For Into Darkness Fell His Star
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 14, Part 155
Sam's Tales and Opinions
Mayor Samwise Gardner
Two letters arrived at once! The post has been all at odds these days, from one thing and another, I suppose. And what letters--so much dark news, so many trials! Your mother berates me for ever sending you off adventuring, and I let her, because I deserve every word. Someone else's son would not have made so desirable a target--I keep telling myself that, too late. But then she puts her arms around me when I stare out to the east and south, as darkness falls, and she helps me bear what I have done.
Yet I have faith in you, too, son. You have suffered so much, yet you keep right on working for the good of all concerned! I am more proud of you than I can tell. But if you need to come home, you go right ahead. I said it before, and the offer still stands. Nobody here would think the less of you. If you had anything to prove, you have already done it.
I wager you want news from home, first things first. Ive changed the family name to match your own, as I hope youll notice. It seemed good, in a lot of ways. Ill never stop being a gardner, no matter what else I do. Its where my strength comes from, straight up from the earth, just like up the roots of an old tree. Thank you for giving me the idea to go ahead with this.
Still no word on Buttercup. The Klaefields and their kin have closed ranks on us since word got out that I have met with Ted Sandyman. (Nobody in Hobbiton knows why, just that I inquired after him, and that he came all the way to the edge of the Bridge to speak with me.) If she thinks I mean to make her marry him, I cant blame Buttercup for hiding, but being Mayor hasent made a fool of me. If laws dident sometimes need exceptions, we'd leave it all to the books and not put somebody in charge with a heart.
Your sister Elanor loves her new home, though she still hasent settled in quite yet. She comes back to Hobbiton often, to gather this and that--every time she turns around she remembers one more thing she should have in a household of her own. She and her Mama make soap together, stitch up pillow-cases, that sort of thing.
Rosie-lass made all of Elanors blankets, and folks came round to admire the work even in the loom. Embroidery, too, on all of the linens and curtains for Elanor's hole, and the prettiest tablecloth you ever laid eyes on. So vivid youd think you could pluck the flowers up off of the cloth. Ive gotten her some of that fancy yarn, after all, and fine thread. Shes earned it. Shes starting to make a name for herself, and people bring her work to do. I dont mind buying good tools for good work.
The saddest job brought her way was embroidering mourning garb for the Maggot family. It was a long time coming, but the old patriarch has finally gone for the Long Journey, following his wife at last, may he have joy in the reunion. Im not sad for him--he couldent hardly walk nor see no more, and his breathing hurt him. Yet the few times he got out onto his porch, he could tell more from the breeze on his face, about the weather to come, and the condition of the crops it blew through, and stranger things than that, some say, than most people could read plain in a book. Im sad for the family, though; he will be missed. At least before the end he taught his sons and daughters his queerest stories, the things he never told to anyone before.
It was a good wake, and a good funeral. Do you know Ol Tom and Goldberry actually showed up! Nobody ever remembers that happening before, for anybody, but he walked right into the inn, bold as you please (close to the river and so within his territory) and when Peet the barkeep challenged him on the grounds that men dont have a place in the Shire, he ups and says, saucy as you please, "We aint of menkind, neither one, so pour us a brew and then be done." And everybody felt it, so nobody argued, though afterwards some of them denied anything strange happening, saying a tall dwarf came to pay his respects, and forgetting all about Goldberry, who soon split off with the womenfolk anyway (and whatever happened there, the ladies wont say.) But after that everybody dident just toast old Maggots memory, they sang their tributes, even some as never could hold a tune before, and all of it made up on the spot. Tom sang the most of all, now merry, now wistful, now singing strong and true, giving us all a glimpse of just how large a hobbit our Maggot was in the measure of his soul. His sons sat rapt; even Bran knew less than half the tale.
But youll want news of your own family, first and foremost. Youll be proud of your little brother, Pippin. He has taken to teaching younger children their letters, and none dare stop him, he being my son and all. I like that! I cant imagine why anybody ever wanted to keep some folks from learning to read while encouraging others. Yes, it puts ideas in their heads! We can use more heads with a few ideas rattling around in them. I dont think that the good of the Shire depends on some folks being ignorant--I just dont see the sense in that at all.
And your brother Merrys caused a bit of a sensation, visiting his namesake. He couldent just cross the Buckland Bridge the normal way--no, he had to go climb up and down the beams and pylons that hold the thing up, balance-walking like some bird up there, just to show he could. I shouted myself hoarse ordering him to get down from there, and he did--on the other shore. I dont know whether to clap for him or clip him one!
