“Do you know when the ship will arrive?” Anemone asked her husband as she settled into Amaryllis’s place beside him in the long chair, and Summershine handed over little Peregrin to them, then took Starbright on her own lap in the swing. The others—Arkenstone, Skylark, Treasure, and Glimmerglass, had gone down near the bridge with Amaryllis, evidently in some sort of conspiracy. Raven was still inside, cleaning up.
“Sometime in the evening, just before sundown,” Frodo said. “I saw the ship hoving into view with the western sun in her sails, turning them to scarlet.”
“Scarlet,” little Starbright said beaming at one and all. She had a cousin named Scarlet.
“Yes, lovey,” Summershine said in obvious delight.
“Scolit,” Peregrin repeated, clasping his tiny hands. He always repeated everything he heard. Especially when it was something he wasn’t supposed to hear.
“Are you certain it will be today?” Anemone asked bouncing her great-grandson up and down on her knees. “We should send word to Fairwind and Barathon. And Embergold, and Lyrien and Perion. They would definitely want to be there at the harbor.”
“Dah-bo,” Peregrin repeated.
“‘Harbor’,” his sister corrected him.
“Scolit,” he said grinning. Starbright rolled her eyes in exasperation and looked up to her mum.
“They will know,” Frodo said. “The Queen knows the ship is coming. Lord Celeborn will be on it also. And Perion and Lyrien and their little one live at the Palace, you know. I think the word will get out fast, as it always does in the City. I shouldn't wonder if they are planning a party of special magnificence in the Park, this very moment.”
“That’s so,” Anemone said smiling, taking little Peregrin’s hands and clapping them together. “The Queen will be so overjoyed. I do not see how she got on so long without him.”
“Tween mout him,” Peregrin said happily.
“I wish I could go to the harbor with you all,” Summershine said, “but Belladonna’s babe is due any day now. And I should scarcely like to miss the birth of my first grandchild.”
Frodo smiled at her in amazement. She appeared scarcely out of her tweens, and looked so like Anemone when he had first met her, it was positively uncanny.
Anemone did not go into the City much any more; she was shy of others now that she was showing signs of age when no other females were. He did not mind such signs in her, himself. In fact, it was gratifying to know he was not the only one on the Island who was showing the imprints of time. And she was lovely as ever, as far as he was concerned. Her soft blue eyes had crinkles at the corners, especially when she smiled, there was a line or two across her forehead, some silver strands among the gold; she was plumper and less light on her feet than she had once been. What would she would do when he was gone? For he knew his time was not much longer. Daily he could feel his strength ebbing little by little, and he would clutch at it, thinking, no no no, I must remain until he comes, at the least, what would he do if he arrived here and I am not? Give me that much more time, at least. Then we might let go together....
Now that time was at hand. And he was remembering Bilbo’s last night, his uncle wondering what could be better than what he had now. What could be better than all this? His wife of nearly sixty years, the children and grandchildren and great-granchildren, so delightful every one of them, even though it was getting to the point where he sometimes had trouble remembering which name belonged to which, and got them confused at times, which seemed to worry some of them, and tickled others. Could the Other Side really be any better? He had glimpsed it, more than once…but that was so long ago, and now it seemed in eclipse…now that it was getting so close….
He had resigned as counselor and inspector at the Orphans’ Home nearly twenty-five years ago, not being needed there any more. Most of the children were grown up or adopted, and no others were coming in. So he had retired his post and stayed home, contenting himself with puttering around the garden, writing poetry and journals, teaching the little ones their letters, and watching them grow, and play, and work, and dance, and dream, revealing new beauties to him day by day. What could be better?
“I often forget that not a drop of my blood is in their veins,” he had remarked to Anemone once, as he watched them on the beach in the late afternoon, and she pretended to slap his wrist.
“Now how can you say such a thing, Frodo Baggins?” she chided him. “There’s not a one of them that hasn’t something of you. Some have your gift for words, and others share that knack you have of knowing just the right thing to say or do to turn a person into the right path, and still others who show your own wonder at the beauties all about you. And some have all that together. And I can swear I’ve seen your light shining from some of them, Northlight especially. And Fairwind. And sometimes even Amaryllis. They are satellites of yourself, catching your glory as they circle all about you. The beam of your tower fills their sails. They do have your blood, in the very best sense, and that you can tie to.”
Raven wiped away a tear as she put away the last of the dishes and listened to the happy chatter outside. The day she had long dreaded was here at last. Not that she was not happy for her Ada, but at the same time she knew that this was the beginning of the end. She had always been aware of the fact of his mortality, of course, but most times she could manage not to think of it, file it away in a strong-box at the back of her mind. But now the box stood open and there the document was laid out for all to see who would look at it. How long would he linger? A few weeks? A year? Two years? And what would Nana do when he was gone? What would SHE do? And Northlight? And Amaryllis?
Particularly Amaryllis, Island-born as she was. Deaths of pets she had witnessed, more than once, but death of human beings was something of which she knew naught. And she and Ada were so close….She would never experience anything of what her mother had known in her childhood, and for that Raven was profoundly thankful. Her daughter had led a sweet, simple and joyous life on the Island, full of friends and learning and beauty, free of fear and horror and dread and privation, and to her the terrible things she read and heard of in stories were just that, things in stories. To her, Ada was simply a beloved grandparent; she did not truly comprehend that she was alive and carefree now because of him, as were they all. But what would his loss do to her young soul? Would it sweeten and strengthen her, teach her compassion and consideration for others, make her more thoughtful and dimensional? Or would it tear her apart, make her bitter, angry, fragmented, questioning, diminished?
Should I prepare her? Yes, surely I must. But how? I think the idea of mortality upsets her. Well I remember when she asked why she had been named for a dead person. Some laughed about that, when they heard, but I could not, even when she was not there. Because I understood, all too well. But how to tell her now, that her grandfather is going away soon, and she will never see him again?
Yes, in preparing her, I will be preparing myself. If one can ever truly be prepared for such a thing...and I think one cannot be. I remember a poem in one of Ada’s books, in which he wished he could impart the Gift to his loved ones. ‘Why must their night endure so long? Why can we not await the dawn together as one?’ Truly, why? Is that what he is thinking now? I don’t wish him to worry about us. I wish him to meet his friend and be happy, and enjoy the time he has left with his beloved companion for whom he has waited so long, and not fret himself over how the rest of us will do without him.
But, but...how WILL we do?
Northlight came in just then, in his noiseless way, and caught her in his arms, and she clung to him silently; no words were needed, always they had understood each other perfectly, from the day of their first meeting. And he held her for a long moment, caressing her hair, and they stood thus entwined, just out of the morning sunlight that streamed only gently and hesitantly through the open kitchen window.
And at last Raven carefully wiped away all signs of tears, and lifted her head up, and went out smiling with her husband onto the terrace to join the others as they made their joyful plans for the coming of the Special Guest who would take their beloved away.