22. Memories of Honor
Memories of Honor
"You mean you've been at it all night?" asked Samwise Gamgee from the doorway. "Really, Master Ruvemir--you spent how long in the Houses of Healing with the lung sickness, and then just got over a cold at the Great Smial. You need to give yourself rest!"
Ruvemir looked up in surprise to see his host standing in the doorway to the room granted to his use, then looked the opposite direction to see the light of day slanting in through the window. He was sleepy, but it was impossible to believe he'd been awake all night reading. He checked to see how far he'd made it through the Red Book, and found he was about a fifth of the way through the huge tome.
He looked up at Master Samwise and saw that although he was truly concerned, he was also amused and even gratified to see how his outlands guest had spent his first night in Bag End. "I had no idea," Ruvemir commented, placing the ribbon bound into the volume between pages to mark his place. "But I must say that if those who wrote the histories of Gondor had written so of Castamir and Telemnar, I'd certainly remember more of those kings than just their names."
"How far along are you?"
"I've read all of your Mr. Bilbo's adventures, and have reached the description of the party."
"Fast reader," Sam commented, admiringly. "Anyway, I come to tell you first breakfast will be ready in a few moments, but first you might check on Master Ririon. I think as he also might of caught that cold that's making its way about the Great Smial."
Ruvemir nodded his thanks and hurried down the hallway to Ririon's room. Yes, the boy definitely was congested and feeling ill, and felt as if he had a low fever. The sculptor then made his way to the kitchen, where Sam quickly put together a tray for Ririon with toast and jam, poached eggs, and apple juice. "I'll bring down some mint to steep over the fireplace for him," Sam said. "That and some bark and leaves as Strider sent me from Gondor should help him. And if he gets any worse, we can always steep kingsfoil for him, although I'd rather save the leaves as I have for real emergencies, it being winter and all." Ruvemir thanked him and took the tray back to his ward.
As he watched the boy eat, he commented, "So this is why you didn't fight the bath last night."
Ririon shrugged. "Guess so."
At that moment Miriel came in, a loose robe clasped about her night robe. "Master Samwise said that you weren't feeling well, dearling. But it appears you are eating, so it can't be too bad."
Ririon smiled as she approached, laid her hand on his brow, and then leaned down to kiss his temple. "Well," she said as she sat by him carefully so as to not upset the tray, "you don't appear to be anywhere as ill as you might be. But today you will stay quiet and sleep as much as you can."
"Do I have to, Miriel?" the boy asked.
"Yes, you have to, although we may allow you to come out to the parlor later, if it is acceptable with Lord Samwise and Mistress Rose."
With that Ririon had to be content. At that moment Sam came to tell Ruvemir and Miriel that their breakfast was ready in the kitchen. With another kiss from Miriel and a pat on his shoulder from Ruvemir, the boy was left to finish his breakfast alone.
After eating, Ruvemir and Folco followed Samwise out the front door to evaluate the situation. It was still snowing, but lightly now. The snow on the ground reached halfway to Ruvemir's knees, and was piled against the hedges, wall, and gate. Sam sighed. "Got to get out the shovels," he said, "or everyone will be forced to stay home until it is melted. But I also need to split some wood. Ought to of done it yesterday, but had to meet with the Mayor about the blight on the root vegetables in the Northfarthing soon as I got home."
"I can split the wood," Ruvemir offered.
"And I'll help with the shoveling and sanding," Folco added.
Sam gave Ruvemir an evaluative glance. "You sure you're up to splitting the wood?"
The sculptor smiled. "Remember, I'm the son of a woodcarver. I know how to split wood with a minimum of effort."
Sam shrugged, then led the way back through the smial to the back door, where he pointed out a tool shed and the covered storage area for firewood. "It's all there," he said. "There's a log to split the wood on, a couple of wedges, several different mauls, whatever you need in the shed there. Would you like the loan of a heavy jacket? Your cloak will be in the way, I fear."
A short time later, wearing the jacket supplied by Samwise and his warmest socks under his boots, Ruvemir was going through the shed, choosing a wedge and maul, checking the heft of each alternative until he found one whose balance felt right in his hand. He then went to the woodpile and looked over the situation. He began choosing logs from the woodpile and setting them on the block, setting the wedge, and then striking it. The wood fell quickly into sizes appropriate for the hearths of the smial. By the time Folco and Samwise came to replace their shovels, there was a neatly stacked pile of split wood sufficient for several days, and Ruvemir was examining several lengths and logs carefully.
"You don't need to do any more," Sam said, obviously impressed by the amount of work Ruvemir had accomplished.
The sculptor gave a small shake of his head. "I hope you don't mind, but this has excellent grain. I was looking to find a few good lengths fit for Ririon's use."
Sam's eyebrows rose, and he smiled. "Take what you want, and be welcome," he said. "We still have more wood than we need from the trees felled by Sharkey's folk. They cut down trees and just left them lie to rot. We were able to save a lot. Woodworkers have been overwhelmed with material, and no hole wants for firewood. But many still lie where they was cut, for too many were hacked down for no purpose save for wanton destruction."
