4. Sam's Healing
Sam would have denied it, but he was tired. It had been a bleak summer for him, with Rosie's death, and then having to be strong in spite of his own sorrow, to comfort his grieving children. Never mind that the "children" were all grown hobbits with little ones of their own -- they missed their mother, and they leaned on Sam.
All summer he'd had various sons and daughters -- and grandchildren – coming to stay at Bag End. "To keep Da company," his children told each other. "He'll feel so alone, without Mother. Some of us had better stay with him." Sam was glad to have them. Still, there was no getting away from it, it was tiring to have houseguests all the time, however much he loved them. The grandchildren ran in and out slamming doors, shouting, quarreling sometimes, as children will. Several fell out of trees in the orchard and had to be patched up. One fell in the Water and was carried home half-drowned.
And his sons and daughters sat up late, long after the grandchildren were asleep, after Sam would have been asleep, if the truth were told. They wanted to talk about Rosie; they cried, sometimes, leaning on their Da's sturdy shoulder. Sam sat up with them night after night, stifling his yawns, holding back his own tears, to comfort them.
Summer ended, the children had to go back to their own homes and see to the harvest. Sam sighed in relief and called in a couple of neighbor lads to help him pick the apples. The quiet days in the orchard were some balm to his heavy heart, but he felt the strain in his knees at night, after climbing a ladder up into the trees all day. His shoulders ached, too, even though the two lads carried the heavy baskets of apples most of the time. And Rosie wasn't there, this harvest, to massage the kinks away.
"You're getting a bit beyond it, Sam Gamgee," he told himself ruefully.
He sat long at the table, one morning after the early apples were in, nursing his breakfast ale and thinking. There was nothing to keep him in the Shire, with Rose gone. The children, of course, but they had lives and families of their own. He didn't want to become a burden on them, and this harvest had proved to him that he was, indeed, getting beyond it.
Sadly he admitted to himself that he no longer had the strength to keep up Bag End the way he wanted it kept. Better to turn it over to one of the children -- Frodo-lad, probably. He'd like to see a Frodo be the master at Bag End again. He would give the Red Book to Elanor; her home at High Towers would be on his way, on the road to the Havens . He got up from the table and went to wash out his mug, his decision made. It was time to leave, time to go after Frodo.
And so he had gone. Once he had decided, it took very little time to get his affairs in order, so he could set out on Frodo's birthday at the end of September, as seemed proper to him. He had ridden slowly to the Havens and boarded the Elven ship, and at last here he was in Tol Eressea, in Frodo's house. Frodo's hole, rather. And he was glad he had come! He was happy, so happy that there seemed to be a perpetual smile hovering at the edges of his mouth, ready to beam out for any reason, or no reason at all.
But he was still tired.
Frodo noticed it. Sam rose late in the mornings, even though they'd been early to bed the night before. He moved slowly, and he soon fell into the habit of having a nap after lunch, in a hammock under the trees of Frodo's (rather neglected) garden. Frodo watched and waited, hoping the wholesome air of the Undying Lands would work its gentle magic on Sam as it had on Bilbo, restoring a measure of strength and vigor.
And slowly, it did. Sam still wanted his nap after lunch, but he had more energy in the mornings. Frodo began to take him walking round the neighborhood. Galadriel showed them over her gardens -- a special treat to Samwise, though Frodo found it rather dull, listening to the two gardeners in deep discussion of annuals and perennials, cultivars and fertilizers. He had never gone in for garden lore himself, in the Shire or in Eressea. But Sam seemed to get back some of his old vitality, strolling in Galadriel's gardens, and Frodo counted the visit a success. They visited Elrond's garden too, but Frodo left Sam to explore the garden paths in Elrond's knowledgeable company, while he went to explore Elrond's library instead. Even for Sam, he didn't think he wanted to hear any more about fertilizer.
After that, however, Sam declined to visit any more gardens. "Never mind, Mr. Frodo," he said firmly. "I've spent my life in gardens, so to speak, and I do love them. But it's you I've been missing, and it's no pleasure to you to be dragged down a garden path all morning. You'd better take me to some of the places you do like, Mr. Frodo. Come, now! All the years you've been on this island, what are the places you keep going back to?"
