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(Written for the LOTR Gen-Fic Community Challenge, "Summertime")
“Are you quite certain about this, Frodo?“ Gandalf looks at me, and his expression is both shrewd and concerned. We are in my study, enjoying an after supper pipe. The evening breeze wafts through the window, bringing the scent of the summer roses. The fragrance makes me feel melancholy--will I ever smell them again? “It is not necessary for you to actually sell Bag End. There are other ways to do this.”
I shake my head. “I have to do it this way. I cannot just leave things the way Bilbo did--that will cause both confusion and gossip. And if I simply close the house up, no one is going to believe I’ve run out of money. ”
He sighs at me. “No one believes it anyway, Frodo. Even were it true, no one would believe it--the idea that Bilbo left a vast treasure to you is far too entrenched in local legend to expect that anyone will believe it.”
“Gandalf, I must. I am going off into danger, and dragging Sam with me, and I cannot just leave Bag End unoccupied.” I look a bit resentful at this, for I am still not happy with that idea. Gandalf had accomplished in a few words what I will find impossible to undo: by telling Sam he is to go with me, Sam will believe he is not only satisfying his own wish to accompany me, but fulfilling a solemn duty. And a Gamgee is nothing if not dutiful.
“Yes,” said Gandalf, drawing on his pipe and sending up a smoke ring, “Sam is going with you.” His voice is light, but the look he gives me is stern and I cannot argue with him now.
“Still, selling Bag End to the Sackville-Bagginses seems a bit extreme.” He takes another puff on his pipe, and the look he gives me now is reproachful. He knows as well as I do that Bilbo would be appalled. I am very glad I do not have to face Uncle Bilbo--I seldom saw him angry, but I have a feeling that this would do it.
“It’s a matter of time,” I say, trying to sound objective and calm. “I’ve had a standing offer from first Otho, and then from Lobelia and Lotho, ever since Bilbo’s will was read. It was intended as an insult, but it was quite a genuine offer. I should never have the time to locate someone else who can afford the hole. You know how rare it is for hobbits to remove to another home.”
I carefully do not voice my true reasons for my actions. Yes, it seems logical if I am running out of money--and I still think that was a good story, I do not know why no one believes me--and it will save the time and effort of finding another buyer. But the truth is, I *need* to do this. I am terrified. In all of my years of thinking that I might one day journey out of the Shire, it never once occurred to me that the journey would be as urgent and desperate as this one is likely to be. Now, I don’t want to go anywhere. I want to stay here, comfortable and safe, in Bag End. And I cannot and must not give in to my fears.
If I turn Bag End over to Lobelia and Lotho, I shall *have* to leave. I could never bear to stay and see what they will do to my beloved home. It’s a tie I must cut, and cut sharply. This will set me adrift in the world, and send me on my way. I hope if Bilbo ever does find out, that he will forgive me. I am just not as brave as he.
Gandalf looks at me shrewdly, and I can read in his dark eyes that he knows all too well exactly what I am thinking. “Indeed, Frodo,” he says mildly, “I do understand, though I can wish I did not.”
And I know that he means it, and I am comforted somewhat by that knowledge.
“Well,” I say, more lightly than I feel, “only two things remain: to tell Sam, and somehow to get through the remainder of the summer.”
Gandalf rises carefully, and puts a large hand on my shoulder. “Keep up your hope, my friend. All may yet be well, though darkness beckons.”
As he leaves the study, I put my hand to my pocket, where the darkness resides. Still safe, still secret, still there.
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