After choosing about seven good lengths, Ruvemir took them back into the smial to Ririon's room and quietly stacked them by the wall, noting that, in spite of his earlier protests, the boy was now asleep. A kettle hung over the hearth, and its steam was scented with mint and eucalyptus. Ruvemir smiled, then went back to his own room, hung the borrowed jacket over the chair near the fireplace to dry, stirred the coals and added a couple logs, and after taking off his boots lay down on the bed and swiftly fell asleep himself.
He woke not long after noon, finding a blanket had been gently placed over him while he slept. He rose and stretched, put on his shoes, then retrieved the Red Book and wandered down to the kitchen. Rosie was sitting on the settle peeling potatoes, and smiled up at him.
"There's a plate of luncheon for you there if you are hungry," she said, indicating a covered dish that sat on the table. He thanked her and set the book on a side table, washed his hands under the pump at the sink, offered the Standing Silence, sat down and removed the cloth that protected the food, and ate quickly. Once he was done and had washed his dishes in the sink, Rosie sent him off to the study to join Sam and Folco.
Samwise was seated on the small sofa while Folco sat backwards, straddling the seat of the desk chair, elbows leaning on its back. Sam looked up and smiled. "Up, then? Have a nice sleep finally?"
"Not enough of one, I'm afraid," Ruvemir responded. "I certainly never thought I'd be awake all night reading."
Sam moved to the side on the sofa, making room for his guest, who sat with a decided grunt, still clasping the book to his chest.
"Your sister's gone down to Number Three to spend the day with my sisters May and Daisy, who are both seamstresses. Daisy is the closest we have, here in the Shire, to a master broiderer--certainly she's clever with a needle, Daisy is. Both of them are spending the day with the Gaffer, and I thought as late this afternoon we could go down for a while so as you could meet him, too. He can tell you some tales of when Mr. Frodo was a little one, in the times his family lived in Number Five and when they come to visit from Buckland and all, afore Missus Primula refused to come no more 'cause of Lobelia's nastiness."
"Thank you, Master Samwise. That will be fine."
A noise from under the desk caught Ruvemir's attention. He realized that a blanket had been spread on the floor there, and on it lay Frodo-Lad on his side, happily mouthing a large silver circle. Something about that circle caught his attention, and he leaned forward as best he could over the book on his lap to give it a closer look. There was something familiar about it.... Just then feet could be heard scuffing down the hallway, and Ririon, wrapped in a blanket, peered into the room. "Ruvemir, are you here?" At his guardian's assent, he continued, "May I go lie in the parlor for a time? It's deadly dull in my room alone with no one to speak to."
Ririon rose, set the book where he'd been sitting, and approached the boy. "Let me feel if you have any sign of a fever," he said. Resting the back of his hand against the boy's forehead and then his throat, he finally said, "Well, you feel cool enough. Do you have kerchiefs to blow your nose on so you don't cough and sneeze on all and sundry?"
"Yes, Mistress Rose brought me a goodly number this morning, and I brought three with me."
"Tell you what," Sam said, "we'll all move to the parlor so you won't be alone there, neither. Why don't you head down that way and lie down on the settle where you was last night, and we'll join you in a moment?"
With muffled thanks, Ririon headed toward the front of the smial, dragging the tail of his blanket behind him.
"He's a very nice lad," Folco commented as he rose and moved his chair out of the way so Samwise could crouch down to retrieve his son.
"That he is," Samwise agreed. "Glad the cold isn't a nasty one. Looks like he'll be mostly done with it by the morning."
Ruvemir nodded. "That's about how long it took me," he said. He stretched and heard a place in his shoulders pop.
Folco shot him a look of amusement. "That happen every time you cut wood?" the Hobbit asked.
"Often enough," the sculptor said.
"Still amazed," Sam said, straightening with the blanketed infant in his arms, "how much wood you got split this morning. At least twice as much as I'd have done in the same time, and I can swing a heavier maul than you can."
"As I said," Ruvemir commented as he hefted the book again, "you have to remember my father's a master wood carver. He taught me early how to tell the way of the grain and how to tell where to set the wedge so as to split a log exactly where it will do the most efficient job. I rarely need to use more than a single blow to split a single log."
"Useful, that," Sam agreed as he led the way through the doorway and down the hall.
Once in the parlor, Sam situated his son's blanket near his chair but sufficiently out of the way so the child wouldn't be trodden upon by accident, settled his guests, and said, "I'll go get us something to drink and perhaps to fill up the corners," and headed back toward the kitchen once more.
"But I just ate," the Man commented to himself. He looked at his companion. "You Hobbits are going to have me gloriously fat if I don't watch it, I fear. And that will interfere with my use of chisel and hammer!"
"How often do you eat in a day's time?" Folco asked.
Ruvemir shrugged. "Usually not more than three meals a day, often with a break for some fruit and ale or juice in the afternoon. Certainly not as many full meals as Hobbits eat."
Ririon commented from his position on the settle where he lay, "It's like birds, Ruvemir. Smaller birds need to feed more often during the day than larger ones, and so they eat more for the size of their bodies than the larger ones do. Or, that's what I suppose."
The sculptor looked at his ward with interest. "How do you know this?"
"Evamir Cook loved birds and kept seed always in a box he had placed in the garden outside the kitchen windows where he could watch them. He'd often tell me what he'd learned of them. I think that was why I did so many carvings of them, for I loved to watch them, too. There was a pool there, too, in which there were many golden fish such as the one I carved and gave to the King. It was a good place in which to live, the Dragon's Claw, with much of beauty. Evamir's snake was quite pretty, too. It liked to coil about its master's arm. It did keep down the mice, though Master Fergion disliked it and wouldn't enter the kitchen when it was loose on the floor. It liked for me to stroke its back."
