To Open Every Door - Frodo Faces the Night

This is part four of five, but jump right in if you are new. You can always read the previous chapters later. Or, start with chapters one through three:
To Open Every Door - Gandalf, the Unexpected Visitor
To Open Every Door - Rosie Breaks Her Silence
To Open Every Door - Sam's Beautiful Dream

Frodo and Sam had spent nearly all the afternoon of the eighteenth together. At first the talk had been serious and anxious. Then it had passed through tears and into laughter. Gandalf and Rose had sat in the parlour much of the time, unable to make out their words, but greatly curious as to the course of the conversation. At long last Rose and Gandalf heard the front door open and close as Sam went out to take a look around the garden, for it seemed the sun had finally driven away the last of the clouds even as it sank rapidly in the west. To Sam a day without proper work was almost too much to bear, never minding that the causes were the much needed and expected spring rain for the garden he loved and an afternoon well spent with the dear master that he loved even more. He took comfort though in the fact that, at the least, tomorrows work could be properly planned. As Sam left the house, a Frodo who was more at ease than they had seen in a week came into the parlour to find Rosie and Gandalf in front of the fire.


"It was as you thought, Gandalf," said Frodo. "Sam did think he failed me. When he discovered last autumn that I was ill, he began to think it was his fault for not stopping me from claiming the Ring. I made him understand that he is not to blame."


"That is well and good," said Gandalf, as Rosie nodded in agreement and relief. "Did you tell him that you cannot be cured here and must sail west?"


"No, I didn't have to ... I couldn't," answered Frodo. And he smiled as he drew up the memory again. "Sam told me his dream for us all: that we would have the grandest house in the Shire, bigger even than the Tooks, filled to the brim with hobbits."


"He has told it to me before," said Rosie. "It's his way of hoping that all will be put to rights someday."


"I didn't have the heart to crush his dream now," said Frodo, shaking his head. "He can keep it for a while longer, at least until he has a new dream--a dream of his own. Just before I sail will be soon enough for him to know."


"Sam just wants us all to be happy," said Rosie "...for what ever time we have together."


"That is what I wish for most," agreed Frodo, gently squeezing his left arm then lowering it from where it had been cradled against his body. A look of longing that Rose had not seen before came then to his eyes. "Even though I know his dream cannot come true, just knowing that he still dreams and hopes for me lightens the darkness a bit."


Rose felt her heart cry out at the thoughts that rushed into her mind, but Frodo did not note her face, for he was reaching into his shirt to pull up the gem. He gazed at it for a moment and then turned a smile to her and Gandalf. "There will be a gift for Sam too," he said, "a gift that might make our parting easier."


"But don't you need that Mr. Frodo?" she asked, frowning with worry.


"What I need most, is for Sam to be happy," he replied, "though Gandalf thinks I can[I/] safely part with it at the Havens."


"If you're sure," said Rosie, not convinced. "Sam's happiness is important to me, but I don't want you to suffer without it."


"I'm quite sure," replied Frodo, with a reassuring nod.


Rose attempted a smile and then excused herself with a word about Sam's soon return. She passed through the door and down the hall before coming to a halt and turning back to stare at the doorway through which she had just come. That momentary look in Frodo's eyes and what he had said about Sam still dreaming for him shook her heart again.


When Sam and Frodo had returned to the Shire, Sam had insisted that she understand that Frodo was a hero and a savior. And when she had really looked, it wasn't hard to believe the truth of it, for Frodo had been changed. "No ...not changed," she thought, "but broken and made into something new." His selfless plan to give his jewel to Sam was just what she would have expected of that Frodo, the one who was so much more than a hobbit. But she had not thought of Frodo having dreams of his own--dreams for a simple and ordinary life such as Sam's. "And now he can no longer dream or hope," she whispered, fighting back the tears.


There was a sound at the door and Rose brushed away the dampness from her eyes. She hurried to Sam and buried herself in his open arms.


"What's the matter?" said Sam, lifting her chin and looking into her eyes. "You're trembling."


Rose met his worried look with one of grateful love. "I'm just so glad that you came back--that you came back to the Shire ...and to me."


