We chose the place for the monument—in a secluded spot between the cottage and the orange-grove, which is the place we have selected for Anemone and myself to be buried together once we have quit this earth.
And this afternoon I came home and you will not believe what I found. The monument has already been erected—barely three days after Raven and I discussed it! It is made of a slab of pure white marble with a gold veining. Northlight, Ebbtide, and Moonrise went to the quarry the day before and cut the slab themselves and carried it all the way home—and the quarry is a good 25 miles away! And they carved and chiseled it and worked on it all night and day, behind the stables. I wondered what they were about, but Anemone told me they were making a surprise and asked me not to enquire into the matter. And today after work…I saw the slab, polished and erected, with the names of Raven’s parents along with Hathol’s, and also that of Branion the stable-boy, who had hidden her in the barrel and died defending her, some pretty ornamentation all around the names, and also a little epitaph Raven had composed herself:
Nobly they lived
Bravely they died
May they rest gently
Side by side.
“I know you or Northlight or Nana could do much better,” she said to me, “but they were mine, and I wanted to make a little verse for them myself.”
“I do not think any of us could have done a bit better,” I said with a little catch in my throat. “And I’m sure all of them would agree.”
Above the names was a tiny niche in which a lamp could be set. Anemone and her daughters had transplanted flowers, bushes and a couple of small trees and ferns to the spot, and inlaid some flat stones in front on which one could kneel before the slab. And then the brothers moved a little stone bench from the garden and placed it across from the monument, and erected a little arbor behind it, by which the ladies planted a morning-glory vine.
Well, the stone-cutter I had commissioned was a bit disappointed to be done out of a job, but I shall have him carve the names of Raven’s parents on the Orphans’ Wall in the City. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner.
We all held a little vigil that evening, Guilin included, each of us taking a candle and standing in a circle around the monument. Raven lit the little lamp and we sang our hymn, then I said a prayer for those great souls the stone commemorated, and we stood in silence for a long moment with our heads bowed. I can imagine what was going through the minds of my stepchildren and step-grandchildren, to whom this ceremony was a completely new and alien experience; yet they seemed moved by it and filled with wonder.
Be assured, Sam, that they have set up a lovely place for our final rest!
Well, the play is just four weeks away! The entire family is involved. Anemone will be playing Rosie, as I think I told you before, and she is also assistant costume designer. Irilien is constantly confounded by her cleverness at contriving costumes out of bits and pieces of the unlikeliest materials. Raven will play a Gondorian maiden—she has no lines, but she will be one of the dancers in the celebration of the downfall of Sauron. And the others will be in it also—they will play members of the crowd, and they will dance too. Everyone is in quite a “tizzy” as Aunt Dora would have said.
But our Eowyn—that is, Inzilbêth—has quit. She was not at all happy that Guilin is playing Faramir, instead of Dûndeloth, whom she greatly fancies...but I was really not expecting her to refuse to play the part, with her big Moment in it and everything. And barely a month away from the performance!
I heard about her tirade from some of the other actors. Selín, our director and head of the Company, told her if she walked out on the play, he would expel her from the Company. And she told him, “Very well. You can just do without your leading lady, and see how far your precious Company goes. We both know there is no one else who can play the part. And I will have naught to do with that young upstart of a Guilin. He can’t act his way out of a grass hut, and he has a most disreputable past. Whatever possessed you to cast the likes of him? There must be SOME reason why Dûndeloth would give up the part. It certainly can’t be because of ME. There’s some mischief afoot, and I wish no part of it.”
“Well, I am sure Melian can play the part,” Selín told her with devastating calm—or at least, what would have been devastating calm to anyone else, “and would be most happy to do so. It should not be hard to fix a golden wig for her.”
“Melian? Please,” sniffed Inzilbêth. “Her hair-color is the very least of it. All she can play is fluttery, helpless little creatures who need rescuing. She can weep convincingly, I haven’t a doubt, but if you mean to tell me she can persuade anyone that she can slay the Witch King of Angmar, I will laugh in your face.”
