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Written for the LOTR Community "A Different Green" challenge. For Lavender Took for her birthday. With thanks to RiverOtter for the beta.
A Dream of Tea Green Silk
Lily Brown Cotton watched as the younger Hobbits who’d been working on the hay harvest headed off to the barn, a distinct frown of concern creasing her lovely brow.
“And just what has you so worried, Love?” asked her husband.
At first she just shook her head, her eyes on the backs of the youngsters, but at last she explained, “It’s just as it somehow isn’t quite right, Mr. Frodo Baggins goin’ off with the lads and lasses the way him’s doin’, my Tom.”
Tolman Cotton the elder peered after the retreating younger Hobbits. “What’s not right about it? It’s not as if this was work as he’d never done before, you know. After all, as shown by the Hall cloth as he’s wearin’, Frodo Baggins grew up in Brandy Hall, and all who live there work together at plantin’ and harvest times—always have. They might be gentry, but they’ve always been workin’ gentry. And that lad’s not afraid of honest work.”
“It’s not that as bothers me, my Tom. Him’s always been a willin’ worker from the first day as him come back to Hobbiton and Bag End with old Mr. Bilbo. No, it’s not that, nor the fact as him’s gentry and our lot’s anythin’ but.”
“Then what is it?” asked her husband, trying to understand the point of his Lily’s concern.
“It’s just that it don’t seem right as him should be goin’ out t’the barn with the lads and lasses like that.”
“And just why not? He’s been a friend to our Sam since that day you just spoke of.”
“I know—but then it was a different kind of friend.”
“What in Middle Earth are you talkin’ of, Lily?” Tom’s voice displayed his confusion and exasperation with his wife’s failure to explain herself.
“Think, Tom—the first time as we saw him with Sam, there in the gardens at Bag End, was when we went to deliver them hams Mr. Bilbo had purchased from us. There him was, kneelin’ down so as him wouldn’t loom over Sam, holdin’ out his hands to show somethin’ to the little lad. And Sam was but a little lad at the time, you’ll member—not more’n eleven, if’n I recall rightly. And him, Mr. Frodo, I mean, him was a great lad, a young tween twice Sam’s own age.”
And the image of the scene drew itself in Tom’s memory, just as she’d described it. His own brow was furrowing as he watched the last of the party of young ones disappear into the barn. “Yes,” he said, his voice somewhat distant as he watched the door close after the youngsters. “That’s right. Hard to think now as he’s that much older than Sam and the others. If anything, he looks younger than some of them as just went in there,” indicating the barn with a sweep of his hand.
“Him must be almost fifty now,” Lily agreed. “Or him will be in a year or two. And you don’t see Adamo there goin’ out t’the barn with the lads, and him’s but forty-three.”
The older adult Hobbits sat stolidly at the trestle tables set up in the farm’s yard, Adamo Greenhold seated by Gaffer Gamgee, Daddy Twofoot, and old Noakes, regaling his older fellows with tales of the accomplishments of his little daughter, in between sips of beer, of course.
It was a puzzle, how the Bagginses of Bag End seemed to somehow hold the secret of apparently eternal youth. Tom shook his head. Well, it certainly wasn’t his job to solve all of the mysteries of Middle Earth. He set himself to fetching another pitcher of beer to set before the Gaffer and his fellows, and found himself agreeing that, indeed little Pansy Greenhold must be a particularly gifted faunt, considering how much she’d learned to do already at the tender age of five.
Out in the barn the younger Hobbits were sharing whatever dreams they’d known the preceding night, or making up stories to tell if they’d no true memory of the images that had entertained them during their sleep.
“And just as that great old owl swooped down towards me,” young Tom Cotton was saying, “Nibs here was a-pokin’ me, tellin’ me as it was time to get up, as the Sun would soon be risin’.”
There was a murmur of comments agreeing that such a dream would be frightening to anyone. “How about you, Sam Gamgee?” asked one of the Twofoot lads. “What did you dream of last night?”
Sam flushed some. One of May and Rosie’s lass friends laughed. “Him dreamt of Rosie, I’d say,” she said, her eyes sharp as she examined his face, which went even redder in response to her teasing.
“Not,” Frodo Baggins said, “that there’s anything wrong with that.”
