Oh, my word, but I never thought I'd see Mr. Frodo in any such condition. I'd never seen him anything but tidy and mannerly and self-possessed, a real gentlehobbit. And there he lay on the floor of his study, sweaty, stinking, and out of his head, and Sam trying everything he could think of, to make him throw up again.
We came home early from my Da's birthday party; we'd planned to stay the night, but Elanor was fussy and wouldn't sleep, and finally Sam said, "Never mind, we'll just go on home – she'll sleep in her own cradle, and I'll sleep better myself, knowing the master is all tucked in safe. The way he's been mooning about lately, he's likely to go off to bed and leave a candle burning, set Bag End afire."
He sounded tart, Sam did, but it was only because he was worried. Mr. Frodo had been ill back in the spring, about the time Elanor was born – I'll wager he thought Sam hadn't noticed, but you can't put much over on Sam, and especially Mr. Frodo can't. If the master takes a sneezing fit in the middle of the night, Sam is after me in the morning to make up a pot of herb tea for him, to stop him from taking cold. Anyway, even now, five months later, Frodo didn't seem really well. Sam was right – he sort of drifted around the smial like he was looking for something but had forgotten what it was – that's when he wasn't hunched over his desk writing away in that red book of his. Many times he didn't hear you when you spoke to him, and he looked so sad it was enough to break your heart.
So we went on home, late as it was. Da wouldn't hear of us walking, that hour of the night, and he hitched up the little pony cart for us, Sam all the while protesting, "Now Father, don't go to the trouble; it's a pleasant night and no more than half an hour's walk in the moonlight."
"Happens I don't choose to have my daughter, nor my granddaughter either, traipsing about in the moonlight from here to Hobbiton, Sam Gamgee! Well enough for you, toddling home from the Dragon at closing time, but not for them."
Sam grinned and said no more.
The smial was dark and quiet when we got there, and we thought Mr. Frodo must've gone to bed, and not left any candles burning after all. I went straight to our room off the kitchen and settled Elanor in her cradle – she'd fallen asleep at last, on the ride home, and she didn't wake. I was just turning down the covers on our bed when I heard Sam shouting in the master's study, down the passage, and there was that in his voice that made me drop the pillows and run.
My first thought was that the study stank like Mum's vinegar crock down in the farm cellar. It fair stung my eyes, but there was no time to think about it. Sam had lit a candle, and he was kneeling in the middle of the room with the master in his arms, shouting into his face. The master sagged against his shoulder, slack-jawed, as if he were dead.
"Mr. Frodo, wake up! Wake up! Rosie, feel his wrist if you can find any pulse. Mr. Frodo!"
I knelt down and took the flaccid hand, the skin chilly to my touch. "There's a pulse, Sam, but only just." I felt dampness through my skirt and shifted to see what caused it. "I think he's been sick, here on the carpet."
I pulled a woolen lap robe down from the settee and tucked it round the limp body. Sam was chafing the master's wrists and calling his name, now soft, now loud, crooning over him like he was a babe, and all the while the tears running down his face. I got up to get some pillows to tuck behind Mr. Frodo's head, and there was the brandy bottle on the table. It was empty.
"Here's the cause of his trouble, Sam. He's dead drunk, that's what he is."
Sam looked stricken. "Drunk? I've never in my life seen him drunk, all the years I've known him." He leant over and smelled the master's breath. "Aye, you're right. Drunk, and pretty near dead besides." He glanced about at the carpet, felt around with one hand.
"He's been sick, sure enough, but not as sick as he needs to be. How much was in that bottle, do you remember, Rosie?"
"It was full, I think. We used up a bottle toasting Elanor's naming day, you know, and I brought a new one up from the cellar, but we never pulled the cork. And there's not a drop left – Sam, that would be enough to kill him, did he drink it all!"
"Draw some cold water from the well and bring it here – quick, lass! – and then make some tea, as strong as you can brew it. Oh, and salt, too. We've got to get him awake enough that he can get rid of some more of that brandy. I'd draw the water myself, but I don't dare leave him."
