Book IV, Chapter 2: The Passage of the Marshes
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For a while they stood there, like men on the edge of a sleep where nightmare lurks, holding it off, though they know that they can only come to morning through the shadows. The light broadened and hardened. The gasping pits and poisonous mounds grew hideously clear. The sun was up, walking among clouds and long flags of smoke, but even the sunlight was defiled. The hobbits had no welcome for that light; unfriendly it seemed, revealing them in their helplessness – little squeaking ghosts that wandered among the ash-heaps of the Dark Lord.
Too weary to go further they sought for some place where they could rest. For a while they sat without speaking under the shadow of a mound of slag; but foul fumes leaked out of it, catching their throats and choking them. Gollum was the first to get up. Spluttering and cursing he rose, and without a word or a glance at the hobbits he crawled away on all fours. Frodo and Sam crawled after him until they came to a wide almost circular pit, high-banked upon the west. It was cold and dead, and a foul sump of oily many-coloured ooze lay at its bottom. In this evil hole they cowered, hoping in its shadow to escape the attention of the Eye.
The day passed slowly. A great thirst troubled them, but they drank only a few drops from their bottles – last filled in the gully, which now as they looked back in thought seemed to them a place of peace and beauty. The hobbits took it in turn to watch. At first, tired as they were, neither of them could sleep at all; but as the sun far away was climbing down into slow moving cloud, Sam dozed. It was Frodo’s turn to be on guard. He lay back on the slope of the pit, but that did not ease the sense of burden that was on him. He looked up at the smoke-streaked sky and saw strange phantoms, dark riding shapes, and faces out of the past. He lost count of time, hovering between sleep and waking, until forgetfulness came over him.
Suddenly Sam woke up thinking that he heard his master calling. It was evening. Frodo could not have called, for he had fallen asleep, and had slid down nearly to the bottom of the pit. Gollum was by him. For a moment Sam thought that he was trying to rouse Frodo; then he saw that it was not so. Gollum was talking to himself. Sméagol was holding a debate with some other thought that used the same voice but made it squeak and hiss. A pale light and a green light alternated in his eyes as he spoke.
‘Sméagol promised,’ said the first thought.
‘Yes, yes, my precious,’ came the answer, ‘we promised: to save our Precious, not to let Him have it – never. But it’s going to Him, yes, nearer every step. What’s the hobbit going to do with it, we wonders, yes we wonders.’
‘I don’t know. I can’t help it. Master’s got it. Sméagol promised to help the master.’
‘Yes, yes, to help the master: the master of the Precious. But if we was master, then we could help ourselfs, yes, and still keep promises.’
‘But Sméagol said he would be very very good. Nice hobbit! He took cruel rope off Sméagol’s leg. He speaks nicely to me.’
‘Very very good, eh, my precious? Let’s be good, good as fish, sweet one, but to ourselfs. Not hurt the nice hobbit, of course, no, no.’
‘But the Precious holds the promise,’ the voice of Sméagol objected.
‘Then take it,’ said the other, ‘and let’s hold it ourselfs! Then we shall be master, gollum! Make the other hobbit, the nasty suspicious hobbit, make him crawl, yes, gollum!’
‘But not the nice hobbit?’
‘Oh no, not if it doesn’t please us. Still he’s a Baggins, my precious, yes, a Baggins. A Baggins stole it. He found it and he said nothing, nothing. We hates Bagginses.’
‘No, not this Baggins.’
‘Yes, every Baggins. All peoples that keep the Precious. We must have it!’
‘But He’ll see, He’ll know. He’ll take it from us!’
‘He sees. He knows. He heard us make silly promises – against His orders, yes. Must take it. The Wraiths are searching. Must take it.’
‘Not for Him!’
‘No, sweet one. See, my precious: if we has it, then we can escape, even from Him, eh? Perhaps we grows very strong, stronger than Wraiths. Lord Sméagol? Gollum the Great? The Gollum! Eat fish every day, three times a day, fresh from the sea. Most Precious Gollum! Must have it. We wants it, we wants it, we wants it!’
‘But there’s two of them. They’ll wake too quick and kill us,’ whined Sméagol in a last effort. ‘Not now. Not yet.’
‘We wants it! But’ – and here there was a long pause, as if a new thought had wakened. ‘Not yet, eh? Perhaps not. She might help. She might, yes.’
‘No, no! Not that way!’ wailed Sméagol.
‘Yes! We wants it! We wants it!’
Each time that the second thought spoke, Gollum’s long hand crept out slowly, pawing towards Frodo, and then was drawn back with a jerk as Sméagol spoke again. Finally both arms, with long fingers flexed and twitching, clawed towards his neck.