Marigold played with her braids as she stared absently into the kitchen fire. "But how do I know, Sam?", she asked her brother. "Sometimes I'm so sure it's so, and then I think no, he's just bein' neighborly."
Sam looked up from the dish he was drying and smiled at his sister. "No knowin' until you ask, I suppose," he answered his sister.
"Sam." Marigold Gamgee looked over at him reprovingly. "Lasses can't ask. That's why it's harder for us."
Sam laughed softly. "I've never known it t'stop a lass from getting her point across. You'll find a way t'figure it out, Mari," he replied fondly.
"All the same," Marigold sighed, her gaze turning back to the flames and her chin coming to rest in her hands. "I just wish I knew."
Sam put the plate down and came up behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders. "Don't fret so, Mari. Tom'd be a fool not to have an eye on you, and I've never figured him for that."
Marigold smiled. "Ah, Sam, you're sweet t'say that," she chuckled. Turning, she eyed him carefully. "You know what tomorrow is, now."
Sam looked at her blankly. "Day before market day?" he hazarded a guess.
"Sam!" Marigold said sternly. "Why, May Day, of course." She turned back to the fire. "But I suppose that don't mean naught to you."
Sam turned back to the drying. "What does it mean t'you then?" he asked, his eyes not seeing the dish that he picked up.
"Just wonderin'," Mari answered softly. "If there'll be anything on the door tomorrow. " She stared silently at the fire for awhile longer. "Maybe I should have you wake me up early, Sam. You know what they say." She continued to stare dreamily into the fire.
"What'd that be?" Sam asked, turning to watch the firelight glow on her honey-colored braids.
"If you catch your true love leaving you a May basket, then he must kiss you." she recited, as if from memory. Almost to herself, she added, "Then I'd know."
Sam finished the last of the dishes and spread the cloth on the table to dry. "If Tom has a ounce of sense, he'll wait until second breakfast if he has to, before putting anything on the door." he stated firmly. "No hobbit in his right mind will pass up a chance like that."
Marigold laughed, and got up from her stool. "Ah, Sam, you know what the Gaffer would say to all this." She gave him a hug from behind as he started to bend down to bank the fire. "All stuff 'n' nonsense," she declared in a mock gruff voice.
Sam laughed fondly, his arm around her shoulders as they watched the flames die into embers. "Love is never 'stuff 'n' nonsense', Mari," he chided her gently. "Why, there's naught more wonderful in all the world."
"Truly, Sam?" Marigold looked thoughtfully at her brother's face. "How would it be you'd be knowin' that?"
"Oh," Sam gave a start. "Mayhap I've been listening to too many stories." He smiled at her and they walked towards the hallway. "I'll be goin' up the hill early. I'll wake you if you want, though."
"Do, Sam," she replied with an answering smile before turning to her own room.
The sky was pink-tinted and promising to be fair once the clouds burnt off as Sam strode up the hill to Bag End early the next morning. There had been nothing on the door yet, but he had left a hopeful Marigold up early darning socks in the parlor. Since Tom had a sister, he ought to remember about today, Sam reflected as he quietly opened the gate of Bag End's garden. He might want to check around midday, and put a word in Tom's ear if needs be. He hated to see Mari disappointed, and he was all too aware of what the wishing and hoping felt like.
"Ah, but you're daft," he chided himself firmly, retrieving the weeding fork from the shed at the back of the hill. It was easiest to pluck out the weeds first thing in the morning while the soil was still damp with the dew. And then he might have a look whilst he was at it to remind himself of what else should be done that day. Too much to be done to be dreaming with his eyes open. There was the matter of the flowers for the day's bouquets to be considered, however. . .
Ever since Bilbo's departure last fall, this was one of the new tasks that he had appointed for himself. Bilbo had always chosen his own flowers for the smial, walking through the garden on occasion and cutting what pleased his fancy. He and Hamfast Gamgee had had many long discussions over the contents of the Bag End gardens, and as Sam took over from his father, he continued to work under Mr. Bilbo's instructions. Frodo seemed to enjoy the gardens as much as Bilbo, having several favored nooks for reading, where Sam would come unexpectedly across him in the course of a day's work, but he left the planning entirely up to Bilbo.
