As Mr. Frodo began to close out his forties, his restlessness increased. His walking trips increased in number, and like Mr. Bilbo hisself, he began to get out maps and books of travels and studied them. The old map of the Lonely Mountain Mr. Bilbo brought back from his own adventure he took off the wall and looked over every day, and the one the old Hobbit had tried to construct of the way to Rivendell Mr. Frodo went over again and again. He started making lists of what he’d take if he were to set off on a trip, and when he went out walking he kept a close eye out for Elves and Dwarves.
There’d been no letters from Mr. Bilbo for many years, no word of Gandalf since his last visit, and nothing from the Lonely Mountain for five years. Rumors grew of Men on horseback seen close to the Hay and the borders of the Shire, tall Men who were doing their best to remain quiet and unnoted, men with shining swords and bows as had seen use. Rumors there was of other men on foot seeking to enter the Southfarthing, loud men who acted as if those they met were children and without understanding. Rumors from passing Dwarves were that the far mountains were fair teeming with goblins and trolls and mountain giants and the great wolves. Folk started saying they’d seen strange things here and there across the Shire--one of my own cousins swore he saw a creature like an elm tree walking through the fields far to the north and west of the Shire--told me about it when we met at the Free Fair in Michel Delving. There were talk in Buckland of the trees of the Old Forest becoming restless, and signs they was contemplating attacking the High Hay again. Hardly nobody wanted to travel out to Bree no more.
One package of documents and books arrived at Bag End from Rivendell that year, but it held more than had been sent at a time for many years, and it included, to Mr. Frodo’s delight and our concern, a couple of maps of the regions of East Eriador.
Mr. Merry had become concerned about Frodo, and had convinced hisself that once Frodo turned fifty he would do his best to have his own adventure, and he began nosing about during his visits. He arrived one day as Frodo was in his study with his new maps, comparing them to the one Mr. Bilbo’d made, making notes on Mr. Bilbo’s map with a stick of graphite he’d bought off a Dwarf one time and he used to make notes he might need to change. Sometimes he used charcoal for such notes, but it smudged worse and was messier, and he once told me such were fine for drawings, but not so good for writing, and he preferred the graphite.
Anyways, Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin arrived early one afternoon while Frodo was studying these maps, and Merry watched Frodo’s face and noted the eager expression on it as he checked it out and made calculations. Rivendell wasn’t on either map, but the Bruinen was, what Mr. Frodo said translated to “Loudwater” in the Common Tongue, and Frodo was trying to locate where Rivendell might be along the river from comments he’d remembered from Mr. Bilbo’s tales and comparing the maps. Pippin had sneaked into the cool room to get some of the apples from the last harvest, and come in eating one and another in his pocket, and started looking through the new books Frodo’d stacked on the mantel. I had fixed tea for us all, and settled on the small sofa with a book of Elvish tales in the Common Tongue as was part of the bunch and Mr. Frodo had immediately suggested I’d like, but I was watching the others more than reading. Merry was asking questions on how long Mr. Bilbo’d said it took him to make his way to Rivendell, and whether he’d gone by foot or pony--said he didn’t member which, and couldn’t think why Rivendell might not be on an Elvish map. I didn’t understand what Mr. Frodo meant as to why they didn’t mark it down, that if they did and the map fell into the wrong hands it could be used to lead enemies to it. Now I do, now as I know just how strong was the hatred Sauron held for those as stood up to him, and I’ve seen what his folk would do.
Twere then as I realized at last that Mr. Frodo didn’t look a day older’n his cousin Merry, nor me. He was twelve years older’n me, fourteen years older’n Mr. Merry. He still looked young, and as fair as a young Elf. And my hair stood out from my head, it did, as I realized that what as had been said by everyone else was true, that Frodo seemed as free from aging as had been old Mr. Bilbo. It weren’t natural, and I knew it.
