3:6 The first time Shmuel went to Eli, in 3:5, Eli said, “I did not call you; go back and lie down.” This time, Eli adds a word: “I did not call you, my son; go back and lie down.”
So nice. He doesn't want to hurt Shmuel's feelings. It's embarrassing to think that you're bothering someone unnecessarily, and Eli doesn't want Shmuel to feel embarrassed. – says someone.
The Malbim says that Eli already suspects what is going on, and so is extra careful to preserve Shmuel's feelings because – as we all know, you can't receive prophecy when you're depressed. If Shmuel gets into that place in your mind where you go when you're embarrassed that you've bothered someone unnecessarily, he's not going to be in the frame of mind that is conducive to clear prophecy.
3:9 Eli tells Shmuel that if he gets called again, he should answer, 'Speak, Hashem, for Your servant is listening.'
3:10 But when it comes to that, Shmuel drops the direct address: 'Speak, for Your servant is listening.'
My husband said he thinks he read somewhere that this was a better answer but just reading it I wonder whether Shmuel does not sound a little abashed to be addressing Hashem directly.
3:15 “And Shmuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli.”
3:16 “And Eli called to Shmuel and said, 'Shmuel, my son.' And Shmuel said, 'Here I am.'”
I think I read somewhere that Shmuel's morning routine was to open the doors and then go to Eli. This morning, he was afraid to go to Eli.
Eli, meanwhile, wants to know what happened.
“Shmuel, my son,” he says – not articulating the question.
“I'm here,” says Shmuel – which sounded to me the first time I read this like he is sidestepping the question he knows Eli wants to ask; but now I think not. Anyway.
So then 3:17, Eli asks outright, and adds some strong urging which suggests (to me) that he knows just how badly Shmuel wants to avoid telling him.
3:18 Eli's response is staggering.
One of the commentaries points out that he uses the name of Hashem which connotes the middas harachamim, that Hashem is acting mercifully.
3:21 More people start to receive nevua.
I'm not sure this is related; but this reminds me of the story about the Beit Yosef (right?) and how he labored and labored to answer a particular question in Torah learning; and the next day he heard a little boy chirp out nonchalantly that idea that had just taken the Beit Yosef all night to unearth.
Q. What is happening here, that a little kid can answer that question so easily?
A. The Beit Yosef pulled the idea into the world; now it is public property.