Written for: Celeritas
I would like to see Pippin's first meeting with Sam. I'm open to any scenario or plot, but bonus points if Sam has to get Pippin out of some sort of mischief along the way.
Setting: Bag End, pre-Quest
Characters: Sam, Pippin, Frodo, Merry
Summary: Sam finds an intruder in Bag End's garden.
The problem with Mr. Bilbo, thought Sam as he morosely surveyed the garden, was that he was right far too often for his own good. Even when he was gone he was right. Gone! The rumour had spread like wildfire through the party, and Sam had gone behind a hedge and wept. He didn’t suppose he’d ever see the old Master again.
And the wily old fox had been planning it, too, for what he had told Sam yesterday, just before the party, only made sense now—“Most folks’ll probably be abed by the time you’re up for tomorrow’s work, Sam. But you’d still best be double-sharp for any scavengers about, no matter how early. Frodo will probably be abed, too, as long as he can manage it, and I’d like you to keep an eye on him for me.” And then he had patted Sam on the head (though really Sam felt he was a bit old for that sort of thing), smiled, and walked off whistling to himself as if he had just enjoyed some sort of immense private joke.
And he had, Sam thought glumly, for he’d up and left, leaving Master—no, he reminded himself, that was Mister now—Frodo to fend for himself against the ruckus that would surely follow.
And follow it had. For it was only an hour past dawn, and while there was no one hammering at the door to Bag End yet, it was clear that someone had already mucked about in the garden, doubtless to get at old Mr. Bilbo’s treasure, just as Mr. Bilbo had said. And how was he supposed to go about looking after Mr. Frodo (for he was sure now that Mr. Bilbo wasn’t referring to laying about in bed) when there was a garden to be set in order?
And whoever the vagrant was hadn’t been content to dig about for treasure. First he had struck at the orchard, picking up all the day’s windfallen apples, taking one hobbit-sized bite out of them, and then scattering them pell-mell on the grass where even now ants were greedily attacking them. So much for the baked apples he’d thought of making the young Master that night.
Then he’d made his way through the vegetable garden, tearing up the few old carrots that were only good for stock and removing two full heads of cabbage, only stopping to rest beneath the rosebushes outside the wine cellar.
In fact, Sam realised, the trail stopped at the rosebushes and didn’t pick up again—and this young scavenger had left a trail everywhere else. Panic gripped his heart as he imagined a team of young burglars digging their way into the smial. But no, the grass on the hole’s wall was undisturbed—it was only the garden that was damaged. Suddenly nervous, he looked at the ground disturbed beneath the rosebushes. Half-burrowed, half-buried underneath, was a child—not older than ten or eleven—sleeping as peacefully as if the dirt he lay in were down.
For a moment this was too much for Sam; how to deal with a sleeping child who had quite happily ruined the garden was far beyond his limited experience. But it was clear he would have to deal with it. Old Mr. Bilbo was gone and flown, his gaffer’s joints disagreed with the early morning, and the young Master was still abed and would likely need every bit of sleep he got. So, unsure of what else to do, he rapped the young scamp on the shoulder and said in the gruffest voice he could manage, “Hoy there! What’re you doing?”
The child yawned, rubbed at his eyes, and then opened them to focus on Sam. For a moment he looked quite unsure of the answer himself, but presently he rose from his den, brushed the dirt from his trousers, and calmly said, “I thought it was obvious. I am running away.”
Inwardly Sam groaned as soon as the fellow spoke, for his accent instantly marked him as gentry, which meant he was probably no local lad but one of the Guests, whose parents had never kept him from mischief with a good day’s hard work and would probably be most upset when they learned he had gone missing. But he had not said anything about the fabled treasure of Bag End, and Sam cautiously took this as a good sign.
“Are you now?” said Sam.
“Ye-ess,” said the gentry lad, fixing Sam with a stare Sam normally associated with farmers and rather slow but completely stubborn bulls. “Isn’t a lad permitted to do that from time to time?”
“Not when he’s traipassing on other folks’ property, he ain’t.”
“Oh!” said the lad, colouring. “Is this your garden?”
“No,” said Sam, “but it’s my Master’s, and he’ll be right displeased when he finds out that some fellow as is running away has decided to go and ruin other folks’ property. In fact, he may even decide to return the fellow to the people he’s running away from.”
“Oh,” said the lad. “That’d be no fun. I suppose I’d have to run away all over again.”
“Assuming you’d want to once they’d gotten through with you.”
