"Went within a year of each other, they did," Sam said as they drove down the mill-stream road, Northlight driving the pony-cart with his mother sitting beside him up front, Sam and Frodo riding in back. Sam had brought but two bags with him, and he held another bag in his lap. Frodo's arm was linked over his. "Mister Merry met with an accident—nobody's sure exactly what happened, since he was by hisself. His pony must of got spooked and throwed him, or somethin'. His skull was cracked, they said. Them as found him said he must of died right then and there, never knew what happened. I hope so, if it had to be at all. Mister Pippin followed him about eight, nine months later. He had a serious heart complaint, but he would of lasted much longer, I think, if it hadn't of been for Mister Merry goin' out like that. It broke him, it did. I do understand it."
"And that was how long ago?" Frodo asked. He was not truly surprised. He had seen Pippin in a dream many years ago, waving down to him from a very bright window, Merry's face just behind him, beckoning to him to come and join them. He'd shaken his head, a little regretfully, and they looked at each other, laughed and disappeared, letting a curtain down gently over the window. But the light still shone through.
"Um…about twenty years, I think," Sam said. "Maybe twenty-two. I've got it wrote down somewhere, but my memory ain't what it used to be, if you follow my meanin'."
"Nor is mine," Frodo said solemnly. "So if I tell you something you already know, you'll have to please excuse me, Sam dear. I'll try not to be more tiresome than I must."
Sam laid down the enormous bunch of flowers someone had given him, then picked up the soft cloth bag that lay in his lap and took out the doll and looked at it once more.
"It really does look like my Rosie," he said softly. "How could she of got her just right like that?"
"Lyrien has ever been a worker of miracles," Frodo said just as softly, smiling to himself.
"I think I wouldn't of never made it across the Sea but for Lord Celeborn," Sam said as they rode past the meadow, and even as he spoke he couldn't help but take note of the flowers scattered far and wide, some of which he had never seen the like of before. Gold-yellow, scarlet, blue, purple, white, pink, orange-colored…it was like a huge garden just flung out all over the place without a care. And the butterflies that visited them just couldn't be believed. Beyond the meadow the mountains rose, craggy and green and blue and violet and silver, streaked with snow and mist and dark trees and strange rock formations dotted with moss and vines and patches of wild flowers, and yes, a waterfall here and there, just when you least expected it, as though it couldn't handle all the splendor within and had to pour out some of it from time to time. They crossed a bridge over a wide stream that hurried down from a hillside, full of the sun's brightest bounty, as though it had treasures it needed to carry somewhere in a trice and had no time to dawdle about.
"I was ever a bit in awe of him," Sam said, "but he was mighty good to me. He's been around an awful long time, and seen a lot, and he helped me to keep my mind off of myself. He had a plenty to tell. Some of it was right interestin'. Some of it weren't. But whether or no, he took good care of me, and the crossin' went much better'n it might of, but for him. Then there was the monkey too. It was awful nice of the Captain to let her spend so much time with me. He was a right jolly chap, he was. Had many a good story to tell, hisself, and he was right fond of ale, and brought a fine supply with him. His name was, erm, Captain Avar…er…"
"Avarfaugando?" Northlight said over his shoulder.
"Yes, that's the one," Sam said happily. "You know him, then?"
"He was the same Captain Guilin and Raven sailed with, wasn't he, Ada?" Northlight said.
"Yes," Frodo nodded. "Now our Captain was named Orobar. He was far older than Avarfaugando, I think. He sailed with the Numenorian explorer Phâzzor—or as he was known to the Elves, Telpemar. Or, he told me he did, and I believed him, and I think I do still. It was Telpemar who brought pipe-weed to Middle-earth, you know."
"Was it now?" Sam said with a soft whistle.
"Among other things," Frodo said, "such as potatoes, turnips, onions, pumpkins, tomatoes, and several varieties of peppers and spices. I'd read something of Phâzzor when I was a lad, but was never able to find out much about him. I suppose he wasn't thought highly of in the Shire, being an explorer and all, despite all the goodies he brought into it. Sad to say, I nearly forgot him myself, or I could have looked up something of him on my travels."
