~ Disclaimer: see Chapter 1. This is the last chapter. If you like this sort of story, please leave a review to the effect. If you have suggestions about the writing style ~ I'd REALLY like to hear. If there are discrepancies, I'd like to know so that I may fix them.

Class Distinction

Chapter Ten ~ Understanding

"I'm not sure if you see things from my perspective, Master Bilbo…." started the Gaffer after they both had sat for quite awhile saying nothing. Old Ham was referring to the earlier comment by Bilbo that he was hard on his youngest son. His response was something to the effect that his son, Samwise, had the same desire as his father, to work the earth and to be of service. Ham loved the earth and felt more at home gardening than doing anything else. His older sons didn't have that desire, but Sam, now, Sam was one who would follow in his footsteps.

And then there was the matter of Ham moving to town with his cousin so he could have the opportunity to work for someone with a grand garden, not be a crop farmer like his father and uncles. He had lucked out and been taken on as apprentice by Old Holman Greenhand, who managed Bag End's gardens. And when Holman retired, Bilbo kept Hamfast Gamgee on as the sole gardener. Ham was mighty proud of the fact that he managed both his plots and the Baggins' land. And he nearly burst with pride anytime someone commented on the beauty of those grounds. "You gave me a chance to be somethin' more than I thought I could ever be, Sir. And for that, I'm grateful. … But I feel I give ye fair measure in return." Ham put his pipe back in his mouth and made a sideways glance at old Bilbo.

"That you do, Hamfast, more than fair measure!" Bilbo patted the Old Gaffer's shoulder affectionately and smiled broadly.

"And I appreciate you givin' as good an opportunity to my youngest son. I know you and Mister Frodo have been teachin' him his letters. I also know that you've filled his head full of stories of elves and dragons and treasures. But that I don't mind. Because I see in him a will to do what is right. That's important. I have a feelin' deep inside that this boy of mine will do me proud. So I push him. Not too hard, I hope, but hard enough to let him know that I expect him to live up to the Gamgee tradition of creatin' beauty and givin' best that be possible."

"I think I see your view, Ham. Samwise certainly takes after you in respect to giving your best. I've always appreciated that you take care of me and mine". Bilbo let out another smoke ring. "But sometimes I feel at odds with the way you work so hard to keep up my place and to make sure everything is looked after. Yes, yes, I know, I pay you for your work but we're both getting on in years and you won't be able to keep this up for ever, especially by yourself if you apprentice out young Sam as you did your other lads."

"Now, why would I be doin' a fool thing like that, I asks you? Sam is to be a gardener, like me. If you'll have him, he'll take over from me and do for you and Mister Frodo right nice, I suspect. That be another reason I push him. I want him to learn as much as possible so as not to disappoint you. You see, YOU may think of it as simple gardenin' but me? It's a matter of producin' something few people could manage. I figure a simple person who be gardenin' and doin' a service does as important a job as the one who be readin' books and learnin' how to run things as is befittin' a gentle hobbit. Neither could expect the other to do as good a job. Yet both are needed to make sure all works as it should."

"Oh, Master Hamfast, I would NEVER call YOU simple!!! You have a mind as sharp as a hunting knife, no doubt to it" Bilbo laughed out loud and smiled broadly. "Together, I think we make a fairly good team, though I am sure that I am getting the better end of the deal!"

And the two old friends sat late into the night smoking their pipes and talking about nearly nothing. It was such a beautifully warm night what with the breeze taking away the oppressive heat that they let the boys sleep on the grass until they themselves were nodding.


Days passed into months and the seasons changed. It was winter now. Fatty wasn't able to make it out to Bag End as often as Frodo liked and of course his other cousins were locked down tight in the snowy weather. No telling WHERE either of them would wind up if they were let out more than a pace or so from their front yards in the often hip deep snow.

Sensing Frodo's loneliness, Bilbo arranged to have Sam stay the night more and more often to keep the lad company. With the Gamgees living just a few doors down the hill, it was a simple thing to go collect him at tea time and return him after first breakfast. And having someone who actually liked to EAT pleased Bilbo who always fancied himself a more than decent cook. Sam would devour anything put in front of him as long as it looked like food and was on a plate whilst Frodo was a much pickier eater, though he could put away a few vittles when his stomach demanded.