Sam bent and kissed her with a firm, but gentle urgency. Then raising his head from hers, he sought her eyes. "I need you too," he said, "... more every day." They stood enfolded for a time before Sam led her away from the front door.


***

Frodo turned back to Gandalf and pursed his lips. He was silent in thought a moment longer. "Do you remember that day ...long ago, when you found me sleeping under the tree ...the day after the accident?"


"Wizards never forget anything," answered Gandalf cautiously. "It was the day we first met."


"My talk with Sam put me in mind of that day," said Frodo, with a distant look in his eye. "Losses ...losses," he said, shaking his head. "Everyone has them sooner or later, so I suppose I'm no different from most."


"Quite true," replied Gandalf nodding, but still unsure of Frodo's point.


Frodo came back to the present and, with a clear and piercing look, queried Gandalf. "Did you realize that Sam is the only one who has never been lost to me? First it was my parents, then my young cousins as I left Buckland, later Bilbo; and even you, in Moria ...eventually, the rest of the fellowship as well. Of course, I regained many that I thought lost to me forever, but all the losses were very real at the time--everyone I have ever held close ...except for Sam."


"I had not thought about it so," said Gandalf.


"Neither had I until today," said Frodo, furrowing his brow in thought. "I was nearly ill this afternoon at just the thought of Sam dying on that cursed mountain ...the same as when you spoke of it the day you arrived." He shrugged and shook his head. "I don't know. ...Perhaps that is why I cannot bear to think of our parting though I am sure there must be more--something in the dark I cannot face--something I would rather run from as I did that day from my parents' death."


"I do not see you running from some truth, but rather seeking it," said Gandalf as he stood and fumbled in his robe for his pipe. "Your words today and those of the note that Rose found are proof of that. It will come to you ...in due time you will see it.


"I guess you are right," said Frodo. He pulled up a chair beside Gandalf and turned again to the wizard with a smile. "In any case, I don't want to spoil what has been the best day I can remember in quite some time. It will just have to wait."


***

The better part of a week later things were much as they had been since the thirteenth. At times Frodo seemed nearly well and at others it was plain that he was far from it. But with the aid of Rosie and Gandalf, they had succeeded thus far in keeping his illness from Sam who now spent much of his time worrying about Rosie and the impending birth. And so it was that Rosie and Frodo convinced Gandalf that he was free to ride out for a day and make a visit he wished to make in the South Farthing. His plan was to return after teatime the next day.


The day passed slowly and without incident. When night fell Frodo, Sam, and Rose were to be found in the parlour before a blazing fire, for it seemed the dying winter had returned with one final blow. While Frodo sat in his favorite chair trying to read the history that he had given up on ten days before, Sam and Rose talked of the different vegetables to be planted in the coming weeks. After some time Sam grew quiet and began to snore. The only other sound was the crackling of the logs in the fire.


Rose looked up at Frodo to find that he no longer turned the pages of his book but sat white-knuckled, gripping the arms of the chair. Throughout the evening she had noticed him casting furtive glances at the window and drawing his jacket ever tighter about himself though he had shaken off her questioning looks.


"Mr. Frodo," she called. Frodo gave a sudden start, turning anxious eyes to hers. "Come over to the sofa, Mr. Frodo. "There is room for all three of us to be close to the fire. It's a cold night tonight, `one last breath of winter,' says Sam." Frodo got up slowly and came to the seat as she squeezed closer Sam. "Don't you be looking toward the window anymore. There's nothing in this world tonight but this blazin' fire and three good friends to keep each other company." Sam snorted in his sleep and Rosie laughed, "well maybe two good friends anyway."


Frodo smiled in spite of himself. "You have been a good friend to me, Rosie, and you were right. It is good to have someone to talk to." Then he shivered, and his smile faded. "I know that nothing is outside, but sometimes the line between what was and what is grows very faint," he said, rubbing the star gem between his thumb and his forefinger.


"Then we will talk of something gay," said Rosie. "Did you know that Marigold is filling Sam's and my heads with ideas for a wife for you? Sam is now trying to decide if you would like Prisca Moss or Iris Bramble better. Marigold says that Prisca has had her eye on you since before you left the Shire, but Sam worries that she's too young and silly for you. Then there is Iris..." She paused at the open-mouthed look of surprise on Frodo's face.


