4. Bag End
He is leaving now. It has taken him many weeks to make up his mind to go, pacing back and forth at night through all the rooms, up and down the passages. Nights by the cold kitchen fireplace – he has cooked little since Mid-summer, when the mistress died, and he has spent many nights dozing in the kitchen rocker – her chair – as if he could not bring himself to lie alone in the bed they had shared.
Summer is over now and there is a nip in the air. It is time he was cleaning the chimneys and lighting a fire in the evening, but he seems not to notice the chill. He has been working day after day in the orchard, picking the apples, and at night he's been ranging back and forth between the dark kitchen and the darker study, his one little candle flickering in the draughty corridors.
In the study, he sits at the great desk, which has stood in its place three hundred years or more; I no longer remember how long. It has always been the master's desk. He sits there for hours, smoking his pipe, one hand caressing the polished wood of the desktop, and sometimes his tears fall on it and he rubs them away quickly before they can make spots.
He has been master here for sixty winters. That is not a record – there was one before him who kept the title longer. That one went away for a while, and when he came back, he brought a Thing here that burned like fire, although he never seemed to realize it. They are very innocent, these hobbits.
This one has been a good master. Naïve, as they all are, but not as bad as the one before him; this one was gardener before he was master, and he has some sense. The one before him was master for less than twenty winters, but that was enough. That was more than enough.
He sold me; that is a thing which had never happened before, in all my long years. He sold me, and to such monsters, it is a wonder I still remain at all. He came back in time, is the best I can say of him: he came back and reclaimed me, before the monsters dug up the entire Hill and carried it away to clog a running brook somewhere. That is the kind of thing they liked to do, those monsters.
I like this one, the one who is leaving. He spent yesterday evening packing and repacking his saddlebags, and now he sits with his son at the master's desk, giving last instructions before he hands over his keys. His son is not bad, and I hope we will get on well together, but I like this one.
He has let nothing slide; there has been no peeling paint, no broken glass, under his stewardship. The grass has been cut and the roses pruned – I said he was gardener, did I not? – but inside, too, he has kept everything in good repair. I have no complaint to make of him, unless it be the number of children he produced. But even with so many living here, he permitted no deterioration, and the young voices were cheerful to listen to. I hope his son will do as well.
I pay little heed to their names. There is the master, and then in time there is a new master. Never more than one at a time, so what need for names? But this new one, the son of the one who is leaving, has the same name as the master before. Very odd, that is, and I hope he will not be like the earlier one.
Master Frodo, that was his name, and perhaps I am too hard on him, although I find it hard to forgive him for the monsters. He did one thing, though, for which I should thank him: he took away the evil Thing that his predecessor brought here. It had burned in my belly like white-hot fire, till I wondered sometimes that the woodwork was not scorched or the windows melted. Master Frodo took It away when he sold me, and for that alone I think I must forgive him.
When he returned, he was burnt out himself. I had not known that could happen to one of these walking creatures, to be hollowed out by fire and still survive, but so it was. That is a thing to consider. He was more like me, perhaps, than any other master I have had. I could be burned out to cinders, but I would still remain – you cannot destroy a hill with fire!
There was a night he tried to drown the fire, and nearly drowned himself instead. The gardener – he was not master then – saved him, but it was a near thing. I pitied him that night, as he lay retching on the floor, too ill to know how close he was to death, and I was glad when the little gardener came in and found him. But I think Master Frodo realized after that, that he could not put the fire out, for soon afterwards he went away, and the gardener was master after him. And now he, too, is leaving.
I shall miss Master Gardener. I hope his son will be like him.
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.