This is actually part two of five, but feel free to start at this point if you are new–you won’t be lost. You can always go back to chapter one later. Or, start with chapter one: To Open Every Door – Gandalf, the Unexpected Visitor
Two days had passed since Gandalf’s arrival. Though food was no small part of the merriment, it was talk that had been the chief joy for all concerned, for Bag End had been filled with the eagerly received stories of far off Gondor and Rohan. Sam, too, had not been shy of sharing all the news from his travels in the far reaches of the Shire though it was clear that his heart was closer to home than ever before. Drawing smiles from both Rose and Frodo, he had even told the small incidents of the two of their homebound lives as if they had been great adventures. Sam’s peak excitement, however, was centered on the big event that was soon to befall his little family, for he was sure that was why Gandalf had come. He had wanted to send for Merry and Pippin to make the celebration complete, but Rose and Gandalf had finally convinced him to wait until after the baby was born. Frodo was grateful that Sam’s thoughts had so been turned elsewhere; they kept him from other suspicions about Gandalf’s presence and would, perhaps, make hiding the expected illness that much easier.
The morning of the thirteenth dawned bright for all but Frodo. He awoke to a terrible chill although the covers had been drawn tight against the early morning cold. When he tried to right himself in the bed, he discovered that his neck was stiff and sore to the touch. Memories of a year ago flooded his thoughts, and he knew that the illness had indeed returned.
Easing himself back into the pillows, he strove to hear the early morning sounds of Sam and Rosie in the kitchen. Yes, they were speaking softly, but he could just hear them, for he saw that Gandalf had cracked open his door sometime in the night. Since Frodo’s return to Bag End, he had enjoyed this time of day more than any other. Sam’s loving words and Rosie’s effortless laughter often carried through the halls, speaking to his heart, that it had been worth it all. And he knew that it was so–even when the tide of darkness rose against him. And rise it would today, in a darkness so black that he would see and know nothing of the sweet and homely beauty now falling on his ears. Frodo hid his face in his hands as the memories washed over him again. At the Cotton’s the previous year, he had battled to the edge of his soul before again claiming the Ring, only to have it, along with his finger, vanish before his eyes. He had died then–in emptiness and pain. But there were things worse than death, for after that had come the mocking laughter and the shame unbearable. “No! I can’t think of that!” he said aloud. He shook his head in determination. “It doesn’t have to be that way!” Last October Sam had come to him in his fever and pulled him from that fall, and today–today Gandalf would be with him. Driving away the fearsome thoughts, he took up one of Bilbo’s old books of Elvish verse that was lying close at hand, and began to read.
Gandalf soon appeared bringing news that Rose was sending Sam to pick up the cradle that she’d had made by Wilibald Burrows, a farmer who lived at the foot of the White Downs. Wilibald filled his spare winter hours with carved work when there was little to be done outdoors. His woodworking was known as the finest in the Shire, but he made only a few pieces, so they had to be ordered well in advance. The previous October, Rose had requested of Sam that Wilibald might make their cradle. She could have had it made by others who lived nearer and worked at less cost, and it was not like her to want something extravagant, but Sam had been eager to please his new wife. In any case, to Frodo’s great relief, it would be dark before Sam could cover the distance and return to the house.
After spending some time with the book of verse, Frodo pulled out a volume of history that he had picked up in Gondor. He flipped slowly through the pages for a few moments, without any understanding of what he had read, before finally deciding to pull himself together and make an attempt at the day. Bundled in an extra layer of clothes, he came late to second breakfast. He shared that quietly with Gandalf and Rosie, for Sam had already left. Then, he sat by the parlour fire for nearly an hour, without finding relief from either the chill or stiffness, before retreating to his room to crawl back under the covers. Frodo did not leave his room again that day.
Gandalf’s spent much of his day with Frodo, but time and again, he sought out Rose for conversation or wandered in the garden for a bit, puffing persistently on his pipe. For her part, Rose was busy making a blanket for the baby and did not often stir far from the parlour. She quietly noted that Gandalf took some small afternoon meal to Frodo’s room, but later returned with the food uneaten. As afternoon wore on toward evening, Gandalf all but vanished. Soon Rose, who had worked steadily most of the day, began to find herself spending more and more time undoing and redoing her miscreant stitches. At last she gave it up and began to wander without aim from room to room, ever listening for Sam’s arrival. In the kitchen for the third time, she decided there was nothing for it, but to begin the supper. The first stars were just beginning to twinkle in the violet dusk when, at last, Sam’s footsteps sounded on the paving stones. She hurried to greet him with a kiss and draw him into the kitchen. He was washing his hands and telling of the day’s ride when Gandalf finally appeared.
