16. The Dream-fish
I'm glad you like my hymns. I was afraid at first that I was bothering you by singing them to the glass, but that was very silly of me. And now that Frodo-lad is born, which is when I composed the first one, I think they only add to your joy. I wish I could make my own tunes, but as I'm not so good at that, and I don't feel it is right to put the texts to tunes that have already been used, I will continue to allow Lady C., who is so much better at it, to put the music to them. Lady E. did say that Ilúvatar would be pleased just the same if I made the music myself, and doesn't expect more of us than we are capable of doing, I still wish the music to be the best possible, and would not have much joy in hearing the songs sung with mediocre music.
But I can hardly believe how silly I am! The house is nearly ready. I was so looking forward to moving into it, but as the time drew nearer and nearer, I began feeling twinges of great apprehension! As soon as the furniture is all moved in and the house is fixed up, Bilbo and I will leave the House of Elrond, which will go to Gandalf, and take up residence in the cottage. Now I found myself feeling a great many qualms about leaving the house in which I've lived for one full year and known joy and delight, made friends and helped to keep up when I was allowed…and….Well, I think I already told you about the lovely dreams I've had, about the little fish-maiden in the bath-house and everything…but I don't think I ever told you of the fish in the fountain in our room.
It would be hard for me to say just when the dreams started. I'm thinking it was a few days after Lyrien sent me the shell with the berries and the mushroom and the pearl …well, they do seem to have coincided with the receiving of that little gift. I kept the pearl on my desk for a few days, but it proved so distracting that I finally put it in the fountain, floating in the shell. And that night as Bilbo and I sat beside it smoking our pipes and watching the little goldfishes, I suddenly saw a fish I hadn't seen before. It was silvery-white like a star and larger than the others, and I can swear it was luminous, and I could hear a faint music issuing from the water.
"Bilbo, look!" I said pointing, and he leaned forward and peered, and I could tell from his look that he had seen it too. And that night I had the dream for the first time. But the next day I stared into the fountain for the longest. I watched for the fish all day, but it did not show.
A few weeks later, I saw the fish again, and that night I had the dream. Now every time I see the fish I have that dream, so now I call it the Dream-fish…and now that I was about to move…well, of course we can't take the fountain with us, so would I lose my little fish-girl? I fretted about it often, although I've told no one of the dreams but you, and the others probably assumed I was merely apprehensive about leaving the place that has been home to me for a year. Lady E. had said I would have my heart's desire within two years, and I think I know what it is now. I shall compose a hymn to Irmo Lord of Dreams, and ask Lady C. to set the very best music possible to it. But within two years? That could mean that I must wait until the end of two years…or it could happen tomorrow…or in one year…or next week…any time between now and two years. Now I see I'm going to really have to train myself to patience!
A strange thing happened the other day, and seems connected with the fish. We were at the sea-shore, Lord E. and Lady C., Lady E., Dûndeloth, Gandalf, Ríannor, Bilbo, Galendur, Tilwen, Lyrien, Seragon, Niniel, Marilen, and I, spending the day picnicking and boating and in general just enjoying the summer day. It was particularly heartwarming to watch Lord E. with his lady, the way he was looking at her, the two of them seeming in a world of their own, yet including us at the same time…I think he's fallen in love with her all over again since he came. What it must have cost him to let her go, I can't even begin to imagine, and I am glad and thankful I am not an Elf, when I think of what they must go through, parted year after year, century after century, from those they love, waiting through endless ages to be rejoined….
It seemed everyone on the beach that day was a couple, except myself, Bilbo, and the children. Yet I did not feel left out. I was even resigned to the fact that Lady E. and Dûndeloth were growing ever more fond of each other. Sometimes I think they are aware of how I feel about her, and are holding apart until I am gone, and now I wish I could get up the nerve to tell them not to do so. That now I am in love with my dream-maiden and have some faith and hope that she is not just a dream. But I have not found the way to tell them yet.
We had finished our luncheon and were sitting around looking out to sea, the little girls paddling out in the surf, when I heard a soft voice of singing. I have heard the music of the Sea many a time, and could not describe it to you; you would have to hear it for yourself. But this was different. I seemed to be the only one who heard it. Bilbo had fallen asleep in a canvas chair that had been brought for him, in the shade of a kindly tree that bore large flowers of scarlet and gold. I picked one and put it in his hand and kissed his head, and that was when I heard the singing. I slipped off in the direction where the voice was issuing, forgetting about the others, and wandering along as one in a dream. There was hardly anyone else about, a fisher or two, a couple of boys, and many sand-pipers, and none of them seemed to be hearing the singing. I don't know how far I ventured out, but I walked along the snowy sand with the water teasing at my ankles, and at times I thought I heard soft laughter. I wandered along until I saw a strange sight, high on a white cliff that jutted out over the waves. I stood there gazing I knew not how long, when suddenly a voice behind me startled me out of my reverie.
"Baggins! What in blazes are you doing?"
"Shh," I said, too intent even to be angry with Galendur for following me. "Look up there," I pointed up at the cliffs. "Do you see her?"
"Well, I'll be a balrog's auntie. There's a girl up there," he said. I felt relieved, fearing that I was only imagining her. "How in the name of all the Valar did she get up on that ledge? There's hardly a good foot-hold or hand-hold that I can see."
"I don't know," I said, having been wondering the same thing. "She's only a child, from the size of her. Perhaps we should help her."
"How? We haven't a prayer of climbing up there. We could go the long way and approach her from above, but we'd need a rope to let down, and we didn't bring any. I don't think there's one in the boat long enough."
