What Needs Looking After - Pt. One of Three - A Tale of Growing Up - part of a series


"I can look after Mister Frodo good as any, Sir!" exclaimed the 16 year old hobbit-lad, a hint of stubbornness hiding just behind the guileless brown eyes. "Ain't I worked with you these past seven years, learnin' how to take good care of the smial and grounds at Bag End and all?"

"Aye, you have," said the boy's Gaffer, stroking his chin. He glanced up at Bilbo, who lingered in the doorway, puffing quietly at his carved wooden pipe. Standing beside the Master of Bag End stood another, younger hobbit--perhaps a hands-breadth taller than his cousin--who smiled enigmatically at the scene playing out in the front yard.

"Why don't you take the lad with you, Mr. Gamgee?" the dark-haired youth asked, exchanging looks with Bilbo. "I won't be much company for Sam, I'm afraid. I've this new book to read, you see." The youth, Frodo by name, had grown up among the Brandybucks after his parents had died, and therefore had never taken for granted his privacy here at Bag End. The fact that his Uncle Bilbo was going to the Tuckborough Fair for a week didn't bother him at all. The thought of going along, however, with the Gamgees and other assorted hobbits, did. As much as he loved Bilbo, Frodo Baggins loved his privacy almost as much.

"Na, na, it wouldn't do for a young gentle-hobbit like yourself bein' alone, beggin' your pardon, Mr. Frodo," Hamfast countered. "You just gettin' over being ill. Someone has to stay and that's flat. I think you'll be agreein' with me, Mr. Bilbo?" Gaffer Gamgee stood with his hands on his hips, his eyes flashing, waiting for the master of Bag End to concur.

Bilbo saw wisdom in the gardener's sun-weathered features. He placed a hand on his nephew's shoulder and nodded. "He's right, my boy. Won't be any good for you to go off in the woods reading that book and come home in the rain to a cold, damp smial. You don't have all your strength back yet, and I won't be able to enjoy myself if I'm worrying about you," he finished, seeing the protest forming on Frodo's lips.

Frodo considered, looked at young Samwise digging his toe in the compost around the peonies. Sam was a good lad--hard-working, even fair company. Frodo treated the boy with the same deferential respect and kindness Bilbo showed to all their neighbors, and especially those who, for cultural reasons of the times, were not deemed to be "gentle" hobbits. Bilbo held disdain for such antics, as did his nephew. Perhaps that was why some people thought them both strange.

Besides, liking Sam wasn't in the least a duty for Frodo. He genuinely admired the youngster, having known him since he was just a little fellow. Sam was of good stock, and despite their age differences, they had become friends almost immediately. In those early days, Sam was small enough for Frodo to tote around on his back. Now at 16 Sam's arms and shoulders had already developed the muscles needed to effectively carry on his work. If he wanted, he could easily give Bilbo's heir a ride without breaking a sweat.

Frodo smiled at the mental picture of himself riding pick-a-back at the nearly respectable age of 28. Sam saw the smile, misunderstood it. "I won't be in the way, Mr. Frodo," he promised, putting his hands behind his back as if reciting a verse. "I'll come every morning, tend to the house and garden, and do any errands as needed."

Frodo felt his uncle's hand tighten a bit on his shoulder. He reached up and grasped the sturdy fingers briefly before speaking to the gardener's son. "You're never in the way, Sam," he said, smiling gently at the boy. "And I'll be glad for your company," he added without thinking. So much for privacy, he realized, too late.

Young Gamgee grinned widely, blushing a bit. Frodo's smile broadened too, finding Sam's pleasure catching.

"Well, then," proclaimed Bilbo, tamping his pipe and beaming over the small group standing outside the round, green door of his home. I'd best be about getting ready; we'll want an early start tomorrow, eh, Mr. Gamgee?"

"Aye, that we will. We've been lookin' forward to this for weeks; won't do to start late."

