be the dragon,” Merry-lad said.
“Neither of you can read yet,” Rosie-lass said.
“We know the words,” Pippin and Merry assured.
“Shh!” Elanor ordered. “Dad’s trying to relax.”
Sam chuckled, closed his eyes and settled into his pillows as his children began the story. Try as he might, he was fast asleep before the giant got an arrow in his eye. He didn’t stir until a couple of hours later when Rose climbed into bed next to him. He managed just enough energy to return her kiss and pat her hand. She cradled him from behind and lulled him back to sleep by running her fingers through his hair, massaging his scalp, and humming gently.
He didn’t stir again until dawn and he wasn’t surprised to discover he already felt ten times better. A day at home with his wife and family was all the cure he needed.
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