I kept something from you again. And I think it’s getting to the point where you know if I am keeping something from you. And Sam-doll is looking at me a bit reproachfully, or so it seems, and Frodo-doll looks guilty.
After we finished playing jack-stones that night, and Niniel started to hint that it was getting on for someone’s bed-time, Lyrien looked at me with a great and lovely earnestness—truly, elf-children are beautiful enough to pierce the heart, and I’m sure their parents are thankful to be living in a place where evil cannot intrude itself—and suddenly, out of nowhere, she asked me, “Iorhael--if you could go back to the Shire now, would you?”
Well! I was rendered speechless, and Niniel gave her a look of great dismay, but she couldn’t very well say, “You were not supposed to ask him that!” because obviously it had never occurred to her to tell her not to. Surely she had never sat down with her child saying, “Now you must not ask him this, or that, or that or that....” although she had, at one time or another, said, “It seems your question-box has turned over, little one!”
“Would you?” the sweet one persisted. And Niniel said, “That’s enough, Lyrien. Come to bed now.” And Lyrien said pleadingly, “Would you leave here if you could never come back?”
And I said, “No, I would not!” And the strange thing was…I meant it.
“I would go back on a long visit,” I said when I could get my bearings. “A very long visit. For a year, maybe more. But I would come back here.”
“But what if you couldn’t?” Lyrien actually looked close to tears.
“Lyrien, that’s enough,” her mum insisted. “Now come on and let’s get ready for bed. Iorhael will come and bid you good-night when you are ready.”
I looked around at the others. Bilbo had awakened—I shouldn’t wonder if he had been only pretending to sleep, and had been chuckling to himself over our conversation the whole time…not that it was necessary for him to eavesdrop. Galendur and Tilwen were nowhere in sight. I’ve a feeling Galendur had gotten bored early on with the weighty conversation and had slipped out with his bride for...ahem...a breath of fresh night air, and would probably be back sooner or later. Donnoviel was still there; she really gets into these discussions, and she and Seragon get on very well most of the time, although their views differ in some ways. It quite tickles me sometimes to see how he and his mother-in-law get into these profound debates on the Purpose of Being or Artistic Integrity, or some such. His own mother doesn’t like Donnoviel very much, says she’s “temperamental” and “opinionated” and much too fond of “worrying a subject to pieces like a dog with a ham-bone.” I must admit I wouldn’t like to have Donnoviel angry with me, and I certainly wouldn’t want to get into an argument with her. I’m sure she would lay me out flat, at least, if Tilwen weren’t there to take my part. Galendur says she's starting to take to him, but I've a feeling he's just the slightest bit afraid of her, which I find hilarious.
Seragon, looking apologetic, said I need not answer his daughter’s question if I didn’t want to. I smiled a little and said I did not mind at all.
But I still didn’t know how to answer. After about a quarter of an hour Niniel emerged saying that Lyrien was in bed and I could go say good-night, but she also said I didn’t have to answer her question and she had told her not to press me about it. I went into the bedroom where she was tucked in...and saw what I didn’t know before: that she, too, has a Frodo-doll—of her own making also, as I can tell by the work.
Her room is tidy and dainty, with a white lace curtain at the window, which is large and arched, and honeysuckles grow all over the lattice. Her white coverlet and pillow-sham are embroidered with blue morning-glories and butterflies and trimmed with a lace edging, the head and foot-boards carved with exquisite care into the shape of a large white butterfly. A rug worked in blue and yellow and pink lies beside the bed. What a world of love and delight has gone into the fashioning of this little bower!
I bent and kissed her lightly on the lips, brushing back a lock of her hair saying, “Good-night, sweet one and thank you for a lovely time tonight. And I would never leave here if there were no chance of ever seeing my Lyrien again.” And she smiled and threw her arms around my neck and squeezed me tightly.
“Your eyes are wet,” she said as she released me at long last.
“You hugged me so hard,” I said smiling through the tears, “that it made the water come out.”
“I’ll try not to squeeze so hard next time,” she said smiling also.
“Squeeze as hard as you like,” I said pinching her chin. “It doesn’t hurt for the water to come out. And that way, I won’t have to visit the privy so often.”
She giggled uproariously, and hugged me again, and I was immensely relieved and gladdened. But I thought about what she had asked me all the way home. Would I come back to the Shire if it were allowed me? For yes, I love this place, and I have not even seen it all yet. I’m told there is a house being prepared for me—a friend of Dûndeloth’s is donating a cottage to me and Bilbo, which he says will be ours for as long as we live here, and promises us that we will simply love the setting. He says it’s the most beautiful spot on the Island and will take us to see it soon if we like.
Yes, Sam, I love it here. I love it and love it. There is something about this place that works its way into your bones and will not let go. It’s as when I was so sick as a boy and had a glimpse of the Other Side, with my parents looking right at me, and I so did not want to go back...yes, it’s a little like that. More than a little. Sam, I do miss you so, and wish every day and every minute that you were here, along with Rosie and the little ones...and yet, it would shatter my heart to leave here. I don’t remember if I ever told you this or not, but I started dreaming of this place before the Quest was even begun. I don’t know why. I suppose it was my destiny. And after it was begun, dreams of it sustained me through some of the worst parts. There is no denying it: this is my true home, and somehow, it always has been.
Why hear I this ceaseless singing
Vast music fair and terrible as the sun
Ending my feeble life before it has begun
Joy and woe in equal measure bringing
Treasures at my feet the waves are flinging
The westering sky with the finest banners ever spun....
And now I am wondering if I should even be saying all this to you, if I should be talking to you like this at all. I wonder if I am not disrupting your life, keeping you from being one and whole as I wished. I think it was a comfort for you at the first, to know I would be all right and well and happy, but now I wonder if I am making you sad, or too backward-looking when you should be looking forward always…or something. If you do not wish me to do this, please give me some sign. I would give up our connection for you, even if it means losing the comfort and joy these nightly sessions give me. Your happiness and well-being are my only care. I will take my comfort in my friends here and in the beauty of the Island, in my new-found faith, in my memories of the Shire, and most of all in the hope of meeting you again someday, if not here, then on the Other Side. I will be forward-looking as well. I can do as much for your sake. I know not what lies in store for me here; I only know that I want to embrace it all, whatever it may be.....