But this winter had been a long and lonely one for Frodo, as Sam well knew. There had been several trips to his kin at Brandy Hall, and Sam was fiercely glad that Frodo always seemed to be relieved to be home upon his return. His young rambuctious cousins would make occasional flying visits, but there was naught to keep them interested at Bag End for long, and they would leave Frodo alone again. Of course that was why, Sam told himself, Frodo had taken to inviting him to stay on occasion of an evening, sharing his supper, and reading to him from his treasured books by the firelight long after nightfall. No more than just keeping him company. Those memories of watching Frodo's firelit face and listening to his soft, expressive voice telling the wonderous tales of elves and enchantment wound a spell around Sam's heart that he held close to himself in his own lonely nights.
Sam had taken to doing what he could, in his own quiet way, to make Bag End more pleasant for Frodo. Knowing that Frodo stayed up late most nights over his studies, Sam began preparing his breakfast mornings, so that he could wake up to the aroma of something good in the kitchen. He kept an eye on the pantry, and there was always tea, fresh bread, and a favorite sweet around without Frodo's even having to think about it. Bag End tended to look a little neater than when Bilbo had been there, and it wasn't Frodo's doing. And the flowers. This spring, beautiful bouquets of the best the garden had to offer were to be found in every room. He knew that Frodo had noticed, and his appreciative smiles of thanks warmed Sam's heart through a long day's work.
So, Sam considered, the first warmth of the sun welcome on his back. The first of the peonies and roses, of course. And some hyacinth. Actually, he had just left fresh flowers in each of the rooms yesterday, but this was May Day, and that deserved something new. Deciding on and carefully selecting the best of the blossoms, he brought them into the kitchen of Bag End and placed them in a mug with some water while he decided where to put them and what to put them in. He quietly hummed to himself as he walked down the hallway to the storeroom for more tea, noting that Frodo's bedroom door further down the hall, was, as usual, still closed. Smiling fondly, he picked up the canister of tea. As he did so, his eye fell upon a roll of brown wrapping paper. "May Day," he thought suddenly, and impulsively picked the roll of paper up. There was ribbon and twine there as well, handy for packing up the occasion mathom. Sam took them all back to the kitchen.
Back in the kitchen, Sam started the fire for the tea and contemplated the items on the table. He had seen the May baskets left for his older sisters, and, smiling at the thought, those for his older brothers as well left by hopeful lasses. But he had never tried his own hand at one. Fortunately, Mr. Frodo still wouldn't be up for a while, and if the results were too sorry, he'd just leave the flowers in a glass on the kitchen table.
Tearing off a sizeable piece of the paper, Sam's deft hands shaped it into a cone. Well, that was easy enough. But now came the ribbon. That was harder to manage. He wrapped, but it seemed to want to slither away, with a mind of its own. "Now how hard can this be," he told himself sternly, "if great gits like Tom Cotton can manage it?"
On the fifth try, it stayed in place, and Sam quickly tied the ends. A bit of twine tied around the whole affair produced a handle, and Sam eyed it critically. At least with flowers in it, one could charitably assume it to be a May basket, even if it wasn't a thing of beauty.
He took the flowers from the glass, and before he could lose his nerve, went out the kitchen door, heading for the front door of the smial. Hoping that Frodo would have occasion to look at the front door before the sun wilted the flowers, he stood in front of the round green door with the uncomfortable feeling that he was crossing a new threshold. "It's just to give Mr. Frodo a bit of pleasure," he told himself firmly. "It's nobut that."
But before he could place the basket on the doorknob, the door opened and Frodo himself stood there. He was dressed, but his dark curls were still tousled with sleep. His expression was alert though, more so than usual this early in the morning and he was gazing at Sam with a faint smile. "Why, Sam, is that a May basket?" he asked softly.
Sam's blush was immediate and fierce. A thousand denials ran immediately through his head. "Tear the paper off quick, you ninnyhammer," his mind instructed him frantically. "Tell him that you just found it on the walk!" But he found all power of speech had left him and he could only stare hopelessly at Frodo in the doorway.
Frodo's eyes and smile were still on him as he hesitantly added, "You know what they say.."
Unable to withstand Frodo's gaze, Sam's eyes dropped to the walkway, but not before he had seen Frodo's expression of wistful hopefullness. With a sudden shock, he realized that mayhap the world was not as he had once thought and not all wonderous tales were in books. It took the greatest leap of faith that he had ever known, but he lifted his eyes again to Frodo and replied, "Aye, that it is. And I do know what they say."
Frodo's eyes suddenly lit up like all the most beautiful summer skies that he had ever seen and there never had been a more welcoming smile on his face than as he opened the door of Bag End wide and tenderly replied, "Then come in, Samwise, and claim your prize, for I believe that I have caught you true."