Young Gamgee-Part 1 - A Time for Reflections
Snow drifted lazily down from the sky. Samwise Gamgee lifted his head to the overcast sky, blinking away snowflakes that landed on his eyelashes. It was a decent day for a walk. He stuck his hands deep in his pockets and trudged down the walk way of Number Three. Had the ground not been shoveled earlier that day, the snow would have come up over his ankles. But his younger sister, Marigold, had taken it upon herself to shovel in Sam's stead. The reason being that today was the day he had come of age. It was his thirty-third birthday, a good time for reflecting.
There was much to reflect on, for it was not as though his life as a gardener's child was boring. Much had happened in his thirty-three years of life in the Shire. Now the time had come to grow up and move ahead. Perhaps any other hobbit would find this time a little discouraging, but Sam, for a poor gardener, felt that he had done all he could in his childhood.
He paused for a few moments at the gate of Number Three, looking back at the little round door with a bit of affection. He had never known another home. He had been born thirty-three years ago in that very hole...
**It had been snowing that day, too. Being the youngest son of Hamfast Gamgee and Bell Goodchild-Gamgee, the couple was quite accustomed to having children. Sam was tiny as far as hobbit babies go, and Bell had little trouble delivering him. He was a bit of a pathetic child: small and quiet, but sweet and affectionate. He hardly made any noise as an infant, only when he was hurt or hungry. Even at an early age, Bell could see that their Samwise was going to be an emotional hobbit...**
Sam looked at his garden, dead and grey from the bear of winter. He had grown up in a working family of lower class. Perhaps more poverty-stricken than most hobbits, but honorable and well-thought-of. Always.
Sam strolled down the lane, deep in his thoughts. He looked up the Hill, and at the great tree that grew in the center. He felt tears sting his eyes, remembering his earliest memories of that place...
**He was only four years old, pudgy and hard-working. His little hands were callused and hard from digging in the dirt, but he had acquired the general Gamgee-manner. He would do anything for anybody, no matter the situation. Being a naive four-year-old helped a lot as well.
Bell Gamgee fell ill when Sam approached his fourth birthday. She suffered on and off throughout his fourth year, keeping everyone on their toes. Finally, Hamfast had to make a decision. He needed to be with his wife has her illness had grown worse, and time was just not working on his side. There was no time to watch his children anymore. The older ones could look after themselves during the day, but the two youngest, Sam and Marigold, would have to be sent away for the daytime. Relative and consistent friend, Tolman Cotton offered to take the little ones in while Bell needed extra care. Sam had no choice but to agree.
The sun shone with intense heat the first day that Hamfast took his little son and daughter to the Cotton's. Sam perspired the entire walk, and by the time he had reached the smial, his head was drenched in sweat. The door opened and they were greeted with a resounding child's wail from within. Sam could feel the dread sink in. He didn't want to be there. Not at all.
"Come on, come in!" Lily Cotton, Tolman's wife, exclaimed, with a screaming hobbit child wriggling in her arms. They stepped in onto the mat. The little Tolman, oldest son of the Cotton's, hid behind Lily's large skirt. He was Sam's age and seemed terribly shy. The house smelled terribly of baby. Sam wondered how long he could hold his breath. He looked down at Marigold, whose large, amber eyes never wavered from what lay ahead, and said nothing.
"I'm afraid you've picked a terrible time to drop by!" Lily exclaimed to Hamfast, over the child's wailing, "I do apologize for this! She seems a bit colicky, I'm afraid."
"That's all right, Lily," Hamfast said, "I need to be getting back soon anyway. Hamson, my oldest, will be up at Bag End all day today, and I shall return around four o'clock to collect them. I really do appreciate this, Lily."
"No trouble at all, Hamfast! We'll have jolly time, won't we, Samwise?" Lily turned to Sam, who made no reply. Hamfast leaned in, whispering to Lily:
"He's a bit of a shy one, Lily, as is Marigold. But they should loosen up after a little bit." He bid farewell to his small children and then left.
The entire day was miserable. The little Cotton infant, whom Lily called Rosie, cried constantly. Once in the afternoon, when Lily was trying to make a lunch, she called for little Tolman, but he never showed. So instead, she turned to Sam.
"Sam, will you be a big lad and sit in this chair with Rosie while I make us some lunch?" she inquired. How could Sam refuse? He was a Gamgee. He crawled up into the large rocking chair as Lily set Rosie on a pillow in Sam's arms, and a strange thing occurred. For a moment, she stopped wriggling and stared up at Sam. Lily looked at the two, puzzled.
"Isn't that odd?" she mumbled, "She hasn't stopped crying for more than two minutes. She must like you, Samwise." Sam laughed a little to himself, and looked back down at the hobbit infant. Her face had screwed up into a scowl again, and she began to wail.
