Where Many Paths and Errands Meet
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 3 Part 3
with Mama Gamgee
(September 22, 1451)
The kitchen welcomed
father and son with the robust aroma and the popping
sizzle of bacon and eggs frying up with fat chunks of
'taters. Mama Gamgee diced fresh mushrooms in as she
called over her shoulder, "Frodo, did you get any
fruit with your first breakfast?"
"No, Ma. I didn't have time for..."
"Daisy, fetch your brother the last of the
bilberries and an apple."
"...and I don't have time for second breakfast,
neither, Ma. Didn't Papa tell you..."
"Papa told me to fortify you for the road. So I'm
fortifyin'." She plopped hot biscuits in front of
Frodo, along with the butter tub. "So eat." She
wiped sweat from her brow and went back to turn the eggs.
"I swear--if I hadn't given birth to you myself, I'd
wonder if you're a hobbit, sometimes. Pippin, go get your
brother some milk from the spring house--there's a good
Frodo sat down to the table all by himself. "Have
you folks eaten already?" he asked. "I'm sorry
I took so long at the..."
"We'll eat later. Here. Have your rashers and chips.
And don't save any bilberries by for the rest of us.
We'll do fine without 'em." Her voice cracked on the
last words and she turned away.
"Ma..." Frodo said, bewildered. He happened to
glance through the kitchen door in time to see his father
stuffing Frodo's clothes into a pack for him. "Ma,
what's goin' on?"
"You'll have the right to refuse, you know,"
she said in a thick voice, too busy cleaning up to look
at him. "Even the king hisself owes the Gamgee
family more than we'll ever owe him--I don't care how
much propitty he adds to the Shire for Elanor's
"Refuse what? Ma, what're you talking about?"
Papa came in carrying the pack. "Easy, Rosie,
gal," he said, putting his free arm around her.
"The message just said to give the man a listen. We
don't have to leap up and do anything foolish right
"Oh, that's right, Sam Gamgee!" She threw her
washrag at the sink and burst into tears. "And you
was just gonna help Mr. Frodo Baggins move into
Crickhollow, weren't you? And then you vanish clean out
of the blue, and all those bad men came into town, doin'
their bad work and loungin' and leerin' and sayin' things
so horrible I ain't never told you the worst of it, and
there's no Sam to protect me!"
"Rosie--I had no idea..."
"No, Sam, you didn't have no idea!" She shook a
soapy finger at him. "How could you, off galavanting
around, and gettin' into songs and things, for a whole
blessed year? And then, and then," she gulped down
sobs that barely let her speak, "and then you come
back with, with scars!"
"Now Rosie, just the one scar, and my hair covers it
"That ain't the point! The point is you got it, and
you didn't get it by livin' safe and easy--I'm no fool.
And if you weren't so vain, Sam Gamgee, you'd see in the
mirror that that hairline of yours inches back a little
more every year, so now I gotta see that scar and picture
how you coulda got your brains whacked right out of your
skull and you'd 'a never come back to the Shire, ever
Sam set the pack down and put his arms around his wife;
she shuddered with her sobbing in the safety of his hug.
"But I did come back, girl. I'm right here, and I'll
never go far from you again. Never."
"No," she said, "Not you. Now you'll send
our son to do your adventuring for you." She turned
from him, wiping her eyes on her sleeve and forcing
herself to attack the spattered grease from the frying.
"Frodo, finish those biscuits. There's starvation
outside the Shire, you know." She turned to Sam
again. "And don't tell me otherwise. I can read,
Sam--you taught me, yourself. I read it all in the Red
Book. You starved so bad you nearly died, without so much
as a wound to blame."
"Rosie, that happened a long, long time ago. There's
a king, now. It's a different world."
"Not where he's going it ain't no different
world." And Frodo's scalp prickled to hear her say
what he feared.
"Rosie, Frodo can always refuse. You said so,
"Right, like he would. He's your son, Sam--he don't
know when to refuse, anymore than you ever did, and you
know it." She pulled the sleeve of a hot-weather
shirt out of the backpack and waved it at him. "Why
else would you pack for all four seasons?"
Frodo laid down his spoon. "Ma, Pa, stop talking
around me and talk to me. Why're you sending me to
Silence hung in the kitchen till Sam said, "How'd
you know about that?"
"Your dreams always mean something, Papa. And it's
the one place left we know about where there's still
"You can always say no," said Sam. "We'll
talk about it on the road." May popped into the
kitchen just then. "Well, May," Sam asked,
"Did Bleoboris leave?"
"Nope," the child said. "He wants to
'escort' you along the way." Everybody in the kitchen
groaned. "He says it's important business and he's
the King's messenger." She went over to where Frodo
was sitting and ran her little fingers through his hair,
fluffing up the curls.
"Uh, May," he said, "What are you
"A frothy head's the best way to start the
day," she told him.
Frodo stared, nonplussed, then burst out laughing.
"Bleo told you that in the beer cellar, didn't
May nodded, and then looked up into her mother's
tear-reddened face. "And Frodo's gonna need a best
start, won't he, Mama?"