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29
Bonny Hill


Dear Sam,

Well. The latest news, which I am pleased to relate: Salmë and Rûdharanion have taken the two older “brothers” of their little foundling to live with them. It’s a sight to see, the eldest lad very fair-haired, the middle one a chestnut, and the tiny black-haired one, yet they all seem as one family. They are having a house built in a delightful spot not far from the light-tower. So I suppose I won’t get out to visit very often, but I am so overjoyed to have them all together and to know I played a big part in their happiness!

Also: Shadowfax has become a father to a filly. Maegfán, her dam, is kept in a pasture on the edge of the City—Lady Elwing sees to her now, and Lady E. and Ríannor were both there when the load of Elves, elflings and hobbits arrived to visit. The wee filly, named Silverdance, is silvery-white like a fluffy cloud in a perfectly blue sky. Of course the girls went mad over her, all squeals and giggles and “oh you darling!” She seemed to greatly enjoy the attention, skipping and leaping all about the enclosure, letting the children stroke and hug her, frisking back to her mum for a bit of refreshment, then back for more petting and baby-talk.

“Know what I used to think?” Lyrien confided to me as we watched the little one feed. “I used to think ALL animals laid eggs and little baby ones hatched out, like birdies. Then when Beauty had her kittens I got a huge surprise. Wasn’t I silly?”

Ríannor has thoroughly lost her heart to the lovely little filly, and it will be hers. I can hardly get over how beautiful she is. She has taken on the appearance of a maiden since her memory was erased. Her eyes have the luster of water by moonlight, her skin is creamy and flawless, her free-flowing hair black as polished ebony, her figure slender and graceful. She almost always wears dark colors, usually maroon or dark emerald green. I cannot understand why she and Gandalf do not seem any closer to marrying. I suppose I could ask, but I still cannot bring myself. I can’t help but wonder if they are holding off because of me, and if I should tell them not to, or offer to perform their wedding, or…something. Gandalf did confide to me that he had a bad conscience since he did so little to lead her to the light, but I thought I had talked him out of that. Perhaps I should try to make him feel guilty for not taking that step. Well, Elves like to take their time about things. Which is something this puny impatient mortal will never really understand.

Bilbo is on the decline. I take him and his canvas sling chair to the beach almost every day, sit on the sand beside him watching the surf and talking about anything that comes up. Sometimes the children come down and play on the beach or the cove, and he takes great delight in watching them. They build sand-castles for him, bring him little things they have found, show off for him, ask him for stories, or just sit and chat with him. I can see the joy in his face shining as though a piece of sunlight has escaped and taken refuge there, as if he has a sight of the Other Side before him, and is slowly making his way to it, mapless and peaceful and unhurried.

But other times I think he wants to get there faster, yet keeps looking back over his shoulder at me, anxious, wondering how I will fare without him. Should I bid him do as he will, go ahead through that Gate and don’t worry about me, I will do all right? Or should I let him enjoy his remaining days, weeks, months…for I know he'll not be with me another year. But I think he is torn between wanting to go and wanting to stay with me. What will it be like, being the only mortal on the Island?

“What I think is,” Galendur told me one day on the beach, when we were out of earshot of Bilbo, who was napping in his chair but if we were going to talk about him we had to keep well out of earshot, “you should tell him of your little sea-lady. Do you really think he’d go if he knew of her? I should think he’d want to stick around and see you wedded and happy. Perhaps he’ll even stay longer than he would otherwise. Wouldn’t you think?”

“I’ve thought of that,” I said. “But something keeps holding me back, and I’ve learned to trust such feelings. They have never led me astray. It was when I didn’t listen to them that things went wrong. Like when I…”

“Yes?” Galendur raised his light eyebrows. I flushed a bit. I’ve told Galendur very little of my past life, for all we’ve been close friends for two years now. Certainly I’ve told him nothing of any old loves. Not that Bonny Hill can really be called a “love” as such. But just then I found myself thinking of her, for the first time in decades.

She was the daughter of our laundress, Tansy Hill. Bonny, who was older than I, used to come with her mother each week, in their little cart. Mistress Tansy was not native to Hobbiton; she came from a neighboring village, and claimed to be a widow, but she never spoke of her deceased husband, and although she was a common-looking hobbitess enough, there was an air of mystery about her. Her daughter was comely in the way many hobbit-lasses are, round in the figure, with gold-green eyes that looked straight into yours with no shyness or disregarding, like uncurtained windows.

