Not a Second Time

Year 1482 (Shire Reckoning) - On September 22 Master Samwise rides out from Bag End ... Among [the Fairbairns] the tradition is handed down from Elanor that Samwise passed the Towers, and went to the Grey Havens, and passed over the Sea, last of the ringbearers.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

"Goodbye Elanor!"

"Goodbye Daddy! I love you."

He kissed her and boarded the little ship. There was growing pain in the heart of Master Samwise Gardner. An elf had shown him a cot upon which he could lie down. He wanted to think. So much had happened recently to make him confused and upset. It was too much for the strength of an old hobbit like him. First, the death of Diamond had left the Great Smials without a mistress. Poor Pippin had needed all the comfort Sam and Merry could give him. But then, that day he had dreaded, the day he had wished would never come - Bag End had lost the person who made it a home, and no one could comfort him.

"Rosie!" he whispered. A tear slid down his nose. And she would have kissed it off he thought. "What a funny little nose!" "I'm not Tom you know! Have respect for your wise old husband, young lady." Always young, and always a lady. She would have just laughed and kissed him again - on his mouth, then. How he missed his beautiful bride!

Without his Rose, he knew that there was only one thing left for him. Something was calling, stronger and stronger. Was it the call of the sea—plaintive yet commanding? It seemed a sweet call to Mr. Frodo, even if it brought with it bitterness. And the Elves—to the elves it was hypnotically beautiful. Why did it only leave a shadow on Sam's heart? Perhaps he was just upset. Maybe there was no call: it was nothing more than the aching in his heart for Rose. He had very few days left. Perhaps he should have spent them in Bag End, and not risked the long journey.

"Samwise Gamgee, you numbskull! You know this is all you've ever wanted, besides your wife and family. Can't you tell the difference between your sadness at losing Rosie, and your wish to see Mr. Frodo? You'll be happy—just wait and see!"

An elf nearby had caught the beginning of Sam's self-tirade. "You don't think of yourself as Gardner then, do you?" he smiled. Sam's skill as a gardener - known even to the elves - had earned him a new name in the Shire.

"No sir! My son is a Gardner, Frodo Gardner. Whether I gave him that name or no, he bears it in his own deserving. I never wanted to be aught but old Sam Gamgee myself. That's what he called me..." his voice faded as he looked into the distance ahead. Then he got up and turned back, watching ship's wake as it trailed back in a path of blue foam toward his beloved homeland. He choked a little. "Her too. My Rosie-lass said to me, 'Sam' she said, 'a girl oughtn't have to change her name twice. I'm a Gamgee, and a Gamgee I'll die.' It was just like her. And she always called me her 'old Gamgee.' I don't want no other name."

The Elf nodded in understanding and turned quickly away.

Cirdan the shipwright appeared out of a small tent at the far end of the ship. He looked disturbed. "Faster! I want this ship sailing with all speed toward Valinor."

Sam groaned, and grabbed onto the nearest stable object. This journey would not be pleasant.

"Master Gardner, you ought to rest." Cirdan looked at him kindly. "You will not be thrown out of your cot. No speed jolts this ship. We will wake you the moment we reach our destination."

Sam woke to see the grave Elf bending over him. "We have arrived. Come off the ship! Quickly!" Sam stumbled off, eager to reunite with Mr. Frodo. Hastening toward him was someone he had seen only once—many years ago. He smiled, but received no cheerful greeting in return.

"Hurry, Master Gamgee!"

"Where to, Mr. Gildor?"

"Run! Or you will not be in time."

Sam moved his gouty legs into a run so fast that he could almost keep up with the tall elf loping ahead of him. Why all this hurry and mystery? And why in such a land as this was everyone so glum? He felt the darkness that had been growing on his heart increasing, and fear moved him to run faster and longer than he ever thought possible—even when he was strong. They entered a clearing carpeted with elanor. Sam thought of a little baby sitting in Mr. Frodo's arms, giggling madly. He could see the joy in Frodo's face as he looked at the precious child and erupted into giggles himself. Sam was also reminded of the Galadrim, for there were as many elves assembled here as in Caras Galadon, perhaps more. There was the same quietness, yet it seemed tenser. He only recognized Galadriel and Elrond. Then he saw someone else. A shout came to his lips, but only a whisper made it through his tears as he ran toward a small form resting on a large bed—white, but hardly whiter than the hobbit on it. "Mr. Frodo!" He was spent from his long run. He no longer had even the strength to pull himself up onto the high bed. He struggled weakly to climb the side. However, when a strong elf placed him on it, he hardly acknowledged the service. He was where he belonged—beside his dear master, and dearer friend.