The other Merry, the grown one, is crushed, for bad news came to him at the same time as your post. He supervises as much of Brandybuck Mercantile as he can, yet he cant have eyes everywhere, nor double-check every slip of paper that passes through their files. It seems some folks of his have been making unwise investments in your Mama's favorite shop, and some have gotten hurt from trusting them. He will find and crack down on the perpetrators, I assure you.
I am pleased at least to hear that you finally got that plow and ass that Merry has been going on about all this time. He worked out the details on the sly, it seems, the day after Legolas got put into a tree, while you were off riding Treebeard or some such thing, when he had elf and dwarf together in a mood to collaborate on your behalf, and then he arranged for the animal with King Eomer a few days later.
Rubys pressing flowers for your next letter. Their still a little too damp for this one, but she figures we owe you for all of the flowers you sent us. Speaking of which, Hamfast has been making some interesting experiments in the garden, mixing new combinations of flowers and vegetables all growing together that I never thought of. Ive always done some of that, of course, but hes got new ideas about what might grow best with what. Well see how it all turns out, but I think hes onto something.
I like what you said about the glass houses for growing vegetables in winter. I wont deny that Sauron had the wits to figure out how to get what he wanted. I just dident see any good in the sort of things he wanted in the first place. But he was bound to stumble upon something useful sooner or later when it came to feeding all his slaves.
I loved your drawings and descriptions of the flowering kaktushes, by the way. I would have gladly endured the terrors of a Mordor rainstorm to have seen such a flash of hope in my day. But my words fall short of the mark. Old Master Bilbo should of had a go at it--hed have found the right thing to say. If Id of starved and thirsted and finally dropped dead of exhaustion and poison air, Id still of been happy to let my last sight be of a flower blooming in Mordor. That such a thing could happen, flowers in Mordor, brings tears to my old eyes.
However, I must take exception to the rest of your adventure that day. Maybe you ought to listen to Bergil and get yourself shod. If I had your feet right here for measuring, Id haul you off to Bree and no arguments, where they have "cobblers" to make boots and such. But your on your own and have to make your own decisions.
Maybe you do have a point about needing your feet on the ground--what with everything out there throwing you off balance. It could be that your right in choosing the risk of giant cats chasing you or deadly infections getting inside you, as better than losing one more defense against all of the attacks upon your soul. Even so, your Mama is tougher than she looks, but this time I really thought she would faint when she heard about Kitty cornering you underneath that bench! She turned as white as cream. But you do what you think best.
In regards to Sauron's pact, I am grateful beyond words that you wrote to your Papa about that. And so, if I still have any authority over you at all, or if you will listen to me on account of my greater age and experience, then I would forbid you, indeed beg you, to never touch Shire brandy again! I am sorry that in my ignorance I sent you any. Please give it away, or sell it, or pour it into the nearest snake-hole! In the meantime, your mother has some ideas of her own about getting the Dark Lord off your back, which I am sure youll have discovered by now.
Thats a marvel about Hazel! I cant think of anything else she might be except an entwife. You dont know how hard its been to keep my mouth shut about her when I meet with Merry or Pippin. But I can see your reasoning. She has to make her own move. Still, like Buttercup Klaefield, I am sure she has no idea how much her "privacy" costs.
Which reminds me. Frodo, I have been a patient hobbit, listening to your adventures among female kind. But please do not, DO NOT let the Mayor of Seaside rob you of your virtue! Have you protected it so long, under so many temptations, only to toss it aside for a creature with no respect for anything you value? Heaven forbid! But I think, from the tone of your letter, that you see my point by yourself. Shocking, that she did not know what marriage was, but I shouldent let it surprise me, after all that Sauron has dragged her people through. Dont get dragged down with them, but rather help to lift them up.
Two different kinds of brushes with dragon-spells! You poor lad! The first time your virtue saw you through, but it showed you that you had the seeds in you for vice--as do we all. The second time I see you let some of those seeds bloom, and I guess you learned a few things from that, too. You meant well, but ends never justify the means--only folks like Sauron live that way, although any of us might fall for the lie once in awhile. I know I did, lying about May, and now were all caught up in that. No, I wont condemn you--I only know of one hobbit in history to face more temptations than you have. Take courage, if you can, from his example. Hold out as long as you can, and let grace cover the rest--especially the grace that springs of the love that you have inspired along the way, come back to you in the friends who stand by you when you arent yourself.
