West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
The Making of Samwise
A history of Samwise Gamgee's life as he grows into his destiny.
Author: Bill The Pony
Sam learned a long time ago when his
mam died that the days go right on passing whether you're
disposed to go along with them or not, and so they do in the
wake of Mr. Bilbo's party. Mr. Frodo don't seem to care much
if they do or no; he's gliding around the house like a ghost
or summat such, half the time not even seeming to know Sam's
Sam does what he can to keep the place warm and cheerful in spite of the long spell of filthy weather that follows in the wake of the Party, but there ain't much he can do, not being mischievous and cheerful by nature like Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin, who've gone off to their own families and won't be back till Yule or thereabouts. The rain don't help either, what with the clouds settling in like they mean to stay the winter.
He keeps Frodo warm and clad and fed and talks to him as much as he may off and on during the day, but his master don't do much but answer, polite and sad. Sam wishes he had more of a hand for tales and poetry, but he finds himself tongue-tied more often than not; he reckons his japes and doggerels ain't fit for hearing.
And so the time passes. There's a melancholy sprite a-riding Mr. Frodo, or leastways that's what old Widow Rumble says one October Highday when she sees him going about half in this world and half in the next, with dark circles under his eyes and not a smile to be had.
So when one of the last rare days of fading summer comes around the middle of the month, a bright warm morning with only a thread of chill hanging in the air under the shade of the old oak and the rain dries up at last, Sam is glad of it. He opens up the smial for an airing while he and Mr. Frodo wait for the ground to dry out enough to go tramping in the woods the way they've planned.
Sam tempts Mr. Frodo with a bit of special baking-- his favorite sweet biscuits, delicate shortbread with nuts baked in and a sprinkle of sugar on top, and he mentions Mr. Frodo's favorite garden seat as the place he'll be bringing them presently, when they're done.
Mr. Frodo smiles at him, a bit wan, but he obeys, going out with a book in his hand and a warm shirt on him. He tucks himself up in his favorite nook under the grape arbor, well out of the breeze and hidden from the Road, but where the afternoon Sun will find him as it starts its slow descent towards the western horizon.
Sam finishes with the biscuits and loads a plate, and pours a mug of milk, too, then carries them out to his master, carefully setting them on the bench at his side. Mr. Frodo smiles politely and lifts the plate, smelling the hot, fresh-baked biscuits, his lashes closing to lie sooty-velvet against his cheeks, which are brightening a little with the warmth of the sun.
"Thank you, Sam." He offers the plate as he takes a biscuit, and Sam takes one for himself. Frodo nibbles his biscuit as Sam takes a hearty bite, and they chew together, looking out across the land, where the bare branches of the trees seem to lift with the light breeze, the better to warm themselves at the Sun.
"There won't be many more days like this in the year, I'm thinking," Sam thinks aloud. "I'd best finish up the last of the pruning, and mulch in a few beds against the winter."
"Yes, do it before it gets cold and damp again. I hate to see you out working in the weather." Frodo yawns a bit, stretching, and Sam dares to let his eyes linger on the ebb and flow of his master's limbs under the cloth of his shirt, which stretches taut across his shoulders as he rolls them in their sockets.
Mr. Frodo ain't seemed much in the notion for kissing and holding since Mr. Bilbo went, and the waiting has been a sore trial for Samwise. His throat suddenly dry, he licks his lips, and Frodo offers him a sip from the mug. He takes it, but it ain't what he's thirsty for, and that's a fact.
As he drinks, he looks over the lip of the mug to where Frodo sits chewing his bite of biscuit, his eyes thoughtful and distant, the light of the Sun setting deep russet highlights in his curls and gilding the curve of his cheek with a lover's touch. There is a crumb at the corner of his mouth and a smudge of milk on his lip, and he is beautiful in a simple, direct way that takes all of Sam's breath and crushes it right out of his chest, leaving him to tremble and ache.
He wants Mr. Frodo, wants him right now, right here, in the arbor. If he was a bit bolder, he'd kneel right down, and forget about the biscuits; they don't matter a bit. He'd take Mr. Frodo out and put his mouth on him and suckle until he had his fill before he let go, he would-- if only he knew he could do such as that, and do it proper, but he hasn't never tried it before, and he don't know how. For all of his dreaming under the coverlet with his hands busy, he's too shy yet to put himself forth.
