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Chapter 1. Home Again
'And that's the end of that,' said Sam. 'A nasty end, and I wish I needn't have seen it; but it's a good riddance.'
'And the very last end of the War, I hope,' said Merry.
'I hope so,' Frodo said, and sighed. 'The very last stroke.'
And, but for the mess, it seemed as if all there was left to do was the clearing up. To be true, there was an awful lot of clearing up to be done, but hobbits can work like bees if they've a mind to, and with many willing hands the Shire came to look more like itself as the winter passed into spring.
Though Frodo agreed to act as Deputy Mayor until Old Will Whitfoot could recover from his stay at the Lockholes, the only thing he did was to reduce the Shirriffs to their proper numbers and functions. Otherwise, he spent much of his time seeing to the planning of and setting to the labours of repair to Bag End and seeing to the construction of the New Row. He stayed at the Cottons, where he was well cared for, until Bag End was quite restored to its old comfort.
Samwise married his Rose in the Spring of 1420, and at the urging of Mr Frodo, the two moved in with him at Bag End. Wise he was at that, for there was not a hobbit in the Shire who was looked after with more care than they took of Mr Frodo.
That mid-summer, Frodo was happy to resign the office of Deputy Mayor and relinquish the duties to old Will; he was glad to have time again to spend writing and going through his notes. Though his cousins Merry and Pippin still rode like knights of old about the Shire, Frodo had quickly gone back to ordinary attire, and quietly dropped out of all the doings of the Shire.
'I have quite enough to keep me busy here, Sam,' he'd say whenever Sam tried to get him to come down to the Dragon for a pint, or go to a festive event, or even to the Cottons for Sunday dinner.
'Don't press him, Sam,' wise Rose would say. 'He's making up for lost time, being without his home for so many months and all.' It soon seemed natural to Sam to go off about his business and leave Frodo puttering about the study and other rooms at Bag End. Rosie had been quite shy, at first, but now she treated Frodo as a member of the family, something like her bachelor uncle who still lived at the Cotton farm, and sometimes Sam would come in to find them chatting companionably over a cup of tea in the kitchen.
Summer of 1420 slipped by into autumn, one golden day following another; all things now went well, with hope always of becoming still better, when a shadow of the old troubles appeared. One evening Sam came into the study and found his master looking very strange, pale, with eyes that seemed to look into a far distance.
A vague anxiety that had haunted Sam now came to active life. 'What's the matter, Mr Frodo?' he asked.
'I am wounded,' his master answered, 'wounded; it will never really heal.'
But then he got up, shook his head as if to clear it, saying, 'I'm sorry, Samwise, I was half in a dream when you came in just now.' He was quite himself the next day. Later, Sam recalled that the date was October the Sixth, two years after the attack at Weathertop.
Mr Frodo was quieter after that, and seemed thoughtful, but he did not choose to share his thoughts with Sam, and Sam did not presume to ask.
Rosie brought up the subject one night after they had retired to their room. 'What's the matter with Mr Frodo?' she asked.
'What makes you say that?' Sam replied, but the vague anxiety that was always in the back of his brain stirred to brighter life.
'He's so thoughtful, these days, as if something's troubling him,' Rose said. 'But he always says he's fine when I ask.'
'I don't know, Rose. Maybe it's the grey weather we're having of late.'
'Aye, that's probably it,' Rose said, but Sam could see doubts in her eyes, as if she harboured the same kind of elusive worry that haunted Sam. He couldn't put his finger on it, but there was something... different about Mr Frodo these days.
Then one day, he came into the kitchen, wiping mud from his feet and hanging his soggy cloak by the fire. He was glad to take the cup of tea Rose had ready for him, and sat down at the table with them where dinner was already on the plates. They had started without him, for he was late in coming home, but he fell to with a will and was soon halfway through his portion as Frodo and Rose were finishing theirs.
'No drought this year, I'm glad to see. Looks like it'll be a wet winter, straight through.'
'Do you think we'll have snow?' Rose asked. 'It's been so mild of late.'
'I wouldn't rule it out,' Sam started to say. 'It's always poss...' his voice trailed off.
Frodo followed Sam's stare... he could clearly see the outline of the teacup through his hand. What was happening to him?
'Rose,' he said slowly, 'I think I'd better have a second helping of your meat and mushroom pie. I seem to be disappearing from hunger.'
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