LordOfTheRings

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					                                   SPECIAL NOTE:

     In this reprint several minor inaccuracies, most of them noted by readers, have
been corrected. For example, the rune text now corresponds exactly with the runes
on Thror's Map. More important is the matter of Chapter Five. There the true
story of the ending of the Riddle Game, as it was eventually revealed (under
pressure) by Bilbo to Gandalf, is now given according to the Red Book, in place
of the version Bilbo first gave to his friends, and actually set down in his diary.
This departure from truth on the part of a most honest hobbit was a portent of
great significance. It does not, however, concern the present story, and those who
in this edition make their first acquaintance with hobbit-lore need not troupe about
it. Its explanation lies in the history of the Ring, as it was set out in the chronicles
of the Red Book of Westmarch, and is now told in The Lord of the Rings.

    A final note may be added, on a point raised by several students of the lore of
the period. On Thror's Map is written Here of old was Thrain King under the
Mountain; yet Thrain was the son of Thror, the last King under the Mountain
before the coming of the dragon. The Map, however, is not in error. Names are
often repeated in dynasties, and the genealogies show that a distant ancestor of
Thror was referred to, Thrain I, a fugitive from Moria, who first discovered the
Lonely Mountain, Erebor, and ruled there for a while, before his people moved on
to the remoter mountains of the North.
                                        Chapter I
                                  An Unexpected Party