Frodo opens his book again, finding his discarded place, and the chance is lost. Taking another biscuit, Sam excuses himself and goes to the potting shed, where his pruning shears and his shovel await. He gets down the wicked-pointed shears and a whetstone, and is putting a good edge on them for trimming the thick of the rose-canes, when a tap at the door startles him and he looks up to find Tom Cotton peeping in.
"Sam!" Tom beams on him. "Jolly reckoned ye'd be working out of doors, what with it such a pretty day and all."
"Come in, Tom!" Sam greets his friend cheerfully; Tom has a certain mischievous look about him, one that Sam's seen before. Tom's a fine hand with a tale, and he likes 'em with a bit of sauce to 'em, what's more. The look he's wearing promises there's a rare tale to be had, if naught interrupts them before it's done. Mayhap he can make Mr. Frodo smile, where Sam hasn't done it.
"I will, at that... ye've a bit of work to do, Sam, it seems!" Tom picks up a saw and eyes its blade. "These tools could use a bit of winter grease, or they'll rust through."
"I've been that busy minding the smial, I haven't done the greasing yet." Sam nods Tom comfortably towards the grease-pot. "But if you've a mind to help, I've made biscuits fresh this morning, and I'll give you a few before you go your way."
"Well, I meant to stay a bit." Tom reaches for the grease-pot and a bit of ragged cloth. "I've got a story to tell ye, Sam, and ye won't soon be forgetting it!"
"I thought you might." Sam chuckles. "You look full to bursting with it." He looks towards the window; the arbor is just on the other side of a bit of hedge, and it comes to him that Mr. Frodo might enjoy Tom's tale too, if only Tom weren't too bashful to tell it in front of the Master. "It's fair dusty in here," he judges, and goes to open the bit of window. The hedge is thin, but Tom can't see the arbor from where he's standing, and won't know Mr. Frodo is about.
"That'll set it to rights soon enough." Tom settles next to the heap of tools. "Ye can sharpen and I'll grease them up while I'm talking."
"Talk away, then," Sam says, and puts aside the shears to take up a hoe instead. Mr. Frodo has raised his head, such that Sam can tell he's listening. He wonders for a moment whether he ought to leave the window up-- and if he does, whether he ought to stop Tom, or warn him. Best not, he decides; what's done is done, for better or worse.
Tom starts in with a will, relishing his chance to spin a story Sam ain't heard. "Well, Sam, I'm sure ye ain't forgot Jolly telling ye about that day a fortnight or more back when we got up and all the sheep was gone, and the door to the fold standing open just as wide as ye please."
"I ain't," Sam nods, working his whetstone. But Tom's still talking, and won't cut out a bit of his tale, not for Sam already knowing that bit, for it would spoil his fun.
"We found 'em two fields over, huddled up against the corner of the hedge, and had a morning of it trying to drive 'em home! It's a good thing they didn't turn to the right hand when they come out, or they'd have followed the Road and fetched up in the Water and drownded, not having no more sense than sheep do.
"At any rate, Nibs caught it hot for leaving the gate latch undone, and we thought we'd seen the last of that. But not a week ago-- it was two days before last Highday-- Rosie comes in from the byre sayin' there's footprints in the muck where there oughtn't to be any, and my dad, he doesn't pay her much mind, for ain't that why we keep the geese out in the barnyard in a pen? And the dogs tied up at the house and the byre besides-- all to give alarm if some stranger comes sneaking about. They ain't made no noise, for if any sort of ruffians come about, or if a fox gets after the hens, they make a racket that would wake the dead."
"Aye." Sam passes over the hoe. "Nothing better than a goose to give alarm, not when there's summat strange about."
"Aye, and so ours have always done, so Dad don't think aught of it. But Mam gets in mind to have an eye out, and she combs the ground that night before she comes in for a sleep. Sure enough-- there's tracks where there oughtn't be any in the morning, even with the geese and the dogs quiet and all.
"So Jolly says he reckons that means whoever's come poking about must not be no stranger, and ye can bet Dad looks pretty hard at Rosie when he says that, what with her getting to be of the age and all, Sam. But Mam says it ain't no suitor of Rosie's, for anybody with eyes knows she's set her cap for ye and wouldn't let nobody else come sneaking about-- and that ye wouldn't do it, nohow."