Bilbo told me she had a bad reputation and was “fast”. I was barely 28, green as moss, and curious as any lad of that age. I was somewhat shy of lasses, having so little experience with any close to my age. Bilbo told me to keep clear of this one, for she was no better than she should be…there was no condemnation in his words, it was clear to me that he pitied her somewhat. But that didn’t mean that he wanted me involved with the likes of her....

“But you got involved,” Galendur said. Bilbo was still asleep.

“Well, I was sure she liked me,” I said. “She smiled at me every time. And then…one day as they were returning the wash, she whispered to me to look in the pocket of my jacket. I found a note there asking me to come and meet in secret with her that night. I sat staring at it for the longest. On the one hand, I didn’t want to go. I was scared. Very scared. On the other hand…”

“You were curious,” Galendur said grinning.

“Yes, compared to your past, mine is pretty tame, I’m sure,” I said a little sheepishly. “I don’t even know why I bother telling you, it can’t be very interesting.”

“But I am interested. And believe it or not, my past isn’t so colorful as you might suppose. There haven’t really been so many as all that. But do me a huge favor, old chap, and don’t let it get about, what say?”

He laughed at my incredulous stare, and after a moment, I said, “By all means,” and he chuckled again.

“So you did go to meet her?” he said.

“Yes,” I said, and blushed ridiculously. “I think I met with her about six times, over a period of six weeks or so. I never actually fell in love with her, but there was something about her that fascinated me. She was not stupid, as some supposed. She had no interest in the things I cared for, books and such. Yet she had this vitality that attracted me greatly. She spoke her mind without fear, and loved to dance and sing, and laugh and joke and tease. Her laugh was very hard to forget. She called me a ‘moonbeam’ and said I was destined for great things. One night she told me to show her the palm of my hand, and said she could read my future by the lines on it. I thought that absurd; how could one possibly predict one’s future thus? But she said I would go on a very long journey and come back again, only I would not really come back. She looked sad as she said this. I asked her what that meant and she said she did not know. I asked her if I would die early and she said no. I would walk with queens and dance with fairies. Then later she seemed to forget. When I spoke of it to her, she acted as though she knew not what I meant and seemed frightened. She said she’d had too much to drink, but I think that was not so.”

“Do you think she fancied you?”

“I thought she did. I did not truly fancy her, but I think I was on the way to it. I think it might have happened…but one day, I was walking alone, on my way to return a book to someone, and I saw her, just across the road, with another lad, much older, and he kissed her on the cheek and patted her bottom right in front of everyone, and she laughed and called him a name young ladies aren’t even supposed to know, and he kissed her on the lips long and hard. I felt such a fool. And the next time I saw her, I told her what I had seen, and she laughed, although less heartily than usual. I called her a slut, and told her I didn’t want to see her again. Oh, I was the picture of jealous outrage. Tears came into her eyes, and I felt terrible, and I apologized hastily, and told her I was hurt because I thought she liked me, and so forth, and she said she did like me. She liked all lads. It was that simple. She liked all lads. There are some lasses who are like that, but it just seems so hard to believe. I asked her why she wouldn’t meet me in public, and she said she didn’t want to ‘ruin’ me. I was special, she said, and she wanted it to stay that way. She wanted to be with me because it made her feel as though she were a bit special as well. She wanted to have a bit of my ‘moon-shininess’…yes, that was the way she put it. When she was with me, she felt like a princess. But she wasn’t. She just needed that feeling sometimes, because she knew she was common as dirt and would never amount to anything. I didn’t know what to say to that. I wish I had told her she wasn't. Because…maybe I could have prevented her death. Because it happened just about a week after our last meeting.”

“What happened to her?” Galendur looked back at Bilbo.

“She was found in the river,” I said gazing out toward the sea. “Whether she fell in, was pushed, or threw herself in, remains unknown. It’s quite possible it was an accident, and yet…she was with child, it turned out. I didn’t know that until a year or two later.”

“Do you suppose it was yours?”

“No. She was farther along than that.”

“Oh. Of course.”