"No, indeed," Bilbo agreed, and waved the Gamgees goodbye. His eye fell on his adopted nephew who, hands in pockets, watched the gardeners go down the lane. A hint of worry drifted across the older hobbit's brow; Frodo was too thin yet, despite his attempts to fatten him up. Gone was the underfed look so prevalent during the boy's last years at Buckland, but the lad's recent illness had robbed him of a few precious pounds, and it showed. Bilbo drew a deep breath, pressing his lips together. No matter, he reminded himself. Frodo's doing very well here, very well indeed.

And it was true. Frodo had come into his own under his uncle's tutelage and loving care. Their personalities intertwined and their interests flourished and grew as they came to know each other in a way opportunity had never provided when Frodo was an orphan-child in a warren of hobbit-folk. For his part, Bilbo had never regretted the day he took Drogo's only child into his home (indeed looking back, he wished he had brought the lad to Bag End even earlier). In the short years that followed, Frodo never ceased to show a deep affection and respect for his elder cousin. The old bachelor honestly didn't know how he got along before he took on the responsibility of raising the tweenager. And during Frodo's recent illness, in the long nights when the fever burned and the lad didn't know him, Bilbo's heart had wrenched with pain at the thought of losing his young charge.

He drew another deep breath, catching the scent of herbs growing among the flagstones leading to the steps of his home. Frodo was better now, gaining ground rapidly, fourth day up and around. His appetite had returned along with the sparkle in his blue eyes, and his laughter could be heard among the hills again. Bilbo was content.

Sam was up early the next morning, rising before anyone else. He hurried through his chores so his dad could see he was more than capable of getting the work done at home, despite the extra burden of solely caring for things at Bag End. Hamfast was by nature a just hobbit, and a kind one, but over the last few years he had become exacting and quick-tempered, a development that often caused a fair amount of stress for the young hobbit. Sam had two grown brothers who no longer lived at home, and had assumed more and more of the burden of providing for the family. Though only 70, Gaffer Gamgee, a widower, was growing old in the precipitous rush that often accompanies a life tempered with hard manual labor. While such labor strengthened and hardened some physiques, it whittled and weakened others. That was the case for Ham, who was losing his hearing and suffered not a little in the joints of his hands and knees. Though he loved his boy, the physical and mental suffering caused by these afflictions often manifested itself through a sharp tongue and a heavy arm. Consequently, Sam strived constantly to satisfy his increasingly difficult-to-please dad.

Today was going well so far, however. Bilbo had arrived early at the gate, saving the Gaffer a detour to Bag End, and greeted young Samwise as he came out of a nearby shed.

"Good morning, lad! Up and about early, eh?" he called, leaning on the gate.

"Oh, aye, Mr. Bilbo," Sam replied. "Just wantin' to get things squared away like, `fore I go over to Bag End. I've a few taters to scrabble yet and want to get an early start," the youngster answered happily. He'd been waiting for an opportunity like this, to show his Gaffer he could take care of himself, their home, and his other responsibilities Under Hill. When his dad saw what a good job he had made of things during the next six days, he would surely be more willing to entrust Sam with the kind of unsupervised responsibility that--`til now--he'd been reluctant to allow. Sam would make sure Mr. Frodo's household needs would be taken care of, as well. Though his dad never did domestic work for the bachelors, Sam knew that Bilbo's younger charge would still need a bit of looking after.

He walked up to the gate, taking in Bilbo's rather travel-worn cloak and hood. Sam often envied the Baggins' long walks, and was glad, whenever time allowed him, to go with Mr. Frodo on one of the less-traveled trails around Hobbiton. He wondered if Frodo would feel up to a short walk while Mr. Bilbo was away.

"Is Mr. Frodo up yet, Sir? Will he be wantin' his breakfast?" he asked, opening the gate for the older hobbit to pass through.

"Oh, no, he arose to see me off--insisted on it, in fact! Made us breakfast, too." Bilbo looked hard at the young Gamgee, recognizing the eagerness in the young hobbit's features. "I made him promise he'd go back to bed for a little while after I'd left, so he won't need his second breakfast. You can fix him elevenses if you like."

