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Twice Twenty  by Dreamflower

Title: The Wall Came Tumbling Down

Theme: Set #1, Theme #15 Walls

Rating: G

Notes: Frodo is 47, Sam is almost 36, Merry has just turned 34, and Pippin is about a week from his 26th birthday. (about 30, 24 , 22 , and 16 ½ in Man-years)

I have to thank Marigold for giving me the bunny to get started with this theme.

Summary: Frodo and his cousins decide to give Sam a hand with a difficult task…

THE WALL CAME TUMBLING DOWN

It was with a good deal of trepidation that Sam sloshed his way up to Bag End. The storm of the previous night had been a hard one. The roadway was a muddy mess, and he could see debris everywhere.

As he approached, he looked at the roses twining the fence. Those which had bloomed already were battered, but there were still a great many unopened buds. It was too early yet for them to be blooming in their full glory.

The young poplar in the front garden was fine. He stopped beneath it briefly to replace the basin of the bird bath on its pedestal. He had removed it the previous day in anticipation of the storm.

The flower beds around the smial were a sorry looking sight, but the damage was not as severe as it looked. Most of the battered and broken plants were the last of the early blooming bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils and narcissus--already past their prime. He cast an eye over them. He could fill in with some bedding annuals until the summer perennials came in.

The lilacs under the kitchen window were weatherbeaten, but would come back quickly. He spared a smile for the bushes, remembering how he often played beneath them as a small lad.

In the vegetable beds the young radishes and carrots and early lettuces which had recently sprouted were drowned. He sighed, realizing that he had been pushing the season a bit. But they could be soon replanted. Sam set up a couple of large potted herbs that had tipped over. Beneath the ash tree in the lower garden, the shade-loving plants had fared well.

So far no damage that a couple of days of dry weather and steady work would not quickly set to rights. Perhaps there would be no need to make any changes in Mr. Frodo’s plans for him after all.

He went on past the well and the tool shed towards the far edge of the garden where the stone retaining wall marked the southern property boundary.

Or rather where it *had* marked it.

For a goodly portion of the wall had collapsed.

Sam groaned, and clambered down to inspect the damage. Apparently the roots of the rapidly growing ash tree had weakened the wall’s foundation, and the erosion from last night’s storm had caused the damage. The stones had been dry-laid, with no mortar, and once the foundation had been breached, it had not taken much to topple a large part of the wall.

Sam sighed; he was not looking forward to telling Mr. Frodo that he could not go walking to Tuckborough with him and his cousins after all. He started up to Bag End to tell his master what had happened.

________________________________________________________

Frodo looked at the damage in dismay. “Sam, can’t this wait until our return?”

Merry and Pippin stood silently behind Frodo. Pippin was wanting to say something, but Merry’s firm fingers on his elbow reminded him that this was between Frodo and Sam. It’s hardly fair, thought Pippin morosely.

Arrangements had finally been made to allow Sam a bit of time off to go on a short visit to Tuckborough with Frodo, Merry and Pippin. It was going to be Pippin’s birthday in less than a week, and he really wanted Sam to come along. Frodo had prevailed on Sam and the Gaffer, arranging that the Gaffer would oversee any work in the garden while Sam was gone, aided by the strong back of Till Twofoot, grandson of Daddy Twofoot, the Gamgee’s neighbor. And the Gaffer’s reservations about how “proper” it was for Sam to be visiting Tooks was overridden by Frodo making arrangements for Sam to stay in town with one of Sam’s cousins on his mother’s side, Dob Goodchild.

Sam gave Frodo a look. “This has to be at least temporarily fixed, or it will keep getting worse every time it rains.”

“Can’t we hire someone else to do this?”

“Not without me here to supervise. A job like this, it wouldn’t be fair to leave to the Gaffer and Till. I’m probably going to need Till’s help anyway.”

Frodo gazed at the damage, and then at Sam. He knew, as did Sam, that he could *order* him to let it wait, and to go on with their plans. He also knew, as did Sam, that he would do no such thing. To *order* him to accompany them would completely defeat the purpose of having him come along. He would no longer be going as a guest, but as Frodo’s servant. Frodo sighed. “Do as you think best, Sam. But if you can, see if you can hire a few more helpers besides Till. Then perhaps the job can be finished in time for us to go on as planned.”

Sam nodded. “Yes, Mr. Frodo.” They both knew the likelihood of Sam being able to hire extra help this time of year was slim. And the chances of the job being finished within the time needed was even slimmer.

After a bit more dispirited discussion of some of the other damage, Frodo and his cousins headed back to the smial.

