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Learning from the Master and the Young Master


1. Grieving

I’m not going to put this in the Red Book--what goes in the Red Book is about what he did, what we all did, to save the Shire, to save Middle Earth, and what it cost to do that, what it cost us. But especially what it cost him. What it cost Frodo. And it cost him so much. But I have to write it down--I got to get it out, and I can’t tell everyone about it, not now.

Mr. Frodo, he showed me the way. When anyone else was bothered, they could always go to him, and he’d listen. He’d listen so hard, his eyes looking at you so kind, so interested. But when he got bothered, Frodo wouldn’t talk about it. Felt real responsible, he did, and decided he wasn’t going to burden anyone else with his problems. Used to drive old Mr. Bilbo to distraction, if you take my meaning. It would be obvious something was going through his head, but what it was he wouldn’t say. Mr. Bilbo would have to figure it out, ask questions, draw him out. He would come out into the garden sometimes while I was weeding, and he’d be running his fingers through his hair till it stood right up on end, so frustrated, and he’d always start, “Sticklebacks! Bother the lad!” And then he’d pace up and down a bit, and finally he’d go, “Don’t know where he got his reticence, I swear. Certainly not from the Baggins part of the family, or the Tookish part, either. Won’t say a word--plain as the nose on your face something is stirring him up, it is, but he won’t say what. Got to drag it out of him!”

I’d just keep working and making noises like I was interested but not paying a lot of attention, and finally he’d start describing what he’d learned or figured out so far, and then he’d ask me what I’d seen that could be part of the problem. I’d try to say nothing, but Mr. Bilbo--he’d see whenever you tried to hide something, and he’d go after it like a dog digging after a badger. Once he’d started putting the pieces back together, old Mr. Bilbo would just keep at it, and then he’d go back to the hole and confront Frodo and finally drag it out of him proper. Or, if Mr. Frodo had decided to leave so as to avoid him, he’d just wait till Frodo’d come back, and Mr. Bilbo’d act like it wasn’t bothering him no more, he’d have something just ready to go on the table when Frodo walked in, and he’d just sort of slip it in sideways, what he’d figured out, like he was talking about someone else or whatever. And then Frodo would finally have to agree, to admit Mr. Bilbo was right.

One day Frodo had had enough, and he got downright mad, he did, and asked why he couldn’t be allowed to just be bothered about stuff and nobody else meddle in it; but Mr. Bilbo, he just shook his head.

“Can’t let you keep it all bottled up inside, Frodo my lad,” he said. “Puts you into a right state, it does, and you don’t eat for days till it finally settles down or you figure out what you’re going to do about it. And that is not good for you, dear boy.”

Frodo was shouting, and I could hear whether I would or no, for I was working the garden just outside the kitchen and that was where they were, and the windows were open, for it were a hot day and the kitchen with its fire, small as it was in high summer, was still stifling if you tried to keep the windows shut up. Seems I would all too often hear what I oughtn’t to through the open windows of Bag End when my Mr. Frodo lived here....

“But maybe what I know or suspect is my own business, or is private to someone else, Uncle,” he said. “When Uncle Saradoc is troubled and has asked you for advice and it is a puzzler, do you tell me about it, or the Gaffer? Would you let me badger it out of you in that case? Or if it were a case where the Sackville- Bagginses were on at you about something private and were making innuendoes--”

“Lobelia Sackville-Baggins does that all the time, but she never sinks to making innuendoes,” Mr. Bilbo sighed. “She just outs with it, whether you would or no. No subtlety at all in Lobelia, as you well know, Frodo.”

I couldn’t see Mr. Frodo--just the top of Mr. Bilbo’s head for he was now standing just inside the window, and I knew that Frodo would be by the table, giving him that look he had as he ran his fingers through his own hair--he didn’t lose his temper often, just went away inside himself and would get stubborn; but the few times Mr. Bilbo sent him into distraction his own self that’s what he’d do, just stand there shaking, his face going white where others’ faces would go red, but he could make his hair stand up as good as his uncle, I swear.

Then Mr. Bilbo’s own voice went soft, strange soft as it could sometimes when he was talking serious to Frodo, and he said, “It’s just that I love you, boy, love you so very much, and it’s all I can do to keep still when I know you are troubled. You are so intense, and it’s not good for you to get that intense--when your heart starts going like a trip hammer it’s all I can do not to worry about you. You have to have some way of working it out before it eats your heart away from the inside!”