“Well,” Sam said, emboldened by his employer and friend’s championship, “I’ll admit as I dream often enough of my Rosie’s sweet smile.” Rosie’s eyes shone with pleasure. “But the part of my dream as I member most had t’do with the garden, there at Bag End. I was plantin’ kingsfoil in the bed there below Mr. Frodo’s window. Now, if’n that isn’t a silly thing, dreamin’ o’ plantin’ a weed like kingsfoil there with them lovely Elven lilies as grow there already. Although its flower’s pretty enough for gardens, I suppose. And it does have a pleasant scent.”
“There’s enough of it growing around the gardens in Brandy Hall,” commented Merry Brandybuck, who’d come with Frodo and Sam to help in the harvest. “My father once said that the old people who used to live in the Shire before the King gave it to us Hobbits must have loved it especially, considering how common it is throughout the Shire and Buckland.”
One of Lily Cotton’s kin on the Brown side snorted before Merry was quite done speaking. “Humph. If’n that ain’t typical of a gardener, I’d say, dreamin’ o’plantin’ things.”
Nibs raised a hand. “I’d say as a gardener such’s our Sam dreamin’ of plantin’ weeds should be odd enough,” he retorted.
“Well, I dreamt o’what we’ll be a-havin’ at my birthday supper,” announced the lass who’d been teasing Sam earlier. “How ’bout you, Rose Cotton? Did you dream o’yer Sam?”
Rosie colored prettily, and her glance at Sam indicated that she probably dreamt of him at least as often as he did of her, but still she shook her head. “Didn’t dream of him last night, at least,” she said.
“Then what did you dream of?” asked one of the Strawflower lads.
“Well,” she began, “I s’pose as it must of been brought on by a story as Mr. Frodo here told t’the children in the Commons in Hobbiton last Market Day.”
Frodo cocked a brow at that, but kept his tongue, although he perhaps listened the closer to what she might say.
“He’d told a story of a lass as was brought up thinkin’ as she was a woodman’s daughter, only t’learn when she come of age as she was truly the daughter of a King, sent into hidin’ as a bairn t’keep her safe from the King’s enemies. She meets this lad as she thinks is from the next village, and thinks as him’s a likely enough one, and her heart is full stirred by him----”
“Sounds like she’s speakin’ o’herself and Sam there,” commented the Twofoot lad to Jolly Cotton with a nudge to the younger lad’s ribs.
Jolly gave him a sour look in return. “Hush,” he said softly. “Don’t innerupt me sis.”
Rosie gave her younger brother a grateful glance, and continued. “Only this fair lad proved t’be a Prince, sent out by his own father t’prove hisself to hisself, like, and him found hisself stirred by the lass and decided he’d ask for her hand in spite of him thinkin’ as she was but a commoner, for most times them as is royal can’t think t’marry for love alone, but more for policy.”
Frodo nodded in recognition of the tale he’d told the children.
“So him asked her t’marry him, but she wondered if’n she ought to, since she, too, knew that as a King’s child she must put duty afore mere pleasure. In the end, though, she agreed, and his friend is sent to bring her through many dangers to the lad’s father’s house, and she goes, imaginin’ as mayhaps his father’s a farmer as owns some land and all. But she brings the dress sent to her on the day as she learned as she was truly a king’s daughter, one suited t’her proper rank, thinkin’ that if’n him balks when him sees her dressed far above his station she’ll know as it’s only right she should return and go back t’her own father’s house instead.”
Rosie went quiet and thoughtful for a few moments, and then said, “And I dreamt of her in that dress, only it wasn’t a lass of the Big Folks as I dreamt about, not like the button seller’s daughter.”
They all knew about the button seller, who was a Big Man who came through the Shire, there along the Road, twice a year, once in the spring just after the big cloth fair in Kingsbridge where Big Folk, Dwarves, and Hobbits all three tended to meet to purchase the products of looms from all over Middle Earth, and again in the fall as he headed back home to wherever it was he lived in the lands of Eriador—or perhaps further afield. He had been accompanied by his nearly grown daughter for the past three years, saying that her mother had died recently and that he refused to leave her with neighbors or kin when he must be abroad about his business selling buttons and other fancy frills for clothing and whatever intriguing oddments that he might have stumbled across since his last journey through the Shire. All of the Hobbits who saw the girl were intrigued, few having had the chance to see any womenfolk from amongst the Big People before, and her hairless feet and shoes had been the object of much curiosity by most occupants of the Shire.
