I Will Not Say the Day is Done
Nor Bid the Stars Farewell
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 18, Part 115
(March 2, 1452)
The tiny plants plucked easily from the still-moist soil, and the
hobbit inhaled deeply of the earthen scent released. Side by side with
the other workers, Frodo crawled through the mud between each row, to
thin out the sprouts that the rest might grow strong, saving what he
culled in a basket for the next meal. A number of those who toiled
beside him stuffed the sprouts straight into their mouths as they went;
he kept an eye on them to make sure that they didn't eat the buckwheat
sprouts, which Elenaril had warned him carry poison. Though they still
had a few provisions left from the bounty of Mirkwood and the Lonely
Mountain (carefully rationed now with the wedding done) they had gone
long without anything so fresh as this, aside from a few tough desert
herbs and the lifesaving sourfruit juice.
At the end of his row Frodo climbed to his feet, his muddy shins and
elbows cold in the wind but his heart warm and contented, if one can
call it contentment when suffused with awe. Habitual awe--few but
farmers and gardeners could understand. He gazed out over fields that
glowed with a brilliant green mist of newborn sprouts as far as the eye
could see. He marveled at his own role in the matter, sowing those
selfsame seeds that once seemed dry and dead in the hand. Yet he also
knew his role only a part, a consent by action to share in a mystery
that existed on the earth before any child of Illuvatar had walked this
land, that would continue long after he himself had died.
He walked over to the next row, bent down, and set to thinning again.
Back in the Shire he would have stayed up on his feet the entire time,
turning excess sprouts under with a hoe to provide a little extra mulch
into the soil. Back in the Shire folks thought of hunger as what you
feel when you come to dinner late. His coworkers smiled to see him down
in the mud with them, but they respected him, too. They moved all the
more swiftly to any orders that he gave, knowing how he put in his
share, himself, though half their size. "Maybe it's good that Bergil
and Elenaril have gone for awhile--it'll give me a chance to get to
know the townfolk better."
Frodo sat back on his heels a moment and looked over some ways to where
Fishenchips used his hook on the tougher hedgerow plants, to make sure
that the man only uprooted those that strayed too far to the side; they
needed those plants to grow in thickly together. Some ways beyond his
servant, though, Frodo saw that strange little girl again; she stared
at him for a moment, the way that a rabbit will stare briefly at a fox
before scampering away. It seemed he saw her often these days, but
always from a distance. Sometimes she threw rocks at Frodo, but they
never quite reached him. Sometimes she appeared poised to approach him,
but she always changed her mind at the last minute. Nobody seemed to
know her, and that in itself struck him as strange in a community like
Frodo half-rose, but he saw no sign of her, now; he went back to work,
shaking his head. "I cannot help her if she won't stand still!" He
reached the end of his row, looked up at the sky, and stood up to
declare the noonday halt. Everyone rose to their feet as stiffly as
himself; even his clothes felt stiff, with the mud half-dried on them.
He loosened the scarf about his neck; the sun felt almost hot
today--good news for the plants now, a worry in the coming seasons.
Folks had warned him that by summer Mordor would become one great
Fishenchips came over and said, "You go on without me, Guv--Cork and some o' the others have invited me over t'lunch."
"Cork? Is he one of your old shipmates?"
Fish nodded. "We gots some reminiscin' to do."
"Then you should do it." Frodo tried not to let a smile ruin the
solemnity of the moment. "Just make sure you don't come back to the
field seeing double; it makes it a bit harder to find anything so
slender as a sprout."
Fishenchips repressed a grin, himself. "After night before last I'll
watch meself, sir." And he went off with his old new friends.
Proudly Frodo carried his basket of sprouts to the cart, admiring their
tender color, picturing how they would taste dressed in that oil he'd
been steeping with some desert aromatics. He might even leave some for
Fishenchips, if the sailor came home in any state to appreciate them.
Then he glanced up and saw Mattie leaning against his cart, watching
him. To his chagrin he saw her smoking her pipe.
"Here now!" he chided, setting his basket in the back. "I thought you
promised to give that up after the wedding." Then Frodo saw that she
did not merely lean on the cart, she held onto it. Grumbling under his
breath, he pulled her arm over his shoulder and helped her into the
cart. When he sat to the reins she smiled as she fell against his
shoulder, but he pushed her upright again to leave her with her arms
draped across the back of the seat.
"Whazza matter?" she drawled with a smirk. "You afraid folks'll think we're like dwaaaaarves?"
"I thought you said that was just a rumor." He brought Bleys around and
started down the road into town. "And I thought you made a promise..."
"There're all kinds of weddings, Frodo." She gestured with her pipe before her. "Look out there--see how the sea marries the sky?"
