I Will Not Say the Day is Done
Nor Bid the Stars Farewell
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 15, Part 112
The Quest for the Way Home
(February 30, 1452)
The sun sank low in the west by the time the last guest toddled off, and Frodo's household alone remained to escort the bridegroom back to the tower house. Of the four of them, only Mattie managed to sing on-key, her thumbs hooked in her braces as she belted out the tune, just one of the boys. That she sang a different song from Frodo, Bergil, and Fishenchips mattered to none of them one bit. In fact the monkey, curled around her neck like a fur stole with eczema, seemed mesmerized by Mattie's voice, and responded in soft little piping sounds of contentment.
Frodo forgot the words to the chorus and stopped singing, clasping Bergil by the arm. "That dance..." he said. "Hoo boy! No one dances like that in the Shire, that's for darned sure!" He stared up at the ranger with wide, blurry eyes. "A young hobbit far from home shouldn't see such things."
Bergil beamed, saying, "Yet neither dancer had half the charm of my beeyutiful, delicate, graceful, enchanting Elenaril."
Fishenchips said, "Then you've seen the rest of 'er, mate? As much as all that? But I thought you said..."
"I speak from the wisdom of the heart," Bergil retorted, turning with a sweep of his cape, "which fathoms what the eyes dare not glimpse..." Bergil's boots skittered on some sand on the cobbles, but his friends set him right immediately; Frodo's pouch fell out of his pocket in the process, jingling loudly when it hit the street. Bergil blinked at Frodo as the hobbit picked the pouch back up, forgetting whatever else he meant to say. "The periananath are far too lucky at cards!" he exclaimed instead.
Frodo just grinned back up at him, bouncing the pouch in his hand, and said, "That's to teach you not to gamble when you're a married man." He slipped it back into his pocket, sauntering a little as he whistled a jaunty tune, and walked into a wall.
Bergil turned him back in the general direction of the road, chortling, "That is to teach you not to boast at a ranger's expense."
"Speaking of expense," Frodo remarked as though nothing had happened, "How do you expect me to pay you if I don't win back what I spent on the skins for the withy-dome?"
"You propose to pay me out of my own pocket?"
Frodo shrugged and said, "It makes sense to me."
While Frodo admired the glorious sea ahead of them, Bergil frowned, working this out. Abruptly Fish blurted, "Not to me it don't make no sense!"
"That's all right," Frodo replied. "You didn't gamble."
"Oh. Yeah. Ye're right."
"Glad we got that settled," Frodo said. He liked the downward slope of the street; it felt like his feet got farther and farther from his head that way, like he grew taller with each step forward.
"Uh, gentlemen," Bergil said, grabbing Fish by the shoulder as much to steady himself as to stop the sailor, "I do believe that this road leads to the beach, not home."
Frodo blinked at the sand a little ways below, and the sea beyond, sparkling in the sun's last light. "Why, right you are, Bergil! That is, um, definitely beach."
"A stroll on the beach!" Mattie declared. "What a splendid way to end a memorable day!"
And indeed nothing seemed more marvelous at that moment than to walk straight into the dazzlement of the sun as it brushed the distant mountains to the west, while the waves to their right bowed onto the shore. The sussuration of water rushing over sand and stone sounded a little dizzying to Frodo, but that suited him just fine, dizzy felt all right. The sun's last light shone through each wave just as they rose up to curl, frothing up along the edges like mugs of beer back home, in generous plenitude as far as the eye could see, and the hobbit felt just as expansive, as wide open and free-flowing as the sea itself. He gave Mattie a grin, and she gave one back just as silly, and both of them felt wise with love.
Bergil's feet tangled a little on the mounds of sand; he put a steadying hand on Frodo's shoulder and another one on Mattie's. "You two need to be more careful," he told them.
"Careful about what?" Frodo asked, trying to shrug the hand off, in no mood for a lecture.
Bergil smiled lopsidedly. "I saw you two. Don't be coy, now. And that is fine with me, wonnerful, in fact." He let go and shook a finger, owl-eyed, at Frodo. "But I happen to know that you, sir, are a boy-type hobbit, and, and Mattie here," he threw his arm around the other hobbit, leaning so low that Frodo feared the man would topple onto them both, "our good friend Mattie, here, happens to be a girl-type hobbit." Bergil straightened up precariously. "But not everybody knows that." In a whisper Bergil confided, "If you do not take care, people might think you two are...well, you know..."
"No, I don't know."
"You know, uh...like dwarves."
Fishenchips interjected, "'Tain't just dwarves, mate."
"Like what?" Frodo insisted. "How on earth are we like dwarves? Aside from height, I mean?"
Bergil did his very best to stare sternly down his nose while swaying slightly. "You are not like dwarves," he intoned.
Mattie rolled her eyes and said, "Dwarves are not like dwarves, if I follow what you're gettin' at."
Bergil turned to her. "And how would you know?"
"But that's my point exactly! How can any of us know what they're up to, deep down under the earth?" She crossed her arms and said, "We ought not to make presumptions."
Fishenchips shrugged, saying, "It only stands t'reason. They never gets enough dwarfly wenches to go around, so..."
Bergil said, "Exactly. Who knows what secrets they keep, buried from the rest of us?"
Mattie stamped her foot. "Who knows? Nobody knows! So stop passing around stupid rumors that nobody really..."
"Mind you," Bergil went on, "I cannot fault them for it. They are as Aule made them, poor things."
Frodo kicked driftwood out of his way and asked, "What on earth are you people talking about, anyway?"
Mattie said, "You don't want to know, Frodo. Anyway, it's not true."
"Who says I don't want to know?" Frodo exclaimed.