Sam nods gravely, pleased by the trust, and Tom tosses him a wink.
"And Mam adds to it, saying even if somebody Rosie didn't want come about, he wouldn't go to the byre; he'd come up to her window. And that it's for certain that if it was someone other than that Sam Gamgee and she wanted him there, she'd not go telling about the tracks the next day, like.
"So my dad, he thinks mayhap some busybody in the neighborhood can't rest, and is making free to put his nose in our business late of a night. The Moon is on the wane and pretty soon there won't be no light to see what's about, so he makes up his mind to sit up that very night and see if he can't catch the prowler and teach him a lesson.
"He gets a good stout cudgel and calls me and Jolly not to go to our beds, but to stay up and sit with him-- him with the cudgel and me with the chopping axe, and Jolly with a pitch-fork, all laying in wait out by the hay-stack. "Don't go making yourselves known till I shout, lads," he warns us. "For mayhap it's trouble too big for the three of us, or summat better left alone, like."
Sam nods wry agreement; there ain't usually big trouble in the Shire, where everybody knows everybody else and most folk is related, but sometimes you can't always take notice when there's trouble about. For instance, if it were that Lotho Sackville Baggins up for a midnight stroll, looking in to the byre, it wouldn't do no good for Farmer Cotton to say aught, not even if summat went missing-- mayhap not even if it was found in Lotho's own hands the next day.
"Anyhow, we set up in the hay-stack, all tucked against the barn in the shadow of the hay where nobody is likely to see. And just as it's getting about an hour past middle-night, with the Moon just about overhead and the chill starting to close in now that the dew's settled, Dad goes "Hsst!" and we all lay low and look, and pretty soon a shadow stirs in the barn-yard. It's a hobbit, and as he steps out to go across towards the byre, I can see his face, and it's that Rollo Banks, him with the mam as was a Bolger from Staddle."
Tom pauses to have a look at Sam, and nods firm, though Sam doesn't offer no doubts. "It was that Rollo Banks, sure as I'm standing here-- for he's got a nose on him that makes two of mine, if not three, and there ain't no mistaking that, neither in the Sun nor in the Moon. Ye know Rollo, don't you Sam? He comes in the Ivy Bush some nights for an ale. He visits us now and again to try to woo our Rosie, and his mam sends him over twice every week for milk and butter, so I reckon the animals know him well enough, and they don't let on he's in the world.
"Now, I'm all for jumping out and giving him what-for, but Dad stays still and shushes the two of us and we let him keep coming. That Rollo's the next best thing to gentry, and I reckon Dad wanted to be sure he was up to no good before stopping him. So what does he do but go over and open up the gate and let himself in to the sheep-fold!"
Sam gives a startled chuckle in spite of himself, glancing over towards Mr. Frodo, whose head is tilted, intent, book forgotten on his lap. Then he shoots a look towards Tom, whose grin is near as wide as his face as he watches Sam's reaction.
"I says to myself the exact same thing ye're thinking. 'Tom Cotton, that Banks lad ain't got a chance with our Rosie, so he's come for a bit of sheep-worrying, or I'm a rabbit.' And I reckon Dad is thinking the same, because he reaches over and gets the pitchfork away from Jolly and motions us to stay back while he creeps out." Tom leans forward, the hoe in his hand forgotten, savouring the point of his story.
"The ewes are all bunched up the way they do at the back of the fold when somebody comes nigh them, bleating a bit here and there but not making much fuss, which tells me they're plenty used to Rollo and his ways. Sure enough, he cuts a ewe out of the herd-- don't laugh so, Sam! I ain't to the good bit yet-- and drops his breeks to his knees right there, thinkin' she ain't about to tell naught of her secret shame, and he gets busy with the job at hand. And my dad, he goes creeping around forwards, keeping his shadow under his feet so Rollo don't see him coming."
Sam covers his mouth to keep from chortling; Mr. Frodo's shoulders are twitching suspiciously, and that does Sam's heart more good than a dozen stories of Tom's all together.