"That I will," promised Sam. "And don't you worry, Mr. Bilbo, I'll take care of everything while you're away."

"Well, just see that you don't overdo it, lad. You're only one person, you know," Bilbo admonished, winking at the boy. He leaned over and spoke very low. "You do yourself and your old dad proud."

Sam blushed to his knees and jammed his hands into his pockets, speechless with pleasure. Bilbo only grinned and patted the tongue-tied youth on his back. He turned as the front door opened and Hamfast emerged from his hole with May and Marigold in tow. The girls waved a greeting, chattering so fast to each other they sounded like two birds chirping.

"A beautiful morning, Mr. Gamgee! Are we ready to go?"

"Aye, that we are, the Gaffer replied. "Got everything?" he asked, and having received vigorous nods from the girls, Hamfast adjusted the pack on his back and motioned Bilbo to precede him through the gate. He turned and fastened his eyes on his youngest son. "Have an eye for Master Frodo, Sam. You mind what you do, now--and how you do it," he warned.

"I will, Father," Sam answered, using his dad's formal title for emphasis. "Have a good time, and don't worry about a thing!"

"Don't give me reason to," was elder Gamgee's answer, an unintentional dart that pierced his son's heart. Bilbo saw it, and winced at the boy's pain. He hung back a moment and placed his hand on the boy's shoulder.

"You'll do fine. Just remember what I said. Pacing's the key, lad. Just don't put anything on yourself you don't need to."

"Thank you, Mr. Bilbo. I'll remember," Sam promised. But his brown eyes were on his father as they walked away, and they were thoughtful, and just a little sad.

Frodo woke to the sound of crockery and utensils rattling in the kitchen. He opened one eye, not particularly in a hurry to get up, and stretched himself full along the sofa, knocking the woolen throw to the floor with a furry foot.

"That you, Sam?" he called, sitting up and flexing his shoulders.

"Yes, Sir, Mr. Frodo!" came a cheerful answer. "Hope you're hungry," Sam finished, peeking around the corner.

Frodo placed a hand on his stomach. "I think I am," he replied with cheek, and followed Sam back into the kitchen.

Suppressing a grin, Frodo turned away from the young Gamgee, clad in a too-large apron, to look at the spread laid upon the plank table. A loaf of bread, sharp cheese, cured ham sliced thick as a finger, and a bowl of apples awaited them, topped off with a pitcher of cold cider from the cellar.

"Now I know I'm hungry!" Frodo proclaimed, and hurried to wash up. When he came back a few minutes later, Sam was busy sweeping bread crumbs from the floor.

"Aren't you eating?" Frodo asked him, plopping himself down at the table and helping himself to the cheese.

Sam hesitated. `Don't take liberties, now!' his Gaffer had warned him the night before. `It's true Mr. Bilbo teaches you your letters and lets you read from his books, but it won't do for you to forget your proper place,' Hamfast had reminded him. Sam was determined not to irritate his dad. He was assistant gardener for the Baggins household and would remember it!

"I'll eat after I finish up here, Mr. Frodo," he answered, looking a little abashed.

"That'll wait, Sam. Come and keep me company - I don't want to eat alone," Frodo coaxed. Torn between `keeping his place' and pleasing his master, Sam finally acquiesced.

Young Gamgee ate quickly, his mind's list of things to accomplish that day aggravating him like an itch. Though Frodo attempted several times to pull him into conversation, Sam answered with polite monosyllables and soon rose from the table, grabbing for the broom.

"Oh, no, I'll do that, Sam my lad! I can see you're anxious to get to work outside," offered Frodo, taking the broom from the boy. He clapped his hand on young Gamgee's back and was startled to find the shirt damp.

"Your shirt's wet! What'd you do, take a dip in the water barrel?" Frodo jested, wiping his hand on his breeches.

"Just got a bit warm this morning while I worked outside, Mr. Frodo. It'll dry soon enough."