“Laugh all you wish,” Selín said, although he knew that she was right. Melian was all wrong for the part. And who else could learn it on such short notice?
He came to me and asked me if there were any possibility that I could persuade Inzilbêth to change her mind.
“She likes you,” he said, a little desperately, “and may listen. I know it’s a long shot, but you have succeeded so often where others have failed, and you seem to have such a persuasive way about you. Or do you possibly know anyone else who could play the part?”
“I will cast about and discuss it with my wife and friends,” I said, shuddering at the very thought of having to go cringing to our drama-queen. I really was furious with her, and did not think I could even bring myself into her company, let alone try to cajole her into changing her mind. I’m just NOT that good an actor!
So I went home gloomily with Northlight and Guilin…who offered to give the part back to Dûndeloth, but I told him nay, we were NOT going to capitulate to that creature. If she thought the play depended on her alone! Well, maybe she had another guess coming….
“A pity Anemone no longer has her powers,” Guilin said, as we were nearing the cottage, “or perhaps she could do it. I’ve no doubt she could have pulled it off. But of course that’s out of the question now.”
“There’s Tilwen,” Northlight said. “I should think she would be good in the part, being so fiery of temperament. Of course, she does have the baby and all. She can hardly tear herself away from him for two minutes.” He grinned to himself, shaking his head.
“What about Nessima?” I said. “Do you know if she has ever done any acting?” Even as I spoke, I thought it extremely unlikely, despite her dramatic looks. Yet that touch of austerity she has might well befit her for the role.
“I scarcely think so,” Guilin said soberly. “And somehow I don’t think she’d go for it. Say…what about you, Northlight? You’re a first-rate actor—you’d have to be, to play Gollum the way you do. Do you think it possible that you could double for the part of Eowyn?”
Northlight looked as flabbergasted as I must have, at the question. I think neither of us were sure if Guilin were joking or not.
“I doubt I could play a female role,” Northlight said. “And Gollum is such a big part, and I have my studies along with it…”
“True enough,” I said with a sigh. “I--wait. What about one of your sisters?”
“My sisters?” Northlight said. “You mean…”
“Why, of course,” Guilin said. “Perhaps one of them would like to play it. There must surely be a great reserve of talent in your family. Do you think perhaps Fairwind, or…”
“Perhaps,” Northlight said thoughtfully. I had to laugh a little at the thought of Inzilbêth’s face if one of Northlight’s sisters should take her part. She would be fit to be tied.
It was late in the evening when we arrived home, and Anemone and her daughters were out on the terrace still, Raven with them, sitting on the swing with the little ones at her sides. Onyx and Sandrose took to me strongly after I told them a story one day, and they sometimes climb into my lap now and ask for more stories. At first I told the funniest ones I knew, well-known to all hobbit-children, but I imagine the humor was a little lost on them. They like better to hear about my own childhood; they smile more over the things I tell them about myself and Bilbo and others I knew, and I’ve told them to call me Granddad. After a while Sandrose will lay her head against my shoulder, and Onyx, not to be outdone, does likewise, and they are so warm and soft and light in my arms. I do not like to think of the time that they will have to go back…but their father lives far away and I imagine they miss him already…why must the sea be so vast?
Sam, why must you be so far away?
Fairwind will play Eowyn.
Of all the daughters of Anemone, she has the most dramatic flair, and seems the most fascinated with all that goes on, and with the story itself. She cannot read, but she memorizes quickly, and Northlight and Anemone are a tremendous help. They tirelessly read her lines to her and have her say them back, then read the other parts for her so she can hear her part in context. She is far more intelligent than she seems at first, and throws herself into anything she does. And her singing voice is something unusual and amazing; it carries wonderfully well. And she is delighted that she will get to make her hair appear the color of Embergold’s!