Rosie continued, “No, her wasn’t a girl of the Big Folks at all as I dreamt of, but a proper Hobbit lass, but one with hair of purest gold, with the hair on her feet right fine and but a shade darker gold than that on her head. And she wasn’t tall and willowy as Mr. Frodo’s lass was said t’be, but small and dainty, much smaller’n me, I fear. But the dress as her was wearin’—it was right beautiful, of a shiny and smooth gold cloth as must of cost a fortune in coin t’purchase, with an outer skirt and overbodice and sleeves as was fine enough t’see through, all the color of green tea. She was wearin’ a bride’s crown o’ flowers such as I’d not seen afore, golden star flowers them was, with blossoms of baby’s breath and blue primulas in atween them. She was wearin’ that dress as if it was somethin’ unfamiliar, somethin’ as her must get used to, don’t ye see? But you could see as it was what her was born to wear on her weddin’ day.
“And it was at the Free Fair as she was a-wearin’ that dress of tea green silk, and the Mayor and the Master and the Thain was all there to see her wed t’her Prince, and the Master was a-carryin’ the Sword….”
All straightened at that, for the Sword was something of a legend within the Shire, an ancient artifact carried by the Master of Buckland during all ceremonies of worth, said to have been given to Bucca of the Marish by the Last-king himself. Certainly Frodo and Merry, having come from Buckland, straightened in respect at this mention of one of the major heirlooms of Brandy Hall.
And when Frodo Baggins came away from the Cottons’ farm to his own home in Hobbiton, the dream that Rosie Cotton had related stayed on in his memory, and from time to time he, too, dreamed of a dainty Hobbit lass dressed as a bride, her golden hair spilling over the shoulders of her gown of tea green silk.
During the stay in Rivendell, awaiting the day on which the newly formed Fellowship would leave to begin the quest for Mount Doom, Frodo spent much time in Bilbo’s rooms, safe while in his beloved kinsman’s company from being overwhelmed by discussions of the best routes to Mordor or the nature of the folk who lived along the various roads south and east or the dangers they must guard against. As his shoulder mended, he began drawing. One night he again dreamt of the little Hobbit bride and her tea green gown, and the next day he found himself drawing the lass as she’d appeared in his dream. Then, once he’d finished the drawing, he went to the Scriptorium, and begged some watercolors from the Elf woman who ruled the place. He worked a good time mixing colors and water, but finally got the perfect shade for the dress, making the presence of the more solid golden cloth and her otherwise bare arms plain under the tissue of tea green silk, her delicate feet bare, clad only in a Hobbit lass’s golden curls, to be glimpsed beyond the full skirt.
The painting he did in a room he’d found that was open to the sky in its middle, with a graceful poplar growing in the center of it, rising above the roof in praise of Sun, Moon, and stars. And there he was found by the Lady Arwen one day, just as he was finishing the tinting of the picture.
She stood, looking down over his shoulder at the work of his hands, seeing the gentleness he showed as he laid down the last wash of color on the right-most portion of the tea green tissue of the outer skirt. “She is beautiful,” Elrond’s daughter said. “She is a young woman of your people you know well?”
Frodo looked up in surprise, holding his brush well to one side, having finished his painting of the dress. His face grew pale, save for the patches of pink that bloomed at the center of his cheeks. He carefully set the brush in the largest of his several cups of water to rinse clean before he made the effort to answer her. “She’s not a real person, I suppose, although she’s become someone I feel I’ve come to know over the past two years, as I’ve found her haunting my dreams from time to time.” He picked up the picture and considered it thoughtfully. “She was first described to me by a friend as the lass appeared in her own dream. It was that the description she gave was so vivid I, too, could see this lass just as the friend described her.”
Elrond’s daughter reached out her graceful hand for the picture, and Frodo gently, if somewhat reluctantly, gave it to her to examine. She pored over the image of the lass, a smile hovering over her lovely lips, and Frodo swallowed visibly, as moved by the image of the Elven lady approving of his painting as he’d been by the dream Rosie had told two years earlier at harvest time, there in the barn on her parent’s farm. “She is someone you could love, then, were you to meet her?” Arwen asked him.
