Poor Old Bill

by Lilywillow

"Poor old Bill!" Sam repeated in a choking voice. "Poor old Bill!" Wolves and snakes! But the snakes were too much for him."

Sam burst into tears under the cover of crashing masonry. Inside the Mines it was pitch black, deeper than black . Outside was Bill, with that watcher in the water. It lost Frodo, thought Sam. What if it went after Bill? What if he hadn't run far enough away? Sam sniffled as the light flared on, pretending to shield his eyes from the sudden brightness to hide the evidence of tears.

"We now have but one choice," said Gandalf. Well that's one more than what poor Bill had, after all he done for them. Never a word of complaint about carrying all the baggage, up hill and down, from Bree to Rivendell, from Rivendell through the mountains and through the snow of Caradhras. "We must face the long dark of Moria." And Bill must face the watcher and the long walk home, if he even he knew enough to leave. At the thought that Bill might just stay near the wall of Moria waiting for them, Sam burst into tears again. Pippin slipped down a step, raising enough ruckus to let his sobs go unnoticed.

Sam followed Frodo up the slimy stone stairs. He'd had to make his choice. I had to follow Mr. Frodo, he thought. What a bitter choice. Bill would have followed me to the ends of the earth, but I would have left him back with Elrond if I'd knowed he was to be just left to roam in the wilds with snake things and wolves all around.

The last look of Bill's ample backside as he fled flashed into Sam's head. He wasn't like that when he first come to us, he thought. A sorry beast he had been then, all ribs and dejected like. He had trotted happily enough away from that Bill Ferny, as if knowing any trip, no matter how hard would be better than being with that cruel man. But then he hadn't counted on being deserted in the end, had he.

Bill, my lad, he thought. You oughtn't to have took up with us. You deserved better. Hadn't he saved their bacon more times than once? Didn't he carry Mr. Frodo for days when he was wounded by that witch knife? And Gimli, down out of the Redhorn Gate as well as all the baggage? And what about what he had done, up there on Redhorn? Mr. Frodo and the others near froze to death. Only Bill's bulk had screened them from the snow drifts that threatened to bury them. Sam thought of Bill's dejected look and felt tears again. He wasn't any happier than the rest of us, he thought, but he never complained.

And didn't he carry extra baggage whenever needed? "Bill could take a little bit more, couldn't you lad?" he had said more than once. And then they loaded him up, and he never did more than give the occasional mournful glance. As they climbed up Caradhras, he carried extra wood on his back. And look how much was on his poor back when they had started off from Rivendell! Sam's face softened at the thought of how glossy and vigorous Bill had been after eating the hay and breathing the air of Rivendell, and how he was the only one who was feeling cheerful like when they set off. Practically trotted ahead of them, he had. His smile faded.

And brave! I never saw a pony beat Bill for bravery! Why, he never even shied when the wraiths screamed their terrible fierce screams at Weathertop, just started and shuffled his feet a bit. And though he had trembled when the Wargs attacked, he never bolted or fussed. Even when Gandalf turned him adrift, whispering sweet words in his ear, poor Bill had only looked at Sam with mournful eyes shining and nuzzled up to him, then he had turned and walked bravely away. Poor Bill, Sam sniffled again. Poor old Bill.

As the company took a short rest while Gandalf worked out which way to go, Sam sat thinking by himself. He could feel the comforting bulk of the pony in his mind's eye. I miss you for my own sake, too, my lad, he thought. A tear slid down his cheek. Snatches of phrases Gandalf had said came into Sam's mind. "turn him adrift...useful companion...goes to my heart...I fear we must say farewell...our good beast of burden."

Gandalf's voice interrupted his thoughts. "Ah, it's this way. When in doubt, follow your nose, Meriadoc." I hope you do follow your nose, Bill, my lad, thought Sam sadly. I do hope you get safe home, my poor old Bill.