Helpful Reminder- A double asterisk ** indicates a flashback.
The drifting snow lay silent in drifts beginning to pile in the meadows and little wooded patches. Sam Gamgee stared back, almost crestfallen, at his footprints that were newly imprinted into the virgin snow. Licking his dry lips absent-mindedly, his thoughts now turned from friends to more embarrassing matters. He had hoped to avoid these thoughts, but the female voice back at Bywater had brought them upon him. Sam now couldn’t help it. He was forced to think back on Rosie Cotton.
**Never had the winds of autumn been stronger than in Sam’s sixteenth year. Gardening was far more than a chore and a duty, but now rather nearly suicide. At any given moment of raking or harvesting, something could fly up and hit him in the head or the eye. Hard work paid off, however, for the Bagginses insisted that their garden had never looked more lovely.
Frodo had grown quite accustomed to living in Bag End and was now twenty-eight. It was not unusual, however, for his cousin, Meriadoc, to come and visit. And quite often, Meriadoc would bring along a prattling hobbit-lad by the name of Took. Peregrin Took, to be exact, and there was no one else quite like him. He had an essence and humor all his own, unequaled to any hobbit Sam had met yet. It was not exceptional that Peregrin was dropped off at the Gamgees for afternoons so Mr. Meriadoc could have some time with Bilbo and Frodo without Peregrin’s pesky presence.
On most of these occasions, Hamson would watch out after Peregrin, and Hamfast would take care of the discipline. But when Hamson was occupied, Sam would generally take the duty. And one gusty day, Sam was doing just that…
“All right, you! You’re asking for it! I’ll track you down, and you won’t have no place to hide!” Sam threatened, but all in good fun. It was a game, and a stifled giggle from Sam and Halfred’s room clearly said the game was over.
Sam took giant steps, making his feet thud with clamorous clunks. It was all part of making Pippin, as Peregrin was fondly called, laugh.
Peering around the corner of his own bedroom, Sam spied two hairy feet protruding from under Halfred’s bed.
“Now, I wonder where he’s got to?” Sam asked, aloud. One foot wiggled a little, and both slipped under the bed.
“Let me take a look in–here!” Quick as lightning, he thrust his hands under the bed, grabbing Pippin by the ankles, and dragging him out in the middle of the floor. Pippin squealed, surprised and delighted all in the same moments, and wiggled to get away. Sam refused to let go, however, and tickled the bottoms of Pippin’s little feet.
“Oh, no! No! Sam, stop!” Pippin laughed, kicking to get away. At that moment, however, he was saved by a knock at the front door.
“Well, young Took, it looks as though you’ve escaped this time,” Sam said, but took Pippin under his left arm, carrying him down the hall. Still laughing, Pippin thrashed wildly, trying to get free of the gardener’s iron grip.
“Hey. Hey! Sammie, play fair!” Pippin shouted up to him. Sam laughed at him, turning the knob in the front door and opening it. He stopped short, swallowing a huge lump in his throat. On his very doorstep stood the loveliest hobbit-lass he had ever laid eyes on. Her reddish curls graced her ivory complexion, her blue eyes shining in the autumn sunlight smiled at Sam. Sam did his best to smile, but it was a feeble attempt.
“Can I, er, help you…miss?” he asked, his voice giving a pathetic little crack.
“Is Master Hamfast at home?” the hobbit-lass asked. Was he at home? Hamfast who? It was almost as if young Samwise had been afflicted with a sudden case of amnesia, and his mouth had gone dry. Even if he had remembered his father’s name, he couldn’t have spoken anyway. Pippin was all over it, however.
“He isn’t home,” he replied, as soon after Sam had unintentionally dropped him on the front door rug. Pippin pulled himself to his feet, rubbing his sore elbow, and giving Sam’s foot a little stomp. It seemed to do the trick, pulling Sam from his trance in a snap.
“Ah…he’s in Hobbiton with my brother, out looking for some wood for repairing a chair,” he said, rapidly, looking down at his feet, ignoring the tinge of pain from Pippin’s indignant stomp.
“You act as if you don’t know me, Samwise,” the hobbit-lass said, still smiling. Sam was a little shocked, but tried to hide it. He would have remembered meeting a lass like her, surely he would! Despite his efforts, he gave an anxious little laugh, stuffing his hands in his pockets.
“Well, er, honest, miss, I don’t,” he mumbled.
“Samwise, I’m Rose Cotton, the daughter of Tolman Cotton, the farmer outside Hobbiton,” she said, “We’re third cousins, I believe.”