"About the time Dad's got where he wants to be, Rollo's too busy to notice much anyhow, for all that the sheep ain't much impressed. She twitches her tail and he says summat I won't repeat, and grabs her tail with one hand and her wool with the other, meaning to hold her steady, like. About then Dad draws back the pitchfork, and for a second I think he's going to let Rollo have the tines right up his arse, but he changes his mind and turns it in his hand to give him a good solid thump with the handle."
That does it; Sam can hear Mr. Frodo's choked snort, and he gives up a belly laugh of his own to cover it, clutching at the window sill and putting down the shovel he's holding before he cuts himself on its blade. Tom cackles like a banty rooster, pointing at Sam with one finger and wiping at his eyes with the other, waving him to silence.
"Now hold up and listen, Sam, I ain't done! That poor ewe's got a bit of spirit, and she don't like Rollo hanging on to her tail and fiddling with her arse half the night. So she gives a little bleat and sets her trotters and she lets fly a turd and adds a piss for good measure, and it goes all over Rollo's front and falls right in his breeks-- just as Dad wallops him hard across the arse with that good stout wooden handle!
"I ain't never heard a hobbit yelp so in my life; Rollo jumps nigh a dozen ells in the air and near squashes the poor ewe to death when he comes back down, but he hits the ground runnin', no matter that his cock's flopping every which way and his breeks are tangled about his legs. With them in his way he can't go nowhere nohow, so he falls flat on his face in the stable-muck. The ewe goes bounding back over to the flock; she ain't hurt, seemingly. Dad says he didn't know whether to sit down and laugh or lay about walloping Rollo again with the pitch-fork.
Anyhow, by the time Rollo's got himself sorted out and flees away over the fence, he's left his best pair of velvet breeks behind in exchange for the wallop and the muck he took with him."
Sam plops down on the tool bench and laughs until he cries, wiping his eyes with his sleeve; Tom's eyes sparkle at him and he grins even wider, if he can, waiting for Sam to get hold of himself before he goes on with his telling.
"And so the next day, my Mam's in the market and who comes along but Mrs. Foxglove Bolger-Banks, talking to your very sister, Sam, talking to Daisy about why them breeks ain't in Rollo's closet since Daisy does the laundry for the Bankses and all. And Daisy don't know, but she says she didn't wash 'em last week, so it ain't her fault they've gone.
"Well, before aught can get hot between the two, that Mrs. Banks sees old Gammer Twofoot, who does the dosing for them as lives up Staddle way. So she's got to be off, she says, for her lad's got the fidgets, and he ain't acting right. He's lying abed half the morning most days and this very morning he wouldn't sit down to breakfast. The last thing mam hears is how Mrs. Banks has it in her mind to give him a dose of the salts and clear him out proper, all to make him right again!"
Now Tom can hear Mr. Frodo's laughter coming in through the window, helpless giggles that soar over Sam's deeper chuckling and make Tom's eyes fly open wide.
"Oh, save us, I've gone and run off my big mouth in front of-- Samwise Gamgee, ye dratted sneak, putting down that window so's I'd be heard, I ought to--!" Tom sputters in a frantic hiss, and Sam guffaws, feeling it all the way down to his toes. He peeks out of the corner of his eye, and he can see a genuine wide smile glowing on Mr. Frodo's face as he sits looking towards the window. His eyes are alive with warmth and good cheer as they meet Sam's across the sill.
Sam takes a slow breath, locked to those eyes for a long moment, and reckons that mayhap he should have tried some of his own poor tales after all, if this is what it takes to have a smile out of Mr. Frodo. But Tom is still grumbling, and Sam must finally look away and set him to rights. He puts the window down gentle-like and gets about it-- but not before he sees Mr. Frodo reaching for the plate of biscuits, taking one up and chewing with good appetite, the curl of a smile still lingering on his lips.
"Never you let that trouble you," Sam finally soothes Tom, who is still grumbling under his breath, face red as a sunset. "Himself don't mind it."
"If you say so." Tom shakes his head and reaches for the grease-pot, his ill-humour all but forgotten now that the window is shut.
"Aye, and I'll say this as well," Sam grins, taking up the whetstone. "You'd best mind the sheep come lambing, for now we know why every one of them Bankses has more wool on his toes than half of Hobbiton put together!"
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