In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with
the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing
in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
     It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny
yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall
like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and
floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs
for hats and coats - the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on,
going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill - The Hill, as all the
people for many miles round called it - and many little round doors opened out of
it, first on one side and then on another. No going upstairs for the hobbit:
bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes (he had whole
rooms devoted to clothes), kitchens, dining-rooms, all were on the same floor, and
indeed on the same passage. The best rooms were all on the left-hand side (going
in), for these were the only ones to have windows, deep-set round windows
looking over his garden and meadows beyond, sloping down to the river.
     This hobbit was a very well-to-do hobbit, and his name was Baggins. The
Bagginses had lived in the neighbourhood of The Hill for time out of mind, and
people considered them very respectable, not only because most of them were rich,
but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected: you
could tell what a Baggins would say on any question without the bother of asking
him. This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, found himself doing and
saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the neighbours' respect, but
he gained-well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end.
     The mother of our particular hobbit … what is a hobbit? I suppose hobbits
need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big
People, as they call us. They are (or were) a little people, about half our height,
and smaller than the bearded Dwarves. Hobbits have no beards. There is little or
no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to
disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come
blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off.
They are inclined to be at in the stomach; they dress in bright colours (chiefly
green and yellow); wear no shoes, because their feet grow natural leathery soles
and thick warm brown hair like the stuff on their heads (which is curly); have long
clever brown fingers, good-natured faces, and laugh deep fruity laughs (especially
after dinner, which they have twice a day when they can get it). Now you know
enough to go on with. As I was saying, the mother of this hobbit - of Bilbo
Baggins, that is - was the fabulous Belladonna Took, one of the three remarkable
daughters of the Old Took, head of the hobbits who lived across The Water, the
small river that ran at the foot of The Hill. It was often said (in other families) that
long ago one of the Took ancestors must have taken a fairy wife. That was, of
course, absurd, but certainly there was still something not entirely hobbit-like
about them, - and once in a while members of the Took-clan would go and have
adventures. They discreetly disappeared, and the family hushed it up; but the fact
remained that the Tooks were not as respectable as the Bagginses, though they
were undoubtedly richer. Not that Belladonna Took ever had any adventures after
she became Mrs. Bungo Baggins. Bungo, that was Bilbo's father, built the most
luxurious hobbit-hole for her (and partly with her money) that was to be found
either under The Hill or over The Hill or across The Water, and there they
remained to the end of their days. Still it is probable that Bilbo, her only son,
although he looked and behaved exactly like a second edition of his solid and
comfortable father, got something a bit queer in his makeup from the Took side,
something that only waited for a chance to come out. The chance never arrived,
until Bilbo Baggins was grown up, being about fifty years old or so, and living in
the beautiful hobbit-hole built by his father, which I have just described for you,
until he had in fact apparently settled down immovably.
    By some curious chance one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when
there was less noise and more green, and the hobbits were still numerous and
prosperous, and Bilbo Baggins was standing at his door after breakfast smoking
an enormous long wooden pipe that reached nearly down to his woolly toes
(neatly brushed) - Gandalf came by. Gandalf! If you had heard only a quarter of
what I have heard about him, and I have only heard very little of all there is to
hear, you would be prepared for any sort I of remarkable tale. Tales and
adventures sprouted up all over the place wherever he went, in the most
extraordinary fashion. He had not been down that way under The Hill for ages
and ages, not since his friend the Old Took died, in fact, and the hobbits had
almost forgotten what he looked like. He had been away over The Hill and across
The Water on business of his own since they were all small hobbit-boys and
hobbit-girls.
     All that the unsuspecting Bilbo saw that morning was an old man with a staff.
He had a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, a silver scarf over which a white
beard hung down below his waist, and immense black boots.
     "Good morning!" said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the
grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows
that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat. "What do you mean?" be
said. "Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether
I want not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is morning to be good
on?"
     "All of them at once," said Bilbo. "And a very fine morning for a pipe of
tobacco out of doors, into the bargain. If you have a pipe about you, sit down and
have a fill of mine! There's no hurry, we have all the day before us!" Then Bilbo
sat down on a seat by his door, crossed his legs, and blew out a beautiful grey ring
of smoke that sailed up into the air without breaking and floated away over The
Hill.
     "Very pretty!" said Gandalf. "But I have no time to blow smoke-rings this
morning. I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging,
and it's very difficult to find anyone."
     «I should think so - in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for
adventures. Nasty .disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I
can’t think what anybody sees in them,» said our Mr. Baggins, and stuck one
thumb behind his braces, and blew out another even bigger smoke-ring. Then he
took out his morning letters, and begin to read, pretending to take no more notice
of the old man. He had decided that he was not quite his sort, and wanted him to
go away. But the old man did not move. He stood leaning on his stick and gazing
at the hobbit without saying anything, till Bilbo got quite uncomfortable and even
a little cross.
     "Good morning!" he said at last. "We don't want any adventures here, thank
you! You might try over The Hill or across The Water." By this he meant that the
conversation was at an end.
     "What a lot of things you do use Good morning for!" said Gandalf. "Now you
mean that you want to get rid of me, and that it won't be good till I move off."
     "Not at all, not at all, my dear sir! Let me see, I don't think I know your
name?"
     "Yes, yes, my dear sir - and I do know your name, Mr. Bilbo Baggins. And
you do know my name, though you don't remember that I belong to it. I am
Gandalf, and Gandalf means me! To think that I should have lived to be good-
morninged by Belladonna Took's son, as if I was selling buttons at the door!"
     "Gandalf, Gandalf! Good gracious me! Not the wandering wizard that gave
Old Took a pair of magic diamond studs that fastened themselves and never came
undone till ordered? Not the fellow who used to tell such wonderful tales at
parties, about dragons and goblins and giants and the rescue of princesses and the
unexpected luck of widows' sons? Not the man that used to make such
particularly excellent fireworks! I remember those! Old Took used to have them
on Midsummer's Eve. Splendid! They used to go up like great lilies and
snapdragons and laburnums of fire and hang in the twilight all evening!" You will
notice already that Mr. Baggins was not quite so prosy as he liked to believe, also
that he was very fond of flowers. "Dear me!" she went on. "Not the Gandalf who
was responsible for so many quiet lads and lasses going off into the Blue for mad
adventures. Anything from climbing trees to visiting Elves - or sailing in ships,
sailing to other shores! Bless me, life used to be quite inter - I mean, you used to
upset things badly in these parts once upon a time. I beg your pardon, but I had no
idea you were still in business."
     "Where else should I be?" said the wizard. "All the same I am pleased to find
you remember something about me. You seem to remember my fireworks kindly,
at any rate, land that is not without hope. Indeed for your old grand-father Took's
sake, and for the sake of poor Belladonna, I will give you what you asked for."
     "I beg your pardon, I haven't asked for anything!"
     "Yes, you have! Twice now. My pardon. I give it you. In fact I will go so far as
to send you on this adventure. Very amusing for me, very good for you and
profitable too, very likely, if you ever get over it."
     "Sorry! I don't want any adventures, thank you. Not today. Good morning!
But please come to tea - any time you like! Why not tomorrow? Come tomorrow!
Good-bye!"
     With that the hobbit turned and scuttled inside his round green door, and shut
it as quickly as he dared, not to seen rude. Wizards after all are wizards.
     "What on earth did I ask him to tea for!" he said to him-self, as he went to the
pantry. He had only just had break fast, but he thought a cake or two and a drink
of something would do him good after his fright. Gandalf in the meantime was
still standing outside the door, and laughing long but quietly. After a while he
stepped up, and with the spike of his staff scratched a queer sign on the hobbit's
beautiful green front-door. Then he strode away, just about the time when Bilbo
was finishing his second cake and beginning to think that he had escape
adventures very well.
     The next day he had almost forgotten about Gandalf He did not remember
things very well, unless he put them down on his Engagement Tablet: like this:
Gandalf ’¥a Wednesday. Yesterday he had been too flustered to do anything of the
kind. Just before tea-time there came a tremendous ring on the front-door bell, and
then he remembered! He rushed and put on the kettle, and put out another cup and
saucer and an extra cake or two, and ran to the door.
     "I am so sorry to keep you waiting!" he was going to say, when he saw that it
was not Gandalf at all. It was a dwarf with a blue beard tucked into a golden belt,
and very bright eyes under his dark-green hood. As soon a the door was opened,
he pushed inside, just as if he had been expected.
     He hung his hooded cloak on the nearest peg, and "Dwalin at your service!" he
said with a low bow.
     "Bilbo Baggins at yours!" said the hobbit, too surprised to ask any questions
for the moment. When the silence that followed had become uncomfortable, he
added: "I am just about to take tea; pray come and have some with me." A little
stiff perhaps, but he meant it kindly. And what would you do, if an uninvited
dwarf came and hung his things up in your hall without a word of explanation?
     They had not been at table long, in fact they had hardly reached the third cake,
when there came another even louder ring at the bell.
     "Excuse me!" said the hobbit, and off he went to the door.
     "So you have got here at last!" was what he was going to say to Gandalf this
time. But it was not Gandalf. Instead there was a very old-looking dwarf on the
step with a white beard and a scarlet hood; and he too hopped inside as soon as the
door was open, just as if he had been invited.
     "I see they have begun to arrive already," he said when he caught sight of
Dwalin's green hood hanging up. He hung his red one next to it, and "Balin at
your service!" he said with his hand on his breast.
     "Thank you!" said Bilbo with a gasp. It was not the correct thing to say, but
they have begun to arrive had flustered him badly. He liked visitors, but he liked
to know them before they arrived, and he preferred to ask them himself. He had a
horrible thought that the cakes might run short, and then he-as the host: he knew
his duty and stuck to it however painful-he might have to go without.
     "Come along in, and have some tea!" he managed to say after taking a deep
breath.
    "A little beer would suit me better, if it is all the same to you, my good sir,"
said Balin with the white beard. "But I don't mind some cake-seed-cake, if you
have any."
    "Lots!" Bilbo found himself answering, to his own surprise; and he found
himself scuttling off, too, to the cellar to fill a pint beer-mug, and to the pantry to
fetch two beautiful round seed-cakes which he had baked that afternoon for his
after-supper morsel.
    When he got back Balin and Dwalin were talking at the table like old friends
(as a matter of fact they were brothers). Bilbo plumped down the beer and the
cake in front of them, when loud came a ring at the bell again, and then another
ring.
    "Gandalf for certain this time," he thought as he puffed along the passage. But
it was not. It was two more dwarves, both with blue hoods, silver belts, and yellow
beards; and each of them carried a bag of tools and a spade. In they hopped, as
soon as the door began to open-Bilbo was hardly surprised at all.
    "What can I do for you, my dwarves?" he said. "Kili at your service!" said the
one. "And Fili!" added the other; and they both swept off their blue hoods and
bowed.
    "At yours and your family's!" replied Bilbo, remembering his manners this
time.
    "Dwalin and Balin here already, I see," said Kili. "Let us join the throng!"
    "Throng!" thought Mr. Baggins. "I don't like the sound of that. I really must sit
down for a minute and collect my wits, and have a drink." He had only just had a
sip-in the corner, while the four dwarves sat around the table, and talked about
mines and gold and troubles with the goblins, and the depredations of dragons,
and lots of other things which he did not understand, and did not want to, for they
sounded much too adventurous-when, ding-dong-a-ling-' dang, his bell rang again,
as if some naughty little hobbit-boy was trying to pull the handle off. "Someone at
the door!" he said, blinking. "Some four, I should say by the sound," said Fili.
"Be-sides, we saw them coming along behind us in the distance."
    The poor little hobbit sat down in the hall and put his head in his hands, and
wondered what had happened, and what was going to happen, and whether they
would all stay to supper. Then the bell rang again louder than ever, and he had to
run to the door. It was not four after all, t was FIVE. Another dwarf had come
along while he was wondering in the hall. He had hardly turned the knob, be-x)re
they were all inside, bowing and saying "at your service" one after another. Dori,
Nori, Ori, Oin, and Gloin were their names; and very soon two purple hoods, a
grey hood, a brown hood, and a white hood were hanging on the pegs, and off they
marched with their broad hands stuck in their gold and silver belts to join the
others. Already it had almost become a throng. Some called for ale, and some for
porter, and one for coffee, and all of them for cakes; so the hobbit was kept very
busy for a while.
    A big jug of coffee bad just been set in the hearth, the seed-cakes were gone,
and the dwarves were starting on a round of buttered scones, when there came-a
loud knock. Not a ring, but a hard rat-tat on the hobbit's beautiful green door.
Somebody was banging with a stick!
    Bilbo rushed along the passage, very angry, and altogether bewildered and
bewuthered-this was the most awkward Wednesday he ever remembered. He
pulled open the door with a jerk, and they all fell in, one on top of the other. More
dwarves, four more! And there was Gandalf behind, leaning on his staff and
laughing. He had made quite a dent on the beautiful door; he had also, by the way,
knocked out the secret mark that he had put there the morning before.
    "Carefully! Carefully!" he said. "It is not like you, Bilbo, to keep friends
waiting on the mat, and then open the door like a pop-gun! Let me introduce
Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, and especially Thorin!"
    "At your service!" said Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur standing in a row. Then they
hung up two yellow hoods and a pale green one; and also a sky-blue one with a
long silver tassel. This last belonged to Thorin, an enormously important dwarf, in
fact no other than the great Thorin Oakenshield himself, who was not at all
pleased at falling flat on Bilbo's mat with Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur on top of him.
For one thing Bombur was immensely fat and heavy. Thorin indeed was very
haughty, and said nothing about service; but poor Mr. Baggins said he was sorry
so many times, that at last he grunted "pray don't mention it," and stopped
frowning.
    "Now we are all here!" said Gandalf, looking at the row of thirteen hoods-the
best detachable party hoods-and his own hat hanging on the pegs. "Quite a merry
gathering!
    I hope there is something left for the late-comers to eat and drink! What's that?
Tea! No thank you! A little red wine, I think, for me." "And for me," said Thorin.
"And raspberry jam and apple-tart," said Bifur. "And mince-pies and cheese," said
Bofur. "And pork-pie and salad," said Bombur. "And more cakes-and ale-and
coffee, if you don't mind," called the other dwarves through the door.
    "Put on a few eggs, there's a good fellow!" Gandalf called after him, as the
hobbit stumped off to the pantries. "And just bring out the cold chicken and
pickles!"
    "Seems to know as much about the inside of my larders as I do myself!"
thought Mr. Baggins, who was feeling positively flummoxed, and was beginning
to wonder whether a most wretched adventure had not come right into his house.
By the time he had got all the bottles and dishes and knives and forks and glasses
and plates and spoons and things piled up on big trays, he was getting very hot,
and red in the face, and annoyed.
    "Confusticate and bebother these dwarves!" he said aloud. "Why don't they
come and lend a hand?" Lo and behold! there stood Balin and Dwalin at the door
of the kitchen, and Fili and Kili behind them, and before he could say knife they
had whisked the trays and a couple of small tables into the parlour and set out
everything afresh.
    Gandalf sat at the head of the party with the thirteen, dwarves all round: and
Bilbo sat on a stool at the fireside, nibbling at a biscuit (his appetite was quite
taken away), and trying to look as if this was all perfectly ordinary and. not in the
least an adventure. The dwarves ate and ate, and talked and talked, and time got
on. At last they pushed their chairs back, and Bilbo made a move to collect the
plates and glasses.
    "I suppose you will all stay to supper?" he said in his politest unpressing tones.
"Of course!" said Thorin. "And after. We shan't get through the business till late,
and we must have some music first. Now to clear up!"
    Thereupon the twelve dwarves-not Thorin, he was too important, and stayed
talking to Gandalf-jumped to their feet and made tall piles of all the things. Off
they went, not waiting for trays, balancing columns of plates, each with a bottle on
the top, with one hand, while the hobbit ran after them almost squeaking with
fright: "please be careful!" and "please, don't trouble! I can manage." But the
dwarves only started to sing:

                Chip the glasses and crack the plates!
                Blunt the knives and bend the forks!
                That's what Bilbo Baggins hates-
                Smash the bottles and burn the corks!

                Cut the cloth and tread on the fat!
                Pour the milk on the pantry floor!
                Leave the bones on the bedroom mat!
                Splash the wine on every door!

                Dump the crocks in a boiling bawl;
                Pound them up with a thumping pole;
                And when you've finished, if any are whole,
                Send them down the hall to roll !

                That's what Bilbo Baggins hates!
                So, carefully! carefully with the plates!

    And of course they did none of these dreadful things, and everything was
cleaned and put away safe as quick as lightning, while the hobbit was turning
round and round in the middle of the kitchen trying to see what they were doing.
Then they went back, and found Thorin with his feet on the fender smoking a
pipe. He was blowing the most enormous smoke-rings, and wherever he told one
to go, it went-up the chimney, or behind the clock on the man-telpiece, or under
the table, or round and round the ceiling; but wherever it went it was not quick
enough to escape Gandalf. Pop! he sent a smaller smoke-ring from his short clay-
pipe straight through each one of Thorin's. The Gandalf's smoke-ring would go
green and come back to hover over the wizard's head. He had quite a cloud of
them about him already, and in the dim light it made him look strange and
sorcerous. Bilbo stood still and watched-he loved smoke-rings-and then be blushed
to think how proud he had been yesterday morning of the smoke-rings he had sent
up the wind over The Hill.
    "Now for some music!" said Thorin. "Bring out the instruments!"
    Kili and Fili rushed for their bags and brought back little fiddles; Dori, Nori,
and Ori brought out flutes from somewhere inside their coats; Bombur produced a
drum from the hall; Bifur and Bofur went out too, and came back with clarinets
that they had left among the walking-sticks Dwalin and Balin said: "Excuse me, I
left mine in the porch!" "Just bring mine in with you," said Thorin. They came
back with viols as big as themselves, and with Thorin’s harp wrapped in a green
cloth. It was a beautiful gold-en harp, and when Thorin struck it the music began
all at once, so sudden and sweet that Bilbo forgot everything else, and was swept
away into dark lands under strange moons, far over The Water and very far from
his hobbit-hole under The Hill.
    The dark came into the room from the little window that opened in the side of
The Hill; the firelight flickered-it was April-and still they played on, while the
shadow of Gandalf's beard wagged against the wall.
    The dark filled all the room, and the fire died down, and the shadows were
lost, and still they played on. And suddenly first one and then another began to
sing as they played, deep-throated singing of the dwarves in the deep places of
their ancient homes; and this is like a fragment of their song, if it can be like their
song without their music.

