Under the Stars
Sam takes his sons and Faramir Took on a camping trip, and deals with old fears. The story takes place in S.R. 1445.
Chapter One: Skipping Stones
Bag End was alive with laughter, shouting,
crying and door slamming, as it was at almost any hour with thirteen
children ranging in age from 24 through 4 in residence, but on this
particular day, the noise level was even higher, if possible. A rather
frazzled Rosie, Elanor, and Rose-lass were trying to keep order while
Frodo-lad, Merry, Pippin, and Bilbo Gamgee were out on the front lawn
wrestling and quarreling amidst a tangle of tents, bedrolls and other
outdoor supplies. The five oldest Gamgee lads, along with
fifteen-year-old Faramir Took, were preparing to go on a weeklong
camping trip with Mayor Samwise, and as far as their mother and older
sisters were concerned, they weren’t leaving a moment too soon. At
first Sam had considered leaving Bilbo at home, as the lad was but ten
years old, but the little one had pleaded so eloquently (in the form of
frequent temper tantrums) that the beleaguered father had finally given
in. Primrose and Daisy, holding Robin and Tolman respectively, watched
the proceedings with amusement.
“I’ll bet Mum and Da are thinkin’ another trip to Gondor would be a fine idea right about now,” Daisy giggled.
“I wouldn’t mind,” Primrose said, “because they’ll bring us lots of nice presents home like they did before!”
“I think Tom here was the best present,”
Daisy said fondly, nuzzling the four-year-old’s neck. Tom giggled and
squirmed in response. “I missed Mummy and Da and Elanor, but it was fun
having Aunt Marigold and Uncle Tom live here with us.”
“Uh, oh, I think Frodo’s had enough,” Primrose murmured. “His face is all red and he hardly ever gets angry.”
Their tweenaged eldest brother was standing
in front of Merry and Pippin, waving his arms around and scolding. They
stood before him, heads down as if in remorse, but even from that
distance Primrose and Daisy could tell they were hiding wide grins.
Next to them lay an unrolled tent spread in disarray; apparently, Sam’s
second and third sons had been using it for an improvised trampoline.
Sam emerged through the round green door
and surveyed the bedlam with dismay, then put his fingers to his mouth
and blew a shrill, piercing whistle.
Thirteen children stopped dead and turned toward him in amazement.
“That’s enough, now!” Sam said sharply.
“Lor’, the lot of you make a band of orcs sound like bleating little
lambs in comparison! I’ve been campin’ more times than I care to
remember but I know for a fact that preparin’ for it can be done a lot
quieter than this. Now, Merry an’ Pippin, you mind your older brother
and roll those tents up proper. Ham and Bilbo, you help your sisters
get the packs ready.”
Bilbo nodded agreeably, but Hamfast’s eyes
darkened slightly as he straightened up. “I wasn’t yellin’, Da. I was
helpin’ Elanor proper-like.”
Sam returned the look evenly. “Don’t give me
any sauce, lad. I didn’t say you in particular were yellin’- the
thirteen of you combined made a great deal more noise than is needed. I
know you were doin’ your part.”
A slight flush stained the lad’s cheeks, and
he turned back to his task without further comment. The other children
looked away in embarrassment. Sam’s stern expression gave way to
sadness as he watched Hamfast shove packages of food into his pack with
more force than was necessary.
The fourteen-year-old was a puzzle to his
parents and siblings; there seemed always to be resentment and
sullenness smoldering in his eyes, though he was seldom outright
disrespectful or disobedient. It had not been so apparent when he was
very young, but ever since Sam, Rose, and Elanor returned from their
year in Gondor it had gotten much worse. The day they had returned to
the Shire, the other children had met them on the road with welcoming
hugs and kisses and bouquets and banners-all except then-ten-year-old
“Where is he?” Rose had asked, concerned. “Is he sick in bed and not able to come?”
The other children looked unhappy. “He wouldn’t come, Mum and Da,” Frodo-lad finally said.
“Why wouldn’t he come?” Rose exclaimed.
Frodo-lad and Rose-lass looked at each other.
“He’s angry at you, for being gone so long,” Rose-lass said softly.
“He’ll come around, Mum and Da, I’m sure of it. He…he just didn’t want
to come with us, that’s all.”
The memory still sent a stab of pain through
Sam’s heart each time he recalled it. His main reason for accompanying
the lads on this trip-besides Bilbo’s remark that “Da is getting too
old to sleep outside on the ground”-was to try to bridge the gap
between himself and his middle son.
“Mistress Diamond and Faramir are coming!” Primrose called excitedly. “I see their carriage coming over the hill!”
