Samwise Gamgee could not remember a morning (well, a green-kissed Spring morning, or one heated by Summer, or yet another ambered with Fall….Winter mornings, tight with mud-flecked snow and cold, might yet be another tale) when he had not started his day in the gardens of Bag End. And after the Travellers had returned to the Shire, he always made certain to look in on the Master, of a morning…….
And, mostly, he found Frodo, if not his former self, at the very least determinedly cheerful, and thoughtfully at work in his study. Shockingly, he had even, upon occasion, had the foresight to not only build up the fire in the grate, but to provision himself against the day with BilboÙs largest and most gaudy tea-pot ( a gift of the dwarves, no doubt, as Sam sincerely doubted that Elves would show such lack of proper taste).
But not today. There was no familiar tang of wood-smoke upon the air, no grey spiral from the studyÙs well-hidden chimney.
Sam was not worried……he kept telling himself that as his knock (and then the subsequent pull at the bell, recently installed, and sounding most celestially Elvish) went unanswered…..
He was not worried…..no, no……..no……
Sam's hand was upon the roundness of the knob (for he well knew that Frodo never locked the door), when it turned quite suddenly in his grip and the door reluctantly granted him a view of a very disheveled and not-quite-angry-looking Baggins……who also just happened to be, not only his best friend, but his Master, as well.
Sam, who had long ago mostly given up using the honorific, found it (and his voice) again.
“Mr. Frodo! Is there somewhat amiss, sir?”
Frodo seemed to consider the slight stain of dirt beneath his non-existent nails worthy of scholarly attention, for he directed his gaze in a most concentrated way to the study of those nine crescents.
“Sam” Frodo held the door open to the very least degree possible. “No, there is nothing ‘amiss', as you put it. I am………(and here Frodo paused, as if looking for words, or perhaps merely choosing them with care) ………busy. Yes. Busy. An Elven translation of …….(and here the soft voice sang out the almost musical tones that Sam loved so well)……'Irme Hwandi a vell Taure'.”
Sam cleared his throat. “Well, Mr. Frodo, that's a mouthful, and no mistake. But don't you suppose, sir, that you could do with a bit of tea to go with that translation? It sounds like thirsty work to me.”
Frodo's attention to his nails became, if anything, more pronounced. “Thank you, Sam, but no. I think I'll just get straight on with it and not stop until luncheon.” He made to shut the door, only to find that Sam's foot had become quite wedged between the opening and the closing of it.
“SAM! Whatever is the matter with you?!”
Now Frodo truly did appear angry…..not to mention that there was a distressing drift of smoke coming from the general direction of the kitchen. Even with the door partially shut-to, Sam could see the thick greyness of it, and smell something burning……deliciously burning.
“Frodo Baggins, you had best look at me.”
Frodo was still playing at innocence, but losing out rapidly, as Sam noted when shamed eyes met his at last.
“If you let me in right quick, we still may be able to rescue them, sir.”
Frodo's gaze fell once more to the stubborn examination of his nails.
“I've no idea what you are talking about, Sam.”
Sam's broad hand took gentle hold of his shoulder.
“Mr. Frodo. We've been There…..and Back again, and I think by now that your Sam knows what's in your mind and in your heart…….(and here Frodo looked up, as much distressed by Sam's call upon his seemingly compromised honour as by the ever-thickening cloud issuing behind him)…..
“Most of all, Mr. Frodo, your Sam knows his Elvish, though how you strung ‘mushroom' into ‘desired fungus of the forest' is more than I can rightly account for.”
Much later, Sam finally did contrive to make the promised tea, which Frodo graciously took with him, along with the largest skillet of almost-not-burned spoils of Maggot's labours Sam had ever seen. Followed, inevitably, by buttered scones hollowed and filled with raw versions of the same prize. (Sam noted that, after his initial debate with himself upon the necessity of sharing his most cherished delicacy, Frodo surrendered with the utmost grace, sparing hardly a glance at Sam's burdened plate and even asking him (TWICE!) if he could help him to more).
It was late afternoon when Sam finally saw the last of the dishes set clean in its place. Frodo was safely in his study, well away from further temptation. Perhaps he was truly at work now upon a translation of crystalline Elven difficulty.
Sam smiled to himself. The Young Master certainly was no match for the Old when it came to being the sly rascal that had netted the family the name of “Baggins” in the first place. But he had his moments. Oh, yes, he had.
And, remembering all of them, as he did, Sam sighed and opened the window to let in the sure Light of the fire-falling stars………
and breathed out into the night the words that had become more promise than statement, more a part of a foreseen letting go than a known holding-fast:
“I love him, whether or no.”
And Sam closed the familiar door quietly behind him and walked down the night-misted Hill.