"Somehow that don't surprise me," Sam said. "Him being thought not highly of, that is, even after all he brought to us and everything."
"Captain Orobar still sails the seas," Frodo said. "It's in his blood. Every so often he brings us things he picks up here and yond. I'll show them to you. They're most amazing…although some may shock you. There is a land where the sculptors carve their gods in the nude. Imagine how outraged the Valar would be to be represented thus!"
"I should think so," Sam exclaimed. "The idea! He didn't bring aught to you, did he? If he did, I should hope you'd of had some clothes made for 'em…or somethin'."
"He didn't," Frodo chuckled, thinking of a certain book. "But Annûnlanthir, who knows him also, did carve a little nude figure of Nimrodel as a gift for Legolas, after hearing Phâzzor tell of those statues. I doubt Legolas ever shows it to anyone. I never saw it, myself."
"I posed as Nimrodel once," Anemone said smiling, "for Amonost. He is Annûnlanthir's grandson, and he married my daughter Gloryfall, you know. Oh, I wore a gown, of course," she laughed gently at Sam's horrified expression. "It graces a grotto in the Queen's Palace. You will see it soon, I'm certain. It's scarcely like the statue of Frodo and me in the park, but reasonably respectable, for all that."
They had paused at the Park to show Sam the sculpture of Frodo and Anemone that Annûnlanthir had made, many years gone, with Anemone in her bridal gown ("that was when I could still get into it," she'd joked) and Frodo in his wedding attire also, mounted on a block of rosy marble studded with moonstones. And there were words carved on each side of the pedestal. Frodo bent and read the first of the lines aloud:
Go, blessed pair, and seek the realm of music....
And before he could move to the next side, Sam had spoken aloud:
Dwell in the Light that beams upon your bliss;
Climb the bright stairway into the clouds of wonder
Long may you know the joy that springs from each kiss.
And they all sang together:
Fair are the Children who grace this verdant Islet
Gracious the Beings that heal us of our blight
Glorious the One who spreads it all before us
Blessing our pathway with peace and eternal Light.
"I know that one like I'd wrote it myself," Sam said as Frodo just stood half-smiling at him in wonder. "How could I not, when you sung it to me every year of my and Rosie's wedding anniversary? And I sang it to you on yours, though I don't know if you heard me or not. Maybe I haven't such a fine voice as you, Mister Frodo, but sing it I did, and no mistaking."
"I did hear you," Frodo said huskily. And they climbed back into the cart and went on their way.
Anemone had asked, earlier, if it would be all right to ask Sam if he had heard any word of Greenjade, her eldest son, formerly known as Darkfin. Frodo said of course it would be, but he asked her please not to ask right away, but wait until the time was right. He hoped now that she would wait a little longer, although he was curious, himself, and he knew she must be greatly longing to ask. But he didn't want Sam to be too much overwhelmed when he had just arrived.
She was looking up softly at Sam now from under her hat-brim, and Frodo feared what she would say to him, and he almost mouthed the words Not yet, but hesitated, remembering the way Sam had looked at her at the harbor when they were introduced. Not as though he were falling in love with her—although it was not wholly unlike that—but more as though he were recognizing a space of luminous continuity, a portal that stood open to a world of which he was only dimly aware, if at all. And she looked at him as though she, too, had opened a door to a life that had once been, and still was, if only in memory. And she looked back at Sam now with that same look, and he hoped she would ask what she wished to ask, but for Sam's sake, not yet, not just yet….
And finally she spoke.
"Sam, we are so glad you are here at last," she said simply.