In the evenings they would all sit in front of the fire place with a mugs of ale. Bilbo allowed Sam a mug because Frodo was allowed what ever he desired in the house and Bilbo thought it was rude to not let the lad have some, too. But he drew the line at smoking. Both Bilbo and Frodo smoked but Sam was still too young in his father's opinion, so Bilbo acquiesced to the Gaffer's "law". The elder Baggins would regale the youngsters with stories, most of which Frodo had already heard but to Sam they were new and exciting. To tell the truth, they were still exciting to Frodo, who dreamed of going off some day OUTSIDE the shire on an adventure of his own. Watching Sam and Frodo sit in rapt attention gave Bilbo great delight. Sam even started memorizing songs that Bilbo would sing. He had a decent voice, better than Bilbo, who had managed to inherit the Baggins, not the Took voice.

So winter passed into spring and Sam's overnight stays came to an end. There was just too much work to be done to spare time for the frivolities his dad had allowed during the winter. The Gaffer was pleased that Sam had some entertainment during the long cold and he was even more glad when the lad attacked his spring time chores with relish. He'd be letting the boy go to Bag End next winter if Master Bilbo was thinking on it; considering how energized the young one was after getting his taste of wild stories and late night carry's on (oh, he knew about the ale, Bilbo had asked permission before allowing it).

Before long it was late-summer and Frodo was coming up on his 31 birthday in September. He was sitting on the front bench late one night with a book and his pipe watching the stars come out when Sam came walking up the path with a covered plate. "My mum thought you and Master Bilbo would like this here berry pie she baked extra. They're a mix o' buckleberries and blackberries my sisters picked yesterday." Sam stood in front of Frodo holding out the pie with the loose weave towel draped over it.

"That's very kind of your mother, you be sure to let her know this won't go to waste!" Frodo smiled up at Sam and took the offering. "Sit a bit, if you've the time. I've been thinking on what to give folks for my birthday, and I'd appreciate your input" Frodo placed the treat on the ground beside the bench where it would stay out of the way of hobbit feet.

"Yes sir, I've got some time and I wouldn't mind a smoke, if you don't mind". Frodo hid his shock at Sam's bold comment about smoking. It was obvious that he was bucking his father's authority on the smoking issue as the Gaffer had made it plain that he didn't want Sam starting before he was at least in his mid-tweens and starting when he was just 19 was definitely against the Gaffer's wishes. He didn't say anything though. He just offered Sam some of his pipe weed. He hoped Bilbo wouldn't catch them for he KNEW his uncle would say something to the Gaffer if just to keep in the old Gamgee good graces so he'd let the lad finish up learning his letters this winter. They're luck held out and no one caught the wayward hobbits. They chatted a bit about the weather, pies, the root crops, and what Frodo should give folks on his birthday. He shared a birthday with his uncle and they always threw terrific parties with lots of presents. Hobbits give others presents on their birthdays and one's friends deserved extra special attention. To hear the lads chat, one might almost imagine them as two old hobbits, sitting in their autumn years reminiscing about the good old days. They were that comfortable and all.

Soon the conversation turned to the next day's work. There was a brief respite in Sam's workload and for that he was glad. If he had a full day off, he'd go down to the Cotton farm and get into mischief with his friends down there. But he needed to work until lunch and that didn't leave enough time to make the trip. He wondered aloud just what he would do with his half a free day when Frodo asked, "Sam, why not come swimming tomorrow with Pippin and me? He's coming over at first light to spend a few days. It'll be a grand time and without Merry, Pip should be much calmer than the last time we all tried it." Frodo gave him a lopsided grin.

"Oh, NO, Mister Frodo! I'll not be repeating last year! Why do you keep insistin' on takin' me out into that water when I'm more than happy just dabblin' my feet with the Cotton lads in that little trickle of a stream down their way? It's so shallow, there's no way I'd be drownin' there. But that place where you and your cousins swim, well now, that's just too dangerous for me, if you don't mind my saying." Sam definitely could talk when had the notion. "No! But thank you for askin' " he added with a nod in Frodo's direction. Sam considered the subject closed. He was certainly coming into his own about his opinions and wasn't afraid to voice them when he knew he was in safe company. However safe he felt, still what he was thinking was "I don't mind sayin' your head must be full o' fluff if you think I'm goin' swimmin' ". But he just looked askance at Frodo and said naught.

