On these journeys out and about on my own in the full bloom of summer, I wander the Shire for days on end enjoying the hospitality of the various inns to be found. Uncle Bilbo, in our travels together, educated me well on the Shire inns. Some are wonderful for sleeping in, but the food is, well, only almost palatable, if that. Others, the ale and food are plentiful and worth the trip just for the mealtime spread, unfortunately, the sleeping accommodations are not what could be called desirable. He also ensured that I knew at which inns I would find the better of both. I in turn must also be careful to reassure Sam that his meals are the ones I love best, telling him they are the reason I return home to Bag End. I suspect he would be embarrassed if I confessed I missed his company, so I keep that to myself. Truth be told, it is a bit difficult to admit even to myself for I shouldn't depend on him too much. Someday I will follow Uncle Bilbo, and I prefer to be able to leave with no regrets, yet I am also oddly comforted by the thought of Sam being here when I return.
Merry, Pippin and Fatty showed up on my front doorstep today, not unlike the post, dependable as always, and in time for second breakfast. Seems they arrived with a bit of wandering in mind. They determined it high time we start the rounds of the inns in the Shire, as we have done the last few years. Fortunately, the previous day, I returned from a few days away. I chose not to enlighten them on how I had already begun this particular exploration on my own. Truthfully, I did not want to endure their hurt or accusing scrutiny, however unintentional, at the thought that I started this annual event without them. Hopefully, an inn will be chosen to which I have not yet visited this year.
Delighted as I was by their welcomed appearance, I felt rather less carefree than in all the years past. The three of them have no serious responsibilities, still being in their tweens, at one end or the other. But it wasn't long before they laughingly persuaded me, without much difficulty at all, to go awandering with them. This time, I convinced Sam to come along with a wink, assuring him I needed him to watch over me. Looking back, things really have changed. Only a year ago, I would not have worried whether Sam came or not. I always enjoyed his company, but I accepted out of hand that he had his duties to fill. Now that I have such things of my own, light though they may be, I find Sam's presence comforting. Or more likely perhaps, I've simply grown accustomed to knowing that he will have the water ready hot, breakfast laid, and awaken me if needs be. Besides, it truly goes without saying I much prefer Sam's gentle manner of waking me. My dear cousins seem to take far too much glee in rousing me as rudely as possible with Fatty egging them on. I try not to think about it. Perhaps this is when I most notice the difference in our ages. Though I always bestow a quailing look, it never deters them from repeating the ritual again, and again. Someday, the tables will turn; I'll make sure of that, when I get around to it.
I find myself breathing a silent sigh of relief when they finally decided on a little inn just the other side of Pincup. In truth, it has been years since Uncle Bilbo and I stayed at the place, being but a short distance from here, just a good stretch of the legs and a fine choice for a first summertime out and about. As I remember, though the sleeping arrangements were adequate enough then, I do fervently hope the food's improved. I chose not to share this last thought with my fellow travelers for fear they might decide on someplace different instead, perhaps a spot frequented by myself recently. I did not want to chance visiting an inn where my return might be noted and commented on.