Sam found the receipt tucked between two pages of an old cookery book that had belonged to Mr. Bilbo. He’d been looking for something special to make Mr. Frodo for dinner, for his master had seemed a bit downhearted of late; not sickening for anything- Mr. Frodo was never ill- but subdued-like, as if he had a weight on his mind.
From the garden, where he was busy pinching off dead blossoms in the flower beds, Sam had covertly watched his master as he set out for his customary after-tea walk. His dark head was bent, his footsteps lacked their usual spring, and his walking stick was idle in his hand, instead of swinging briskly as was its wont.
‘This won’t do,’ Sam had thought to himself, ‘Mr. Frodo wants cheering up, and no mistake.’ He’d settled on food as the best means of accomplishing this (giving up, regretfully, the first means that came to mind, for he had neither the right nor the nerve to employ it, no matter how much he might wish he did). Abandoning his flower beheading, Sam hurried into the kitchen to consult the cookery book that resided on a shelf among an assortment of crockery jars and pewter candlesticks.
Sam didn’t use receipts in the general way; he’d learnt to cook at his mam’s elbow, and had the born cook’s innate ability to know how much of this or that was called for without the need of measuring cups or spoons. But when inspiration was necessary, as on this occasion, the cookery book proved very useful. Mr. Bilbo had told him once that most of the receipts in it had been written by his mother, Belladonna Baggins (neé Took), but the old hobbit had admitted to adding a few of his own invention, as well as some he’d got from the Dwarves.
Sam loved the book with its well-worn brown calf leather binding, for every page told its own unique story: in addition to the lists of ingredients and instructions, Mistress Belladonna had also included from whom she’d got each receipt and the story of how and where she’d first discovered the dish: at a Yule dinner at Brandy Hall, or an assembly dance in Tuckborough, or the Free Fair in Michel Delving. And the book had been used, and used well, the way a cookery book ought to be, in Sam’s opinion. Many of its pages were creased, or speckled with old spots of what might have been grease or flour or some other foodstuff, as though the book had sat right in the midst of the confusion while the dish was being prepared. Corrections and comments were notated in the margins- many of them in Bilbo’s firm flowing script.
Sam had leafed slowly through the book, pausing from time to time to ponder whether a particular receipt would do, but nothing seemed quite right. Frodo’s favourite was writ across the top of a receipt for tomato pie with puff pastry crust. But he skipped over that; he’d long ago memorised it, for anything that was a favourite of Frodo would appear regularly at the Bag End dinner table if Sam Gamgee had anything to do with it.
And then, toward the back, he found it: a small irregularly shaped piece of yellowed parchment, laid in between a receipt for conserve of lavender and one for candied lavender flowers. Funny that he’d never noticed the loose sheet before, considering all the times he’d looked at the cookery book.
Curious, Sam removed the piece of parchment, and as he did, the faintest whiff of lavender teased his nose. That was queer, he thought, but as he read the receipt, he understood why.
Scented ink will give a delicate, intangible fragrance to your personal letters, a fragrance that will waft out as soon as the envelope is opened and that will linger mysteriously over the pages.
1/2 oz dried lavender flowers
6 tbsp water
1 small bottle ink
Crush the lavender and put into a saucepan with the water.
Bring them to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes or
until you have 2 tablespoons brown, opaque liquid left.
Strain, pressing down well.
Mix the liquid with the ink.
Sam tapped his lip thoughtfully with the edge of the parchment, releasing tiny puffs of sweet fragrance with each tap. Well, it wasn’t a receipt for food, but Mr. Frodo did love the scent of lavender, and Eru knew he spent enough time at his desk in the study working on his translations and writing letters to his relations… He could make Mr. Frodo a batch of this lavender ink as a little surprise, and not only today but every day, every time his master dipped quill into ink that lovely scent would be there to cheer him. Why, it was almost as if that receipt had been waiting there for Sam to find it, just for this purpose.