Mr. Frodo was in pain, his jaw clenched and his hands shaking. The elves seemed busy—whispering prayers to Elbereth, trying to alleviate the pain, trying to help him in any way they could—but pain was still apparent in his clouding eyes. Sam grabbed up the cold hands, kissed them, and laid them upon his breast as if it were that fateful day more than sixty years ago when the end seemed so near.

"Mr. Frodo, I'm here!"

The other hobbit recognized the gesture. He smiled, and his eyes cleared as they focused on Sam's. Sam stroked his master's pale face and could feel the muscles relaxing. As he closed his eyes, there was almost a smile on his face. Sam looked at it. It was older—there were many lines upon the once-smooth brow. The dark hair that Sam remembered was now almost as white as Sam's own. Yet the face had not lost its identity. Changed, and if possible more lovely in Sam's eyes than it had ever been—it would always be the face of his dear Mr. Frodo.

Sam realized that Elrond was speaking. "...fifteen years older than you. You should have expected it."

"He has been holding on to life long for one last goodbye to you." The new gruff voice seemed strangely familiar—Sam did not know why—yet he still did not turn his head.

"No, Mr. Frodo, not goodbye again!" He bent down and whispered earnestly in Frodo's ear. "Don't go where I can't follow, me dear!"

Sam could sense that Frodo was trying to move his weak hands to return the caresses he received. Sam kissed the dear hands once again, and then lay his weary body next to his master's. He dropped one hand as he moved, but never let go of that precious hand graced only with four fingers. Frodo turned his head and opened his tired eyes one last time.

"Sam!" He whispered so softly that only Sam knew he was speaking. Yet Sam could understand him. Every power of his own fading senses was focused on the hobbit before him. He saw every movement of the tired lips. He drank in every word from the mouth of the one he had missed for so many years.

He nodded, weakly.

"Samwise Gamgee, still my friend of friends, I can't."

"You can hold on. Please don't say goodbye, master!"

"No, Sam. My dear lad, you see—I can't go anywhere you can't follow. I can't say goodbye, because -" he gave a rasping breath "- because I know you won't leave me." He smiled. "I can't lose you. You will follow me everywhere."

Sam felt the grip of the maimed hand tighten even as the words grew fainter. He made no reply but a slight pressure from his own work-hardened and age-worn hands. Frodo closed his eyes and smiled once more. Sam threw a protecting arm about him, as if to ward off in the end all the pain and suffering that had followed his friend throughout his life. He had been helpless against the pain before, but now he could keep Mr. Frodo safe. After one last gaze at the face he had missed for so long, he closed his eyes, moved closer, and joined his dear master in gentle sleep.

Elrond had never seen two faces more beautiful. Side by side they were as happy as if the next morning was to find each full of health and vitality. They were worn and old, yet illuminated in death by deathless love for each other.

To the elves it was a happiness the like of which they would never see again. It was a happiness only mortals could experience, and no mortal would ever be seen again in Valinor. Yet in the memory of the elves it would be preserved forever. The songs of the high-elven tongue alone could express what they had just witnessed. Galadriel began to sing. Her music filled the glade, twining itself around the hearts of all the witnesses, and wrapping the still forms. Gandalf, the speaker whom Sam had recognized, moved toward the two little hobbits. He gently spread a white sheet over their bodies, but did not cover their faces—not yet. He could not bear that anything interpose between himself and either the homely face or the fair one when they looked as they did just then. The light Sam had recognized in his master long ago, was apparent to all. It was mirrored in Sam's face, emanating from a soul one with Frodo's, filled with the same purity. The sight moved the great wizard to do something that no mortal had seen him do, and that none of any kind would ever see him do again. He wept. It was his first and last time, yet his tears were not solely of grief—they were mingled with joy.

"Never again will you be parted." The faces were veiled, and Gandalf the White followed a train of singing elves out of the hallowed glade.