He struggled to his feet, dragging the master up with him, talking all the while in a loud, cheerful voice. "Come on, Frodo, up you get. Wake up now! Come on, sir; can't sleep here – have to get to the Mountain, you know. Wake up, Mr. Frodo!"
By the time the tea was ready, the master had his eyes open and was staggering around the study, held up and supported by Sam. He walked bent over like he had a fifty-weight strung round his neck, and one hand shielding his eyes as if he was facing into strong sunlight instead of the soft glow from the candle.
"Thinks he's in Mordor," Sam said softly. "It was the only way I could rouse him. Put a good shake of salt in that tea, Rosie, and give it here." I knew what Sam was up to – tea to wake him up, salt to make him vomit.
I brought the basin in from the pantry just in time; the salted tea worked exactly as it should. "No sense making the carpet any worse than it is already," I told Sam, but he shrugged.
"I'll worry about saving his life first, lass. A new carpet's a small price to pay." The master leaned against his shoulder, eyes closed, exhausted from retching, and I wrung out a soft cloth in the cold water and wiped his face.
"There, Mr. Frodo, that's some better, isn't it?" He startled at my voice, staring around as if he didn't know where he was, and Sam took the cloth from me.
"He don't know who you are – 'twas just him and me in Mordor, you know. There, Mr. Frodo, it's me; you know me! It's your Sam, here to take care of you." The master closed his eyes again and Sam muttered, "Can you make us some burnt toast, Rosie? Might soak up some of that brandy, if I can get it down him."
I made the toast, charred black, and Sam got it down him by pretending it was some of the Elves' bread they had eaten in Mordor – I said I hoped it hadn't tasted like burnt toast, and Sam laughed. Mr. Frodo was looking less like death warmed over by then, and Sam could laugh.
"No, it was wonderful stuff, that lembas, though you got tired of it day in and day out. But when I first tasted it, I thought I'd never get tired of it, it was that good. Poor Mr. Frodo, though – for all I know, maybe it did taste like something burnt to him, towards the end. He don't know the difference now, you can see that."
About then the master was sick again, and Sam eased him down on a chair and held him steady, while I held the basin.
We kept coaxing salted tea and charred toast down him, and Sam got him up walking in between, and after a couple of hours he began to come out of it. He looked worn to a thread, but his eyes cleared and he knew where he was. And that was the most pitiful thing of all, for he looked around at the stinking mess his study was in, and then at Sam and me – and I guess we were a sight ourselves, sweaty and mussed, our clothes stained and smelling none too sweet.
"Oh, Sam. Rosie. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." He met our eyes as if he pleaded for understanding, and then he doubled over, sick again. But he was about done, then, and that was the last of it. I brought in a clean nightshirt and fresh hot water, and while I carried away the filthy basins and rags, Sam bathed him and helped him to bed.
He didn't wake up till the following afternoon, and Sam stirred up a batch of his mother's remedy for too much merry-making. It smelled pretty rank – I was glad I didn't have to drink it – but I didn't feel sorry for him. I'd got over being scared by then, and moved on to being plain mad. It didn't improve my mood when I started scrubbing the carpet in his study. That took me a good part of the day, and it was no pleasant task even with all the windows open.
It was plain enough that he'd sent us off to Da's birthday party on purpose, so he'd have Bag End to himself. He'd sent us off and sat down with that bottle, and drank every last drop – and any fool would know it was poison, that much brandy. If we hadn't come home in the middle of the night, he'd likely of been too far gone to save when we found him. He might've been dead already – and wouldn't that be nice for Sam to come home to, Mr. Frodo, that he loved better than life itself, dead on the floor!