Sam’s jaw nearly dropped to the floor, unable to believe that this beautiful lass was the screaming baby at the home of the Cottons. His astonishment was obviously visible, and Rose gave a musical laugh, her curls blowing in the wind.
“I suppose it’s been a good three years since we’ve talked formally,” she continued, “but I’ve passed you on the streets nearly every day. And I wash dishes at the Green Dragon Inn, and surely you’ve been there.”
“I’m sorry, Rose, I am, really,” Sam stuttered, “I’m a bit of a doddering fool, and you’ve changed so much.”
“I’d know you anywhere, Sam,” Rose said. Sam was taken aback for a moment, surprised beyond words from what she said. But Pippin, doing his bit in breaking up anything too sentimental, piped up with a little request.
“Sammie, this is jolly, but I’m hungry,” he said, crossing his little arms over his chest. Sam looked down at him, smiling in spite of himself.
“Very well, Mr. Pippin,” he said, ruffling the little brigand’s hair, then turned to Rose, “would you care for some tea, Miss Cotton?”
“Thank you kindly, Samwise,” Rose said, “but I have to be getting back. My mother is ill and I have to be with her. That’s why I came, see? I needed to talk with your father about herbs and such for her.”
“What’s the matter with her?” asked Sam.
“Well, she isn’t exactly ill, persay,” Rosie said, “She’s got this awful rash on the bottom of her foot and it hurts too bad to walk on. But my mum, you know, is the energetic sort and is itching to get up more than she’s itching her foot.”
“Well, step inside, miss!” Sam said, beckoning to her, “I’m a gardener as well, you know. Let’s see what we can do for your dear mum.”
Rose followed Sam into the low hallways of Number Three, with little Pippin at their heels. The scent of pipe weed was fragrant in the low doorways as they stepped around a few corners and into a back closet-like room that was lined with roots and herbs across it’s dirt walls.
Sam rummaged through the various shelves until he produced what he was searching for. He held the brownish root in the dim light and placed it in Rose’s small, soft hand.
“There’s not much to do to this but crush it and mash it into a salve,” Sam told her, though his hand still unconsciously lingered in her fingers, “Once that’s done, rub it on the rash, and if the pain don’t go down by tomorrow, come back and we’ll try something else. My guess is that since you are all farmers, she’s gone and stepped in some poisonous plant and it has given her a rash. But if that isn’t it, I’ll have my Gaffer take a look see at it.”
“Thank you, Samwise, you’ve been a great help,” Rose said, her eyes shining. Sam led her back to the front door and bid her a quick farewell. The wind blew in great gusts, but neither of them took any heed as Sam was delighted to see Rose turn slightly to smile at him on her way home. What was life like before she came along…
“Sam, can we eat now?”
Sam laughed at Pippin.
The wind didn’t go down that night, but, on the contrary, only got worse. By the time the moon would have been shining its full, radiant face, the rain began to come in great torrents and lightning lit up the night sky. Sam was always a light sleeper and rose to “batten down the hatches”, or, more specifically, run out and cover all the plants and then come inside to close all the shutters.
It only took a few moments out in the driving rain till Sam was soaked to the skin. But as it seemed that he was the only one awake, it was his duty to cover the plants. The wind blew furiously, causing his teeth to chatter uncontrollably in his head. His fingers felt like solid ice as they fumbled with the canvas that he had stretched over the nearly ripe tomato plants. Shivering and squinting, Sam had nearly completed his task when the door opened, light flooding the walk way of Number Three.
“You’re nowt but a ninnyhammer, Sam Gamgee!” he heard his Gaffer cry, “Get inside before you catch pneumonia, boy!”
“I’m almost finished, Gaffer, half a moment, please!” Sam replied.
“Sam! Get inside, now!” the Gaffer cried, almost as though he were frantic. Sam hesitated for a moment, wondering if his Gaffer was worried about his catching pneumonia, or if it was something more. There came a sudden cracking, groaning noise from far above, and Sam bolted instinctively for the door. Turning round, Sam caught a glimpse of a huge tree limb, falling and landing right where he had stood two seconds before. His heart raced, mortified at what could have happened.
