Author’s Note: This is part of my in-between stories for Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Elenyaiel Windfoot is my own original character.
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What Might Have Been
“See that lass there? The one with the dark hair.”
“Oh, aye. What about her?”
“Didn’t you know that she was to have married Frodo Baggins?”
Old Marigold Bracegirdle almost dropped her coffee mug in amazement. “Here now, what’s all this?”
“Why, as sure as I’m sitting here, Mr. Frodo was fixing to speak to her! I could tell!” Thistle-Ann Proudfoot adamantly insisted. “That is, before his adventure and all.”
Marigold glanced again at the hobbit-lass about whom Thistle-ann spoke. She was barely 50, just past the age of maturity for a hobbit. She was of normal hobbit stature, though quite slender. She had glossy black curls caught up in a linen snood which, as soon as her mother was out of sight, she ripped off and let the curls trickle over her shoulders and down her back. Her white blouse, pale-yellow bodice and grey skirt seemed to only heighten the pink in her cheeks and made her look that much lovelier. Her emerald-green eyes danced gaily and with a silvery laugh, she disappeared through the marketplace, a half-filled basket on her arm. Soon, her mother returned only to find the spot by old Lumbertoll’s flower cart empty.
“Elen! Elenyaiel Windfoot, where be ya?” she called but to no avail.
“That’s the Took in the dear lass; just as mischievous as our dear Master Peregrin used to be, before he became all lordly and such.” Thistle-Ann commented as she returned to her coffee. “But this child is a fine hobbit-girl indeed. She took right proper care of Bag End while Mr. Frodo was gone, until those ruffians moved in. Yes, she would have made Mr. Frodo a fine wife.”
Old Marigold just glanced in the direction where the girl had disappeared and, giving an expected nod, returned to her coffee as well.
Up the lane at Bag End, there came a smart jangle of the doorbell. Sam left Rosie nursing Elanor and hurried to answer the door; Frodo was occupied in the study and Sam despaired of disturbing him. He opened the door quickly and there stood a pretty young hobbit on the doorstep, barely older than his Rosie.
“Good day, Master Samwise. Is Mistress Rose at home?” the lass asked.
“Why, yes, Ms. Elen. Won’t you come in?” Sam’s face lit up at the sight of his childhood neighbor.
“Oh, thank you but I really cannot linger, unfortunately. I only came to drop this by for your new daughter. I only hope it’s as pretty as her name.” With this sweet speech, Elen presented a darling linen smock of bright blue. “Congratulations, Sam!”
“Thank you, Elen. Come by again, won’t you?” He watched with a smile as she hurried off down the lane and then shut Bag End’s green door.
“Who was that, Sam?” Rosie asked, looking up from Elanor’s cradle.
“Elenyaiel Windfoot, if you can believe it,” he replied, handing her the smock and relating Elen’s greetings.
Rosie’s lovely face lit up. “Dear Elen? Are you sure? Why didn’t she stay for second breakfast?” She moved as if to hurry to the door and recall her old friend.
“I saw a half-filled basket on her arm and reckoned that she’d run away from another market trip and that her mother might be missing her.” Sam replied with a chuckle.
Rosie laughed as well, for Elen had been running away from market days since she had been a little hobbit-girl. She’d always cut around to see a friend and then return to the market before her mother left for their home on the south end of Hobbiton again.
Elenyaiel Windfoot was the daughter of Geradoc Windfoot and Lilyan Took. She was an only child, unfortunately, but enough of a handful for her parents to equal a hobbit-hole full of children. Her mother, whose family had been known for visiting with Elves, had insisted on her daughter having a lovely Elvish name, so she was named Elenyaiel, which means “Starsday”. But most fell to calling her Elen. Her family had come to Hobbiton from Marish when she was but a babe and she had known Sam Gamgee and Rosie Cotton all her life, as well as Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took, to whom she was a direct cousin.
Elenyaiel had become acquainted with Frodo soon after Mr. Bilbo Baggins adopted him as his heir and brought him to live at Bag End. Elen had also been a help to Mr. Bilbo as a housekeeper of sorts for a short while, especially around the time of his eleventieth birthday. She’d flown round the elegant hobbit-hole, making sure that things were kept in order and that not too many visitors bothered dear old Bilbo, who was grateful for her help.
