The Master and the Gardener's Apprentice by Dreamflower

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Story Notes:

B2MeM Challenge: From this prompt by Grey Wonderer: Saradoc,young Sam,'What does the Master of Buckland do?
While Saradoc Brandybuck is either picking up or dropping off Merry at Bag End, Saradoc tries to explain the job of the Master of Buckland to a young, curious, Samwise Gamgee. Other characters welcome, the other Gamgee kids, Frodo listening in, Bilbo, the Gaffer, whatever you like.
Format: Ficlet
Genre: Fluff, Friendship
Rating: G
Warnings: n/a
Characters: Saradoc Brandybuck, Merry Brandybuck, Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee, Hamfast Gamgee (the Gaffer)
Pairings: n/a
Creators' Notes (optional): This story draws a lot on the fanon of my particular Shire-universe, in which Merry makes an annual long visit to Bag End every spring, and becomes good friends with Sam. Sam is about 11 in this story, which would make him about the physical equivalent of a Man-child of about 7, though he is more intellectually mature.


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The Master and the Gardener's Apprentice



Saradoc ambled along the path, watching as little Merry fairly flew ahead of him to where Frodo waited at Bag End's front door; he was carrying Merry's travelling case, and he was in no hurry. Let the young ones have their greeting.

He arrived at the step to hear Merry chattering away, telling his older cousin about the new foals in the Brandybuck stables, and other such important news. Frodo placed a gentle hand on top of Merry's head, and Merry instantly quieted down. "Hello, Uncle Sara. It's good to see you again," he said, "I've missed you and Aunt Esme."

But not enough to return to Buckland, Saradoc thought, pleased to see the healthy color and sparkling eyes of his cousin. "You are looking well, Frodo. Is Bilbo about?"

"You arrived a bit early." Frodo's tone was apologetic. "He had to go down to the market for a few things we were out of. He should have been back by now, though."

"Well," Saradoc handed Frodo Merry's case, "why don't you take Merry in and get him settled, and I'll have a pipe here on the bench by the door and wait for Bilbo?"

As the two youngsters turned into the smial, the chatter started up again, and Saradoc settled himself on the bench and took out his pipe. He leaned back and took an admiring look about the meticulously kept garden. Saradoc envied Bilbo the Gaffer, but knew he stood no chance of luring the fellow to Buckland. He was surprised to see young Sam on his knees next to the bed on the other side of the bench, trowel in hand and a flat of seedlings on the ground at his side. He smiled to see how carefully and quietly the child worked.

"Why, Samwise! You are so quiet, I didn't know you were there!"

"Thank 'ee, Mr. Brandybuck. Gaffer says as we should try not to be noticed when we work." Sam sat back on his knees, and tried to blow a sandy curl off his forehead.

Saradoc grinned; that was a gesture he'd often seen Merry make after he had been concentrating hard on a task. "Merry will be glad to see you, Sam. I hope that you will be spared from your work to play with him some while he is here."

Sam gave him a sunny smile, his warm brown eyes twinkling. "I hope so, too! Gaffer says so long as Mr. Bilbo still wants me to, I can when I finish my work in the morning. Mr. Bilbo won't let me work morning and afternoon anyhow."

"Bilbo is a wise hobbit. He knows that growing lads need to play as well as work."

"That's what he told Gaffer." A troubled shadow appeared on Sam's face. "Mr. Brandybuck, my Gaffer told me as when we get older, me 'n' Merry won't be friends, 'cause Merry's going to be Master of Buckland one day." Sam sighed. "Gaffer says as I shouldn't hold it against him, 'cause that's just the way it is, 'cause it's in the Brandybuck family, like me gardening is in the Gamgee family. What does the Master of Buckland do? Are you the Master of Buckland?"

With a sigh of his own, Saradoc shook his head. "The Master of Buckland is the Head of the Brandybucks, and must run things for the whole kit and caboodle of the kin who live in Buckland. And he also is responsible for those who live in Buckland and are not kin. I am not yet the Master. My father, Old Rory, still holds that duty, Sam. But I will be one day, and Merry will be the Master after me. I hope both those days are far off."

"How come, sir?"

"Because right now, I am the Son of the Hall, but I will become the Master when my da dies, and then Merry will be the Son of the Hall until I die."