That's what I was thinking, and I got madder and madder till I was just boiling. The second morning Frodo trailed into the kitchen in his dressing gown, looking pale and weak, and Sam settled him in the chair by the fire as gentle and careful as if he was made of glass. I got him a mug of tea, but Sam made his toast himself, sitting close by the master's chair, browning the bread over the coals till it was golden and spreading on a touch of honey, cutting it up just so: the most sickly invalid couldn't have asked for better. Sam hardly looked at his own ham and eggs, though he ate well enough; all his attention was on Mr. Frodo, nibbling at his toast and tea.
Finally he pushed himself away from the table, saying, "Just you sit here by the fire and keep Rose company, Master, while I get a bit done in the garden. I wouldn't leave you, only those beans need picking before they get any bigger, and anyway, Rose will take good care of you, won't you, Rosie?"
I nodded and held up my cheek for his kiss as he went out. And then it was just the master and me, and I was so mad I couldn't think what to say to him, so I didn't say anything at all. I bustled about, washing the dishes and stirring up some quick bread for dinner, and I didn't look at him.
The quiet in the kitchen got thicker and thicker, like fog, and finally he got up and came to stand right in front of me, where I couldn't ignore him. "You're very angry with me, Rose, and I deserve it. Will it help if I say I'm sorry?"
I dumped the dough out of the bowl and slammed it down on the table. "Why should you, Mr. Frodo? You're master here; if you choose to drink yourself to death, it's not for us to say you can't. A bit hard on Sam, I'd call it, that's all."
I sneaked a look at him as I spoke, punching down the bread dough as if it was something alive that I wanted to kill. He bit his lip till it turned white, and tears came to his eyes. Not running down his face, I thought; not like Sam, weeping over him and calling his name –
He turned away and went to lean against the mantel, staring into the fire. "Very hard on Sam," he said at last, "and he doesn't deserve that of me." He sighed. "I wasn't trying to die, Rosie. I never thought of that, that the brandy might kill me. I wouldn't do that to Sam, or you either, to come home and find my – body. I only wanted to escape for a while, get away from the memories."
I wanted to stay mad, and I couldn't – not when he looked like that, so grieved and hopeless. I wiped my hands on my apron and went to take his hand in both of mine. "You scared us, Mr. Frodo. We love you, don't you know that? When we got home, you were so near dead it's a mercy we pulled you through at all. Don't do that, not ever again – promise me!"
"I won't. Don't worry; Sam already told me he'd break every bottle in the cellar if I did it again." He made as if to smile, but it came out more like a grimace, and he turned to rest both arms against the mantel and lean his forehead on them. I looked down and there were drops of wet falling on the stone hearth – tears.
"Master, dear Master," I whispered. "I wish I knew some way to help you."
"So do I, Rosie. So do I." He straightened up and rubbed his sleeve across his eyes. "I'd better get dressed and try to get some writing done. Will you bring a pot of strong tea to me in the study, in an hour or so?"
"I don't think you can work in there for a few days, Mr. Frodo; it's still pretty bad. Why don't you bring your book in here by the window today, and keep me company? And the tea will be ready whenever you want it."
"Thank you, Rosie. I may just do that."
He worked in the kitchen for several days, till his study aired out, and for a week or two he was more cheerful, more peaceful-like, than he'd been in a long time. But little by little, the clouds rolled in again.
Now that sad, haunted look is back in his eyes, for all he smiles and tries to act like there's nothing wrong. He tries so hard to hide it from us, how he's suffering, but it's there in his eyes for us to see, who love him. And I wonder sometimes, and hate myself for wondering, if we did the right thing that night, when we worked so desperately to save his life. It might have been a kindness, had we let him slip away.
But when I think that, I remember Sam's face when he told me to feel for the master's pulse. It would grieve me sore if Mr. Frodo had died, and especially like that, but it would've broken Sam's heart right in two.
I just wish those great ones who sent Mr. Frodo to Mordor and let him get so wounded it seems like he'll never get over it, would take some thought to helping him now.
Author's note: Nothing here ]should be construed as medical advice. I tried to imagine how the hobbits might try to handle alcohol poisoning, but I have no idea if it would work!
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.