"You really should change out of that shirt, Sam," Frodo insisted.

"A damp shirt's nothing," Sam answered cheekily, his mouth pulling into a knowing, lopsided grin that belied his young age, as though to say, `I haven't seen you working hard enough to warrant a sweat-soaked shirt, Master!'

Frodo looked embarrassed and Sam immediately regretted his response.

"Beggin' your pardon, Mr. Frodo, but I shouldn't ought to have spoke to you like that! It's not my place..."

"Not your... What do you mean?" Frodo asked, his tone sharp.

Mistaking Frodo's sudden curtness, young Gamgee hurried to the door. "Nothing. It's nothing, Sir. I'd best be getting on with my work. If you'll be excusin' me now, Mr. Frodo." The door slammed. The door opened again, and Sam stuck his head in. "Thanks for cleaning up the kitchen!" he blurted, then slammed the door once more.

Frodo shook his head and smiled, half in amusement at Sam's behaviour and half at himself for feeling Sam's rebuke too strongly. Sam's right, he mused as he put away the food and swept up the floor. I don't do much for myself around here. Bilbo had coddled him, overprotected him, since he removed him from Buckland and adopted him as his heir. While Frodo understood and appreciated Bilbo's good-hearted motives, he realized he hadn't done much to try to change the way things were, either. The younger Baggins had rather enjoyed rising when he wished, eating when he wished, and doing anything else he liked to--when he wished. How often had he come home from a walk to find his bed made, a stew simmering in the pot, and his shirts washed and folded? Who did he think did all those things?

Bilbo, of course, helped out occasionally by Sam. Frodo's cheeks grew red with shame. What a lazy oaf you've become, Frodo Baggins! he reproached himself. It took Sam's honest nature for you to finally see it. Well, no more. Frodo took a good look around the kitchen. Though fairly tidy, it needed sorting out. Being the center of the smial, everything was left there: books, documents, candlesticks--things very un-kitchen-like. Looking closer, he saw a fine layer of dust on the topmost shelves and cupboards, and the fireplace needed a proper sweeping. No doubt the rest of the house needed seeing to, as well. The tweenager stood silently, considering. Then, with a rush of energy, he pulled on Sam's discarded apron and went out to fill Bilbo's largest cooking pot - he would need a lot of hot water today and the morning wasn't getting any younger.

Sam leaned back on his heels, looking along the finished row with satisfaction. The last of the potatoes had been pulled and placed in a large basket, the dying bushes piled in the wheelbarrow, ready to be hauled to the compost bin. A brisk wind tossed his damp curls and cooled his hot skin, but as he turned to face it he saw black clouds across the horizon, fast moving toward him. He scrambled to his feet and hurried to store the potatoes under the eaves at the side door.

The wind was picking up now and thunder rolled in the distance. Single drops of water fell here and there around him. Hurrying, he rolled the barrow to the compost and forked the potato greens on top; he'd have to wait to turn over the compost tomorrow, he realized, meaning an earlier start than he'd reckoned originally. Nothing to be done about that - he still had the last row to smooth or the rain would transform the upturned dirt into rough, hard clods later. He ran full-tilt to the garden shed and fetched a rake and back again to the garden, working as fast as he could as the storm built in intensity and volume. Jubilant, Sam finished the row just as the sky opened up, and hurried back to the shed. He cleaned, then dried the tines of the rake and oiled its handle, putting it away neatly with the other garden tools.

Sam relished rainfall. He loved the sound it made running off the sod roof of his home and splashing on the pavers below, he loved the grey softness it brought to the day and the restful feeling it lent to the night. Just now, though, soaked to the skin and without his jacket, which lay on top of the harvested potatoes at the smial, he shivered while he waited for the rain to end.

The storm held on, contrary to Sam's wishes, and the air grew colder with the north winds pushing the clouds across the sky. At length the thunder faded, but the rainy sky settled into a slow, somber curtain. Sam resolved himself to getting wet afresh. Shutting the shed door, he sprinted for the smial.