Folco looked at the boy with interest. "I'd not really thought of that before, that smaller birds eat more for the size of their bodies than larger ones, but that is true. Perhaps that is indeed why Hobbits eat more than Men do."
"What is the book you have been carrying about?" asked Folco.
The artist smiled. "It is the volume in which Master Bilbo and the Lord Frodo wrote of their adventures. Master Samwise gave it to me to read last night. I've finished Master Bilbo's part of the tale, and have begun on that part written by Lord Frodo."
Ririon sat up with interest. "Is it really, Ruvemir? Will you read some of it aloud so I can hear?"
"Why not? It will help you to pass the time." He opened the book to the place marked by the ribbon, and began to read the description of the party. None of them paid that much attention to when Sam returned with a tray, followed by Rosie and a newly awakened Elanor; intent on the story being read by Ruvemir they accepted the drinks placed by them by their host, barely noticing what they did, and sipped as they listened. Sam, familiar with the spell woven by his Master's words, smiled, reached down and lifted his son in his arms, and held the child as he listened. Elanor, cradling her doll, sat leaning against her father's legs, listening intently, her own smile reflecting that on her father's face.
When the description of the party was at last done, Ruvemir moved the ribbon to where he'd left off and closed the covers reluctantly. Ririon gave a sigh of satisfaction, then asked, "Was it truly thus?"
Folco commented, "Yes, it was. It was the most marvelous party I've ever attended."
"I just wanted to spare my Master as much pain as possible," Sam said. "I feared as some there would take offense and start to pester Mr. Frodo about what Mr. Bilbo'd done and said, and so I set Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin to standin' between Frodo and those most likely to complain. And I was right, too. Luckily in the case of Missus Lobelia and Mr. Otho, Lobelia decided to leave and drug her menfolk off behind her. But Thain Ferumbras was right upset, as were a few of the Bracegirdles and several Proudfoots. I were glad when Mr. Frodo finally was able to slip away after I had them serve cakes and ale to those as were still in the pavilion."
"Did you know Master Bilbo's plans, then?"
"I didn't know everything that went on here in Bag End, but that was the type of plans as I couldn't help but find out about. And because Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin had been staying here afore the party, he told them, too, just afore the day. It fair broke Mr. Pippin's heart, it did; and him just a lad of eleven."
"I still have difficulty appreciating how Hobbits age," Ruvemir commented. "I'm told Lord Frodo was so much older than the rest of you, and yet the descriptions I'm given are of someone quite a bit younger in appearance than either you, Master Samwise, or you, Master Folco."
Sam looked down at the floor, then back into his guest's face. "It were the Ring," he finally said. "It were a Ring of Power--the Ring of Power--and such gave their bearers longer lives. Old Mr. Bilbo still looked to be in his fifties when he left here at eleventy-one; and Mr. Frodo didn't start to look older till we was on the edge of Mordor, when the Ring started truly weighing him down. But even then he didn't look so much older as worn and worn out, as if he had been bearing heavy burdens, which, of course, was true. You can't believe just how heavy that thing became as we approached Mordor. It were a torture for him to walk with It. When I crossed into Mordor carrying It, I thought as I'd fall down from the weight.
"Anyways, Mr. Bilbo still looked to be well under a hundred when we saw him in Rivendell as we first got there, but looked about his real age when we saw him on our way back, which was just under a year after we'd been there afore. Once the Ring was destroyed, the aging seemed to catch up with him. He was definitely aged and frail as we rode to the Grey Havens, as I said at Brandy Hall."
"And Lord Frodo? Did it work the same with him? Did he look his age when he left?"
Rosie chose to answer that question. "He was looking worn and terrible pale, for his heart was failing him. His hair had begun to get silver threads in it, there at his temples, mostly. But instead of losing his beauty, it sharpened it. For he was a Hobbit as was beautiful to look at, all the time as I knew him."
"Why did he seem to have his strongest friendships with those of you who were so much younger?"
Folco sniffed and rubbed the side of his nose thoughtfully. "Well, Merry was almost like a little brother for him; and once Pippin was born, you couldn't have Merry alone--Pippin was the little brother for Merry as Merry was for Frodo--actually, after he came here it was Merry and Samwise both who were as little brothers to Frodo. Because we were almost the same age as Master Samwise here, Fredegar and I were both just accepted into his friendship as well. But while he was at Brandy Hall Frodo was actively discouraged from becoming close to the lads his own age. He later became friends with some of his older cousins, such as Ferdibrand Took and Merimac Brandybuck; but such friendships never became anywhere near as strong as those who were as little brothers to him."
"He were there when Mr. Merry was born--or rather, just in the next room. He was one of the first to see Merry after he was born, in fact," Sam commented. "And as Mr. Saradoc and Missus Esmeralda were like as parents to him, it made even more sense he'd see Merry as if he were truly his brother, if you take my meaning."
"I see," Ruvemir said. "It helps explain things." He stretched. "You know, I think I'm ready to take another nap. And don't think I'll starve if I don't join you for tea--although I'm certain Ririon here will be glad to accept my share. He's growing rapidly right now, and he is eating a good deal more as a result."