“She was with child, the whole time she had been meeting me…I don’t know if she knew it or not.”

“Know what I think?” Galendur narrowed his eyes. “I think whoever knocked her up wouldn’t marry her and she was trying to rope you into doing it. ‘Have a bit of your moon-shininess’, in a pig's eye! She was looking for you to make an honest hobbitess of her. What do you think about that?”

“She never spoke of marriage to me. Yes, it’s possible, but somehow I just don’t think that was what she was after. Yet I blamed myself for her death for a long time, and saw no other girls until…until just before my uncle went away and left me the Ring. Sometimes I would see her in my dreams, and she would be there in the water, her arms reaching to me, her eyes pleading with me to save her, pull her out, and I could not go near. My hands would reach to her, but my feet were caught by I knew not what. And the river would carry her away, and her voice called my name, and died away…I have not thought of her in years. I don’t know what made me think of her just now.”

“You were saying that you went wrong when you didn’t listen to your feelings,” Galendur said. “What feelings didn’t you listen to then?”

“I felt I should not go see her,” I almost whispered. “Bilbo had told me to stay away, and I did not. Also, when she said she was ‘common’...I should have told her she was not. I wanted to. But I was too much injured.”

“There’s a difference between ‘feelings’ and ‘conscience’,” Galendur said, to my surprise. I had not known he ever gave a thought to such matters. “Perhaps one keeps you safe, and the other keeps you happy…or unhappy, if you should go against it. I dare say it was your conscience telling you to stay away, not your feelings.”

“No, I am aware of the difference, and was so even then. I had a feeling I should not go to her,” I said.

“But you still weren’t responsible for what happened to her.”

“I suppose not. But that’s why I didn’t marry when I had the chance. And later there was the Ring, and even when I had convinced myself I was not to blame for Bonny’s death, I would not marry then because I could not father a child, or if I could, my seed was somehow tainted by the Ring, and I might end up siring a monster. I don’t know if that were really true, but it was in the back of my mind, and it was a feeling I would listen to this time.”

I sighed. I hoped I would not regret telling him all this, although I didn’t know why I should. He would keep it to himself if I asked him to, I knew that. But sometimes when a secret is out of the box, it has a way of not behaving itself properly.

“What about her?” he said, meaning Marilla. “You don’t think she’ll care if you can’t give her a child?”

“Lord Elrond said my ability to father children could be restored,” I mused. I had thought of it, of course. “And if it means anything to her, I shall have it done, although the way he described it, it sounds very unpleasant indeed. But if not, I won’t. I just have this feeling it will not matter to her. Lady Elwing said I should have my heart’s desire, and so I’ve not worried over that matter.”

“If she said you should have it,” Galendur pointed out, “then I think you should tell Bilbo, what say?”

“I think maybe I will,” I said, “but not now. When he is just at the point of letting go, I’ll tell him. I will let him know that I will not be alone, and he will go out happy. But I’ll not have him think anyone is coming between us, and that he must step out of the way. But I thank you for your advice, which I know you mean kindly.”

Later, just before he turned home, I said to Galendur, “I feel I should write a ballad about her. Bonny, I mean. Not that any who knew her will ever hear it, except Bilbo. But I feel an urge to make some sort of tribute. She had such a short life, and she contained so much. She was alive and, and glowing, and not ordinary. She was like a sand-castle; one moment she was there, all put together in the sun, and the next minute she was swept away, gone. It just seems someone should acknowledge her in some way.”

But when I tried to write the ballad, it would not come somehow. Here is what came instead:

You beckoned, and my feet trailed yours
your blood informed me of untried paths
secret darks and hidden rainbows
fireworks in caverns over whose gates
my name was unwritten.
But you would borrow my lamp
and I loaned it, not knowing
I would not get it back.
Do you bear that shy star now?
Do your feet step to music
unknown to those who tread
above your mine? Will your eyes
hold flowers in their green
when next I see you
all despair drowned in the waters
that washed away your sweet flesh?
Forgive me that my hands missed yours
when my feet clung to the dull sky
and your cries could not reach my window.
Know only
that you were never common.
You and I
were not so different;
we both loved all
and if I am a moonbeam
then part of my light
came down from your smile
and I thank you for it
from the depths of my knowing.



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