They did not have to wait long.
The orcs were going at a great pace.
Those in the foremost files bore torches.
On they came,
red flames in the dark,
Now Sam too bowed his head,
hoping that it would hide his face
when the torches reached them;
and he set their shields
before their knees
to hide their feet.
‘If only they are in a hurry and will let a couple of tired soldiers alone and pass on!’ he thought.
And so it seemed that they would. The leading orcs came loping along, panting, holding their heads down.
They were a gang of the smaller breeds being driven unwilling to their Dark Lord’s wars;
all they cared for was to get the march over and escape the whip.
Beside them, running up and down the line, went two of the large fierce uruks, cracking lashes and shouting.
File after file passed, and the tell-tale torchlight was already some way ahead. Sam held his breath.
Now more than half the line had gone by.
Then suddenly one of the slave-drivers spied the two figures by the road-side.
He flicked a whip at them and yelled: ‘Hi, you! Get up!’
They did not answer, and with a shout he halted the whole company.
‘Come on, you slugs!’ he cried. ‘This is no time for slouching.’
He took a step towards them, and even in the gloom he recognized the devices on their shields.
‘Deserting, eh?’ he snarled. ‘Or thinking of it?
All your folk should have been inside Udûn before yesterday evening.
You know that. Up you get and fall in, or I’ll have your numbers and report you.’
They struggled to their feet, and keeping bent,
limping like footsore soldiers, they shuffled back towards the rear of the line.
‘No, not at the rear!’ the slave-driver shouted.
‘Three files up. And stay there, or you’ll know it, when I come down the line!’
He sent his long whip-lash cracking over their heads;
then with another crack and a yell he started the company off again at a brisk trot.
It was hard enough for poor Sam, tired as he was; but for Frodo it was a torment, and soon a nightmare.
He set his teeth and tried to stop his mind from thinking, and he struggled on.
The stench of the sweating orcs about him was stifling, and he began to gasp with thirst.
On, on they went, and he bent all his will to draw his breath and to make his legs keep going;
and yet to what evil end he toiled and endured he did not dare to think.
There was no hope of falling out unseen. Now and again the orc-driver fell back and jeered at them.
‘There now!’ he laughed, flicking at their legs.
‘Where there’s a whip there’s a will, my slugs.
Hold up! I’d give you a nice freshener now,
only you’ll get as much lash as your skins will carry
when you come in late to your camp.
Do you good. Don’t you know we’re at war?’