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21
Into the Green


My Dear Samwise,

By the time you get this letter, we will have left the Partridges. I hope you have received your book back by now? And I very much hope all is well with you and your wonderful family. Needless to say, it goes very hard with us to have to depart from the folk we have known for nearly three months, especially since it seems unlikely that we will ever return. There is no telling how long we will abide in Mordor, and by the time I have left to return to my true home, the folk I have come to know may not even still be alive. I am reminded of why I once preferred the company of birds and beasts. However, we leave the village a different place from how we found it, and that is a good and wonderful thing. May this knowledge prove a comfort to us when we have moved on.

I have a strange favor to ask of you now. Greenjade wishes to bring his former mate, Garland, from the nether realms to which she has been consigned. I have promised to make intercession to the Powers, and so I have. But perhaps it would be a good thing if your former master could do so as well. I have not the connection with him that you have, and so would it be too much to ask of you to convey our wish to him? I believe this new wish of Greenjade's will give him comfort for his recent heartache--I wish I might tell the details to you, but that would be a betrayal of his confidence. But his new goal may lead him more and more into the Light, and prevent him from too much backward glancing.

I am more worried about Sméagol at the moment. He has had his heart's desire--to live among normal folk and not be cast out, to sleep on a soft bed and eat delicious food, and folks would not laugh at him and dogs would not bark, children would not throw stones. He had all that, and even a good deal of love and esteem, but whether or not he will ever have it again is doubtful. I cannot help but feel that his heart's desire has changed into something he may never receive. I know he cried himself to sleep on several nights, and was comforted only by Nildë when she came to his side and licked his hand. And someday he must lose her also. It seems he is destined to be alone. I suppose I must not think too much about it, but just go on and do what must be done. Things have a way of working themselves out for the good if we do that, I've come to find.

Robin's wife Sally is with child now. It was thought that she could not have any more children after birthing the twins, but a treatment I used upon her has put that to rights. You will find it attached to this letter. She is quite overjoyed, and so are Robin and the lasses. It tickles me vastly to hear some of the names they come up with for their little sibling, and I shall miss them sorely. Nell is putting together a book of the remedies which I've administered here and there, to be copied and given out to others. She has, as it turns out, a fair hand at both writing and drawing, and has made sketches of the herbs and plants to be used, so that those who lack reading skills may recognize them. She is already talking of becoming a healer, "like Greenjade's sister." I've sent word to the King to please send someone to teach her, for Granny is very old, and will not live much longer, and typical of the aged, she is not receptive to new methods. Not that my methods are new, by any means, but they are to her and the other villagers. However, if Nell were to become a healer, I think folk would take to those methods little by little, when they see their efficacy. And Nell can be very persuasive, such a charming little way she has...well, I dare say we are all a little smitten with her, perhaps more than a little. I can but hope for her happiness as Jem's wife, but seeing as how he cannot give her children and I could not restore that faculty to him, I cannot hang everything upon that hope. Perhaps, just as your former master has, she may find her true joy in mothering the orphaned or unwanted children of others. I have suggested this to her, and she smiled and said she would consider that. It seemed she had some sort of nice secret, and I've a feeling she has already a child in mind.

Mr. Partridge will not have to go without help now, after all. His brother's son Anson is coming to apprentice himself to his uncle. He lives far from the Partridges, unfortunately, so he will be taking the room Greenjade and Sméagol have been using. I think he will be excellent company when Nell has moved out. Miss Carrie is distressed at the thought of losing Sméagol , and I suggested having one of the twins come help her out in the kitchen--I know their mother needs them at home, but she could spare one of them for an hour each day, I think. They can take turns, and she will give them a bit of payment. Of course, Nell will quit her job at the Quail and Pheasant before she and Jem marry, and can help out a good deal, but she has her upcoming wedding to attend to, along with her studies.

Doesn’t it seem that if she had a child in mind to adopt, she would tell me? Ah well…

It is getting late and I must stop now. This may be the last letter you receive from me for a good long time, so please pardon the length. I hope you will convey Greenjade’s wish to your former master and his little lady; I’m sure that Anemone wishes the best for her son. And it may turn out that he cares a good deal more for Garland than he thinks, or may come to.