“Frodo won’t be coming to supper this evening,” said Gandalf. “He has a bit of a headache and has decided to lie down.”
“Maybe I should take him something to eat when we’re finished,” said Sam, pinching a pickle from the plate that Rose was setting on the table.
“No,” said Rose, with a nervous dust of her hands on her apron. “You’ll just wake him up when what he needs is rest. He’ll be out later if he’s up to it.”
Gandalf studied her face, but said nothing.
“I suppose you’re right,” said Sam, with a sigh. “I wanted to tell him about the trees up Burrows’ way. I don’t think there’re any in the Shire that have grown faster this past year. You know that Mr. Frodo always wants to hear about how things are growing and mending even if he doesn’t get `round to see them himself.”
Rose smiled as she laid her hand on Sam’s arm. “I’m sure he wants to hear all about it, but perhaps it can wait `til morning. I think I might like to lie down early myself tonight,” she added. “This little one’s getting mighty heavy.”
Sam came over and caught Rose by the shoulders, pushing her gently down into a chair. “Just you sit, and your Sam will put out the supper. You sit too, Gandalf,” he ordered.
With a reluctant shrug Gandalf sat down on the oversized bench that had been brought into the kitchen for his visit. Bilbo had had it made for him years before, and it had been put to good use many a time. “I will have just a bite,” he said, “as I have done nothing but eat in this hole of yours. It is no small wonder that hobbits are not as big as houses.”
So Sam served up the simple feast that Rose had prepared while they talked of his day. Gandalf ate some of Rose’s bread and two small sausages before he politely excused himself and disappeared. That evening he was seen by Sam and Rose only once more, as the lamps were put out in the main rooms.
In Frodo’s room Gandalf had passed much of the day trying to distract him from his increasing pain and dread, but by early evening Frodo could see nothing of his surroundings and was seized again by his quest of Mount Doom. As he became feverish, Gandalf sponged his brow and whispered words of hope that he knew could not be heard by the ailing hobbit. In sadness he contemplated the battle that went on before his eyes. For Frodo tossed and turned, silent for the most part, but at times muttering angry words or crying out weakly in pain or terror. And the light raged, too, and Gandalf marveled again at its strength. His mind swept back across the years to see a young Frodo as he had waged another battle. Yes, whatever came, Frodo would fight. But he knew it was peace that Frodo needed. “Soon,” he consoled himself, “soon you will rest.”
Hours later, in the very early morning, Frodo took a turn for the better. Quiet at last, Gandalf straightened his bedding and put him in a fresh nightshirt. Then, with pitcher and basin in hand, he opened the door to find Rose standing in the hall. Her hand was raised as if he had interrupted her knock
“How is Mr. Frodo, Sir?” she asked, her brown eyes wide with concern. “I know he’s ill. I’ve known it for a year,” she admitted, casting her eyes to the things Gandalf was carrying.
Gandalf nodded without apparent surprise. “It seems Frodo was right,” he said. “You do know more than you have spoken of. …But to answer your question, he is doing much better now that his fever has broken.” Gandalf shook his head as she reached up to try and take the damp cloths that were draped on his arm. “I was just going to pour out this water and get some more for when he awakes. Since it does not appear that you plan on sleeping tonight,” he said, with a wry smile, “you can wait in the room for me. …Go on in,” he urged, “Frodo won’t wake for some time yet.”
Gandalf returned a few minutes later to find her standing by the bedside holding Frodo’s hand. She turned as he entered, then turned back to gaze again at the pale and worn features of the sleeper.”
“Is he all right?” she asked, biting her lip. “…I’ve been so worried about him.”
“He is fine for now,” said Gandalf with a reassuring nod. Appraising Rose carefully, he took his seat again at the foot of the bed. “…What do you see when you look at him?” he asked.
“It’s hard to explain,” said Rose as she tenderly laid Frodo’s hand back on his breast. She came to sit beside Gandalf, but did not take her eyes from Frodo. “He is very sad, but also very beautiful; it’s like a sunrise …or water that sparkles on the lake on a summer day.”