As she’d grown up knowing Frodo, Elen had noticed many things about the young hobbit that struck her fancy. Being quite Tookish herself, she understood his curious moods and his desire to see the world outside the Shire; but, unlike Mr. Frodo, she had never gotten the chance to do so. She had kept quiet about the affection that had steadily grown in her heart for the young Mr. Baggins over the years, doing her best to not set hopes too high, not even daring to tell her own mother about what dreams lay sleeping.
“If it will be, it will be,” was what she always said to herself. However, she had only seen Mr. Frodo in passing since he had returned from his adventure and, along with Sam, Merry, and Pippin, had restored the Shire to its hobbits.
“If it will be, it will be,” was what she now whispered to herself as she hurried down the lane from Bag End.
Rosie and Sam turned to see Frodo standing in the doorway, a small smile on his face and his hands stuck comfortably in his pockets as he watched them look after Elanor.
“Yes, Mr. Frodo? Did you need something?” Sam asked, ready to fly to the furthest part of the Shire if need be.
Frodo smiled broader and shook his head. “No, no. I was just going to take a walk and was wondering if you’d like to join me.”
Rosie smiled. “You two go on ahead. Now that Elanor’s asleep, it will keep you out of my way while I get things cleaned around here. Take your second breakfast with you and you can have a picnic.” She always had been a smart, practical hobbit and it was one of Sam’s favorite things about her.
Soon, the two gentle-hobbits were on their way through the paths and fields of the Shire, enjoying the morning sun on their backs and the fresh breeze in their hair.
They traveled in silence for a while but, presently, Frodo spoke, “Did we have a visitor this morning, Sam? I thought I heard the doorbell while I was in the study.”
Sam glanced up from the blades of grass that he had been looking at, “Oh, it was Elenyaiel Windfoot. She came by to drop off a dress for Elanor.”
Frodo stopped walking and sort of stared at Sam. “Elen? Really? She came up to Bag End?”
“Yes, she was running away from market day again,” Sam replied with a smile. He watched for Frodo’s reaction, having always been aware of something deep in his friend’s heart for Elenyaiel Windfoot. Frodo has spoken of it only once or twice and Sam had never pressed him, knowing that his friend would always follow his heart in the end.
As Sam watched his face, Frodo became thoughtful and quiet once again and they kept on walking. Soon, they found a pretty spot near the old Bramblebush stream in the forest and sat down to have a late second-breakfast. It was so late, in fact, that it might as well have been elevensies.
After they ate, the two hobbits sat placidly smoking their pipes (the ones Bilbo had so generously given them on their departure from Rivendell). After a while, Frodo ventured to speak again. “I was to speak to her, you know, Sam. I had planned on it, my mind was made up.”
Sam glanced up at his friend, letting the mouthpiece of the pipe slip from his lips but he said nothing.
Frodo puffed for a moment more and then lowered his pipe. “Before we left, before everything happened, I was ready. Ready to settle down, ready to speak. But now…now it would not be fair. Not now.” His fingers strayed searchingly to his neck and clasped about the white pendant that Queen Arwen had given him, as if his life depended on it.
“But why ever not, Mr. Frodo? I’m sure she would accept, even after you’ve been gone. She cared for Bag End when we left, before Saruman and his lackeys moved in. Stood up to them right proper from what I hear.”
“I know, Sam. But I just can’t,” Frodo argued gently. “Besides, it’s too late I’m sure. Elen’s probably married by now; I know that Merry’s cousin Larimore Brandybuck had his eye on her.”
Sam fairly jumped up at this, anxious for Frodo to grab this chance at finally being happy. “No, it’s not too late, Mr. Frodo!” he interjected, “She hasn’t married from what I can tell, if you follow me. You can still speak. She’s surely been waiting for you, sir.”
He paused for a moment, almost regretting his hasty words when he saw his friend’s face color a bit. Sam had not meant to embarrass him. “You know, Mr. Frodo, I think that Elen always understood you, better than even I did.” The thought made Sam smile because he knew that Elenyaiel and Frodo did indeed have similar spirits.
