by Cara J. Loup

"Then why don't you stop shirriffing?" Sam says to me, and so I did, though it's easier in the telling than it is in the doing. I shouldn't have needed another body telling me what's up and what's down in the Shire, right you are. But you take one small step after another, till you wake up one Wintring morn in a damp Shirriff-house with your back stiff and your head bleared, and it's not the life you used to know no more. That's how it went with me and most other lads in our troop, none of us meaning no harm. But all this while we stuck to muttering amongst ourselves about lack of ale and vittles and such, instead of looking where the real damage lay. It didn't fit in our heads that our duties might be aught else than what we'd been learned to do as our job.

And what was that, Robin, mightn't you ask? Aye, well, I'll tell ye now, I had a fondness for the roaming about, I did, ever since my dad died, and for chatting with folk up and down the country and watching over things put to order. I was a Shirriff nigh on seven years when the troubles began, but I didn't see it then. 'Twasn't just me though, wearing the wool thick over my eyes, that I know. You watch a scantling of change pop up here and the next over there, and you start itching a bit wondering where it's all leading, but it ain't your place to call it wrong, if you follow.

My job never was righting a wrong that don't shout at you like a broken fence or a sacked bed of cabbage. We've had all a'that later, true enough, but the wrong weren't shouting at first. When Lotho Pimple took to wearing big hats and making like the Lord of the Shire, me and the lads was all saying how we'd wish the true Baggins back. Mr. Bilbo and Mr. Frodo, that is, and it's to our shame that we never marked how good they used to be with folk, when it were them living under the Hill. Aye, for a while there I thought Sam might never have words with me again, and I wouldn't have a-blamed him. But he's not a one like that, as I should've known and his Gaffer would've told me, too, don't you doubt it.

So me and the lads was still looking after broken fences and picking up stray sheep, and it wasn't till they put Will Whitfoot away that we started feeling mighty wrong under our own hats. Then us young 'uns went from joking about the Chief's manners to grumbling and wishing we'd naught to do with the business as were overturning all of Hobbiton, and thinking about finding us a better spot, and mayhap a different job too.

But old Carlman Rumblebuff, him that's been shirriffing his whole life and owns a better head for thinking than yours truly, he says, "Lads, if ye be Shirriffs no longer, who d'ye think they'll send out to make them Rules stick?"

And we all knew the answer to that, and that it'd be worse than the likes of Sandyman. So we went with the drudgery and did our bit as was asked and tried to keep the more hot-blooded folk from stirring up trouble as was sure to bite them in the back. We was thinking to make it less worse and easier for folk to live with, seeing as how they got the Rules delivered from a friendly mouth, not a club in the face. But then Sam comes back and looks me hard in the eye – such a look as I've never gotten from him nor thought I would, so help me – and asks, "Why don't you stop, Robin?"

If you've ever loped up a dung-hill and found yourself toppling down instead, then you know what I'm on about. It's like my old dad used to say, years over when I'd no mind to listen to him, he says, "Robin Smallburrow, you wouldn't know a fart from a bit of thunder 'less you got struck by the levin, too!" And right he was, my poor dad. It weren't just me that got shook up that day though, what with Sam and Mr. Frodo and his cousins riding up like orc banes come to unroot all ruffians as had sunk their dirty toes into Shire soil.

A sight they were, with their armour and shields and helmets, such as I'd never seen a hobbit wear. That day, I remember thinking that the Took and the Brandybuck must've been hauled through some magic well, as the saying goes, for they scarce looked the same. Not that I ever shook hands or shared bench with 'em, you understand, but they'd visit on the Hill and sup at the Dragon of an eve, in years afore. But here they was, looking from nose to toe ready for fighting, fearsome like knives glittering fresh after the whetting, if you can imagine. And sure enough they sent the varmint running, and the cocks are crowing it from all the roofs now-a-days, from here to Michel Delving. We all felt like we'd been woke to marvels sprung from old tales, I'm thinking. To a time when the Thain would rouse all hobbits against a danger or another, and of a sudden your worries don't press round you no more, and you're breathing with a gale that drives you onward, till all's clear again. And how's that for a bit of poetry?

But when the storm's bated, things start looking bleak again, and worse for your own part in them. That's as it seemed to me, leastways, and I'd lost all heart for wearing the Shirriff hat a day longer. I'd find it lying next to my bed when I waked up, mocking me for the year I'd worn it on my dull head without one lick of wit. So I stopped being Shirriff as I ought to have when the troubles set in.