The cottage was just as Sam pictured it…but the cove was something else again. It looked the perfect place for Mister Frodo and his missus to live. There was something dream-like and pure and far-off about the whole of it, as though it were a place out of time, that couldn't be touched, and yet might vanish if you breathed on it too hard, like a film of mist on a mirror. You wanted to fill all your eyes and ears with it, all your senses, far as that went, to take as much with you as you could, for you didn't want to leave it behind, and yet you couldn't own it, for it was cupped in the Divine, and you could only let it sink softly into the silence of your being, before you fell into it yourself, to rest there in complete accord with everything that was musical and liquid and bright, and let it shape you into what it would.
Or did it only look so in the still of evening, with the clouds on the rim of the sea all splashed with gold and fire and silver, the sun peering out like a king getting ready for bed?
"This is your room," Northlight told him, as he brought in the two bags Sam had taken with him to the guest-room. No trunk had he brought, for he didn't feel as though he would need much…seeing as he didn't expect to be here so long as all that. He looked at Northlight in slow wonder. This was Mister Frodo's son then, or one of them—since he had yet to meet the others. He looked a part of the cove also, as though he had somehow sprung from it, was the spirit of it perhaps. Sam didn't find it at all hard to believe he had simply risen from the water that poured from the five falls into the stream that led into the cove. He wouldn't have been surprised to see a rainbow form itself above him had he been standing in full sunlight.
Glancing about, he saw some of the items Mister Frodo had mentioned, that had obviously come from foreign parts. Strange looking some of them, indeed, although nothing that appeared in any wise indecent. An unfamiliar but pleasant smell hung over all. It seemed to be from a small cloud of smoke rising from a small carved dish on the chest of drawers.
"If you like, you may take the room that used to be Raven's," Anemone told Sam. "This one was made for big folk. Hers may suit you better, although it's much more feminine. We wish to make you comfortable as possible."
Sam hardly knew what to say to that. "This one will do me fine," he stammered. And, on a thought, he took the Rosie-doll from the bag and set it on the pillow. "That's all it needed," he told the others, who smiled softly all around.
The home of Northlight and Raven, on the other side of the bridge that went over the stream formed by the falls, was larger than the cottage, and was built in a different style. It was more like two boxes, one set on top of the other, built from white stone, with columns holding up some of it, and windows with rounded tops and dark-green shutters, and boxes of flowers in them. The terrace was much wider—it went from the front to the side of the house, and the gardens nearly blocked it from view. And there were wide stairs on one end that went up to the second story and up to the roof, with a pretty carved rail on them, and candles all about, so it all appeared to be full of stars. There were many folks already there, including little Miss Amaryllis, who linked her arm in with his, on the other side from Mister Frodo—she was not shy, to be sure, but she seemed so pleased he was there, he couldn't take exception to her boldness.
"Wait until you see the big dinner," she said breathily with a little skip. "You are going to be soooo surprised!"
Mister Frodo just grinned. Then gasped, as they went up the front steps to the terrace where two long tables were pushed together. And Sam gasped also. For there on the tables, and everywhere, were flowers of the sort that didn't grow in any garden he had ever seen…at least, not in the state they were in now.
There were watermelons that had been cut and carved into huge red roses, and more melons and fruits and vegetables carved into roses and lilies and lotus blooms, and orchids and irises, and some cut into the shape of birds and small animals and butterflies, some of them sitting on little tables set about, with more foods steaming on them, and some sculpted into little people, some of them dancers, some babies, some fairies, some of the carvings done right into the rinds of the melons…and there was a very large one into which was carved WELCOME DEAR SAMWISE in beautiful curly letters, with graceful flourishes all about. And candles all among them, tall ones, short fat ones, in all colors, some floating in bowls of water. Speechless, Sam glanced about and saw that Mister Frodo was as surprised as he was, and his lady too. And even Miss Amaryllis, who was staring open-mouthed, her lovely big eyes fairly popping out of her head.
And a lady wearing a pale-green gown and a white flower or two in her red-gold hair stepped forward and dropped him a little curtsey, saying, "Greetings, dear Sam, please sit here and be comfortable. It is such a great honor to have you here among us at last!"