38th Day back: Today Lily and I took a slow ride to the Shirebourn. There are indeed many willows standing there, looking rather sad now, stripped of all their leaves. They lean over the water as if studying their reflections. When we went down to the water's edge, we found many little stones bright as stars, all along as far as we walked. She was much enchanted by them. I have never seen such stones before in the Shire, I would greatly like to know how they came here. [Frodo sets his pen down, remembering.]
"What a pretty necklace these would make," Lily says as she tumbles the stones from hand to hand. "I wonder if I could somehow fasten them onto dresses, or cloaks...."
"I admire your imagination! The Elves sometimes do that with their gems, but I never could see how they were fastened."
"Elves! It's a pity I can't ask one how they do it. These tiny ones remind me of the beautiful one you wear."
Frodo pulls out the star-stone on its silver chain from beneath his cloak. "Yes, there is a bit of resemblance. This was given to me by Arwen, daughter of Elrond, Lord of Rivendell. She married King Elessar."
"Oohh... my! A gift from the Queen! Frodo, what are Elves like?"
He laughs a little. "Elves can't really be explained in words! They are special, they are more serene than the moon, they are wise... they seem to be almost like mist, not quite here." He looks at Lily. "Sometimes, something about your eyes reminds me of Arwen."
She blushes. "Oh, Frodo! I can't look anything like an Elf!"
"Well your eyes do, once in a while. And with your dark hair. I think the Elves would like you. I bow to you, Princess! Princess Liliel!"
Frodo bows low and Lily laughs. "This princess has work waiting for her back home, I suppose Elf Princesses do not make their own clothes!"
[Frodo drains his cup of tea. He can still see Lily's deep, intense eyes.] So we brought back a pocketful of these stones for her to work on. I think I will take some back for Rose Cotton, she might like them. Rose is not the sort to wear much finery but if they could be made into a necklace, I think she would look splendid.
Lily brought our lunch along in a basket and we ate on the bank of the river. The gentle splashing was a sweet sound. I would like to go back there before I leave. It seems so pleasant here, I am not sure if I miss Bag End or not. The village is about the same size as Hobbiton. There is nothing in Hobbiton I couldn't get here. Sam of course would be beside himself if I moved here. If I asked him to come with me, he would have to choose between me and Rosie. I doubt if she would agree to move so far from her family, and anyway it would hardly be fair of me to expect her to.
But what if I stayed here for a few months? Maybe go back in spring? I could give Bag End to Sam, there is no one I would rather give it to.
Sometimes, I wish I didn't have to think about anyone else. Sometimes I would like to spend all day without seeing anyone. That is rude of me isn't it! My dear friends have done so much for me and here I sit thinking such rude things. Gandalf would have plenty to say to me about that! Well now that I think of him, I would like to see him. He has not visited us since we've come back to the Shire again. I wonder what he's up to! I suppose I shall never know. If I see him, I might ask if he would like to go riding with me. He might know where these little stones have come from.
40th Day: Yesterday and today were too chilly for lunch at the river so we simply stayed in, and sat by the fire afterwards. Iris asked about Elves so I tried to talk about them but it's difficult. It's a little easier to describe Lothlórien and Rivendell, somewhat. Both ladies were quite attentive. It's pleasant to talk about the beautiful things but often my mind strays. The Elves and Lórien will be gone one day and even the memory of them. To write about them, to talk about them, no one will remember anyway. As the leaves fall in the dying part of the year and are forgotten, so will all these things pass.
42nd Day: Wasn't I thinking about Gandalf just the other day, and he showed up today. Sam sent him on from Bag End. Gandalf was worried about me, and even said so, which I actually felt comforted by. He wanted to meet Lily, and Iris and Torold, and they were quite impressed by Gandalf the White. He set aside his own cares while we were visiting and was the jovial wizard I knew in Hobbiton. He told stories about Dwarfs as well as Elves well into the evening. I enjoyed it even though I've heard them at least dozen times. It felt so much like home, sitting by the fire listening to Gandalf. Even as I write the word I can't quite say what I mean by ‘home'. Is it Bag End, is it simply the Shire, is it something else? Gandalf must know something of my thoughts, I saw him many times looking at me the way he does. He never asks me what I'm thinking when he looks that way, but I can feel it.
