کتاب چهارم - فصل 08-02

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کتاب چهارم - فصل 08-02

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At length they were once more aware of a wall looming up, and once more a stairway opened before them. Again they halted, and again they began to climb. It was a long and weary ascent; but this stairway did not delve into the mountain-side. Here the huge cliff face sloped backwards, and the path like a snake wound to and fro across it. At one point it crawled sideways right to the edge of the dark chasm, and Frodo glancing down saw below him as a vast deep pit the great ravine at the head of the Morgul Valley. Down in its depths glimmered like a glow-worm thread the wraith-road from the dead city to the Nameless Pass. He turned hastily away.

Still on and up the stairway bent and crawled, until at last with a final flight, short and straight, it climbed out again on to another level. The path had veered away from the main pass in the great ravine, and it now followed its own perilous course at the bottom of a lesser cleft among the higher regions of the Ephel Dúath. Dimly the hobbits could discern tall piers and jagged pinnacles of stone on either side, between which were great crevices and fissures blacker than the night, where forgotten winters had gnawed and carved the sunless stone. And now the red light in the sky seemed stronger; though they could not tell whether a dreadful morning were indeed coming to this place of shadow, or whether they saw only the flame of some great violence of Sauron in the torment of Gorgoroth beyond. Still far ahead, and still high above, Frodo, looking up, saw, as he guessed, the very crown of this bitter road. Against the sullen redness of the eastern sky a cleft was outlined in the topmost ridge, narrow, deep-cloven between two black shoulders; and on either shoulder was a horn of stone.

He paused and looked more attentively. The horn upon the left was tall and slender; and in it burned a red light, or else the red light in the land beyond was shining through a hole. He saw now: it was a black tower poised above the outer pass. He touched Sam’s arm and pointed.

“I don’t like the look of that! ‘ said Sam. “So this secret way of yours is guarded after all,” he growled, turning to Gollum. “As you knew all along, I suppose? ‘

“All ways are watched, yes,” said Gollum. “Of course they are. But hobbits must try some way. This may be least watched. Perhaps they’ve all gone away to big battle, perhaps! ‘

“Perhaps,” grunted Sam. “Well, it still seems a long way off, and a long way up before we get there. And there’s still the tunnel. I think you ought to rest now, Mr. Frodo. I don’t know what time of day or night it is, but we’ve kept going for hours and hours.”

“Yes, we must rest,” said Frodo. “Let us find some corner out of the wind, and gather our strength-for the last lap.” For so he felt it to be. The terrors of the land beyond, and the deed to be done there, seemed remote, too far off yet to trouble him. All his mind was bent on getting through or over this impenetrable wall and guard. If once he could do that impossible thing, then somehow the errand would be accomplished, or so it seemed to him in that dark hour of weariness, still labouring in the stony shadows under Cirith Ungol.

In a dark crevice between two great piers of rock they sat down: Frodo and Sam a little way within. and Gollum crouched upon the ground near the opening. There the hobbits took what they expected would be their last meal before they went down into the Nameless Land, maybe the last meal they would ever eat together. Some of the food of Gondor they ate, and wafers of the waybread of the Elves. and they drank a little. But of their water they were sparing and took only enough to moisten their dry mouths.

“I wonder when we’ll find water again? ‘ said Sam. “But I suppose even over there they drink? Orcs drink, don’t they? ‘

“Yes, they drink,” said Frodo. “But do not let us speak of that. Such drink is not for us.”

“Then all the more need to fill our bottles,” said Sam. “But there isn’t any water up here: not a sound or a trickle have I heard. And anyway Faramir said we were not to drink any water in Morgul.”

“No water flowing out of Imlad Morgul, were his words,” said Frodo. “We are not in that valley now, and if we came on a spring it would be flowing into it and not out of it.”

“I wouldn’t trust it,” said Sam,”not till I was dying of thirst. There’s a wicked feeling about this place.” He sniffed. “And a smell, I fancy. Do you notice it? A queer kind of a smell, stuffy. I don’t like it.”

“I don’t like anything here at all.” said Frodo, “step or stone, breath or bone. Earth, air and water all seem accursed. But so our path is laid.”

“Yes, that’s so,” said Sam. “And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually - their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on - and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same - like old Mr Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into? ‘ “I wonder,” said Frodo. “But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.”

“No, sir, of course not. Beren now, he never thought he was going to get that Silmaril from the Iron Crown in Thangorodrim, and yet he did, and that was a worse place and a blacker danger than ours. But that’s a long tale, of course, and goes on past the happiness and into grief and beyond it - and the Silmaril went on and came to Eärendil. And why, sir, I never thought of that before! We’ve got - you’ve got some of the light of it in that star-glass that the Lady gave you! Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on. Don’t the great tales never end? ‘ “No, they never end as tales,” said Frodo. “But the people in them come, and go when their part’s ended. Our part will end later - or sooner.”

