A Small and Passing Thing by Lindelea

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Far above the Ephel Duath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. -- Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Land of the Shadow”


After the Fairbairns had properly greeted Samwise, taking from him his soaking cloak, showing him to the best chair in the parlour, propping his feet before the fire and giving him a cup of tea fixed to his taste (after each grandchild had taken a turn bestowing a hug and a kiss, of course), the whole family settled down about him, the littlest ones on the hearthrug, the biggest ones scattered about on chairs, with little Rose on the footstool at her grandfather’s feet, playing with the snowy curls atop his toes.

‘Minds me of how you used to read to us after supper, Dad,’ Elanor said, picking up some small breeches with a tear in one knee and applying her needle to their repair. ‘Do you remember how we’d gather round, all who were old enough to sit up, and hear the tales from the Red Book?’

’Indeed I do, Ellie,’ Sam replied, a twinkle in his eye. ‘Would you like to hear more tales from the Red Book?’

’More tales?’ she said, puzzled. ‘I thought we’d heard all there was to hear... have you written more, Dad, on those blank pages Mr Frodo left for you?’

’No, Ellie,’ Sam said, ‘at least, not any more than you’ve already seen. But Ruby was doing some clearing out in the study the other day and ran acrost some papers fallen behind some books. You know how Mr Frodo would just lay a sheaf of papers on top of the books on a shelf when unexpected visitors came...’

’Yes,’ Ellie laughed. ‘You told me how it used to drive Rose-mum to distraction, when he’d lose a page and ask her if she’d moved it when she was dusting!’ Sobering, she wiped away a tear at the thought of her mother, gone now, though it hardly seemed possible.

’Well, evidently he wrote these in the Spring before he went away, just before he had his bad spell in March, and so when he misplaced them, he didn’t even miss them, later,’ Sam said soberly. ‘At least, that is what I think happened.’

’What papers, Dad?’ Fastred said, drawing on his pipe.

’Elfstan,’ Sam said to the tallest lad, two years short of coming of age!—how quickly they grew up, he thought. ‘You go get that package you took off the pack-pony when you unloaded him for me, and bring it here.’

’Yes, Grandad,’ Elfstan answered, disappearing out of the parlour, going to the guest room and finding the wanted item in the baggage laid neatly in the corner. It was large and bulky, wrapped in oiled cloth and tied about with twine. Elanor obligingly supplied her scissors, and soon the curious children were helping Samwise unwrap the treasure from its layers of oiled cloth and thin paper wrappings.

’The Red Book!’ Elanor breathed when the object came to light. ‘Dad, you brought it from Bag End? You risked it, in this weather, taking it here and back again?’

’Not back again, Ellie,’ Sam said calmly. ‘It’s here to stay. I want you to keep it for me.’

Ellie sat in shock, while Fastred gave his father-in-love a sharp glance, nodding at what he read in the creases of the old face.

’I suppose it is a boon for the grandchildren to hear the stories,’ Ellie said. ‘But the book is so big, you’ll have to make it an awfully long visit, Dad!’

’I’ll stay as long as need be,’ Sam said with a smile. ‘As long as need be,’ he repeated softly, caressing the fine leather of the binding, then he opened the book up. ‘Come here, Ellie, look at this!’

Putting down her mending, she got up from her chair and came over. Carefully glued in after the last pages written by Mr Frodo, more pages had been added. She saw, written in Frodo’s firm flowing script:

The Greening of the Shire
What Happened after the Scouring of the Shire
An Account of the Shire-folk after the War of the Ring
The Healing of the Shire

...all crossed out, followed by what Mr Frodo might have intended for the title after all:

A Small and Passing Thing

’How curious!’ Elanor exclaimed. ‘It sounds... familiar somehow, as if I’d heard it before.’

’What’s it about, Grandad?’ Ten-year-old Frodo-lad piped up. ‘Can we hear the story?’

A chorus of eager agreement met this statement, and Elanor pretended to sigh in exasperation. She put her hands on her hips and said, ‘You know I’ll never get them off to bed, now, unless you read the story...’

’Well, then,’ Sam said with equanimity. ‘I suppose we had better get started...’

 




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