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DISCLAIMER: Middle-earth and all its peoples belong to the Tolkien Estate. I own none of them. Some of them, however, seem to own me.
HOW IT ALL GOT STARTED…
It were toward the beginning of Winterfilth, right after The Birthday when Mr. Frodo turned forty-nine. I’d gone down to The Green Dragon one afternoon. I’d finished early up at Bag End, and Mr. Frodo had insisted I take the rest of the day off. Well, I weren’t real used to doing that, but I did; I thought a pipe and a bit of ale would help me get my thoughts in order.
You see, I’d noticed Mr. Frodo had seemed a bit sad and restless ever since his birthday, and I was pondering what it might mean. I knew like no one else just how much my master missed old Mr. Bilbo. He’d never really got over the way he up and left him all those years ago, and my master just barely come of age. I always liked Mr. Bilbo, weren’t nobody kinder than him, but I have to admit, I didn’t think it was right fair of him to go off like that. Mr. Frodo felt like he’d been orphaned all over again. After a while, he seemed to do better, and he started bringing his own young kin to Bag End for visits, so as not to be so lonesome. But I knew that deep down he still missed Mr. Bilbo.
I was trying to ponder what it might mean, that he seemed to be missing him more now than he had for a good few years. And I didn’t much like the direction my thoughts were taking me.
I was so busy thinking, that I gave a start to hear a voice saying “Samwise Gamgee!”
I looked up to see Mr. Merry Brandybuck, that was Mr. Frodo’s cousin, and his very dearest friend, for all that he was so much younger than my master. “Well, hullo, Mr. Merry,” said I, “I was not knowing you were back here in Hobbiton.” For Mr. Merry usually visited Bag End in the springtime.
“I only just got here. Thought I’d try and coax Frodo back to Buckland for a few weeks.” Mr. Frodo used to go to Buckland every fall for a visit with his kinfolk, but he’d not done it so regular after he became Master of Bag End. “But mostly, I thought I’d like to have a word with you. Do you mind if I join you?”
I nodded, surprised, just a little. Mr. Merry and I had been pretty good friends when we was just little lads, and he’d come to Bag End in the spring to visit his cousins. Of course, when we got older, ‘twasn’t really proper for us to be so familiar. I was just shy of my tweens when the Gaffer told me it was time for me to start saying “Mister” to him. I think that it made him a bit uncomfortable around me, so we didn’t spend so much time together anymore. I was always afraid I’d maybe kind of hurt his feelings, putting that proper distance between us, but he never let on. Mr. Merry is a real gentlehobbit.
He sat down, and he stood me to another ale while he got himself one. He didn’t say anything at first, which I thought a bit odd, considering he’d wanted my company. But then I realized he was trying to get his thoughts together and find the right words to say.
Finally he said “Sam, how has Frodo seemed to you lately?” He looked down at the table when he asked it.
Well, if it had been anybody else, I wouldn’t have said nothing. My master’s business is his own, and I don’t discuss him with folks just casual like. But this was Mr. Merry, who loved his cousin like a brother, and I knew he wouldn’t have brought himself to ask me if he weren’t right worried.
“He’s not been any too cheerful since his birthday, Mr. Merry, if you want to know the truth.”
“I was afraid of that. You know he’s bound to decide he wants to see Bilbo again some day. I think it brought it home to him. Bilbo is a hundred and twenty seven years old. If Frodo doesn’t go after him soon, what will be the point in it?”
And that was it. He’d put his finger right on the thing that had been bothering me, without me knowing quite what it was. “I think you’re right, Mr. Merry,” I said, with a sinking feeling.
“I’ll not have him going off out of the Shire alone. But you know he’s not going to say anything. He’d not even think of asking me along. He still thinks of me as young, and he wouldn’t want to distress my parents. But I won‘t be left behind.”
I could see that. Mr. Merry was an only child and heir to all of Buckland as well.
“I need to know what he’s planning. I need to know if he’s getting ready to slip out of the Shire. I can make it worth your while.” He smiled a bit when he said that. I knew he didn’t mean no insult, but it was a way of giving me an out. I could act insulted, and then have a good reason to say ‘no’.
“Mr. Merry, you know there’s no amount of coin could make me spy on my master.” He nodded, and looked a bit down in the mouth, though I could tell he expected that for an answer. “On the other hand--”
His head snapped up, and he looked at me hopeful like.
“--there is something as you could do for me, if I was to let you know about such things.”
“What’s that, Sam?” I could tell he was surprised, and right curious as well.
“Well, if you don’t plan to be left behind, no more do I. All I want is to be included with you and Mr. Pippin--” I grinned here, because I knew very well that anywhere Mr. Merry went, his other cousin Mr. Pippin--that is to say Mr. Peregrin Took-- would go too. “when you go along with Mr. Frodo.”
Well now he really grinned. But he didn’t say anything right off. I knew he’d think on it for a few minutes. But I also knew he’d say yes. Which he did. “I think that would be a excellent idea, Sam. And yes, I hope to include Pippin, though I’ll not say anything to him quite yet--he’s liable to be too quick off the mark, and get carried away. Time enough to tell him when we know something for certain.”
Now I grinned. He had that Took down all right. Mr. Pippin was a sweet lad, but he did tend to get a bit over excited at times.
“Well, Mr. Merry, all I know to do is to keep my eyes and ears open. Mr. Frodo ain’t said anything yet to make me think he’ll run off tomorrow. But when he does, we’ll be ready for him.”
Mr. Merry gave me a really wicked look. “You know that Frodo may not have us on a bet.”
Well, I give him back a look just as wicked. “Well, Mr. Merry, we just might have to trail along behind for a little while, and then he’d lose that bet.”
And we raised our ales to seal the bargain.
We’d no idea that things would turn out so different than we expected. But I don’t suppose if we had’ve, that we’d have done it any other way.
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