By San Antonio Rose
“Hullo, Sam!” said Rosie. “Where’ve you been?
They said you were dead; but I’ve been expecting you since the Spring.”
—“The Scouring of the Shire,” The Return of the King
S. R. 1419
He’s gone away for to stay a little while,
But he’s comin’ back, if he goes ten thousand miles.
Oh, who will tie my shoe,
And who will glove my hand,
And who will kiss my ruby lips when he is gone?
Oh, he’s gone,
Look away over yandro.
Rose Cotton paused at the door of the farmhouse and, shifting the laundry basket to rest on her hip, looked wistfully out across the fields. The old Bree folk song she’d heard someone singing yesterday as she passed Bywater Pool on her way home from sneaking food to old Hamfast Gamgee had stuck in her mind and brought a wave of longing with it every time she remembered it. Normally, she would have scoffed at the silliness of the speaker needing others to help her dress. But her heart picked up on other themes this time.
It had been six months since anyone had seen Mister Frodo Baggins or Samwise Gamgee. The latter was her beau, and everyone who knew the pair had fully expected Sam to propose marriage to Rose at any time. She herself hoped against hope that such a day would still come. Yet popular opinion held that the mad young Baggins and his gardener had gone off and gotten killed.
Deep down, Rose knew that Sam still lived; but that hope grew fainter, and there were many other problems with which to concern herself. Since Lotho Sackville-Baggins had seized control of the Shire and started enforcing Rules that everyone but he thought were unfair, the whole Cotton clan had their hands full trying to quietly resist the creeping tyranny of Lotho and the wildness of his ruffians. Tom Cotton had lied to the gatherers and saved as much of his crop as was prudent, and he and the rest of the family saw to it that the Gaffer and a few other poor, elderly folks got more than their “fair” share to stay alive. Evil was stirring in the wide world, Rose knew, and she could feel its work even in the safety of the Shire. Fear for Sam mingled with fear for her homeland and formed a dark cloud over her normally sunny spirits.
Rose sighed and took the laundry basket into the kitchen. As she turned back to close the door, the dogs started barking. She spied Ted Sandyman sauntering up the lane at the same time he spotted her, and she could tell by the leer on his face that it would do no good to duck inside and hold the door shut.
“Hullo, Rosie,” Ted called, turning into the yard.
“Good day, Master Sandyman,” Rose replied coldly, deliberately using a more formal tone.
“Oh, come on, Rosie. That’s no way to talk to an old friend.”
“What do you want?” she asked, crossing her arms.
“Oh, nothing,” Ted smirked. “Just comin’ to see how you and Mrs. Cotton are faring.”
“We’re fine, thank you. Good day.”
“Rosie…” Ted whined.
Rose let out an exasperated sigh. “I am already being courted, Master Sandyman. Good day.” And she turned to go back inside.
Ted snorted. “Sam’s dead, lass. Let go of the past and give someone else a try.”
Rose was about to come up with a biting retort when suddenly the cords of fear that bound her heart snapped. Hope came flooding back with a fleeting vision: the gates of a dark and desolate land crumbling from the inside out; a dark, angry figure looming over the rubble, shaking a defiant fist, only to be swept away by a wind from the West; Eagles carrying two tiny figures out of the ruins; her own dear Sam, thin and care-worn yet hale and joyful, and Mister Frodo with a bandaged hand, seated with honor amid fair folk who lauded them to the skies; a voice singing, Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West, for your King shall come again….
Ted, who had been coming up behind Rose as she hesitated, stopped short and backed away several paces when she suddenly turned back to him, startled by the fierce joy in her eyes.
“No, Ted,” she said in a low yet strong voice, knowing not whence came the sudden assurances of far-off deeds that she had never seen yet certain of their truth. “My Sam is not dead. The dark days are ending; Mordor has fallen; and the King will come again soon. And Sam and Frodo will come back and set things to rights once more. You and your precious Chief shan’t be allowed to bully and steal as you please. I don’t know when or how; but I know he’s coming, and I’ll wait for him.”
Visibly shaken, Ted retorted, “I-I could have you thrown in the Lock-holes for talking like that….”
“Oh, shut up, Ted, and go away,” Rose snapped. And she slammed the door in his face.
Ted stood gaping for a moment before realizing that anyone in the family could decide to sic the dogs on him at any moment; he and Farmer Cotton had never gotten along, and it was now clear that Rose despised him. So he turned and ran back to Hobbiton, still in shock over the sudden transformation he had just witnessed.
Rose, meanwhile, began folding the laundry she’d brought in from the line and sang for the joy that overflowed her heart.
Oh, it’s pappy’ll tie my shoes,
And mammy’ll glove my hands,
And you will kiss my ruby lips when you come back.
Look away over yandro.
A/N: This was inspired by the folk ballad “He’s Gone Away” (author unknown), which suddenly struck me today as a good reflection of what Rosie might have been thinking while Sam was gone, and combined with the quote above, the idea turned into a picture of what might have happened in the Shire at the moment the Ring was destroyed. Rosie’s vision, Ted’s infatuation, and Farmer Cotton’s lie and the extent of his charity are, of course, my own invention, but most of the information came from “The Field of Cormallen,” “The Steward and the King,” and “The Scouring of the Shire.” There are also buried references to two other songs: “The Victor” (I’ve forgotten the original artist, but Keith Green also performed it) and “I Wanna Shout!” from The Story of Little Tree.