کتاب چهارم - فصل 02-01

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کتاب چهارم - فصل 02-01

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Chapter 2:

The Passage of the Marshes

Gollum moved quickly, with his head and neck thrust forward, often using his hands as well as his feet. Frodo and Sam were hard put to it to keep up with him; but he seemed no longer to have any thought of escaping, and if they fell behind, he would turn and wait for them. After a time he brought them to the brink of the narrow gully that they had struck before; but they were now further from the hills.

“Here it is!” he cried. “There is a way down inside, yes. Now we follows it - out, out away over there.” He pointed south and east towards the marshes. The reek of them came to their nostrils, heavy and foul even in the cool night air. . Gollum cast up and down along the brink, and at length he called to them. “Here! We can get down here. Sméagol went this way once: I went this way, hiding from Orcs.”

He led the way, and following him the hobbits climbed down into the gloom. It was not difficult, for the rift was at this point only some fifteen feet deep and about a dozen across. There was running water at the bottom: it was in fact the bed of one of the many small rivers that trickled down from the hills to feed the stagnant pools and mires beyond. Gollum turned to the right, southward more or less, and splashed along with his feet in the shallow stony stream. He seemed greatly delighted to feel the water, and chuckled to himself, sometimes even croaking in a sort of song.

The cold hard lands,

they bites our hands,

they gnaws our feet.

The rocks and stones

are like old bones

all bare of meat.

But stream and pool

is wet and cool:

so nice for feet!

And now we wish -

“Ha! ha! What does we wish?” he said, looking sidelong at the hobbits. “We’ll tell you.” he croaked. “He guessed it long ago, Baggins guessed it.” A glint came into his eyes, and Sam catching the gleam in the darkness thought it far from pleasant.

Alive without breath;

as cold as death;

never thirsting, ever drinking;

clad in mail, never clinking.

Drowns on dry land,

thinks an island

is a mountain;

thinks a fountain

is a puff of air.

So sleek, so fair!

What a joy to meet!

We only wish

to catch a fish,

so juicy-sweet!

These words only made more pressing to Sam’s mind a problem that had been troubling him from the moment when he understood that hir master was going to adopt Gollum as a guide: the problem of food. It did not occur to him that his master might also have thought of it. hut he supposed Gollum had. Indeed how had Gollum kept himself in all his lonely wandering? “Not too well,” thought Sam. “He looks fair famished. Not too dainty to try what hobbit tastes like if there ain’t no fish, I’ll wager - supposing as he could catch us napping. Well, he won’t: not Sam Gamgee for one.”

They stumbled along in the dark winding gully for a long time, or so it seemed to the tired feet of Frodo and Sam. The gully turned eastward, and as they went on it broadened and got gradually shallower. At last the sky above grew faint with the first grey of morning. Gollum had shown no signs of tiring, but now he looked up and halted.

“Day is near,” he whispered, as if Day was something that might overhear him and spring on him. “Sméagol will stay here: I will stay here, and the Yellow Face won’t see me.”

“We should be glad to see the Sun;” said Frodo, “but we will stay here: we are too tired to go any further at present.”

“You are not wise to be glad of the Yellow Face,” said Gollum. “It shows you up. Nice sensible hobbits stay with Sméagol. Orcs and nasty things are about. They can see a long way. Stay and hide with me! ‘

The three of them settled down to rest at the foot of the rocky wall of the gully. It was not much more than a tall man’s height now, and at its base there were wide flat shelves of dry stone; the water ran in a channel on the other side. Frodo and Sam sat on one of the flats, resting their backs. Gollum paddled and scrabbled in the stream.

“We must take a little food,” said Frodo. “Are you hungry, Sméagol? We have very little to share, but we will spare you what we can.”

At the word hungry a greenish light was kindled in Gollum’s pale eyes, and they seemed to protrude further than ever from his thin sickly face. For a moment he relapsed into his old Gollum-manner. “We are famisshed, yes famisshed we are. precious,” he said. “What is it they eats? Have they nice fisshes? ‘ His tongue lolled out between his sharp yellow teeth. licking his colourless lips.

“No, we have got no fish,” said Frodo. “We have only got this’ - he held up a wafer of lembas -“and water, if the water here is fit to drink.”

“Yess, yess, nice water,” said Gollum. “Drink it, drink it, while we can! But what is it they’ve got, precious? Is it crunchable? Is it tasty? ‘

Frodo broke off a portion of a wafer and handed it to him on its leaf-wrapping. Gollum sniffed at the leaf and his face changed: a spasm of disgust came over it, and a hint of his old malice. “Sméagol smells it! ‘ he said. “Leaves out of the elf-country, gah! They stinks. He climbed in those trees, and he couldn’t wash the smell off his hands, my nice hands.” Dropping the leaf, he took a corner of the lembas and nibbled it. He spat, and a fit of coughing shook him.

