Rosie Gamgee smiled as she moved about the kitchen to the sound of little Elanor’s voice babbling happily. The maidenchild sat on the hardwood floor in a pool of sunlight that poured in from a bright window. Her little hands reached out as though to grasp and hold the golden light.
The child’s violet eyes sparkled and her pretty mouth was spread in a seemingly-permanent smile. She babbled quietly, talking to the air around her and then becoming quiet as though listening in return.
Suddenly, there came a hard rap on Bag End’s elegant green door! Rosie was rather confused, unused to any sound other than the jangle of the bell at the door-front. Nevertheless, she opened the door and found a tall, white-haired man standing there, a staff in his hand.
“Good-day, Mistress Rose. Do you remember me?” he asked.
“But of course I do. Come in, Mr. Gandalf! Come in!” Rosie opened the door wide, allowing him into the cozy hobbit-hole.
“Thank you very much.” Gandalf removed his old, blue hat and stepped inside, bending his gray head and allowing Rosie to take his hat and staff.
“Might I get you some tea, Mr. Gandalf?” she questioned politely, setting his things down gently and hurrying to the kitchen.
“Yes, some tea would be lovely.”
Just then, Rosie paused in the doorway of the long hall. “Oh. If you have come to visit Mr. Frodo, sir, I’m afraid that you’ve missed him by several days. He and my Sam headed off in the direction of Rivendell the beginning of this week; they’ve been gone four days now.”
Gandalf smiled, for, of course, he knew all of this already. “Yes, Mistress Rose, I know. I’ve only come to the Shire to collect Master Peregrin and Master Meriadoc, for Sam shall need them when he and Frodo reach their destination.” This he said as he seated himself at the table.
Rosie was alarmed and almost dropped the teakettle. “What do you mean Sam will need them? Are he and Mr. Frodo in some sort of danger, Mr. Gandalf?”
“No, no, they are not. It’s just that Samwise will need his friends’ company for the return journey, but more I will not say until I see Merry and Pippin.”
Rosie nodded, pouring some tea for the wizard. “Well, then, you’ve arrived just in time, for they normally cut around for tea at four o’clock and should be here any moment.”
Just then, a soft coo at the foot of Gandalf’s chair arrested his attention; there was Elanor, tugging on his cloak and looking up at him in the most interested manner, as though she recognized him.
“Oh, forgive me if she’s bothering you, Mr. Gandalf.” Rose promptly apologized and moved to collect the child, but he had already swept her up into his lap.
“No, it’s quite all right, Mistress Rose.” Gandalf answered smilingly and began to talk to Elanor, who babbled in return.
Rosie hurried about the kitchen, preparing the bread, jam, and cakes for that afternoon’s tea, but her sharp ears caught snippets of what seemed to be a conversation going on betwixt the wizard and her daughter.
“Yes, I know you will miss him but mayhaps you will see him again someday. Besides, your papa will have no end of stories to tell you for years to come. You’ve been a great help to Frodo, Elanor; more than you know.” Gandalf said quietly, to which Elanor just smiled.
Now, Rosie was very smart (it was one of the things Sam greatly admired about her) and it was then that she realized, “Mr. Frodo isn’t coming back.”
Suddenly, a loud jangle of the doorbell startled her and she flew to answer it. Standing on the porch were two rather tall hobbits; they were, of course, Merry and Pippin.
“Hello, Rosie!” Merry greeted her in his normal, friendly fashion. “Are we a bit late? Business about the Shire, you know.”
“Business indeed, Master Meriadoc!” A great voice boomed from within the kitchen, and they rushed in to find Gandalf seated there, sipping tea and holding a sleepy babe in the crook of his arm.
Amidst their amazement at the sight of him, Pippin managed, “Turned molly-coddler now, have we, Gandalf?”
“Most certainly not, Peregrin Took! No more than you have turned sensible,” the wizard replied, handing Elanor over to Rosie who took her to the nursery directly and left the tea to the gentlemen.
“Come now, young Masters. Have a seat and refresh yourselves, for I have come on a special errand to collect you.” Gandalf then took out his pipe whilst Pippin and Merry had their tea. Being now an esteemed knight of Gondor had changed nothing of Pippin’s appetite; he was still always hungry and so devoured his tea with relish.
“So where are we off to now, and why without Frodo and Sam?” Merry questioned when they were done.
“Because you are going to meet them, that’s why. Now collect your things and be quick about it. We have near a fortnight’s ride ahead and Frodo and Sam have already gained four days on us.” Gandalf then rose and bidding Rosie good-bye and thank-you, they took their leave of Bag End.
Gathering food, cloaks, and ponies from their homes, Merry and Pippin soon made ready to leave. Gandalf was again on Shadowfax and led the way out of the Shire.
“So where are we going exactly?” Pippin repeated the question, for Gandalf was notorious for not answering when asked pointedly.
“We are going to the Grey Havens.”
“The Grey Havens? But isn’t that where the Elves will leave Middle-earth forever?” Merry chimed in, remembering what Frodo had previously told them of Lord Elrond’s plans. “Why are we going there? And why is Frodo?”
Gandalf sighed as though very weary. “Frodo is wounded very badly. It will never heal, not fully. He needs rest, my friends, a long rest. That is why we are going to the Havens. You to keep Sam company and I to go with Frodo and the Elves into the West.”
Pippin almost halted his stalwart pony at this. “Do you mean to say that neither you nor Frodo are coming back?!”
Gandalf, however, kept on riding. “No, Master Peregrin, we are not. The time of the Ringbearers has come and gone. It is time for us to rest.”
At this, the sleeve of his cloak shifted, revealing upon his hand Nayra, one of the Three, the remaining Rings of Power. With the destruction of the One Ring, though, they had lost their strength; a sacrifice the Ringbearers had been willing to make.
Merry and Pippin now understood a bit better and, for many hours, rode on in silence as they pondered Gandalf’s words.
For the next few days, they rode hard so as to overtake Sam and Frodo. The strong little ponies seemed inspired by Shadowfax’s presence and ran with a vigor and speed before unknown to their masters. They traveled straight for two days and two nights at a hard run. Then they stopped for half a day to allow the animals to rest, and afterwards continued on.
Merry and Pippin continued to question Gandalf, quite dismayed that he was leaving them. Amidst this conversation, he told them something of great importance that forever remained with them.
“Samwise is going to need you two very much after we are gone. You stand by him as he has stood by Frodo, and be hobbits that I shall be even prouder to say that I have known and loved.”
This lifted their spirits slightly and they rode a bit lighter of heart the rest of the way. After several more days, they crested a hill and saw a beauteous sight: the Western Sea. Gandalf bid them wait at the Havens’ gate, near some trees, whilst he rode down to where a white ship and a host of Elves were waiting.
“It seems so strange,” Pippin said quietly.
“What seems strange, Pip?” Merry shifted in his saddle to look at his friend.
“That we’ll never see Frodo or Gandalf again.”
Merry nodded. “Yes, it does seem strange…and sad.”
Just then, they heard the clippety-clip of horses and ponies. Silently they watched from their shadowed place, with tears filling their eyes, as Lord Elrond, Lady Galadriel, Bilbo, Frodo, and Sam rode past toward the white ship.