"Our teens do that as well--eating extra, that is," Folco commented.
"Ah, a common trait between the two races," the artist smiled. "Well, I'm off to my room for my second nap." And taking the Red Book with him, he left the room.
When he awoke again it was dark. He rose and stretched, and shortly went in search of his fellow residents.
Ririon was asleep in his room. Samwise he found once again in the study, half lying down on the sofa, asleep with a book in his lap. Folco and Miriel he found sitting in the parlor, talking as she worked on the embroidery of the White Tree on the front of the surcoat. He quickly noted she appeared to be almost finished. They looked up as he entered, and he smiled as he entered the parlor.
"Up all night and then two naps!" Miriel said. "The Lord Frodo's book is that interesting, Brother?"
"Oh, yes, and then so, Sister," he said, giving her a small kiss on her cheek. "That is lovely, Miriel. And it will look so fine when Strider wears it."
Folco laughed. "Sam is rubbing off on you, I see," he commented.
"Well, it is how he introduced himself to me as well as to the Travelers," Ruvemir said, stretching again. "Sam is drowsing in the study, I noted, and Ririon is back in bed. Mistress Rose?"
"Also taking a nap. Elanor appears to have an earache, and went with her mother. Seems everyone is drowsy today save the two of us," Miriel commented, taking her final stitches. "There! Now all that is left is the border." She examined each side carefully, thread scissors at the ready.
"How was your visit with Sam's sisters?"
"Very nice. Both May and Daisy are quite talented with a needle, and they tell me that Marigold, the youngest sister, is also very skillful, although she prefers doing lacework. Daisy taught me a new stitch today that I plan to use on the Queen's gift, and I taught her two in return. And I'm having Daisy's husband cut out the panels for the Queen's gown. He is a skillful tailor. I am most impressed."
"He must be good if my sister will trust him with part of one of her projects."
She smiled at him as she shifted the embroidery frame to the lower hem of the garment.
Ruvemir stretched and commented, "As odd as it may seem coming from a mannikin living temporarily amidst Hobbits, but I am starving."
Folco looked up at him. "What do you say to us fixing supper tonight, then?"
"It wouldn't bother our hosts if we did?"
Folco smiled. "You are, as you said, living amidst Hobbits. We don't mind who fixes food in our holes as long as we get to sample it, at least."
And the three headed off to the kitchen.
Folco showed them the cold room, the larders and pantries, and within a few minutes they had decided on what they would cook for the meal. Miriel found some beefsteak, which she decided to make into a Gondorian dish, and Folco decided he would make up a gravy with mushrooms to put over potatoes. Ruvemir helped peel the potatoes and stirred things when directed, then set the table, once Folco showed him where everything was kept.
Sam entered the kitchen yawning, then stopped at the sight of his guests busy about preparing a meal, and sniffed. "Are you cooking the beef sliced thin with green onions and carrots?" he asked. "Haven't had that since we was in Minas Tirith, and I did find I enjoyed it."
"Good," said Miriel. "Hope your lady will appreciate it as well."
"I'm just sorry the green onions are not fresh but pickled," Sam said.
"We're making do," Miriel smiled.
Ririon appeared next, wrapped in his blanket, and was soon sitting at the table with a glass of juice and directions to use a kerchief if he felt a sneeze coming on, while Sam prepared a winter salad of fruit from the cold room.
"Your cold room is a marvel," Ruvemir commented. "The use of the underground spring to keep the food cool is a masterstroke."
"You can thank Mr. Bungo, I think, although it might of been Mr. Bilbo as added that. I'll tell you all the folks on the Row have been grateful for it during hot weather, as it keeps good meat from spoiling sooner rather than later."
"How thoughtful of you to share it with your neighbors."
"No, Mr. Bilbo always let us down in the Row to use it, so that's not my idea, either. That spring isn't much good for drinking--too much chalk around it. The water from the well out in the garden is sweet, though."
Soon after Rosie came out carrying Frodo-Lad and a toy horse, followed by Elanor, who had a scarf tied around her head and over her ears. Sam paused in his work to look down on her. "Feeling better, Elanorellë?" he asked.
"Yes, Sam-Dad. Much better," she answered, lifting her face to be kissed. He gave her a gentle one, then held the bowl down for her to see.
"Anything else you can think of as ought to go in here, Lass?"
She looked at it appraisingly. "Grapes?" she asked at last.
"Sorry, dearling, but there ain't any left."
"Too bad," she said.
The meal was a pleasant one, and Ruvemir found himself describing a commission he'd received to do a statue of the Master of a town in Belfalas who had insisted he wanted to be portrayed just as he was, except for.... Soon, all were laughing at the vain old body's imaginings of what he ought to look like. Then Sam was telling of trying to teach Mistress Loren how to make steak-and-kidney pie, and how she'd wanted to substitute everything else for the ingredients until it was something else completely. When Miriel described a dress she'd done for a client who insisted she was actually several measures less around than she was, and her struggle to be tactful and honest at the same time, they were all feeling very gay indeed.
Mistress Rosie brought in the cake she'd baked for tea, but which barely anyone had touched as yet, and all agreed it was a marvelous dinner after all.
After the meal Sam took Ruvemir and Folco down to see the Gaffer.
