A Light in the Window
„Though I`ve been gone so long, the light`s been shining on,
guiding me home through the wind and the rain.”
(„Song of the Lamp”, Sally Oldfield)
„Last week the picnic at the Chubbs, yesterday the big party at the Proudfoot farm and today a dancing at the Fairchild’s. Really a great summer for feasts, I must say.”
Rosie stood in the doorframe and watched her daughter, half dressed in bodice and petticoat, brushing her hair. Most of the time she avoided telling Elanor how beautiful she was; it would have been thoughtless to praise her appearance too often while there were enough sisters that might be hurt this way (especially Rosie-Lass who bitterly envied her fairhaired sisters and wasn’t aware of her own loveliness at all). Here and now, though, the heart of Mother Rose was filled with warm pride at the sight of her first born child. As they had so many times before, the strangely elvish features of Elanor brought back another delicate shaped face to her; she sighed and suddenly remembered why she had come.
„What dress will you wear this evening, birdie?” she asked.
„The yellow one, with the violets on the skirt.” Rosie-Lass had stitched the tiny flowers as a present for Elanor two Yuletides ago; a fact that Elanor really appreciated for she knew how much her sister detested embroidery.
„I don’t know, Ellyelle…. It must be a little too short after three years, isn’t it?”
„Maybe.” Elanor opened her wardrobe chest and drew the dress out.
When she held it against her body, the hem barely covered her knees.
„See, love?” Rosie smiled broadly. „And the blue one with the daisies has a long tear.”
„That was Goodwill Whitefoot,” Elanor said quickly.„he stepped on it while dancing with me…”
"…and after two or three ales more than he could stand.” Rosie added dryly.
Elanor didn’t answer, but she couldn’t refrain from grinning. She wasn’t able to bear Goodwill a grudge, however. He was far too kind and handsome to be angry at him ( Besides, he had apologized half a dozen times since last weekend).
„I’ve got something for you.” Rosie said. „Come with me.”
Elanor followed her mother to the parents’ bedroom. The window was wide open; the sunshine streamed in and made the room bright and friendly. Eleanor caught the vague scent of the lavender twigs her mother used to keep the bedclothes fresh. A big colourful quilt was spread out over pillows and white linen covers. And spread on the quilt there lay a dress.
„Mummy!” Elanor gasped, and then she carefully touched the soft pink silk. „This is the most beautiful garment I’ve ever seen… it must have been made for a princess!” She sat down on the bed and let the hem slip through her fingers, admiring the ornament of dark red roses.
„Thank you very much.” Rosie bowed slightly. „In fact, it was made for me. It once was a present from Mr. Frodo. You were still a baby then.”
Elanor’s eyes widened with surprise.
„Frodo of the ring gave you this dress?” she whispered.
„And your father, too. They both wanted to please me.”
Rosie still smiled, but there was a look in her eyes Elanor didn’t really understand. It was something between a joyous remeberance and deep unappeasable sorrow. Suddenly she realized that there had been a time when Rosie Gamgee was someone else than she was today – a pretty young woman, dressed in Pink, laughing and singing. But though she was a mother now and the beloved center of the household, deeply familiar to her children and husband, she still kept some secrets. Elanor looked down at the dress and felt very small and insecure for a moment.
„Want to try it? I´d like to know if it fits, dear.”
The insecurity vanished; Elanor smiled and slipped into the marvel. The hem of the skirt touched her ankles, red roses entwined her shoulders and the soft, old silk rustled quietly with every movement she made. She was so happy and grateful for this precious gift that she had to stifle a shout of sheer joy.
„Wear it this evening, Elly, to impress Fastred even a little bit more – if that’s possible at all.”
„Thank you! Thank you so very much!” Elanor rushed out, her golden curls flying behind her.
Left alone in the quiet room, Rosie sat down on the bed, clasped her hands in the lap and closed her eyes. The sight of her beautiful daughter wearing that special dress had brought back many memories… too many, perhaps. She sank into the past with a irresistible stream of time.
