Pushed or Pulled? by Kathryn Ramage

Frodo spent the rest of the morning in search of his mother's private thoughts, beginning with the other boxes and parcels Esmeralda had stored away.

He realized that his detached consideration of the possibility that Primula Baggins was a murderer had disturbed Merry, but he couldn't help it. While he did feel a certain sentimental attachment to his mother and father--they were, after all, the people responsible for his existence--the fact of the matter was that Frodo couldn't love them as he would've done if he'd known them well. They were all but strangers to him. If he loved them, it was more as an abstracted ideal than with the real affection he bore Aunt Esme or Uncle Bilbo, or any of the others who had in some way taken his parents' place after their deaths.

For example, he'd always assumed that their marriage was a happy one. He'd seen many hobbits happily married--but then he'd also seen many unhappy ones. He was aware that the relationship between Aunt Esme and Uncle Saradoc had been rather strained. His cousin Celie's first husband Merimas had married her only out of a sense of family duty, and had made her miserable by constantly accusing her of scandalous conduct. Melilot's husband, Everard Took, had run off with the Tookbank butcher's son after Melly had returned to her old home here at Brandy Hall with her little boy; she was currently living in an anomalous state, neither wife nor widow nor unmarried girl free to marry again. And these examples were within his own family! He could think of worse ones, as he'd pointed out to Merry, taken from the private lives of people he'd met in his investigations. Wives and husbands did sometimes murder each other.

The truth was that he simply didn't know enough about his parents to say if they'd been happy or not. His aunts and uncle seemed to think that they'd been oddly matched from the beginning. Was that so? Perhaps they'd found they'd had little in common after their newlywed love had worn thin. Had they loved each other, even at the beginning? Had they quarreled often, or had silent resentments grown and festered? Whatever her reasons for marrying Drogo Baggins, how had Primula regarded him after fifteen years of marriage? Could pushing him into the river have seemed like the only way to free herself from an intolerable position? What that what would shock Esmeralda?

Frodo pursued these questions. His mother, he soon discovered, had kept a series of journals from her tweens until the last year of her life. He found them in a box in the same cupboard where Esmeralda had stored the jewelry box. The final year was missing, but he sat in a patch of sunlight from the dressing room's one window and skimmed through the ones immediately preceding it, hunting for clues to the state of his parents' marriage and his mother's frame of mind.

Primula Baggins had been a conscientious journalist, writing at least a sentence or two every day and sometimes a great deal more. Her detail of the events of a day were often meticulous--if he'd wanted to know who sat down to dinner at the Master's table on a given evening in 1390, or what his mother had had for breakfast on the morning before his birth, Frodo was sure it was recorded here--but all the same, she wasn't candid. She wrote of what she and the people around her had done each day, but rarely put her private opinions or feelings down on paper. Living all her life in a house filled with so many other people, perhaps she'd feared that her journals would be read.

As far as he could discover from a quick read, Primula never wrote anything to indicate that she was unhappy in her marriage. Frodo's general impression was that of contentment. If something had happened to disturb that contentment, it must have occurred in that final year. Had she written anything more interesting in that last, missing journal?

He set the journals for 1390 through 1395 aside to take back to the cottage with him, where he could study them more closely, then he went down to join the others for lunch. Melly and Celie asked him where he'd disappeared to all morning; the rest of the household knew already and while he knew that Merry and his mother were particularly interested, Frodo said little about his discoveries over the dining-room table.

After lunch, he returned to his task. In a portable writing desk, he found some letters to his father, most of them from Aunt Dora providing news from Hobbiton and giving her usual uninformed advice about marriage and child-rearing, but nothing that gave Frodo a glimpse into his parents' private life. In a small, strapped-but-unlocked chest, he found a collection of books belonging to both his parents, including the little book of nursery rhymes his mother had written for him. Frodo sat down to read this immediately. Primula's stories weren't original, but old folk tales of the Shire told anew in whimsical couplets. She retold the tales of the cow jumping over the moon, of the boy jumping over the candlestick, and the of little shepherdess who misplaced her sheep. The book had been illustrated with equally whimsical pen-and-ink drawings, presumably also his mother's work.

In another small box, Frodo found some of his mother's grown-up poetry. The best of it was written out carefully in bound booklets like the nursery rhymes; other pieces, drafts or unfinished ideas, were on loose scraps of paper. This was more sophisticated work than Primula's poems for children, but it was as strangely impersonal as her journal entries. His mother apparently received her inspiration from the woodlands, meadows, and the great river near her home, but not from the depths of her own heart. At most, he saw signs of her whimsical side in her comical poems about her family: "Ode to My Husband, Who Snores Whilst Napping in the Garden," and "Frodo's First Steps" (according to this last piece, he'd taken six "wobble-bobble" steps before falling on his face).

There was one noteworthy exception. As Frodo was turning through the pages of one book of poems, a single sheet of notepaper fluttered out onto the floor. On it were the following lines:

"When you are far from me, my love,
The sun refuses to rise.
A cold wind blows over the hill,
And the stars stop in the skies.

"When you are far from me, my love,
I lie wakeful but never at rest.
My heart ceases its dreary beat.
My hands lie still on my breast.

After reading so many placid journal entries and pretty-but-unemotional poems, the intensity of feeling in these two stanzas was startling. Yet, it was Primula's handwriting; Frodo knew it well by now. Had she written this poem with his father in mind? There was no date on the paper, nor on the book it had been tucked into, to indicate when the poem had been written. When, Frodo wondered, had his father ever been far from her long enough to provoke such profound emotion? Or had Primula written it with someone else in mind, before she'd met Drogo Baggins?
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