Pippin was inclined to pout, but Merry pulled him off to a corner.

“Peregrin Took. You know as well as I do that both Frodo and Sam already feel badly enough about this as it is. Don’t make them feel even worse because they are disappointing you!”

Pippin looked abashed. “I’m sorry, Merry! But it was going to be such fun to have Sam along. He knows almost as many jolly songs as I do! And he’s a better cook than any of us!”

Merry laughed. “That’s you all over, Pip! Your stomach and music! Which one is more important to you?”

The green eyes went huge. “Whyever would I have to *choose*?” He exclaimed, horrified at the thought.

Sam dutifully made inquiries in town about labor, but this was not a good time of year to find anyone already standing idle. Till came along, and Sam set him to leveling out the ground around the wall’s foundation, while he himself set to putting the rest of the garden to rights. He cleared up the debris and pulled out dead plants. Replanting would have to wait a few days until the soil dried out a bit more.

The next day, Sam and Till began in earnest the task of stacking the wall back up. Stone masons would have made quicker and easier work of it, but there were at this time none to be found in Hobbiton, or even Bywater.

After elevenses, Frodo came down with some cold fruit tea for Sam and Till, and some savory biscuits and apples.

“Sam, I--”

“Now, Mr. Frodo, don’t go saying you can help. This isn’t gentlehobbits’ work. You’d tear your hands up something fierce, not to mention it just wouldn’t be proper.”

Frodo shut his mouth with a snap. Saying he could wear gloves would cut no ice with Sam, who was determined to keep everything and everyone in their “proper” place. Frustrated, Frodo went back up to Bag End, muttering about “stiff-necked gardeners”.

Merry and Pippin fared no better. Merry had the foresight for both of them to be wearing work gloves, and while Sam’s back was turned, he and Pippin just began to pick up the stones.

Till looked grateful, but nevertheless, Sam still sent them off with a “No thank you, sirs. You’re Mr. Frodo’s guests and it wouldn’t be right.”

By the time Till had to go home at teatime, it was clear that the two hobbits were going to need a good deal more time to finish the job. Sam, as was his habit with a task on, took tea in the kitchen at Bag End with Frodo, Merry and Pippin, but the conversation was desultory at best.

Sam knew only too well that Mr. Frodo was not best pleased at this setback to his plans and was cross that Sam would not accept his help. And Frodo knew that Sam was feeling cross at having to let them down, and that the gardener’s stubbornness was as much pride as it was propriety. Merry and Pippin simply felt caught in the middle. It made Merry terse, and made Pippin even more fidgety and edgy than he normally was.

Sam returned to his task after tea; he would work until sundown, and then go home to Number Three for his supper. Then he’d be up again at the crack of dawn to work some more. Till would not be able to come back and assist him again until after luncheon the next day.

The three cousins watched the exhausted gardener leave, feeling more than a little guilty that nothing more than an accident of birth kept them sitting idle when a friend needed help.

“This is ridiculous,” said Frodo. “There is no real reason we could not help him with this.”

Merry looked thoughtful. “No, there isn’t.” He turned to Frodo with a speculative eye. “How many lanterns do you have around this hole, anyway?”

Pippin grinned.

Frodo raised one brow, and looked at Merry questioningly.

Merry nodded.

The night was clear and the Moon was bright as the three hobbits made their way down, each of them carrying two lanterns.

__________________________________________________

The Sun had barely made her way over the horizon when Sam arose, dressed and made a quick first breakfast of strong tea and toast with cheese.

He was sore all over. Stacking stones worked a whole different set of muscles than digging in the garden, and he had been at it far longer than he usually had to do any one task. Still the walk up the Hill began to loosen him up, and he thought that he had most of the kinks worked out before he reached the wall.

Which was completely finished.

Stunned, Sam stared in mute incomprehension. Slowly, the light dawned. Mr. Frodo and his cousins must have come out in the night and finished the task.

He walked the wall, unable at first to see where his own work left off and theirs began. That would be Mr. Merry. Sam would wager Mr. Merry had probably done a bit of stone-laying in Buckland. Bucklanders were queer and had odd ideas about gentlehobbits doing the same tasks as working hobbits. That was why he had to be so stern with Mr. Frodo all the time about keeping their proper places. His Buckland upbringing was telling.

Torn between delight that the task was finished, and a bit of anger that they had disregarded his desires, all he could do was sit down on top of the wall and laugh.

Well, if they were that determined to have his company on their walk to Tookland tomorrow, he would just have to oblige them. After all, they had surely proved their friendship even as they went against his wishes.

But he wagered they would be three very tired and sore hobbits today.

 





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