“Very good,” said Gandalf. “I see that Sam has made a wise choice indeed.”
Rose went on after the slightest of pauses. “Is it because of the way he has suffered that he looks so?” she asked.
“No,” answered Gandalf, “at least not directly. His suffering has but made it easier for you to see him as he is. Frodo has made many choices these past two and a half years. You might say that he has listened to the voice that he has heard and has done what was asked of him. Many of those things were not what he wished to do and have caused him great pain, but he did not stray from the path that was set before him. Your Samwise chose the right path as well. At first he was only following Frodo, but, in time, he too heard the voice and chose wisely.”
“Was it the voice of the one the elves name `Illúvatar?'” asked Rose, her voice hushed.
Gandalf looked at her now in astonishment. “Yes, that is how they name him,” he said. Then a smile spread slowly across his face. “And so it seems I find yet another not so ordinary hobbit.”
Rose brushed self-consciously at the folds of her dress. “Sam has told me stories since we were kids, and now Mr. Frodo lets me look in his books,” she explained. “They are hard, and sometimes I have to ask him what is meant, but I’ve had a lot of time on my hands since Sam won’t let me do much else these days.”
She turned back to stare at Frodo for a long moment. “He is dying?” she asked, with a small quaver.
“I should think not,” replied Gandalf, “at least not here and now. Frodo will soon seem quite well enough …to those who don’t look too deeply anyway. …But he cannot be healed here; his wounds are too grave. He must be taken to Valinor. We will sail from the Havens this fall.”
Rose breathed a sigh of relief, then reaching her hand into her pocket, withdrew a folded piece of paper which she handed to Gandalf. I found this when I was washing his jacket yesterday. Gandalf went over to the lamp to read the words.
How do I face this death of mine? For I cannot yet call it by any other name. It is a death to life as I know it: a death to the Shire and my home and to those I love–to Merry and Pippin, to Sam and Rosie, but, most of all, to Sam. He is the only one who knows me as I truly am. And still–he loves me.
“Yes,” said Gandalf, and for a moment his eyes were filled with a great weariness. “Frodo leaves these shores, not to save his life, but to spare those he loves from the sorrow of his suffering and what would soon be his death. He has willingly chosen this road, but it does not ease the hurt of his heart.” Gandalf returned to his seat, handing the note to Rose. “He and Sam have shared a terrible burden, and out of that has grown a great love. Their parting will be very hard.”
Rose started to cry. “Yes …it will,” she said. “It will break Sam’s heart. He’s mostly happy now, but I know he worries about Mr. Frodo all the time. He’s had some bad dreams since last fall when he found out that his dear master was not well. Dreams about holding Mr. Frodo’s hands on the mountain to stop him from putting on the Ring, and dreams of him putting it on and falling down into the fire.”
Gandalf nodded his head as if placing a final piece in a puzzle. “So…Sam needs some healing as well,” he said.
Rose wrapped her hands around her stomach and spoke through a sob as a new thought came to her. “Sam won’t get sick too and have to leave me, will he?”
“No, no.” said Gandalf, laying a hand on her shoulder. “To be sure, he went through a lot in Mordor, and he did carry the ring for a time, but Sam is not wounded the way that Frodo is. He will be completely whole one day soon,” he reassured her. “He will miss Frodo, perhaps very much, but he will have you and the baby and a wonderful life to look forward to.”
They talked on for another half an hour or more until Frodo stirred and a small cry came from the bed, “Gandalf!”
“I am here, Frodo,” he answered, getting up from his chair. “…Can you drink some water now?”
“Yes …yes, I think so,” answered Frodo, still half in sleep. “It was so hot …the fire was burning me–burning in me.” As Gandalf came to his side, Frodo’s eyes widened and he reached out to clutch at his robe. “I heard Arwen singing this time! …She wanted me to put the Ring in the fire …but I couldn’t–I wouldn’t!” he said, his voice trembling with anger and despair. “I will never be… Frodo came to a sudden halt, gasping as he noticed that they were not alone. After casting a frantic glance at Gandalf, he turned his eyes again to the hobbit sitting quietly at the foot of the bed.