"It ...it's just that I've never heard you talk so," said Frodo.


"Well, don't be so amazed," she said with a wink. "I have ears to hear; though I think most times things turn out well enough without people wagging their tongues about it. Tonight my plan is to turn your mind from those shadows of yours."


"Well, go on then, for you certainly have distracted me," said Frodo as a hint of a smile crept back to his face.


"As I was saying, Iris comes from a family that makes paper and books for genealogies. Sam says she likes to read and would be more suitable, but he thinks she looks a bit too old for you. I think she was fifty-one last week. That's probably about right," said Rosie, tilting her head and eying Frodo carefully. "But you still seem no older than Sam and me. ...Are you ever going to look your age?"


"Thankfully, I don't need to worry about who Sam will choose for my wife," said Frodo, with another half attempt at a smile, "but I don't know if your question is any easier to answer. I feel old--as if I'd lived a hundred lifetimes and yet as though I have not really begun the first--though you are asking of my appearance." He shrugged. "I'm not sure about that either. Bilbo seemed to age quickly when he was rid of the ring--catching up a little, so to speak--but of course I didn't see him for seventeen years. It might have taken a while to begin. You must remember too that, even though he had it longer than I, the Ring never got a firm hold on him. Then there was Gollum." Frodo shuddered as he said the name, casting his eyes briefly to the window before continuing. "He was totally possessed by it for hundreds of years and then went without it for almost eighty without seeming to age any further. Of course, since the Ring has been destroyed, its work must fade, though with me, it does not seem to be happening very fast. I could wish most heartily for the few wrinkles that are my due, if I could be rid of that Ring in other ways as well."


Frodo's hand dropped the jewel and wandered without thought to the empty place where he had last carried the very heart of Sauron. "Though I was not broken until the end, I know now that the Ring started to dig itself into my soul all those years that I never even put it on. I thought I was happy, but I grew ever more restless as time passed, waiting--always waiting."


"Is that why you didn't marry?" asked Rosie.


"I guess so," he answered. "I always thought I would someday." He looked away again for a moment, and when he turned back, she thought there was a slight shine in his eyes that had not been there before. "I have never told this to anyone," he said. "I don't know why I'm telling you now, but there was someone I cared for once. We were very young, barely more than children, and it seemed that there would be time enough--all the time in the world. I had so much to learn and see and do first; I had so many dreams of far-off lands and places; I wanted ...everything," he said, spreading open the palms of his hands as they lay in his lap. He fell into silence.


"...And then Bilbo left, and the ring came to me," said Frodo, retreating from the visions of what might have been. "I kept thinking of following after him, but I just couldn't make up my mind to do it. For seventeen long years I waited, though I knew not what for ...until the day that Gandalf told me the Ring had to leave the Shire. I was so afraid ...but I was also relieved. The waiting was over." He shook his head, his eyes now wide and clouded with unshed tears. "It was for the best. I could not bear to leave a family behind now, either by my death or sailing."


"But you will leave us, and we are your family now," said Rosie, laying her hand on his shoulder.


"I know you are," said Frodo gratefully, "but it makes the parting harder. I would give anything to be like Sam and think of just the here and now."


"I haven't done a good job of cheering you up," said Rosie unhappily, as she took his hand in hers. Too late, she remembered, when he hastily drew his wounded hand from hers.


Then, just as quickly, he placed the hand that was whole in her open hands. "You have done more than you know," said Frodo, consoling her now. "Even sorrow and regret are as light, compared to the darkness inside of me. You have drawn me from that darkness tonight."


He looked past her to Sam, whose often softly furrowed brow had relaxed in blissful sleep. To Frodo's eyes he appeared younger than he had since the quest began. "He looks so happy," he said, contentment crossing his own face for the first time that night.


"He is happy now," said Rosie, "happier than he's been in a long time. I'm so glad you talked to him."


As if on cue, Sam's snoring stopped and he yawned. "Wake up sleepyhead" said Rose, gently nudging him in the ribs. "We need another log for our fire."


