Frodo's first visit to Bag End was an occasion for great joy but also apprehension. He hadn't journeyed so far from Buckland since before his parents died, and though he wasn't always perfectly happy in Brandy Hall, yet a cravenly part of him wished to be back there, where everything was safe and familiar.
He adored cousin Bilbo, and from listening to his stories, Frodo felt that in a certain way he already knew Bag End intimately. Still, to be a guest there, to be far from the only home he now had, was intimidating. What if on closer acquaintance Bilbo decided he didn't like him? What if he did something stupid and Bilbo sent him home in disgrace?
Several times on the journey, he almost begged Uncle Saradoc to turn the pony trap around and drive back to Buckland. But then they came round a corner, rattled over a bridge, and Uncle Sara pointed his finger. 'There's Bag End, Frodo. We're nearly there.'
Frodo's breath was stolen away by his first sight of the smial and the great tree growing from its roof, outlined against a brilliant blue spring sky. The leaded windows winked in the sunshine and the shiny green front door that featured so prominently in Bilbo's story of his Adventure was clearly visible even at a distance.
In that moment, Frodo realised that it would have been the greatest mistake of his life to tell Uncle Sara to turn back, for he was utterly smitten.
'Welcome, welcome, come in!' Bilbo greeted them effusively, his delight at their arrival so patent that it did much to calm Frodo's jittering nerves. The more he saw of Bag End, the more he fell in love with it, and he so badly wanted to make a good impression on Bilbo. He'd barely arrived, and already he was hoping that he might perhaps be invited back again.
Frodo carefully wiped his feet on the doormat and then stepped inside. It was all exactly as Bilbo had described it. The hooks on the wall where the Dwarves had hung their cloaks, the walking sticks, the tile floor, the doorbell. It was like stepping inside a wonderful Adventure, and when Frodo caught Bilbo watching him, the old hobbit winked slightly, as if they were sharing a secret.
'So, what do you think of the old hole, Frodo?' Bilbo asked when Saradoc stepped outside to fetch Frodo's trunk.
'It's beautiful,' Frodo said, aware that the adjective barely sufficed, but unable to come up with a better.
Bilbo beamed. 'It is a pretty place, isn't it, and very comfortable. I hope you'll be happy here during your visit.'
'I'm sure I will, cousin Bilbo,' replied Frodo shyly.
'Good, good. Of course, you're a Baggins, so you should feel right at home. You know, your father was very partial to Bag End.'
And somehow, hearing that, Frodo felt happier than he'd felt in a very long time.
Uncle Sara came back in with Frodo's trunk balanced on his shoulder, and Bilbo said, 'Let me show you your room, Frodo. I think you'll like it. It was mine when I was a boy, don't you know.'
It was a snug little room at the front of the smial, overlooking the garden and with a breathtaking view of the Water and the river and the country beyond. It had every luxury Frodo could possibly desire: a fireplace, a window seat, a case filled with leather bound books he itched to examine, and a squashy armchair ideal for snuggling up in to read them. The bed was neither too large nor too small, and covered in a green velvet spread embroidered with golden leaves. A wooden box that Frodo strongly suspected was filled with sweets sat on the bedside table.
But there was no time for opening intriguing books or boxes. Bilbo swept them away to the kitchen for lunch, for which they'd arrived just in time. The kitchen was homey and welcoming, cluttered in the nicest possible manner, and Bilbo had laid out a spread of food that made Frodo's mouth water.
While Frodo ate ravenously of the tarts and cakes and pies and buns and biscuits and fruit and cheese and nuts, Uncle Sara and Bilbo conversed about this and that. When the meal was over, Bilbo said, 'Why don't you go outside and explore the garden for a while, Frodo?
He suspected that this meant his uncle and Bilbo had 'business' to discuss, involving him. No doubt Aunt Esme had given Uncle Sara a laundry list of things to tell Bilbo, such as when Frodo should go to bed, and how many hours a day he should devote to his studies. Well, he could only hope cousin Bilbo would promptly forget all about any instructions he was given. But there was no point in worrying about it. There was a garden to explore.
And such a garden it was. Not nearly so large as the gardens at Brandy Hall, but larger than it appeared at first sight. The first spring flowers were blooming: purple, white and yellow crocuses, butter-yellow daffodils, lavender and lilac coloured hyacinths. The vegetable garden already had lettuce and radishes and spring onions growing, and the cherry and apple trees in the orchard were getting ready to blossom.
But that wasn't all Frodo discovered as he explored. In fact, he nearly tripped over his newest discovery as he walked toward the bottom of the garden where a hedge separated it from the lane. It was a faunt, golden-haired, chubby, a bit grimy as little ones usually were, and seemingly all alone.
'Hello,' Frodo said in surprise, crouching down beside the child. 'Who are you?'
Round pansy-brown eyes gazed into his, and Frodo felt a jolt almost of recognition. How very queer, he thought, for he was certain that he'd never laid eyes on him before.
'I'm Sam,' the child said without shyness. 'Sam Gamgee.'
'I'm Frodo Baggins. I've come to visit my cousin Bilbo. Where do you come from?'
Sam pointed in the direction of the holes dug into the Hill below Bag End. 'Down there.'
'Well, I'm pleased to meet you, Sam from down there.' Frodo sat down in the grass beside him. 'I hope we'll get to see lots of each other during my visit.' He noticed that Sam was holding something in his fist. 'What do you have there?' he asked.
Sam uncurled his fingers to reveal what he held. It was a tiny toad, probably no older in toad years than Sam was in hobbit-years. 'I found it,' Sam said. 'En't it cute?'
'It is,' Frodo agreed, smiling, and meant it. He'd never had an opinion of toads one way or the other, but had to agree with Sam about the merits of this particular example.
'You can have it,' offered Sam. 'If'n you like.'
'Why, that's lovely of you. But you know, Sam, the toad is very young and I expect it misses its mum. So maybe we shouldn't keep it but put it back where you found it,' Frodo suggested.
Sam considered this. 'I don't have a mum,' he said simply. 'Just a da.'
Frodo had to swallow a lump in his throat before speaking. 'I'm sorry to hear that. I don't have a mum either, nor a da.'
Sam's pansy-brown eyes grew wide with dismay. 'No da neither?'
Frodo shook his head. He was touched, indeed moved, when Sam got up, flung his arms around him as far as they could go, and hugged him. Frodo hugged him back, and breathed in the sweet faunt smell of him, and was reminded of his cousin Merry, whom he already missed.
'You've got me if'n you want, Frodo,' Sam said, rather fiercely. 'I can be your friend.'
'I'd like that,' Frodo said. 'And I can be your friend in return. Is it a deal?' Sam nodded against him. 'Well now, friend Sam, how about we take this toad back to his mum? We both know how it is not to have a mum, and we don't want him to be like us, do we.'
Sam led Frodo by the hand to the place where he'd found the toad, not far away beside a small stream that trickled down through the fields and eventually met up with the Water.
'Bye, toad,' Sam said a little sadly as they watched it hop off into the grass and disappear.
'Don't be sad, Sam,' Frodo said. 'He'll grow up into a fine, strong toad and maybe one day you'll see him again.'
At that moment, Frodo heard Bilbo calling his name. 'Well, Sam, what about coming up to Bag End with me?' he said. He didn't like to leave Sam unattended, as he suspected the child had wandered off and his family would soon come looking for him. 'I expect Bilbo has tea ready, and I don't know about you but I'm starving.'
'So'm I,' Sam said, and his tummy growled as if on cue.
Frodo laughed and took his hand, and together they went up to Bag End. And little did Frodo suspect that for the second time that day he had been utterly smitten - for life.