“And then we can have some rest and some sleep,” said Sam. He laughed grimly. “And I mean just that, Mr. Frodo. I mean plain ordinary rest, and sleep, and waking up to a morning’s work in the garden. I’m afraid that’s all I’m hoping for all the time. All the big important plans are not for my sort. Still, I wonder if we shall ever be put into songs or tales. We’re in one, or course; but I mean: put into words, you know, told by the fireside, or read out of a great big book with red and black letters, years and years afterwards. And people will say: “Let’s hear about Frodo and the Ring! “ And they’ll say: “Yes, that’s one of my favourite stories. Frodo was very brave. wasn’t he, dad?” “Yes, my boy, the famousest of the hobbits, and that’s saying a lot.”’

“It’s saying a lot too much,” said Frodo, and he laughed, a long clear laugh from his heart. Such a sound had not been heard in those places since Sauron came to Middle-earth. To Sam suddenly it seemed as if all the stones were listening and the tall rocks leaning over them. But Frodo did not heed them; he laughed again. “Why, Sam,” he said,”to hear you somehow makes me as merry as if the story was already written. But you’ve left out one of the chief characters: Samwise the stouthearted. “I want to hear more about Sam, dad. Why didn’t they put in more of his talk, dad? That’s what I like, it makes me laugh. And Frodo wouldn’t have got far without Sam, would he, dad? “ ‘ “Now, Mr. Frodo,” said Sam,”you shouldn’t make fun. I was serious. ‘

“So was I,” said Frodo, ‘and so I am. We’re going on a bit too fast. You and I, Sam, are still stuck in the worst places of the story, and it is all too likely that some will say at this point: “Shut the book now, dad; we don’t want to read any more.” ‘

“Maybe,” said Sam,”but I wouldn’t be one to say that. Things done and over and made into part of the great tales are different. Why, even Gollum might be good in a tale, better than he is to have by you, anyway. And he used to like tales himself once, by his own account. I wonder if he thinks he’s the hero or the villain?

“Gollum!” he called. “Would you like to be the hero - now where’s he got to again?”

There was no sign of him at the mouth of their shelter nor in the shadows near. He had refused their food, though he had, as usual, accepted a mouthful of water; and then he had seemed to curl up for a sleep: They had supposed that one at any rate of his objects in his long absence the day before had been to hunt for food to his own liking; and now he had evidently slipped off again while they talked. But what for this time?

“I don’t like his sneaking off without saying,” said Sam. “And least of all now. He can’t be looking for food up here, not unless there’s some kind of rock he fancies. Why, there isn’t even a bit of moss! ‘

“It’s no good worrying about him now,” said Frodo. “We couldn’t have got so far, not even within sight of the pass, without him, and so we’ll have to put up with his ways. If he’s false, he’s false.”

“All the same, I’d rather have him under my eye,” said Sam. “All the more so, if he’s false. Do you remember he never would say if this pass was guarded or no? And now we see a tower there - and it may be deserted, and it may not. Do you think he’s gone to fetch them, Orcs or whatever they are?”

“No, I don’t think so,” answered Frodo. “Even if he’s up to some wickedness, and I suppose that’s not unlikely, I don’t think it’s that: not to fetch Orcs, or any servants of the Enemy. Why wait till now, and go through all the labour of the climb, and come so near the land he fears? He could probably have betrayed us to Orcs many times since we met him. No, if it’s anything, it will be some little private trick of his own-that he thinks is quite secret.”

“Well, I suppose you’re right, Mr. Frodo,” said Sam. “Not that it comforts me mightily. I don’t make no mistake: I don’t doubt he’d hand me over to Orcs as gladly as kiss his hand. But I was forgetting - his Precious. No, I suppose the whole time it’s been The Precious for poor Sméagol. That’s the one idea in all his little schemes, if he has any. But how bringing us up here will help him in that is more than I can guess.”

“Very likely he can’t guess himself,” said Frodo. “And I don’t think he’s got just one plain scheme in his muddled head. I think he really is in part trying to save the Precious from the Enemy. as long as he can. For that would be the last disaster for himself too. if the Enemy got it. And in the other part, perhaps, he’s just biding his time and waiting on chance.”

“Yes, Slinker and Stinker, as I’ve said before,” said Sam. “But the nearer they get to the Enemy’s land the more like Stinker Slinker will get. Mark my words: if ever we get to the pass, he won’t let us really take the precious thing over the border without making some kind of trouble.”

“We haven’t got there yet,” said Frodo.

