In the language of flowers, sweet alyssum means 'worth beyond beauty'. A perfect flower for our dear Frodo.
'That lad's too pretty. It ain't natural, and that's a fact.'
'Oh, Mr. Frodo's a looker, right enough, but I'll warrant he'd never stand up to a hard day's work. Why, a gust o'wind might blow him clean away.'
Ghostly echoes from evenings at the Ivy Bush that here in Rivendell, in the hushed stillness of Frodo's sickroom where he lay fighting for his life, felt as if they might have happened to some other hobbit, not Samwise Gamgee.
He'd always known they were wrong, the doubters who couldn't see past Frodo's Elven-fair face and lissome body to the brave, enduring hobbit within. Why, Strider and Mr. Gandalf and Lord Elrond had said flat-out that even a warrior of the Big People would have been overcome by the wound Frodo had borne uncomplaining for so many days.
Pride burned fierce and bright in Sam's breast, helping to keep worry at bay. Lord Elrond believed a piece of the Black Rider's blade was still inside Frodo's shoulder, preventing him from healing. As soon as all was in readiness, he would operate on Frodo, cut open the closed wound to find and remove the shard - if he could before it pierced Frodo's heart and claimed him. On that smallest of chances hinged all that mattered in this world to Sam Gamgee...
'Sam, I need you to take this message to the kitchens.' Elrond interrupted Sam's musings. He held out a folded piece of parchment.
'Right away, sir,' Sam replied, taking it. Loathe though he was to leave Frodo's side, he knew the Elf Lord would not have asked him if it weren't urgent. His keen grey eyes missed little, and Sam was very sure he understood how it was between him and Frodo.
Sam took off at a run, wending the now familiar path to the vast kitchens, where he delivered the message. But he did not immediately return to Frodo's room. There was something he had to do first, or try at least; he did not know if the Elves cared for the more humble flowers that graced a hobbit-garden. He had glimpsed the gardens outside in his comings and goings, but only as a passing thing. Now he took the first turning through a beautifully carved stone arch and entered them.
At any other time, Sam would have lost himself in exploring Rivendell's exquisite gardens, in discovering new plants and greeting like long-lost friends the ones he knew at home. But this was not the time, and his eyes anxiously scanned the flowerbeds for the blooms he sought. They should still be flowering, even this late in autumn...
Ah! He let out a sigh of relief. There they were, a great mass of delicate snow-white, pale pink and lavender-tinted flowers growing among some dark grey rocks. Sam ran and knelt before them, breathed deep of their sweet perfume. He quickly drew out his knife and cut a generous handful, hoping the gardeners wouldn't begrudge him the gift for his beloved Frodo.
He raced back to Frodo's room with his fistful of flowers, taking heart from this simple reminder of home.
'There you are, Sam,' said Bilbo at once; he tended to fret when Sam was absent, for as he put it, 'There's no better company when times are dark than a hobbit, don't you know.'
'Sorry, Mr. Bilbo,' Sam apologised. 'But I stopped in the garden for these.' He held out the flowers, knowing his old master would understand, for it was he who had taught Sam the language of flowers when he was a child.
'Ah! Sweet alyssum: worth beyond beauty.' Bilbo blinked his over-bright eyes very rapidly. Then he got up from his stool. 'I'll fetch a cup and some water for your flowers, Sam. Clever lad; Frodo will like to have something sweet-smelling by his bedside when he wakes up.'
Sam made no move to stop him. Mr. Bilbo never liked to be seen acting sentimental. When he returned with the promised cup half-filled with water, Sam arranged the flowers in it and set them on the table by the head of the bed. All through the tense, frightening hours that ensued, while Elrond probed the reopened wound in a race against time for Frodo's very soul, Sam drew strength from the sweet fragrance of the alyssum flowers and the message they bore.
Frodo would not give in to the evil of the Morgul-blade, Sam was convinced. He would fight and hold on until Elrond could find the sliver and remove it.
And so he did.
Later that night when they were at last in bed after Sam had been forced to fetch Frodo from Bilbo's room, lest the cousins stay up all night talking, Frodo said to him, 'Did you put these flowers here, Sam?' He gestured at the plain earthenware cup full to overflowing with the sweet alyssum.
'I did. I know they were always favourites of yours. I thought they might cheer you when you woke up.' He said nothing of their meaning. That was a secret between him and old Mr. Bilbo.
'It's funny,' said Frodo, 'but even while I was roaming in terrible dark dreams, I thought I could smell something sweet and familiar that reminded me of home. It must have been your sweet alyssum.' He threaded his fingers into Sam's tousled curls and drew him down for a soft kiss. 'This will have to suffice as a thank-you for the moment, I fear.'
'I reckon I'll survive with naught but a kiss,' Sam teased lovingly. 'Now you close your eyes and get some rest. They'll be calling us all too early for that Council.'
Frodo yawned, and then chuckled sleepily. 'Us? I don't recall you being invited, Samwise Gamgee.'
Sam snorted. 'I don't need an invitation. You're not going to any Council without your Sam, and that's flat. Now go to sleep. That's an order.'
'Tyrant,' complained Frodo, but settled willingly into Sam's embrace and shut his eyes. Almost at once his breathing deepened and steadied as he fell into a sound, healing sleep.
Sam treasured these quiet moments when he could drink his fill of Frodo's beauty and marvel at the fortune that had smiled upon him and given him this wondrous being for his love. But this night it was not at Frodo's beauty that he marvelled - it was his strength. My, but he'd have a word or two to say to them fools at the Ivy Bush next time he saw them, Sam thought.
But that was for later. For now, it was enough to know that Frodo had survived.
And as Sam, holding Frodo close, tumbled fathoms deep into the first real sleep he'd had since that terrible night on Weathertop, the scent of sweet alyssum hovered over the bed like a blessing.