Before I even brought it up, he asked me if I was going to stay here. I said I didn't know, and I don't. I asked how Sam was getting along and he told me Sam's gaffer was something like Bilbo is now, he needs a certain looking after. Of course there is still much work at Bag End and that's keeping Sam busy too. But he didn't say how Sam is really doing. I don't know if that is his way of telling me I should go back, or if he just doesn't want me to forget about Sam. I asked what he thought about me living here and he looked at me hard and said, That is up to you.
I should have expected that! I explained that I knew Sam wouldn't be at all happy if I wanted him to stay at Bag End, but if I asked to come here he would have to choose between me and Rosie, because I couldn't expect Rosie to want to move so far from her family. He was still no help. He only told me that I am not an ordinary Hobbit. Well that will do nothing for my problem, except perhaps make it worse! Even with most of my things still back at Farmer Cotton's, I don't feel especially in a hurry to leave here. I know Sam will be worried but I will send him a letter tomorrow. Merry and Pippin have their own families and I think they will be content there. Sam said he would wait for me to come back and I will take him at his word, I know he will not show up here asking me to come back.
I would still like to spend Yule here. Lily tells me the whole village gets involved in celebrating and it truly sounds delightful. Lily's parents have been visiting cousins in Buckland and will be back the day after tomorrow. They have decided to take the first part of the journey by boat down the Brandywine; she asked if I would like to come along when she meets them. I would indeed like to meet Hobbits not Bucklanders who would take a boat!
(45th day back:)
A pounding and much loud calling on the front door startles Lily and Frodo, who are cleaning up after lunch. Iris and Torold are in the village, taking care of farm business. Frodo follows Lily to the door at a distance, wondering who would be causing such a racket.
"Marcho!" she exclaims. "What in the world--"
"Oh Miss Lily!" Even from behind Lily Frodo could see the man wringing his hands and shifting from foot to foot.
"Well what is it? Why aren't you at the dock waiting for my Mother and Father?"
Marcho dissolves into tears. Lily takes his hand and draws him inside the house. He doesn't notice Frodo coming up. "Miss I don'no how to tell you... I can't say it..."
Lily sees Frodo's questioning look. "Marcho works for my parents," she says. "He was supposed to meet them when they left the boat and bring them back to Long Cleeve... Marcho, you must tell me!"
Marcho tries to steady himself, taking many long, deep breaths. "Miss, there was an accident with the boat... we don'no what happened yet... the river got wild and they couldn't hold the boat... we couldn't find nobody, Miss, we--"
"What!" she cries. "What do you mean! Where are they?"
"Miss we tried, we tried! The river– the river took them--"
"No Marcho no! They've been on the river before! No no..."
Marcho grasps both of Lily's hands and looks into her eyes. "Miss we tried. The river even took the boat. Nobody's seen the water like that ever before. Miss Lily, it bursts my heart but there's no more to be done."
For several seconds Lily meets his gaze, then hides her face in her hands and sobs. Marcho looks at Frodo. "Sir do you know where Mistress Iris and Master Torold are?"
Frodo hears himself answering. "They've gone up to the market for supplies."
"Sir, will you take care of Miss Lily? I've got to find Mistress Iris."
Without waiting for a reply Marcho runs out. Frodo blinks and can't stop his own tears. He touchs Lily's shoulder and she collapses against him, sobbing.
"I am so sorry," he whispers. "Lily I am so, so very sorry." If there was anything at all that would have prevented this from happening, Frodo would have done it. This lovely girl doesn't deserve this. The moment feels warped, as if one second is expanding forever and yet not moving at all. Her sobs echo through him. He clings to her. "If I could take this away from you, I would! If I could do anything at all that would make a difference, I would!"
"Why did this happen!" Her voice is muffled and shaky. "They've been on the river before... why!"
"I wish I knew. I wish I knew something! No one deserves this pain, Lily. At least you have Iris and Torold. You won't be alone."
"What am I going to do, I miss them! What am I going to do!"
"I don't know. But you won't be alone. You will never be alone."
Iris and Torold, bursting in some time later, find them still standing there. The sisters cling to each other and shed new tears. Torold tries to comfort them. Frodo backs away. He wishes they hadn't come home yet. Lily understands now. It is a horrible way to come to it, but she understands now.
[Frodo writes in his journal that evening]
I've been scarcely aware of things. Lily, poor girl, is even worse off, of course. I seem to keep thinking of holding her as she wept. She utterly gave herself up to it. What grief was in her heart consumed her. She will always carry that with her. If I could have done something to stop it, I would have!