I know my Mr. Frodo, he must have just stood there, his face white, his eyes enormous and shadowed, just giving his uncle that look. Others would turn away from that look, but not Mr. Bilbo--he’d just stand there, drinking it in, his heart getting full of it, full of concern and love for his lad, looking sad at the hurting look. Then he sighed, Mr. Bilbo did.

“I’ll see what I can do,” he said soft-like, then said, “You go out and get yourself a walk to the Water and back, it will help you settle it out or at least walk off your frustration.” And Frodo did that. A moment later I heard the front door slam, and then there he was, walking off along the road, but not toward the Water but the other way, toward the fields and woods. He’d snatched up his cloak as he left and was fastening it as he walked by, his face all pale still, his hair still standing up but the breeze just giving it a combing as it did, his eyes enormous still. Didn’t need no cloak at all, it being right warm that day, but he’d grabbed it anyway. He’d get cold when he was troubled, Frodo would. Then Mr. Bilbo came out, soft footed, walked into the garden to look out after him, and sighed. “There he goes,” he said, and sighed one more time. “It will eat out his heart if he doesn’t find some kind of outlet, that lad.” I didn’t understand, so I looked up at him from where I was working the soil. Mr. Bilbo did look right worried his own self, he did, his forehead all lined, his eyebrows almost touching. “It will eat out his heart,” he said again, and he went still. Quite still.

A moment he stood there, looking out after where Frodo had disappeared, and then he shook hisself and went back into the smial. A few moments later he came back, his waistcoat on, his favorite wine-colored one with the gold dwarf buttons on it. “I’ll be back shortly,” he called out to me. “I’m just going to nip into the village for a bit.” Although why he felt he had to tell me, I didn’t know. I mean, it’s not as if I was family or nothing; but he’d always tell the Gaffer if he was leaving, or me if I was working alone, being polite like. That’s what the Gaffer liked about old Mr. Bilbo--always treated him with respect, would listen to him like his words meant something, acted like he was responsible enough to tell visitors the master was away when he was gone or didn’t want to be bothered by relatives or such. So I just nodded and watched him go, then went back to my bit of earth, turning over my thoughts as I turned over the soil.

Anyway, Mr. Bilbo was gone about an hour, and he came back whistling, a large bundle in his hands, and he went into the hole, then came out and came to where I was weeding by the window of his study. “I need your assistance, Master Samwise,” he said to me. He had me go with him into the old office where his mum used to keep the household accounts, and he had me take one side of the desk that stood there and help him carry it out of there and into Mr. Frodo’s room. I was embarrassed, I was, to be going into Mr. Frodo’s private room and all, but Mr. Bilbo just tutted like he would and had me help carry the desk over near the window and set it up there. There was a small table there already, but he just pushed it aside so we could place the desk, and then he carried it out while I settled the desk and straightened the rug under it and all, and came back with a bottle of oil and some cleaning rags. “Now here’s for it,” he said, and he began to clean up the desk and rub it down. It had looked grey in the little office, but now its wood shone up nice, golden with its grain starting to glow. It was a right pretty little thing when it was cared for, don’t you know. And when he was satisfied, he had me take them cleaning things out of there and put them away again while he fetched the bundle from where he’d left it on Frodo’s bed, and he laid it on the desk and opened it.

It were a wooden box full of stationery, a soft golden color shot with green threads, it was; and a second box with a funny lid, and when he opened it there were in it three bottles of ink, black and blue and green, I think. And a third box held several quills and a pen knife, and a fourth held fine sand and a silver sifter and blotting paper. He set it all out on the desk, then smiled at it, looking right satisfied, he did. And I looked at it, and went outside and cut some flowers and foliage and took them to the kitchen and got the old vase as stood there on the dresser, the one they never used much, and filled it with water and put the flowers and leaves in it, arranging them just right, and then took it into the bedroom and set it on the desk at the back, right where the light would hit it just proper to make the golds glow and the pinks blush and the blues shine a bit. And Mr. Bilbo, who’d just been standing there admiring the effect, he smiled, he did, and said, “Just what was needed, Sam,” with approval like in his voice.

Then he brought over the chair that had set by the table, but it wasn’t good enough. So him and me, we began to go through the other rooms looking for the proper chair. We found one he decided was good enough in the third guest bedroom, and he had me carry it in there to Frodo’s room and take back the lighter one from there and put it in its place, and he settled it under the desk, then pulled it out and set it sort of inviting like at a bit of an angle. The way he fussed over it would have been funny if he hadn’t had that look of satisfaction on his face, and I knew what he was feeling. Wasn’t nobody that loved Mr. Frodo more than old Mr. Bilbo, not even me, I think.