Which was why they found themselves this afternoon, hiking along a woodland trail several miles from home. Frodo had planned the trip carefully, worried that Sam's strength wouldn't be equal to the long walk, although he seemed more energetic than he had been. A month on the island had made a world of difference. Still, they stopped for a long rest at lunchtime, with a nap, and they carried blankets to spend the night out in the woods. Frodo wouldn't risk exhausting Sam by trying to go and come back in one day.
He hadn't told Sam where they were going, though they could hear the waterfall before they came to it. Even so, when they stepped out from under the trees and saw Tinuviel's Veil, Sam caught his breath in wonder. It was so tall, so shining, a slender stream of clear water falling from an impossible height, splashing in a basin of black rocks that gleamed with wet. The spray of water caught the light in sparks of color and little rainbows. A rocky stream flowed out from the basin, a trail of rushing water that ran away into deeper forest.
The trees had been thinned back from the base of the fall and for a little way along the stream, leaving a grassy clearing. The late afternoon sun filled it with warm yellow light, defining every rock and leaf, transforming the falling water into a veil of molten gold.
After his first exclamation of delight, Sam was mute. He lowered himself carefully to the ground and sat leaning back on his arms, gazing at the falling water as if he could never get enough of it. Finally he turned to Frodo with shining eyes.
"Stars and glory, Mr. Frodo, what a place! I'd walk a week to see this, I would indeed!" He chuckled at the expression on Frodo's face. "You don't think I could walk a week, Mr. Frodo. But I could, to see this!"
Frodo clapped him on the back. "I believe you could, Sam. Anything you put your mind to, you'll do; I should know that by now!" He turned to rummage in his pack, bringing out a couple of pans nested one inside the other. "We'd better get a fire going and start supper. The sun will be down before long."
They poked around the edges of the forest picking up dead wood and pinecones. Frodo produced a small ax from his pack and started hacking the wood to size, while Sam sat on the ground and watched, much amused.
"Well, Mr. Frodo, you've got very handy since we last camped out together, I will say!”
Frodo grinned. "I had to learn, since you weren't along to do the work, Sam. I never realized how much work you did, till Bilbo and I started camping out together. Be glad you didn’t have to taste my first efforts at camp cooking!" He grimaced at the memory. "We could have used my biscuits for charcoal, if we'd wanted any charcoal."
Sam laughed and pushed himself up, grabbing the pans . "All right, Mr. Frodo, if you're making the fire, I'll get the water. That used to be your task, you remember. We've just changed places, is all. But I can still cook, if you want me to."
Frodo tried to look insulted, then gave it up and chuckled. "Yes, Sam, you'd better cook! I don't suppose I'm up to your standard even now."
"I'll wager you're pretty good, though, Mr. Frodo. You wait and I'll show you a few little tricks I know. Camp cooking is a bit different, but it's not hard."
By the time darkness fell, Frodo had had his cooking lesson and the pans were empty, filled with fresh water and sitting by the fire to soak. The hobbits, pleasantly tired but not yet sleepy, were stretched out on their blankets watching the stars come out.
"You haven't told me much of what's been going on in the Shire, Sam," Frodo said, after a long silence.
"No, I haven't, have I? It all seems so far away, now I'm here." Sam propped himself up on one elbow. "Well, it's changed some, you know, Mr. Frodo. It feels different, somehow, with the elves almost all gone. Not that we ever saw much of them, but we always knew they were there, if you take my meaning. And now they aren't.
"King Elessar came North for awhile. He came to the Shire, up to Brandywine Bridge. And then Rose and I were in Gondor for a year, so Elanor could be at court. Queen Arwen made her a maid of honor." Sam's voice was warm with pride, and Frodo smiled in the dark.
"Did she grow up as beautiful as we thought she would, Sam?"
"That she did, Mr. Frodo! Elanor the Fair, folks call her. She’s married now; they live over by the Tower Hills. I left your Red Book with her. Fastred, her husband that is, he's a great one for Shire history. He'll keep the book up to date."
