Elements: The garden was looking splendid; the roses ran riot over the fence, and the flowers along the path were in full bloom.
Author's Notes: I am truly sorry for the length of this monstrosity. It got started and ran away with me. Also, canon may hate me for my hobbit OCs, but I did my best with them. If anybody would like to yell at me discuss family relations, just send me a message.
The garden was looking splendid; the roses ran riot over the fence, and the flowers along the path were in full bloom. The grass was clipped to an even, short, green carpet, and not a single weed dared make an appearance anywhere. The hedge rounded the borders, neatly trimmed, thick and lush. The small pond in the northwest corner was cool and clear, completely devoid of leaves and debris. It was a garden to be envied. ***** *****
Its gardener, on the other hand, had other things to think about.
"Rosie," Sam mumbled, his face squashed against the table. "If you love me, take that great knife, there, and run me through. Bury me 'neath the mallorn and know I loved you always. I'll even forgive you stabbing me."
"Well enough, as you asked it," Rosie replied briskly. "But I won't, you know. If I'm to suffer this nonsense, you'll do the same."
"You're a cruel hard lass," Sam moaned. "Cruel hard."
"Plum cakes for tea, do you think?"
"Cruel hard, but a fine cook," Sam said, brightening. Rosie rolled her eyes.
Through the window came a high young voice, twisting delicately around a tricky melody that sounded vaguely Elvish. Rosie's hand tightened suddenly on Sam's shoulder, and she swore beneath her breath. Sam stared at her for a moment in shock, then shook his head and swore himself.
"She's mending beneath the rose arch, isn't she?" Sam hissed, going to the window to peer suspiciously outside. "Singing and all!"
"She loves to sing," Rosie groaned, sinking into Sam's vacant chair. "And she loves to be outdoors, and she loves to smell the roses..."
"Doesn't she know it just draws them in?"
"I haven't the faintest, love," Rosie sighed. "Some days, I think she adores the attention, and other days, I do believe she doesn't think a thing of it."
"For all that, there's not a one of them good enough for her," Sam said dejectedly. "She's tossed all of 'em out on their ears, some more than once. Some of them more than once a day! Mayhap her time with the Men of Minas Tirith..."
Rosie gasped. "Surely not! She can't have had her head turned by one of..."
"They're fair enough, love, and different than all she's used to."
"But they're so...tall. And hair all over their faces. And boots, Sam! They wear boots!"
"I know," Sam said wryly. "I've seen."
"It can't be that," Rosie said firmly. “She just hasn’t found a hobbit that catches her fancy, ‘tis all.” Moving with purpose, she left the chair and set to washing the breakfast dishes. Sam shook his head once more at the window and bent slightly to kiss his wife on the forehead.
"I just wish she'd choose a lad and be done with it. This courting business has me a bundle of nerves," he sighed, propping his chin on top of her head. She swatted at him half-heartedly with her soapy hands.
"She will," she said, sparing a glance out of the window. "I hope."
Fastred snorted quietly to himself and tucked the letter into the lacquered box he kept on his desk. Rob was well known for being the family dramatist, and this latest letter had not been disappointing. For the past three months, he'd written of hardly anything but the same hobbit-lass, and though Fastred had nothing against romance, he seriously doubted any lass’s eyelashes deserved a paragraph to themselves. Rob was now complaining of desolation and heartbreak; it seemed the buxom-lashed object of his affections wouldn’t give him the time of day. Fastred chuckled a bit to himself. Really, Rob ought to be used to it by now. He had an unrequited love for every season since he first hit tweenhood, it seemed.
“Father,” Fastred called, pushing back from his desk and fishing for his pipe. “Rob is threatening something drastic again.”
“What’s that?” Coltred appeared in the opened doorway, his pipeweed pouch half open in his hands. He entered the study and offered the pouch to his son, cocking an eyebrow at Fastred’s grin. “You look like the cat that drunk the cream, lad. What have you done?”
“Not a thing, Father, not a thing. I said, Rob is threatening something drastic again.”
“Not again,” Coltred sighed. He took a long pull at his pipe. “What’s her name this time?”
“Elanor,” Fastred replied. “Or, as Rob would have it, Elanor the Fair.”
“Elanor the Fair, my aunt Clover,” Coltred muttered. “Has she slapped him silly yet?”
“If she has, he hasn’t told me. I feel rather an expert on the lady’s eyelashes, fingernails, and sweet demeanor, though.”