"That's right!" Fishenchips put in. "I don't see what's so all-fired unspeakable about simple mollydoodling between a couple willing dwa..."
"Mollydoodling?" Mattie laughed, nearly falling over in her mirth. "Is that what you call it?"
"Why?" Fishenchips' already flushed face reddened even more. "What do you call it?"
"We don't," Mattie said, her nose in the air (at least until she tripped on the sand and caught herself on Frodo's arm.) "We Breelanders do not discuss such things."
Frodo goggled at her in disbelief. "Breelanders discuss all kinds of things! I know--I heard them at the Prancing Pony."
"Oh--that's just at the inn!" she said contemptuously. In exaggeratedly precise pronunciation she said, "We certainly do not discuss such matters sober."
"Well, ye're not sober now," Fishenchips persisted, "So what d'ye call it, anyway?"
"Good girls do not say."
"Ye're not a good girl, neither, so spit it out."
"I am in that regard."
"Awrrr, ye're hopeless!" Fishenchips grabbed up seaweed and flung it out of his way. Frodo watched it curl in the air and land on a bit of driftwood that jutted up from the beach a jot more than the rest, watched the curvaceous seaweed curl around the wood all wet and clingy, like that one dancer's last skirt, while she yet wore one...
"What's mollydoodling?" Frodo asked.
Rapturously, Bergil said, "It is what good men and women do on their honeymoons."
Fish asked, "Only then?"
"No! Not only then! Many glad years afterwards, as well. But let us not sully the marital mysteries by coarse words, my friends..."
"So why shouldn't dwarves, uh, mollydoodle, anyway?" Frodo interrupted. "If you're saying what I think you're saying, couldn't they use the increase in their population?"
Bergil shook his head. "You just do not get it, Frodo."
"Never you mind."
"I hate it when older folk say that!"
"Y'know," Fishenchips said in philosophical tones to Bergil, "For awhile there I thought that, you an' Master Frodo here were, well, you know, like dwarves together..."
Bergil stared at him, jaw dropped, while Mattie cried out, "Not like dwarves! Dwarves don't really..." But Bergil roared over her, "No! How could you think such a thing?" and he grabbed Fishenchips by the shirt while frightened hobbits stumbled back and the monkey screeched.
"Easy mate, easy! I meant no..."
"Who you calling 'mate'?"
"Not like that! Morgoth's breath, man! What's got into you?"
Frodo volunteered, "Enough grog to feed half the village had it just stayed grain."
Bergil, suddenly aware of what he did, let go just as Mattie snapped, "Calm down! You're scaring the monkey!" She reached back and patted the clinging creature. "Easy, Trickster. Easy now, my pet."
"Sorry," Bergil muttered. "One learns rough ways among rough men."
Fishenchips protested, "Hey, I lived m'whole life amongsts rough men, mate, an' I don't go around...uh, I didn't mean 'mate', exactly, um..."
Bergil waved his hand like warding off a bad smell. "'Tis all right. You have justly chastened me." Then, teetering but trying to regain his dignity while he straightened out his cloak, Bergil said, "Whatever you might...none of my business. Of course. Diff, uh, diff'rent customs. However, I will have you know" and here he wagged a finger at Fish, leaning perilously forward, "I will have you know, I say, that tomorrow I shall marry a woman, a very female type of woman," he straightened, rocking a bit on his heels, "and I am verrrry happy about it."
Frodo stared from one face to the other. "Are you folks making absolutely no sense whatsoever," he said slowly, "or am I just too tipsy to understand?"
"Both" Mattie snarled. "Now can we just get on with our nice stroll on the beach, please?" She tugged Frodo past a beat-up old tin pot that gaped from the shallows at them, wet-sand half-filling its mouth, and the others followed. "Hmph! And men have the nerve to call women gossips! Nobody knows thing one about what dwarves do down there underground."
Fishenchips muttered back, "An' it wouldn't be the end o' the world if they did do it, neither."
"Not that they do," Mattie insisted, stepping over some old chewed-up oar.
Bergil grumbled something exasperated-sounding and kicked a cobble down the beach, which hit a spar of driftwood with a loud ping. Frodo felt dimly aware that a change of subject would not do any harm at this point, so he said, "Getting back to those, uh, dancers." He tripped over more driftwood but caught his balance again all by himself. "I find it hard to believe that Strid...I mean Tar Elessar, beggin' your pardon...that ol' Tarry would've liked something like..."
"Did I say he liked it?" Bergil burst out, laughing loudly. "He was mortified!"
"I should think so," Frodo said, not noticing that Mattie had stopped in her tracks and stared gaping before her. "What with Elrond there and all. Imagine that--father of the bride, and also foster-father, too, the only Papa dear ol' Strider Tarrysar Whatever ever knew, watching a thing like that--and he to marry Elrond's daughter the very next day..." Now Fishenchips stopped as one dumbstruck, but Bergil and Frodo went right on.
Bergil said, "Ah, that is Lord Faramir for you--a quiet man, a respectable man, but oh, the practical jokes he pulls now and then, when the wicked mood gets into him!" He walked past what might once have been part of a folding chair. "And all with that innocent straight face of his..."
"I know!" Frodo chuckled. "Papa says that when they first met the men just took for granted that he jested when...what?" For Fish had suddenly run past him and Bergil and dove to his knees beside a large chunk of driftwood. Water sluiced around him but the man didn't care, he just raked the wood up into his lap with hand and hook and right there, cradling it, let out a howl that shocked as though the sunset had turned into a blood-filled wound. As Fishenchips wept Mattie tottered over to him and put arms around him, and softly sang one of her dirges, sad and sweet, while Frodo and Bergil at last caught up and stared, speechless, at the battered dragon figurehead in the sailor's arms.