"The Gaffer is your father, isn't he?" Ruvemir asked, to which Sam nodded. "And gaffer means grandfather, right?"
"Did one of your older brothers have children early, then?"
"No, no early grandchildren. I think they started calling him the Gaffer when he was young 'cause he was always giving advice as if he was one already. A big one for givin' advice, and sounding like he knows all about it, he is. And it usually starts, 'Now, don't you be a ninnyhammer'."
"Sounds like a marvelous gentleman," Ruvemir commented, smiling. Sam just smiled back.
"So, you're a-tryin' to find out what Mr. Frodo was like, are you?" the elderly Hobbit asked, after introductions had been made and he was back in his comfortable chair before the fire with a knit rug over his lap.
"I'm enjoying learning about him, but hadn't heard much of the years he lived here in Hobbiton on the Row and visited with Master Bilbo," Ruvemir explained, wondering how he was to enjoy the marvelous-smelling apple crumble he'd been served, as full as he was still from his supper.
"He were a bright little lad, I'll say that fer 'im," the Gaffer said, thinking back. "He were still but a bairn when his mum talked his dad into moving them to Buckland. Foolish thing 'twere to do, moving by the River as they done--understand their hole got flooded out more'n oncet. Right ninnyhammers for doin' that, they was. But they'd come round at least oncet or twicet a year for to see Mr. Bilbo, and he was over there often for to see 'em back and to see his lad. Loved that bairn, he did. Would talk about 'Little Frodo done this' an' 'Little Frodo done that' for hours, he would. Bagginses've always been besotted with bairns, I think. The little thing'd come out into the garden and watch me, fascinated like, and askin' the oddest questions. Did I know as why the sky was blue? and Why does some flowers close up at night and keep turning to the sun durin' the daylight? How'd they know as where the sun was? Do some flowers have somethin' akin to eyes? Questions of that sort--he were full of 'em. But he treated the plants with respect, he did, and didn't go about just pickin' flowers just 'cause as many little uns'll do. Didn't like it when I'd pull up a weed as has flowers, he didn't--wanted me to plant 'em somewheres else." He shook his head. "Oh, he were a decided little thing. And even as a little un he'd give folks the Look as when he were angered, he would. Not but that his Uncle Bilbo couldn't give it back, a'course. Mr. Bilbo definitely could give the Look with the best, he could."
"Was he of an age with any of your own children?"
"Twas much of an age with Hal, he were."
"Did they play together?"
"Play together--my Hal and Mr. Frodo? I should say not! 'Twouldn't of been proper, my son and 'im."
"Oh, did his parents think it improper?"
"Doubt they ever give the idea much thought."
"Did Mr. Bilbo discourage it?"
"Mr. Bilbo? Not him. He'd not of discouraged such a thing."
"Then who saw it as improper?"
The old Hobbit blinked his eyes, and finally answered, "Why me, a'course. I was Mr. Bilbo's employee. 'Twouldn't of done fer my son to of played with his guest's son."
"If they'd remained here would you have expected them to have played together?"
"I'd of not liked it none, but I spect they'd of done so in spite a'me."
Much of the logic of his host's position escaped Ruvemir, and he looked helplessly at Sam for clarification. Hal, who sat nearby, caught the look.
"Well, Dad," Hal commented, "you'd of been right as of me and Mr. Frodo undoubtedly would of played together anyway, had they stayed on the Row--Ham, too, for that matter. It's the way it's always been on the Row, after all, all the childern playin' together, great and small. 'Twouldn't of mattered none to us whether we were Bagginses or Rumbles or Gamgees. And I doubt as if Mr. Drogo would of cared none whether or not we played together, although I'm not so certain of Missus Primula. It's always been you who's been the one who's been class conscious, you know, worriet as to whether we was gettin' above ourselves or not. Mr. Bilbo'd never of cared in this life who was great nor small--he certainly played with Uncle Holman's boys when they was lads. That none of 'em lived to grow up was a sadness to Mr. Bilbo. He told us enough tales on what they did together as lads, after all. And what time Mr. Frodo spent here as a lad, we did play together, anyway. He didn't care no more'n his uncle if we were the gardener's lads. To him we was just lads."
The Gaffer's daughter May shook her head. "Look as how Mr. Frodo asked us to his birthday parties, Dad. Didn't matter to him who was rich nor poor. He figgered he was earning his keep right enough, helping his uncle, teaching folks how to read, givin' us his books and all, helpin' those as needed a helpin' hand. To him we was just lads and lasses, same as him, but without his advantages. Was full willin' to share what he had, always. And as we was the lads and lasses of the Row, we was asked to his parties, always, as long as we was here."
Their father sniffed and shrugged. "Like I said, the childern've not of paid no mind as to what I wanted."
Ruvemir nodded. "So I see," he said.
The old Hobbit shook his head. "And my Master, he just stood there and was glad, as long as his lad was glad. All he seemed to care about, whether or not his lad was glad, you know."
"What kind of tales was Mistress Lobelia telling that caused Mistress Primula to decide she wouldn't return to Hobbiton to visit any more?"
"Oh, that. Was sayin' as the wee lad wasn't the son of Mr. Drogo, don't you know--was sayin' as he was Mr. Bilbo's child in truth. The idea she'd play false to her beloved husband, even if he were older'n she, drove the poor lass mad with fury."