No, 'twasn't allowed for none of us to leave the Shirriffs, but if we'd all got up and left together, who knows what might've been done. But it's like riding down one road in the fog too long, when you're glad enough to see clear for the next yards ahead, and if you tramp like that for days, you're no longer willing to turn off the road as seems to be safe. 'Tis easier to see what paths you might have took once the fog's blown off. And it took Sam asking me why I weren't leaving to lift the fog off my eyes.

You have to understand that it weren't all like him, neither. Not that I had much time thinking on it when we was all rushing to drive the robbers off our lands, but I did later. I've known Sam since we was both little. Not as well as some do, the Cotton boys for starts, but I've seen a fair bit of him over the years. Oh, he could hold his own with the likes of Sandyman, when they got a little loose in the tongue, but he was never... sharp. See, with him it wasn't the sword and armour so much, though I'll own that I never expected to see him in soldier's gear. Him that used to handle a scythe as if it were made to lull the grass into a nice rest, come haying time, not chop it like the most of us.

He's not grown a thought taller neither. You have to stand right close to see the scars on him, and that I didn't notice till half the winter was through. With him the change is like the difference in a tree that never strikes the eye till winter's come and it stands all bare to the bone. Then you'll mark where the storm's wrestled off branches and how the trunk's grown straighter and sterner since, and the young branches are all growing a whit closer. That's the only way I have of saying it, and it don't match the thing by half. His words shamed me, that's the truth, and I thought he'd never speak to me again.

Not but what I couldn't help running into him, seeing as how much work wanted done in Hobbiton allabout. When winter's on the doorstep and all the barns empty, you don't trouble yourself over losing a friend. Truth be told, I thought folk all over Hobbiton and Bywater would look at me queer for spreading the ruffians' rules. The first weeks after, I were too busy chewing on that to notice how they didn't. But then the frost set in and slowed us down some, and that left me room for thinking.

I took to helping with restoring the holes on the north side of the Bywater Pool. Such a sore sight no eye's seen in many a year! All those pretty homes and gardens gone to waste, and sundry folk needing a roof over their head ere the first snow. We'd about made those holes homely again, not as handsome as they was before, but snug enough to last the winter. But now daylight's falling early, and I wanted more work to while the time, so I took up with Weaver Harfoot. He burns the candles late, Will Harfoot does, for he can't do his proper job during daytime neither. And he doesn't mind me joining him in his workshop after dusk, for a bit of a job I've contrived for myself.

What kind of a job that might be, you'd wonder, for a lad that's never learned no trade other than shirriffing. But you see, I couldn't get it off my mind how them doors on the other side of the Pool used to glow in bright colours, and how merry they looked. So I went about mixing colours to paint 'em afresh, even though it's not as needful a thing as fixing roofs and suchlike.

But here I was, in the days afore Yule, leaving Will's workshop to head on home to Mam Smallburrow over in Hobbiton, when up comes Sam – going right the other way, mind you, out of Hobbiton and over to the Cotton farm where he and Mr. Frodo lives these days. I'd stuck my head between my shoulders against the chill wind. If I saw him at all, he were like another shadow between the stack of timbers nigh the Pool and the broken old willow. But then he calls, "Robin, what are you up to at this hour, and without your coat, too?"

Suppose I stared at him like a thunderstruck goose for a moment or another, so he chuckles and sets a hand on my shoulder, and asks, "Cock-Robin, where's your head?" just like my old dad used to. Well, he made me blush hard like the ninny I am, and then he goes on to say, "You look like a hobbit that wants a good ale to warm him up and ease his heart."

Oh, you'd better believe that I wouldn't say no to such an offer, but still I says, "Weren't you going on home, Sam?"

I didn't mean to keep him from his rest and a good supper at the Cottons', you see, for he's been busier at work than a full score of us. But there his mien changed, as if my saying 'home' had struck him sore in the side.

"It can wait till we've had a cup, you and me, Robin," he says, soft as if his mind were rambling elsewhere. "'Tis been too long a while, wouldn't you say?"

Right glad I was, too, that he'd want my company, so we struck out for the Dragon together, not saying another word till we got indoors.