Coltred made a noncommittal noise. “What’s he threatening, then?”
“Oh, death, dismemberment, drowning… The usual,” Fastred said cheerfully. “I suspect he’s wasting away as we speak.”
“I’ll bet he’s munching his way through every pie your aunt can set in front of him,” Coltred said, jabbing the air with his pipe for emphasis. “He’ll be asking for you, most like. Are you going to console him, or clobber him?”
“A little of both, maybe,” Fastred said thoughtfully. “I suppose it depends on how much pie he’s left me. Can you spare me for a bit?”
“I can manage that cherry orchard as well as you can, I reckon,” Coltred said with mock severity. “I have a bit of experience, you know.”
Fastred laughed. “We’ll see how you do. As for me, I’m off to deal with matters of the heart.”
“Give ‘im a good clout and tell him to show some spine. Lasses don’t take kindly to threats of death and dismemberment at every little thing.”
“I shouldn’t think so. Rather messy, death and dismemberment.”
“Elanor the Fair,” Coltred sighed to himself. “Where does he come up with such things?”
“Ellie! Ellie, fix it!” Ruby demanded, waving a green ribbon in Elanor’s face. Elanor paused in her singing and carefully pushed the needle in to hold her stitch.
“Hold still, Ruby! Give me a moment, now,” she admonished her younger sister. Pulling Ruby between her knees, she gently combed through the unruly mass of light brown curls and reached for the ribbon.
“And Mam said I might play with Cousin May, if I didn’t get my frock dirty, and Daisy said I might borrow her ribbon, and wasn’t that nice? I think she’s sorry for ruining mine, when I let her borrow it. She was awfully sad that day, and I thought the red would look pretty in her hair, and that nasty Tom tried to pull her hair and tore the ribbon instead,” Ruby chattered, scarcely drawing breath between sentences. Elanor carefully tied the ribbon.
“Don’t speak ill of others, Ruby,” she murmured. Ruby turned to look at her, confused.
“But you said that Milo was a lout who thought only of himself only yesterday, Ellie,” she said, frowning. “And that Rob was a…”
“Oh, never you mind! Go play with your cousin, and don’t rip your new pinny,” Elanor said, turning her sister around and slapping her lightly on the bottom. Ruby paused at the verge to stick her tongue out at Elanor, smiled to show she didn’t mean it, and she was gone. Elanor took up her mending again, but her fingers stayed still on the linen. She’d have to mind her tongue in front of her siblings in the future.
The whisper startled her, and she dropped the shirt. Quick and quiet, Frodo-lad suddenly appeared in a crouch by her side. He handed her the shirt and pressed a finger to his lips. She scowled at him, but remained silent.
“Rob Burrows’s come to pine over you some more,” he whispered conspiratorially. “He’s coming up the Hill now, with a bunch of violets. I think he’s composed a song, too… He keeps clearing his throat and testing notes. Do you want to make a run for it? I’ll clear him off for you, then you can come back outside.”
Elanor considered her brother’s plan for a split second, then shook her head. “It’ll be easier if I speak to him,” she whispered back, and Frodo frowned.
“All right, Elle,” he said. “But I’ll be by the pond, if you need me. I’ll have the long shears, too.”
Elanor giggled softly. “What’s the password?”
“I can’t very well scream, “Frodo! Rob is annoying me, come snip his fingers off!” or something, can I?”
“You could. That’d be interesting.” He thought for a minute. “Larkspur.”
“Pretend you’ve found some in the grass, Elle, and cry out, ‘Larkspur!’” Frodo said impatiently. “I’ll hear you.”
With that, he disappeared into the garden, silent as a deer. Elanor laid the shirt in the basket by the rose arch and made her way to the front gate, face grim.
Rob was there, a rag-tag bunch of violets in his hand, face pinched as though he’d just eaten something unpleasant. At the sight of Elanor rounding the smial, he launched into a woeful, dirge-like tune that somehow transformed Elanor’s name into seven syllables and more often than not rhymed ‘love’ with ‘dove’. Even for a hobbit of no musical persuasion whatsoever, it was dreadful. For Elanor, who had spent a year learning the songs of Men and Elves by the Queen herself, it was nauseating.
“Rob,” she said, interrupting a third verse about doves, “what is it?”
Rob stopped singing, looking puzzled. “I’m serenading you.”