I became aware, then, of how beautiful she really is. I just wonder if Guilin will end up falling in love with her instead of Nessima! But I am a little more worried about Fairwind falling for him. Of course, it will add a level of depth to her acting, if that should happen…but certainly I do not want her to get hurt!
Meanwhile there is much to do with directing my lads…and the part I’ve been dreading most is coming up: the Tower scene. Today we rehearse the part where you fight off the orcs and come and find me in the Tower. I am not at all looking forward to it, to say the least….
Well, the first rehearsal is over and done with.
“Will I have to go naked on the stage?” Dínlad asked me. We were on the bare stage, just he, Perion, Northlight, and I. Rûdharanion, Guilin and Selín and a few other actors, some of whom played orcs, sat out in the front row watching.
“Of course not,” I said startled, laughing a little, then I wondered just how we would handle the scene. “I suppose…perhaps you could be bare from the waist up. I think that would work.”
“He could wear only his underdrawers and cover himself with an old rag or something,” Perion suggested.
“I doubt his mother would go for that,” I said. Northlight nodded in agreement.
“I am NOT wearing my underdrawers on stage,” Dínlad declared. “I’d never hear the end of it.”
We all laughed.
“How about a nappy?” Perion said and we laughed again. Dínlad stuck out his tongue.
“What say we paint them skin color,” Northlight suggested. “Then it would just appear that he were naked on the stage, but he wouldn’t really be.”
“I think it would be all right if he just kept his breeches on,” I said, wondering how I managed to discuss the matter so calmly and even with humor, “just as you wear the rags as Gollum although in reality he wore but a loincloth. Certain realities must be sacrificed to discretion.”
“Oh, absolutely,” Dínlad said, and we laughed once more. I picked up my script, saying, “Now let’s go over the scene. You, Dínlad, lie over here, where the pile of rags will be…and you…” I looked out to the youth who would play the orc with the whip, and he jumped up from the front row and onto the stage. The rehearsal went off awkwardly, as one may imagine…but of course, it was only the first one.
“Do I have to pick him up and hold him?” Perion pleaded to me at one point. “I feel awfully funny doing that. Couldn’t I just look at him like--like I’m glad to see him or something?”
Dínlad snickered. Northlight smothered a grin.
“The audience will not be able to see your expression so well, if you only look as if you are glad to see him,” I said.
“But…but he’ll have nothing on,” Perion pointed out. “I mean, no shirt, or anything. I’ll feel…silly. The other lads will tease.”
“The lasses will love it, I assure you,” I said smiling. “The lads will be jealous.”
“They will?” Perion jerked his head at me. Dínlad gave a little snort.
“Absolutely,” I said. “Lyrien told me this is her favorite part in the whole story, and she can hardly wait to see it on stage. She says she falls into a thousand pieces just thinking of it.”
“Does she?” Perion stared at me open-mouthed for a moment. “But—she’s little,” he remembered.
“She won’t always be,” I reminded him. “And Raven said this was her favorite scene also. It just makes her melt all over the place, she said. And Marílen and Fëariel…”
“Truly?” Perion squinted at me and I thought I detected a spark of disbelief in his eyes, although Dínlad rolled his own at the names of his sister and cousin. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Rûdharanion and Selín look at each other in delight.
“Trust me,” I said with all sincerity, “the girls will love it. They will all melt all over the place.” I wished Raven and the twins had come along, but it would have made the boys nervous, surely, to have too many people watching—especially girls.
And so we went over the scene, and Perion lifted and held Dínlad in a way that almost made ME melt all over the place. We rehearsed it three times, and the boys put down their scripts the third time and did it all from memory. I was nearly in tears, I was so proud.
After a couple of hours or so, after I dismissed the lads and told them to go get something to eat, and Northlight took them out of the rehearsal hall, it started to fall in on me, however, and I hastily beat a retreat out backstage and sank down on a low stool with my head on my knees, my heart pounding. Maybe the rehearsal had gone just a little too well.