“We’ll fix it tomorrow, Sam,” the Gaffer said, placing a hand on his son’s shoulder.**
A sudden cracking noise in the woods frightened Sam half to death, bringing him out of his flash back. A branch, heavily weighed down by pounds of snow, groaned and broke under the strain of the extra weight. Sam shook his head, laughing to himself at his absurdity. There hadn’t been any laughing the day following the great storm…
**Sam had kept a silent vigil that night after changing into dry clothes. The scare in the garden had set him to thinking. He was surprised at how frightened his Gaffer had been for him, and he couldn’t get the sound of his father’s frantic voice out of his head. He also worried about young Pippin, and Mr. Merry, Mr. Frodo, and Mr. Bilbo, all up at Bag End. And Rosie and her family at their farm. This storm was turning rather dangerous, and though hobbits lived in holes, their belongings out of doors were taking a terrible beating.
Despite the frightful squall the night before, the clouds parted in the morning, and the sun displayed splendor. Sam was the first out the door, and the sight sickened him. A large branch from the tree up on top of the Hill had broken off and landed square in the center of their garden. Most of the plants were nearly ripe, but the ones that weren’t would have to be thrown away. Much of the pumpkin crop was ruined, and none of the tomatoes survived. The corn stalks were broken down, and their crop could have waited an extra two weeks at best. The squash would be all right, however, and so would the potatoes and beans and carrots. How they were to move the branch from their yard was beyond Sam, however. First thing was first, though: he had to check on the residents of Bag End.
The large green door was scratched and dented, and Sam could tell right away that his next chore there was going to be repainting the door. Their garden had taken a beating, but not one so harsh as Number Three’s. Sam popped in the door, finding all four hobbits at breakfast and unscathed. They exchanged a few cordial good morning’s, and Sam returned to Number Three.
When he rejoined, his brothers were in the yard, beginning to saw at the tremendous branch. Of course, Sam rolled up his sleeves and offered his hands. Still, his mind wandered to Rose and her family. His thoughtfulness was affirmed about an hour later when his Gaffer allowed the boys to take a break. Sam was on his way to the Cotton’s farm.
He was only a half mile away from the Cotton’s property when he spotted Rose’s small figure, making her way up the road. He hastened his step a little, hoping and praying that all was well.
“Sam!” cried Rosie, as soon as she recognized him, “I was just coming to call on your family. How did you fare?”
“Things didn’t turn out as bad as I thought,” Sam said, shrugging, happy to see that she was all right, “How about you?”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if our farm got the brunt of it,” Rose said, “Of course our home is fine, but it ruined our crop and tore the roof off our barn. I’m not sure how we’re going to get by.”
“Don’t be too down and out, Rosie,” Sam said, putting on a comforting smile, “My brothers and I can lend a few hands, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you were back to regular by the week’s end!”
Rosie’s face lit up in a sparkling smile, and Sam felt satisfied. He liked her smile; it made him feel tall.
“You’re too kind, Sam,” Rose said, her hands clasped behind her back and her eyes shining, “but don’t trouble yourself too badly if there’s much to be done at your home–“
“There’s a branch what needs moving, but that should be out of the way by tonight,” Sam said, “How’s about we stop in tomorrow morning?”
“I’ll be certain to have breakfast ready for you,” Rosie replied, backing up to leave.
“How’s your mum’s foot?” asked Sam. Rosie eyes shone as she looked up at him.
“The salve worked, Sam,” she said, quietly, “Thank you.”
“You know I’m here to help.”
“I appreciate it.”
Sam watched her turn and begin to walk away, though she had already gone a few yards when she turned around to yell:
“Breakfast will be at ten o’clock! Don’t be late, Samwise Gamgee!”
“I don’t mean to!” Sam called back. Rosie nodded, and turned back. Sam smiled to himself, stuffing his hands in his pockets and turning to stroll home:
“I don’t mean to…”
Sam and his brothers did show up on time the next morning, with tools and wood, ready to help Rosie’s brothers mend the roof of the barn. The day was a hot one, humid and steamy, but they worked diligently, only breaking for meals and tea. Rose would bring out cool drinks for them on occasions throughout the day, but they kept hard at work, give or take the cool drinks.
They came the next day, too, and the next. Progress was slow but steady, for they were determined to make this one hold. On the third evening, Sam rushed into the kitchen of the Cotton’s home with big news:
“Mrs. Cotton, Rosie! They’re raising the roof; do you want to watch?”
Both women hobbits agreed, and Rosie handed Sam a towel for his sweat-drenched brow. They hastened to the fields where the hobbit-men had propped the walls upright, and had put together an intricate system of ropes and pulleys to raise the skeleton structure of the roof. Rosie’s brothers awaited atop the walls to nail down the structure; all that needed to be done was raise it.
