Pushed or Pulled? by Kathryn Ramage

"I'm sure something is there, Sam!" Frodo told his friend that evening after they'd returned to the cottage and put the children to bed. In spite of both spending the day at Brandy Hall, they'd barely seen each other except when Frodo had appeared for meals; Sam was naturally curious to learn what he'd found, but it was only once they were alone and getting ready for bed themselves that Frodo felt free to talk. "I can't help thinking about that poem. It's quite different from anything else my mother wrote. When I read it, I felt for the first time as if I'd truly seen her. And it's given me an idea. I only wish I could ask the aunties about it, but I don't know if they'd tell me the truth even if Merry would let me question them." He'd also told Sam what he and Merry had been discussing that morning in the grove on the hill, and the promise he'd made.

"Well, I agree with Master Merry," said Sam, sitting at the foot of the bed while Frodo undressed. "If you're going around saying your mother's a murderer, of course it'll upset your aunts 'n' uncle!"

"I never said that to anyone but Merry," Frodo protested.

"But it's what you're thinking, so it'll show even if you don't mean it to. Everybody knows how you look into murders 'n' such-like, and if you go asking if your parents quarreled just before they died, or if your mother said anything about knowing beforehand that she 'n' your dad were going to drown, you might as well've asked `em straight out if she pushed him into the river."

Frodo acknowledged that this was true. Uncle Merry's indignant reaction to his questions this morning was an undeniable example.

Having made his point, Sam pressed further, "Then you see why Master Merry doesn't want you upsetting her ladyship with it. If she's read that letter of your mother's, she's probably already thinking the same as you--only she doesn't want it to be true."

"I don't want it to be true either, Sam," Frodo answered, and pulled his nightshirt on over his head. Their room was at the back of the cottage; as he fastened his buttons, he stood before the open window looking out into the field where they'd made love last night. There would be no love-making tonight, not with four small children in the next room. Besides, he wasn't in the mood for it while his mind was engaged elsewhere.

"Then why're you digging it all up? I don't see as this reading your mother's diaries 'n' such'll do you any good. What's past is past, as they say, and it was all so long ago. Even if you find what you're after, there's naught to be done about it now. Better to leave it in peace instead of upsetting yourself and other folk with it."

"I can't look away, Sam. I can't help seeing clues once they're put before me. I can't pretend it isn't so, if it turns out that it is."

"You don't know that it is so," Sam said.

"No, but I have to find out one way or the other." In spite of what Merry had said, this investigation wasn't just another puzzle for him to solve. He didn't feel close to Primula Baggins, true, but no one likes to think his mother a murderer; Frodo acknowledged that he was certainly no exception. He would be happier if he could lay these horrible suspicions to rest once and for all, but he couldn't do that without examining all the available facts. He couldn't refuse to look because he was afraid of what he might find.

"You won't break your promise to Master Merry and go on asking questions?"

"No, Sam. I won't say another word to the aunties or anybody here at Brandy Hall..." As he turned away from the window and joined Sam in the little bed, Frodo suddenly thought of someone he could ask--the one person who knew his mother best of all. "But I will ask Aunt Del. I can ride up to Budgeford tomorrow to call on her."

"You aren't going to tell Mrs. Burrows about that letter you found?"

"No," Frodo assured him. "I won't show her the letter. I won't even mention it or ask her any provoking questions about the day my parents died. But she can tell me things about her sister's life that no one else knows." If anyone could tell him who his mother had written that one, heart-felt poem for, it was surely Asphodel.

"So you're not giving up?" Sam sounded disappointed.

"I can't, my dear." Frodo answered, and gave him a peck on the cheek. "I have to look into it. You understand that, don't you? It's the only way I'll ever be sure. If I don't, it will trouble me always--and Merry and Aunt Esme too. It's better we learn the truth, no matter what the truth is."

"I couldn't stop you, Frodo, even if I was of a mind to," Sam conceded, but Frodo could see he didn't like it. "What about the picnic?" Sam put up one last protest. "You can't miss out on that. Missus Celie and Mrs. Took were talking about it up in the nursery today, telling the little uns. Everybody's looking forward to it, and you ought to be there. Mrs. Took says she'll teach Nel how to swim."

"I won't miss it, Sam. The picnic's not until the day after tomorrow, and I won't be gone as long as that. If I leave first thing in the morning, I'll be in Budgeford in time for luncheon. Even I stay all the afternoon talking to my aunt, I shall be back in plenty of time."
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