57. Taking What is Given
Pippin lived a year after his mother. He died very close to her grave, and was buried next to it. It was almost another year before the family had another dog, when a neighbor brought them a puppy who was an obvious descendent of Nilde's.
They named him Sam. He was a joy to have about the place. However, Radagast did not get another dog, himself. It was as if Nilde had taken his heart with her. It went the same with Sméagol.
Greenjade, now Prince of Calador, and having moved his family to Vanimelde to live in the twins' stately home, started a regular correspondence with Samwise, who wrote much of what Mister Frodo had revealed to him about his doings on the Island. Eventually he would meet Merry and Pippin also, and spend much time in fellowship with them, discussing, of course, Frodo, and the Quest, and anything else that came up. They did not see Sam again, for he abode in the Shire for the rest of his days up until the death of Rosie…after which the Nimloth carried him off to the Undying Lands. The King delicately inquired of Meleth if she wished to go also, but she said no, as long as her husband lived, Calador would be her home.
About ten years prior to this event, Radagast began fretting over Sméagol, whose health was much in decline. By and by he brought Sméagol back to his house to live. Many friends and neighbors came by to inquire as to his health, bringing him things to eat, and other little gifts. Radagast would carry him out to the porch to sit and look out at the garden, at the birdhouses set up in it—there were many, mostly made by Greenjade, painted in gay designs by Serilinn and Bryseluthea, others made from gourds. Some were up on poles, while others hung from trees or the eaves of the shed. The sight of the birds going to and fro, building nests, singing, tending their young, occasionally squabbling, teaching the little ones to fly, was a great comfort to him, as were the butterflies and bees that flitted over the flowers. It was all he wanted, just this. And the sight of Nilde's grave at the edge of the garden, where a beautiful stone bore her name and the names of the other pets that had come and gone buried there, and flowers and small trees planted on the graves and near them. And the lasses coming to bring him treats and talk and sing to him, holding his hands, which were growing ever bonier, so that he feared he was beginning to look like Gollum once more, but they assured him he did not. Not that they truly knew what Gollum had looked like…
And Meleth made a song for him, and all, including Greenjade, sang it to him whenever he requested.
Lay down your heavy head to rest
Long have you traveled, now you are home
Lay off all burden of grief and shame
Look only to the here and the now
You are home, peace is your own.
Taste of it, drink of it,
Let it warm you through and through,
Revel in the care that we give you
Sleep in the softest bed you will find
Feel of the sweet grass beneath your feet
Taste bread and honey, sweet berries and wine
Take what is given, leave sorrow behind
And know that never again
Will you ever be lost and alone….
And one day in late spring, Serilinn and Bryseluthea went inside to get him some refreshment, and when they returned they found him sitting as they had left him, in his long chair with the pillows at his head and back, one hand holding the little bunch of flowers Bryseluthea had gathered for him, and he seemed to be looking toward the little graves, unblinking, with just a touch of a smile on his lips.
He was buried very close to Nilde, but he got a stone of his own, which bore only the name Sméagol on it, and the little epitaph,
Know that never again
Will you ever be lost and alone.
Serilinn had decided she wanted to wear her mother's gown at her wedding, even though Meleth had offered to make her one of her own.
"I'm not sure mine is still fit to wear, after all these years," she said. "I dare say it will fall apart on you if you were to put it on. Besides, it will have to be taken up somewhat, as you are not as tall as I."
"Well…could I at least have one exactly like it?" Serilinn pleaded. "It would mean so much. I don't care if the fashion has changed since then, I still want one like yours."
And Meleth laughed a little. "As you wish, my lamb," she said.
And as they were working on the gown, with some help from Bryseluthea, who did not like to sew, but this was different, this was a wedding gown, and her sister's at that, so she would do what she could! even if her mother and sister had to rip out her stitching in secret and put in new.
"I wish Sméagol had lived long enough to see me married," Serilinn said as she delicately stitched the underside of the yoke at the neckline.
"I do not know how happy it would have made him," Meleth said quietly, where she worked on the skirt. "He was secretly in love with you, you know."
"He wasn't!" Serilinn pricked her finger with her needle, and barely managed to put her finger in her mouth before the drop of blood could stain the white silk.
"I am amazed you never suspected it," Meleth said. "But yes, he did hide it well. But I saw the way he looked at you when you did not see. I wonder if I was the only one."
"Oh my dear," exclaimed Serilinn. "And you never said a word about it the whole time? But Nana, you tell me everything!"
"Not everything," Meleth said with a little smile. "But you need not worry over it. You were always good to him, and made his last days very happy. I believe he was content just to have you around in his sight, talking and singing to him. I think it was the first happiness he ever knew."
Serilinn was silent for a long time. Then after a while she said, "I'm so glad Kaerwyn is able to come to the wedding, at least. Here she is a great-grandmother, and I'm just about to be a bride! You know Gilglin died several years ago. Pity she never married; I wonder why she didn't? If not for Bri-bri, I would not have had any friend close to my age who did not grow up and get old right before my very eyes. I wish Mistress Amdir had lived long enough to see the wedding. I wrote to Elanor inviting her and her husband to come, but I know she will not. It's much too far for her, at her age. I'm a little worried about her. It went really hard with her when her father sailed for the West, and that was all of fifteen years ago. She and he were so close. I understand that completely. I'm just glad my Ada has lived long enough to see me married."
