GIFT OF THE ROPER
"Your master," Anson said. "You'd said he'd come back all quiet and pale after being so ill in them foreign lands. He's not gettin' no better, is he?"
"Worse every day," Sam said thickly, the tears flowing again down their accustomed channels. "It hurts him, you can tell, even when he says he's fine. Fine! That word's a lie on his lips! And thin, Anson, thin as an Elf and growing thinner every day."
"Thin, you say," Anson said, stroking his chin. "And in pain."
"Can't even stop the pain proper," Sam said, gulping into his kerchief. "Willowbark doesn't touch it. He hates how heavy and sleepy poppy makes him; his dreams get even worse and he can't wake up as readily, and he gets up more tired than when he went to bed." He hung his head. "He tried, once, to drink the pain into silence, and I…I let him do it. Oh, that near killed him. It took Rosie and me three days of nursing before we knew if he'd ever wake up again, and that near killed me. He was sick for a week after that, couldn't even keep water down. We nearly lost him, all for me being a fool.
So old. So tired. Everything ached, and nothing worked well. The hands that had planted gardens and wielded swords now struggled to hold a walking stick; the shoulders that had borne sacks of manure and bucket yokes, and borne both Ring and Ring-bearer up a mountain, now could bear no greater weight than a warm cloak. The mind that had produced comical poetry and could remember the name of every hobbit who came to the Mayor with a dispute now had trouble recalling the names of his grandchildren.
Dazzled by sunlight, he blinked his filmy eyes at the luminous white and soft grey of the ship, the deep blue and green of the sea. In the evening, the cool salt breeze stung his eyes and fluttered his white strings of hair, wafting back the song of the tall, dark-haired elf who stood near the prow with him. He was going West, farther West than any in his family had ever gone.