I'm not telling you news when I say that the Dragon's crowded, come the end of the week, even though the beer's still watered and a hobbit has to make his cup last for hours, for none of us wants to run short on ale ere the winter's out. Sam picked us a place near the door, but if he'd thought to go unnoticed, then he thought wrong. He's been tireless, you see, and folk mark how he's always got a word of cheer in the midst of working as if he's set on breaking his back. He's gone and planted new trees up and down the countryside, from Overhill to the East Road, and farther than that, for aught I know. And he's helped with getting all the spare timber carted where it's most needed, besides having the Row restored so that his dad will be back under his own roof as soon as may be. And when all that's done, he goes up to Bag End, all by himself, to set things aright again for Mr. Frodo.

Not that I've ever walked as far up the Hill myself to know of it, but I have it from Maggie Twofoot that he won't let another hobbit set a toe inside Bag End to help with the mending. None other than his dad, as like as not, and Mr. Frodo hisself, I'll be bound. What Sam needs in tile and timber, he gets delivered to Bag End's gate, and does all of the work on his own. Near blind as Gaffer Gamgee is, I doubt as he'd be much help, bless his kind old heart.

That night, Sam must have been coming down from the Hill, though I never asked him, and he didn't say. But there's lines by the corner of his mouth that didn't used to be there, and they show harder when he's been to Bag End. Or so I took to thinking when I met him in the road some nights.

There was cheers and halloos for him when he stepped inside the Dragon, and Sam made a round through the inn to have his hand shook and ask how the work was going this side of Bywater. I didn't mind the waiting, though it was a while till he came back with our mugs of ale. He wouldn't let me spend a penny neither, so I says, "You put me to shame again, Sam."

For a long moment he stares at me as if I've shook him out of a dream. "When did I ever put you to shame, Robin?" he asks, slow and guardful, as if there were trouble afoot.

So I told him about my Shirriff hat mocking me each morrow, though I wouldn't have if I'd known it to give him grief. He looked down into his mug a while, sloshing the beer about without drinking, and when he says "I'm sorry," his voice is low and nigh cracking, as if I'd brought down a great weight on him.

By light of day and with less ale in me to muddle my thinking, I know it weren't me that troubled him so, but I didn't want no part of it. So I told him not to be sorry for shaking me out of my dull wits and pointing me at my own wrong. Truth be told, every hour of work as I do these days feels like a piece of me settling back to rights. Sam now, he was watching me as I were trying to explain myself, and there's that same look in his eyes as there were when we met outside Frogmorton.

I don't know as I can describe it to you right proper, for you'd have to have known him as a lad in Hobbiton. The way he'd set his eyes on things – green and growing things, most like – was never aught like this. Slow and heedful it used to be, as if he'd read in a wild-grown hedge like he'd read in Mr. Bilbo's books ere he'd start with the trimming. But that's what it means being a gardner, I reckon. Sam used to like taking things in afore setting to work, as much as I liked cantering about and chatting with all and sundry. But now his eyes can pierce a hobbit to the quick, all through being soft and thoughtful.

See, it's not a change as fits well into words, for it don't show as clear as the scar high on his forehead that he rubs at times when his mind's out wandering. It's only a notion that I have, and you're welcome to laugh at it as you will. But when he looked at me in that dim corner of the Dragon with his hand clamped tight round his mug, I thought that you don't get a look like that 'less you've been pierced to the heart yourself, and that's as well as I can put it.

But then he smiles at me and shakes his head and says, "Robin, what would I know of how it's been for you, living under the ruffians' sway? You've done as well as you could."

"Aye, that's as may be, but other folk've done better," says I, meaning him – and some others that stayed in the Shire and found a bigger piece of courage than yours truly. Like Farmer Cotton or Mr. Fredegar Bolger that got stuck in the lockholes, or Mistress Lobelia even, with her sharp temper.

"Is that what you'd want?" he asks me. "To be at the fore in the fighting and strike the first blow? And take the first blow, too," he adds, "most like."

"I'm not made for that," I answer, and Sam knows it better than most. I never had no wish nor liking for the post of leader in a band of Shirriffs.

"That's all as matters," he tells me, "to know what's in you and to follow it through."

Right on the mark he was, but it had me thinking about him again. Him being just a gardner and following Mr. Frodo out to Buckland and beyond, into lands as strange as fancy. Did Sam ever think that were in him ere they left?