                Far over the misty mountains cold
                To dungeons deep and caverns old
                We must away ere break of day
                To seek the pale enchanted gold.

                The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
                While hammers fell like ringing bells
                In places deep, where dark things sleep,
                In hollow halls beneath the fells.

                For ancient king and elvish lord
                There many a gloaming golden hoard
                They shaped and wrought, and light they caught
                To hide in gems on hilt of sword.

                On silver necklaces they strung
                The flowering stars, on crowns they hung
                The dragon-fire, in twisted wire
                They meshed the light of moon and sun.

                Far over the misty mountains cold
                To dungeons deep and caverns old
                We must away, ere break of day,
                To claim our long-forgotten gold.

                Goblets they carved there for themselves
                And harps of gold; where no man delves
                There lay they long, and many a song
                Was sung unheard by men or elves.

                The pines were roaring on the height,
                The winds were moaning in the night.
                The fire was red, it flaming spread;
                The trees like torches biased with light,

                The bells were ringing in the dale
                And men looked up with faces pale;
                The dragon's ire more fierce than fire
                Laid low their towers and houses frail.

                The mountain smoked beneath the moon;
                The dwarves, they heard the tramp of doom.
                They fled their hall to dying -fall
                Beneath his feet, beneath the moon.

                Far over the misty mountains grim
                To dungeons deep and caverns dim
                We must away, ere break of day,
                To win our harps and gold from him!