"What'm I supposed to do when she cries, Lily?" Sam called, helplessly.
"Just sit there, Samwise! I'll come back for her when I'm done!" Lily answered from the kitchen. Sam sighed, exasperated, enduring long minutes with a screaming Rosie in his arms. Finally, when he thought he could bear no more, he began to sing softly to her, remembering a little tune that his neighbor would sing. He could only remember a few of the words, being very young, but what he could recall he sang:
The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow if I can...
Rosie stopped crying, staring up at Sam's face in fascination, as though she were expecting more. But that's all Sam could remember, for the rest had big words. Lily came then to relieve Sam of the little hobbit child, and Sam went off to find Marigold.
"How did you like it, Sam?" Hamfast asked Sam on their way home that evening. Locust chirped loudly from the perches high in the tree tops, and there was a humid mist rising. Sam looked up at his Gaffer, grimacing.
"I don't like it, Gaffer," he complained. He never knew quite where the name came from, only that all of his older siblings called their father "Gaffer."
"Why not?" Hamfast asked, with little Marigold sleeping on his shoulder.
"It's smelly and Rosie's always crying," Sam answered, "It's always loud and Tolman doesn't like me. He's too shy. I want to stay home with the others, Gaffer, please?"
"The others work, Sam," Hamfast said, "There would be no one to watch over you."
At that moment, Hamson, the eldest Gamgee child, came trotting down the Hill with Bilbo Baggins, resident of Bag End, along side of him.
"Good evening, Master Hamfast!" Mr. Bilbo greeted, with a broad smile across his rosy face.
"Good evening to you, Mr. Bilbo!" Hamfast returned, waving.
"Hamson did a wonderful job this afternoon, Master Hamfast," Mr. Bilbo said, "You've got a fine lad there." Hamson smiled, humbly, lifting Sam off his feet. Hamson had always been Sam's favorite brother. Perhaps because he was so much older than Sam, or perhaps, there was no reason. Maybe the only reason was "Just Because."
"And how was your day, Samwise?" Mr. Bilbo inquired. Sam looked at Hamson, not answering.
"He didn't enjoy it, Mr. Bilbo," Hamfast said, shouldering the sleeping Marigold, "Lily has an infant that Sam's says always cries. It is a little hard on the ears, but I'm afraid that he'll have to keep going. There's nowhere else he can go."
"Why, Master Hamfast, why didn't you say something before?" Mr. Bilbo asked, "Sam can come with Hamson to my home! It would be no trouble at all, and I could use the company." Sam grinned, almost pleadingly.
"Can I, Gaffer? Please say `yes', Gaffer!" he implored, tugging on his Gaffer's sleeve. Hamfast looked first to Hamson, then to Mr. Bilbo.
"If it wouldn't be too much trouble, Mr. Bilbo," Hamfast said. Mr. Bilbo agreed and the Gamgees returned to Number Three.
Sam awoke that night to the sound of hurried feet. He strained his little ears to listen into the darkness. What was it? He slipped his feet out of the warmth of his little bed, stepping onto the cold wood floor. He inched towards to door, opening it ajar and peeking out into the lit hallway. Voices from the room across the passage met his ears.
"Gaffer?" said Hamson, simply. There was a haunting silence. Sam heard his older sister, Daisy, beginning to cry. He felt his heart sink deep into his stomach with pity. What was going on? Next came Gaffer's voice, choked and hoarse, hardly able to speak.
"I did all I could, children," he said, "She's gone." Sam caught himself from slipping and falling. His mother? How--how could this happen? His little heart pounded harshly up against his rib cage.
"Should I wake up Sam, Gaffer?" he heard May ask.
"No," Hamfast countered, "Let him sleep one more night in peace."
Sam leaned up against the door, sliding to the ground. Gone? His mother was dead? He wrapped his arms around his knees, letting the tears fall unhindered...**
Sam turned his head from looking up the Hill, remembering how little knew he of his mother. The snow continued to fall as freely as his tears had. He rubbed his arms against a brisk breeze, remembering that that week hadn't all been sad...
**Sam was told that morning about the death of his mother. The funeral was three days later, on a dreary summer afternoon. The worst part was his Gaffer's sudden loss of friendliness. He spent many long days working in his garden, speaking not to anyone, even his own children. He left the house early in the morning, and didn't return until late that night. Hamson worked on Mr. Bilbo's garden, and everyone forgot about Sam visiting Bag End, until two weeks later.
It came about one morning when Daisy made breakfast and Hamson made ready to leave for Bag End. Hamson came to sit next to Sam at the breakfast table, scooting his chair close to Sam.
"Sam, would you like to come up with me to Bag End today?" he asked, quietly. Sam made no answer verbally, but simply threw his arms around Hamson in gratitude. He did need to leave Number Three for awhile.