It got me thinking on Mr. Frodo too, though we don't see as much of him in Hobbiton or Bywater these days. He's doing his own bit to replace Will Whitfoot, and more, for our old Mayor never found such a load of rough business on his hands. But when you see Mr. Frodo hereabouts, Sam's always at his side, and that night, while Sam were trying his best to hearten me, I got it in my head that there's another change you don't note at first sight, and that's between the two of them.

There now, I've talked myself into another knot as I'm not sure I can untangle and make sense of. But when I sat there looking up to a candle on the Dragon's wall, it seemed as if they'd been light and shadow to each other for a goodly time, even before they went away. Mr. Frodo being like that true, steady candleflame in all his years as Master of the Hill, with his merry temper and his kind ways, and if he roved about, talking to elves and dwarves, why, no harm ever came of it. And Sam like the shadow surrounding that glow of him, when I think of them now, coming to market together or planning out the works at harvest time. But these days it's like Sam shines a brighter light about himself, and Mr. Frodo stands beside him as if he's gladder in the shadow.

See, I told ye it won't make no sense, so I'd best keep my tongue behind my teeth. There's not a hair on my feet as knows poetry from moonshine. But I did ask after Mr. Frodo, seeing as how he's thinner than he used to be and quieter than he ever was, and that's plain to the eye of any.

Sam gives me a look as seems to be asking a hundred questions I don't understand. "He'll be happier to live in his old home again," he says finally, "when it can be called a home by rights, and that's as far away as spring."

So I reckon that a gentlehobbit like Mr. Frodo must be missing his comforts there in the farmhouse that's packed with folk all thrown out of their rightful home, and I said so, too.

"No," Sam answers and drinks deep, and sets his mug down with a smack. "No, Robin, you've got that all wrong."

If I'd took the time to think then, I might've guessed that Mr. Frodo must have known such hardships on the road as will make a haystack seem like the finest bed. Being the Tom-fool that I am, Sam had to remind me. Not in so many words though: that thick, short 'no' he gave me were enough.

I was still biting my lip when the door opens again and the Took steps in, cloak swirling in that chill draft, and wouldn't you know what manner of din went up then! He's been about every week since the battle, him and his kin helping the works hereabouts, for the blows didn't rain so hard on the Tookland. Only last Mersday they was carting grain up over the Green Hills to help filling our empty barns. So folk love him well, and he's as jolly a chap as you've ever met. But his eyes fell on Sam first as he walked in, and I'm thinking now that's why Sam chose us a spot near the door, though I might be wrong.

"Hullo, Sam," he says, setting a hand on Sam's shoulder, and he gives back a "Good evening, Mr. Pippin," and more of a smile than I'd seen him wear that night. The Took rolls his eyes and shakes his head as if to say, 'Why do you hang a Mister round my neck?' But if you know Sam, you can be sure he'd not have it otherwise. Whatever bog or ditch they found themselves in during travelling, I wager he never forgot who were Mister and who weren't, not for a blink.

On the Took goes to pass 'good evenings' into the round and buy fresh ale for the lot of us, no less. Sam's watching him with half a smile, and no wonder, seeing as how Mr. Peregrin were a lad full of mischief not long ago. Now he stands taller than ever a broomstick in Mother Primstone's yard, and wears fine silver on his tunic. He'll make a grand Thain, and a commander of Shirriffs, once he's of age.

They were having a bit of song while Mr. Pippin made his round. Sam chuckled, sipping his beer, and I for my part were glad to see him at ease. Then the Took came back to our table, and you'd better believe that I kept my mouth shut proper while he and Sam was accounting our stocks for the winter. The noise and chatter all about wouldn't settle again though, and many a tale of the battle got spun at the tables nearby.

Aye, we've all heard them tales over and again, but such a fair bit of fear and relief wants remembering. Myself, I shot my bow when I could in the battle, and I'd wager that my mark were true more often than not, for I've been handy with the bow at least. But I didn't look too close at who I shot that day, as any who's helped carrying off the bodies will understand. But once that's over and the remains burned to ash, tale-telling will keep a body from griping over all that went missing while Sharkey was Chief. It keeps the fear of winter at bay, too. For even with the Tooks sparing us grain and hay, there'll be starving to face ere spring, and none know it better than Sam and Mr. Pippin.