“There is no cause for worry,” said Gandalf, shaking his head. “Rose knows everything; she has known for quite some time. She came only to help an old wizard with his favorite patient.” A bit of color entered Frodo’s cheeks for the first time that day, and he looked as if he wished to hide under the covers. “It is time for you to practice getting rid of that bit of pride,” said Gandalf, with a smile. He raised Frodo up from the pillows. “…Drink now.” After the water had been taken, he placed his hand on Frodo’s brow for a moment. “Yes,” he said, “I think you are past the worst of it, at least for now. Rose has told me that the thirteenth was the date that you were most ill at the Cotton’s last year.
“I don’t understand,” said Frodo, slowly regaining his composure.
“I could use a stretch and a pipe,” said Gandalf, standing up. “I’ll leave you two to talk, but just for a bit; you both need your sleep.” At the doorway he bent his tall frame with great care and passed through into the hallway. “If only this home had a decent…” he muttered, the rest of his words drifting off.
Frodo stared at Rosie, lost for words. “I sat with you some last year when you were ill at my house,” she began. “My father didn’t say anything about it since you were so set on keeping it secret from everyone. He said you were most likely embarrassed, so I’d best not say anything to you either.”
Frodo twisted in discomfort at this newest revelation, the hint of color that had been fading from his face returned once more. “It seems I do not know much of anything these days,” he said with a weak attempt at a smile. “And here, I thought that you could read my mind.” His face suddenly clouded. “So does Sam know all of this too?” he asked.
“Sam knows only what he saw last fall and no more,” Rosie assured him. She stood and stretched, running her hands along the sides of her rounded form. “I think he knows in his heart, but he doesn’t want to face it. I didn’t tell him what I knew, because he would’ve taken it very hard. He so wants you to be well and happy. You mean everything to him,” she said as she drew near. “Gandalf told me your only chance is to go over the sea to the elves. You have to leave us if you want to be made well again. Getting well …that’s the most important thing …for yourself …and for Sam. You needn’t worry about me telling him before you’re ready. I don’t want to cause him hurt any more than you do.”
Frodo sighed and relaxed back into the pillows. “So what are we going to do?” he asked.
“We are going to take care of you and keep Sam in the dark until you think the time is right for him to know,” Rosie answered, now straightening the edge of his pillowcase. “If it goes the same as last year, I expect you won’t be feeling much like yourself for another two weeks–until the day that Ring went into the fire.” At the mention of the Ring, Frodo shuddered and all color drained from his face. She grasped his hand in both of hers to offer him what comfort she could, but was taken aback as he quickly pulled it away. Her hurt was only momentary though, for it gave way to understanding when she noticed the flash of pain in his eyes and the way he hid his hand–the broken hand–under the coverlet. “We are going to have to do so something about how pale you look and those circles under your eyes,” she continued, with barely a break. “I promise you won’t be sorry to have my help. You’ll see. Things will be much easier for you when you are not hiding from everyone, and I’m a good listener.
Rosie reached into her pocket and drew out the folded paper that she had shown to Gandalf. “This is yours,” she said as she handed it to him. “I’m sorry that I read it without asking you, but I’m not sorry to know how you feel. I showed it to Gandalf too. I thought he should know.”
Frodo looked at his handwriting and sighed. “I guess you really do know everything now,” he said. “I’m not sure that I regret it, but I do feel a little naked having my heart opened up like this.”
At a soft knock they turned to find Gandalf pushing open the door. “It is past time that Mistress Gamgee goes to her own bed so you both can rest,” he said. “There will be time enough for talk in the days to come.”
Rosie bent and gave Frodo a small kiss on the brow then brushed past Gandalf. She turned at the door, said good night, and slipped out into the hall.
Putting his hand to his aching neck, Frodo moaned softly as he turned his head away from her. His eyelids began to sink as if under a great weight, but on his face there was a look of peace that Gandalf had not seen all day. “It is time you get some real sleep,” he said.
“I think I can really sleep at last,” said Frodo, burrowing deeper into the pillows. “Still …it is hard to believe that she knew all this time.”
“She has done more than just know about it,” said Gandalf. “If you think back, I am sure you will find that she has been aiding you at every turn. I have seen it twice myself this very day.”
“Then I guess there is no use worrying about a door that is already open,” said Frodo with a yawn.
Gandalf thought to reply but saw that he was already slipping away to restful dreams. “Sleep now …for there are other doors yet to open,” he whispered.
To learn about the young Frodo contemplated by Gandalf, you will have to read the history that I have borrowed from Morgana, “Rivers and Willows.”
Please comment and remember to check back soon for part three, “Sam’s Beautiful Dream.