So, in the work that I'm doing with the Tolkien manuscripts here at Marquette I came across something I thought I'd share.
I'm now working my way through the various drafts of The Taming of Smeagol (what became the opening chapter of LotR Book IV) and was looking at a semi-legible passage transcribed by Christopher Tolkien (HME VIII.98 Note 5 point 2), who was able to read almost but not quite all of a note Tolkien wrote himself about Bombadil and the Ring. Thanks to the new high-resolution scans of all the manuscript pages, with the ability to zoom in and enlarge (and rotate) the text, today I was able to puzzle it out. Here's the text as printed by Christopher:
Tom could have got rid of the Ring all along [?without
further] ....... —if asked!
The missing word is bother(TS I.1):
Tom could have got rid of the Ring all along [without further]
bother —if asked!
I have to stress that I was only able to work this out due to Christopher's already having provided the two difficult words without and further, and the ability to greatly enlarge the original without distortion or losing focus. As they say, on the shoulder of giants.
So, another small piece of the puzzle for those who, like me, are happy with a new addition to our knowledge of Tolkien, however minor. Enjoy!