Diamond Took was spending the week with Rose
and her daughters while her son accompanied Sam and his boys on their
camping trip; she was going to lend her matchless sewing skills to
making new curtains, rugs, and slipcovers for Bag End. After
twenty-five years and thirteen children, the current upholstery looked
rather shabby. A new baby nearly every year since her marriage had made
such a task beyond the number of hours available in Rose’s day, and she
sincerely welcomed and cherished Diamond’s kindness.
Faramir Took bounded from the carriage with
a joyful “Hallo!” and immediately entered into a wrestling match with
Merry and Pippin.
“Oi, lads, give him a moment to at least
greet Mum and Da before you shove him into the dirt,” Frodo-lad
reproved them with a good-natured grin. Faramir was slim and wiry, as
his father had been at his age, but he had a few tricks up his sleeve:
Pippin the elder had taught him the wrestling techniques he had learned
many years ago from his friends in Minas Tirith. Within seconds, the
fair-haired Took had Merry’s head pinned under his arm and a wriggling
Pippin pinioned between his legs.
“That was an admirable try,” Faramir puffed,
“but you’ll have to try a bit harder next time.” He released them and
scrambled to his feet with a triumphant grin. Merry and Pippin
laughingly congratulated him, and then dragged him off, with Frodo and
Bilbo hurrying along behind. Faramir found time for a wave and a smile
at Goldilocks, who turned slightly pink as she smiled back. Elanor and
Rose-lass observed this and winked at each other knowingly.
“Are you certain you want him along, Sam?”
Diamond asked as she approached him. “He’s as full of mischief as all
your lads put together,” she added with the mock exasperation in which
only a truly smitten parent indulges.
Sam smiled. “We’re glad to have him,
Mistress Diamond-he’s always welcome. No one tells tales or sings songs
better than a Took, and I reckon he’s already learned more than enough
to keep us entertained for the entire trip.”
Hamfast stood by the packs, his hands shoved
in his pockets and a sour expression on his face as he watched his
siblings all crowded around Faramir. He did not share their enthusiasm
for the young Took, who was not even family, and he silently turned and
went back inside.
Five-year-old Robin saw him go, and he
followed his big brother to the kitchen. He tugged on Hamfast’s trouser
leg and lisped, “Hammie, some milk, p’ease?”
Hamfast’s features softened into a smile as
he looked down at the youngster. His sullenness never extended to the
three youngest children, and he always played with them and showered
them with affection. That was good, but it hurt his other brothers and
sisters, who would have been glad of five minutes with him unspoiled by
scowling or muttering on his part.
“Sure, Robin, I’ll get you some milk. I think Mum just took some cookies out of the oven, too.”
Robin eagerly scurried after him, and soon he
was happily enjoying his snack at the kitchen table, sitting on a stack
of books so he could reach.
“Hamfast, I did not see you greet our
guest,” Rose Cotton Gamgee spoke from the doorway. She had Tolman
perched on one hip, and he looked longingly at the rapidly emptying
“Merry an’ Pippin had him on the ground
soon as he got down from the carriage, an’ then they all took off
after,” Hamfast replied as he handed little Tolman a cookie. The lad
hooted with joy and bit into it happily.
Rose frowned at her son. “That’s no excuse,
lad, and you know it. Faramir is fond of you, and I’m certain he
noticed the slight. You greet him properly at lunchtime, and treat him
with courtesy as befits any guest at Bag End. You would not be treated
as such if you visited him at Great Smials.”
“Yes, Mum,” Hamfast responded dully. He returned his attention to Robin, and once again was the teasing, loving older brother.
Bilbo entered the kitchen then. “Oh, hullo,
Mum; Ham, we’re going down by the pond to skip stones- Da said we could
before lunchtime. Are you coming with us?”
Ham started to refuse, and then he saw his mother eye him sternly. He sighed. “All right, I’ll come.”
Ham was surprised to see Bilbo’s eyes light up. “You will? Great-but let’s not keep the others waiting!”
Bilbo ran out, and Rose put a restraining
hand on Hamfast’s shoulder as he started to follow. “Do you see, son,
that your other brothers love you as dearly as Robin and Tom do? Now
run along and enjoy yourself- and them.”
Hamfast nodded and hurried after his brother.
Frodo, Merry and Pippin were already down by
the pond with Faramir; their eyes widened with surprise when they saw
Hamfast coming after Bilbo-and looking pleased about it.
“Well, this is a nice change,” Merry observed with a grin. “Hamfast the Hermit has decided to mingle with the family.”
Pippin elbowed him, and he looked a little
annoyed, which was something he seldom was with Merry. “Don’t tease
him, or he’ll get angry and leave. He hardly ever plays with us.”
Faramir trotted forward to meet them, and he
beamed at Hamfast. “Hullo there, Ham, I’m glad you decided to come.