Ruvemir was shocked. "I see! No matter she wished to avoid Mistress Lobelia's gossip!"
The Gaffer sniffed. "As if Mr. Bilbo'd ever done anythin' a' the sort, oncet he come back from his adventure. He never seemed to notice no lasses nor ladies no more, it seemed. And although he cared deeply for Missus Primula, it were Mr. Drogo who was mostly 'is friend. They was cousins, after all. And 'twere due to 'im bein' his cousin's son Mr. Bilbo wished to care for Mr. Frodo. Told me plenty of times it were a shame as a Baggins and 'is own cousin's son had to grow up on t'other side of the Brandywine when he had a proper place within the Shire isself."
Folco snorted. "The idea that Primula would have ever been false to Drogo is grossly offensive. Mum was certain they were desperately in love the whole time they were married. It was so hard on them, losing the first two children--when the third one lived, and then they lost two more once they were back in Buckland, it broke their hearts. They'd wished to have many children, and they only managed to see Frodo survive."
"Did Mr. Bilbo ever have a lady love, Master Gamgee?" Ruvemir asked.
"Oncet, a long time ago, afore he left on his adventure he did. Lass from the Eastfarthing, I think. But she died as a result of an accident. He'd not recovered when that old Wizard Gandalf come rappin' on the door with that staff of 'is and marrin' up the paint."
Ruvemir looked down at his plate and realized he had somehow managed to eat his apple crumble after all. The Gaffer noted his glance, and smiled in satisfaction. "So, you like the apple crumble, eh? Am so glad. May, do get Mr. Ruvemir a secont helpin'."
Sam noted the look of distress, and interceded. "We need to get back to the hole, Dad. How about if you have May put several servings on a dish and in a basket, and we'll eat them later after we're back in Bag End?"
"Will do, Son. And give my daughter and grandchildern their gaffer's love, you hear?"
Sam smiled and leaned down to hug his father and plant a kiss on the dry old cheek. "You know I will, Dad."
As they were headed back up the lane, Ruvemir thanked Sam for helping in the matter of the crumble, and the gardener laughed. "You Big Folk don't eat as much as we do, after all. Saw your look and felt you'd appreciate havin' it much later rather than now. You managed to eat what you was given, but I could see as it were politeness rather than hunger."
Folco said, darkly, "So the Ring appears to have interfered with Uncle Bilbo's ability to love, too."
Sam nodded his head, his own expression grim. "So it appears. I know I never saw him look at a lady nor lass that way, never in my life. Nor at a lad nor gentlehobbit, neither. No, if'n he ever had a love affair, it were long afore It come into his life."
As they approached the green door of Bag End, Ruvemir said quietly, "I know Mistress Pimpernel and Mistress Pearl both still regret not having married Lord Frodo, in spite of their happiness with the marriages they made. One's first love is always remembered."
"You ever have a first love, Master Ruvemir?" asked Sam as they went in and hung up their cloaks.
"Oh, when I was young I fell in love with the girl down the lane. She was so beautiful, so tall and slender. All I ever wanted in a woman, I thought. She'd actually speak to me, too, so I thought she was different from the other girls in our area who avoided me. Then I saw her with the youth she eventually married, how free and easy she was with him, and how she barely nodded my way when she was with him. And I then learned that she used his connections and wealth to find other liaisons."
"No better than she should be, then?"
"Unfortunately, true. She was willing to talk to me, I realized, only because my father was prominent in our area and because of the honor given his artistry and my own. She had no more care for me than she did for her lapdog--probably less, in fact. She turned out to be quite shallow."
"Your Elise sounds as if she were a much better catch."
Ruvemir smiled broadly. "Between the shallow lady and the caring chambermaid, I'll take the chambermaid."
Together all sat in the parlor and listened as Sam read the next chapter out of the Red Book, Miriel holding little Frodo, who was mouthing his large silver circle. Ruvemir kept finding himself looking at it, for something about it seemed familiar. After the story was done the child dropped it, and Ruvemir reached down to pick it up for him, but gave it a thorough examination before he returned it. It was light and with no tarnish, and engraved with Tengwar characters and seven stars, the central one set with a stone of adamant in an ornamental boss. Suddenly he looked up at Sam, his eyes wide with shock.
"You are allowing your son to teeth on this?" he asked.
"Won't hurt him none--I checked with Gimli and asked when it were Elanor who was gummin' on it. That's mithril, it is."
"I know it's mithril!" He looked at it amazed, then raised his eyes to those of his host, and laughed in spite of himself. "You know, Master Paladin did tell me that Lord Frodo told him you'd probably use it to train the ivy or honeysuckle around, and instead I find your children are using your circlet of honor as a teething ring!"
Sam shrugged helplessly, and Mistress Rose looked on him as amazed as her guest. "That's what that is? Oh, my dear, dear Samwise, you foolish Hobbit!"
Folco looked at them blankly until Ruvemir explained. "You see, the proper title of address for Master Samwise in the outer world is Lord Samwise. The Lord King Elessar and the Lords of Gondor and Arnor and Rohan and Imladris and the Lonely Mountain and the Forest of Green Leaves and later elsewhere all agreed on this, that he and Lord Frodo are Lords of the realm for their sacrifice and dedication to the freedom of all of Middle Earth. That is the circlet of honor given to him on his awakening, marking his status. It was given at the feast of honor for them on the Field of Cormallen."
