I Will Not Say the Day is Done
Nor Bid the Stars Farewell
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 38, Part 135
Writing Home Again
April 4, 1452
Tower House, #2 Mayor's Plaza
I cannot tell you what a relief it is to me to know that by now you have finally read my last letter in its entirety. Now at last I can ask you for some real fatherly advice on all that troubles me the most! I have let go of Mattie in all of my intentions--but I fear that my heart never will, and that is something I must live with. She has become another scar that I must bear, closed for good now, but it pulls sometimes. Please teach me how to go on without her. Did you ever have to leave behind somebody like that?
But how could you? The Shire doesn't grow womenfolk like her. Why does that make it all the worse, knowing that I will never ever meet anyone like Mattie Greenbanks again? Oh Papa, however ill-got her magic, it is a marvel still. Call it a deceit of the enemy if you must, but I can never shake her spell entirely, no more than an elf can entirely shake the calling of the sea. Oh, if you had ever heard her sing! As for all that's wrong with her, Papa, it only matches all that has gone wrong with this land. How can I love this land into healing and not love her, too?
But one distinction stands out, and it makes all the difference. The land wants to come back to life. I can feel its yearning through the soles of my feet. Maybe she wants the same thing, too, but she doesn't know it. And she won't let herself know it, so it's no good telling her what I've already run out of breath telling her again and again. And there is nothing I can do to make her know what she has shut off from herself. It is like trying to speak of stars to someone who has gouged out her own eyes. Forgive me--that's an ugly way of putting it. But no less ugly than what she has done to herself. And loving her makes it only hurt the worse.
I have seen much ugliness since I left home, and I guess maybe now I speak it, too. Being here just seems to make me say all kinds of things that hobbits don't mention in polite company, not even in Bywater. Things that other hobbits don't even think, to the best of my knowing, excepting maybe Ted Sandyman (Manwe knows what he must have seen under Sharkey to make him what he is!) I know that the letter that I sent you last carried more awful passages, more shameful things than I have ever confessed to you in all my life before.
So it seems all wrongheaded, downright disgraceful, to say that I feel like I have grown somehow for all of that, like a well-manured tree. But maybe only in Mordor can a body fully appreciate just how lofty the goodness of the Valar stretches up beyond us, so that the heart bursts with gratitude to fathom that such goodness still shines upon us anyway. For I have seen beauty here, too, often when I least expected it, a lot of it shining out of hearts, like light from lanterns in the dark. Oh, but you come to love that lantern-light, more appreciated than all the sun's blaze, when you're scared and shivering in the night.
I never understood Nienna before--she who wept in pity even for Morgoth. Now I think she's my favorite of the Valier. Although I will never forget Vaire in her dance! And yes, I can picture you shaking your head--I pay too much attention to the ladies, you'd say, even in my dreams of Valinor. Would that such dreams could distract me for long from where my attentions really want to go--would that my eyes could lead away my heart! For Mattie is not a pretty thing, not when I am honest with myself, while some of the human woman increase in beauty with a wholesome diet. How I wish it mattered!
Speaking of strange-appearing females, Dragon-girl is much the same, although I give her the hard-won dragon-heart serum every day. She will eat nothing unless she kills it for herself, though Elenaril has forced her to take in vegetable broths or fruit juices now and then by denying her aught else to drink. Our prisoner has bitten me a couple times, but every time that I want to smite her in return, I think of how Nienna sees the little murderess, and I forebear. It just doesn't seem right to receive mercy and not to pass it on. In Drift's name, then, I have to show her patience.
April 5, 1452-- Yesterday's notes seem absurd to me now, at least in part. Today I feel quite over Mattie, and wonder what got into me. Yet I also know that tomorrow I might well feel just as heartbroken as ever--and impatient with myself for having so little say over my own feelings. It comes and goes. I guess it was just such a relief to finally talk to you about it that everything flooded me afresh. Today I feel more sensible. I want a lady that I can build a life with! Considering my circumstances, I shall have to wait some years for that, but it will not kill me. (It only feels that way.)
This might sound strange, Papa, but sometimes I wish you could just pick someone out for me, a nice, garden-loving wife who could accept a little bit of strangeness in her husband, who could stand to live in Mordor for a few years with promise of better things to come, and send her to me with your next letter! I know--no decent hobbitess in the Shire would put up with such a thing. But I've heard tell that the practice is not uncommon in the east. I wonder if they have hobbits over thataway, split-off kin that we've never heard about? Ah well!