“I think so, but not as someone I myself would marry,” he replied. “I would worship this lady, I think, but cannot see her as my own wife.”
“Have you never thought to marry?” she inquired as she finally held out the picture to return it to him.
He shrugged. Although his old infatuation with Pearl Took was many years behind him, as was his imagined courtship to the one other lass of the Shire who’d managed to stir his heart, he found that thoughts of romantic love could still cause twinges of pain. “I’ve not thought to marry anyone for many years, my Lady,” he said carefully.
His eyes were caught by hers, and his cheeks grew a rosier color as the confusion of his attraction to this woman from among the Elves filled him. What she read of his heart he couldn’t tell, but there was a sad edge to the smile she offered him at the last as she released his gaze. “I see, Master Frodo,” she said gently. She laid her cool fingers on his forearm. “I would hope to see you find the joy of a proper love one day,” she murmured. “Perhaps this delight might indeed by granted you, if the Belain and Creator are willing.” She bowed her head in honest respect to him, and then withdrew as quietly as she’d come.
After the Fellowship left the vale of Imladris, Arwen retired to her room to find that the picture that Frodo had drawn and painted was lying on her pillow. She was touched that the Ringbearer had left her this as a gift, and she had it framed and hung it on her wall.
But when she left her father’s house to go to her bridegroom, once Mordor had fallen and Sauron was no more a threat to Middle Earth, she did not take the picture with her, leaving it in her old room, a remnant of a life she’d foresworn, still another tribute by one she’d recognized had loved her but whom she could not love in return. Still, the image of the delicate Hobbit lass remained with her, and as she came to know Aragorn’s Hobbit companions more closely she found herself associating the lass in the picture, for some reason, with Sam Gamgee.
Aragorn told her what he’d learned since he’d been crowned King of Gondor and Arnor—that Lord Samwise Gamgee loved a lass of his own people whose name was Rosie Cotton. Was Rosie Cotton the woman in Frodo Baggins’s picture, she wondered? But why would a woman named for roses crown herself with elanor, baby’s breath, and primulas on her wedding day? But still, when she found herself gifted by the ambassador from Harad with a bolt of heavy gold damask silk and another of a tissue of tea green, she felt herself inspired to make the dress Frodo had painted the delicate, golden haired lass wearing, a gift she intended to send to Rosie Cotton.
A week before the intended wedding of Rose Cotton to Sam Gamgee, the messenger of the Quick Post arrived at the Cotton farm with an odd parcel that he carried reverently, explaining that it had apparently been sent “from foreign parts.” Once the heavy canvas covering it had been removed, it was found to contain a large, flat box, exquisitely carved of a fragrant wood. And inside it was a dress—and such a dress!
“Oh, my!” breathed Lily Cotton as she lifted the gown from its box. “I never seen such a delicate thing in my life.”
Marigold looked at it with awe. “It’s the most beautiful dress as I’ve ever seen,” she said. “It’s far more delicate than the dress we made for you of the silk cloth Sam brought back from the King’s city! Do you want to wear this instead for your wedding, Rosie?”
The dress was surrendered to Rosie, who held it up and absolutely devoured it with her eyes. “I’ve dreamt of this dress,” she finally said. “Three and a half years ago I dreamt of this dress!” And as her mother and her soon-to-be sister-in-love twice over exchanged questioning looks she began to explain. “It was that hay harvest two years afore Sam and his Master and them left the Shire, when Master Frodo and Mr. Merry come with Sam to help. Member as how them stayed with us the night afore, Mum? Whilst Nick’n me was doin’ the dishes after late supper, Mr. Merry, him was tellin’ us as how Master Frodo often dreams true, and Sam agreed as it happened. Nick said as that could prove right useful sometimes, and we was talkin’….” Her voice tapered off for a moment before she continued. “Anyways, Nick said as mayhaps if’n we was t’ rub Mr. Baggins’s head, that might allow us t’dream true, too, at least oncet. So we waited until him come into the kitchen with the pitcher to fetch some more ale—Sam said as him was certain as his Master would choose to fetch it for all as was in the parlor—and we all reached out and—and done that. And that night I dreamt of this little Hobbit lass, one with golden hair, a-wearin’ just such a dress as this for her weddin’ day. It wasn’t me as was wearin’ it, though.” She held it to her breast and looked down. “’Twouldn’t fit me, anyways—it’s for someone as is smaller’n I am.”