She took a deep breath and shook her head. Then she stood up and went out, closing the door not only to the bedroom but to the memories as well.
The dancing at the Fairchild’s was a great success and Elanor barely had a chance to sit down for hours. She flew from arm to arm; near midnight Fastred brought to her bread with cheese and fresh chive and she dashed down three glasses of the currant lemonade Mother Fairchild was famous for. Now songs were sung, stories were told and Elanor changed to Mother Fairchilds strawberry wine that was even more famous (and better) than her lemonade. She still tried to be careful, though, and when she went home her head was still clear… nearly, at least.
Fastred and Goodwill had insisted on escorting her to the beginning of the former Bagshot Row. Neither of them was really drunk, only a little jaunty and tipsy. It took all her arts of persuasion, a lot of laughter and two kisses for each of her merry „knights” to send them back home again.
Finally she was alone. She leaned her head back and took a deep breath of the sweet smelling night air. A full moon washed the quiet landscape in clear silver, and the stars sparkled on the dark blue background like jewels on the gown of a queen. She wandered slowly up the hill along the green hedges, her feet soundless on the ground. The hobbit holes along the way were dark, their inhabitants already sleeping. Then she reached the gate of Bag End and – as always, when she was the last one of the family to come home - the light of a single lamp shone behind the window like a warm, golden welcome.
Elanor closed the gate behind her and walked to the familiar green door, passing the richly blooming flower beds of her father. When she touched the doorknob and opened the latch, she suddenly stopped and turned her head.
She looked down to the gate across the garden. The moon lightened the place as bright as daylight; she could see everything clear and plain.
Later she never knew if what happened next had to be blamed on the strawberry wine or too much dancing. She also never figured out if it was real or only a confusing dream. What ever it was, she never forgot it for the rest of her life.
Someone stood there, close to the gate, the head covered by a big hood. He didn’t move; one hand lay on the post of the gate, the other one was hidden under his grey cloak. Near his chin she saw a delicate gleam of green and silver… a brooch, seemingly, and with a sudden shock Elanor realized that she knew both, brooch and cloak. Her father had brought them back from that famous journey and they had been given to him by the elves.
She was scared by her own voice; it sounded uneasy and doubtful in her ears.
Nonetheless, the silent phantom seemed to have heard her; the visible hand lifted up and stripped back the hood. Elanor stood with bated breath. Dark, curly hair. A white, strangely beautiful face, old and young at the same time. Widened eyes, blue like a morning sky, staring up to her with longing, joy and sorrow. Elanor didn’t dare to move, but she felt her knees trembling. The last time she had seen him she had been a baby, but without the shadow of a doubt she knew who he was.
Suddenly, a single cloud moved in front of the moon. For a moment everything was dark. And when the cloud passed, the place near the gate was empty.
It took several minutes until Elanor was able to move again. She touched her face with numb fingers and wasn’t really surprised when she felt the tears. Finally she managed to open the door and closed it behind her carefully. Still walking on shaky legs, she reached her room, took off the precious dress, slipped into her old nightshirt and sank into her bed. It was the first night for weeks this summer that she was urgently in need for the warm covers.
She didn’t find much rest this night. Every time she closed her eyes she saw that face again and she remembered the way he had looked up to her.
Such longing and such a deep love.
Suddenly Elanor also remembered her mother’s face earlier this day when she had told her about the dress. The expression in her eyes was an exact reflection of the one she had seen this night in front of the gate in the eyes of that … ghost? And when her parents told her and her siblings stories about the famous Frodo of the ring, there was always a moment when they went silent at the same time. Then their eyes met and Elanor saw the same longing, the same love for the one who would never sit among them at the table again.
When Rose came to look after her daughter late next morning, she was still asleep, the face half hidden behind her tousled hair. Under Elanor’s hand lay the open book that Frodo had made for her almost twenty years ago. Carefully, Rosie pulled it away and let her eyes rest on the opened page for a long time. She saw the two blue prints… tiny baby fingers and a maimed hand. Very tender she touched them both, then she closed the book, put it on the desk and silently walked out of the room.