I lost track of the gist of what was said as I studied on what I was seeing, until suddenly I realized Mr. Pippin was in front of me, peering into my face as he shook my shoulder and called my name. “Sam?” he said, must have been the fifth or sixth time. “What’s wrong? Are you all right?” I looked up, and must have seemed daft as could be as I tried to say I’d just been thinking, and he looked right shocked hisself. “Thinking? Whatever for?”
But then there was another knock at the door, and when I went to answer it, it were one of the messengers of the Post with a note from the Mayor about the meeting Mr. Baggins had agreed to attend in Hobbiton that afternoon at the Ivy Bush. Old Will Whitfoot had decided to talk the heads of all the important families of the Shire into sponsoring the repairs being done at the Council Hole in Michel Delving, and that, of course, included the Bagginses as well as the Chubbs, Bolgers, Tooks, Brandybucks, Boffinses, and Proudfoots--and the rest. Mr. Frodo were right put out as he’d plain forgot all about it with his excitement over the new maps, but he rushed to his room to change to his Head of the Family outfit, as he called it, and to run a brush over his feet and head, and hurried out with a warning to Pippin to stay out of the first pantry if he wanted to live to come of age. Mr. Pippin didn’t seem yet to have outgrown the teen tendency to raid pantries at all times of the day and night, and there was a fine bunch of seed cakes my sister Marigold had baked for him that morning, and Mr. Frodo’d become quite partial to having them as part of his tea.
“Good!” said Mr. Merry as soon as the door was shut behind him. “Now that Frodo’s out of the way, it’s time to get down to business.”
And the Conspiracy was born in the study at Bag End while Mr. Frodo was off at a meeting he didn’t want to attend. Mr. Merry explained his certainty that Frodo would really try to sneak out of the Shire by hisself once he turned fifty, and the feeling that had been growing in him that wherever Frodo went, he must not go alone. “The world is growing dangerous out there, lads, and no Hobbit should face that alone.
“Frodo’s been pining for Bilbo ever since he left, and as he gets closer to the age Bilbo was when he went off with the Dwarves it’s been getting worse, and you both know it. Look at him today, going over those maps, trying to pinpoint where Rivendell is. And I wouldn’t be the least surprised to hear tomorrow he’s taken them up on the Hill tonight, to look at them under the full moonlight, then two weeks from now again when the moon’s waned to look at them under purse starlight, if he sees nothing on them tonight. Wait and see if I’m not right about all this! The restlessness is growing in him, is beginning to drive him mad with anxiety, especially since we’ve had no word from either Bilbo nor Gandalf for so long.”
“He can’t leave the Shire on his own,” Pippin said, suddenly. “You’ve heard the stories that are going around--Big Folk trying to get into the Shire on all sides, the tales of wolves at the borders of the Northfarthing where there’s been no sign of them for almost two hundred years, strange creatures like nothing anyone’s ever seen before in the Westfarthing, the tales the Dwarves bring of those goblins in the Misty Mountains breeding like rats among garbage. And I won’t have it--for all you’re my favorite cousin, Merry, Frodo is the one Hobbit in all the Shire who needs protecting. He’s the best Hobbit I know, the gentlest and the loneliest--and the least practical. And the dear old Hobbit won’t ever accept just how dear he is to the rest of us.”
Mr. Merry turned to me. “Here we must trust in you, Samwise Gamgee. We can’t be here all the time--my Da’s counting on me to be by his side, learning the running of the Hall now as I’m of age at last, and he won’t let me run over here every few days as I’ve been able to up till now. As for Pippin--sorry, Pip, but you just could not be discrete if your life depended on it, or at least not yet. Now, don’t get insulted, it’s true and you know it. You get a thought in your head and you act on it or blurt it out without thinking things through. It’s just because you are so very much a Took.”
“Humph,” Mr. Pippin snorted, his nostrils flaring like. “You and Frodo are about as much Tookish as I am!”
“I may be, but for Frodo there’s that strong streak of stubborn Baggins in him that doesn’t confide in others but seeks to protect them, plus the responsible Brandybuck side.”