Sam…why is it, that ever since I got my glass back, that I miss you even more than before? Is it because it has enabled me to see you even more clearly now, in my dreams? Should I ask it not to? Or is there some purpose to this new faculty now, related to the play, perhaps? I suppose I should let it take its course; it is wise, knows what it is doing, surely….
I heard soft steps behind me, but did not look up to see who it was. Then I felt arms around me, holding me close, ever so gently, a hand passing over my hair and then rubbing my back, no words, rocking me a little.
And then finally a voice. Guilin’s.
“Perhaps you had better let Selín direct that scene,” he said.
“No,” I said in a voice muffled against his shirt-front. I sat up straight and shook my head. “I am director for the lads and I shall do the scene. I can do it, you know.”
“Perhaps so, but why put yourself through it, if you don’t have to?” Guilin said, putting his hands on my shoulders and holding me back away from him to look me in the face.
I trembled a little, reminding myself, He went through it also, and much worse. Why had he come to watch this rehearsal? It must have surely been hard for him. Yes, I could see that it had been.
“You didn’t have to come, you know,” I said. “Did…did Raven ask you to? Or Anemone?”
“No,” he said, and I knew he was telling the truth. “They were worried about you, but they didn’t ask me to come here. I told them I would.”
“It was very good of you,” I said and managed a smile. “But you needn’t worry. I can do it, and I shall. Are you all right?”
“Yes,” he said. “Are you?”
“Yes. But I think I would like to have a smoke now. Shall we go out?”
The next day Rûdharanion approached me, after we rehearsed a later scene, and drew me off alone, saying, “Iorhael…I wish you to let Selín direct the Tower scene. Will you…please?”
I looked up at him in disbelief, and he dropped to one knee before me, and took me by both hands. I barely refrained from pulling them away.
“No,” I said. “It’s my scene. Why should I let him direct it? He has enough to do as it is.”
“Only that one scene,” he pleaded. I looked at him in wonderment. “I have some idea how hard it must be for you,” he said. “When I was writing it…well, I hadn’t really thought so much about it when I was just reading the Epic, but when I was shaping it into the play, well, it occurred to me then…what you really went through, for the rest of us. And I was, well, truly overwhelmed. It fairly knocked the wind out of me. And Dûndeloth told me about when you went to the Light-house with him and the others when I was up there, what it meant to you to go to a tower, and yet you wished to help me. And I thought of all you’ve done for me, and how if not for you, I would not be where I am, with Salmë and the lads…yes, I know I’ve told you all this before. But when I was writing that scene, I was truly flattened. I…are you all right, my dear friend? I did not mean to distress you, talking this way but…”
“No, I am all right,” I insisted, wishing to get away. But he held my wrists firmly.
“Please allow Selín to direct this one scene,” he said. “It’s bad enough you should have gone through such an ordeal in the first place, it’s not right you should have to relive it in this fashion.”
I must admit, for a long moment, I was tempted to regard his wish. It would have been easy, just to let Selín handle it. For yes, the thought that I would have to rehearse it again, and yet again, until it was exactly right, filled me with icy dread. I was likely to be a wreck before the whole thing was over. And there was the whole Mordor thing ahead, and now that seemed even worse. Why not let Selín do it?
Why not, indeed?
“I can do it, and I will,” I heard my voice saying. “It is my task, and I shall fulfill it. And no one shall stop me, and I should like to see them try it.”
Rûdharanion’s hands were trembling as they held mine. I pulled mine away and looked him in the eye.
“I failed once before,” I said. “I shall not fail again.”
And with that, I turned and quickly walked out of the hall, into welcome sunlight, where Northlight and Raven and Guilin were waiting for me, and Dínlad and Perion, along with Edrahil and Dairuin were standing all together with their scripts.
“Come, my lads,” I said with a cheeky grin in their direction, “we’ve work to do.”