“No, you’re not. Go on, I’m sure you have business to attend to. Good day.”
“But Elanor!” Rob cried, throwing himself at the gate, which remained obstinately closed. “I’ve come to declare my love for you! My undying affection! Violets!”
This last exclamation was accompanied by a vigorous waving of the flowers in question. Elanor sneezed; she hated violets.
“And I’ve told you before, Rob,” she said, willing her voice to be patient, “that I’m flattered by your attention, but I do not feel the same way. Please, leave me in peace.”
“I shall win you over if it takes a thousand years!” Rob cried passionately. Several violets escaped his grasp, fluttering to the pristine garden path. Frodo-lad would be livid, and Sam-dad would be put out, she thought idly, and wondered how to best work the word ‘larkspur’ into the current conversation.
“Hoy, there, Rob!” called a new voice. Rob’s mouth fell open and several more violets fell to the path. Elanor groaned.
Milo Bracegirdle appeared over the hill, all gleaming white teeth and dark brown curls. He was generally accepted as the most handsome hobbit for miles, and he knew it. Coming to lean genially on the gate, he winked at Elanor.
“Am I interrupting something?” he said smoothly, clearly divining he was. Rob flushed scarlet.
“Not at all,” Elanor said through gritted teeth. “Rob was just headed home, weren’t you, Rob?”
“That’s funny,” Milo said lazily. “I thought I heard him declaring his love. Now, if he’s bothering you, Ellie…”
“It’s Elanor,” she corrected, rather coldly. “And I don’t need any help from the likes of you, Milo Bracegirdle. I’ve no use for anyone who insults others on my front doorstep.”
Milo had the good grace to look abashed, while Rob’s face was slowly losing its blush and regaining the light of hope.
“Elanor,” he whispered, and Milo scowled at him.
“You can’t love him, Elanor!” Milo cried, turning anguished green eyes on her. “If you must reject me so cruelly, at least give me hope that it isn’t him! Not when I love you so!”
“You don’t love her at all, you cad!” interjected Hugo Grubb, who trotted briskly up to the gate and unceremoniously presented Elanor with a handful of daisies. “It’s me who loves her more than life itself… The glorious shimmer in her eyes… The sweet tilt of her ears… The gentle silk of her hands… The generous curve of her…”
“That’s quite enough,” Frodo interrupted, appearing out of thin air, as usual. Elanor could have kissed him; as it was, she sagged slightly against his shoulder in relief. Frodo gave her a quick look of reassurance, then casually tightened his grip on his shears.
“Now, if none of you have any business to discuss with me, I suggest you take your quarrel elsewhere. Hugo, kindly take that ridiculous bunch of weeds out of my sister’s face. Rob, you’re dropping violets all over my path. Step along, the lot of you.”
The group of would-be suitors turned from the gate, grumbling amongst each other as they turned their steps toward the Green Dragon. Despite their rivalry, Frodo knew the three of them would start a merry discussion on his sister’s finer points, and would soon be the best of friends again. He lowered his shears, turning from the gate, and Elanor launched herself at him, locking her arms around his neck and burying her face into his shirt. He sighed again and patted her back.
“Some days, Elle, I wish you were as ugly as pondweed,” he said resignedly. Elanor snorted and released him.
“I can’t help it, Fro. Do you really want me to marry one of them?” she said forlornly. Frodo rolled his eyes.
“Don’t be stupid, Elle. Go mend something. And try not to sing, it just lures them in.”
Elanor laughed and tugged at her brother’s hair.
“I’ll give you a good story tonight, Fro. Thank you.”
She smiled at him and walked slowly back to the rose arch, and he bent to pick up Rob’s forgotten violets. Elanor had better tell a really, really good story, he thought. Otherwise, he would not be responsible for what happened the next time Rob came around and tossed violets on his garden path.
He sighed yet again, tossed the violets on the compost heap, and went back to his clipping. Before long, Elanor’s voice drifted over the garden, and despite Frodo’s irritation, he hadn’t the heart to quiet her. He only hoped the day wouldn’t bring more trouble than it had already.
The garden was looking splendid; the roses ran riot over the fence, and the flowers along the path were in full bloom. The grass was clipped to an even, short, green carpet, and not a single weed dared make an appearance anywhere. The hedge rounded the borders, neatly trimmed, thick and lush. The small pond in the northwest corner was cool and clear, completely devoid of leaves and debris. It was a garden to be envied.