Wishing you and yours all the best,

Radagast

~*~*~

Radagast said they would have to get to bed early, so that they would have their strength in the morning.

"We have become soft and spoiled here," he said with a feeble attempt at levity, as he stood with Sméagol and Greenjade in the bedroom that evening. "Yes, we have done much work, and hardened up somewhat, but we are still too accustomed to the comfort we have known here, which we will not know on the road, and are not likely to know again for a very long time, if at all. I have made some tea that will help us all get to sleep quickly, and keep our dreams from pounding on us too hard. I see you both have packed your things. Unfortunately I have no brew that will lift our spirits. I can only tell you that someday this will all be far behind us, and we will have fond memories that will sustain rather than torment us. Sweet memories are a little like wine; they may take long to ferment, but when they are nicely aged, they can be a delight and a comfort. Let us keep that thought in mind, and perhaps we can go on with what we must do. Even as soldiers on leave once did, when they knew their sweet interlude was over and they must return to the front. If they could do it, why should we not be able to do likewise?"

Greenjade bit back a nasty retort about how he was sick to death of being compared to a soldier, then was shocked at himself. He told himself that if he wished to save Garland, he would have to begin by changing his thinking, for all his actions sprung from that, as Radagast had pointed out to him.

After the Wizard had climbed up into the loft, Greenjade lay in the bed, wondering that this would be the last time he would ever do so, thinking of Nell, and then suddenly, seemingly for no reason at all, he thought of Sméagol. Of the fact that he and the other fellow had never once had a meaningful conversation since they had been here. Wondering why they should dislike and distrust each other, when they were so plainly in the same situation. Greenjade thought of Gollum in the book, and how he somehow never could quite disconnect the fellow who lay in the bed across the room from him from that creature. Perhaps he should start trying now?

But even as he turned his head to speak to the other, a snore made him jump a little, and he sighed and pulled the covers over his shoulders.

And in a dream he seemed to see Garland impaled upon a long spear, and her pleading eyes looking up at him from a jagged and unfathomable distance.

~*~*~

The Travelers ate a huge breakfast, not that any of them had much appetite, but they would need much strength to resume their journey, and they were loath to leave the table very soon, although Greenjade wished to start as early as possible, so as to spare himself the agony of waiting about for their departure. As they were eating, Robin, Sally, and the twins came over, bearing gifts: warm woolen clothing for the upcoming winter, including scarves that the twins had made: a green one for Sméagol, a red one for Greenjade, and one striped red and green for Radagast. Greenjade had to turn away to hid a grin at the look on the Wizard’s face as he beheld his gift.

“We thought yer might get tired o’ brown,” Gwynlen explained, “and might fancy somethin’ with a mite o’ color. I knitted the red parts and Gilda done the green. We took turns.”

“'Twere a world o’ bother with the pussies al’ays gettin' the yarn from us,” Gilda said, looking to be near tears. “They got so tangled up one time, I scarce could make out which was which in all the mess. But we got 'em done.”

“It’s most splendid,” Radagast said and he kissed the hands of both the twins. “I shall think of the two of you every time I put it on.”

“I thought Sméagol should ‘ave the green un since ‘is eyes is green,” Gwynlen said sniffling a little. “And Greenjade should ‘ave the red ‘cos ‘e looks well in red. Gilda wanted Greenjade to ‘ave the green un since ‘is name is Greenjade, though. Y’uns ken swap ‘em about if yer likes.”

“Nay, Sméagol likes green,” Sméagol said, and he took the scarf and draped it about his neck, although it was quite warm out. Greenjade let the red scarf lay loosely over his shoulders. Nell tried to smile as she looked at it, then blinked hard. She was in green herself, of a shade very like that of her eyes. Green as the moss in the bottom of a forest-pool, flecked with shy sunlight and floating woodbine petals.