“Now, I ask you!” Pippin interrupted. “There’s not one whit more tendency toward responsibility in the Brandybucks than there is in the Tooks, and you know it, Meriadoc Brandybuck! And if you want to know where Frodo gets his, I think that comes from the Baggins blood more than either of our sides. It’s the steadiness of the Bagginses coming out in him, I say.”
“But when he decides to leave, that will be the Took coming to the fore at last; but he’ll act on it in typical Frodo fashion, which will be designed to leave all others no whit the wiser in order to protect them--to protect us in particular.” He turned back to me. “I hate to ask you to spy on your master, Sam, although I already know you do--and don’t you try to pretend you don’t.” My face was getting right warm, and I knew they both could see the blood rising in it. “You watch out for him all the time, and we love you for it. We do it, too, as best we can. But you can get away with it because you’ve done it for so long, and he just takes it for granted you are trying to anticipate what he’ll need next. You have to be our eyes and ears, and alert us as to what you see or hear about any plans he’s putting together to sneak off on his own. We won’t allow it, Pippin and I, and I know you feel the same. So, since all three of us are willing to lay down our lives for our dear old cousin, we should work together.”
It took some powerful persuading, but at last I agreed.
One of the guest rooms was the room I stayed in when I stayed up in Bag End, which I was starting to do more and more, particularly in winter when the lane was slick. Between the Widow Rumble (her old husband had died two years past) and my sister Marigold, and with Daisy in and out at least once a day now as she were married and living in Hobbiton proper where she and her husband, as was a weaver, had their tailoring and embroidering shop, I knew the Gaffer was took care of proper even if I wasn’t there to keep an eye on him. That night I worked late in the gardens, and I then came in for a supper Mr. Frodo’d put together after his meeting and lingered with him in the study as he wrote and I read the book of tales as he’d lent me. Finally he suggested, as I’d known he would’ve done, I stay there of the night.
Mr. Merry was right about the sneaking up on the hill with them maps, and near midnight he tried sneaking out of the kitchen door with them. Well, I’d already sneaked out of the front door and was sitting in the shadow of the lilacs, watching and waiting; and when he started up the Hill I slid after him.
He’d brought a rug and a blanket with him, and I saw as he’d decided to spend the night up there anyways, watching the moon and stars, if there was no secret signs on the maps. Or maybe as he was planning on trying to stay awake the whole time so as to view them at different times of the night--I member’d as old Mr. Bilbo’d said that the moon letters could be spelled to be seen only under the phase of the moon or stars under which they’d been written, or at only a particular time of the night or the year. What if he saw nothing tonight or when the moon wasn’t showing? Would he start coming up here every night till he saw something? I had an old rough cloak as had been my Gaffer’s when he’d worked at Bag End, and it were warm enough for tonight; but it would be miserable when the weather got colder. Fall was in the air, and it were almost Mr. Frodo’s forty-ninth birthday; after that the nights could get powerful cold, and I knew it. I sighed and huddled close to the trunk of the old oak tree as he laid out his rug in the open under the stars and wrapped the blanket about him, then pulled out the maps and unrolled the one and
unfolded the other.
Laying those maps on the ground, he set hisself to wait, and so did I. He’d look them over, and sometimes he’d mutter Elvish words over them as I was sure he’d been taught by Mr. Bilbo of what Mr. Elrond had said when they looked at the dragon map in Rivendell. But apparently he was getting tired, and finally he huddled down aside them, sort of cuddled around them, and afore he knew as what had happened, he’d fallen asleep.
I’d been tired when I first followed him, but now I seemed to be growing more and more awake as he slept. Finally I crept forward and looked at them maps myself, but I saw nothing in the moonlight. But I could see the half of his face as was lit up, and it looked so peaceful and young. When he was still, you’d see a glow in his face from time to time--I think as this was what those of us as loved him so saw and wanted to protect. I sat near to him, and watched him for a while, then looked up at the stars, and the moon as he drew off westward. Some clouds was creeping in from that direction, and the night grew darker as the moon was hidden. And then I heard Frodo growing restless. I looked down, and as best I could see, his face was scrunching up in his dream, and his hand suddenly flailed out and hit me. That startled both of us alert.