Sam manned one of the ropes on the ground, and with everyone pulling on the ropes, the roof began to rise into the breeze, swaying. It took fifteen intense minutes, but at last, the roof was in place and the Cotton boys were nailing it down. Sam relaxed his nerves and mopped his brow, but felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to look at Lily Cotton, Rose’s mother. Lily always had the essence about her that Sam’s mother always had had: warm, friendly, quiet, and loving.
“This is really too kind of you lads to help us out,” said Lily, “I can’t tell you how grateful we are.”
“Then don’t, Mrs. Cotton,” Sam replied, “We’re only helping as we can. We’re family, afterall.”
“I’m glad you haven’t forgotten us, Sam,” Lily said, “Tell your Gaffer that we still think of you often.”
“I’ll do just that, Mrs. Cotton,” said Sam, and he had more cause to smile when she turned away and whispered to Rosie:
“He’s such a nice boy, that Samwise.”**
Sam sat on a hollowed log, the snow soaking through the seat of his trousers, but he hardly cared. He missed those days, for they seemed so far away. He missed being able to help people, and being thanked with words rather than money. He missed being able to speak with Rosie and not feel uncomfortable. It had been his fault, really, that they were now not on speaking terms. The fault of him and his big mouth. His Gaffer always had said to him that everytime he opened his mouth, he put his foot in it. It was the truth, too. He missed her. He missed being friends and talking for hours with her. He missed the way she smiled, or laughed, or the kind looks she would give. But it had all gone in the passing years gone by. And in the foolish words that flew from his mouth…
**To say that Sam and Rosie were friends would be the greatest understatement in all the years of Shire reckoning. They were inseparable. Sam always enjoyed Rosie’s company, for she was a good conversationalist and both enjoyed laughing. They went on walks together and had tea with each other. But no one in Hobbiton had cause to say that they were courting or any thing of the sort. In everyone’s eyes, Sam Gamgee and Rosie Cotton were good friends. Very good friends. So, it came as a shock to everyone, even if they weren’t related, that the friendship came to a sudden, instant halt. Why? And How? Everyone needed to know, but Sam never told anyone, except Mr. Frodo.
Sam and Mr. Frodo sat on the porch of Bag End late one evening. Sam had been excused from work early that day, on account of great fatigue. But Mr. Frodo knew better. He knew very well when his friend was disturbed.
“What troubling you, Sam?” he asked, as his friend exhaled heavy clouds of pipeweed. Sam heaved a deep sigh, his brow furrowing in deep creases.
“It’s Rosie, Mr. Frodo,” Sam replied. There was a long pause as a gentle gust of wind came over the horizon, caressing Sam’s worry-laden face.
“Is that all you’re going to say?” Mr. Frodo asked, “or do I actually get to find out what about Rosie.”
“We’re…not on speaking terms, to say it shortly,” Sam replied.
“What about? What happened?” asked Mr. Frodo.
“It was something I said,” Sam said, “I’m a stuttering idiot and I said somethings that shouldn’t have been said, ever. Or at least not for awhile. A long while.” He rested his head in his fists, dejectedly, “Heavens, Mr. Frodo! When am I ever going to learn to close my big mouth?! When will I learn to say something without correcting it?! My Gaffer’s right, I’m naught but a ninnyhammer, it being a word of his, and I suppose I deserve to be strung up by one of my uncle Andy’s ropes.”
“What did you say?” Mr. Frodo pursued.
“Do you want to hear all this, sir?” Sam asked, looking his direction. Mr. Frodo nodded. Sam drew another long breath before starting:
“It’s been two weeks now, Mr. Frodo, but it seems like yesterday. She had come down to the house to help me watch young Pippin for a few hours while you had tea with Mr. Merry. After Mr. Bilbo came to collect Pip, I took the courtesy of walking Rosie home. Only this time she wanted to take a short cut across a bean field. I can’t say I was too keen on it, because you know what Mr. Bilbo always says about short cuts–“
“Short cuts makes long delays?” asked Mr. Frodo, “I think Gandalf the Grey said something like it, too.”
“I don’t know who says what, but it stuck in my mind when we went off the road,” Sam continued, “and let me say this, Mr. Frodo, it’s all true: every word of it. It was getting dark, anyhow, and Rosie was taking to telling scary little tales to me, just to make us both laugh. It must have been around eight o’clock when we stopped somewhere in the center of that field. It’s getting a might cold, so I hand her my jacket.
“`I’m glad I’ve got you for a friend, Sam,’ she says to me, smiling in that handsome way she always does. Naturally, I redden a bit, and ask her why. She gives this funny sort of laugh, and we walk on a bit before she tells me that I’m gentleman and caring, and so on. I don’t know how much of it was the actual truth, or how much she just made up.
