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Summary: The Gaffer gets a very special letter.
This story is written as a tribute to proud fathers everywhere, and is dedicated to my good friend Marigold, who gave me the bunny for it.
6 Blotmath, S.R. 1419
Frodo sat in the Cotton’s front room by the fire. The rest of the family had retired. The Gaffer sat across from him dozing. Though the window was closed, he could hear the soft rise and fall of Sam’s and Rosie’s voices from where they sat on a small bench outside in the cold night. He could hear no words, but he did not need to, for he knew that Sam had chosen tonight to tell his Rosie of their journey.
Right now there was a lightness to Sam’s voice that indicated to Frodo that he was talking about Elves. In spite of all the time spent among them, Sam had never lost his love and awe for the Firstborn.
Soon enough, the tale would turn dark again. Frodo hoped that Sam was not too modest. Rosie needed to know how stout-hearted her Sam really was. He thought, though that she was intelligent enough to see through Sam’s diffidence to what he did not say. Just then, Frodo realized that the Gaffer was no longer asleep. He wondered…
“Gaffer, did Sam tell you of what we did while we were gone?”
“Aye, summat, Mr. Frodo, about what you had to do, and how hard it was for you. I just hope my Sam gave satisfaction and was a help to you.”
“A help? Oh, Gaffer,” Frodo’s eyes filled with tears. “Let me tell you of the help your Samwise was to me…” *
Frodo finished his recital with a sigh and sat back, his eyes on the Gaffer’s gnarled face. Telling Sam’s father of the Quest had not been nearly so difficult as he had feared, but of course, he was telling mostly of Sam’s own deeds and not his own.
The Gaffer nodded as Frodo concluded the story. “Sounds as if my Sam gave satisfaction, then.” There was only the faintest hint of pride in his voice, but it was there and it was enough for Frodo.
They sat for a moment in a silence broken only by the crackle of the fire in the hearth, and then the Gaffer said, “There’s summat more, Mr. Frodo?”
Frodo gave a brief smile. There was no doubt where Sam’s sharp intelligence came from. The Gaffer might be unlettered, but he was nobody’s fool, and he was as observant as they come.
Hamfast’s astonished expression was almost comical. “Me? And what would the King find to say to the likes of me? Why, Mr. Frodo, you know as I can’t read it!”
“I can read it for you. Or you could ask Marigold to read it to you.” Sam had always generously passed on his own lessons from Bilbo to his younger sister. “Or you could ask Sam himself to read it for you.”
The Gaffer gave a short, sharp bark of laughter. “I think if the King wanted Sam to read that letter, he’d’ve given it to him instead of to you, Mr. Frodo! You read it for me, if you don’t mind.”
Frodo ran his thumb beneath the blob of wax and unfolded the letter.
I write to you not as your King, but as a friend of your son.
Indeed, I count your son as a very dear friend, even though his first impression of me was less than favourable. He looked upon me with suspicion as a possible threat to his master, and I cannot say that I blame him. But I soon learned to respect his sturdy determination to do right by Frodo, and it was not long until he learned to trust me as I trusted him.
I cannot say enough about Sam’s loyalty and bravery. Indeed, he is known throughout my realm as “Samwise the Stout-hearted”! And yet his heart remained tender and kind, even when he had to be a fierce protector.
We learned much of you upon our journey. Not a day passed but that we were not treated to at least one of your wise sayings, and Sam’s skill as a cook and a forager spoke well of his upbringing.
I learned that the skill of rope-making is one that is prized in your family. I could believe that Sam knows that skill, for the greatest of his tasks was to twist a rope, inch by inch, league by league, between his master and the Shire. He never allowed Frodo to forget why they were taking each dreadful step, and was there to remind him when things grew darkest, that they had a home to return to.
I know no greater joy than that which I knew when, against all common wisdom, Frodo and Samwise were brought out alive after accomplishing their task.
I know that Sam has come home to you changed. For the most part, I think he is changed for the better, and will make his own mark on the Shire. But there are other changes as well, and there may be times when he recalls the dark days of his journey, and will need the love and support of his family and loved ones.
I know that Sam will not speak of his achievements. He is modest, and fears to, as he puts it, ‘get above himself’. But know this, Master Hamfast; your son is among the greatest heroes of this age. I am prouder than I can say to call him my friend, and I would grant him anything in my power, could I but get him to accept it.
Aragorn, son of Arathorn
(sometimes known as Strider)”
Frodo’s hands trembled a little as he read, but he kept his voice steady, and when he read the signature, he could not help but smile. He finished, and looked up at the Gaffer.
“Well, Master Hamfast, what do you think?”
“I think yon King shows his quality. Those are good things to hear about my son.”
Frodo folded the letter back, and handed it to the Gaffer, who pressed it to his breast briefly.
Just then, they heard the Cotton’s front door open, and heard Sam’s voice and Rose’s, in the hall. The Gaffer tucked the letter into his pocket.
“G’night, Rosie!” they heard Sam say, and then he entered the front room.
“Why, Mr. Frodo! Gaffer! I didn’t expect you both to still be up this time of evening!”
The Gaffer sniffed. “You don’t think I’m a-going to bed when you are still out with that lass, do you? I brung you up to be respectable, I did!” But the wink and smile he turned to
Frodo suppressed his own smile, and said, “Well, I am going to go to bed myself at this moment! I will speak with you both again in the morning.”
He took himself off, and left Sam to talk to his father.
6 Thrimmidge, S.R. 1428
Sam sat by his father’s bed, holding the Gaffer’s withered hand in his own. The strength had left it long ago.
His father’s voice was weak now, but Sam had little trouble
Sam arched an eyebrow, and then turned to small wooden box on the bedside table, where his father kept a few mementoes. He picked it up, and his father nodded. “Open it.”
Surprised, for never in his life had he ever looked inside his father’s box, he followed the Gaffer’s command. Inside, along with the beaded necklace Hamfast had given Bell as a wedding gift, and two old pipes that had belonged to Sam’s grandfather, a badly embroidered handkerchief that Daisy had made as a child, and other such things, was a yellowed letter.
Sam stared at it in surprise. The only letters he’d ever known his father to get, he had read to him. None of them had been written on fine parchment.
“Mr. Frodo read it for me, when you first came home. I’d like to hear it again, Sam.”
Sam unfolded it, and gaped in surprise at Strider’s familiar handwriting. In a shaky voice, he began:
*A/N: The first few paragraphs of this story are taken verbatim from my story “When the King Comes Back (the Great Smials)". In that story, and in the companion story “When the King Comes Back (Brandy Hall)” I indicated that the King had written personal letters to the fathers of both Merry and Pippin.
I did not show a letter to Sam’s father. My reasoning was that Frodo would have told him that the Gaffer was illiterate, and so Aragorn would not have written to him.
Marigold managed to persuade me otherwise, and offered me this bunny a few years ago, to tell of such a letter. She recently reminded me of it, and I thought that Father’s Day would be an appropriate time to write and post it.
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