     As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by
cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and jealous love, the desire of
the hearts of dwarves. Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he
wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the
waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick. He
looked out of the window. The stars were out in a dark sky above the trees. He
thought of the jewels of the dwarves shining in dark caverns. Suddenly in the
wood beyond The Water a flame leapt up--probably somebody lighting a wood-
fire-and he thought of plundering dragons settling on his quiet Hill and kindling it
all to flames. He shuddered; and very quickly he was plain Mr. Baggins of Bag-
End, Under-Hill, again.
     He got up trembling. He had less than half a mind to fetch the lamp, and more
than half a mind to pretend to, and go and hide behind the beer barrels in the
cellar, and not come out again until all the dwarves had gone away. Suddenly he
found that the music and the singing had stopped, and they were all looking at him
with eyes shining in the dark.
     "Where are you going?" said Thorin, in a tone that seemed to show that he
guessed both halves of the hobbit's mind.
     "What about a little light?" said Bilbo apologetically.
     "We like the dark," said the dwarves. "Dark for dark business! There are many
hours before dawn."
     "Of course!" said Bilbo, and sat down in a hurry. He missed the stool and sat
in the fender, knocking over the poker and shovel with a crash.
     "Hush!" said Gandalf. "Let Thorin speak!" And this is bow Thorin began.
     "Gandalf, dwarves and Mr. Baggins! We are not together in the house of our
friend and fellow conspirator, this most excellent and audacious hobbit-may the
hair on his toes never fall out! all praise to his wine and ale!-" He paused for
breath and for a polite remark from the hob-bit, but the compliments were quite
lost on-poor Bilbo Baggins, who was wagging his mouth in protest at being called
audacious and worst of all fellow conspirator, though no noise came out, he was
so flummoxed. So Thorin went on:
     "We are met to discuss our plans, our ways, means, policy and devices. We
shall soon before the break of day start on our long journey, a journey from which
some of us, or perhaps all of us (except our friend and counsellor, the ingenious
wizard Gandalf) may never return. It is a solemn moment. Our object is, I take it,
well known to us all. To the estimable Mr. Baggins, and perhaps to one or two of
the younger dwarves (I think I should be right in naming Kili and Fili, for
instance), the exact situation at the moment may require a little brief explanation-"
     This was Thorin's style. He was an important dwarf. If he had been allowed,
he would probably have gone on like this until he was out of breath, without
telling any one there 'anything that was not known already. But he was rudely
interrupted. Poor Bilbo couldn't bear it any longer. At may never return he began
to feel a shriek coming up inside, and very soon it burst out like the whistle of an
engine coming out of a tunnel. All the dwarves sprang Bp knocking over the table.
Gandalf struck a blue light on the end of his magic staff, and in its firework glare
the poor little hobbit could be seen kneeling on the hearth-rug, shaking like a jelly
that was melting. Then he fell flat on the floor, and kept on calling out "struck by
lightning, struck by lightning!" over and over again; and that was all they could
get out of him for a long time. So they took him and laid him out of the way on
the drawing-room sofa with a drink at his elbow, and they went back to their dark
business.
     "Excitable little fellow," said Gandalf, as they sat down again. "Gets funny
queer fits, but he is one of the best, one of the best-as fierce as a dragon in a
pinch."
     If you have ever seen a dragon in a pinch, you will realize that this was only
poetical exaggeration applied to any hobbit, even to Old Took's great-granduncle
Bullroarer, who was so huge (for a hobbit) that he could ride a horse. He charged
the ranks of the goblins of Mount Gram in the Battle of the Green Fields, and
knocked their king Gol-firnbul's head clean off with a wooden club. It sailed a
hundred yards through the air and went down a rabbit hole, and in this way the
battle was won and the game of Golf invented at the same moment.
     In the meanwhile, however, Bullroarer's gentler descendant was reviving in the
drawing-room. After a while and a drink he crept nervously to the door of the
parlour. This is what he heard, Gloin speaking: "Humph!" (or some snort more or
less like that). "Will he do, do you think? It is all very well for Gandalf to talk
about this hobbit being fierce, but one shriek like that in a moment of excitement
would be enough to wake the dragon and all his relatives, and kill the lot of us. I
think it sounded more like fright than excitement! In fact, if it bad not been for the
sign on the door, I should have been sure we had come to the wrong house. As
soon as I clapped eyes on the little fellow bobbing and puffing on the mat, I had
my doubts. He looks more like a grocer-than a burglar!"
     Then Mr. Baggins turned the handle and went in. The Took side had won. He
suddenly felt he would go without bed and breakfast to be thought fierce. As for
little fellow bobbing on the mat it almost made him really fierce. Many a time
afterwards the Baggins part regretted what he did now, and he said to himself:
"Bilbo, you were a fool; you walked right in and put your foot in it."
     "Pardon me," he said, "if I have overheard words that you were saying. I don't
pretend to understand what you are talking about, or your reference to burglars,
but I think I am right in believing" (this is what he called being on his dignity)
"that you think I am no good. I will show you. I have no signs on my door-it was
painted a week ago-, and I am quite sure you have come to the wrong house. As
soon as I saw your funny faces on the door-step, I had my doubts. But treat it as
the right one. Tell me what you want done, and I will try it, if I have to walk from
here to the East of East and fight the wild Were-worms in the Last Desert. I bad a
great-great-great-granduncle once, Bullroarer Took, and —"
     "Yes, yes, but that was long ago," said Gloin. "I was talking about you. And I
assure you there is a mark on this door-the usual one in the trade, or used to be.
Burglar wants a good job, plenty of Excitement and reasonable Reward, that's
how it is usually read. You can say Expert Treasure-hunter instead of Burglar if
you like. Some of them do. It's all the same to us. Gandalf told us that there was a
man of the sort in these parts looking for a Job at once, and that he had arranged
for a meeting here this Wednesday tea-time."
     "Of course there is a mark," said Gandalf. "I put it there myself. For very good
reasons. You asked me to find the fourteenth man for your expedition, and I chose
Mr. Baggins. Just let any one say I chose the wrong man or the wrong house, and
you can stop at thirteen and have all the bad luck you like, or go back to digging
coal."
     He scowled so angrily at Gloin that the dwarf huddled back in his chair; and
when Bilbo tried to open his mouth to ask a question, he turned and frowned at
him and stuck oat his bushy eyebrows, till Bilbo shut his mouth tight with a snap.
"That's right," said Gandalf. "Let's have no more argument. I have chosen Mr.
Baggins and that ought to !6te enough for all of you. If I say he is a Burglar, a
Burglar he is, or will be when the time comes. There is a lot more in him than you
guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself. You may (possibly) all
live to thank me yet. Now Bilbo, my boy, fetch the lamp, and let's have little light
on this!"
    On the table in the light of a big lamp with a red shad he spread a piece of
parchment rather like a map.
    "This was made by Thror, your grandfather, Thorin, he said in answer to the
dwarves' excited questions. "It is a plan of the Mountain."
    "I don't see that this will help us much," said Thorin disappointedly after a
glance. "I remember the Mountain well enough and the lands about it. And I know
where Mirkwood is, and the Withered Heath where the great dragons bred."
    "There is a dragon marked in red on the Mountain, said Balin, "but it will be
easy enough to find him without that, if ever we arrive there."
    "There is one point that you haven't noticed," said the wizard, "and that is the
secret entrance. You see that rune on the West side, and the hand pointing to it
from the other runes?** That marks a hidden passage to the Lower Halls.
    "It may have been secret once," said Thorin, "but how do we know that it is
secret any longer? Old Smaug had lived there long enough now to find out
anything there is to know about those caves."
    "He may-but he can't have used it for years and years. "Why?"
    "Because it is too small. 'Five feet high the door and three may walk abreast'
say the runes, but Smaug could not creep into a hole that size, not even when he
was a young dragon, certainly not after devouring so many of the dwarves and
men of Dale."
    "It seems a great big hole to me," squeaked Bilbo (who had no experience of
dragons and only of hobbit-holes) He was getting excited and interested again, so
that he forgot to keep his mouth shut. He loved maps, and in his hall there hung a
large one of the Country Round with all his favourite walks marked on it in red
ink. "How could such a large door be kept secret from everybody outside, apart
from the dragon?" he asked. He was only a little hobbit you must remember.
    "In lots of ways," said Gandalf. "But in what way this one has been hidden we
don't know without going to see. From what it says on the map I should guess
there is a closed door which has been made to look exactly like the side of the