Sam noticed the windowpanes of the door were coated with condensation. He opened the door and maneuvered the potatoes into the pantry, wiping his feet carefully on the mat before coming in himself. He closed the door against the weather and stood still, sniffing the air. What was that smell?

Frodo stood at the kitchen door, cobwebs in his hair and dirt on his face and hands. He leaned on a mop-handle that led down to a bucket half-full of very dirty water. The dark-haired hobbit broke into a grin when he heard the side-door close.

"Sam, don't you dare sully my kitchen!"

"No, Sir!" came the answer. "I wouldn't do tha--" Sam looked around the corner of the opposite passage and stood transfixed, potatoes forgotten. "Why, Mr. Frodo!" he exclaimed, his eyes round with wonder. "It fairly shines!"

"It does, doesn't it?" Frodo beamed, looking upon the fruit of his labor. Every shelf had been scoured, every surface scrubbed with soapy water, every pot, pan, ladle, spatula, and fork cleaned, dried, and put back in its place. The air was full of the clean, soapy smell. And the floor. . .

The floor - glowed. There was no other way to put it, Frodo thought, as he gazed admiringly at the firelight that reflected warm and red from the spotless surface.

"In fact, I've no intention of dirtying it up, Sam my lad," Frodo announced, pulling off his apron and setting the mop aside. "Let's you and I go to The Green Dragon for our supper, shall we?"

Sam's smile drooped a little. "Well, I dunno. . ."

"You've finished your work for the day, haven't you?"

"Yes, I suppose, Mr. Frodo. But I have my own work to do at home, you see, `fore bedtime."

"Oh," Frodo said, his own smile drooping. "I understand, Sam," he said, sighing, then brightened. "Hang on! What if fix your breakfast tomorrow morning--that way you won't have to dirty up your own kitchen. In fact, why don't you plan on coming over every morning after you've finished your chores? I really need to practice my culinary skills on someone other than myself."

Sam opened his mouth to protest, but Frodo's wagging finger shut him up. The young gardener smiled slowly and twisted his weskit in his hands. "All right, Mr. Frodo." His head came up and he looked his master in the eye. "But I do the dishes."

"Then it's settled," Frodo agreed. "Now go home - it's getting dark early tonight, and growing quite chilly."

"Good night, Sir," Sam said, putting on his jumper.

"Good night, Sam. Rest well," Frodo answered. He saw Sam out, then picked up the bucket and carried it outside to empty it. If he fared this well tomorrow and the day after, he'd have the smial well to rights before Uncle Bilbo returned. Maybe Sam can help me if I run short of time, he thought as he washed up.

Later that night, returning from a warm meal and a tankard or two at the tavern, he crawled between the sheets of his bed and--as he did every night--blessed his friend, cousin and beloved Uncle Bilbo.

Sam hurried home by the fading light, astonished at how cold it had become. His damp weskit and thin jumper did little to warm him at first, but as he jogged homeward, he grew warmer. There was the feeding and milking to be done, and the eggs must be checked in the henhouse. He worked quickly, finishing by lantern-light before he finally went into the dark house. He left the fire unlit in the room that served as both kitchen and parlor for the Gamgees, opting to grab a bite or two of bread and cheese, a draught of water, then a quick wash-up before bed. Sam shivered under the covers, listening to the wind sobbing under the eaves until he grew warm and drifted off to sleep.

He woke and sat up--having heard something--and listened for it now. There it was again, above the moaning wind, a loud banging coming from the kitchen. He threw back the covers, flinching when his bare feet hit the flagstone floor. Pulling his breeches on over his nightshirt, he walked into the kitchen and saw one shutter swinging wildly on its hinges. The other shutter was nowhere to be seen; wind and rain flew freely into the house. Muttering, Sam pulled on a jacket and hat and went outside to check the damage. As he'd suspected, the missing shutter lay a few feet away from the window on the ground, one hinge bent and the other torn completely away. He ran to the tool shed next the garden and fetched some sturdy nails and a hammer. It was a struggle to get the heavy shutter back in place and nail it securely. The wind buffeted him as he worked, and he banged the first knuckle on his left hand with the hammer.