When finally he decided the chair was the right angle to look inviting enough, he said, “Well, that’s done. What about some tea, Sam, my boy?” and we went into the kitchen. He let me stir up the fire a bit and set the kettle over it, although I could tell he really would have been happy doing it hisself. Then when it was all ready he poured it out for us and set out a small plate of sweet biscuits that he seemed to know I liked especial well, and he began to fill his pipe and all, then began to put some scones left over from second breakfast on a second plate and set them on the table with some butter and a knife, and a pot of my sister May’s currant jam and the silver spoon he always used in it. How he knew Frodo was just coming back I don’t know, but he always did, and they were set out with a fresh plate and mug at Frodo’s place when he finally came into the kitchen. He had taken off his cloak and waistcoat, and had his sleeves rolled up as if he’d been fishing up pebbles from the bottom of the stream, the way he sometimes did when he went out into the woods of an afternoon. He looked at his uncle with suspicion, then sat down and poured hisself some tea and reached for the sugar bowl.

“I got you something this afternoon,” Mr. Bilbo said, not looking at him directly. “It’s in your room.” Frodo said nothing, just nodded a bit, and took a scone and split it, and after putting some butter on it he spooned in the currant jam. “On days when you don’t want me looking over your shoulder and prying,” Mr. Bilbo continued, “you can use it. And I do expect you to use it, understand?”

Frodo was beginning to let go the closed look, starting to be curious in spite of hisself. I finished my tea quick, and explained I had work to do in the gardens afore the Gaffer decided he’d go for me for not finishing the tasks he’d set for me that day, and they both sort of grunted--Frodo’d picked up the sound of Mr. Bilbo’s grunt when he was involved in one of his projects, and it were always funny to hear him sound just like his uncle like that. And I slipped out the back door and went back to where I’d been working under the study window while Mr. Bilbo had been gone. I finished up there as quick as quick, and then hurried to the window for Mr. Frodo’s room so I could hear what he had to say when they got to that. Didn’t take too long, and I heard the door inside swing open. I stopped with the lily I was working on, listened. I could hear the intake of breath, then the sound of Frodo coming near, him opening the box of inks, the sound of sand from the little sifter falling back in its box, and then him turning round back toward the door again. I was right glad, then. He gave a little laugh like he was right pleased, and I could hear it, I could. And Mr. Bilbo must have followed right behind, for I heard him laugh relieved like from over by the door.

Then Mr. Bilbo got all solemn like. “I want you to use these when you are troubled, Frodo,” he said. “I want you to use them. There’s a drawer in the box of stationery, and it has a key--it’s inside the drawer right now, and it’s yours. There’s no other copy of that key. When you get all bothered about something, I want you to write it out, and when you have it all nicely committed to paper, you put it in that drawer and lock it up. Then think about it. If you can figure out what to do about it, then write that out, too. Or, if after considering it for a while you decide to share it with me, come and tell me, or bring the papers for me to read if you think it’s better said that way. Do you understand?” Then after Frodo must have nodded, he continued, “You can’t keep things always bottled up, Frodo. It will eat your heart away, and you need your heart for loving things and people, not for being bothered.

“Now,” said he, all brusque now, “when you have the problem settled or decide there’s nothing you can do about it and the other will have to settle it himself, then you can either keep the sheets or burn them or simply commit them to the garbage, or even share them with me if you’d like. But I want you to use this paper and ink, and when you need more tell me and I’ll get it--or better yet, go to Boggins’s and ask him for more. I’ll let him know tomorrow to keep it on hand, or a different style if you find you like it better, and he’s to send the bill each month when you’ve bought some. But you need to get what’s bothering you out--it’s like being sick to your stomach, dear Frodo--better out than in. But I won’t let your troubles eat your heart away; and they will as long as you refuse to let them out into the light of day in one way or another. Do you understand, dear boy?”

“Yes, Uncle,” he answered him.

And after that there would be days when he’d just sit for an hour or two and write furiously, then I’d hear the snick of that lock and after a while he’d come out all whistling softly like he always did, and he’d come out to talk to me and all, his heart lighter for not having the anger or concern bottled up. Some days he’d take the box to the study and write there near his uncle, and if he felt free to share once he’d gotten it clear on paper what was bothering him, he’d give a sort of clear to his throat that let Mr. Bilbo know he was ready to read it aloud. And Mr. Bilbo would stop, and then he’d fill his pipe slow like and look at Frodo and let him know he was ready to listen. I’d move away then, so as to not overhear--most of the time, of course.

So that’s what I’m doing now--what Frodo learned to do--writing it out, like. Getting it out so it don’t eat my heart away.


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