‘Coming, Mr. Frodo! Coming!’ called Sam, and flung himself from the bank, clutching at the departing boat. He missed it by a yard. With a cry and a splash he fell face downward into deep swift water. Gurgling he went under, and the River closed over his curly head.
An exclamation of dismay came from the empty boat. A paddle swirled and the boat put about. Frodo was just in time to grasp Sam by the hair as he came up, bubbling and struggling. Fear was staring in his round brown eyes.
‘Up you come, Sam my lad!’ said Frodo. ‘Now take my hand!’
‘Save me, Mr. Frodo!’ gasped Sam. ‘I’m drownded. I can’t see your hand.’
‘Here it is. Don’t pinch, lad! I won’t let you go. Tread water and don’t flounder, or you’ll upset the boat. There now, get hold of the side, and let me use the paddle!’
With a few strokes Frodo brought the boat back to the bank, and Sam was able to scramble out, wet as a water-rat. Frodo took off the Ring and stepped ashore again.
‘Of all the confounded nuisances you are the worst, Sam!’ he said.
‘Oh, Mr. Frodo, that’s hard!’ said Sam shivering. ‘That’s hard, trying to go without me and all. If I hadn’t a guessed right, where would you be now?’
‘Safely on my way.’
‘Safely!’ said Sam. ‘All alone and without me to help you? I couldn’t have a borne it, it’d have been the death of me.’
‘It would be the death of you to come with me, Sam,’ said Frodo, ‘and I could not have borne that.’
‘Not as certain as being left behind,’ said Sam.
‘But I am going to Mordor.’
‘I know that well enough, Mr. Frodo. Of course you are. And I’m coming with you.’
‘Now, Sam,’ said Frodo, ‘don’t hinder me! The others will be coming back at any minute. If they catch me here, I shall have to argue and explain, and I shall never have the heart or the chance to get off. But I must go at once. It’s the only way.’
‘Of course it is,’ answered Sam. ‘But not alone. I’m coming too, or neither of us isn’t going. I’ll knock holes in all the boats first.’
Frodo actually laughed. A sudden warmth and gladness touched his heart. ‘Leave one!’ he said. ‘We’ll need it. But you can’t come like this without your gear or food or anything.’
‘Just hold on a moment, and I’ll get my stuff!’ cried Sam eagerly. ‘It’s all ready. I thought we should be off today.’ He rushed to the camping place, fished out his pack from the pile where Frodo had laid it when he emptied the boat of his companions’ goods, grabbed a spare blanket, and some extra packages of food, and ran back.
‘So all my plan is spoilt!’ said Frodo. ‘It is no good trying to escape you. But I’m glad, Sam. I cannot tell you how glad. Come along! It is plain that we were meant to go together. We will go, and may the others find a safe road! Strider will look after them. I don’t suppose we shall see them again.’
‘Yet we may, Mr. Frodo. We may,’ said Sam.
So Frodo and Sam set off on the last stage of the Quest together. Frodo paddled away from the shore, and the River bore them swiftly away, down the western arm, and past the frowning cliffs of Tol Brandir. The roar of the great falls drew nearer. Even with such help as Sam could give, it was hard work to pass across the current at the southward end of the island and drive the boat eastward towards the far shore.
At length they came to land again upon the southern slopes of Amon Lhaw. There they found a shelving shore, and they drew the boat out, high above the water, and hid it as well as they could behind a great boulder. Then shouldering their burdens, they set off, seeking a path that would bring them over the grey hills of the Emyn Muil, and down into the Land of Shadow.