"That's good, Sam. I'm glad someone will be keeping it up. But -- the Tower Hills? That's not in the Shire. I didn't know anyone lived over there."
Sam chuckled. "They didn't, not when you were still at home. King Elessar started that, he added the land all the way to the Tower Hills, to the Shire. Back thirty years ago, I guess. There's lots of hobbits settled out there now." He glanced at Frodo, trying to read his expression in the firelight. "The Thain, Mr. Pippin that is, made Fastred the Warden of Westmarch. My little girl is quite the lady now."
Frodo turned his face to Sam, reaching out to grasp his hand. "I'm glad, Sam. She was a darling little girl, and her family deserves all the honor the Shire can give them."
Samwise shook his head, serious now, gripping Frodo's hand even as Frodo tried to pull it away. "It was you carried the burden, Mr. Frodo. The Shirefolk never gave you the honor they should have done, and I'm ashamed for them! But I know well enough who saved the Shire, aye, and brought King Elessar to his throne, too. Truth is truth, Mr. Frodo."
He released Frodo's hand then. Frodo lay on his back, staring up at the sky. "Yes, truth is truth, Sam Gamgee," he said at last. "Good night, now. Sleep well." He closed his eyes, and before long Sam heard a gentle snore.
Sam rolled up one of his blankets for a pillow, then wrapped the other one around himself. It was getting chilly. Well, it was beginning November, after all. And the leaves just starting to turn, now he thought about it. Winter must come late to Tol Eressea. He watched as the moon rose, a few days from the full. This would be the second full moon he'd seen from the Lonely Isle. It didn't feel lonely to him, not with Frodo here beside him.
Frodo was sound asleep, his arms behind his head. His face in the moonlight was peaceful, and now and then he smiled a little. Sam lay for a long time watching him. Through all his busy years in the Shire, in the midst of his own happiness, somewhere in the back of Sam's mind his disquiet about his master had lingered. Now at last he could see that Frodo was healed. Healed and happy. Even his voice had a sort of lilt to it, that Sam remembered from the old days, before all the trouble began.
"And that ought to be enough for me," Sam told himself irritably. "He's here and I'm here, and he's all right. So why can't I get to sleep?"
He struggled out of his blankets and stood up, walking quietly to the water's edge. He'd become accustomed to the noise of the waterfall and hardly heard it now, but close to the stream he was aware of the soft, gurgling sound of water rushing away over the stones. Going down to the sea, he thought. Always down to the sea.
He sat on a rock at the edge of the stream and looked up. The dark sky seemed almost to pulse with stars, shimmering diamonds that trembled and danced till Sam felt a little dizzy watching them. He heard nothing beyond the rippling of the water; then suddenly he felt someone behind him. "Mr. Frodo must've woke up," he thought, a little dazed, and looked back without alarm. A tall man stood there, close enough to touch, watching him.
"Can't sleep, Samwise?" he asked.
Sam stood up quickly, his knees protesting. He really was too old, he reflected, to be sitting on a cold rock in the middle of the night. He felt half in a dream, and his tongue was thick as he answered, "How do you know my name? Begging your pardon, sir."
"There are only two hobbits in Eressea, Sam. And I know Frodo." The man sat down on the rock Sam had vacated, bringing him eye to eye with the hobbit. "Your Mr. Frodo is all right, Sam," he said. "You can be at peace about him now."
Samwise looked into his face, but could think of nothing to say. It was a kind face, but the eyes were very knowing. If you had anything you wanted to hide, it would be uncomfortable, looking into those eyes. So Sam thought, but he had nothing to hide.
The man held his gaze, laying gentle hands on Sam's shoulders, like a blessing. "He's all right, Sam. He's healed. Go to sleep now, and don't fret about him anymore."
Sam let out a long breath. He'd known that, really, ever since he stepped off the ship and saw Frodo's face. Only he had worried and fretted over his master for so long, it was as if he couldn't stop himself. Now he felt that a heavy load was rolled off his shoulders, a load he hadn't been aware he was carrying.
He turned without a word and went back to his blankets, falling asleep almost before he put his head down. In the morning he remembered nothing about his midnight visitor, but his heart was lighter than it had been in many years.