West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
Marigold Gamgee has quite a bit on her mind. A follow-up to "Washday".
When there's a story as wants telling, I'll tell it, and no mistake. Aye, there's much I could tell you of recent months. Tom's come up on washday twice. Is that what you're wanting to hear? Gave my Gaffer the fits, it did, but I swear to you Sam gave me a smile, all private-like. Or have you come pestering for gossip of another sort? Bless me for ever chattering on in the first place. Plenty interesting happens up on the Hill, if you understand me, and you'd do better to ask Sam. If it's something else you're coming for, then I'll just have to tell Tom about that. Well, I suppose I've given you more sauce than you deserve. Talk between friends don't cause no harm. I'll get on with things.
There ain't no fuss on the Row as grand as when Mr. Frodo gets hisself some company. On my honor, those cousins of his take the old saying for serious -- Mr. Pippin had bells on! Tiny silver ones in his weskit fringe, pretty as anything. And there was Mr. Merry coming up the walk beside him, looking right annoyed because it seemed Mr. Pippin weren't wanting to carry his own pack the last of the way. I do wonder about them Tooks. Anyway, Mr. Pippin ran ahead and near tripped hisself on the flagstones and hung on his poor cousin's bell till the pull near broke. Early morning, that was, and I was up poking Sam over what I ought to do up for supper. But my brother weren't paying no attention; there he was standing and squinting against the sunlight, frowning at Mr. Pippin. I didn't look at 'em, you understand. Wouldn't have been proper.
"Please, a moment! I'm coming!" That were Mr. Frodo's voice drifting through the partway open window. He sounded right busy.
"A moment? You'd let your own kin stand roasting in the sun for an entire moment? Shame on you, Frodo," called Mr. Pippin. Sam frowned so fierce I had to step on his toes.
"A moment is fine, provided you keep us waiting no longer," Merry put in cheerfully. "We've missed you, Frodo, and whatever it is you've been up to this summer, it can't possibly be as important--"
"You have scarcely given me time to put on some tea!" Frodo shouted back.
"No more'n they feel they should," Sam muttered.
"Hush, you," says I.
Mr. Frodo came along quick enough, huffing a little as he opened the door. He had hisself an arm-ful of Mr. Pippin first, then Mr. Merry. Sam stepped on my toes and said to get off to the market, quick now, and find them peppers and some salt since our box was nigh on empty. I did as I was told, but not without a glance back. When Sam goes on frowning like that, there's no telling what's afoot. I suspect them cousins of Frodo's was up to something. Harmless, like as not. Sam has it in him to worry like Mam used to, bless him.
Sam come home later looking like he'd been turned out for good. Now, it's hard for a lass to cook when her brother's moping about the kitchen and getting hisself in the way of everything, not helpful like usual at all. I stuffed the peppers in his hands and told him he'd best not cut himself, this broth don't call for no blood.
"You watch your tongue, or else it might just end up--"
"There ain't no call for that, Sam," says my Gaffer, smoking over by the hearth. "You've got your manners from them gentry up the Hill, seemingly."
"She's gone off twice today, Dad. In sight of them gentry up the hill."
"Only once!" A lass has got to defend herself when her menfolk are against her.
"That's once too many, Mari," my Gaffer says with a cluck of his tongue. "Now, get on cooking and leave Sam be."
He's good that way, my Gaffer. He scolds as it's due, so it weren't no time before I sulked as bad as Sam and we got supper finished in silence. I kept staring back and forth between Sam and the kitchen window, thinking that the sun on his hair right suited him and that the glare still hurt his eyes. He kept looking away, as if he wanted no part of what were outside. Or mayhap it was that he couldn't wait to go up the Hill and find Mr. Frodo again, and looking away made it easier. I wondered if the master were expecting him, and I wondered how the blazes they'd manage with guests in the hole.
"You've got to go again," I said to him as we was washing up.
"Yes, I do." He was quiet-like, thinking up a storm.
I put down the washrag and went over to help him lift the kettle off the hearth. "Well, what of it? Get your miserable self out that door and I'll see to what needs finishing."
"Not yet, Mari. They ain't expectin' me till later," says he.
"Later?" I ask, confused.
"An hour or so, like," Sam answered. "They'll be talkin' till dark."
I frowned at him. "Since when was all of 'em expectin' you, Sam Gamgee? Tooks and Brandybucks besides!"
"You say another word, and I'll tell you somethin' I regret." I ain't never seen him like that before, tears quiet in his eyes and his breath all strange.
I didn't understand, though; I was right angry. "If Mr. Frodo's done wrong by you--"
"That's enough," Sam says in a whisper. "It ain't nothin' of the sort, and you know it."
"Noodles, Sam! Unless you tell me--"
"Well, I can't," Sam said, all determined. "Not you or anybody. Mr. Frodo's got a lot of concerns, and he don't need silly maids fretting over 'em, neither."
"Or silly gardeners," I scoffed, and Sam caught me by the shoulders quick as a blink.
"Yes," says Sam in a voice I'll never forget, "he does. Whether I'm silly or no."