“Ach! No! ‘ he spluttered. “You try to choke poor Sméagol. Dust and ashes, he can’t eat that. He must starve. But Sméagol doesn’t mind. Nice hobbits! Sméagol has promised. He will starve. He can’t eat hobbits’ food. He will starve. Poor thin Sméagol! ‘ “I’m sorry,” said Frodo; “but I can’t help you, I’m afraid. I think this food would do you good, if you would try. But perhaps you can’t even try, not yet anyway.”

The hobbits munched their lembas in silence. Sam thought that it tasted far better, somehow, than it had for a good while: Gollum’s behaviour had made him attend to its flavour again. But he did not feel comfortable. Gollum watched every morsel from hand to mouth, like an expectant dog by a diner’s chair. Only when they had finished and were preparing to rest, was he apparently convinced that they had no hidden dainties that he could share in. Then he went and sat by himself a few paces away and whimpered a little.

“Look here! ‘ Sam whispered to Frodo, not too softly: he did not really care whether Gollum heard him or not. “We’ve got to get some sleep; but not both together with that hungry villain nigh, promise or no promise. Sméagol or Gollum, he won’t change his habits in a hurry, I’ll warrant. You go to sleep, Mr. Frodo, and I’ll call you when I can’t keep my eyelids propped up. Turn and about, same as before, while he’s loose.”

“Perhaps you’re right, Sam,” said Frodo speaking openly. “There is a change in him, but just what kind of a change and how deep, I’m not sure yet. Seriously though, I don’t think there is any need for fear - at present. Still watch if you wish. Give me about two hours, not more, and then call me.”

So tired was Frodo that his head fell forward on his breast and he slept. almost as soon as he had spoken the words. Gollum seemed no longer to have any fears. He curled up and went quickly to sleep, quite unconcerned. Presently his breath was hissing softly through his clenched teeth, hut he lay still as stone. After a while, fearing that he would drop off himself, if he sat listening to his two companions breathing, Sam got up and gently prodded Gollum. His hands uncurled and twitched, but he made no other movement. Sam bent down and said fissh close to his ear, but there was no response, not even a catch in Gollum’s breathing.

Sam scratched his head. “Must really be asleep,” he muttered. “And if I was like Gollum, he wouldn’t wake up never again.” He restrained the thoughts of his sword and the rope that sprang to his mind, and went and sat down by his master.

When he woke up the sky above was dim, not lighter but darker than when they had breakfasted. Sam leapt to his feet. Not least from his own feeling of vigour and hunger, he suddenly understood that he had slept the daylight away, nine hours at least. Frodo was still fast asleep, lying now stretched on his side. Gollum was not to be seen. Various reproachful names for himself came to Sam’s mind, drawn from the Gaffer’s large paternal word-hoard; then it also occurred to him that his master had been right: there had for the present been nothing to guard against. They were at any rate both alive and unthrottled.

“Poor wretch! ‘ he said half remorsefully. “Now I wonder where he’s got to? ‘

“Not far, not far! ‘ said a voice above him. He looked up and saw the shape of Gollum’s large head and ears against the evening sky.

“Here, what are you doing? ‘ cried Sam, his suspicions coming back as soon as he saw that shape.

“Sméagol is hungry,” said Gollum. “Be back soon.”

“Come back now!” shouted Sam. “Hi! Come back!” But Gollum had vanished.

Frodo woke at the sound of Sam’s shout and sat up, rubbing his eyes. “Hullo!” he said. “Anything wrong? What’s the time?”

“I dunno,” said Sam. “After sundown, I reckon. And he’s gone off. Says he’s hungry.”

“Don’t worry!” said Frodo. “There’s no help for it. But he’ll come back, you’ll see. The promise will hold yet a while. And he won’t leave his Precious, anyway.”

Frodo made light of it when he learned that they had slept soundly for hours with Gollum, and a very hungry Gollum too, loose beside them. “Don’t think of any of your Gaffer’s hard names,” he said. “You were worn out, and it has turned out well: we are now both rested. And we have a hard road ahead, the worst road of all.”

“About the food,” said Sam. “How long’s it going to take us to do this job? And when it’s done, what are we going to do then? This waybread keeps you on your legs in a wonderful way, though it doesn’t satisfy the innards proper, as you might say: not to my feeling anyhow, meaning no disrespect to them as made it. But you have to eat some of it every day, and it doesn’t grow. I reckon we’ve got enough to last, say, three weeks or so, and that with a tight belt and a light tooth, mind you. We’ve been a bit free with it so far.”

“I don’t know how long we shall take to - to finish,” said Frodo. “We were miserably delayed in the hills. But Samwise Gamgee, my dear hobbit - indeed, Sam my dearest hobbit, friend of friends - I do not think we need give thought to what comes after that. To do the job as you put it - what hope is there that we ever shall? And if we do, who knows what will come of that? If the One goes into the Fire, and we are at hand? I ask you, Sam, are we ever likely to need bread again? I think not. If we can nurse our limbs to bring us to Mount Doom, that is all we can do. More than I can, I begin to feel.”