Thats amazing about Beebee/Elenaril! So--Bergils dreams had more to them than figurative meaning--yet they werent about a monster after all! What a horrible fate for a good woman--and how bravely she rose above it, all the same! I am glad to hear that Bergil came to his senses where shes concerned, and welcomed her back into his heart--Pippin was glad to hear of it, too, when I told him all about it. Hard to believe that Bergils a man all growed up and marrying. One can see time move on all around oneself, but one sort of expects people and places that one saw long ago to stay unchanged. I know that makes no sense, but youll understand when you get to be my age.
Speaking of which, in regards to Bergils batchelor party, maybe that wasent your finest hour, but your right, it was the proper time and place for it, and if you have no particular cause to feel proud, you have no particular cause to feel ashamed, either. At least you did better than your old man on a similar occasion! Have you ever wondered why theres no account of Striders bachelor party in the Red Book? Its because I dont remember it. Now mind you, that is the one and only time in my whole life that I ever couldent remember a party!
The one thing I do remember--and it sticks out in my mind--is Frodo (that would be Frodo Baggins) pulling me up out of a cold water bath and trying to towel me off while I wobbled all around, trying to find a wall to lean on and winding up settling for his shoulder. I told him he shouldent do any such thing, he was the master and I the servant, and I should take care of him, not the other way around. I will remember his words to my dying day, even if you blasted half my head off (which I felt like the next morning.) "Oh Sam!" he says to me. "Were a bit beyond all that master and servant business by now, dont you think?"
Gandalf later said that Id had a perfectly understandable reaction to everything Id been through, and that he was only surprised I dident go overboard sooner at the Field of Cormallen. But at that time I was far too intoxicated on music, most specifically on hearing my praises sung, which was a new thing for me. I hardly noticed I even had wine at the table at the Field of Cormallen.
Frodo B. also allowed as to how hed of done as bad as me or worse at Striders party, if he hadent needed to pull hisself together to take care of me, because a black mood got hold of him as soon as the festivities started up, and he had headed straight for the wine. Hed actually got a head start on me; the only reason the wine hit me faster than it did him was because I had lost more weight than him, on account of giving him most of the food and all in Mordor. (I dident know it then; I had eyes only for how thin hed become. It shocked me when folks pointed out that Id gotten even worse.)
He also claimed, more than once, that he took care of me because nobody else seemed up to the task! At which point Gandalf would insist that it did Frodo B. a world of good to think that and to take charge, and he could of stepped in at any time, to which Frodo B. always rolled his eyes and shook his head.
They both kept saying dont be embarrassed, but that was kind of hard to do the next day at the wedding, when the groom kept stealing anxious glances my way (at least till Arwen showed up, at which point he could see nothing else, not if a volcano exploded under Minas Tirith) and everybody afterwards kept coming up and asking, "Are you all right, Sam?" Strider later told me that he could of kicked hisself to death for not seeing how things headed, and he kept thinking, "I brought him back from the brink of death only to kill him at my party!"
But that wasent the only excitement of the night. Apparently the women had their own to-do. The elves were not used to human bridal customs, and so assumed that if drink would flow at the bachelor party, it should flow at the maiden party, too. Elvish women can handle their wine some better than human women can, but they hadent thought of that.
Well anyways, the Lady Eowyn seemed all uncomfortable at a hen party, I heard tell, and so the Lady Galadriel took pity on her, and sought to put her at ease by chatting up the only topic they had in common, namely warfare. So, they got to nattering away about swords and shields and such and the Lady of Dol Amroth never heard such things discussed between womenfolk, and got all worked up about it, and finally burst out that shed like to try her hand at a little swordplay, herself, if they would give her a lesson. Well, they did. I guess good judgment went out the window some time before. The Lady of Dol Amroth got a little nick, bawled like a branded calf, got the men all running (who could still run) to see who was dying, and for the rest of her stay the Lady sulked, complaining bitterly about how elves and men shouldent ought to mix. I heard all about it from Merry, who got Eowyns side of the story straight from the source.
Nor was that the end of it. I heard tell that the elves werent too happy at our end of the party, neither, though I havent the least recollection of what the fuss was all about. It seems that Master Elrond took exception to some sort of dance that did not agree with elvish custom in some way, though I cant see what harm there could of been in plain old dancing. Pippin told me Strider swore up one side and down the other that he had nothing to do with it, his best man came up with it all by hisself, some Gondor custom that he had clean forgotten about, and he assured Ol Halfelven that he was as shocked as his father-in-law. To which, so Im told, Elrond replied that he found it hard to believe that Faramir of all people could of come up with such a thing, but Strider answered that with saying that Faramir was full of surprises.