He sat up in shock, blinked hisself awake, and looked at me, his eyes wide. “Sam!” he said. “What are you doing here?”
“I was having trouble sleeping, Mr. Frodo,” I told him. “Then I heard something, and looked and saw you leaving Bag End, and I followed you, sir. There’s been so many stories of odd and evil things, I felt you shouldn’t be out by yourself after dark, like.”
He looked at me, then suddenly laughed. “Dear Sam,” he said. “We are in the heart of the Shire itself. I don’t think anything dangerous has come this far in, if anything has at all.”
The Moon crept out of the clouds and shone out on us again, and in his light Frodo looked at the maps, and suddenly he gave a sigh of satisfaction. “Oh,” he said, “then there are indeed the moon letters on this one, at least!” And in the light I could see lines and letters starting to shine out on it as hadn’t been there afore. He reached inside his pocket and brought out the stick of graphite, and with it he began to trace the lines and the letters, trying to get them marked afore they faded, as they might not stay visible long. He paused and looked at the face of the moon, making calculations, then brought out his pocket watch and checked it. “Full moon of September, three hours before dawn,” he said, jotting down a note in a bare corner, then finished tracing the remaining letters. Satisfied at last, he stowed the graphite and sat back, a slight smile on his face.
Then he looked back at me. “I know you try to watch over me, Sam, but there’s no need, you know.”
“I don’t know that, Mr. Frodo,” I told him. “The world is changing, it seems, and it looks as if it’s not necessarily changing for the better. At any road it’s getting worse afore it can hope to be better, if you take my meaning.”
He sighed. “If you say so, Sam. But why did you come so near me? When I suddenly touched you, I about jumped out of my skin.”
“I thought as you was having a nightmare, Mr. Frodo, sir. You was making some noise, and starting to roll your head, and then you reached out like you was fending something off. I was trying to make sure you was all right. If’n you hadn’t had the bad dream, I’d have just slipped off afore dawn and left you to yourself, like.”
He shuddered. “Oh, yes, that dream.” He shuddered again, and in the pale light I could see there were a hint of fear in his eyes.
“You have such often, Mr. Frodo?”
He started to nod but stopped hisself, then looked at me, and sighed, then said, “I’ve had it before, a time or two.”
“What is it about?”
He took a long breath, and I began to think as he wouldn’t answer, but at last he did. “I don’t know, Sam. I start out in Bag End, smoking in the parlor or writing in the study. Suddenly, I’m aware someone is looking at me--no, not at me, but for me. I can’t see who it is--he’s far away, toward the south and the east, far away. But I know I must not let him find me.
“Then the dream starts getting muddled. Sometimes I’m running through Bag End, and sometimes I leave the room where I am and I find myself rushing through the passages of Brandy Hall, looking for a place to hide. But sometimes I’m in a different place--maybe in woods such as don’t grow in the Shire at all, like the Old Forest but stranger; or I’m on a mountain top surrounded by snow and cold; or a dark tunnel with a glow of fire in the distance, and that fire is a different terror--it’s not a fire from a fireplace, but something else, something more. Sometimes I’m being pursued by orcs or something big and terrifying--it’s not always the same thing chasing me, and it’s not always the same tunnels or passages I’m in.” He shivered again, and even in the moonlight he looked pale.
“That sounds as if you’ve had that dream more than a couple time afore, Mr. Frodo,” I said.
He shook his head. Again he was quiet for a while, then sighed. “You’re right, Sam--I’ve had it many times. It started not long after Bilbo went away, but I’d only have it once or twice a year. I had one when Gandalf was here that last time, and he apparently heard me and came into my room to waken me. I wouldn’t tell him what the dream was about, but he seemed disturbed when I admitted I’d had the same nightmare before.
