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Across the Waters: 7. Shore
Frodo heard the water before he saw it. They had been riding for a week, and had come to the Far Downs and the White Towers that stood at the westernmost edge of the Shire, overlooking the Sea. Although Frodo could not yet see the water, he knew its deep and mournful sound well, for he had heard it so often in his dreams.
It was an hour past noon when they arrived at the White Towers, and the sun was high and bright. White gulls wheeled overhead, and Frodo recognized their voice, though he had never heard it in his waking life. As they rode past the towers, Frodo recalled the dream that had come to him at Crickhollow, in the one night of his life that he had slept there as its owner. He wondered if his fate had already been long-sealed on that quiet night. Standing now upon the site of that distant dream, it seemed that all the events of his life had always been leading him here, to this place, this bright September day near the edge of the Sea.
Although he knew they would come to the Havens by evening, he suddenly desired to look upon the Sea now, as he had in his dream. He brought his pony to a halt and gazed up at the towers, his hand shielding his eyes against the sun.
Sam came up alongside Frodo and stopped as well. “What is it, Mr. Frodo? Do you want to stop and rest?”
“I would like to stop,” Frodo answered, without taking his eyes from the towers. “But not to rest. I would like to climb the tower, and look at the Sea.”
Frodo heard Sam shift uncomfortably in his saddle. “Seems to me that’s not the best thing to do, Mr. Frodo. We’ll be right on the Sea in a few hours anyway, I don’t see why you’d want to wear yourself out.” And then in a murmur to himself, Frodo heard, “I’d rather not see it at all, not ever.”
Frodo looked at Sam and smiled. “It won’t take long, Sam, and even if it is tiring, I will have plenty of time for rest on the ship.” He noticed Sam’s dismayed expression at the mention of the ship, and placed his hand on Sam’s arm. “Come with me.”
Sam sighed in resignation. He rode out to the others to tell them that he and Frodo planned to climb the tower, and he did not seem to meet any resistance. Sam rode back to Frodo, who had already dismounted.
In his dream, Frodo had struggled over a great ridge to reach the tower, but he was pleased to find that the land around it was quite level and easy to traverse. He and Sam had little trouble coming to the foot of the tower, where a door was cut into its stone wall. The inside of the tower was as white as the outside, and brightly lit with sunlight from the opening at its top. The thick walls made it cool, and very quiet. Frodo could hear only an echo of the far-off Sea, and wondered if the tower had been built in a way that would capture and magnify its sound. It smelled of centuries of sunlight, rain, and salt air, and seemed immeasurably ancient to Frodo. He considered the long-gone race that had built the towers in a sunlit time when the world was still young, and wondered what they would think of these two little hobbits, and their improbable tale.
A stone staircase wound up the inside wall and he and Sam set to climbing it. It was not an easy ascent, and twice Frodo was obliged to sit and rest. Both times, he felt Sam staring at him from the corner of his eye. “I’m all right, Sam,” he said. “Don’t worry.”
They came at last to a platform at the top of the tower. It was open on all sides, a round balcony of stone. A wall ran around its perimeter, at what would have been waist-high to a man. Frodo and Sam were just able to see over its edge.
Sam gasped at the sight, but Frodo remained silent. Across the downs, in the distance, the world ended in a great expanse of sun-sparkled blue. He had not imagined the Sea could be so vast. He thought of the cozy confines of Bag End and the familiar byways of the Shire, and felt a keen loneliness at the thought that his days would end on the other side of such forlorn emptiness, so far from home. He sighed and Sam looked at him.
“Are you sure, Frodo?” he asked. “Do you have to do this?”
Frodo turned away from the Sea and looked at his friend. “I’m afraid I do, Sam.”
“I know what you said to me back in Woody End, but somehow it still don’t seem to make sense, your leaving like this. Not after all that’s happened.”
“It is because of all that’s happened that I have to do this. I would be leaving you if I stayed, and forever. I would soon die from my wounds, and you would expend yourself taking care of me and watching me die, instead of carrying on with the life that you should have…that I might have had. I will be healed in the West. And the time may come when we will see each other again.”
Sam stood with his head down, and Frodo could see that his shoulders were shaking. “Sam,” he said. Sam looked up with tears in his eyes. “After all that you’ve done for me, I have no right to ask you for anything. But will you grant me these final wishes?”
“Oh, Frodo, of course I will.”
Frodo took Sam’s hands in his own. “Promise me that you will be happy, and have a full life, and love Rosie and your children and grand-children and great-grand-children, for I know that you will have them. Promise me that you will not remember me as I have been in these last years, but as I used to be, when I sat in the garden and talked to you while you worked, and we would have our tea together. And even then, promise me that you will think of me only a little, and never so much that it makes you sad.”
“I don’t know, Frodo. I’ll promise the first two, but the last…I’ll never think of you only a little. But I’ll try, Frodo. I’ll try.”
“Thank you, Sam. My dearest friend.”
Frodo embraced him and laid his head on Sam’s shoulder. He closed his eyes and the wind blew around them both, stirring their hair and cloaks, and filling the tower with the sound of the Sea.
They remained together for a long while before descending the tower, and continuing to the Havens.
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