You know, Frodo, to this day I still cant get neither Meriadoc nor Peregrin to tell me what all went on in that dance that I missed. They will get red in the face and snicker and then change the subject. You dident mention any dancing in your letter, I notice. Is it really a Gondor custom, or did Faramir play some kind of prank on the King? A quiet man he may seem, our Lord Steward, but he and Strider can whip up a wicked sense of humor between them when they get together, and often play the most horrendous pranks on each other, all straight-faced.
Not that any of this is going to make its way into our book. Frodo B. saw fit to leave it out, and Im not the one to gainsay him. You I will tell anything--you trust me with your secrets and Ive got to return the favor or it means nothing. (And if you are holding out on me about that dance, I hope you now feel guilty enough to spill it all to me in your next letter--I have waited more than thirty years to answer my curiosity!)
Speaking of dances, thats quite a novel custom Elenaril brought in from Bristlescrub, to wake up the seeds! I spose natural seeds in Mordor would have to have extra tough hides just to get by. But after reading about all of that kissing, I really do wonder what went on in that dance that embarrassed Strider so! I also notice that you got singled out for it and wonder how you managed that. Dont get singled out again--I am sure it is not good for you.
But oh, first planting! It always does tug the heart, doesent it, that whole beginning of the cycle of life. I am glad to hear you had an especially good one this year. You earned it. But starting out with fireworks? I never heard the like! And poking holes with sticks to drop the seeds in? Looks like Meriadoc had the right idea, sending you that plow.
Thats quite an herblore lesson that you got. I wonder if therell be any plant left in Middle Earth that you dont know about by the time you reach a ripe old age. And good use for swamp slime? Will wonders never cease! It seems like more than half of what grows in Mordor must of been as undercover as your namesake and me in our orc disguises. And here Sauron thought he had Yavanna and all the rest of them boondoggled!
When I reread the part in your letter about your dream, where you found me and Frodo B. at death's door and took us in your arms, I cry to read it. But there might be something to it. I remember an occasion just like that, when we both fell asleep without a guard, yet woke up safe and sound, bolstered up by dreams we couldent recall for anything. And I am sure that the other hobbit must of been Bilbo, may Mandos show him kindness! More and more I wonder how much he did for us in his dozing off, and never got the credit for it.
As for your nightmares about faces disappearing into the walls and hearing a wolf or warg sniffing out your trail, I hope this doesent get to you too late, but I dont know if you remember that Sauron used to be Lord of the Werewolves back in ancient history. I think hes using poppy-slaves up to get strong enough to have another go at you! I hope you figure this out for yourself before this letter gets to you, because it wouldent be a nightmare if it dident need special attention.
It worries me, what you say about picking up glimpses from other peoples minds. It aint natural. Thats all very well for elves and wizards, but I can see trouble in it for the likes of you and me. Theres such a thing as too much of anything, and even insights got to have some limit.
What a clever way you found to get rid of the excess rations that the Mayor allotted you, by throwing a feast for everyone! You are absolutely right--you dont need her complicating your life with bribery and seduction. Shes a tricksy one, all right, although I suppose she had to be to get by. And yes, I do know what your talking about. But its sad, that whats a sacred mystery between husband and wife, here in the Shire, is nothing more to her than one more tool for power. Your better off out of her clutches. And by gum, I will pick out a wife out for you, and pack her out on the quickest southbound horse--not even a pony!--if you dont stop getting into female trouble!
One thing I have to say, for the record. We do not call Master Bilbo "Mad Baggins", not in this family! And quite frankly, you dont sound like one to talk. Maybe thats harsh to say, but Old Master Bilbo taught me my letters. He changed my life. Everything I am and everything I have I owe to him, more than my own flesh and blood elders, even. Ill forgive you, but dont let me hear you say it again.
Putting that aside, I am so glad to hear about the births of all the twin goats, and that you have turned a corner on this famine business. Thats your own hard work as much as luck. Luck is seed on a shelf, waiting to be planted--aint worth a penny if you dont work with it. Seeds that sit too long wont sprout and dont have nourishment left in them. But you know that.
Id like to wish Fishenchips the best on his ambitions to become a healer. It sounds like hes got a remarkable teacher to make him into one, too. Sad to hear about his troubles adjusting to the hook, but I suppose thats normal. Frodo Bs missing finger mostly just embarrassed him, although sometimes it spoiled its grip. But I used to think a lot about Beren in the old tales, what it must of been like to lose a hand, and Maedhros before him, too. Amazing, though, what folks can get by without.