“But I’m flattered anyway, and we walk on a bit before she points up to the stars. I’ve always had a fascination for stars and the moon, because of the Elves, you know, and Mr. Bilbo tells me a lot about them.
“`Aren’t they lovely?” Rosie asks, meaning the stars.
“`Not half as lovely as you,’ I reply, without even thinking. Can you imagine it, Mr. Frodo?! I’ve never in all my days said something that I wished this hard to take back! She’s downright embarrassed and I’m wishing the ground will suck me up, but she acts as though she didn’t hear it and we walk on in silence.
“`Tell me a story about the stars, Sam,’ Rosie says, trying to fill in that awkward quiet, I’m sure, `or Elves. Why don’t you tell me a story about Elves?”
I had to think for awhile about what, but for some reason or other, I couldn’t think of any story but that one about the Man who fell in love with that Elf–“
“Beren and Luthien?” asked Mr. Frodo.
“That’d be the one.”
“Oh, dear,” Mr. Frodo groaned, “I suppose I can nearly guess what happened afterward.”
“I’ll bet you can. I’m not even half way finished with the story when Rosie stops me and says she can walk the rest of the way home herself. She’s real flat about it, too, and I know it’s me she’s wanting to get away from. She seems a little vexed when she hands me back my jacket.
“`Good-bye, Sam,’ she says, and for some reason, I know it’s not a good thing this time. But I stand there, a little in shock, watching her leave without another word. And that was that. It’s been two weeks now, Mr. Frodo, and she hasn’t said a word to me since. Her brothers have taken to giving me dirty looks, and she won’t even give me a second glance. I feel terrible, Mr. Frodo. I’ve lost my best friend.”
He felt a comforting hand of Mr. Frodo on his shoulder, but somehow he felt bad. He hadn’t told the entire story, for he felt it be silly to tell the last part. For when Rosie was leaving, and Sam felt helpless to rectify his wrongs, he cupped his hands around his mouth, calling after her:
“I love you, Rosie Cotton!”**
And since then, their exchanged words have been terse and to the point. Even thinking about it made Sam blush. Never, in all his thirty-three years, had he regretted something this badly. And he wasn’t even sure how to fix it. It was just the way things had to be from then on.
Sam stood, brushing off his breeches and trudging on, engrossed in his own self-pitying thoughts. He hardly gave a thought to the sounds of cracking behind him: the branches of the dormant trees breaking and falling under the snow. Not until a clump of the wet slushy stuff came flopping onto his curls, and a branch of considerable size knocked him onto his back did he begin to think perhaps there was a problem abroad. It hadn’t been such a good idea to walk alone in the woods.
Sam looked up at the swirling clouds that masked the sky in an overcast manner. He lay flat on his back with the branch pressing against his chest. He wasn’t hurt at all, just a little surprised. Why, though, hadn’t he seen it coming? Had he been that absorbed in his thoughts? This was plain ridiculous, he knew, for those events had occurred years and years ago. Why did it still bother him so intensely? Why couldn’t he just forget about it and move on?
He shoved at the branch at his torso and threw it off of himself.
“Sam! Are you all right?!”
Sam sat and looked about. The blue eyes of a certain Cotton lass were upon him. Sam swallowed several times before eventually shaking the snow out of his hair. By this time Rosie was at his side, helping him to his feet.
“You didn’t stop when I called to you; I was a little worried,” she said, quietly. Sam brushed off his jacket, adjusting the collar, never looking at her.
“I’m all right; just doing a bit of thinking, that’s all,” he replied.
“Under a tree branch?” inquired Rosie. Sam only shrugged in response. There was a long silence as both stood, absolutely motionless, under the eaves of the woods.
“I…came to wish you a happy birthday, Sam,” Rosie said, “and…you can bring your family and comrades on down to the Green Dragon tonight for dinner, on my father. It’s his gift to you.”
“Well…tell him I said `thank you’,” Sam replied, his hands deeply burrowed in his pockets.
“I’ll…do that, then,” Rosie answered, turning to leave, “Well…good-bye, Sam.”
Sam watched her leave as he pulled out his handkerchief to wipe off the back of his neck. He thought then what a crime it was to take friendships for granted. You never can tell when one will completely…end.
To Be Continued…
Hey all! I’m going to have a short story about Pippin up here shortly called Unavoidable. It’d make my day to see a few of your comments on it! Thanks! I hope you’re enjoying Samwise! ~Ainariel