“Hmm. Perhaps. I’ve never run away before, you see, so I don’t exactly know how they’d react. I was hoping ‘frightened half to death and so overwhelmed with joy at my return that they never neglect me again’ would do. But it hasn’t been nearly long enough for me to be certain that’s how they would react, so if you don’t mind I’ll just be on my way now…”
“Not so fast!” cried Sam, grabbing the gentry lad by the collar. “You’ve pulled up my carrots and my cabbages, and et one bite out of every apple in the orchard, and mayhap where you come from that’s permitted, but here it ain’t.”
“I’m sorry,” said the gentry lad, lower lip quivering. (Sam suspected the fellow was an expert in the preparation and serving of sauce.) “But I was so terribly hungry I thought I should go mad…”
“Are you trying to tell me you ran away from your family and didn’t think to pack food?”
“Well… not really… yes…” The lad’s stomach rumbled in testimony.
“Well,” said Sam grimly, “you’re not having a bite to eat till you’ve given me full satisfaction.”
“Satisfaction. In the old tales there was a law, if you took or damaged or kilt something that was somebody else’s, you had to pay something called a ‘weregild,’ to make up for what you’d done; and I happen to like the old tales. So before I let you on your way, you’ll have to pay to make up for the damage you’ve done, or it’s straight off to my Master.”
Sighing, the lad reached into his pocket and drew out a fistful of coins. Most of them were copper, but one was silver.
“No,” said Sam, “I’m afraid it’s at least twice that much,” and he was grateful the gentry lad had showed him his coin before he’d been forced to name a price; for he did not know how much pocket money these fellows normally received and did not want him to buy his way out of this mess.
“That’s all I have,” he said.
“Then you’ll have to be put to work,” said Sam.
“Work?” Again the lower lip trembled.
“I’m sorry,” said Sam, “but there’s no other way. And I feel right horrid having to do it, seeing as this is work for the likes of me and not of you, if you take my meaning, but then I suppose if you’re running away from home you can’t be too choosy about the sort of work you get.”
“The work I get?”
“Well, that money will hardly last you forever, and you’d best not count on your ability to wheedle gammers out of their hard-cooked meals if you want to eat. You’ll have to get yourself a situation, and quick. Why, if you’re a good enough helper I daresay my gaffer and me would be willing to take you on.”
The look of abject horror on the lad’s face was almost enough to make Sam give it up and turn him over to Mr. Frodo, but it was still so early in the day.
“But first,” said Sam, “you are going to help me in the garden, till I deem you’ve done enough work to make up for the damage you’ve dealt. And don’t even think of sneaking off bits of food from the garden; I’ll be keeping both my eyes trained on you and some of the plants are poison anyhow.”
By the look on his face this was enough to keep the young scamp from eating anything, which was just to Sam’s liking. He’d already wreaked enough madness on the garden to be picking anything more from it like a stray rabbit.
“And if I hear one word of complaint out of you, it’s straight off to my Master you’ll go, you hear?”
The lad nodded.
“Good. Let’s get to work, then.”
First he set the lad to restoring the orchard, cutting off the bits of apple that were now being attacked by ants, and then peeling and coring them and setting them in a spare barrel. Now that Sam thought about it they’d make for a fine batch of apple butter. The lad was true to his nod and did not even speak as they both worked. But the smell of the apples must have been maddening.
When it came to raking over the damaged bits of the garden, and composting those fragments of the plants that could not be saved, however, he began to mutter under his breath.
“Yes?” said Sam.
“Nothing,” said the lad.
“Very well,” said Sam. “I thought you’d been complaining.”
“I haven’t,” said the lad. “It’s just—well, I hardly think you’d understand.”
Sam said nothing.
“I just wish I hadn’t had to run away and get into this mess.” He waited a few more minutes to see if Sam would consider this a “complaint” or not. On hearing nothing he continued. “But nobody was paying any attention to me at the party, except for Vinca because she kept on poking me when nobody was looking. They were all with my cousins, which I suppose is fair enough since it was their party, but I wasn’t even allowed into main tent for old Bilbo’s speech, because it was ‘too late’ for me; and even though I wanted to sneak out and watch to see if he’d pull any sort of trick they took me all the way back to the inn and tucked me up in bed, and of course he did pull a trick as I found out when everyone else got back at midnight or later, and I didn’t even get to see it. And now that’s what everyone will be talking about, and I may as well be the one that’s invisible, so you see I really had to run away to get everything back in its proper order. It’s high time I was appreciated again.”
“Believe me,” said Sam, “your work here is appreciated.”
“I knew you wouldn’t understand.” The lad sighed and kicked at the dirt.
Sam allowed himself a small smile as he finished restoring the dirt by the rosebushes. Some people just didn’t know humour when they saw it.
“Though I suppose you haven’t even heard of half the things I was talking about anyhow.”