     **
          Look at the maps with this book, and you will see the runes there.
Mountain. That is the usual dwarves' method- I think that is right, isn't it?" "Quite
right," said Thorin.
    "Also," went on Gandalf, "I forgot to mention that with the map went a key, a
small and curious key. Here it is!" he said, and handed to Thorin a key with a long
barrel and intricate wards, made of silver. "Keep it safe!"
    "Indeed I will," said Thorin, and he fastened it upon a fine chain that hung
about his neck and under his jacket. "Now things begin to look more hopeful. This
news alters them much for-the better. So far we have had no clear idea what to do.
We thought of going East, as quiet and careful as we could, as far as the Long
Lake. After that the trouble would begin."
    "A long time before that, if I know anything about the loads East," interrupted
Gandalf.
    "We might go from there up along the River Running," went on Thorin taking
no notice, "and so to the ruins of Dale-the old town in the valley there, under the
shadow of the Mountain. But we none of us liked the idea of the Front Gate. The
river runs right out of it through the great cliff at the South of the Mountain, and
out of it comes the dragon too-far too often, unless he has changed."
    "That would be no good," said the wizard, "not without a mighty Warrior,
even a Hero. I tried to find one; but warriors are busy fighting one another in
distant lands, and in this neighbourhood heroes are scarce, or simply lot to be
found. Swords in these parts are mostly blunt, and axes are used for trees, and
shields as cradles or dish-covers; and dragons are comfortably far-off (and
therefore legendary). That is why I settled on burglary-especially when I
remembered the existence of a Side-door. And here is our little Bilbo Baggins, the
burglar, the chosen and selected burglar. So now let's get on and make some
plans."
    "Very well then," said Thorin, "supposing the burglar-expert gives us some
ideas or suggestions." He turned with mock-politeness to Bilbo.
    "First I should like to know a bit more about things," said he, feeling all
confused and a bit shaky inside, but so far still lookishly determined to go on with
things. "I mean about the gold and the dragon, and all that, and how it got there,
and who it belongs to, and so on and further."
    "Bless me!" said Thorin, "haven't you got a map? and didn't you hear our
song? and haven't we been talking about all this for hours?"
    "All the same, I should like it all plain and clear," said he obstinately, putting
on his business manner (usually reserved for people who tried to borrow money
off him), and doing his best to appear wise and prudent and professional and live
up to Gandalf's recommendation. "Also I should like to know about risks, out-of-
pocket expenses, time required and remuneration, and so forth"-by which he
meant: "What am I going to get out of it? and am I going to come back alive?"
     "O very well," said Thorin. "Long ago in my grandfather Thror's time our
family was driven out of the far North, and came back with all their wealth and
their tools to this Mountain on the map. It had been discovered by my far ancestor,
Thrain the Old, but now they mined and they tunnelled and they made huger halls
and greater workshops -and in addition I believe they found a good deal of gold
and a great many jewels too. Anyway they grew immensely rich and famous, and
my grandfather was King under the Mountain again and treated with great
reverence by the mortal men, who lived to the South, and were gradually
spreading up the Running River as far as the valley overshadowed by the
Mountain. They built the merry town of Dale there in those days. Kings used to
send for our smiths, and reward even the least skilful most richly. Fathers would
beg us to take their sons as apprentices, and pay us handsomely, especially in
food-supplies, which we never bothered to grow or find for ourselves. Altogether
those were good days for us, and the poorest of us had money to spend and to lend,
and leisure to make beautiful things just for the. fun of it, not to speak of the most
marvellous and magical toys, the like of which is not to be found in the world
now-a-days. So my grandfather's halls became full of armour and jewels and
carvings and cups, and the toy-market of Dale was the wonder of the North.
     "Undoubtedly that was what brought the dragon. Dragons steal gold and
jewels, you know, from men and elves and dwarves, wherever they can find them;
and they guard their plunder as long as they live (which is practically forever,
unless they are killed), and never enjoy a brass ring of it. Indeed they hardly know
a good bit of work from a bad, though they usually have a good notion of the
current market value; and they can't make a thing for themselves, not even mend a
little loose scale of their armour. There were lots of dragons in the North in those
days, and gold was probably getting scarce up there, with the dwarves flying south
or getting killed, and all the general waste and destruction that dragons make
going from bad to worse. There was a most specially greedy, strong and wicked
worm called Smaug. One day he flew up into the air and came south. The first we
heard of it was a noise like a hurricane coming from the North, and the pine-trees
on the Mountain creaking and cracking in the wind. Some of the dwarves who
happened to be outside (I was one luckily -a fine adventurous lad in those days,
always wandering about, and it saved my life that day)-well, from a good way off
we saw the dragon settle on our mountain in a spout of flame. Then he came down
the slopes and when he reached the woods they all went up in fire. By that time all
the bells were ringing in Dale and the warriors were arming. The dwarves rushed
out of their great gate; but there was the dragon waiting for them. None escaped
that way. The river rushed up in steam and a fog fell on Dale, and in the fog the
dragon came on them and destroyed most of the warriors-the usual unhappy story,
it was only too common in those days. Then he went back and crept in through the
Front Gate and routed out all the halls, and lanes, and tunnels, alleys, cellars,
mansions and passages. After that there were no dwarves left alive inside, and he
took all their wealth for himself. Probably, for that is the dragons' way, he has
piled it all up in a great heap far inside, and sleeps on it for a bed. Later he used to
crawl out of the great gate and come by night to Dale, and carry away people,
especially maidens, to eat, until Dale was ruined, and all the people dead or gone.
What goes on there now I don't know for certain, but I don't suppose anyone lives
nearer to the Mountain than the far edge of the Long Lake now-a-days.
     "The few of us that were well outside sat and wept in hiding, and cursed
Smaug; and there we were unexpectedly joined by my father and my grandfather
with singed beards. They looked very grim but they said very little. When I asked
how they had got away, they told me to hold my tongue, and said that one day in
the proper time I should know. After that we went away, and we have had to earn
our livings as best we could up and down the lands, often enough sinking as low
as blacksmith-work or even coalmining. But we have never forgotten our stolen
treasure. And even now, when I will allow we have a good bit laid by and are not
so badly off"-here Thorin stroked the gold chain round his neck-"we still mean to
get it back, and to bring our curses home to Smaug-if we can.
     "I have often wondered about my father's and my grandfather's escape. I see
now they must have had a private Side-door which only they knew about. But
apparently they made a map, and I should like to know how Gandalf got hold of
it, and why it did not come down to me, the rightful heir."
     "I did not 'get hold of it,' I was given it," said the wizard.
     "Your grandfather Thror was killed, you remember, in the mines of Moria by
Azog the Goblin —"
     "Curse his name, yes," said Thorin.
     "And Thrain your father went away on the twenty-first of April, a hundred
years ago last Thursday, and has never been seen by you since—"
     "True, true," said Thorin.
     "Well, your father gave me this to give to you; and if I have chosen my own
time and way of handing it over, you can hardly blame me, considering the trouble
I had to find you. Your father could not remember his own name when he gave me
the paper, and he never told me yours; so on the whole I think I ought to be
praised and thanked. Here it is," said he handing the map to Thorin.
    "I don't understand," said Thorin, and Bilbo felt he would have liked to say the
same. The explanation did not seem to explain.
    "Your grandfather," said the wizard slowly and grimly, "gave the map to his
son for safety before he went to the mines of Moria. Your father went away to try
his luck with the map after your grandfather was killed; and lots of adventures of
a most unpleasant sort he had, but he never got near the Mountain. How he got
there I don't know, but I found him a prisoner in the dungeons of the
Necromancer."
    "Whatever were you doing there?" asked Thorin with a shudder, and all the
dwarves shivered.
    "Never you mind. I was finding things out, as usual; and a nasty dangerous
business it was. Even I, Gandalf, only just escaped. I tried to save your father, but
it was too late. He was witless and wandering, and had forgotten almost
everything except the map and the key." "We have long ago paid the goblins of
Moria," said Thorin; "we must give a thought to the Necromancer." "Don't be
absurd! He is an enemy quite beyond the powers of all the dwarves put together, if
they could all be collected again from the four corners of the world. The one thing
your father wished was for his son to read the map and use the key. The dragon
and the Mountain are more than big enough tasks for you!"
    "Hear, hear!" said Bilbo, and accidentally said it aloud, "Hear what?" they all
said turning suddenly towards him, and he was so flustered that he answered
"Hear what I have got to say!" "What's that?" they asked.
    "Well, I should say that you ought to go East and have a look round. After all
there is the Side-door, and dragons must sleep sometimes, I suppose. If you sit on
the doorstep long enough, I daresay you will think of something. And well, don't
you know, I think we have talked long enough for one night, if you see what I
mean. What about bed, and an early start, and all that? I will give you a good
breakfast before you go."
    "Before we go, I suppose you mean," said Thorin. "Aren't you the burglar?
And isn't sitting on the door-step your job, not to speak of getting inside the door?
But I agree about bed and breakfast. I like eggs with my ham, when starting on a
journey: fried not poached, and mind you don't break 'em."
    After all the others had ordered their breakfasts without so much as a please
(which annoyed Bilbo very much), they all got up. The hobbit had to find room
for them all, and filled all his spare-rooms and made beds on chairs and sofas,
before he got them all stowed and went to his own little bed very tired and not
altogether happy. One thing he did make his mind up about was not to bother to
get up very early and cook everybody else's wretched breakfast. The Tookishness
was wearing off, and he was not now quite so sure that he was going on any
journey in the morning. As he lay in bed he could hear Thorin still humming to
himself in the best bedroom next to him:

               Far over the misty mountains cold
               To dungeons deep and caverns old
               We must away, ere break of day,
               To find our long-forgotten gold.

   Bilbo went to sleep with that in his ears, and it gave him very uncomfortable
dreams. It was long after the break of day, when he woke up.
                                      Chapter 2
                                    Roast Mutton

     Up jumped Bilbo, and putting on his dressing-gown went into the dining-room.
There he saw nobody, but all the signs of a large and hurried breakfast. There was
a fearful mess in the room, and piles of unwashed crocks in the kitchen. Nearly
every pot and pan he possessed seemed to have been used. The washing-up was so
dismally real that Bilbo was forced to believe the party of the night before had not
been part of his bad dreams, as he had rather hoped. Indeed he was really relieved
after all to think that they had all gone without him, and without bothering to
wake him up ("but with never a thank-you" he thought); and yet in a way he could
not help feeling just a trifle disappointed. The feeling surprised him.
     "Don't be a fool, Bilbo Baggins!" he said to himself, "thinking of dragons and
all that outlandish nonsense at your age!" So be put on an apron, lit fires, boiled
water, and washed up. Then he had a nice little breakfast in the kitchen before
turning out the dining-room. By that time the sun was shining; and the front door
was open, letting in a warm spring breeze. Bilbo began to whistle loudly and to
forget about the night before. In fact he was just sitting down to a nice little second
breakfast in the dining-room by the open window, when in walked Gandalf. "My
dear fellow," said he, "whenever are you going to come? What about an early
start?-and here you are having breakfast, or whatever you call it, at half past ten!
They left you the message, because they could not wait."
     "What message?" said poor Mr. Baggins all in a fluster.
     "Great Elephants!" said Gandalf, "you are not at all yourself this morning-you
have never dusted the mantel- piece!"
     "What's that got to do with it? I have had enough to do with washing up for
fourteen!"
     "If you had dusted the mantelpiece you would have found this just under the
clock," said Gandalf, handing Bilbo a note (written, of course, on his own note-
paper).
     This is what he read:

       "Thorin and Company to Burglar Bilbo greeting!
       For your hospitality our sincerest thanks, and for your offer of
    professional assistance our grateful acceptance. Terms: cash on delivery, up to
    and not exceeding one fourteenth of total profits (if any); all traveling
    expenses guaranteed in any event; funeral expenses to be defrayed by us or
    our representatives, if occasion arises and the matter is not otherwise arranged
    for.
         "Thinking it unnecessary to disturb your esteemed repose, we have
    proceeded in advance to make requisite preparations, and shall await your
    respected person at the Green Dragon Inn, Bywater, at II a.m. sharp. Trusting
    that you will be punctual.

        "We have the honour to remain
                           "Yours deeply
                                  "Thorin& Co."