So they was reckoning between them, and when they'd finished their ale, Sam gets up to buy another, and somewhere ahind us there's still a battle tale running. They're praising the Took loud enough for him to hear, and his Brandybuck cousin besides, for dragging them ruffians under the harrow, as was well-deserved. Sam's just setting his mug under the tap when a voice pipes up with "Aye, while that Mr. Frodo stood by and did naught save stop us from tanning their bloody hides when we had them cooped and trussed." And another joins him with, "Mayhap that's what he learned on his travels, keepin' company with queer folk and all. You don't see much of him here, do ye?"

It weren't Sandyman, that I know for sure, for he's wise enough not to give us much of his mouth these days, and some would kick him out of Hobbiton if they could. He owes it to Sam and Mr. Frodo that they don't, and I 'spect Sandyman knows that. But who it was, I can't tell ye, as I had my eyes on Sam, and so did Mr. Pippin. For Sam goes all white in the face, and I mean white as fresh flour, if you can believe it, and his hands are in fists.

Now Sam's never been one to stand off a scrimmage when words fly too quick and hot, and I know somewhat of anger myself, after sitting on my own for months. But all that were naught like the look on Sam's face at that moment. He takes a step over to that table, and I can see as he's trembling, though his voice tells none of it when he says, "I'll be ashamed to ever set foot in the Dragon again, if that means hearing such words from you louts."

Then of course there's a mort of folk saying he shouldn't take on so, and Innkeeper Furry peeps from his kitchen, and the Took gets out of his chair quick and quiet like a marten to stand next to Sam. He don't need to say aught, but folk realise they was gobbing ill of his cousin, sure enough, so there's muttered sorrys going up from the table by the plenty, and then a big hush falls in the room. But Sam still stands there with his hands in fists as if he's forgotten how to let them loose, and I think he's still shaking though I can't rightly see.

"Come on, Sam," says Mr. Pippin with a kindly hand on his shoulder, "I think we have spent enough time in this jolly company for one evening.

"Good night," he calls to Furry, steering Sam to the door. Me, I'm still stuck in my chair like a small pea in a pod, but then the Took gives me a glance as says 'Get up, you ass!' and that gets me moving mighty quick.

He still smiles like a lad in his tweens, Mr. Pippin does, but there's steel in his eyes now, and no mistake. Even if I'd had a mind to say him no, I couldn't have. So all three of us make for the door, with a flurry of good-nights at our heels and many a regretful glance, I'll bet you. I've enough wit about me to grab Sam's coat, thinking he'll need it in the frosty air. But when I hold it to him, he looks at me as if I were trying to rake hay with a dung-shovel.

"Put that on yourself, Robin," he murmurs, "you're shivering."

But the truth is, it's him that shivers even harder now, and he leans back to the wall and drops his head and says so low I can scarce catch it, "Give me a moment, Pippin."

We're both dumbstruck, the Took and I, and it seems Mr. Pippin's eyes are filling of tears, but my own are stinging right bad, so I could have it wrong. Of a sudden I'm afeared there's somewhat shattered inside Sam, and that's enough to rattle a body to the bone.

"Sam, you'll catch a cold," Mr. Pippin says when he's found his tongue again, quicker than yours truly, not that that'll surprise any. "Come now, let's find ourselves a spot that's a little warmer at least." He hooks one hand under the arm that Sam's clamped over his stomach as if he might be sick, and leads him over to the stables.

Inside, it's a mite more comfortable than it was out, and there's the munching of ponies on their poor mouthful of oats and the shuffling of hoofs in the straw. Mr. Pippin starts a light in one of the lanterns, and it shows the sweat dappling Sam's face. Mayhap he is taking ill, but Mr. Pippin don't seem to think so.

"Sam," he says in cheerier tones, patting his own pony's flank a moment, "you know I'd be the first to make a song about Frodo's deeds, ill-suited as I am to writing poetry, if he would but allow it."

"If he ever hears a word of this–" Sam folds his arms and leans his back to one of the wooden posts, but he's looking a whit steadier now. Angrier too, and not so shaken, which is more to my liking, believe me. "How dare they?" he asks through his teeth.

Mr. Pippin turns back to him and smiles a bit, more sad than merry, and he don't look the tweener that he is by an inch. "If Frodo had been here tonight, it would be you that he'd worry about. You know that, Sam. A bit of drunken chatter won't bother him more than a bad smell on the air."

Well, I'll be – I don't rightly know what, but it's one thing knowing that Mr. Frodo thinks high of our Sam, and another to hear suchlike from the Took's own mouth, if you understand me.

