“Don’t worry, Sam. Rosie knows an idiot when she sees one.”
Sam was deep in worry as he ran to catch up with Frodo. The evening was mild and the harvest moon cast its golden light across Hobbiton giving the closed shops and stalls a magical aura. Yet, Sam noticed none of it. “By idiot, you mean that sweet talker. Right?”
Frodo stopped humming and looked at Sam. He was in obvious distress over Rosie, but Frodo knew that he would do nothing about it, save stand on the sidelines and dream. He decided to help his friend along a bit. “By idiot, I mean anyone who thinks Rose would settle for just anyone. They must be something special to win her.”
“Yes, said Frodo, enjoying the guilty pleasure of having a joke at Sam’s expense, “Nothing ordinary for Rose. No simple working hobbit for her. Nothing like a farmer, or a miller, or a…”
“Gardener.” Same stopped dead in the road, too full of sadness to go one more step. He always knew he had set his sights high when it came to Rose, but the first time he had noticed her, standing in the marketplace buying apples, he had been struck dumb. She had to have seen him standing there, staring at her, mouth gaping, eyes only for her smile. If she didn’t, everyone else did, and he was soon brought out of his daydream by the jeers of others. “Look at the Gaffer’s youngest. Samwise, sure fits his name, all right.” After that, Sam had learned to be a little more discreet with his adoration of Rose. On his birthday he always had yellow roses, her favorite, fresh picked from Bag End’s garden, waiting on her doorstep. While at the Green Dragon, a handsome tip was left at the bar, whether she had served him or not. Frodo had urged him to talk to her directly, but, despite being forced into her arms at Bilbo’s party, Sam still had not courage enough to go beyond the pleasantries. And here he learned that he really didn’t have a chance with her at all. He was a gardener, a simple working hobbit.
Seeing his offhanded remark go awry, Frodo was instantly ashamed. He had to fix this somehow. “You a simple working hobbit? Well, that’s not what she told me.”
Sam’s head sprang up. “You talked with her, then? When? Where?”
“When you were visiting the necessary”, Frodo answered smoothly. He sauntered back to Sam and gave him a gently push to get him moving again towards Bag End and home.
Sam pratically danced alongside Frodo. “What was it she said?”
“Oh, we talked about this and that, you know, the weather, how the price of pipe weed was going up for some reason.” Frodo stopped short of answering his question.
“But, did she say anything about me?”
Frodo turned a very serious face to Sam and said, with as much sincerity he could muster behind his little white lie, “That gardening was a noble job, and anyone who could bring forth life from nothing but dirt was indeed special.” It wasn’t all false, what Frodo told Sam. He had talked to Rose when Sam had stepped outside, and they had spoken about gardening. Only she had wanted to know if Frodo was willing to sell some of his fruit tree’s yield, there being only him at Bag End now, and everyone in Hobbiton knew that the fruit that came from his garden was the juiciest and the sweetest tasting. Frodo had said he would talk to his gardener, and Rose’s eyes lit up. However, before he could say anymore about Sam, Rose had been called away by another customer. “She wanted to buy our apples. Said they were the best in all the four farthings.”
Sam had not heard one word spoken by Frodo after, “A noble job”, and “special”. Where a few moments ago he was wallowing in the depths of unrequited love, he was now flying high amongst the clouds. “A noble job!”, he shouted and ran up the lane, leaving Frodo to catch up to him this time.
Putting his arm around his friend’s shoulders, Frodo said, “So, you see, there’s nothing for you to worry about, Sam. Rose does know an idiot when she sees one, and its not you.”
They spent the final part of their walk home laughing and reminiscing about their evening at the Green Dragon. They parted ways at Bag End’s gate with Sam continuing on to his home. Frodo entered his door full of cheer, but his good mood evaporated instantly.
Sam stumbled slightly as he crossed the Party field, using the wide expanse of grass as a short cut. Not wanting to relinquish this feeling, Sam lay down, watching the night sky and dreaming of the endless possibilities of his life if he could spend it with Rose by his side. He would start tomorrow, he decided. He would stride right up to her and ask her to take a walk with him. Or perhaps a picnic lunch the next afternoon. Maybe he would even invite her to stroll through his garden, showing her all the teeming beauty of Bag End. “A noble job,” he whispered again. That’s it, the garden. I will walk right up and pick the biggest apple right off the tree and hand it to her, saying…
He sat straight up. There were no apple trees at Bag End. Pear tress, to be sure, but he had never seen fit to plant an apple tree. But, Frodo had said that Rosie wanted apples. He could think of only one thing to do.
Scrambling up from the ground, he ran headlong back to Bag End to tell Mr. Frodo that he had to buy some apple tree saplings right away. Tomorrow. He was running with a purpose, yet as he reached the lane in front of Frodo’s home, his pace slowed to nothing. The front door was standing wide open and he could hear voices from within. One was surely Mr. Frodo’s, but the other was not immediately recognizable. Senseing that all was not as it should be, he climbed the fence, (he had yet to fix the squeak in the gate hinge), and snuck to below the front window.
“He must never find it.”
That was Gandalf’s voice! Sam nudged his way further under the window.
“Shire. Baggins. But, that would lead them here!”
He didn’t fully understand who “they” were, but the tone in Mr. Frodo’s voice was tense enough to send shivers down Sam’s spine.
“Don’t tempt me, Frodo! I dare not take it, not even to keep it safe.”
Sam’s anxiety grew. Something that was greater than Gandalf?
“But, it can not stay in the Shire.”
Sam whole heartedly agreed.
“Get out of the Shire.”
Mr Frodo was leaving? But, where was he going? To Bree? Sam had heard of the Prancing Pony from stories his Gaffer told, not all of them pleasant. There were Big People there.
