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3
Too Many Secrets

2. Too Many Secrets


Thereís been too many secrets in this hole, too many eating at hearts and minds and souls. For sixty years old Mr. Bilbo tried to keep the secret of that Ring of his, that cursed thing as took us away from the Shire and almost killed us all, that destroyed the happiness in my Mr. Frodo. And for another seventeen Mr. Frodo hid it, keeping it secret, keeping it safe, the way old Gandalf told him to do.

Then there were all the years that Mr. Bilbo would insist that Mr. Frodo wasnít to do anything that would, as he kept putting it, eat the heart away of Frodo. Heíd always say it that way, ďYou canít let it eat your heart away, my dear boy.Ē Neither of us understood why he put it that way. He didnít say it like that to others when they was upset or troubled--just to Frodo. I didnít find out why he said it that way until Mr. Merry began working on organizing the records in Brandy Hall for his dad over the winter, and he found one old letter from the healer from when Frodo was just a lad there, after his mum and dad died, drowning in the river the way they did. Mr. Merry just showed up on the doorstep one day, this paper in his pocket, his face pale, his eyes solemn; and he handed it to me, saying, ďYouíll want to read this.Ē And when I was done reading it, I looked up at him, and he looked at me, and he nodded. I think I nodded, too. Made too much sense.

So I checked with Drolan Chubbs, the healer here in Hobbiton, to see if his gammer, who was the healer who used to see to Mr. Bilbo and Frodo when he first came here, had left any records on her patients. Took a few weeks of going through boxes of old papers stowed in one of the disused storerooms in the place--half smial, half house--where Drolanís parents and gammer and he have worked from for three generations. But we found it. Gammer Laurel always wrote down what she did, what she found out about her patients, what medicines or treatments worked and what didnít; but sheíd write it down in a sort of code. With Drolan helping us, we figured it out, Mr. Merry, Mr. Pippin, and me. And it fit, too. More heartening, what she wrote, but it fit--helped explain. Then we had a long talk with Mr. Freddyís healer, that Budgie Smallfoot, and got the last of it. Well, almost the last of it--Iím going to badger even Strider about it, quiet like, when he comes north. Doubt heíll be able or willing to tell me much, but suspect if he cracks heíll just confirm what we already know, if I can get him to talk at all. But then, maybe he didnít notice. I mean, he learned healing from Elrond, in Rivendell. Thatís Elvish medicine. Oh, he knows how to work on wounds, to stitch a deep cut, to wash a burn, to bind cracked ribs, to splint a broken limb, to amputate a foot thatís going into putrefaction, to call someone back from the doors of death, even. He can deal with broken bodies and, in part, at least, with broken spirits as well.

But does he understand about just mortal problems? Do Elves understand-- really understand--how things grow strange in parts of a mortalís body for no reason we can understand, how blood starts moving slower, how stomachs can stop accepting food, how hearts can sicken in their beating?

And then there were the three of us, me, my Rosie, and Frodo, all trying to keep the secret from one another--and from ourselves. At least, I was working right hard at keeping it from myself--Mr. Frodo was fading, was close to dying. I didnít want to believe it, you know. How could he be fading? He was so young, not even fifty-five. He seemed to be doing so very good once we woke up in Ithilien. Oh, heíd get sad and withdrawn sometimes, but then the Ring ate at his soul so. Of course heíd not be just as heíd been. There was not a serious sign things were bad for him all the way home--well, except for when we left Rivendell and he started going funny at the Ford and stayed that way till we got past Weathertop. That were the first real sign as he wasnít as well as he seemed to be. But even then he seemed to be so much better afterwards. Budgie tried to explain, but Iím not sure I have the right of it to this day.

Secrets can eat the heart out of you as bad as being troubled, I think. Too many secrets, too much trying to protect others--it just scoops the insides right out of you. And my heart feels so hollow....

But Iím skipping through this part too much.

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