“I caught the name of Bilbo Baggins.”
“Well, yes, but everyone’s heard of him. He’s vanished, you know.”
“Disappeared right into thin air, if what everyone said is true. I imagine the rumours will be here in a couple of days—well—you heard it from me, first.”
“Where did you run away from, anyhow?”
“From the Green Dragon Inn in—can’t remember the town’s name.”
“Bywater. This is Hobbiton, not a mile’s walk northwest. Whole town was invited, and those as wasn’t invited themselves. We know the rumours.”
“Hobbiton? But that’s where Bilbo and Frodo live!”
“Right you are, my lad.”
“Then… then this isn’t the Northfarthing?”
“It didn’t look very far on my dad’s maps… You see, I have some distant kin up there and I thought I’d surprise them with a visit until my family missed me enough to take me home again.”
“Well, the Northfarthing isn’t too far from here, but that’s only the southern edge, of course, and there’s no roads that reach there from here. Then nigh straightaway you’re in a wood, and if that don’t turn you around by the time you’re out of it it’s still several miles before you reach any sort of town to ask for directions. It’s a good thing you stopped here, for I’d hate to hear of someone not from these parts getting his self lost. I’m afraid it’d take you at least a week, maybe a fortnight, to find your kin at the way you’re going.”
The gentry lad sighed. “This is by far the worst day of my whole life.”
“Cheer up!” said Sam. “You’ve done enough work to pay back for the damage you’ve done.”
“Really? May I go now?”
“No, for you still need to pay back for the food you took.”
“Ohhh…” The lad clutched at his back as if he were an old gaffer. “I hope it’s not much…”
“Not much at all! Just come with me into the shed and I’ll show you what to do.”
As soon as the lad took a step inside he pinched his nose shut. “What is that horrid smell?”
“That, my lad,” said Sam, “is the smell of growing things.” He motioned the lad to follow him to a washbasin, in the middle, filled with some sort of liquid, in which was sitting a large burlap sack. “This here is the food for the plants. First I need you to take out that sack and empty it on the compost.”
The lad gingerly lifted the sack from the basin; the stuff that dripped from it was brown. “It smells like manure!”
“Aye, and don’t knock it, for my old gaffer swears by its powers. Now go and dump it on the compost, and then come back here.”
When thrice the time for the job had passed Sam wondered if this had proven too much for the lad and he had fled, but he came back, with the empty sack in hand, looking utterly miserable.
“Now,” said Sam, “take this here can,” he handed him a watering can, “fill it, and feed those plants as I tell you to.”
For a moment the lad stood there, watering can clutched to his chest and looking in fear at the basin. Then he found hanging on the wall a dipper and took it.
“Steady,” said Sam. “That’s for drinking water, and I’ll not have you taint it. Just dip the can in the tub like anyone else.”
Squeezing his eyes shut, the lad plunged the can into the tub, trying not wet his hands but failing utterly.
“All right,” he said when he lifted it out. “Whereto?”
The lad was exceedingly glad when, after the tub was empty and rinsed, he was allowed to wash the offending water from his hands in the small stream that ran at the foot of the Hill. He sniffed at his hands. “They still smell!”
Sighing, Sam passed him the small cake of soap he’d retrieved from the shed for that purpose. When at last the lad was clean from head to toe he took him by the shoulders.
“Now,” said Sam, “we’d best see what to do with you next. You’re free to go, of course, but as I’d said you’re going to need some sort of way to earn your bread wherever you go and the next fellow you run into may not be as kind about it as me. Now if you’d like, I can go talk with my gaffer and see if he’s willing to take you on as an extra hand, or—”
“Actually,” said the gentry lad, “I think I had better go and see your master, if he really can get me back to my family. All of this ‘running away’ business isn’t half the fun I’d chalked it up to be.”
“Very well,” said Sam. He took him to the base of the Hill. “It’s the one up top,” he said, “with the round green door with the shiny brass knob right in the middle. You can’t miss it.”
A look of genuine relief came over the lad’s face and he ran up the hill, not even stopping to say “Thank you.” Sam sat down and wiped his handkerchief over his face. It had to be at least ten o’clock. He hoped it was long enough for Mr. Frodo to have gotten his rest.
“Pip?” said Merry when, squinting in the morning’s light, he opened the door to Bag End. Instantly the figure launched itself at Merry, tackling him about the waist and very nearly knocking him over.
“Merry! Oh, I’ve had the most dreadful time of it, and I’m so incredibly famished, and—”
“What are you doing here?”
“I was running away,” said Pippin. “But I’ve now realised it was a very bad thing for me to do, and I shan’t ever do it again, and—say, what are you doing here?”