We still have plenty of acreage to sow, but what we've sown so far already reveals that wonderful green glow on brown-black earth that you and I both know and love. I look out there and think, "I have made a difference--I really, truly have made a difference! Even Lord Curudag saw it before he left. Do you have any idea of what a thrill that is, to come into a place of utter despair and sow hope? And watch the fruit of hope ripen on the vine? Of course you do, come to think of it. You must have felt that way when you cleaned up Sharkey's mess. Well think of what it would feel like if that mess went back as far as anyone could reckon--if nobody could even remember the Shire. I wonder if this place had a Shirelike past, back in the days when the Entwives tended it, before Sauron took it over?
(Now, of course, Sauron hastens to assure me that the Entwives invited him in. I don't doubt it one bit. He could persuade the elves themselves when he put on his company manners. But if Hazel's any indication, they came to regret it. I must remember that the more he offers me friendship!)
Before departing, Lord Curudag left me some potatoes from his private stock that did not appeal to him, as they had sprouted. So that means 'tater eyes to plant! Oh, Papa, tell Mama how my mouth waters for her chips, her mash, her stuffed potatoes dribbled with bacon, oh, so many ways to honor that noblest of roots! May Mandos have mercy on the weary soul of Turin Turambar--because, for all his faults, he still learned the lore of root-cookery from Mim the Petty-Dwarf, and in these days that counts right up there in my book with dragon-slaying!
I think I understand Turin a little better than I used to, anyway. And Bilbo Baggins! He makes perfect sense to me, now--I can understand the impish pleasure that I hear that he derived from his reputation for madness. Having found myself stuck with the same label, and no escaping it, I have learned that it gives me a certain license I never expected. If I want to weave some chance-found wildflowers into a crown for my head while I work in the field, well why not do it? I sing when I want to, I dance to where I want to go whenever I feel like it, I indulge in any harmless freedom that crosses my mind. The other day I found that I had not taken along enough paper for my field notes, so I started to sketch the plants upon my hands, and when I ran out of space, I rolled up my sleeves and covered my arms, and then my legs as well, so as to copy it all properly when I got home. I liked the effect so much that now I'm considering doing something of the sort again, just for the pleasure of it. The Nurnings have already gotten used to the fact that however crazy I might appear, I still deliver the goods, so they listen to everything I say about the fields, at least. Sane or fey, the work goes on apace. The buckwheat and the wrygrass ripen before my eyes. We should see a good grain harvest in time for your anniversary. Weather permitting.
Just one thing worries me. That bright blue sky. Too blue, too bright, too hard. The wildflowers wilt everywhere except in the field, between the rows, and we grow weary of hauling water enough for both flowers and crops. But if we weed the flowers out, insects will devour everything we leave. Sunny days are all very well for summer, but we haven't seen near enough rain for the season. I asked Mayor Aloe about the local norms and she's worried, too. Every day it seems that we have to lower the buckets deeper into the wells. Here we've dug all those ponds, and now they've got naught to catch; in that regard I have succeeded in creating nothing but great bowls of dust. And that scares me.
Still no progress with Dragon-Girl. I wish I knew some other name for her; I'm halfway tempted to make one up. I'd suggest something to her, but when I gaze into those cold, golden eyes, my mind goes blank.
She does not lack for intelligence. She has already started trying to wheedle her way out of her cage with that enchanted tongue of hers. My own past troubles seem to have rendered me immune, at least to non-dragons using dragon-magic. But I caught Fishenchips headed straight for the lock with the key in hand, and a knife looped by the lanyard on his hook, presumably to bestow upon her--later he couldn't believe what he had almost done. I shudder to imagine how that would have played out! From now on nobody delivers her food and water, nor cleans her cage, except for me. It is not a pleasant task; I would much rather rake up spilled fodder than the remains of rats. But for now she must eat the only thing that she can eat. I suppose you felt much the same about Gollum and his fish. Ah well, I can't say I begrudge the rats ending up in her cage instead of the fields!
I have not given up hope for her. I have seen by now that just as all things balance in the world of hand and eye, how winter cold finds answer in summer's heat, and autumn's fading in spring's rebirth, so it is that magic also has its balances. Great evil magic has wronged this child; it must follow, then, that somewhere in the world exists a matching magic that could do her wondrous good.
Well, Papa, tomorrow will be your birthday. I imagine you're already hanging up the lanterns for the dance to come. (I swear, people so love to dance around the mallorn tree in honor of your birth, that I can picture them keeping up the custom with or without you!) I'll wish you a good one now, in plenty of time to send whatever blessings I have your way. That is, if a scoundrel may bless, and I think he can. I think that anybody can bless, if they put their hearts into it. For in the moment that we desire good for another, we are at that time most truly Children of Iluvatar. I think that even Sauron has his moments. If only he would build upon them! Perhaps no other thing than that makes us who we are--not whether we do good or ill, for all of us do both, clear up to the Valar, but which sort of deeds we choose to build upon.