Sam headed at once for the stillroom, where he found a glass jar half-filled with dried lavender flowers, and carried it back to the kitchen. Then he found mortar and pestle to crush the flowers, and set to work making the ink. The delicate scent of lavender slowly filled the kitchen as the water in the saucepan began to heat, and Sam breathed it in gladly, hoping it would have the same cheering effect on Mr. Frodo as it was on him.
While the flowers simmered in the hot water, Sam went along to Frodo’s study to find a bottle of ink. He normally would never have ventured into that room without being invited, but he thought Mr. Frodo would forgive him for taking the liberty this once. He didn’t linger, though the Bag End study was a place of wonders indeed (the chief one being the blue-eyed hobbit who could often be found there), but quickly located the supply of ink in the bottom right-hand drawer of the desk, snatched a bottle up and left.
The ink was finished, smelling delightfully of lavender just as the receipt had promised, and had been carefully poured into the crystal well on Frodo’s desk. Sam was putting the final touches to a much more elaborate dinner than usual, including Frodo’s favourite tomato pie, when Frodo returned home.
“Your dinner’s nearly ready, sir,” Sam said when Frodo poked his head through the kitchen door to inform Sam that he was back from his walk.
“Excellent; I’m famished,” Frodo confessed, and the tip of his elegant nose twitched. “Tomato pie, Sam?”
Frodo’s eyes gleamed with anticipation. “I’ll just go and clean up then, and be along in a trice.”
It appeared as though his plan was already having a positive effect on his master, Sam thought happily, loading up a wooden tray with the food.
To Sam’s surprise, Frodo was already in the dining room, and seated at the head of the table. Sam had set the table for one and lit a brace of candles, for evening was starting to draw in. His master’s cleaning up had evidently been a hasty one, Sam judged as he carried the heavy tray to the table and set it carefully down; the curls clustered on Frodo’s white brow were damp, and a few droplets of moisture still lingered, glistening, on his smooth fair cheeks. It was hard for Sam not to stare at them, even harder to resist the urge to wipe them gently away with his fingers.
“Why Sam, you’ve prepared every one of my favourite dishes,” Frodo exclaimed, examining the plates and bowls that Sam efficiently set out on the table. He shook his head a little, the candlelight dancing in his glossy dark curls. “You spoil me, you really do.”
It wasn’t his imagination, Sam decided, as he busied himself with filling Frodo’s goblet with wine. Mr. Frodo looked as though whatever weight had been on his mind was now lifted, for his rosy lips were curved into a contented smile and his brow was untroubled.
Sam’s heart soared, and the words slipped out before he could stop them: “Begging your pardon, sir, but you can’t be spoiled, seeing as there’s naught in this world too good for you.” Then he bit his lip and flushed a little, hoping he hadn’t revealed too much; the mouth of the wine bottle set the glass rim of the goblet to chiming from the unsteadiness of his hand.
Frodo’s own hand, reaching for a piece of bread, froze in mid-air for a moment then continued its smooth progress toward the breadbasket. “I do believe,” he said slowly as he selected a roll, “that that is quite the loveliest thing anyone’s ever said to me.” He looked at Sam then, smiling, and the vivid blue of his eyes had deepened to the indigo of twilight in the shadowy room. Sam could not look away, nor did he wish to; such wonders there were to explore in those depths, enough to last a lifetime, he thought…
“I meant it, Mr. Frodo, every word,” Sam whispered with painful honesty. His ears were now burning as well as his face, and suddenly the full measure of his audacity struck him, and he panicked. “I hope you enjoy your dinner, sir,” he gabbled, setting down the wine bottle and backing hastily away from the table. “I’ll just do the washing up and then be off home.” He bolted from the room like a startled hare, and later thought that he must have imagined Frodo’s urgent, “Sam, wait!”
He tackled the dirty dishes like a mad hobbit, scrubbing at pots and pans as if his life depended upon it, while he tried not to recall the things he’d blurted out and what they must have revealed of the state of his true feelings. Best not to think on them, as Mr. Frodo surely wouldn’t. They had no doubt already passed from his mind.