"You know what I mean."
"But isn't it...beautiful? Beautiful beyond all songs..."
"I would appreciate it more if I didn't feel so angry," he turned to her, "or so scared. You keep pushing the limits, Mattie."
the limits," she said with a luxurious stretch. "The dangerous
terrortory 'tween worlds! Frodo, if you could see the, the marriage of
the sea and sky as I do, if only you...well, here. Why not?" She
offered him her pipe.
"Keep that thing to yourself!"
She looked more darkly on him, puffed the last drafts of her smoke,
then shook the pipe out over the side of the cart and pocketed it.
Slowly and as clearly as she could, she said, "Then you will never
"Then I won't." The cart reached the streets and the hooves and wheels
resounded on the stones. "It looks like we're just going to have to
disappoint each other in our choices."
Mattie said no more, falling into a doze, but Frodo heard a silky voice in his head say, Ah...so
the young hobbit returns unchaparoned to his home, none there but him
and a tipsy lady-- whom few but he knows is of the female persuasion
anyway--whom he could probably persuade to do anything of an
entertaining nature, even without a dragon's tongue.
"Sauron, you are filth. I would say filth incarnate, but that no longer applies, does it?"
Do not deny that it occurred to you. I know better.
"I won't. But I don't act on everything that occurs to me. It's our actions that define us."
Do actions count that no one else has seen? I could easily arrange
that Mattie not remember a thing. She has given me the power to have my
way with her, and unlike some I am generous. You need not give me any
power of your own at all to share her with me.
he cried, and Mattie stirred uneasy by his side. "It's not all about
power, is it? You would teach me by degrees the ways of Ted
Sandyman--and wouldn't that be a vengeance on my Papa!"
If you want her consent, you need but offer her coin--she would accept. Her needs grow more expensive with time.
Do you think her purity inviolable? More than half the reason that
she wears male garb is the fear of what she might do for money if
people knew what they could buy from her.
"That," Frodo growled, "does not qualify as consent."
In a way Sauron's attack backfired, for now Frodo looked tenderly on
Mattie in her vulnerability, and a desire to protect her swelled in
him. She seemed to sense his regard, for she opened her eyes and made
an effort to sit up straight, though she soon slipped down again, her
eyes closing and opening in a slow rhythm that reminded Frodo
disturbingly of elvish sleep. Suddenly she gasped, an open-mouthed
smile stealing over her face as the tears trickled down. She whispered,
"Mama?" and then sank down somewhere deep where Frodo couldn't reach
her. Embarrassed, he pulled her kerchief from her pocket and wiped the
drool from her chin, and tucked it back into her pocket again.
But when he went to lift her from the cart at his home, she woke once
more, climbed down by herself, and looked on him with sparkling eyes.
Throatily she said, "I saw her Frodo. My mother." She staggered against
him and pressed a tiny hand to his breast. "I saw her! Flying...in the
mos' beautiful sunset...her hair all tangled i' the clouds...beckoning."
"Oh no no no--you are not going to join her!" He bustled her in and
left her on the bench, then remembered to relieve Bleys of his harness
and fetch the sprouts (after giving the donkey a generous handful for
The minute he came back in she cried out, "Frodo?" trying to rise off
the bench and sliding onto the floor instead. "I thought I would
never...ever...not those dreams again. But oh...if only you could see!"
Frodo slammed the basket onto the hanging shelf, setting the ropes to creaking and swaying. "Sauron--ohhh Sauron!"
If you do not want her, then I do. I offered.
Mattie lay on the floor beside the bench, a hand reaching up towards
the ceiling, wonder in her face. "Towers..." she husked, "Towers of
pearl and opal...Mother lives there...if I could just...the song would
let me in, if...the song is the key...the song..."
"I'm going to fix some lunch now," Frodo announced, "and I insist that you share some with me. It'll do you good."
But more and more despairingly she moaned, "The song...I need to...if I
could just...if I could sing that song..." Frodo watched her from the
kitchen corner as he tossed the sprouts with black Mirkwood walnuts and
goat cheese, and dressed them with his oil. "The song! I
must...remember...that song!" Abruptly she sat up, emptying her pockets till she found her pipe and the little round tin.
"No!" Frodo ran back and grabbed the tin from her. "Any more today and you would die!"
Mattie fought him for the tin, tugging with all her might, but he
wouldn't let go. The lips of her open mouth trembled, and her eyes
looked wild, like some final burst of strength roused up in her.
"That song isn't a key to anything! Listen--it's just another of
Sauron's lies. He's trying to kill you, drink up all the life in you to
keep himself going."