"Oh." Sam looked distressed. "I hope they're far off days, too, sir! Merry would be mighty sad when that happens. Is that 'cause you're gentry? I can work in the garden and be a gardener now. I don't have to wait 'til the Gaffer dies." The child shuddered at the terrible thought.

"Yes, Sam, that is why."

"Well, then, I'm ever so glad I'm not gentry. But I will miss Merry being my friend when he gets old." He took his trowel and carefully planted another little bedding plant.

This was delicate. Saradoc did not wish to contradict Sam's father. The Gaffer had his own prickly pride. But Merry had already given his friendship to Sam, and he knew his son--he might not have the time to visit Bag End often when he grew older, but he would always consider Sam a friend. "Sam, you know, Merry won't stop being your friend. He might not be able to come as often, even to see Frodo, once he has his own duties. But he will still be your friend and you can be his."

"So, what does the Master do to take care of his kin?" Sam patted the soil around the tiny plant, and then dug another hole.

"Things are a little different in Buckland, Sam. The Master and his family work right along with everyone else when a job needs doing; but he also has to make sure that everyone else does their job as well. My da always says that the only difference between the working hobbits and the gentry is that the gentry have more responsibilities and have to wear more uncomfortable clothes."

Sam looked up at Saradoc in his wool suit and weskit, high collar and cravat, and giggled. "I don't think I could do any work in clothes like that, Mr. Brandybuck, begging your pardon."

"Samwise!" The Gaffer came around the corner of the smial. "Who are you a' talking to? You don't want to be pestering folk with all your yammer!" Then he caught sight of Saradoc sitting there. "Begging your pardon, Mr. Brandybuck! Has Sam been a' bothering you?"

"Not at all, Master Hamfast," replied Saradoc. "He is busy working, but we were also having a pleasant conversation."

"Well, I suppose that's all right, then." He turned to Sam. "Are you done with them bedding plants yet?" he asked.

Sam looked up at his father. "I just have two more as needs to go in the ground, and then take the watering can to them."

"Good job, then, see to it! And then put the can and the trowel and the flat back in the garden shed. It's time we go down to Number Three; your ma will be waiting lunch for us. I do believe she put a ham bone in the beans."

Sam grinned and hurried to finish his task, though he was still careful with the little plants. Then he rushed off to put his tools away, his father watching him run.

"Sam is a fine little gardener already, Master Hamfast." said Saradoc.

"Thank 'ee, kindly, Mr. Brandybuck. I think as he's shaping up well enough, though I say it as shouldn't. Are you sure he weren't bothering you?"

"He was not. I do hope you will allow him to come up after lunch. I know Meriadoc will be glad to see him. He looks forward to playing with Sam almost as much as he does seeing Frodo."

The Gaffer looked doubtful at that statement, but said, "Aye, Mr. Bilbo already asked could he come up and visit today after Master Merry came, and no doubt take tea as well. His mam will make sure he scrubs up good afore he comes back."

Saradoc saw and understood the doubt. "Sam's a good lad, and I am pleased that he and Merry get on. I think he's a good example for Merry."

This made the Gaffer blink. Mr. Brandybuck sure didn't act like gentry; mayhap things were different across the Brandywine. That might account for some of Frodo's easy ways--and mayhap Mr. Bilbo, too, who spent enough time there every winter. Folks always said Bucklanders was queer.

Sam came barrelling back around the side of the smial and skidded to a stop next to his father. "Everything is put away now, Gaffer!"

The Gaffer and Sam took their leave, Sam holding his father's hand and skipping alongside him. At the gate, both paused to give Bilbo a nod as he entered, a laden market basket on his arm.

Bilbo smiled to see Saradoc there. "Well, hello, Sara! I am sorry I was delayed and could not be here to greet you, but Lobelia cornered me at the greengrocer's and I had to listen to her harangue me on letting down the Baggins family standards. It's good to see a pleasant face."

"That's quite all right, Bilbo! I was enjoying a nice conversation with little Sam! He's quite a treat."

"He is, indeed," agreed Bilbo, "and Frodo has no stauncher friend here in Hobbiton."

"I'm glad to hear it! Now, I do hope that you have a substantial luncheon planned, for my stomach is trying mightily to get my attention!"

Bilbo laughed as they entered the smial. "I should say so," he said. "There is a lamb stew on the hearth, and fresh bread, as well. Not to mention some of my honeycakes for afters..."




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