Sam nodded silently. He took his master’s hand and bent over it. He did not kiss it, though his tears fell on it. Then he turned away, drew his sleeve over his nose, and got up, and stamped about, trying to whistle, and saying between the efforts: “Where’s that dratted creature?”

It was actually not long before Gollum returned; but he came so quietly that they did not hear him till he stood before them. His fingers and face were soiled with black mud. He was still chewing and slavering. What he was chewing, they did not ask or like to think.

“Worms or beetles or something slimy out of holes,” thought Sam. “Brr! The nasty creature; the poor wretch! ‘

Gollum said nothing to them, until he had drunk deeply and washed himself in the stream. Then he came up to them, licking his lips. “Better now,” he said. “Are we rested? Ready to go on? Nice hobbits, they sleep beautifully. Trust Sméagol now? Very, very good.”

The next stage of their journey was much the same as the last. As they went on the gully became ever shallower and the slope of its floor more gradual. Its bottom was less stony and more earthy, and slowly its sides dwindled to mere banks. It began to wind and wander. That night drew to its end, but clouds were now over moon and star, and they knew of the coming of day only by the slow spreading of the thin grey light.

In a chill hour they came to the end of the water-course. The banks became moss-grown mounds. Over the last shelf of rotting stone the stream gurgled and fell down into a brown bog and was lost. Dry reeds hissed and rattled though they could feel no wind.

On either side and in front wide fens and mires now lay, stretching away southward and eastward into the dim half-light. Mists curled and smoked from dark and noisome pools. The reek of them hung stifling in the still air. Far away, now almost due south, the mountain-walls of Mordor loomed, like a black bar of rugged clouds floating above a dangerous fog-bound sea.

The hobbits were now wholly in the hands of Gollum. They did now know, and could not guess in that misty light. that they were in fact only just within the northern borders of the marshes. the main expanse of which lay south of them. They could, if they had known the lands, with some delay have retraced their steps a little, and then turning east have come round over hard roads to the bare plain of Dagorlad: the field of the ancient battle before the gates of Mordor. Not that there was great hope in such a course. On that stony plain there was no cover, and across it ran the highways of the Orcs and the soldiers of the Enemy. Not even the cloaks of Lórien would have concealed them there.

“How do we shape our course now, Sméagol? ‘ asked Frodo. “Must we cross these evil-smelling fens? ‘

“No need, no need at all,” said Gollum. “Not if hobbits want to reach the dark mountains and go to see Him very quick. Back a little, and round a little’ - his skinny arm waved north and east - “and you can come on hard cold roads to the very gates of His country. Lots of His people will be there looking out for guests, very pleased to take them straight to Him, O yes. His Eye watches that way all the time. It caught Sméagol there, long ago.” Gollum shuddered. “But Sméagol has used his eyes since then, yes, yes: I’ve used eyes and feet and nose since then. I know other ways. More difficult, not so quick; but better, if we don’t want Him to see. Follow Sméagol! He can take you through the marshes, through the mists. nice thick mists. Follow Sméagol very carefully, and you may go a long way. quite a long way, before He catches you, yes perhaps.”

It was already day, a windless and sullen morning, and the marsh-reeks lay in heavy banks. No sun pierced the low clouded sky, and Gollum seemed anxious to continue the journey at once. So after a brief rest they set out again and were soon lost in a shadowy silent world, cut off from all view of the lands about, either the hills that they had left or the mountains that they sought. They went slowly in single file: Gollum, Sam, Frodo.

Frodo seemed the most weary of the three, and slow though they went. he often lagged. The hobbits soon found that what had looked like one vast fen was really an endless network of pools, and soft mires. and winding half-strangled water-courses. Among these a cunning eye and foot could thread a wandering path. Gollum certainly had that cunning, and needed all of it. His head on its long neck was ever turning this way and that, while he sniffed and muttered all the time to himself. Sometimes he would hold up his hand and halt them, while he went forward a little, crouching, testing the ground with fingers or toes. or merely listening with one ear pressed to the earth.

It was dreary and wearisome. Cold clammy winter still held sway in this forsaken country. The only green was the scum of livid weed on the dark greasy surfaces of the sullen waters. Dead grasses and rotting reeds loomed up in the mists like ragged shadows of long-forgotten summers.

As the day wore on the light increased a little, and the mists lifted, growing thinner and more transparent. Far above the rot and vapours of the world the Sun was riding high and golden now in a serene country with floors of dazzling foam, but only a passing ghost of her could they see below, bleared, pale, giving no colour and no warmth. But even at this faint reminder of her presence Gollum scowled and flinched. He halted their journey, and they rested, squatting like little hunted animals, in the borders of a great brown reed-thicket. There was a deep silence, only scraped on its surfaces by the faint quiver of empty seed-plumes, and broken grass-blades trembling in small air-movements that they could not feel.

“Not a bird! ‘ said Sam mournfully.

“No, no birds,” said Gollum. “Nice birds! ‘ He licked his teeth. “No birds here. There are snakeses, wormses, things in the pools. Lots of things, lots of nasty things. No birds,” he ended sadly. Sam looked at him with distaste.

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