"Then let me die--please! I will join her--I will join my mother. Oh please!"
Then Frodo caught a glimpse that Sauron, in his eagerness, failed to
hide in time. "No you wouldn't. She has moved on, Mattie--don't you
understand?" She jerked the tin from him, but just stared at him,
clutching it. "Don't you remember what Tom Bombadil told you? 'The dead
have found their own true path--you needn't follow after.' She left,
Mattie. I think...I think Sauron tried to devour her, but she recoiled
and went the other way. She faced the music--she answered the summons
to the Hall of Mandos." He found a smile steal upon him. "It's not that
easy to defeat a hobbit--not even one who tries to defeat herself." He
helped Mattie to her feet and walked her to the bench again. "And that
goes for you, too, Mattie. I know I saw a true vision. You won't find
your mother's real spirit here, with Sauron's help or without." He sat
beside Mattie, holding her hands, the tin between them. "So why not
give it up? Why not go free?"
"You don't understand!" She pulled away from him, sobbing her
heart out, her curls straggling in her tear-blotched face, hugging the
tin against her breast. "You can't understand what you're asking me to give up, Frodo!"
"I daresay I can't," Frodo said gently. "That does not change what you
and I both know. If you keep on the way you've been, you will kill
yourself as surely as your mother killed herself--and whatever her
fate, she would not want you to share it. Not like this."
"But I feel so close...soooo close to understanding...everything." Her eyes clouded again, as her brief burst of strength waned. "It's real, Frodo...it is so real!" She slumped back, staring out beyond him.
"It is not r..."
"The smial under the roots of the Mallorn tree...crystals set in
b'tween the roots...prisms...did you know that...rainbows danced there all the time?"
Slowly he asked, "How do you know about that?"
She smiled mysteriously at him, and for an instant her eyes focused on
his. But then her gaze wandered again. "Bathing in rainbows...just
lyin' there...on a little bed of furs...but ohhhh...how sad...something
crushed it...poor little diadem of copper and...and beryls..."
Frodo jumped up. "Now that I know is a lie!"
Mattie shrieked with laughter till she fell over. It did not feel to
Frodo like Mattie herself laughed at all. The alternative sickened him
in its obscenity.
"Will you just listen to me!" he cried. "Murders have happened--I told
you about them. From hobbit height. But nothing went on while
Elenaril's women watched over you and kept you out of mischief." He
grabbed her and shook her but the peals did not abate. "And who is laughing? Sauron, is that you in there?"
"Jus' li'l ol' me," she chuckled, and she gave him a saucy grin.
"Ma-til-da Greenbanks t'you." Her laughter subsided. Careful in her
pronunciation, she said, "I make my own choices, Frodo. I am not the
slave you think I am. I never murdered anyone in my life."
"You named yourself a slave to me soon after we first met."
"Then I must've been out of my mind," she declared as though this were nothing, and burst into new giggles.
"So you make your own choices? Fine, then! But give those choices a
good, hard look!" Not knowing what else to do he knelt beside her and
lifted his magic glass from within his shirt. He took her hand,
the one without the tin, and he pressed the glass in it, wrapping her
fingers around it and holding it there so that she couldn't let go.
"Maybe you need a little magnification, get a good close-up look at all
the details. Everybody says I need to let you run your own life, well
sure, I jolly well will--but I won't let you hide from what you're
She struggled at first, but she had already spent herself. She turned
her face to the wall, but Frodo could still see it in profile,
grimacing, weeping. Then her teeth gritted, and the sobs came forth,
till she shuddered with her sobbing, and at last she cried, "All right!"
She gasped and sat up as he let go. "All right!" she repeated.
"Here--get rid of this for me! Maybe Elenaril can use it for her
And Mattie handed the tin over to Frodo. He took it slowly, trembling
himself, as fearfully as though she handed him the One Ring, and he
knew that for her it might as well have been. He had never seen the
poppy-gum tin up close before. Grime obscured the emblem stamped and
enameled upon the metal, but he rubbed it clean, curious. Some eastern
design, no doubt...or no...something else...
"No,” Frodo gasped, recognizing the logo with a final swipe of the
thumb. “No. That can’t be." It dropped from his hand with a
high-pitched clink, rolled in a circle and then clattered to the floor
where he could still see the cursed picture. "That... I know him.
Somebody must have stolen his good name for their own ends." Frodo sat
down on the floor beside it, staring in horror. "Why, when he, he found
out that pipeweed hurt men he made a long and dangerous journey to set
things right--he can’t possibly have anything to do with this!” Yet on
the lid of the poppy-gum tin shone the stamp of a stag’s head, the
antlers outlining a snifter--the seal of Brandybuck Mercantile.