Sam couldn’t decide whether this thought was more comforting or desolating.
After a largely sleepless night, Sam set out for Bag End through the early morning light with dread dogging his footsteps like a shadow. He’d been too forward, that was a fact, he now realised, and what Mr. Frodo would make of his impudence in replacing his usual ink with the lavender scented, he didn’t dare imagine. What had possessed him to take such a liberty?
He headed across the garden to the back door of the smial, wondering all the while if he ought to offer Mr. Frodo an apology when he saw him, or simply remain mum in the hope that everything would return to normal in time. But when he reached the door he was distracted from his internal debate, for tacked to the wood just above the brass doorknob in the center was a small piece of paper. How queer, Sam thought, and wondered why anyone would have left a message for his master in such an unlikely place.
He bent forward to examine it, and wasn’t certain which was the greater shock: the scent of lavender that met his nose or the words on the paper, penned in Frodo’s elegant script:
Lilies are white,
Your heart is the truest
I’ve ever seen.
Sam stared in dumbfounded amazement. The note had to be for him; he was always the first one to arrive at Bag End in the morning. Frodo must have meant for Sam to find it. Your heart is the truest I’ve ever seen. Did Frodo really think that of him? With fingers that trembled, and the oddest fluttering sensation in the pit of his stomach, as if several dozen butterflies had taken up residence there, Sam removed the tack, pocketed the precious, sweet-smelling paper, and went inside.
He made his way down the hallway to the kitchen, listening carefully but hearing no sign of Mr. Frodo having risen from his bed. It was early yet, however, and Sam normally had the kitchen fire lit, the kettle set to boiling and the first batch of scones baking in the oven before Frodo would put in an appearance at the breakfast table. He must have tacked up the little poem before retiring last night, Sam concluded. Oh, how dearly he wished he had the nerve to knock on Frodo’s bedchamber door, to wake him and ask him if the words truly had been meant for him, and if he had indeed truly meant them. Instead, with a sigh, he continued on to the kitchen.
But there, Sam received yet another shock, for the fire on the hearth was already lit, and the kettle on its hook over the dancing flames was steaming, and on the scrubbed wooden table was a plate of fresh-baked scones that smelled deliciously of lavender. The teapot sat ready to be filled with hot water, there was milk in a small china pitcher next to the honey pot, and two small bowls held clotted cream and apricot jam to go with the scones.
And propped against the teapot was a second piece of paper. Wonderingly, Sam picked it up, and read:
Roses are red,
If you will have me,
I will have you.
Sam whirled toward the door, and there was Frodo, up and dressed and hovering on the threshold, appearing oddly tentative, even shy, as he met Sam’s gaze.
“You ran off before I could thank you,” he said quietly, “not only for the wonderful meal, but your beautiful words. And then I discovered the ink you made for me. I’m afraid my poem is very bad indeed, Sam, but I wanted to give you a little something in return, using your lovely gift.”
“It ain’t bad at all,” protested Sam, holding the slip of paper protectively against his heart. “It’s the loveliest poem I’ve ever read. The Elves couldn’t have done better.”
Frodo laughed and shook his head, but walked straight up to Sam and took his hand. “It has but one merit, and that is that, like you, I meant every word.” He looked deep into Sam’s eyes, and said simply, “Dear Sam, truest of heart, my own heart is yours, if you will have it.”
“If I will have it. Oh Mr. Frodo-"
But Frodo laid a gentle finger over his lips. “Just 'Frodo' will do nicely,” he said, smiling.
Sam blushed, but gave it his best effort. “F-Frodo,” he got out, and the glow in Frodo’s eyes was ample reward. “And aye, I’ll have your heart. ‘Tis only fair, for you’ve always had mine.”
Their embrace was twined round with the scent of lavender from the ink on the paper that was pressed between their straining breasts. But later, when Sam took the cookery book down from the shelf to show the receipt to Frodo, it was nowhere to be found.