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Section XXXVII-Cornfields

With the rising of the sun, we're up and off again. As the day warms, it grows increasingly difficult to not stop and rest for perhaps longer than necessary as we enjoy all-too-brief meals. I still feel of Gandalf's urgency, though more dimly, as the day wears on. I am beginning to find myself push on for other reasons. We're approaching the country of my childhood wanderings. I allow a few memories to drift back as we walk. I wonder where Merry and Pippin are and hope they forgive me for leaving them behind on this adventure. I would never be able to explain to them the peril they would be in, and don't imagine they would listen even if I told them. It really is for the best.

Midafternoon finds us walking through a cornfield. With it close to harvest time and no rain recently, the dirt and bugs and corn silk dust us both. I suggested we walk a few rows apart to lessen the disturbance. What a time of it! -- trying to convince Sam that I wouldn't give him the slip. Gandalf had determined that Sam would go with me to Bree, and so he would. Finally, he relented. As it turns out, it seems part of the field takes off at an angle, and we somehow got farther apart than intended. Upon emerging on the main path again, I could not see Sam at all. This did not overly concern me, knowing well enough that he would catch me up sooner or later. Then I heard him calling me.

His worry that he may have lost me surprised and touched my heart. He went on to explain that Gandalf extracted a promise. A promise? I remembered Gandalf helping Sam pack. I accepted what Gandalf requested of me; it never occurred to me that Gandalf might require something from Sam. I shook off the shadow that crossed my mind. My curiosity pursued this new revelation. Sam assured me he willingly promised, not to lose me. The look of concern on Sam's face makes me smile as I think of where we are standing.

"Sam, we're still in the Shire. What could possibly happen?"

I stare in utter amazement as Sam crashes to the ground when a blurred body hurtles into him. I hadn't a moment to think when someone plowed headlong into me causing me to end up sprawled on the ground as well. Before I could pull my thoughts together, Pippin and Merry were delightedly exclaiming over finding me in their part of the Shire. Sam scolded Pippin while yanking him off of me unceremoniously and hauling me to my feet. My surprise at Sam's strength was swiftly replaced by an uneasy feeling as his voice filled with horror recognizing ill-gotten carrots and cabbages.

Merry and Pippin brush it off lightly, until they hear Farmer Maggot. Terror froze me to my spot. Pippin hightailed it into the field and with a quick shove Merry headed me in the same direction, leaving poor Sam to fend for himself. Bright hobbit, he wasted no time following us. Of course, had Merry not spun me into the field, giving me a push, I'd be on that path still, as though roots had grown from my feet into the ground.

Running through the cornfield, Pippin and Merry rattle off an explanation for their presence, but I hardly note it. If asked, in fact, I could not recall a word of what they shouted. What my ears train on are Farmer Maggot's dogs. I have not forgotten his promise to those frightening creatures that they could eat me if ever I showed up on his property again, and here I am. But I had done nothing this time! They probably wouldn't wait to learn if I had or not. They sound as though they haven't eaten in far too long. They'll make short work of me. How did this get out of hand? How will I explain to Gandalf? Sorry, Gandalf, didn't make it to Bree. Farmer Maggot's dogs had me for afternoon tea! Why are we stopping?! Whoa!!!!