“These past three years I’ve had it more and more often. And it’s frightening, Sam. Now I seem to catch the glimpse of an eye looking my way. Sometimes it’s actually two eyes--glowing eyes such as Bilbo described on that Gollum creature, and that’s bad enough. But when it’s the other eye--I feel terrified, Sam. And lately I’ve had the urge to put on Bilbo’s ring and disappear when I have that dream. I never really see the eye that’s looking for me, just know it’s there, although I seem to see the two glowing ones, Gollum’s eyes, when they’re the ones in the dream.
“Have you ever used Mr. Bilbo’s ring, Mr. Frodo?” I asked.
“No, I haven’t. I’ve been tempted, I’ll tell you, particularly when I see Lobelia or Lotho headed for the door of Bag End; but I never have. Gandalf warned me not to, said it could be more problem than it was worth, even said it could be dangerous. He advised me to keep it secret and safe, and not to use it, that in the dark times we’re entering it could possibly bring evil to the Shire.”
My hair started creeping again, let me tell you. That Mr. Gandalf thought the Ring could bring evil to the Shire? What did that mean? I wondered.
He was looking at me, and sensed as I was disturbed. “Oh, Sam, it is but a dream, after all,” he said, trying to reassure me. “I think I’m getting cold as dawn approaches. Let’s go in and get some tea, and then finish the night in bed.” And he got up, rolled the rug and the blanket, and taking the maps led the way back into Bag End.
A few nights later I met with Mr. Merry at the Green Dragon, and told him as I’d promised. About both the moon letters on the map and the dreams, I mean. His face was worried, but he nodded. “Thanks, Sam,” he said. “This could be important. Keep watch.”
The night of the dark of the moon I stayed again in Bag End, and sure enough Mr. Frodo slipped out again with the maps. I waited a while afore I slipped after him this time, and I don’t think he saw me. He sat a long time on top of the hill with the two maps open in front of him, smoking his pipe and watching the stars when he wasn’t watching the maps. But if there was any more hidden things on either one, they didn’t show themselves, and just afore dawn I slipped back into the smial, as I’d told him afore I would. I were cuddled in the midst of my blankets when I heard him look into my room, then chuckle and close the door as he slipped off down the passage. After a while it were my turn again, and I got up, but found instead of his room he were in the bathing room, sleeping in the tub surrounded with warm steam and the scent of soothing herbs. I quiet like stoked the fire, building it up again, and carefully added a bit more warm water to the bath for him, made sure the towels was sitting near at hand, and slipped out again and went and checked the kitchen fire and the one in his room afore I went back to bed, leaving the kettle keeping warm just off the fire, and a plate of bread, cheese and jam covered with a cloth on the table with a mug and the tea pot and the tea caddy in case he decided to get a bite afore he finally went to bed.
Merry was right about not coming as often, but Mr. Pippin made up for it. He and Mr. Fredegar and Mr. Folco seemed to always be to hand, often dragging Frodo and sometimes me, too, out to some thing or another, or at least down to the Ivy Bush or the Green Dragon for a mug and a bite of an evening. And somehow Mr. Pippin would always manage to leave something behind he had to come back to Bag End for if I’d not gone, too, and I’d tell him what more I’d learned, which at that point was nothing.
Mr. Frodo was often fingering the Ring in his pocket now as he sat talking or reading, far more than he’d ever done, and it wasn’t just when he were worried or had seen Mr. Lotho or Missus Lobelia heading his way. I don’t think he realized just how much he did this, but Mr. Pippin, Mr. Merry, and I was all aware, and all worried. It seemed to me that after learning Mr. Gandalf was worried about this Ring somehow that we was all focusing on it, all growing more and more aware of it, all coming to see it as--I think the word is sinister. And when Mr. Merry told Mr. Pippin about the dreams as Frodo’d been having, he got all white and concerned. “That’s not right, Merry,” he said. “Imagine dreaming of being chased all the time like that, of wanting to hide all the time. Poor Frodo. I’m sure those dreams mean something.”