I'd like to go out into the world, out into the wide world;
If only it weren't so green, so green, out there in the forest and field!

I would like to pluck all the green leaves from every branch,
I would like to weep on all the grass until it is deathly pale. *

“I can never thank yer enough fer all yer done,” Sally said and her eyes were brimming over also. “If the child is a lad, I ‘ope yer don’t mind if we calls ‘im Radagast.”

“I would be most honored, although my true name is Aiwendil,” Radagast said. “That may be a better-sounding name, in very truth.”

“We’ll call it that if it’s a lass,” Sally said without batting an eye. Radagast chuckled ruefully. Robin cleared his throat.

“We’ve yet another thing for y’uns,” he said. “I’m surprised the lasses didn’t let it out afore now, but they didn’t, and I’m proud of ‘em. It’s in the yard. Don’t think Aunt Carrie would have tuck it kindly us bringing ‘um in the ‘ouse.”

The twins were visibly weeping by now, yet they each took Radagast by the hands, saying “Aye, come an’ see!”

As they went out the front door, a little finch fluttered up and settled itself on the Wizard’s shoulder.

“Why, there’s Rusco!” he exclaimed. “I thought you had found yourself a sweetheart, my little friend, although it was late in the year for it. ‘Tis wonderful to have you back again.”

Robin led them around to the backyard, where a donkey stood tied to a post.

“’E’s for y’uns,” Robin explained, as the twins ran to pet the small beast. “I thought yer could do with a bit o’ help luggin’ yer stuff, and maybe take a ride from time to time. If’n Smeagol’s leg goes to painin’ ‘im betimes, this chap could bear ‘im along till it’s better. Yer can name ‘im as yer likes.”

“What a wonderful surprise!” Radagast said, looking genuinely delighted to see the animal. Nilde looked apprehensively at it, while Smeagol just stood gawking. Greenjade scarcely looked at it for trying not to look back at Nell. “I was wondering how we were going to bear all the wonderful things people have given us, and which we would have to leave behind. But now we can take them all.”

“Hullo?” a small voice called out behind them. There stood Maisy, along with Cal, and they each carried a burlap bag slung over their small shoulders.

“Hullo there, Maisy,” Mr. Partridge said. “Yer come to bid farewell to our guests, I takes it?”

Maisy nodded. “We brung more woody flowers for Nilde,” she said shyly. “We broke off the sharp places, and Cal ‘elped this time. And Mum sent more of her jam.”

“Thank you both so much,” Radagast said taking the sacks from her and her brother. “And as you can see, we’ve this fellow to help carry them.”

“Oi!” Maisy said, running over to pet the donkey. “Wot yer calls ‘im?”

“We haven’t a name for him yet,” Radagast said. “But we’ll think of one soon enough. Look, Rusco has come back to us.”

“Does yer really ‘as to go?” Maisy said mournfully. “Why carn’t yer just bide ‘ere?”

“I wish we might,” Radagast sighed, “but we must go. We’ve already stayed far longer than we intended. We will sorely miss this place, and all of the dear friends we’ve made during our sojourn here.”

Cal was petting Nilde, his face bent down to her so the others couldn’t see, but they could hear him sniffling.

“Mum’s goin’ to let us go to Jem’s school,” Maisy said. “I want to learn how to read books and draw words like other folks. Cal don’t, but mum says ‘e’s goin’ anyways.”

“I’m sure both of you will do well,” Radagast said. “Well, I think we had better start loading up this chap and let him get a feel for bearing a burden. It will not be too heavy, I’m sure.”

“We’ll ‘elp,” Gwynlen said. “Where’s yer stuff?”

“It’s in the front room, all ready,” Radagast said. “Don’t take anything too heavy now.”

As they went back inside the house, Greenjade lagged behind, with Nell just in front of him. What was she thinking? And why did he not go to her last night? One last time…it would have done him for the rest of his life. But he had spurned that chance, and now it was too late. Was Garland so important to him as all that? He did not even like her, and she hated him, surely…

There was little conversation as they gathered up the things and made a reasonably light load for the little donkey to bear. Smeagol went about touching things: furniture, lamps, curtains, odds and ends about the house. There were tears on his face but he did not even seem to notice. Miss Carrie looked as though about to lose her favorite dog.

