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Chapter 5. Going, going, gone...
'It's going to need stitches,' Rose repeated. 'When I let go the cloth, it starts to bleed again.'
'So how are we to manage that?' Sam asked quietly, unconsciously repeating Frodo's question.
Rose gave a sudden exclamation, motioning with her head to her husband. 'Here,' she said, 'take hold of this for a moment.' She got out her sewing basket, then went to the pantry to bring out a crock of honey. 'All right, then, leave hold,' she said, taking a generous handful of honey from the crock. 'Give me your hand, Mr Frodo.'
Samwise watched in fascination as Frodo's hand took shape, outlined by the smeared honey. The gash became apparent, and Rose seized the needle and thread and quickly closed the gap with neat stitches.
'Good thinking, Rose,' Sam said when he could find his voice.
'We don't have to worry about the honey getting in the wound,' Rose said absently as she stitched. 'If we can spread it on burns, it oughtn't do any harm to a cut. Mayhap it might even help in the healing.'
'You've a good head on your shoulders, Mistress Rose,' Frodo said.
'There,' Rose said, finishing the last knot and snipping the thread. 'Now let's wash this off, put a bandage on, and then I want you to drink a big cup of sweet tea, two if you can manage. You're looking pale.'
Sam guided Frodo to a comfortable chair and Rose tendered the tea, then deftly cleaned up the bloody table.
Frodo was ill again that 13th of March, but he concealed it with difficulty, not wanting to distress Samwise. Rose's time of confinement was drawing near, and Sam stayed close to home and took over many of the domestic tasks, insisting that his wife sit as comfortably as may be, and keep her feet up. When she protested, Frodo would catch her eye with a meaningful look, and she would subside and allow her husband to fuss over her.
Near the end of the month, Rose was too restless to stay in a chair, but bustled about the house after taking the precaution of shooing Sam out to his garden. When Frodo raised an eyebrow, she said, 'I don't know what's the matter with me, I just can't seem to sit still to save my life!' Frodo chuckled. When they heard Sam's step at the door, she whisked back to her chair, saying, 'Now don't tell Sam!'
'Keeping secrets, then?' Sam asked as he wiped his feet on the mat.
'You're not supposed to know,' Frodo said. 'It's a surprise.' He winked at Rose, and she smiled back at him. The next day, baby Elanor entered the world. Now Frodo really did feel like a bachelor uncle.
He took on some of the domestic tasks, over Sam's protest, saying, 'I live here, too. You must let me do this as a gift for Rose, since you won't accept anything else.'
Rose was up and about again after the customary period, singing about the house, mixing lullabies with the lively tunes she'd always sung. It was nice to have a little one about the house, like a breath of fresh air, and Frodo took to sitting in the rocking chair in the kitchen with the baby while Rose bustled about preparing meals. He found great comfort in rocking and cuddling Elanor, and Bag End became even more of a refuge than it had been, a cosy place to heal his hurts and put the past behind him.
One evening Frodo was more weary than usual, and his head ached. He pushed his supper plate away, and Rose looked at him with concern. 'You're looking a little peaked this evening, Mr Frodo,' she said gently.
'I'm tired,' he admitted. 'I think I'll turn in early.'
'You do that,' Rose said. 'If you're still feeling poorly in the morning I'll bring you your breakfast on a tray.' He nodded and took himself off to bed.
The next morning he did not appear in the kitchen for breakfast, but Rose stopped Sam from going to wake him. 'He was a bit "off" last night,' she reminded him. 'Let's let him sleep in awhile longer. He might be fighting off a cold.'
Samwise blew his nose in his handkerchief. 'Well, it's been going around,' he agreed. 'The lilies of the valley are thicker than I've seen them, would you like me to cut you a bouquet this morning?'
'That would be lovely,' Rose smiled. Sam drained the last of his tea from the cup and stood. With a hug for Rose and a kiss for baby Elanor, he went out the door.
Rose nursed Elanor, then put the sleeping baby in the cradle and bustled about the kitchen to make up a tray for Mr Frodo. What should she make to tempt his appetite? She settled for thickly buttered slices of fresh-baked bread, coddled eggs, and cherry preserves. The plate made a lovely picture, and she hoped he would be moved to eat even if a cold had him feeling down.
She tucked a cosy over the little teapot, cast a glance over the sleeping baby, and took up the tray, humming a little tune as she walked down to Mr Frodo's door. She knocked briefly, but there was no answer, so balancing the tray she deftly turned the knob and pushed the door open.
She dropped the tray, heedless of smashed crockery, and screamed. Sam came running in the house, hands full of flowers. 'What is it, Rosie?' he gasped.
The figure in the bed sat up slowly, and Frodo's sleepy voice said in a confused murmur, 'What's happening? What is the matter?'
No head could be seen atop the pajama-clad shoulders.
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