Frodo could guess what was going on in Samwise's head, though. He had great intuition and was beginning to read Sam like a book. "Oh, not to worry, dear Sam. Pippin will swim and we can sit and talk. I'm not going to force you to do something against your will!" He laughed lightly knowing that he would never be able to force Sam to do anything, Sam was just to strong willed. But, he still had it in his head that if he could get the young gardener to the water and calmed down, he'd get him IN the water and swimming. He KNEW he could do it and it was now a challenge.

As it turned out, Pippin had been caught raiding the pantry of his mother's freshly baked peach tarts and was denied the long looked for trip. The only condolence was that his sister closest to him in age, Pervinca, had been caught with him and was suffering the same fate. They sat together in the corner of the kitchen where their mother could keep an eye on them, plotting the next raid whenever she was busy out of earshot.

So, with Pippin out of the picture, Frodo convinced Sam to go on a picnic down by the water as it would be cooler than sitting out in the sun on the top of their hillside. They took off in the afternoon to the watering hole to "just sit and chat under the trees" as Frodo had promised. It was a good break from work for Sam and a wonderful chance to talk about some of Bilbo's stories with Frodo. Sam never tired of listening to the stories even if they were second hand. "Sir, if you don't mind my askin'…. when are you going to go off on an adventure?" Sam asked after firing a cherry seed at their makeshift target on the ground. They were both fairly good aims so the contest hot.

"Would YOU like to go on an adventure, Samwise?" asked Frodo as he leaned back, resting on his elbows and popping another cherry into his mouth. He quirked an eyebrow at Sam and waited for a response.

"Now, if you're askin' me true, I reckon that the answer would be 'no'. I'm not the adventurin' type, like Master Bilbo. Nor you, I'm guessin'. I can see you've got the wonderin' bug and I suspect you'll be headin' out on your own, maybe even to see the elves. Oh, maybe I WOULD go on a tiny adventure, iffen I would have the chance to see elves…." and he smiled broad, looking up at the trees and sighing.

Frodo laughed in turn, sat up and slapped Sam on the back. "No one can accuse you of not knowing your mind, Sam!" He got up and stared at the water. After a moment he started to walk towards it, slipping his braces off his shoulders and pulling out his shirt tails. Sam immediately knew what was coming.

"Well, I'll be getting' back to the work at home if you're to be swimmin' now" and he started packing up the food they'd been sharing.

Frodo stopped and turned around. He placed his hands on his hips and let out an exasperated breath. But something stopped his voice when he saw the determined set of Sam's face. He realized he'd said it himself, "no one can accuse you of not knowing your mind." This was a battle lost. He'd never get Sam swimming. Ever in his lifetime. "Well, you win some and you loose some" he thought. He returned to the picnic spot and silently helped Sam finish packing up their stuff.

Sam smiled inwardly, knowing he was the victor in this small squirmish. He admired Frodo for giving up gracefully. If it had been Meriadoc, he knew that in the end, Mister Merry would have settled for nothing less than bodily throwing him in the river. Not that he'd be able to do that, Sam was bigger. But it would have been a fight none the less. Sam thought that agreeing to disagree was the best course for everyone in this instance. He smiled again as Frodo slipped his braces back over his shoulders and tucked in his shirt.

And as they started off down the path back to Bag End, Frodo put his arm over Sam's shoulders and gave them gentle squeeze. They walked a pace like this before Sam reached over a placed an arm around Frodo's waist and gave an answering hug. They let their arms drop and continued on side by side back the their homes. Their display of budding friendship was obvious to anyone who saw them, but no one did. There would be those folks who throughout their lives felt that the Baggins' gave far too much in the way of favors to folks that weren't their family and who were, in all honesty, just hired help. It just wasn't "proper" some said (mostly the Sackville- Baggins relatives) and not "normal" others whispered (mostly busy bodies like Sandyman). But then Frodo was part Took and half Brandybuck (and therefore not always considered "proper") AND a Baggins to boot (and therefore was bound to be considered not "normal" by a long shot). Sam, well, Sam was Samwise Gamgee, a gentle hobbit in spirit if not in class with a strong sense of duty and fierce streak of loyalty that ran in the Gamgee family. And their friendship grew to something that would bind them together until the end of time.

~ end Chapter Ten

~ End of Story