"Ouch! Goblins and pitchforks!" he exclaimed, shaking his hand, then cradling it. He felt suddenly weak in the knees and sat down hard in the mud. He dropped back against the smial wall, breathing heavily, until the worst of the weakness passed and the pain in his hand had settled into a dull throb. "The daft shutter isn't going to get back on by itself, Sam Gamgee," he muttered, levering himself up and taking hold of the hammer again.

Finally the job was done, but it had only added to the list of things he must do on the morrow. Wouldn't do for his dad to come home and find the shutters only half-tended to, so he would have to run by the village smithy on his way to Bag End. Master Bilbo's compost heap still needed turning, too, and Mr. Frodo would surely need his help with cleaning. Entering the house once more, Sam took off his jacket and hung it up to drip dry. When he reached for his hat, he grabbed a fistful of wet hair instead; it must have blown off his head without his knowing. Young Gamgee looked down at the muddy water dripping from his lower body, frowning. Breathing out in disgust, he grabbed the water bucket, went out onto the door stoop, and doused himself with it. Then he stepped out of his breeches and hung them up next his jacket. It was too late to start a fire, he reasoned. Even if he turned the smial into an oven, his clothes wouldn't be dry by the time he needed them again.

Sam went back to his room, shedding his nightshirt along the way and throwing it over a chair. His cold, clammy skin slowly dried and warmed under the clean sheets and blankets, but he slept little, a pressure building in his head and his hand paining him with every beat of his heart.

Frodo looked out the window again, wondering where on earth Sam was. The bacon had long been fried and was on the back of the stove, looking a little burnt. The biscuits sat on the table, still in their pan. Fresh and hot when they came out of the oven, they looked shriveled and forlorn now. Frowning, Frodo pulled the kettle away from the fire, its lid fairly jumping with the steam from its boiling contents.

"Where is that boy?" Frodo questioned, beginning to worry. He fretted another ten minutes, watching the hands of the clock slowly move across its face, until he heard someone running up the lane.

It was Sam. The youth saw Frodo looking out the window, apparently, because he threw young Baggins a wave and disappeared behind the tool shed.

"What in middle-earth is he doing?" Frodo fussed, walking to the door and striding across the yard to the shed. He turned the corner and found Sam turning compost with a pitchfork, whistling as he worked. His left hand was roughly bandaged.

"Hello, Mr. Frodo!" Sam called cheerfully, throwing a grin over his shoulder. "Sorry I'm late," he continued, throwing compost around with a vengeance. "I had to go t'the smithy to get a new hinge for our shutter. Wind damaged it in the night. Had to put it on, y'see, and straighten the other one. It was a fair mess, I'm tellin' you," he chuckled, still working away.

Any disgruntlement Frodo may have felt about the ruined breakfast drained away as he watched young Gamgee with his chore. He smiled, feeling silly at his troubles in light of Sam's own during the wet night. He shivered and wrapped his arms around himself.

"Where's your jacket, Sam? How'd you hurt your hand? Have you had breakfast yet?"

Sam halted in mid-toss, debating how to answer three questions at once. "It's still wet, Sir - no sense wearing it that way. As for the hand," he began, but then his smile disappeared, followed by a look of dismay. "Breakfast! Oh, Mr. Frodo, your lovely breakfast! I forgot, Sir, I fair did!"

"Don't worry," Frodo soothed him. "I'll fix you a bacon sandwich and then you can have a proper second breakfast with me later, all right?"

Sam shook his head. "No, Sir, I'd better not. I'm behind as it is and I mustn't be late getting home tonight. I was late milking Tessie last night and she didn't give as much milk as she oughta. It's important to milk `em twice a day, same time every day, you see. Dad always said I. . ." He stopped in mid-sentence, looking embarrassed. "Anyway," he continued, "a bacon sandwich sounds fine, Mr. Frodo. Don't make a fuss over me, now."