Later that day, Sam sat uncomfortably in the parlor of Bag End while Mr. Bilbo had gone into the kitchen for some tea. He looked around the great smial, shocked at the vastness of Bag End. The halls never seemed to end! The ceilings were rounded as were the doorways. There was a distinct smell of pipeweed and firewood. Shafts of sunlight shone through the circular windows, shining on parchments that lay stacked on the different tables.
"Here we are, then!" Mr. Bilbo said, handing Sam a small teacup. He sat adjacent from Sam, and placed a small tray of cakes. He took a long sip of tea, then looked at Sam, absorbed in thought.
"You were very fond of your mother, weren't you?" Mr. Bilbo asked Sam. Sam swallowed, nodding.
"She was a school teacher once, Mr. Bilbo," Sam said, quietly, "She was going to teach me letters. Now..." He stopped to wipe his eyes before tears came. Mr. Bilbo looked at the young Gamgee, then pulled out a feather pen and a parchment. He motioned for Sam to come and sit next to him.
Sam slipped onto the bench next to the old hobbit. Mr. Bilbo fixed the feather between Sam's stubby fingers, and, placing his wrinkled hand over Sam's, he guided Sam's hand along the parchment.
"That, Samwise, is an `S'," Mr. Bilbo said, then guided Sam's hand along, making two more letters, carefully.
"That says, `Sam'," said Mr. Bilbo, sitting back and looking at Sam. Sam beamed, broadly, and sat back too.
"That's my name!" he exclaimed, folding his arms as Mr. Bilbo had done.
"That is it, Samwise," Mr. Bilbo said, "Would you like to learn more?"
"Yes, please, Mr. Bilbo, sir!" Sam said, excitedly, curling and uncurling his toes to contain his joy. Mr. Bilbo took up the quill and set to writing out a whole sentence, carefully and distinctly, while Sam watched on.
"Will you copy that, Samwise? Just right beneath where I wrote it?" Mr. Bilbo inquired. Sam agreed, and Mr. Bilbo placed the quill between Sam's fingers once again. Sam started copying each stroke, each letter, diligently, biting down on his tongue in deep concentration. Mr. Bilbo watched Sam has he worked away, his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth, as he penned several large, crooked letters. When Sam had finished about five minutes later, he looked up at Mr. Bilbo, with a bit of a discouraged look.
"It isn't as nice as yours," he said, softly.
"You're just starting, Samwise," Mr. Bilbo answered, placing a loving hand on Sam's shoulder. Sam held up the parchment into the light, inspecting it. He then looked to Mr. Bilbo, curiously.
"What does it say, Mr. Bilbo?" he asked, cocking his head. Mr. Bilbo placed a finger on the first word and ran his hand along the page as he read:
"`Mr. Bilbo will teach Sam letters.'"
Sam's jaw dropped, astonished.
"Will you, Mr. Bilbo, sir? Honest?!" he gasped. Mr. Bilbo laughed, taking Sam's little hands in his.
"Honest I will, young Samwise," he said, "You can come every other day and I will personally teach you to read and write. You would like that, then?" Sam was so surprised, he wasn't quite sure what to do with himself.
"Yes, yes, I would, sir! Oh, thank you, sir! I was so worried--" he stopped short, suddenly bursting into tears. Mr. Bilbo drew him into his lap, placing a comforting arm around him. Sam wasn't quite sure why he cried. He was so confused and happy and yet sad at the same time. He had longed for the day when he would be old enough to learn from his mother, but Mr. Bilbo's generosity was so terribly nice, he hadn't expected anyone to do something like that for him.
"Come now, then, Sam, why do you cry?" Mr. Bilbo asked, truly disturbed. Sam wiped his eyes, and looked up at the kindly old hobbit's face.
"I don't know. You're just so nice," he said, "Mum would want me to learn, Mr. Bilbo. I know she would."
"I know she would, too, Sam," Mr. Bilbo answered, embracing the little hobbit lad, as the sound of Hamson's garden shearers echoed through the open window...**
Sam smiled to himself, his tears banishing themselves. He scratched the back of his neck, quite happy to be past those days. He had half a mind to walk up to Bag End and pay Mr. Frodo a visit right then, but now was not the time. He turned his steps to the path down the Hill to Hobbiton. Now was a time for reflections.
******To Be Continued...
Author's Note: I hope you didn't find this too confusing, because if you did, I'll try again. I was just getting a little bored with the "state straight forward" angle on these young hobbit tales, so I thought I'd try something a little more challenging with Sam's. If the frame tale angle is just too weird, I'll resubmit it with the original angle. Just thought I'd experiment! Tell me what you think! ~Ainariel