Lily and Marigold had to admit she was right about that, and reluctantly they carefully folded it back into the box and fitted the close-fitting top to it, and brought out the dress that had been made of the peacock silk Sam had brought from Minas Tirith to have the bride try it on one last time.
When her brothers and father loaded her trunk and boxes into the wagon to carry up to Bag End the night before her wedding, Rosie carefully packed the box into the wagon bed with the rest of her things, and two days after the wedding she found that it had been placed under the bed she now shared with Sam, and there it stayed for quite some years. She actually managed to forget about it until it was time for her eldest to marry Fastred Fairbairn from Greenholm, with the wedding set to take place in Michel Delving during the Free Fair.
They made for Elanor a dress of soft apple green, and all were pleased with it until two days before the wedding when young Tom brought a friend and his little sister, a sweet child who was still but a faunt, into Elanor’s room to look at what Tom’s older sister was to wear for her wedding. No one paid attention to the little lass’s fingers being sticky with the caramels she’d been eating until that night when Elanor tried on the dress one last time so that Fastred’s mother could see her in it.
“Oh, stars and Moon!” exclaimed Mistress Fairbairn. “You can’t wear that, child—not until it’s been properly cleaned and pressed! There are sticky fingerprints and hand prints all over the skirts!”
She was all too right. Rosie-lass and Goldilocks, who’d done much of the finishing of the embroidery, were reduced to tears of frustration, and young Daisy was threatening to tear their little brother to pieces when she caught up with him for ruining Elanor’s wedding day.
Rosie was about to call upon the Thain’s wife Diamond to see if she had a dress that Elanor could borrow when Gramma Lily suddenly clapped a hand to her breast. “The dress as was sent from the Queen, back afore you married your Sam, child—do you still have it?”
Rosie gave her mother a questioning look, and then paused, suddenly smiling. “The princess’s dress? Oh, but Mum—I think as you have it aright!” She set off as quickly as she could to her bedroom, followed closely by most of her daughters, and she set Primrose to searching under the bed for the carved flat box in which the dress had reposed for all of these years. Soon it was out and lying upon the counterpane, and Goldilocks carefully pried off the lid.
Elanor, wearing now merely her shift, her eyes suspiciously red, was called from her room to her parents’ bedroom, and as she entered her sisters all moved aside so that she could see. And as Rosie carefully lifted the dress out of its box and held it up, Elanor’s eyes widened and her mouth went into an O of surprise. “But when did this come, Mummy?” she asked.
“Just afore I married your Sam-dad,” Rosie told her. “We thought at the time as it might of been meant for me to wear for our wedding, but it was too small for me even then. And so it’s been sittin’ in its box there, there under the bed, all these years, just waitin’ for you to be ready to wear it!”
And when, two days later, Elanor came to stand by her bridegroom’s side, wearing the tea green gown and a wreath of her nameflowers from atop the Hill interspersed with baby’s breath and primula blossoms in honor of Uncle Frodo, who would have so wanted to be there for her wedding if it was possible, bound at the back with gold and green ribbons, Fastred’s eyes lit with love and delight.
Attending the wedding were the Queen’s brothers, and as a gift to bride and groom, they’d been directed by the Queen herself to bring from her old bedroom a picture that they indicated had hung there since the Fellowship of the Ring left Rivendell so many years ago.
Ruby shook her head in wonderment. “It’s of you, Elanor! It’s of you!”
Pippin was smiling. “The Lady Arwen is the daughter of Elrond of Imladris, after all, and inherited her own fair share of the family gift of foresight. Certainly Diamond and I have blessed that gift more than once over the years.”
But the eyes of the Master of Buckland and the Mayor were misted over. “No,” Sam said. “I know as the Queen’s an artist in more ways than one, but it wasn’t her as did this picture.”
“You fool of a Took,” Merry said hoarsely, “look closer! You know what to look for, after all.”
The Hobbit lass in the picture walked surrounded by butterflies--nine butterflies, and---
“Nine butterflies and a single dragonfly,” Pippin whispered.
But how Queen Arwen ever came into possession of a painting of Elanor as a bride done by Frodo Baggins she never told them.
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