You did good, taking in Leech and looking after him. You did it for his own sake, I know, but rest assured, things like that come back around. You know by now that nobodys strong all the time. You take care of other people when you can and where you can, and sooner or later they take care of you when you just cant do for yourself. I'm all for independence and standing on your own two feet, whenever possible, but the fact is, its not always possible, and thats why were social critters. Someone comes along like Sauron saying hes complete unto himself, but he couldent of gotten along far without lots and lots of slaves. The closest I ever heard of anybody that didn't need others was Beorn, and even he had plenty of animal friends to help him get by. Im just saying this because I know your probably feeling embarrassed about needing healed twice in a row. I want to point out to you that you give as good as you get, and itill all work out in the end.
So sad about Captain Watersheen and his crew! But Im glad Leech got out all right. I dont suppose theres any safe jobs in that country, but sailings got to be the worst for danger. You be careful around the shoreline yourself, for you were in on the same dragon-kill that got the Captain into trouble. I know theres nearly nothing on earth so beguiling as a sea, but keep your distance all the same.
Just for the record, you ought to know that I have discovered something. If you writ in one kind of ink, and blot it out with another, an enterprising fellow can still read the original, by holding a candle to the front while his wife holds a mirror to the back. But that is neither here nor there, as gold will pass your way so long as you and all my kin remain unharmed and free to write to me. The unsavory habits of folks outside the Shire are none of my business.
So I do know of certain disappointments you have faced. Now, I can keep a secret better than most, or Gandalf wouldn't have sent me on the road with your namesake. (I am sure, now, that he knew all about our conspiracy, way back then, and threatened to turn me into a toad just to test my secret-keeping.) Still, just between you and me and the rider who bears this, I keep reading about a certain messenger, by candle and mirror, and as a father Ive got to speak up or swallow my tongue. Mind you, I dont intend to get on the bad side of Mattie Heathertoes or Greenbanks or whatever she wants to call herself. But Ive a bone to pick with her, and a few words wont stand between her and what she wants the most.
Mattie, I know your reading this. Youve had your choice--my son or your gum. You chose. Now get out of his life, if you care for him at all. I know you love him some--Ive seen that in what he writes about you. So I expect you want good for him even if you cant give him all your heart. You know Im in no position to make you do anything, but Im asking you as a father, and as somebody who loves him more than you will ever know. Im begging to the part of you thats still a hobbit, that still feels something and remembers better ways. Leave him be. Dont drag him down with you. I will go on being generous with you. I will do anything you want. Just please care enough to leave him be.
Son, I know she left you all hurt and confused. You see the good in her, all tangled up and dying, and you want to free her and to save her, but sometimes you just plain cant. In Ithilien, I watched men in battle, and I wanted to save every man I saw who fell to arrows or to blades, but I couldent run out of shelter to do it, not without abandoning my master and my mission, and even without that responsibility Id of been a tomfool to think I could of done anything except get myself killed. You cant always save everybody. Not even a hobbit in trouble.
You have just got to hope that she can find healing somewhere else. You know how to save crops, and how to save folks from starvation, and that is no small thing. Do the saving that your good at. Even Master Elrond, who had fought in many a battle and knew more than almost anybody ever in Middle Earth, knew he could not carry the ring to Mordor, that he had to do his part in something else, which was to maintain a safe harbor for the free people to strategize and recuperate and things like that, and in the end fight off a siege to keep on doing it. We all need to know our jobs, and do them, to the best of our ability. Mattie is not your job, and I dont see that changing any time soon.
Yet never give up hope, my son, my beautiful son, you just hold on there, no matter how hard it gets. Because if you cant do a job, somebody else can. And there are powers in this world that work day and night to finagle the right people into the right positions to do what needs done. Believe in it! We dont do anything alone. Help comes when its least expected.
You have a wonderful example right there with Beebee, or Elenaril, I should say. Whod of thought it? Some little orphan girl grows up in the streets, despised, finds work with herbs and such as a camp-follower (yes, I do know what some of them do for money with soldiers far from home. Ive been to war and Im not blind. But Ive also seen theres always some others like Beebee, all the same.) And shes still mostly despised, and learns to hang her head, though she doesent do anything wrong. Then she finds work in a disaster like Lord Lossarnachs mission, and gets hurt so horribly, and you think thats the end to a sorry life. But an eagle dies to save her, and people find her, and finish up her education for her, and she becomes a regular godsend, healing wherever she goes. And lo and behold, she turns out to have kings blood and special powers! And she gets back the love she thought shed never have again, and all goes better and better for her, and all her hardships conspired to put her in the right place at the right time to save all sorts of people who need her! Now what does that tell you about how this universe is run?
Take care of yourself, dear boy. Were all scared for you and we sing for you, but we trust youll come back to us all in one piece, even if you carry home a few scars here and there.