"What does one do with it?" Folco asked.
Ruvemir went on one knee before Sam, who was blushing furiously. "My Lord Samwise, I return your circlet, and ask that, only once, you don it as it was meant to be worn." So saying, he bowed his head and held out the circlet reverently. Slowly Sam took it, turned it, and finally placed it on his brow, holding his head up solemnly. Ruvemir looked up and took it in, then again bowed his head in honor. He then looked up again. "Remember, my Lord, that you are honored in the outer world, and rightly so. I have seen the scars you bear to that sacrifice, and have heard many tell of how close to death you and your beloved Master both were when you were found. And I myself saw how the clouds of Mordor were torn away when the two of you made it to the Chamber of Fire. All throughout the free lands felt that moment."
Rosie's eyes were sparkling with tears of pride, and Folco was looking at the dignity of his cousin's friend and heir with an expression of awe in his eyes. The Hobbit murmured, "We've heard so many strange things. Then, it's true?"
Sam lowered his eyes and nodded. "Yes, it's true--true enough."
"Neither would have made it without the other--all say so," Miriel said gently from where she'd knelt by her brother. Ririon had risen and had bowed deeply, one hand on his breast.
Folco rose respectfully and bowed, too, causing his host to blush even more furiously. "I know what the Thain said when we were at dinner with them, but somehow it means more now. Thank you, Sam, for what you did for all Middle Earth, as well as the Shire. Do they know how you helped replant the trees of the Shire, how you helped replant the gardens, and to rebuild the lost homes?"
"The King knows," Sam said softly. "He knows, and he knows as what Mr. Frodo done for the Shire, as well as Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin." He hugged the book closer to him.
"What do the letters say?" asked Folco.
"The Lord Panthael, The Faithful," Ruvemir explained.
"Was supposed to be Perhael, but Gimli wouldn't write it that way."
"No," Ruvemir smiled, "I can't imagine Gimli son of Gloin lying in his description of you. Please accept the homage of this Man of Gondor."
Elanor rose from her place by her mother's feet, and came to her father and held up her arms to be picked up. Once in his lap, she reached up and stroked the circlet her father wore. "So, its a crown for my da," she said.
"A circlet, dearling. The King has a crown--your da and your Uncle Frodo have circlets."
"Did Lord Frodo bear his away with him to the Undying Lands?" Ruvemir asked.
Sam shook his head. "No, he didn't. Mortal honors mean nothin' there."
"If his honors meant nothing there, he'd not have been allowed to go to begin with." Sam lowered his eyes in acknowledgment of this truth. "May I see it?"
Sam looked at him for a long moment, then nodded solemnly. He rose, still with that beautiful dignity, and led the way to the study.
In the corner a beautifully carved chest stood on a side table. Sam went to the desk, opened a drawer and removed a key, then went to the chest. "Mr. Drogo carved this, he did. One of the few pieces Mr. Frodo had of his dad's work. Mr. Drogo did carvin' of wood and joinin'. I've seen a few pieces of his work here and there. There's a beautiful sideboard as he did at the Council Hole in Michel Delving. Old Mr. Bilbo told me about it, and I seen it myself when Mr. Frodo was Deputy Mayor." He fitted the key in the lock and turned it. Inside atop other items lay a velvet bag, and he lifted it gently and reverently and opened it, carefully slipping out the mate to the circlet he himself wore, and held it out to the sculptor.
"The Lord Iorhael, The Ringbearer," Ruvemir read. His eyes closed involuntarily, and he realized he was weeping. He finally opened his eyes and looked into those of the Hobbit who'd made the dark journey alongside the one who'd worn this. "If only, if only I could have met him, your Master. All who saw him and who have spoken to me of him loved him so deeply." He looked back at the circlet, at the seven stars and the large, faintly blue stone that was set in the central star. "A sea diamond," he whispered, gently touching it with his index finger. "They are very rare." He gave it back to Sam, who held it out for Folco to examine.
Sam then took from the chest another wrapped bundle, opened it gently to reveal a fine shirt of tiny links of mithril, set about the neck with glittering gems and crystals; then he pulled out the glittering belt that held a black sheath ornamented with mithril and golden wires, set with more gems. He pulled out the Elven blade and gently held it out to Ruvemir. "And this is Sting," he said. Ruvemir took it with even deeper awe than before.
"I am holding a legend," the sculptor said at last, his voice low. He examined it carefully. "It is of ancient workmanship."
Sam nodded. "It glows blue when orcs or others of the Enemy's creatures come near," he said softly. "Or it did. Don't know as how many are left in Middle Earth now. Like the Elves, they'll most like all be gone in a few generations." After a moment's silence, he added, "It's so sad, really--the high and the low must go together. Oh, we can do without the likes of orcs and trolls and goblins and all; but to lose the Elves as well...."
Ririon came forward, and reverently accepted the sword from his guardian, while Miriel and Rose carefully examined Frodo's circlet. Carefully Ruvemir described the engraving on the blade, the decoration of the guard, the working of the pommel, then finally the sheath as Folco looked over their shoulders at it. Sam had taken a cleaning cloth out of the chest, and carefully wiped the blade before returning it to the sheath. Ririon gently fingered the glittering belt with its mithril links and the crystals and gems set along its length. "I saw it once, at the coronation of the King. I never saw it after."