"Frodo," says Mr. Pippin, "would be far more uncomfortable to hear his praise sung up and down the country. And it is hard to disagree, for what song could do him justice?" He puts a hand on Sam's arm and gives him a gentle shake. "You remember who it was that sat me down and explained this to me, don't you, Samwise Gamgee?"

"Aye," he says, and starts loosening up his collar, looking a bit abashed now. "That I remember, though it weren't my place."

"Oh, you're hopeless!" replies the Took with a grin, and I'm feeling a little lighter of heart and far out of my reckoning, too, for all this is news to me. What were Mr. Frodo up to in that war as they all got stuck in? I wonder, though I don't think I'll ever find the nerve to ask Sam. This is as much as I'm about to hear of it, I expect.

"I'll get you a glass of water," Mr. Pippin tells Sam and swings about, not without a glance at me that's as clear as spoken orders. 'Watch him close, Robin!' that glance says, and I nigh answer him yessir. Though I didn't need to be told.

But now Sam is rubbing his arms and when I hand him his coat he takes it with a rueful look. "This ain't what I had in mind to put a good close on the day," he says, putting on his coat. "Let's have another ale when the weather's cleared, shall we?"

"I'll gladly take that," I answer, "but only if you'll leave your purse at home, no arguing."

Sam mutters something gruff at that and rubs at his chin, and the colour's come back to his face, too – a bit much of it, even. You might think I'd be upset to see him so flustered, for he's not been that way since coming back. He's always as calm and collected as you wouldn't believe. But in truth it's good to see a spark of our old Sam under all that calm.

It gives me a bit of cheer, right enough, so I pick up where Mr. Pippin left off. "You know the way folk are, Sam," I tell him, "they're rougher with their own than they're with strangers, mosttimes." He looks at me with more doubt than belief, but leastways he's listening. "That, and all the anger still smouldering hereabouts," I rattle on quick, "Sam, just think on it! It's like tatters of smoke puffed up the wrong chimney."

"And it's your job not to let any loose bales catch fire, isn't it, Robin?" Sam asks me with a twisted sort of half-smile, and here I'm nodding like the fool that's forgotten he no longer wears a Shirriff hat.

He looks to the side then, into the dark half of the stable, and I've got sense enough to let him be for the moment. If I don't know the half of Mr. Frodo's doings in the war, why, I know even less of Sam's part, not even how he got himself that little scar on his forehead. There must have been some blackness in the tale deeper than a midwinter night, I'm thinking, for that's what I see in his eyes when he looks back at me.

But then, all of a sudden, he points to a spot of red paint on my cuff and asks, "What's that?"

So I tell him about my plans for painting all the doors round the Bywater Pool up fresh, first because I think it'll take his mind off worrying, and then because it starts him smiling for true. I tell him about buckets of green and yellow and red, and when the Took comes back with a pitcher of water, Sam's wearing a jollier look.

"You could spend the night at the inn," Mr. Pippin suggests while Sam's taking a sip. "You look as if you need a rest, my friend."

I'm agreed to that, for it's plain as beanpoles that all the work has tired Sam out. But he wipes his mouth, shakes his head, and gives Mr. Pippin a queer sort of look. There's words passing through that look, but that's their business, not mine, and all Sam says is, "Thank'ee for the water... and the company."

We all head out of the stable then, and the cold's grown more piercing. At the yard gate, Mr. Pippin claps Sam's shoulder, though he still looks a mite worried, if I'm not mistaken. Me he gives a short glance, but it says that he's marked my face, and I'm none too sure how I like that.

Out in the road, I make ready to walk Sam back to the Cottons, but he chuckles when I say so. "Go on home," he tells me, "ere you catch yourself a case of the sniffles."

To look at him now, it's as if the whole upset never happened. Mayhap it's best to leave it at that. But Sam hasn't had his full say yet. He tilts his head and looks me up and down. "Do you know, Cock-Robin, you make a fine Shirriff, and you'd best get that feather back in your hat, right quick."

Yessir is about to slip off my tongue again, but I catch it back and make it "A good night to ye, Sam." And so we part ways. But now, after thinking it through, I'll take his advice, though I'm far from being a fine Shirriff. None knows it better than me. But for good or worse, shirriffing is what's in me, and Sam could see that clearer than I. I wish I could do him a favour in kind, but that's as like as snow on a Lithe Day. I won't forget though. Never that.

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