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22
A Sad Homecoming

21. A Sad Homecoming


None of us was ready for what we found in the Shire as we got home--none of us. Inns closed, gates raised, ugly Shiriffs houses, bully boys and scoundrels ordering around our folk, trees cut down, the old water mills replaced by monsters that poured out foulness and stink into the air and waters, our people frightened and confused and rising to anger. When Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin set out to raise the Shire, it were like a fresh breeze were shaking a tree where the leaves had failed to fall, and now we could see the green new buds opening in hope where all had appeared to be dying out. Mr. Merry didn’t understand why his cousin wouldn’t join in the fighting, though, not till afterward as he realized how hatred had begun to fill the hearts of some of our folk and they was speaking of attacking Bree to chase away the Men there so as none would remain nearby to disturb us again. Only when he realized how Frodo was stopping our folk from learning hatred and vengeance from such as Lotho had brought into our land did he begin to understand. And he saw as Frodo and I was mostly working on treating them as was hurt, Men and Hobbits, and he saw that in the eyes of a few of the Men there was beginning to grow respect as they realized only surprise and lack of a habit of caution had allowed the Shire to be taken, but that we’d not hurt them as wasn’t trying to hurt us. And then his confusion let up at last.

When all was over, the Cottons had agreed to allow us to remain with them until things was settled and we knew what needed to be done to fix as much of the damage done by Lotho and his toughs and Sharkey and all. Mr. Frodo was calm, but was a bit pale and fingering the gem, so I drew him a bath and set a leaf of kingsfoil and some lavender and rose oil in it, then coaxed him into it. When he came out he looked much better, and fell into the bed which the Cottons had fixed up for him and fell asleep. But I settled a pallet in the room, and that night the old nightmares came back, and I woke him up just enough to give him chamomile tea steeped with kingsfoil and then coaxed him back into sleep again.

All of us had nightmares from time to time--and we’d been warned by the King as it would be likely so. I don’t know as how many times in my dreams I found myself fighting old Shelob or running up endless tower steps in search of my Master, or watching as Gollum bit off Frodo’s finger and there was nothing, nothing I could do to stop it, or hearing Frodo’s cries in a room I couldn’t find as he was being beaten by an orc, and I couldn’t find the door in to save him.

Mr. Merry membered facing the Witchking of Angmar and stabbing him, saw again and again the death of Théoden King and the collapse of Éowyn, dreamed of wandering through the Barrow Mounds dressed in pale linen, his sword hand cold and dead much as Frodo’s left hand’d been after the same Black Rider’d stabbed him, and he thought as his family’d come to bury him alive in one of the mounds. Both him and Mr. Pippin had dreams in which they was being dragged through Rohan toward Fangorn by the Uruk-hai, and being swallowed by Old Man Willow, although in that dream they both said they was always saved by Treebeard, only Treebeard would be wearing yellow boots and a feathered cap. Funny as they should have the same nightmare and the same saving, that.

Pippin’s was of losing Merry or Faramir and searching for them, or seeing that beacon over Minas Morgul off across the River, followed always, he told me, by seeing great forces of evil things roiling around the foot of a tower--sometimes the citadel of Minas Tirith, sometimes Orthanc, sometimes a white tower he’d never seen in life but he said he was sure was Amon Sύl, with the Nazgul flying over with their terrifying cries. Or he’d be looking into the Palantir of Orthanc, and a Nazgul would be flying right toward him, and then he’d see the Great Eye wreathed in flame seeking him out.... And he couldn’t bear a bonfire for two years--even the first campfires bothered him when we left to Edoras.

I already knew what some of Mr. Frodo’s was of, and now he would call out to me to run, to beware the great spider, or to run so as not to be beaten by the orc captain, or to warn me of the pale king.... And he’d reach for the Ring, and hold onto the gem as he’d got in Minas Tirith and calm.

Opening the Lady’s gift was one thing as aided me in calming, I found, once Sharkey was dealt with and those awful sheds in the garden of Bag End torn down and work had begun on restoring Bagshot Row. Finding there was something I could do to help restoring the trees of the Shire made me feel better, much better.

The garden of Bag End was the worst nightmare for me, though, for it were almost completely trampled to nothing again. Imagine my amazement, then, when I realized those dried sticks which had stood up between two of them sheds was the remains of the lilacs, and they was still wick! And when spring came, under them began to grow those Elven lily flowers, tentative like at first, then with joy as they realized they was greeted by me as loved them so.