At Yule they dragged him to Brandy Hall for the celebrations there, but he’d left us gifts and a great deal of food to share out in Number 3. We invited Widow Rumble to join us, and the Cottons came for the day of Yule, and we had a right feast--the last Yule afore we went away. Only one thing bad about it--I know the Cottons was hoping as I’d speak for Rosie, but I couldn’t--not till we knew for sure what Mr. Frodo had decided as to do. Young Tom was getting right upset by the time they left, but I’d managed to get Rosie alone and give her a kiss neither of us is likely to forget, and I know she knew I’d ask when I felt it were time. And as they left she gave me a smile that let me know I’d been forgiven for not speaking yet, by her, at least.
When Mr. Frodo came back Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin both came with him, and Pippin told me excitedly as Frodo’d had his dream at least three times since he’d been gone. Later I caught Mr. Merry’s eye, and he nodded as if to say, yes, that were the way it happened. And Mr. Frodo was more restless than ever, and looked as if he weren’t resting right.
But it weren’t till April that things began to come together. I come in to stoke the fire of a morning, and there was Gandalf, sitting at the table, smoking, his face worried. He looked up at me and nodded, but didn’t say nothing. I got breakfast cooked and left it to stay warm till Mr. Frodo got hisself up, and told Mr. Gandalf I had something to pick up in Hobbiton and slipped off to the village. I got to the market and quickly wrote a note to Mr. Merry, and gave it to a Post messenger to take off to Buckland. I got some flour and tea and a pot of honey and went back to Bag End, put them away in the second pantry, went about opening windows to air the hole out after the dark of winter, and went out to work in the garden, making sure to stay near whatever window they would be near. It were among the first real warm days as we’d had, and I was glad of that. Mostly I didn’t have to be quiet. As long as they heard my clippers or weeds hitting the basket, they’d not think of me overhearing--or so I hoped. And of what I heard, well, that’s in the Red Book.
Twere very hard indeed after getting caught by Gandalf hisself listening at the window to carry on in the Conspiracy, but Mr. Merry worked on me right hard, and finally I told them some, just not all. But enough for them to know that yes, Frodo was planning to go on an adventure, but that it wasn’t going to be a necessarily pleasant one, that it was likely to be very dangerous. Merry figured out on his own that the problem did indeed lie in the Ring, and I couldn’t deny it, although I wouldn’t say anything to say yes, neither. And Merry decided that Pippin wasn’t going to go along after all when him and me followed Frodo out of the Shire, and Pippin let him know in no uncertain terms that, yes, he was going to go along, whether Merry approved or not.
“Our dear old cousin is not going to want to allow you to come with him, Merry; he’s going to try to sneak away without you. And I know you will follow anyway. Well, I will follow anyway, no matter what you do, and that’s final.”
“But your family....”
“My family will be no more put out than yours, Meriadoc Brandybuck. I’m just little Pippin to them, and they don’t think I have any sense at all. Well, maybe I don’t, but I love my cousin Frodo, love him with all my soul, and I’m not going to let him go off to face danger and darkness without me along. I can’t let him go alone or just with you, Merry. What would I do without him, or without you? And he needs me, Merry. Sometimes I’m the only one who can make him laugh, and I fear that if he goes on this horrid adventure he will forget how to laugh. I don’t want him to lose the ability to laugh, Merry.”
Merry looked at me, and saw that I was in tears at this, and realized that what I wasn’t saying indicated that Pippin was on the right track, and he turned almost as white as Frodo could get. “Oh, the Valar preserve us,” he whispered, and he searched my face. “It can’t be that bad, can it?” And I nodded.
I’d sworn not to speak, but I did show him how to listen at the windows, and what he heard of Gandalf’s and Frodo’s talks--and mine, for Gandalf had me come in for the planning from time to time as well--gave him too much to think of. And when he learned Frodo had sold Bag End to Mr. Lotho and his mother--he was livid. “What kind of Tom-fool act is this?” he asked me, and all I could do was shrug.