I didn't sleep too well that night. I curled up at the front door so I could listen for Sam coming home. It were a warm night, just a little draft seeping through. I kept tracing patterns in the floor with a twig, then rubbing them out again. I didn't understand none of it. Mr. Frodo's concerns was normal ones, wasn't they? Running the smial, running the Row, keeping up with his relations in distant farthings? Settling quarrels as came up among my own folk, taking business to the road if there was call? He hadn't lately left Hobbiton, and that wizard friend of his had been about like a busy old ant in and out of its burrow. Sure, Sam was gone more than usual, too, but that I understood. It's hard on lovers as have to be apart, but Mr. Frodo's so close by --
I thought I heard voices on the air, soft and faint. I screwed up my nerve and went for a cloak, then slipped outside. I says to myself, Marigold Gamgee, you've done it now. If someone sees you, it's worse than a cuffing you'll get. But I kept going through the dark, and the wind was stronger than I'd thought, a biting gust in my skirts. I had to wrap up tight. There was voices all right, voices and a light far back in Mr. Frodo's garden. If I kept to the other side of the hedge, I might hear what they was saying. My breath was all gone by the time I got close enough to realize what I was listening to. I want you to know, I ain't never been in a pickle so big, never to this day. I remember the grass sticking to my shins worse than briars and the rhododendron twigs catching at my hair like unwelcome fingers.
"Don't worry so much, Sam! You've hardly touched your pipe." Mr. Pippin's voice, or I was trothed to Ted Sandyman.
"You're sure you heard Mr. Merry right? I don't want to go hearin' my master's got no place, once he's got to clear out of Hobbiton."
"They're discussing it right now! It's a lucky thing Merry knows how to keep Frodo busy," says Mr. Pippin, always sounding like he were on the edge of a laugh. "We would have severe difficulties, you and I. Is there anything else you ought to tell me?"
"I should think not." When Sam gets sour like that, it's no use. His talking's done.
"Well, you've been very thorough; so there's no cause for worry," Pippin said, "unless Gandalf intends to mark Frodo's departure with fireworks, in which case..."
Departure. Now, there's a word no one wants to hear, especially when it's what one's dearest is about to do. I should know. I can't stand it when Tom's got to go off and help Farmer Cotton with this trade or that harvest or whoever's building a new hole a-way up beyond Bywater. But 'departure' is something dreadful serious, if you ask me. Mr. Frodo, going away? That's news, was my first thought, but then I had to bite my lip for fear I'd call out. Sam, my poor Sam!
They talked quiet for a little while longer. I didn't catch much of it; I weren't really in the mood for it. I imagined what I'd be thinking if Tom had to go away for good. It fair brought tears to my eyes, and by the sound of Sam's voice, there was tears in his. I wished I could burst right through the hedge and comfort him, and tell Mr. Pippin exactly what I thought of him talking so casual and careless. If he don't see, I said to myself, then he's blind, and all Brandybucks along with him. If he don't see what a thing like that is doing to my brother and Mr. Frodo...
I left. I ran all the way home, careful as I could be through the wind and the dew-covered grass and the night-birds that startled out of the trees. Mayhap Sam heard me as I went. I hung the cloak at the front door and stood by the fire a while, pretending it were the smoke that made me cry. Daisy and May would've taken to fits if I'd come to bed carrying on like that, but there would be no making them understand. Mr. Frodo was going away and taking my Sam's heart with him. I sat down on the stones and closed my eyes against the heat. I ain't never choked like that in my life, but I couldn't stop.
What I remember next is a touch on my arm, soft and gentle. Sam's fingers was like that ever since I could remember, so like Mam's, I reckon, so like the very first thing ever to give me comfort. And I was awake in his arms, too, there on the floor in a heap with thin dawn light spilling all over the burned-out coals. He put his hand on my cheek and brushed at my eyes with his thumb, and through all of his fussing I could see that he'd been crying, too. But his eyes seemed clear.
"How many times do I have to tell you, Mari? I don't need no one to wait up."
"I fell asleep," says I, which of course were just as true as it weren't.
Sam nodded and twisted all of my hair up behind my neck, then kissed my cheeks. "Please stop worryin' about me. I know my way home at night."
"It ain't night no more," says I, feeling stubborn of a sudden.
Sam sighed. "No, it ain't. I promised Mr. Frodo I'd stay."
"Then what the blazes are you doing here? Get back to him." I gave him a little shove, just you see if I didn't.
"I've got to make sure everything's all right, Mari."
"Well, it is," I told him.
"Not with you."
I got annoyed at that. "Not with you, neither."
Sam sucked in his breath, all wary-like. "What did I tell you about other folks' concerns, Mari?"
I couldn't hold it in no more. "What'll you do, Sam?"
He let go of my hair and sat back, staring into my eyes for a long time.
I was near tears again. "If -- one day, Sam Gamgee, I ain't sayin' he's going to -- he left you, what then?"
Sam finally blinked, then looked at me as if my foolish tongue had said something with an ounce of sense. "I'd follow him, that's what. Now, get to sleep, Mari, and stop your fussing. I've got to go."
I know, says I, but he never heard me because the candles guttered and went out as I passed.
So, there's a story for you. One as I can tell because, well, it came true. The seasons have wheeled on into winter, and the cold is harsh this year. Harsh cold or no, the washing's got to be done inside. I sit here alone by the fire and take such company as I can, so you have my thanks for stopping by. If I jumped too fast at the knock, pay it no mind.
I were hoping for Sam.
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