And yet, when Death comes, it does not ask permission. Some flowers come back in Spring, some do not. Only the Elves may see eternal Spring, should they not be cut down. None of us will stay here. Why should we expect Death to come only when we are ready? The seasons change as they will, waiting for nothing. For all of us will come one final sunset. Why some see it suddenly and others see it when they are old and longing for it is not the essence of life. We are here, we die... we accomplish deeds for our children to live easier. When we have done that, the time to leave is at hand. Lily will live missing her parents but she will live, here in the Shire where the Sun shines again.
[Frodo writes a letter to Sam]
I hope everything up at Bag End is going well for you and your gaffer. I'm well here, the innkeeper continues to provide good food and a clean room. Of course it's nothing like when you look after me! I miss that.
The thing is, Sam, we've had some bad news. Lily and her sister Iris have lost their parents. This puts them in a bad way, as you might guess, and Lily could use some comfort. I hope you don't mind– much anyway, I know you want me home!
[Frodo pauses, wondering how much more it would be right to tell, and how much more he can bring himself to write. He decides that if he explained how Lily's parents were lost, Sam would fret over him and march right down to Oakleaf. And certainly that wasn't called for.]
It was an accident and so close to Yule, it's having quite a bad effect. I really think if I stayed till Yule it would help them both. Lily finds she is feeling very lost. I've settled that sort of problem for myself and I would like to help here. Sam, you've taught me much about friendship. If I left now I would be no friend at all but something worse. I have you to go back to– Lily has no one like that. I do hope you understand. Please tell Pippin and Merry, if they ask about me. I do think about all of you often.
Before I forget, thank you for sending Gandalf over. He spent much time, the one day he was here, telling stories to all of us. He seemed to be in a cheerful mood, more like he used to be. I suppose it has been a long time since he was able to enchant innocent Hobbits with his tales! It was good to talk with him.
When I come back, I shall go straight to Bag End. If it isn't ready I'll go on to Farmer Cotton's gladly enough. And Sam...
[Frodo pauses again, not quite sure how to put into words what he wants to say. He holds up the white gem that Arwen gave him, watching how the candlelight is caught within and explodes into thousands of stars. The light that comes from it is soft and soothing. He thinks about Elves and Rivendell, Lórien and the time spent there after Gandalf's loss in Moria. Peace was found there, in some measure.]
Sam, I'm very grateful for you going on home without me. I know I hurt you by asking it, and I know it hurt you to do it. I never meant to hurt you. Some time here is good for me, I can't exactly explain why or how. I think of you and Merry and Pippin every day though. I hope you can forgive me, dear Sam!
Much love, Frodo
46th Day: Yule is in five days. Lily and Iris left for Long Cleeve this afternoon. I will miss having lunch with her. Torold did not go, there is too much to see to here, and it is plain in his face he loathes letting his wife go without him. She asked him to come anyway then changed her mind. I asked if there was anything I could do here for them, so Torold could go, but they were adamant that would be expecting too much of me. Actually I suppose there is little I could do, except answer the door. I still wish I could change this somehow or at least make it hurt less. It's hard for most knowing that Death comes as it will. Lily clasped my hand while the ponies were being readied. Just before they left she said Thank you for being here and looked at me. Her eyes showed that odd otherworldly cast. It is something I saw in Arwen's eyes but not Galadriel's. I'm not sure what it is. I'm not sure I want to know.
I wrote to Sam yesterday, I hope he understands why I don't feel I can leave here yet. I've always been glad of his friendship, but he has given more of himself for me than I ever expected. I am enriched beyond measure for seeing the power of his devotion. I couldn't leave here now, when Lily needs comfort much as I did. It's the way Sam befriended me years ago, and the way he committed himself to me all over again, that tells me I should stay.
It's sad to think how Lily and Iris' lives will be different now. Theirs is a loss nothing can much ease. Maybe I can help them see that this is simply the way life is. We aren't able to choose the time, for ourselves or anyone. Death does not care if we weep. They have both lived a happy life and are not aware of it's true nature. Somehow we must all accept it. The world is changing and I suppose Death will show itself more often. So much of what I see all around me will be gone and forgotten.
[Frodo leans back, pressing his hands against his eyes. He feels old. He feels tired and has not even the slightest inclination to get up from his chair. He feels as thin as mist, spread out wide and yet tenuous, not far from disappearing altogether. Dropping his hands, his gaze lands on the remains of his supper nearby. He seizes the knife and slashes the edge across his arm. A shallow cut, but it allows the blood to form droplets. He begins to feel a sting from the cut. Out loud, he says, "So I am still alive."]