But when Frodo approached him about finding some kind of place out of the way like in Buckland to move hole to, Merry already had the perfect place in mind. Tweren’t a hole, strictly speaking--it were a house called Crickhollow as belonged to the Master of Brandy Hall, and it were usually used by folk from the Hall who wanted to get away for a while. But when Master Seradoc found out his cousin Frodo was almost come to the end of his money and wanted a secluded place to settle to, he agreed to sell Crickhollow to him. He’d have rather of had Frodo move into the Hall, but Merry convinced his dad that that would never work for Frodo.
“He’s been living in Bag End all these years, Da,” he told us he’d said. “He’s not going to be able to take living with the full presence of the Brandybuck family day in and day out. He lived only with Bilbo, then alone. He is happy to see us come visit him, you know; but he’s happier, I think, when we go away again. Look at how he was when he was here at Yule--quiet, withdrawn--and those nightmares, Da! You think he wants those discussed all day and night? No, he’d never be happy here in the Hall when he’s been Master Baggins for so long.”
And his dad agreed to sell the house to Frodo.
One thing Mr. Merry had us all do was to write letters to our folks and give them to him, explaining we was going away with Mr. Frodo for a time, that it was important that we do so, but that Frodo had get away privately and without others knowing. We were to tell them how much we loved them and grieved at not telling them afore time, but this were the most important thing we could do right then. And we wrote that if we sent no word in two years, they should probably accept that the worst had happened, and they should then accept that we was dead. And Merry put the letters into a packet and gave them to the banker of discretion to keep for two months after Mr. Frodo’s birthday--then he was to give them to the Master of Brandy Hall.
Meanwhile Mr. Frodo was meeting with the Brandybuck lawyer, and for more than just writing up the bill of sale with the Sackville-Bagginses. He was writing up his will, and letters to various relatives and a few friends. And he was preparing for the possibility he wouldn’t never come back again.
He were getting right grim, but at the same time he was also getting impatient to leave, to follow Bilbo at last. I was watching him right hard--there was always the possibility that he wouldn’t wait till the Birthday to set out, after all. We’d set up signs for me to alert Merry and Pippin and Mr. Fredegar (who’d joined the conspiracy to keep watch at the house at Crickhollow till Mr. Frodo was well clear of the Shire, to hide the fact that he wasn’t in the Shire at all) in case Frodo suddenly tried to bolt alone or if Gandalf sent word to go early. They became fixtures at Bag End, it seemed, and Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin went with Frodo on his walking trip to Buckland as he looked over the house and met with the banker of discretion and the Brandybuck lawyer to safeguard his interests while he was away and again to settle what was to be done if he didn’t come back.
There was some kind of last talk between Mr. Merry and his dad, I think, in which he gave him some kind of indication there was a need for him to leave. Certainly when we got back there wasn’t the problems between him and his folks as there was between Mr. Pippin and Mr. Paladin. The letters we left got delivered to the Master, I understand, and he managed to get the one Mr. Pippin wrote to the Great Smials, but that didn’t smooth things out. But the one I wrote to the Gaffer didn’t get delivered--by the time the Master tried to send it on, Mr. Lotho’d seized control of the Post, and he didn’t dare send it that way; and folk from Buckland, who wasn’t having no truck with the Chief, wasn’t allowed into the Shire, and communication with Hobbiton was cut off.
The one thing Frodo would not do was to transfer the title of Master Baggins to Lotho, which annoyed him no end. Truth was, there really wasn’t hardly any of the name left, excepting him and Mr. Lotho--the rest of the family were children of daughters, and were Bolgers, Goodbodies, Proudfoots, Tooks, Brandybucks, and the like. And since he’d never married and Mr. Bilbo’d never married and Aunt Dora Baggins had never married, neither, they didn’t have any children to carry on the family. Oh, there was a few distant relatives who had the name, but they were few and far between, mostly closer to the Boffinses than to the Bagginses of Hobbiton.
It’s hard to accept, the end of a family like that. And Mr. Bilbo was wrong when he once commented that there’d always be a Baggins in Bag End, although I think there will always be a Frodo there now--a Frodo and a Bilbo.
I can’t bring back the Bagginses, but I can keep alive their memory, here in our land they gave so much to save.