Frodo acquiesced, but sobered thoughtfully as he made his way back to the smial. That was the second time Sam had alluded to something his Gaffer had said, something that made him reticent. Sam just wasn't acting himself; Frodo realized he'd have to keep an eye on him if he wanted to find out what was bothering the young gardener. `Two eyes', as Gandalf the wizard was wont to say. He busied himself with the sandwiches, putting them on a tray along with napkins and some sliced cheese. He slipped on a thick wool jumper, then filled two tumblers with milk and walked back to the shed, balancing his load carefully.

He almost walked into Sam, who was coming around the corner of the shed with his pitchfork, sweat trickling down his face.

"Watch it!" Frodo yelped, pulling the tray out of harm's way. "I thought we'd make a short picnic of it here in the sun," he offered, setting the tray down on a small bench beside the shed. "Less wind here, too."

Sam's face lit up. He quickly wiped off the tines of the pitchfork and put it away, brushing the worst of the dirt off his hands and finishing the job on his breeches. He and Frodo sat on either end of the bench, straddling it, and helped themselves to the fare. The bacon was a little overdone, but Sam relished the meal nevertheless, swallowing the milk noisily and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He saw Frodo pick up his napkin and suddenly felt awkward. Though his master had made no sign of noticing Sam's lack of manners, young Gamgee couldn't help but think he had noticed. He looked down at his hands, sun-browned and already showing calluses and little scars from his vocation, and surreptitiously glanced at Frodo's. Though the fingernails were bitten and ragged, the hands were refined--with long, slender fingers and white, unmarred skin.

His face fell. Oh, but his Gaffer was right! He was nothing like Mr. Frodo. Nowhere near his class, his education - his position. He was daft to be letting the heir to Bag End wait on him--how ridiculous! What was he thinking to let Frodo cater to him like this? If his dad were to see him now. . .

He jammed the last of his bacon sandwich into his mouth and tried to talk around it. "Well, I'd best be getting to the garden, Mr. Frodo." He swallowed. "I do thank you for breakfast, but. . ."

"Sam, if you're pressed for time I can help..."

"No, Mr. Frodo. It's fine, really. It wouldn't be proper, nor sensible, your bein' on the mend and all." The young gardener grabbed his napkin, made a swipe at his face, and scurried away.

Frodo sat on the bench, a half-eaten sandwich suspended in his hand. Sam had gotten the better of him this time, but Frodo was beginning to see another side to Mr. Samwise Gamgee--a side both deep and stubborn. Well, he was no stranger to stubbornness--having been known to possess a certain amount of it himself--and could certainly find ways to get around the young hobbit. Frodo relaxed back onto the bench with a slightly smug look on his face, eating the rest of his sandwich with relish.

Frodo busied himself in Bag End for most of the day, taking few breaks except to heat more water or prepare a lunch for himself and his gardener. Though no bad hand at work, he was still a bit weak. He was no complainer, though, and took a certain amount of satisfaction in the work, feeling he was compensating somewhat for his former life of idleness at Uncle Bilbo's expense.

When it was time for supper, however, he found himself at the end of his reserve, and realized too late he had probably tried to do too much that day. Fortunately, supper was soup and had been on the hob since mid-day. There was nothing to do but set out bowls, spoons, bread and butter. He poked his head out the back door.

"Sam! Oy, Sam!"

A curly, sandy-haired head poked itself out the shed door.

"Yes, Mr. Frodo?"

"Dinner! Come and eat!"

"Oh, no, Sir, I can get my own..." Sam's stomach rumbled and he thought miserably of hard cheese and stale bread in the cold kitchen at home.

"You'll do no such thing, Samwise Gamgee! Shame on you, refusing my hospitality! Now come on--you've just time to wash your hands! I'm putting it on the table, so hurry up!"

"Oh, aye! All right, I'm comin'," Sam answered, and hurried to get cleaned up.

End of Part One

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