Again and again I found the old flowers of the garden had merely hidden themselves down to their roots, but was now peeping up to see as if it was safe. And I began tending them, with my brother Hal and my sister Marigold to help me, with the Gaffer sitting on the new garden bench as was given to Mr. Frodo as a gift from Widow Rumble, watching us work and giving directions.

But I had to do a whole new herb garden, and near the back door I planted the kingsfoil, and later planted some with elanor and niphredil and violets and elven lilies under Mr. Frodo’s window. And I put a grain of the silver dust in each bed as I prepared it, and dug a grain into the soil under the lilac roots....

I don’t think Mr. Frodo realized I was preparing for if he’d get sick in the springtime, but any time as I’d get ready to leave to work on the planting, I’d always leave willowbark tea steeped with kingsfoil prepared for him, and orders to crush the leaves into boiling water over the fire in his room if he seemed distant or ill, and to put some into the boiler when preparing a bath for him if he was stiff. They all thought as I’d gone daft, but they did as they was bade, and he fared right enough, although it wasn’t till after he left I learned he’d had a right bad turn in April, but that he’d seemed almost all right after the first day, and seemed recovered when I got back. But Rosie’d made sure he got his special tea and put the leaves in his bath, and she said as he’d always seem to feel better after, and I was so grateful to her and her dad and mum for the care they showed to him.

I got him back into Bag End in the spring, and he seemed very relieved to be back at home, particularly when Merry and Pippin brought back that furniture as they’d moved to Crickhollow, and we brought in many of the Baggins family pieces from his parents to fill out the rest and replace much as had been destroyed by Lotho’s Men. I’d not allowed him to sell the Sackville-Bagginses Bilbo’s bed nor his, and now they was right where they belonged once more, and with a new dresser in Bilbo’s old room and all. And the study desk had been brought back from Crickhollow, and the dresser and tables and chairs for the dining room, and the little sofa in the study and the chairs from the parlor.... And I had repaired the old settle with the hooks for the entryway, and replaced the chandeliers. And when I put the mantel clock back in place over the fire in the parlor, I saw Mr. Frodo smile big and relieved.

Frodo’d never changed rooms after Mr. Bilbo left. When Gandalf visited, he’d been given that room to sleep in; but now it were empty again. Afore he sent the furniture off to Crickhollow, Frodo’d gone through Mr. Bilbo’s dressing rooms and had finally found homes for his countless shirts and vests and jackets and dress cloaks and boots and pantaloons and all. Funny as how when he lived in the Shire such things had been important to Mr. Bilbo, but when he left he took only a few of his oldest and most comfortable clothes. Now the room seemed almost empty and stark, what with new curtains that was nowhere as rich as those as had hung there since old Mr. Bungo’d dug the smial for his bride, and much of what had been there gone from while Mr. Lotho’d slept there. Mr. Frodo’s room was almost fully restored, for all his furniture was back, although he had me put that desk of Missus Belladonna’s into Mr. Bilbo’s room instead. His old box of stationery was set with the box of ink bottles, the box of drying sand with its silver sifter and the blotting paper and the box of quills and pen knives on top of the desk in the study, and when he received a visit from the banker of discretion, he opened an envelope he’d been given and took out the watch and watch chain and put them back in his vest pockets, and I could see the little silver key hanging as a fob as it had ever done.

There was a sense of relief in my Master as each bit of his life was restored to Bag End, and as he saw a new piece placed to honor that which had been lost during that lost year.

When we married, Rosie and I came in to Bag End to find ourselves in the Master’s room, while Mr. Frodo kept to his usual one, seeming relieved to find as the room next door was no longer empty.

And, often of the nights when I’d hear him restless or calling out soft, I’d go in and still the nightmare and put leaves of kingsfoil in the small kettle I’d set permanent like on the hob I’d had fixed into the restored fireplace. And sometimes he’d hear me, and come in and aid Rosie in soothing my night terrors. And the athelas grew in the garden and under his windows, and the wholesome scent of its leaves and flowers blew in through the open windows. And I wrote Lord Elrond and sent it of the Elves of Rivendell who once more walked abroad in the Woody End and begged him to send me seeds of athelas and niphredil and elanor, which he did. And I planted them in a circle around the new oak tree I planted atop the Hill. Except for the tree having been cut, there’d been little damage there, for which I praised Yavanna. For I was beginning to study on the tales of Aman and the Undying Lands, and of the Valar. And during that summer he would sometimes slip out to the top of the Hill and lie out there of a night as afore, with his rug and a couple of blankets I made sure were placed to hand on a shelf in the wardrobe, and he’d watch the stars of Elbereth and rest and find healing for his heart.

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