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There’s a song stuck in Elanor’s head and she can’t quite remember what it is, or where it came from, though she’s sure she ought to know. Snatches of it come to her in the night, but as soon as she reaches for them they dissolve into nothing. It’s driving her a little mad.
It first came to her when Elfstan had the colic, not three months after he was born. She and Fastred took turns when he woke them up in the middle of the night, but that only served to make both of them weary. That particular night it happened four times.
When it was her turn to calm Baby down, she began to sing the old lullabies she had learnt from Mum and sung to her brothers and sisters in turn; when out of nowhere the melody slipped into her head. When she hummed a few bars of it Elfstan quieted, looking at her keenly, and then settled down to a light doze. She stopped, shocked, and when she tried to remember what she had hummed, the song was gone.
Whenever bits and pieces of it came back to her she was grateful, for it calmed the child down every time, but then she’d have to hum them over and over just to commit them to memory. She thinks she’s got most of the song in place now, though the colic has long passed, but she still hasn’t the foggiest notion of where it came from, or how it came to her.
She’s humming it late one night when she’s doing some mending by the hearth, and Fastred asks her about it. She hums the song for him, but he’s never heard it before.
“I think it’s a lullaby,” she says.
“I sang it for Elfstan and he calmed right down.”
“One of your mother’s, perhaps?”
“It can’t be. I know all of them by heart. Besides, she’d never sing anything so…”
“That wasn’t the word I wanted, but it’ll do. Melancholy.”
“No, it doesn’t sound much like a lullaby, does it?”
“It doesn’t,” she says, “but it works as one, better than the ones I actually know. I’d say it was magic if I didn’t know better.”
“Yes, you’ve seen all the kinds of magic there are in this world, haven’t you, O Elven Fair?”
She laughs at his flattery, but when he slips his arms around her from behind and kisses her on the cheek, she cannot help but kiss him back.
Thenceforward the song remains a mystery to be worked at when she has the time, but no matter how much she scours her mind she cannot find a trace of its origin.
At the Free Fair that year Peregrin announces the creation of the new position to govern (so far as any hobbits need governing) the new land—Warden of Westmarch—and that her husband shall be the first one. This she has long known, for she and Fastred were both involved in the talks between her father and Pippin, but now it is official and they shall have to move.
They already have the place picked out, for as soon as she saw them Elanor was fond of those elven towers; but the basements to them needed to be enlarged and connected. When at last they are ready to move Mum and Dad come to join them, for she hasn’t seen them since the Fair and now the added distance will make visiting more difficult.
The first night in Undertowers, as Fastred has christened it, Elfstan can’t sleep. At ten o’clock at night, he cries out from the nursery, and she and Mum rise at the same time to comfort him. Mother gives her an apologetic look and murmurs something about old habits, then sits back down while Elanor hurries into the nursery for her child.
Elfstan is very fussy—understandably so, she thinks ruefully—so she picks him up and carries him to the sitting room, running her fingers through his hair and humming the lullaby to calm him down.
She sits back at her place, still humming, but the song dies on her lips when she looks up from the babe. Mother is gazing at her in mute astonishment and Dad has his eyes shut. He gets up and leaves the room.
“Mum…” she says, unsure what to make of it all.
“Even after all these years you still surprise us, Ellie,” she says with a sad smile. “Talk to your father; he’ll want to explain it more than me.”
So Elanor hands the baby off to Fastred, who has been left bewildered at the whole exchange, and follows Sam.
It takes a while for her to find him, because this is a new home, and because it turns out that he’s left it, and is standing outside the front door, staring West. Eärendil is just setting, and in an instant she knows what he’s thinking about, and wonders. She lays a hand on his shoulder.
“I haven’t heard that song in thirty-four years, Elanor,” he says after a few minutes. His voice is rough, and she dares not look at his face. “You gave me a bit of a shock, is all.”
“I didn’t mean to,” she replies. “I didn’t even know where it came from—it just slipped into my head a few months ago. It calmed Elfstan down when he had the colic.”
“It calmed you down, too, like nothing besides. He’d offer to look after you when Rosie and me were both short on sleep, said it was the least he could do after all the care we spent on him. I think he knew he was sailing, even then.”
“Did it have any words?”
“If it did, I can’t remember them now. What would he have wanted to say to you, that he couldn’t tell no one else? You were always very special to Mr. Frodo.”
“I know,” says Elanor. “Do you know where he got it from? It sounds so—”
“Sad? I always wondered at that—should’ve wondered at it a great deal more at the time. But I’d never heard it from no one before, nor since until tonight. Likely he just made it up, though I might be wrong—I didn’t meet him till he was twenty-one, after all, and mayhap old Mr. Bilbo or someone else sang it to him when his mum and dad died. At any rate it’s a very queer song—sticks in the heart more than the head, if you take my meaning.”
Elanor does take his meaning, and she squeezes his shoulder to let him know. Her thoughts wander beyond them, until she finally breaks out with, “But how, Dad?”
“How could I remember, after all this time? I wasn’t even half a year old when he left!”
“Well, you remember his face, don’t you?”
“You made me! And even then, that might be all the pictures I’ve seen since, or my fancy, or both!”
“Or it might be your memory. I always said you were a sharp one, Elanor—a double portion of the Lady’s blessing. And blessings needn’t be in looks alone, neither.”
“It all feels very strange. Should I go on singing it, knowing that Frodo sang it last?”
“I don’t see why not, though you’ll have to excuse your poor father if it makes him a bit sad. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.”
She stands out there with him for a few minutes, watching the Lonely Star set, until he tells her to go in and not to be bothered about him. But she worries anyhow, for if the tales are true you can see the Sea from the top of this tower, and she wouldn’t be surprised if her father decided to find out in this mood. And that would do far more harm than good.
She steps quietly back into the parlour. Touching her mother’s shoulder, she says, “Go to him,” and sits down next to her husband and the baby.
When Rose has left the room, Elanor turns to Fastred and says, “Well, that mystery’s been solved—the mystery of the song, I mean.”
“That’s what this is all about?” he says.
She nods. “Frodo—that’s Mister Frodo, as Dad would say, not my brother—sang it to me before he left.”
“What? But how could you remember that?”
“I don’t understand it either,” she says, and weaves her hand through his.
“Are you still going to sing it to our child, knowing that?”
“I don’t know,” says Elanor.
A smile tugs at Fastred’s lips. “You know, I think you ought to, my dear. Just think—gardener’s daughter, Warden’s wife, living under Elven towers, singing the Ring-bearer’s lost lullaby to our son? It sounds terribly like you, doesn’t it?”
“Oh, hush!” says Elanor, and laughter bursts from her lips like a fountain, for of course he’s right. She leans her head on her husband’s shoulder, shuts her eyes, and laughs, and for the briefest of moments her thoughts wing westward and wonder if he ever has occasion to laugh like that too.
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