"He has held up well," Meleth said smiling, then she sobered. "I wish he would take things easier; I'm afraid he will over-exert himself. But he is the sort who likes to keep busy. He does not do well idle."
Serilinn nodded. "I suppose Sam and Frodo are both in the Gardens now," she said softly. "And Anemone also. All together in a beautiful place…where Ada will go someday without us."
"But we will be there someday too," Meleth reminded her.
"It will be a very long time," Serilinn fretted. "All through the ages. I cannot imagine it. Were it not for the thought of Elladan ever beside me all through those ages, I would have but sorrow to think of it."
A tear crept from her eyes as she laid down the silk in her lap, looking out the window and not seeing what was there. Meleth reached over and laid a hand over hers.
"Oh, but I am a selfish thing," Serilinn cried. "I will have Elladan, at least. Whom will YOU have, Nana? When Ada has left us."
"I will have you…and Bryseluthea and Iorhael, and all the children and grandchildren you will have," she said softly, choking up a little.
Serilinn had decided to be married in the temple at Minas Tirith, because her parents had been wed there, but she changed her mind almost at the last minute. Elladan said he would go with whatever she wanted, and if she wished to be wed on the edge of Mt. Doom, why, that was fine with him.
"Calador is my home," she said, "and I will be wed here…in the temple that Ada and Radagast and the Elves built. What better place, after all?"
As Greenjade watched her coming slowly down the stairs, ravishing in her wedding finery, he felt much as he had at her graduation, only about a thousandfold. An avalanche of memories descended upon him. Their travels over the years; and he had been to visit in Rivendell, Lothlorien, Mirkwood, Harad, and some of the islands in the Bay, always accompanied by Meleth, and sometimes the children too. He had written of his adventures there, and also a volume of his poetry, beautifully illustrated by Serilinn, who also illustrated Meleth's, which filled two volumes. (But hers was not nearly so fine as his, as she always insisted. There was just more of it.) Then there was a book of Serilinn's designs, which really had changed the face of architecture in Middle-earth…or at least, had dramatically added to it. Despite her still young age, she was now teaching classes at the university at Osgiliath, which she and the Queen had both founded.
Bryseluthea was now a lady-in-waiting for the Queen, and enjoying herself at it immensely. Life in Elvea did not suit her much, too "pokey" for her liking. She thrived on attention, and got plenty of it, for she loved to sing and dance, and dress in gay clothes and make merry, and participate in theatricals and concerts and sporting events. As fanciful as ever, she helped to write some of the plays and design costumes and sets. She was a great favorite everywhere she went, and had more suitors than she could count. Even so, she was more intelligent than she seemed, and often surprised people with her wisdom and wit. According to the Queen, she was a great Presence, a light and inspiration to all about her.
According to her father, she took much after her grandmother in spirit, and so was well named after all.
Iorhael much resembled his father, save for his bright blue eyes which were like those of his mother and sister Bryseluthea, and he had facial hair and rounded ears also, so that his mortal blood was much in evidence. He grew up much faster than his sisters had done, and was quite a man before they were even of age, and his mother despaired that she would likely lose him eventually. She tried to take it in her stride, resigned as she had been to her husband's mortality, but the eminence of her son's demise was something she had not anticipated. He had worked with his father and had fairly taken over his carpentry business, and had married one of Kaerwyn's granddaughters, and was the father of two sons and a daughter. Meleth doted on them, certainly, but that was yet another pain for her, the thought of losing these grandchildren as well as her son.
But for her daughters, she would have likely opted for mortality herself, just as the Queen.
But now was Serilinn's wedding day, and she put aside these concerns and griefs and wore a smile as she took her place in the temple as mother of the bride, her husband, with his head of silver hairs and beard and weathered skin, beside her, standing yet tall and unbent despite the fact that those who did not know would have taken him for Meleth's grandfather….
The ceremony had to be held outside of the temple, after all, for there was not enough room in it to accommodate all the guests. Radagast stood with Elladan and Elrohir and Iorhael in front of the temple doors, which had been draped with garlands of flowers, as music played from within the building. Bryseluthea stood by, in her bridesmaid's gown of sky blue, her arms full of pink roses and lotus blossoms, her hair woven with blue and white flowers holding it back in the front, so that it fell down behind her in luxuriant waves. She saw Elrohir looking sidelong at her and smiled to herself, then allowed herself a glance his way, which he affected not to see, and so she sighed and turned her eyes ahead of her…just in time to notice him looking her way once more. She suppressed a giggle until her sister hove into sight, moving slowly along on her father's arm….
And Greenjade saw an elderly woman looking his way, out in the crowd, leaning on the arm of a dark-haired Elf, as Radagast was joining the bridal couple, and he had to look twice….
No, it couldn't be….He turned his attention back to the ceremony, and smiled wistfully as the groom kissed the bride and the crowd broke into a deafening cheer that likely could be heard all the way to Osgiliath.
And he saw the elderly woman being helped along by the dark-haired Elf, who put his arm about her waist most gently and tenderly and led her away from the festivities as if she were his frail great-grandmother, rather than his wife of many years, and two other Elves, one male and one female, following solicitously after, both with the silvery hair like Northlight's, gleaming like high clouds in the mid-morning summer sunlight of Calador.