33. Rosie's Worry
It was the first of September. After Pippin's visit, Mr. Frodo had ridden out several times, alone or with Sam, but it didn't last. The weather was fine, but he rarely went beyond the garden anymore, and it seemed to me like he was getting thinner. He sat all day in his study, writing away in his red book as if a taskmaster stood over him and wouldn't let him stop.
He didn't come out to the kitchen for snacks, either, and I got in the habit of bringing him a little something at mid-morning, and again in the afternoon – a pot of tea and something light but nourishing, that I thought he might fancy. I made blackberry buckle, to tempt his appetite, and cheese straws, and light little biscuits with a fruit compote. He drank the tea, but usually the food was left untouched, even the seedcake, and I ended up giving it to the chickens. I never thought I'd see the day Mr. Frodo turned down seedcake.
The Gaffer was ailing – he'd caught a summer cold that hung on and on, and Sam was down at his old home many an evening looking after him so Marigold could get out with her beau. My brother Tom was courting her in earnest now, and they would walk the country lanes and byways, sit on a log bridge across the stream that ran down to the Mill, maybe stop by the farm for a spell. And Sam was working all day. I don't think he realized that everything wasn't right with Mr. Frodo, and I didn't want to worry him.
I was worried, though. Those spells of his back in the fall, and again just before Elanor was born – I had been hoping we’d seen the last of those. I’d been trying to build him up with good food and peaceful surroundings, but it looked like he was going downhill again.
Finally I spoke to him. I was rocking Elanor to sleep by the kitchen window and he came up the cellar steps with his mug of beer. He smiled and nodded to me, but he would've gone right back in his study, only I called to him, soft, so I wouldn’t wake the baby.
"Mr. Frodo, come and sit a while. It's lonesome with Sam down to the Gaffer's."
"How is the Gaffer, Rose? I don't like to ask Sam. It's nothing serious, I hope?"
He sat down in the other rocker. The scent of Sam's herb garden came in the open window, spicy on the night air.
"I don't think so, just a cold that won't let go. But it makes him crotchety – more than usual, I mean – and he don't like to be left alone. Makes him feel neglected, I guess, and he's not well enough to go down to the Ivy Bush, so Sam sits with him.
"Oh, I meant to tell you – it'll make you laugh – remember how he never wanted Sam to play checkers? Well, he's so bored now, stuck inside all day, he let Sam teach him, and now he never wants to stop! Sam says he's that tired of checkers, he'd throw them on the fire as soon as look at 'em!"
Frodo did laugh at that, and I felt pleased with myself. It gave me the courage to speak up.
"What about you, Mr. Frodo? You don't seem like yourself, lately."
He shot me a glance that would've silenced me when I first came to Bag End, but not now. It was no use for Mr. Frodo to come the master over me anymore; I knew him too well. He was master, right enough; I never forgot it, but I served him out of love, the same as Sam.
"You're getting thin, Mr. Frodo. You're not eating, and by the circles under your eyes, you're not sleeping, neither."
"Well, I'm working hard on my book, Rose." He pulled out his pipe and got very busy filling it, avoiding my eyes.
"I think you're working too hard, sir, if you'll pardon me saying so. You shouldn't wreck your health over it, Mr. Frodo. You need to get out and walk like you used to."
"I don't want to walk; I just want to get it done. I want to finish before my birthday." He bent his head to light his pipe, and the smoke mingled with the spicy smell from the garden.
"Mr. Frodo, please, take care of yourself. Whether you finish it by your birthday, or next spring, what difference? It's not worth it, if you make yourself sick over it."
I shifted Elanor to my shoulder and reached out my hand to him, and he took it and smiled at me.
"I won't, Rosie. You've got enough to do as it is; you don't need me sick into the bargain."
"Mr. Frodo! You know that's not what I meant!"
He laughed, but his next words sobered me like a bucket of cold water over my head.
"I want to finish before my birthday – because I'm going to go see Bilbo for his birthday." He looked at me hard. "Now that's a secret I'm trusting you with, Rosie; I haven't told Sam yet. You won't give me away, will you?"
"You're going away? All the way to Rivendell? Oh, Mr. Frodo! No, I won't tell Sam; you'll have to do that yourself. That'll break his heart, that will, having you gone this winter."
He looked out the window, but something in his expression warned me.
"You'll come back in the spring, Mr. Frodo, won't you? You won't stay away no longer than that, surely!"
"Rose." He sighed and spread his hands out on his knees, rubbing absently at the place where the lost finger had been. "Rosie, I'm ill every spring, you know that. And every fall. It's not getting any better." He looked up and there was that in his eyes as nearly made me cry. "Bilbo never did come back from Rivendell."
"Mr. Frodo, no! You've got to come back; Sam won't never get over it, if you don't!"
It seemed like he winced, when I said that, and I kicked myself for giving him pain. But it was true. He had to know it was true.
I carried Elanor over to the cradle and tucked her in. I ran my hand over the carvings – it had been Bilbo's, this cradle. Mr. Frodo's gift to us. He wouldn't never have a child of his own to lay in it. I went back and knelt by his chair.
"Mr. Frodo, don't go, please don't! Or promise me you'll come back in the spring. If you're sick again, we'll take care of you, me and Sam. We love you, Mr. Frodo."
My eyes were so full of tears, I couldn't hardly see him, and I took his hand and held it to my cheek.
"Don't leave us, Mr. Frodo."
"We'll see, Rosie." He reached out his other hand and stroked my hair. "We have gotten to be like family, haven't we? The three of us, and little Elanor. But – well, we do what we have to do. If I can't come back, you hold on tight to Sam. You'll bring him through all right. Sam came back whole from Mordor, not like his master."
There was a catch in his voice, and he didn't say no more. He went off to bed, and I sat waiting for Sam. When he finally got home, he noticed my red eyes.
"Now, Rosie, don't tell me you're coming down with this cold as well," he exclaimed, holding me close.
"No, just something in the air that bothers my eyes," I lied. "Hay fever, most like."
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.