6. A Bad Spell
The pain of coughing had made Frodo rise up from his pillows and draw his knees to his chest. Bell ran to his bed and braced herself behind Frodo’s back, and wrapped her arms around him to hold him upright. He was even hotter than before, and she knew that his fever must have taken a sudden upwards turn while he slept. Frodo clasped his hands across his chest in pain, and his whole body shook with the force of his coughs. His eyes opened for a moment and wheeled from side to side, and Bell saw no reason in them.
“Please stop!” he raved. “Please…I have nothing!”
“Shhh, now, shhh,” Bell said. “Don’t try to talk, it will only make it worse.”
Frodo began to gag. His hands fluttered to his throat, and Bell realized he was trying to expel something, but was too weak to do it. Quickly, Bell put two fingers down his throat and brought forth a mass of phlegm so thick it was almost solid, yellow and foul as before, but now laced with fine threads of blood.
Frodo shuddered and gasped for breath. Suddenly his body stiffened and he retched horribly; before Bell had a chance to bring a cloth or basin to his mouth, Frodo vomited onto his sheets. He went limp in her arms.
Even with all of her years of mothering, Bell was stunned by the violence of the spell. She could do nothing for the moment except sit with Frodo’s unconscious body in her arms. As sometimes happened with fever, Frodo’s temperature had plummeted from its sudden spike, and he was now shivering and sweating so profusely that his nightshirt was drenched. She felt a warm wetness beneath her and realized with dismay and pity that Frodo had been unable to control even that.
Bell slid herself out from behind him and leaned him against his pillows. His head lolled backwards and his half-opened eyes stared sightlessly at the ceiling. If not for his ragged breathing, he would have appeared already dead. She wiped his mouth, and brushed his wet hair from his forehead. Her hands were shaking.
Bell could not leave him in the soiled bed. She drew back the covers and slid her arms underneath him. But, although he weighed little, he was taller than Bell, and awkward for her to lift. He was so wet that she could not get a proper hold on him, and he trembled so badly that Bell knew she could never carry him to Bilbo’s room on her own. Quickly, she stripped his wet nightshirt from him and wrapped him in a clean blanket. She pushed him to the driest corner of the bed.
Taking his face in her hands she said, “Frodo, I will be right back.” If he heard her, he gave no sign.
Bell kissed his forehead and left him.
A sullen March rain had been falling all day, and the path from Bag End to Bagshot Row was muddy and slick. Bell did not notice it. She ran down the hill as quickly as she could, her heart in her throat with the fear that Frodo might be dead by the time she returned.
She burst through the kitchen door of her own small home. Sam was sitting by himself at the kitchen table, a book and a mug of tea before him. He looked up, startled by his mother’s sudden, frenzied appearance.
“Where is your brother?” she cried.
“Where is your brother?” she asked again, and this time tears choked her voice.
“He’s in the woodshed…Mummy what happened?”
Bell spun around and ran back outside and down the little path to their woodshed. She found Hamson inside, splitting logs, and she ran to him and clutched his arm.
“Hamson, come with me! I need your help!”
“Yes, please, come!”
Hamson let his axe fall to the floor and ran outside with Bell. On the way back to Bag End, Bell told Hamson what had happened in gasping breaths.
When they reached Bag End, Bell wondered why the front door was wide open, though she did not have time to think about it. Nor was she able to heed the small, muddy footprints that led from the front door down the smial’s long hall. But when she turned the corner to Frodo’s room, she was suddenly struck motionless, and it seemed that her heart and breath stopped in her body.
Sam was sitting on Frodo’s bed, sitting on Frodo, his small legs on either side of Frodo’s slight form. His arms were raised to Frodo’s face, and he was patting the ashen cheeks with his small, brown hands. Tears ran from his eyes.
“Wake up, Mr. Frodo! Oh, wake up, Mr. Frodo, wake up!”
All the worry and fatigue and despair of these last days overwhelmed Bell. Suddenly the memory of her terrible dream came to her, clearly as if she dreamt again, and she saw Frodo silhouetted against a sea of fire, but all she felt was terror for her own son.
“Sam!” she shrieked desperately. “Samwise!”
Sam turned around at the sound of his mother’s voice. “Mummy!” he sobbed. “Mr. Frodo…!”
Bell was a tiny lady, but she crossed the room to Frodo’s bedside in two steps. Barely aware of what she did, she grasped Sam under the arms and lifted him off the bed so abruptly that his feet kicked in the air. Sam wailed as she carried him to the front door and set him down firmly on the porch.
“Go home, Samwise!” she said breathlessly. “You should never have come!”
Bell grabbed Sam by the arm and spun him around. With one swift motion, she swatted him on the rear so hard that he took three stumbling steps onto the path. “Go home!” she ordered.
Sam looked at her, his face stricken. Then he turned and ran down the path, his feet kicking clods of mud onto the back of his trousers.
Bell slammed the door and put her hands over her face for a moment. When she had calmed herself, she returned to Frodo’s room.
Hamson was a blessing, the very soul of common sense. He had lifted Frodo from his bed and set him in the wing chair before the fire, another blanket wound tightly about him so that he would not be chilled. Hamson was bent over the bed, diligently stripping the wet sheets from it. Bell went to him and touched his shoulder.
“I didn’t know which room was Mr. Bilbo’s, Mum, so I didn’t know where you wanted me to take him…Mum!” he said, startled. “You look like you’re about to faint!”
“I’m all right, Hamson, I’m all right. I’m just frightened, that’s all.” She offered him a wan smile. “Now, Mr. Bilbo’s room is the first down the hall, on the right. I’ll finish up here, if you go there and start a fire. We can’t put Frodo in there with it so cold. And put the warmer in the bed, too.”
“All right, Mum,” he said. “Not to worry.”
Bell went to Frodo and looked at his face. He seemed barely alive, and he looked so small and worn that even the chair seemed to dwarf him. She felt somehow ashamed, as if, in her sudden, superstitious fear for Sam, she had wished ill will upon Frodo that would now drain his last bit of strength.
She turned her attention to the bed and finished stripping the sheets from it, laying them in a pile on the floor.
Bell turned around, amazed to hear Frodo speak. Only moments before, he had seemed beyond even waking. She went to him and knelt down before his chair. “Frodo? How do you feel, dear?”
“You had a bit of a bad spell, but it’s over now.”
He looked past her, at the stripped bed and the mound of soiled linens on the floor. His face filled with confusion and shame, and with mortal fear. His mouth trembled and tears came to his feverish eyes. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, and turned his eyes back to her. “I’m sorry.”
Bell touched his face. “No, dear…oh no,” she said and put her arms around him. “You couldn’t help it. It’s not your fault. Poor lad. Poor lad.”
Frodo sobbed weakly against her shoulder. After a moment, he quieted, and Bell thought he had fainted again or fallen asleep. Then she heard him whisper, “Where is the black wolf?”
She knew it was his illness talking, but the question chilled her nonetheless. “There’s no wolves here, Frodo,” Bell said, and held him tightly. She leaned him back against the chair. He looked at her dully for a moment, and then closed his eyes.
Bell finished stripping the bed, and Hamson returned to carry Frodo to Bilbo’s warmed room. When he lifted the boy, Frodo’s eyes fluttered briefly.
“His eye…his red eye…” Frodo said, and then fell silent. He did not speak again for the rest of the afternoon.
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.