“I’m helping our cousin to deal with the inevitable flurry of visitors, though we had both hoped no one would arrive as early as you…”
“Yes. Where did you think you were?”
“Well, I thought it was the Northfarthing at first, but then I learnt it was Hobbiton, and—oh, this is Bilbo and Frodo’s home, isn’t it?”
“I should have thought you’d recognise it.”
“Well, I’ve only been here twice, unlike you.”
“I know. You knew Frodo before I was born, and he’s your favourite cousin, and—”
“Pippin. Nobody is my favourite cousin. I like them all. But, if you’re good, I suppose we can keep you here until your mum and dad show up, in which case I can spend a lovely morning with two of my favourites…”
“Really? Oh, Merry, that’d be so marvellous and—can we eat first? I’ve been starved!”
“Just a moment,” said Merry, and he went down the hall to see Frodo, who was still in his dressing gown and not a little groggy, to explain to him that this morning’s intruder was not a curious guest but his young cousin, and then began to set about making breakfast. It was not until all three of them were seated at table that he learned exactly how young Peregrin Took had been so thoroughly persuaded never to run away again.
Sam, in the meantime, did not learn of his young charge’s fate until four days later, after all of the madness at Bag End had died down enough for Frodo to turn his mind to other things. He was packing up his tools just at sundown when the young Master came outdoors for a pipe in the autumn air.
“I was shocked,” he began, “when one of my younger cousins popped up on my doorstep the other day at ten in the morning.”
Sam said nothing.
“But I was still more shocked when I heard from his lips that he had spent the night in the garden and then had been put to work without a meal!”
“Begging your pardon, Mr. Frodo, but I was only—”
But Frodo laughed and clapped Sam on the back. “It’s the first time I’ve ever heard of anyone getting him to do a task for such a length of time. And then to learn that he had been running away from his family and was now keen to get back to them—however did you manage it?”
Sam slowly turned red. “I set him to work at feeding the plants. And believe me, sir, I knew it wasn’t very proper and all, but as I said to him if he was running away from his home he didn’t have no station, and—”
“You told him he’d have to work for his living, eh? And then you gave him enough work of the sort he wouldn’t like, to so thoroughly disgust him with the idea of running away that he came quite gladly to me! You are a clever one, aren’t you, Sam?”
“Mr. Frodo, I only meant to keep him off your hands for a few hours, until you could have enough time to rest…”
“If you say so. I simply marvel at the fact that you were able to turn that young fellow’s attitude around so well and so quickly. How much do we pay you, again?”
Again Sam blushed. “You know that, Mr. Frodo.”
“Well, don’t be surprised if it goes up soon. You’re a very sharp fellow and I’m glad to have you work for me.”
Sam knew better than to protest at this, so he simply said, “Thank you, sir. Is there aught else you’ll be needing?”
Frodo fixed him with a peculiar look. “I am capable of taking care of myself, Sam, even with my uncle gone.”
“I know, Master, but—”
“He told you to look after me, didn’t he?” When Sam made no reply, he went on and said, “Well, bless him for it. No, there’s nothing I’ll need tonight, Sam; thank you. Give my regards to your family when you get home.”
“Thank you, sir,” said Sam, and with a short bow of the head he went on to put his tools away.
Over the years young Sam knew enough of his Master’s goings on to hear of one Master Peregrin Took, but whenever he came to visit he always came with enough family that Frodo Baggins could not put them up at Bag End for the night. And as the people he came and visited with were Important Folk, Sam never got enough of a peep at him to connect him with the gentry lad who had ruined his garden so many years ago. It was not until Pippin had turned twenty that his family finally allowed him to visit with Cousin Frodo on his own (though even then he was accompanied by his cousin Merry). When he arrived at midday and had finished re-exploring the smial to his heart’s content, he said, “Ah, yes—Pippin, there is someone I have been long overdue in introducing you to,” and he took him outside to where Sam was working in the garden. “Peregrin Took, this is Samwise Gamgee, my gardener.”
Sam looked up from where he was working and dropped his shears in astonishment.
“Why,” said Pippin, “you’re that beastly gardener lad!”
“And you’re the gentry scamp!” Remembering his manners, Sam rose and wiped off his hands. “And I hope you don’t take no offence to what I did then, sir. I was just trying to keep you off Mr. Frodo’s hands long enough that he could get his rest.”
Pippin paused a moment, then held out his hand to take Sam’s. “You can’t say any fairer than that, I suppose. I’ve always been quite a handful, or so my mother says.”
And Sam smiled and when Peregrin Took went back inside thought back to that day almost nine years ago. It was the first time he had told off the future Thain of the Shire, but it would not be the last.