I think she had become aware of our presence, for she had stopped singing and appeared to be looking in our direction. My heart leaped. Galendur laid a hand on my shoulder.
"Know what I think?" he said. "I think she's no child. Look at her."
"She's too small for an Elf, if she's grown," I said, my insides feeling as if a flock of butterflies had taken up residence there. "She can't be as big as I."
"Hmmm…." Galendur put a hand to his chin. I merely glanced at him, then turned my gaze back to the girl. Then I saw her wave at us, and it seemed she smiled, although I was too far away to discern her features, and she was in shadow from the overhang. She wore a short gown of pale sea-green, that barely came over her knees, and her feet and arms were bare. Then she stood up on her ledge, while I hoped she could swim, for she was in certain danger of falling into the water. I almost hoped she would, however, so I could run out and rescue her. I could see, now that she was standing, that her figure was not that of a child, and not of a mature woman either. Her hair was long and wavy and dark gold in color. Then to my consternation, she began climbing the cliff-side until she was on the very top, the sun illuminating her so that her hair looked a bright golden bronze, like the wings of a butterfly in the light, then waving to us once more, she bent her slender legs (which I could see had a very pretty shape) and did a most spectacular dive, incredibly far out over the water, which she entered with scarcely a ripple.
I stood there with my mouth wide open, probably looking very silly indeed. There was no way that tiny girl could have dove out so far! It was as if she had flown, like a bird, but she did not have wings. I watched for her to resurface, but she did not, and I felt a twinge of terror. Could she drown, down in there? Then I saw something, and held my breath, but it was only a dolphin, and I nearly wept with disappointment.
"Let's get the boat," Galendur finally said. "Maybe we can spot her out there."
Hoping against hope, I helped Galendur to untie the Lady Vana, while the children came running up, saying, "May we go too?"
"Not this time, darlings," Galendur told them. "There isn't room. When we come back we'll take Lord Elrond's boat and all go for a sail. But Baggins and I need to go look for someone."
He explained to them hastily about the girl. The others stared at us, probably wondering if we had lost our minds. I got into the boat and Galendur followed. I asked if I could steer and he let me, and out we went, but we saw no sign of the girl. And yet, strange to tell, the water seemed somehow brighter in the place where she had dived!
You may think I would have been overcome with disappointment, but instead, at seeing that luminous water, I felt a joy I hadn't supposed possible to feel, and I felt like singing and dancing, and diving down into the water and swimming to the bottom until I found the girl, and skipping through meadows like a newborn lamb and climbing trees like a squirrel and running up and down the beach like a wild horse. She is REAL!!! My joy must have showed, for Galendur looked at me in some astonishment, then told me I looked as though I'd swallowed the beacon on Lady Elwing's light-house.
We did not see my girl again, but all the rest of the day, I was so light of heart, everyone must have wondered if I had started taking leave of my senses, and they might have been justified in supposing so, for I tried walking on my hands—I used to be able to do that when I was a lad, and could still manage it, although not nearly as well. I climbed a tree and swung crazily back and forth, making bird-calls for the girls, which amused them very much, and poured a handful of sand down the seat of Galendur's trousers and underdrawers while he was squatting in the sand and showing a bit more of his rear than was seemly, and Bilbo awoke and asked what I had been drinking and could he have some too.
Later on, I drew Lady C. aside and asked her, "Pardon me…if this doesn't sound utterly stupid, can you tell me…are there water-sprites on the Island?"
She looked at me the way one would expect, and said, "Why, I don't know. I have heard a few tales of sea-folk, but have seen none, to my knowledge. Why do you ask?"
I told her of the girl, though not of my dreams. "Galendur saw her too, so I know she was not a figment of my imagination. And Lyrien told me of a fairy she saw—I thought she was making stories at first, but it's really not like her…"
I told of the golden mushroom and the pearl—she knew about the pearl, for it had been set in my circlet. And then there was the circle of golden mushrooms around the bath-house, which back in the Shire would have been called a fairy-ring…strange it should have just sprouted up overnight around the bath-house, and others had noticed it as well, and fairy-rings usually do not appear around buildings.
"You'd think I would have had done with golden rings forever," I laughed a little crazily, "but this…well--I've heard a legend that one of my Took ancestors took a fairy-bride," I found myself saying. "And I think once, when I was a little lad, I saw a fairy dancing on our lawn. I had gotten up to visit the privy in the night, and heard a strange music coming from outside. So I ventured out and there was a girl…well, I supposed that fairies were tiny, like butterflies, and had wings but this one was my own size—I think I was about nine or ten at the time—and if she had wings I don't remember, but she was all alight. And when she noticed me looking at her, she disappeared. I didn't see her again, and I decided I had dreamt her after all."
Lady C. looked thoughtful and she took my hand as we walked along. Lord E. was talking with Gandalf and Dûndeloth.
"This is a land of miracles," she said, "where beautiful things happen when we least expect them, and dreams can come true, and the impossible can come about. And I believe this place to be a reward for you, and so your dreams may well come to pass, and I hope for your sake that they will. I know that you were brought here so that you might experience all the peace and joy that you deserve, and so I see no reason to doubt you, and that your heart's desire may come about sooner than you may know."
Before we left the beach, I picked another of the beautiful scarlet flowers from Bilbo's tree, kissed its petals and flung it out as far into the waves as I could. The sun was sinking over the mountains and I could see the light-house beacon beginning to glimmer among them.
Well…whatever apprehensions I have had about moving are nearly gone now, Sam! But...two years??