Equal Courtesies by Larner

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My birthday mathom for 2017, with thanks to all!

Equal Courtesies

            “Are you certain as Mr. Frodo’s willin’ t’ do our weddin’, too?” asked young Tom Cotton as he followed his friend Sam Gamgee up the lane to Bag End.

            “Of course he’ll be willin’ to do yours and Marigold’s weddin’,” Sam assured him as he paused at the gate to the front steps.  “He’s known you ever since he come to Bag End as Mr. Bilbo’s ward, and Marigold almost all her life!  She’s played in the gardens since she was a faunt, after all, and has helped out when there’s visitors expected for years, not to mention she and our other sisters have done the laundry for Bag End since our mum died.  You’re almost as much family as we Gamgees are, after all.  Now, come along!”

            He opened the gate and held it for his companion to go first, but Tom balked.  “Why ain’t we goin’ in through the kitchen?” Tom asked, eyeing the gate askance.

            Sam sighed.  “Him won’t let me come in the back way no more.  Says as there wouldn’t be no Bag End for him to come home to if it wasn’t for me, and that after what we went through together in Mordor, we’re brothers now, so I must use the front door same as him.  And that goes for anyone with me.  Now, come through afore I let go and the gate swings shut in your face.”

            Shaking his head, Tom did as directed, and was just as wondering when Sam simply opened the front door and shepherded him through without either knocking or ringing the bell.  In less than a minute Sam had Tom’s cap and jacket hanging on a peg beside Sam’s own jacket, and he was leading the way past the more comfortable daily parlor into the passage leading back toward the kitchen and bedrooms.  Tom paused at a newly hung picture of what appeared to be a city built on the sides of a great hill, with an even higher one behind it.  Sam, ignoring him, had gone on to the half-open door to Mr. Frodo’s study and was knocking upon it.  “Master?  Mister Frodo?” 

            There was a scraping of a chair within the room, and in tones to match those just used by Sam, Tom heard a reply.  “Mister Samwise, sir?  May I help you?”

            The amazing picture was forgotten immediately as Tom straightened in astonishment and turned toward the study.  Is Mister Frodo mocking Sam?he asked himself.  He hurried forward to Sam’s side, and found that Sam stood, flushing, his hands clasped before his stomach, facing Mr. Frodo Baggins, who stood in an identical posture facing Sam, his own attitude deferential and full of a level of concern that ought not to be seen on the face of the Master of Bag End.  When Frodo realized that Sam was not alone his cheeks began to turn rosy, but he did not change his expression toward Sam.

            “Master!” objected Samwise Gamgee.  “It’s not for you t’defer to me.”

            “And why not, Mister Samwise?” Frodo asked.  “Would I have lived to finish the quest, much less return, had you not gone far beyond your duty in going with me all of the way to the Mountain?  I owe you far, far more than you do me, and you know it.  We are equals now, and you had best not forget that, either, my Lord Perhael.”

            At that he turned his attention to Tom, and his attitude changed to one Tom found far more familiar.  “Ah, Master Cotton!  And have you and Marigold decided on when you wish to be married?  Would you prefer it to be in the village common, or in the Party Field, or out at your family’s farm?  Do come in and sit down there on the sofa, and we will work out the details, shall we?”

            Sam appeared relieved.  “Shall I bring some tea, then?”

            Frodo smiled.  “If you bring some for yourself as well, Sam, and join us.  Although perhaps we ought to have your sister here, too, so Marigold can make her own wishes plain to us.”

            Sam hurried off down the Hill to Number 3 to fetch the youngest of his sisters, leaving Young Tom sitting stiffly on the sofa in the study of Bag End, uncertain as to what to think of what he’d seen and heard so far between his friend and Sam’s Master. 

            Mr. Frodo sat quietly in his chair at the study desk, his eyes fixed on his hands in his lap for a few minutes before he spoke.  “I do hope that you do not mistake my attitude toward Sam, Tom.  I would never, never seek to mock him, you know.  But he will keep trying to force us back into the roles we knew before we left the Shire, even though we have both been changed greatly by what we underwent—Outside.  He is no longer in my employ, you see.  Or, at least, not the way he was before.  And I feel that Bag End is as much his as it is mine.  I could not have restored it as he saw done, considering how badly it suffered under Sharkey and the Big Men’s occupation.”

            He looked up, his gaze now fixed on Tom’s face.  “I hope that soon the whole of the Shire will recognize that Sam Gamgee is no mere servant, but is a Hobbit of substance in his own right.  He deserves such respect for what he accomplished, Tom!  He’s not just my gardener, but is indeed a Lord of the Realm, recognized as such by Dwarves, Men, and Elves as well as the Great Eagles and even the Ents of Fangorn Forest!  I refuse to show him any less deference than he displays to me.  I want him to accept fully that his place as one of the King’s Counselors is no less than that of anyone in all of Middle Earth, and particularly no less than my own.”

            “I see,” murmured Tom Cotton, but in reality he didn’t know what to think of this unexpected communication.  How on earth could Sam Gamgee be a Counselor to the new King?  And what did Mr. Frodo mean by declaring that Sam was a Lord of the Realm?

            But then they heard the front door opening and Marigold’s voice asking a question of her brother, and all of Tom’s questions flew out of his head as his heart filled with the realization that he and his beloved were one step closer to being wed!




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