"Was I asleep?" he asked, stretching. "O, I guess I was," he said, noticing Frodo at her side. "I'm glad you've got some company at least."


"Yes, and we are talking about you, mind you, so if you want to know everything you had better stay awake," said Rose.


"No, we're not," said Frodo, with a genuine smile. "But we do need another log, and you are elected since you have spoiled both of us so."


"It's not right to make fun of a body as tired as I am," said Sam, but he grinned as he jumped up from the sofa and headed for the door. He returned in a moment and added the new log to the fire. Rosie slid over into Sam's place and pulled him down between her and Frodo.


"This is cozy now," said Sam. "What more could a body want on such a cold night?"


***


The day was March twenty fourth. Gandalf had returned to Bag End shortly before tea. Finding Rose and Frodo in the kitchen, they talked for a short time until she excused herself to call Sam in to wash up. Sam had been in the garden all afternoon finishing the last of his breaking and turning of the ground to prepare it for the planting. Soon--very soon--the seeds that would die to burst forth in vigorous new life would be sown.


Gandalf picked up the coal tongs and poked at the failing fire. The previous night's winter winds seemed to be fading, but Frodo sat with a cloak over his shoulders. He had been well all day except for a chill that seeped into his very marrow. "I think I know now what I began to see on the day I talked to Sam," said Frodo slowly.


"And what is that?" asked Gandalf, returning the tongs to their place and taking his seat again.


Frodo took a deep breath and began. "I am not afraid to die, but I am afraid to leave, and leave I must." He shivered, drawing his hands together to seek after his missing finger, and then started again. "I realized that when everything was taken from me in Mordor--when I lost all memory of the Shire, all hope for life, and when finally even my own soul was emptied in the Crack of Doom--there was still one thing that remained. ...It was Sam," he said, staring into the fire but seeing another time and place. "Sam was the only thing I did not lose that day. He was the only reason I came down from the mountain.


Gandalf nodded in understanding, but did not say a word.


"Last October when I decided to leave, I gave up all hope of life for the second time. I knew then that I would never be healed here, never marry, never have children, never grow old here. I gave up the Shire that day, and though I still see its beauty, it is already fading from me. I let go of my home and all the things that I have treasured--they already belong to my heir. But my heart did not really give up Sam." There was a long pause. "I am holding on to his love because..." Frodo faltered and could go no further.


For some minutes Gandalf waited patiently for him to begin again.


Finally he spoke as from a great distance. "I am afraid that when I no longer have Sam's love, there will be nothing left of me." No tear came to Frodo's eye, but he sat still and pale of face as if there were indeed nothing left in his soul. "...I fear the darkness will rush in again to claim all that remains."


A tear did come now, but it came to Gandalf and not to Frodo. He rose from the bench and drew near to put this arm around the motionless hobbit. "You do not see all," Gandalf said. "In truth, the shadows no longer have any claim on you, for you chose the light long ago. ...Though the darkness still lashes out at you, you will never be swallowed by it." Frodo turned to Gandalf, but seemed to look through rather than at him. "I would that you could see yourself as others do," he continued. Then pausing, he turned his head to the window that looked out to the West. "Can you not hear the white shores calling you?"


Frodo's eyes followed his, but now they looked within and not without. "Yes, I hear them ...Sometimes even in my waking hours," he said. "...I think I have sought them in my dreams all of my life. ...But they do not feel real to me now. ...I cannot hold on to them the way that I have held on to Sam."


Gandalf looked into the hollow, blue eyes that turned up to meet his. "You would see them more clearly but for the fear and despair caused by your wounds. When you have given all away," said Gandalf, taking hold of Frodo's shoulders, "you will see that love remains."


And as though passing at last through the shadows, a hint of life returned to Frodo's voice. "I know you speak the truth ...but how do I let go?"


Check back soon for part five "Rosie's Gift." Again, the "history" is borrowed from Morganna's "Rivers and Willows."

I leave you with an appropriate quote that speaks to my heart and my story:

"Telling myself to long for eternity fells like telling myself to let go of all I love--forever. ...But what if? ... What if it shall all be restored?"--The Journey of Desire

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