Sam was weary: weary from the effort of keeping
his balance all day in the tippy elven boat; weary at not feeling comfortable
for hours and not uttering a word of complaint; and weary because his concern
for Frodo was growing daily and required that he be ever watchful. In fact,
he thought, the only good part of being confined to the boats was that Frodo
could go nowhere without him.
Since leaving the woods of Lorien, his dear Frodo had become quieter and quieter. Sam could feel in his bones that something was weighing on Frodo’s mind, and he had a good idea what it was. For one thing, the ring. The ring was becoming a harder burden by the day, Sam knew. And for another, Boromir. That Boromir was behaving strange, too, distracted like, and giving Frodo long looks, like he was thinking something not too pleasant. Sam tried to keep close to Frodo, not letting Boromir or anyone else bother him, tending to his needs before he knew he had them. In fact, that worried him, too, that Mr. Frodo was tired enough to let him, without arguing. But he worried most of all because he knew Frodo was in the middle of making his decision to leave, to go on to Mordor with the ring, and he was not about to let him slip away without him.
So as a result, when he had finished tending the fire and preparing a bit of supper for them all, that late afternoon at Parth Galen, poor Sam sat himself down beside Frodo, in the lee of the rock cliff, and just closed his eyes for a second. Just for a second, he told himself. But he was that weary that the second became a few minutes and longer, until he fell into a fitful doze. He had no idea of time going by until he heard Merry ask, ‘Where’s Frodo?’ The question wove itself into his dream for a fraction of time, then jolted him awake.
Where’s Frodo? Frodo was never out of his sight! He looked around quickly, and saw, as Strider did, Boromir’s empty shield. ‘How long’s he been gone!’ he cried, leaping to his feet. And where’s that Boromir, he asked himself.
‘Too long,’ replied Aragorn, getting up to direct a search; but the three hobbits took off helter skelter in all directions, running into the woods calling out, ‘Frodo! Frodo!’
Sam’s heart pounded with worry and guilt. How could you have fallen asleep, you duffer, he said to himself. You knew he would try to slip away. You knew that Boromir might try something. For a few minutes, he ran without thinking of his direction. He heard Aragorn calling, ‘Sam, come with me to the top of Amon Hen.’ He began to follow Strider, looking for signs of Frodo footprints, which he knew better than his own. But the ground was dry, and Aragorn’s legs long, and he soon became left behind.
Now where am I, he said to himself. I’m not up the hill far enough to see anything, nor down it close enough to find him if he tries to slip away. Now think, Samwise Gamgee. What might he be doing? At that moment he heard a sound that sent a cold shiver from his head to his wooly toes: the clash of steel on steel, and shouts high up the hillside. Swords! ‘Mr. Frodo,’ he screamed. His first impulse was to run toward the sound, but then he thought, he’ll have run from that. That will make him see that it’s as plain as a pikestaff what he must do. And he’ll take this chance to try to slip off by himself, he will, going without me and all. That would be too cruel, Frodo!
Sam turned and pelted down the hill heading for the edge of the river, as fast as his short legs would take him. ‘Mr. Frodo!’ he called again, this time a plea: “Frodo! Wait for me!’ He ran through the last few trees toward the edge of the lake, already able to see that one of the boats was missing. As he reached the lake, he kept right on going, slowed down by the resistance of the water, but determined, striding toward the boat in which he now could see Frodo.
‘Frodo!’ he called again. He received no reply but a soft, ‘No, Sam,’ but he kept wading deeper into the lake.
This time Frodo looked back toward him. ‘Go back, Sam. I’m going to Mordor alone!’
‘Of course you are, Mr. Frodo.’ Sam continued wading toward the boat, getting deeper as he went. ‘And I’m going with you!’ He looked straight at Frodo, holding his arms up as the water quickly reached to his chest.
‘Go back, Sam! You can’t swim!’ He could hear the agony in Frodo’s voice, but neither hell nor high water was going to keep him from getting in that boat. He struggled on, but the moving current swept his feet out from under him, and he slipped under the surface. He struggled back up, flailing his arms in a weak imitation of swimming, but that kept him up for only a few moments. In one quick glance, Sam could see that Frodo was turning the boat toward him, but he found himself unable to make any headway in this alien environment, water, of which he had always been deathly afraid.
Sam struggled to get his head above water again. He heard Frodo cry ‘Sam!’ once again, his voice cracking, before he took a quick gulp of air and started to sink below the roiling surface once more. Now he felt too weak to struggle back up and he allowed himself to go still, deep in his heart still believing Frodo would reach him. He remembered the time Frodo had pulled him out of a tree into which he had climbed and become stuck as a lad, and once when the two of them had run from Farmer Maggot’s dog with a bag full of mushrooms. He thought, too, of how Frodo had encouraged his love of learning, and of the time he had pushed him into Rosie’s arms.
But then he was struck with a sharp pang of regret, that he wouldn’t be able to help his Mr. Frodo through the dark trek of Mordor, that he would not be there to guide him and hold his hand when it became too difficult to bear. Sam felt the water take form and embrace him, caressing his hair gently, telling him he would find peace; so that when a hand reached down and grasped his wrist, it took him a moment to understand what it was. Frodo! he thought, and returned the pressure, kicking as Frodo pulled him up and into the boat. He fell to the bottom of the boat, gasping for breath, hit by the cold of the late winter air.
The two hobbits sat looking at each other, panting, each filled with a mixture of emotions too complicated to express. “I made a promise, Mr. Frodo,’ Sam said with an intensity Frodo had never heard from him before. ‘Don’t you leave him, Samwise Gamgee. And I don’t mean to.’ He felt the tears stinging his eyes. ‘I don’t mean to.’
Sam could barely see Frodo through his tears. ‘Oh, Sam!’ cried Frodo, his voice strangled with emotion, his simple words expressing his fear for Sam, his love, his relief that he would not be alone. Sam wept with joy as Frodo flung his arms about him. I will look after you all the way, he thought to himself as he hugged Frodo fiercely. Don’t you ever doubt that.