“No, but we’d better keep our eyes skinned till we do. If we’re caught napping, Stinker will come out on top pretty quick. Not but what it would be safe for you to have a wink now, master. Safe, if you lay close to me. I’d be dearly glad to see you have a sleep. I’d keep watch over you; and anyway, if you lay near, with my arm round you, no one could come pawing you without your Sam knowing it.”

“Sleep!” said Frodo and sighed, as if out of a desert he had seen a mirage of cool green. “Yes, even here I could sleep.”

“Sleep then, master! Lay your head in my lap.”

And so Gollum found them hours later, when he returned, crawling and creeping down the path out of the gloom ahead. Sam sat propped against the stone, his head dropping sideways and his breathing heavy. In his lap lay Frodo’s head, drowned deep in sleep; upon his white forehead lay one of Sam’s brown hands, and the other lay softly upon his master’s breast. Peace was in both their faces.

Gollum looked at them. A strange expression passed over his lean hungry face. The gleam faded from his eyes, and they went dim and grey, old and tired. A spasm of pain seemed to twist him, and he turned away, peering back up towards the pass, shaking his head, as if engaged in some interior debate. Then he came back, and slowly putting out a trembling hand, very cautiously he touched Frodo’s knee - but almost the touch was a caress. For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, an old starved pitiable thing.

But at that touch Frodo stirred and cried out softly in his sleep, and immediately Sam was wide awake. The first thing he saw was Gollum - “pawing at master,” as he thought.

“Hey you!” he said roughly. “What are you up to?”

“Nothing, nothing,” said Gollum softly. “Nice Master!”

“I daresay,” said Sam. “But where have you been to - sneaking off and sneaking back, you old villain? ‘

Gollum withdrew himself, and a green glint flickered under his heavy lids. Almost spider-like he looked now, crouched back on his bent limbs, with his protruding eyes. The fleeting moment had passed, beyond recall. “Sneaking, sneaking!” he hissed. “Hobbits always so polite, yes. O nice hobbits! Sméagol brings them up secret ways that nobody else could find. Tired he is, thirsty he is, yes thirsty; and he guides them and he searches for paths, and they say sneak, sneak. Very nice friends, O yes my precious, very nice.”

Sam felt a bit remorseful, though not more trustful. “Sorry.” he said. “I’m sorry, but you startled me out of my sleep. And I shouldn’t have been sleeping, and that made me a bit sharp. But Mr. Frodo. he’s that tired, I asked him to have a wink; and well, that’s how it is. Sorry. But where have you been to? ‘ “Sneaking,” said Gollum, and the green glint did not leave his eyes.

“O very well,” said Sam, “have it your own way! I don’t suppose it’s so far from the truth. And now we’d better all be sneaking along together. What’s the time? Is it today or tomorrow? ‘

“It’s tomorrow,” said Gollum,”or this was tomorrow when hobbits went to sleep. Very foolish, very dangerous-if poor Sméagol wasn’t sneaking about to watch.”

“I think we shall get tired of that word soon,” said Sam. “But never mind. I’ll wake master up.” Gently he smoothed the hair back from Frodo’s brow, and bending down spoke softly to him.

“Wake up, Mr. Frodo! Wake up! ‘

Frodo stirred and opened his eyes, and smiled, seeing Sam’s face bending over him. “Calling me early aren’t you, Sam?” he said. “It’s dark still! ‘

“Yes it’s always dark here,” said Sam. “But Gollum’s come back Mr. Frodo, and he says it’s tomorrow. So we must be walking on. The last lap.”

Frodo drew a deep breath and sat up. “The last lap! ‘ he said. “Hullo, Sméagol! Found any food? Have you had any rest? ‘

“No food, no rest, nothing for Sméagol,” said Gollum. “He’s a sneak.”

Sam clicked his tongue, but restrained himself.

“Don’t take names to yourself, Sméagol,” said Frodo. “It’s unwise whether they are true or false.”

“Sméagol has to take what’s given him,” answered Gollum. “He was given that name by kind Master Samwise, the hobbit that knows so much.”

Frodo looked at Sam. “Yes sir,” he said. “I did use the word, waking up out of my sleep sudden and all and finding him at hand. I said I was sorry, but I soon shan’t be.”

“Come, let it pass then,” said Frodo. “But now we seem to have come to the point, you and I, Sméagol. Tell me. Can we find the rest of the way by ourselves? We’re in sight of the pass, of a way in, and if we can find it now, then I suppose our agreement can be said to be over. You have done what you promised, and you’re free: free to go back to food and rest, wherever you wish to go, except to servants of the Enemy. And one day I may reward you, I or those that remember me.”

“No, no, not yet,” Gollum whined. “O no! They can’t find the way themselves, can they? O no indeed. There’s the tunnel coming. Sméagol must go on. No rest. No food. Not yet.”

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