The next day, they reached the border of the Shire. Frodo had been to the westward Bounds before, farther to the south. The road they were on now headed in a northerly direction. He was traveling with Gandalf's cart again today and had spent the morning with Bilbo, but as the afternoon wore on, he'd ridden ahead. When he came to the foot of the raised earthwork wall that marked the Shire's boundary, he left his pony and climbed up to the top. Sam went with him.
From the top of the earthwork was a good view of the lands to the west. What was immediately beyond the Shire's borders looked no different from the lands they had just passed through: rolling chalk downs covered with frost-blighted brown grass and the occasional bare tree beside the course of a stream. In the distance, the Blue Mountains could be glimpsed like a cloud of smoke on the horizon. Frodo turned from this view for one last look at the Shire behind him. He sighed.
"Are you thinking you won't be seeing it again?" Sam asked him.
"Perhaps," admitted Frodo. "I don't know that I am going away, Sam. I may turn back at the Grey Havens once we've seen Bilbo and the Elves and Gandalf off. There are good reasons why I ought to stay."
"There's lots of reasons for you to stay," Sam agreed hopefully.
"Yes. Don't you think I've considered them? There's you, of course. It'll be very hard for me to say goodbye to you, dear Sam, when the time comes. And there's so much I feel I might do if I stay on the Shire a few years more. I've finished the great tale of our adventures, but there are other stories I'd like to write, about some of our investigations. I might do more investigating too."
"You'd see Rosie's baby born," said Sam. "How can you think of going off West now, when you'd never find out if it was a boy or girl? You'd never get to see little Rosemary or Pippin."
Frodo smiled at these names Rosie and Sam had chosen for their next child. "Rosemary or Pippin?"
"If it's a girl, I want to name her after Rosie, and Rosie wants to name her after Marigold, so we thought as we'd put the two together," Sam explained. "And as for Pippin... Well, Rosie 'n' me thought once that if we had another boy, we'd name him after Tom, only me 'n' Tom aren't such friends as we used to be. Pippin's the next friend I thought of. I couldn't go naming a son o' mine Peregrin, as if a Gamgee was as fine as a Took, but if we start off with plain old Pippin to begin with, that'll do. I asked 'm yesterday while we were riding together if he'd mind, and he said he'd be honored."
"So that's why he's been looking so pleased with himself," Frodo murmured. "I suppose you'll name one after Merry next."
Sam huffed at this suggestion. "As if I'd call a child o' mine after that Master Merry Brandybuck! But you see all you'd leave behind Frodo, if you went away now. And it's not fair! I can't go with you, not when I've got Rosie and the little ones to look after, and more on the way! Why're you thinking of leaving us? Are you in so much pain that you can't bear to go on living with it?" In spite of his own agony at the prospect of losing Frodo, Sam looked even more distressed at this idea. "I don't want you to go, but I don't want you to go on suffering."
"I'm not suffering, Sam. The pain isn't as bad as it was." Frodo's hand went to the gemstone on its chain at his throat, tucked beneath his coat. "I can bear it awhile longer."
"Why then? If you don't have to, please don't go away yet. "
Frodo turned to Sam with wide, dewy eyes, touched by this earnest plea. Whatever else he left behind when he went West, it would break his heart most to leave Sam. "Oh, Sam..." He was ready to throw himself into Sam's arms, when Sam suddenly looked determined and took him by the shoulders.
"If you're going to leave me, Frodo, I want to know about it. I want to give you a proper goodbye." And, pressing Frodo back up against the trunk of a nearby tree, Sam kissed him hard. "There, you'll remember that," he said, rather short of breath when they stopped. "Once you go, you'll never have anything like it again, not in a hundred years. Who'll kiss you when you've gone over the Sea with nobody but the Elves and Mr. Bilbo? You'll miss it, Frodo. You'll miss everything else we do..." He took Frodo's wrist, but Frodo was still sensitive about restraints since the incident at the standing stones in Budlingsbank, and quickly drew free from Sam's grip. Placing both hands on Sam's chest, he pushed him back. The cart was coming along the road below them, passing the spot where they'd left their ponies, and Frodo was aware that they were in full view. He didn't mind so much if Gandalf saw, but who knew who else might be watching them up here?
There was a hedge-gate in a cleft of the Bounds below them; the cart stopped and Pippin left his pony to open the gate for Gandalf. "We ought to go down now," Frodo said. "There's still a long road ahead." Taking Sam by the hand, they returned down the slope to their ponies. They rode quickly to catch up with their friends and so passed out of the Shire into a land where none of the hobbits had even been before.
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