Then as they were taking the things outside, a fair-haired youth showed up at the front door.

“’Ullo, Anson,” Mr. Partridge said. “Come on in. Yer room’s ready now. This is me nephew Anson. Ain’t ‘e a comely lad? ‘E’s me new apprentice.”

Anson beamed on all the sad-looking occupants and shook hands with Radagast and Greenjade, and looked at Smeagol with lifted eyebrows. The twins hugged their cousin impetuously. Miss Carrie said she would show him to his room, and made as if to take his bag, but he said he’d carry it.

“Cheery chap,” Radagast remarked as they finished loading the things. The twins kissed the donkey and then Nildë. Gwynlen looked to the finch but evidently he wasn’t having any. So she blew a kiss to him and her sister followed suit. Rusco fluttered his wings and looked pleased. Maisy giggled, then said she had to go. She hugged Smeagol and so did Cal, then they both embraced Nildë and gave the donkey one last pat, and Radagast bent down and kissed both children on the brow.

And they left, looking back over their shoulders from time to time.

“So…are we ready now?” Radagast asked after a long moment.

Greenjade scarcely heard him, for looking into Nell’s eyes one last time.

I would like to pluck all the green leaves from every branch,
I would like to weep on all the grass until it is deathly pale....

~*~*~


Nell and Jem were wed in the late fall, and nearly the entire village took it upon themselves to build a new house for them, not far from her former home. They abode in his old house until the new one was finished, and the old one was fixed up and converted into the new schoolhouse for young ones.

Nell bore a son five months after the wedding, naming him Hareld, for her former lover. He was accepted by nearly all, strange to say, regardless of the circumstances of his birth. He did bear a striking resemblance to his natural father, as many noted, but few of them, save for her sisters-in-law, said aught to his mother of it. Her brothers' wives mostly remarked on what a handsome lad he was, yet completely different in personality from his natural father, whom they never quite understood, they said in hushed voices, and Nell told no one of his origins. She said merely that he had wished her to go to Mordor with him, but she could not leave her home, and he could not stay. Harry was an amazing lad, who learned to read and write a fair hand at the age of four, and could run like a rabbit and swim like a fish after very little instruction. He was quite a little show-off, and kept his mum in a constant state with his tricks, and was a natural leader among his peers. And he had nearly as much a way with beasts as Radagast, until a few men joked that the Wizard must be the real father of the child after all, then looked ashamed of themselves.

Sally's child was a little lass, and the parents were set to call her Aiwendil, but at the last minute they decided on "Lark" instead. Harry and Lark became greatly attached from earliest childhood, and were together as much as possible growing up, until folks could scarcely think of one without the other.

Betony quickly caught the eye of Nell's healing instructor, although he was well old enough to be her father, and after his time in the village was done, he took her away with him to Gondor, where they abode the rest of their days. Her friend Viola married a fellow who came frequently into the Quail and Pheasant, and ended up bearing him twelve children. He made up a song with a verse about each of them, and sang it whenever he got the chance. Many people learned to avoid him rather quickly.

Jem suffered a fatal heart seizure six years after Harry's birth, and Nell took over the schooling, along with her healing and mothering work; she had her hands full, especially after the death of Granny. A year later, she married a friend of her eldest brother Ralf, a widowed sheepherder with a nearly grown son and daughter. Unknown to her, he had long had an eye on Nell, but for the sake of Jem had refrained from speaking his mind even after the death of his wife, who had battled consumption for three years and died a year before Jem and Nell were married. Nell bore him another daughter and son, both red-haired, and they lived quite happily together until the end of their days. If she ever rose in the night to look out of her bedroom window at the stars and think sighingly on what might have been, her husband never knew of it.

~*~*~


*words by Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827), from Die Schöne Müllerin, song cycle by Franz Schubert.



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