You’re the best stone-skipper in the Westfarthing, and I hoped you
could teach me a thing or two about it.”
This was actually true; Hamfast had won the
competition two years in a row at the Midyear’s Fair. He blushed with
pride and said, “Well, I suppose I could, why not?”
Merry, Pippin and Bilbo all looked at each other, mouths agape.
“Who are you and what have you done with my
brother Hamfast?” Merry murmured in wonder as the twosome walked to the
Pippin grinned. “Who cares? He’s being nice
and we’ll enjoy it!” The three young hobbits hurried to join them.
Frodo had opted to sit on the sun-warmed grass a short distance away to
read, but he kept a watchful eye on the younger ones.
Hamfast rolled up his trouser legs and
waded out a few feet, and bent down to examine the pebbles on the
gentle slope that led out to deeper water. He selected five and waded
back to the group.
“You should choose a pebble that’s shaped
like this, and worn smooth,” he said, displaying an oblong sample in
his palm. Three dark heads and one fair leaned in for a closer look.
“Once you’ve found just the right pebble, it’s time to throw it.” Faramir nodded solemnly.
“The trick is in the wrist,” Hamfast
explained, warming to his subject. “You have to hold it just so, and
flick it like this.” The pebble flashed out of his hand, and merrily
skipped ten times across the glassy surface before finally sinking to
the bottom. The ensuing ripples spread in an ever-widening arc as
Faramir uttered a long, low whistle.
“You make it look so easy, Ham, but every time I try, it just sort of thuds and sinks.”
Hamfast grinned; he had a charming smile when
he chose to show it. “That’s because you’re throwin’ it, and not
flickin’ it,” he explained. “You have to practice plenty until you get
“At the expense of ignoring the rest of your
family,” Merry whispered to Pippin. Hamfast overheard him, though, and
turned around, his smile fading. “Eh, what was that?”
“Um, ah, he just said that’s why you were
scoring more than the rest of the competition,” Pippin said hastily as
Merry blanched. Faramir closed his eyes and groaned, making a mental
note to hold Merry’s neck much tighter the next time they wrestled.
“I heard what he said,” Hamfast snapped.
“He said ‘at the expense of ignorin’ the rest of the family’. Well, I
think that’s a fine idea, as now I know at least one of you ain’t worth
the trouble.” He threw the pebbles back into the pond and stormed back
up the hill toward Bag End.
Merry gulped and tears came to his eyes.
“Hammie, I’m sorry!” he shouted as he started to follow him. Hamfast
angrily waved him away and disappeared over the rise.
Pippin threw up his arms. “You just had to
say something, didn’t you?” he cried. “He was having a good time and
spending time with us, and you had to ruin it with your big mouth!”
“Pippin, that’s enough,” Frodo’s voice
interrupted him. He had witnessed the confrontation and overheard most
of it. “One insult does not justify another.” He sighed. “Really,
Merry, what were you thinking?”
The 18-year-old brushed his sleeve across
his eyes. “I don’t know, Frodo; it’s not like him to…to be friendly and
join in and…the words just came out. I am sorry, I truly am.”
“Well, what’s done is done. I’ll try to talk
to him later, when he cools down a bit.” Frodo squeezed Merry’s
shoulder kindly and headed up the hill.
As Faramir observed this little family drama, he felt gratitude for the first time that he was an only child.
Twenty minutes later, Frodo summoned a war
council in the gardens behind Bag End with a visibly downcast and
repentant Merry on one side and a stone-faced Hamfast on the other.
Merry apologized profusely, Frodo mediated, and Hamfast listened with
folded arms. Finally, Hamfast slowly extended his hand and Merry took
“What’s goin’ on out there?” Sam wondered
aloud to Rose as they peeked through Elanor’s back bedroom window,
which faced the garden.
“Whatever it was, it seems to be friendly
now,” Rose observed with relief. “Our Frodo-lad is worth his weight in
gold when it comes to settlin’ disputes among the younger ones.”
“He’s worth more than all the gold in
Middle-Earth,” Sam said softly, “as are all the children. I did miss
them sorely while we were gone, Rose-wife. I just wish I could convince
our Hamfast of that.”
Rose rested her head on his shoulder. “It
was wonderful to see the White City, and to have time for
ourselves-truly for ourselves-for the first time since you returned to
the Shire. However, our children were never far from my mind, either.”
Since you returned to the Shire, she said.
Sam looked down at his beloved wife, and keenly felt the significance
of her words. Rose cleared her throat and moved away. “I must get lunch
on the table now, if you are to leave when you planned,” she murmured,
and hurried out of the room.
Sam gazed out the window at the now empty garden, deeply troubled not by what Rose had said, but by what she had not.