Frodo’s eyes lit up a bit but then faded again as he clutched the pendant even tighter as though something pained him deeply. “No, Sam. No one can understand me better than you. But I can’t speak now, after everything. I’m…I’m not well. It wouldn’t be fair to her. No, I cannot ask her to be my wife now.” With an air of finality to his voice, Frodo put his pipe back in his mouth.
Sam sighed quietly and the two hobbits smoked in silence for a while. Soon, they saw the sun start on his westward run and decided that it was time to head on back to Hobbiton. Gathering up the remains of their picnic, Sam and Frodo started on their way, puffing on their pipes as they went.
Several days later, Frodo was helping Sam in the garden when a merry voice hailed them over the gate, “Good day to you, Masters! ‘Tis a right fine day for being outdoors!”
The friends looked up to see Elenyaiel standing there. Her hat was in her hand and a twinkle in her green eyes as her shiny, dark ringlets poured over her shoulders. The red and white of the dress she wore gave her a sort of rose-ish look, much befitting the early-summer day.
“Elen! Good to see you!” Frodo said, smiling and walking over to the fence. Sam added his greetings but soon slipped silently inside Bag End to watch by the window.
Frodo opened the gate, holding out his hand to his old friend. “I’m sorry, Elen. I should have cut round to see you sooner. Things have been quite hectic about here with Sam marrying and becoming a father and all.”
Elen just laughed and gave his hand a hearty shake as she and Frodo sat on a bench in the sunshiny side garden. “Please, no apologies, Frodo Baggins. I understand. You must be very happy with Sam and Rosie living right here with you, not to mention little Elanor.”
Frodo nodded, smiling at the words I understand. “I am, but something has been bothering me as of late.”
Elen turned, touching his hand. “Oh? What is it? Come now, ‘fess up and we shall make it right like we used to as children.”
He looked at her, right into those sparkly green eyes of hers. “I wanted to say that I am dreadfully sorry. Sorry for not speaking when I had the chance. Sorry for leaving the Shire without telling you how I felt. But things have changed now; I have changed.”
He paused for breath but then hurried on. “Don’t mistake me, Elen. I care for you as much now as I did then but things have changed. Things I can’t explain to myself, much less to you. Things I couldn’t bear to burden you with.” There was such a look of remorse on his face that it caused tears to well up in Elen’s eyes.
“Frodo. Dear Frodo Baggins. I have loved you since that day we met in the Party Tree all those years ago. What’s more is I’ve always understood you. How or why, I don’t know, but I have. And I understand you now. You are right, Frodo; you have changed.”
She saw him wince as though the truth of his own words hurt him. “Do you remember when we used to bring wood for Mr. Bilbo from Sam’s Gaffer because he always had the best wood chips?”
Frodo nodded, the memories plain in his mind of Elen, Sam, and himself trudging up the lane with their arms full of small wooden logs.
“Remember how we shared out the load so we would all be helping with the burden? Well, things are like that now. You carry a great burden in your heart, Frodo. I can sense it. But, this time, it is a burden that neither Sam nor I can help you bear. Though I wish to high heavens I could.” At this, her eyes filled with a look of sadness that should never be the lot of any hobbit.
Elen’s voice grew softer and she took Frodo’s right hand in hers, the hand that was now missing its third finger. Her other hand she placed on his shoulder, above the Nazgûl wound, as if to address both injuries at once. “Frodo, I have loved and waited for you, and I will continue to do so. And who knows? Perhaps, someday, we shall find that place where it can be.”
Elenyaiel ended her speech with a quiet smile and a gentle, understanding look that went straight to Frodo’s heart. Somehow, he managed to smile as well.
“Thank you, Elen. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, dear Frodo.” Then, with hat in hand, she stood, all traces of the sad pain gone from her pretty face. “Now, am I correct in assuming that there is still a standing invitation for me at Bag End?”
“Of course there is! Come in, both of you, or luncheon will be cold!” Rosie’s voice carried from the kitchen, and she and Sam’s faces could be seen smiling at window.