"No, for he wouldn't wear a sword after that. He'd wear the mithril shirt under his clothes for protection as we rode, but not a sword no more. Had seen too much of hatred and killing. Kept giving it to me." Ririon returned the sheathed sword, and gently Sam wiped sheath and belt free of any fingerprints and laid it in the chest. Ririon then took the mithril shirt and held it.
"It feels so beautiful," the boy murmured.
"It is. Fair and lovely. Was made for an Elven Princeling, but never delivered--the Dragon Smaug came and took Erebor first. The Dwarves give it to Mr. Bilbo in honor of all he'd done to help them win back their realm under the Lonely Mountain, and old Mr. Bilbo give it to Mr. Frodo." He watched the boy gently examining the links and jeweled placket and neck with his fingers. "I sometimes wonder if it was intended for Legolas as when he were an Elfling. But I also suspect he were older than that. Maybe he has a son. Neither Elves nor Dwarves will easily speak of their loves to mortals, I've found."
"Or his brother may have a son," Ruvemir said. "I've met his brother--he carried me, I learned, to the Houses of Healing when I was so ill." He smiled. "I doubt its loss is regretted--that it served the Ringbearer would be seen as a greater need." Sam nodded, smiling.
"There's a ring here which feels bent a bit." Ririon indicated where the damage had been done.
"Yes, where the spear took him," Sam said. "The link cut right through the leather shirt he wore under it. The shirt was lost when they stripped him--they didn't give it to that Mouth of Sauron creature from what I heard. After, Gandalf gave Frodo a softly quilted shirt of silk to wear under it. He wore that when he left. Got right cold a good deal of the time, he did, and that silken shirt seemed to keep him warmer. Wore it under his regular shirt."
"How did the spider bite him through this?"
"Got him above it, on the back of the neck on the right side. But it stopped the spear, Sharkey's knife, and an arrow or two. It did its duty."
Ririon gave the shirt to Folco, and received the circlet from Miriel. He held it gently, and asked Ruvemir to describe the letters. "I wish I could read it myself," he whispered afterwards. "I can feel them."
"I bought you a book to help you learn your letters," Ruvemir said, "but it seems we just haven't been able to get that far as yet."
"I saw him in the city several times, and there was the time he came to stop me from being hit. I am so glad I got to meet him, Ruvemir. So glad!" Ruvemir, nodded, and embraced the boy.
"Strider give him a surcoat to wear over this, a beautiful thing it was. Think as it's in the clothes press in his room. Dark blue, it was. Faramir give him a mantle to match."
"I saw that, hanging in the dressing room."
"Strider give him a fine cloak, too, though he never wore either often. Always wore the Lorien cloak, he did, when he could."
"As you wear yours?"
"And as Mr. Pippin and Mr. Merry and Strider hisself wear theirs. Cepting Strider has to be more formal, so he has to wear mantles more often."
Ruvemir looked around the room. A sword hung over the fireplace. "That's an interesting blade over the mantel," he said.
"Was the one I took from the barrow, as Tom Bombadil give me."
On one end of the sword hung a portrait of Frodo. "Is this the only one done of Frodo that was deemed lifelike, then?"
"Yes, it was. The artist was an elderly Man, very wrinkled. Didn't do no carving hisself. But the sculptors wasn't interested in his work--not formal enough for them."
On the other side hung a different picture in blues and greens and purples. What it was Ruvemir wasn't sure. He examined the furniture with interest. "A lovely desk," he said.
Sam nodded. "The Red Book was written on it, mostly, cepting for what Mr. Bilbo wrote in Rivendell."
On the other side of the chest in which Frodo's mementos were kept with such honor stood a crystal case in which lay a number of odd shells. Ruvemir looked curiously at Sam. "What is that?"
Sam smiled, and reached out to pick it up, then held it for Ruvemir to see. "Shells," he said. "They're made by a water worm as lives in the stream down in the wood at the foot of the Hill. Frodo and me, when we was younger, would catch them and take their old shells away and give them different things to make new shells of, and this is what they left behind when they turned to flying things." He nodded to the picture Ruvemir hadn't been able to identify. "He did that painting of them for me, back when we was still young, afore the Ring came to him." He turned to the mantel, took up a tiny crystal box that lay below the picture in question. "Frodo gave them chipped stone one time. Here's the shell they made of that. Gimli sent me the crystal boxes for them. Otherwise they might dry up and fall apart. Some of the oldest did that."
Ruvemir carefully described these to Ririon, and Folco smiled. "I remember the jars with the worms in them on the window of the dining room," he commented. Both Hobbits smiled.
Miriel took the tiny crystal case that held the single shell and looked at it with interest. "So beautiful a thing from a water worm," she said.
Sam nodded. "Some of the smallest things give us the most in beauty and strangeness," he said.
Rosie placed her free arm over her husband's shoulders and looked at the circlet he wore. "Now," she said, "You put that in that box, too, you hear? Master Frodo's not the only Hobbit from this hole as deserves honoring, and you'd best remember that." Then she said in a gentler tone, "And he'd be most proud to have his circlet sharing its place with yours, you know that."
Sam's smile deepened, and gently the Lord Panthail kissed his wife.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.