“I can cut across country easy enough.”
“Hobbits really are amazing creatures…”
The rest of what Gandalf said, Sam did not hear for he was too busy trying to shift positions. His legs had gone numb and a gnarled branch was poking him in the ear. Just when he had found a more comfortable spot, he was knocked soundly on the shoulder and flying backwards through the window. He landed with a thud and found Gandalf standing over him, frowning.
“Confound it all, Samwise Gamgee! Have you been eaves dropping?”
Sam stuttered his reply, not truly understanding what he had been asked. “I didn’t drop no eaves, honest.” He frantically searched for an explanation for his presence under Mr. Frodo’s window. An idea struck him. I’m a gardener, right? “I was cutting the grass under the window there, if you follow me.”
The old wizard wasn’t going for it. “A little late to be trimming the verge, don’t you think?”
One of his father’s sayings flitted through his mind at that moment: When all else fails, try the truth, it might just work. “I heard raised voices.”
The annoyed Gandalf was quickly replaced by the irate one. “What did you hear?” When Sam did not instantaneously reply, the Grey Wizard shouted, “Speak!”
All pretense left Sam and the real story came pouring forth. “Nothing important. That is, I heard a good deal about a ring, a dark lord and something about the end of the world, but…” He stopped when a terrifying thought jumped into this head. “Please, Mr. Gandalf, don’t hurt me. Don’t turn me into anything,” the worst thing possible, “unnatural.”
Gandalf loomed over Sam. If possible, and with Gandalf it was, he grew even larger and darker as he spoke. “No? Perhaps not. I’ve thought of a better use for you.”
Sam swallowed hard.
Running with the fear of Gandalf behind him, Sam reached #3 Bag Shot Row in less than five minutes. As he opened the door, sounds of the Gaffer’s snoring assaulted his ears. Wonder the neighbors don’t complain, Sam thought as he wound his way to his room in the back. His pack, always at the ready in case Mr. Frodo was hit by one of his wandering moods, stood in the corner of the narrow room right next to his bed. Sam began to shove handfuls of clothes into the bottom. When he saw the bulging pack, he thought better, and pulled all but one change out. That would leave more room for essentials.
Back in the kitchen, he quietly rummaged through the pantry and cupboards, taking only what could be spared or not missed. He really had no idea of what to take on thie journey to Rivendell. The wanderings with Frodo had only been one or two nights away from home at best. Here he was starting out, at night, to a place that was over a month’s journey farther that he had ever been. Sam entertained thoughts about staying in the Shire, but visions of Gandalf and unnatural things kept him from changing his mind. And there was his friendship with Frodo. If everything he had heard underneath the window were true, Frodo would need hi help. He wouldn’t turn his back on a friend.
He hastily scrawled a note to his family explaining, in cryptic terms, his absence, then shut the door. He was strangely taken by the thought that this would be the last time he would walk out this door, that his home and all of the Shire would somehow be changed, and not for the better. Sam shook off those dark images and raced back across towards Bag End. He felt only one regret as he trailed after Gandalf and Mr. Frodo as they began their journey to Rivendell was that he would be unable to talk to Rosie and explain it all to her. He would be back within a month’s time, however, he would tell her then. All those wonderful stories I will be telling her!
They traveled two hours in the darkness without speaking and Sam’s nerves were tingling from the lack of sleep and the after effects of their night at the Green Dragon. Just as the red sun began to tint the horizon, Gandalf halted. The two hobbits collasped in the dewy grass. Frodo was asleep almost instantly, but Sam was too wound up inside to even try. Elves!, he thought as he checked his pack for breakfast, I’m going to see elves!
Gandalf stood a few paces away from the hobbits, his eyes warily scanning everything. In spite of his innate fear of the wizard, Sam found himself watching the old man, wondering what he was thinking.
“It will be a perilous journey, Samwise, that you’ve gotten yourself invited on.”
Sam snorted at the implication that he had been given a choice. “Begging your pardon, Mr. Gandalf, but I don’t remember being asked anything.” He didn’t know what had given him the courage to speak out like that, but what the Grey Wizard said to him next would completely change the course of Sam’s life.
“Come here, Samwise.”
Dropping his pack, Sam obeyed. When he reached the old man’s side and looked up into his craggy face, he saw something he did not expect: a smile. That surprise was quickly followed by another as Gandalf kneeled down to him and looked at Sam on eye level. “Sam,” Gandalf said in a soft tone, putting his hands on the young hobbit’s shoulders. “It is a very dangerous road ahead for Frodo and he will need your help.”
“Well, he has it, Mr, Gandalf,” Sam replied simply, “Always.”
His eyes narrowed and voice grew lower and full of import, Gandalf said, “Promise me one thing. Never leave him, Samwise. Never leave Frodo’s side.”
Rolling his eyes at the overly dramatic wizard, Sam said, “Of course, I won’t.”
Gandalf shook Sam once, wiping the expression from the hobbit’s face. “Don’t you leave him, Samwise Gamgee. Promise me.”
Sam began to realize that perhaps what Gandalf had been saying, all that talk about dark lords, the enemy and evil was more than just a children’s story used to frighten naughty hobbits. This was not some simple lark around the Shire. This was deadly serious. Sam stole a glance at Frodo; he was still asleep, his head resting on the crook of his arm. Gandalf was asking Sam to promise something that he was more than willing to give. He would see Mr. Frodo to Rivendell and to his safe return to the Shire. That’s what friends do. Smiling again at Gandalf, this time with the sincerity born out of the pure soul of Sam, he said. “Mr. Frodo is safe with me, Mr. Gandalf. Don’t you worry. Never leave him? Of course not. I promise.”