     "That leaves you just ten minutes. You will have to run," said Gandalf.
     "But—" said Bilbo.
     "No time for it," said the wizard.
     "But—"said Bilbo again.
     "No time for that either! Off you go!"
     To the end of his days Bilbo could never remember how he found himself
outside, without a hat, walking-stick or say money, or anything that he usually
took when he went out; leaving his second breakfast half-finished and quite
unwashed-up, pushing his keys into Gandalf's hands, and running as fast as his
furry feet could carry him down the lane, past the great Mill, across The Water,
and then on for a whole mile or more. Very puffed he was, when he got to Bywater
just on the stroke of eleven, and found he had come without a pocket-
handkerchief!
     "Bravo!" said Balin who was standing at the inn door looking out for him.
     Just then all the others came round the corner of the road from the village.
They were on ponies, and each pony was slung about with all kinds of baggages,
packages, parcels, and paraphernalia. There was a very small pony, apparently for
Bilbo.
     "Up you two get, and off we go!" said Thorin.
     "I'm awfully sorry," said Bilbo, "but I have come without my hat, and I have
left my pocket-handkerchief behind, and I haven't got any money. I didn't get your
note until after 10.45 to be precise."
     "Don't be precise," said Dwalin, "and don't worry! You will have to manage
without pocket-handkerchiefs, and a good many other things, before you get to the
journey's end. As for a hat, I have got a spare hood and cloak in my luggage."
     That's how they all came to start, jogging off from the inn one fine morning
just before May, on laden ponies; and Bilbo was wearing a dark-green hood (a
little weather-stained) and a dark-green cloak borrowed from Dwalin. They were
too large for him, and he looked rather comic. What his father Bungo would have
thought of him, I daren't think. His only comfort was he couldn't be mistaken for a
dwarf, as he had no beard.
     They had not been riding very long when up came Gandalf very splendid on a
white horse. He had brought a lot of pocket-handkerchiefs, and Bilbo's pipe and
tobacco. So after that the party went along very merrily, and they told stories or
sang songs as they rode forward all day, except of course when they stopped for
meals. These didn't come quite as often as Bilbo would have liked them, but still
he began to feel that adventures were not so bad after all. At first they had passed
through hobbit-lands, a wild respectable country inhabited by decent folk, with
good roads, an inn or two, and now and then a dwarf or a farmer ambling by on
business. Then they came to lands where people spoke strangely, and sang songs
Bilbo had never heard before. Now they had gone on far into the Lone-lands,
where there were no people left, no inns, and the roads grew steadily worse. Not
far ahead were dreary hills, rising higher and higher, dark with trees. On some of
them were old castles with an evil look, as if they had been built by wicked
people. Everything seemed gloomy, for the weather that day had taken a nasty
turn. Mostly it had been as good as May can be, even in merry tales, but now it
was cold and wet. In the Lone-lands they had to camp when they could, but at
least it had been dry. "To think it will soon be June," grumbled Bilbo as he
splashed along behind the others in a very muddy track. It was after tea-time; it
was pouring with rain, and had been all day; his hood was dripping into his eyes,
his cloak was full of water; the pony was tired and stumbled on stones; the others
were too grumpy to talk. "And I'm sure the rain has got into the dry clothes and
into the food-bags," thought Bilbo. "Bother burgling and everything to do with it!
I wish I was at home in my nice hole by the fire, with the kettle just beginning to
sing!" It was not the last time that he wished that!
     Still the dwarves jogged on, never turning round or taking any notice of the
hobbit. Somewhere behind the grey clouds the sun must have gone down, for it
began to get dark. Wind got up, and the willows along the river-bank bent and
sighed. I don't know what river it was, a rushing red one, swollen with the rains of
the last few days, that came down from the hills and mountains in front of them.
Soon it was nearly dark. The winds broke up the grey clouds, and a waning moon
appeared above the hills between the flying rags. Then they stopped, and Thorin
muttered something about supper, "and where shall we get a dry patch to sleep
on?" Not until then did they notice that Gandalf was missing. So far he had come
all the way with them, never saying if he was in the adventure or merely keeping
them company for a while. He had eaten most, talked most, and laughed most.
But now he simply was not there at all!
     "Just when a wizard would have been most useful, too," groaned Dori and
Nori (who shared the hobbit's views about regular meals, plenty and often). They
decided in the end that they would have to camp where they were. So far they had
not camped before on this journey, and though they knew that they soon would
have to camp regularly, when they were among the Misty Mountains and far from
the lands of respectable people, it seemed a bad wet evening to begin, on. They
moved to a clump of trees, and though it was drier under them, the wind shook the
rain off the leaves, and the drip, drip, was most annoying. Also the mischief
seemed to have got into the fire. Dwarves can make a fire almost anywhere out of
almost anything, wind or no wind; but they could not do it that night, not even Oin
and Gloin, who were specially good at it.
     Then one of the ponies took fright at nothing and bolted. He got into the river
before they could catch him; and before they could get him out again, Fili and Kili
were nearly drowned, and all the baggage that he carried was washed away off
him. Of course it was mostly food, and there was mighty little left for supper, and
less for breakfast. There they all sat glum and wet and muttering, while Oin and
Gloin went on trying to light the fire, and quarrelling about it. Bilbo was sadly
reflecting that adventures are not all pony-rides in May-sunshine, when Balin,
who was always their look-out man, said: "There's a light over there!" There was
a hill some way off with trees on it, pretty thick in parts. Out of the dark mass of
the trees they could now see a light shining, a reddish comfortable-looking light,
as it might be a fire or torches twinkling. When they had looked at it for some
while, they fell to arguing. Some said "no" and some said "yes." Some said they
could but go and see, and anything was better than little supper, less breakfast, and
wet clothes all the night. Others said: "These parts are none too well known, and
are too near the mountains. Travellers seldom come this way now. The old maps
are no use: things have changed for the worse and the road is unguarded. They
have seldom even heard of the king round here, and the less inquisitive you are as
you go along, the less trouble you are likely to find." Some said: "After all there
are fourteen of us." Others said: "Where has Gandalf got to?" This remark was
repeated by everybody. Then the rain began to pour down worse than ever, and
Oin and Gloin began to fight. That settled it. "After all we have got a burglar with
us," they said; and so they made off, leading their ponies (with all due and proper
caution) in the direction of the light. They came to the hill and were soon in the
wood. Up the hill they went; but there was no proper path to be seen, such as
might lead to a house or a farm; and do what they could they made a deal of
rustling and crackling and creaking (and a good deal of grumbling and drafting),
as they went through the trees in the pitch dark.
     Suddenly the red light shone out very bright through the tree-trunks not far
ahead. "Now it is the burglar's turn," they said, meaning Bilbo. "You must go on
and find out all about that light, and what it is for, and if all is perfectly safe and
canny," said Thorin to the hobbit. "Now scuttle off, and come back quick, if all is
well. If not, come back if you can! It you can't, hoot twice like a barn-owl and
once like a screech-owl, and we will do what we can."
     Off Bilbo had to go, before he could explain that he could not hoot even once
like any kind of owl any more than fly like a bat. But at any rate hobbits can
move quietly in woods, absolutely quietly. They take a pride in it, and Bilbo had
sniffed more than once at what he called "all this dwarvish racket," as they went
along, though I don't sup-pose you or I would notice anything at all on a windy
night, not if the whole cavalcade had passed two feet off. As for Bilbo walking
primly towards the red light, I don't suppose even a weasel would have stirred a
whisker at it. So, naturally, he got right up to the fire-for fire it was without
disturbing anyone. And this is what he saw. Three very large persons sitting round
a very large fire of beech-logs. They were toasting mutton on long spits of wood,
and licking the gravy off their fingers. There was a fine toothsome smell. Also
there was a barrel of good drink at hand, and they were drinking out of jugs. But
they were trolls. Obviously trolls. Even Bilbo, in spite of his sheltered life, could
see that: from the great heavy faces of them, and their size, and the shape of their
legs, not to mention their language, which was not drawing-room fashion at all, at
all.
     "Mutton yesterday, mutton today, and blimey, if it don't look like mutton again
tomorrer," said one of the trolls.
     "Never a blinking bit of manflesh have we had for long enough," said a
second. "What the 'ell William was a-thinkin' of to bring us into these parts at all,
beats me - and the drink runnin' short, what's more," he said jogging the elbow of
William, who was taking a pull at his jug.
     William choked. "Shut yer mouth!" he said as soon as he could. "Yer can't
expect folk to stop here for ever just to be et by you and Bert. You've et a village
and a half between yer, since we come down from the mountains. How much more
d'yer want? And time's been up our way, when yer'd have said 'thank yer Bill' for a
nice bit o' fat valley mutton like what this is." He took a big bite off a sheep's leg
he was toasting, and wiped his lips on his sleeve.
    Yes, I am afraid trolls do behave like that, even those with only one head each.
After hearing all this Bilbo ought to have done something at once. Either he
should have gone back quietly and warned his friends that there were three fair-
sized trolls at hand in a nasty mood, quite likely to try toasted dwarf, or even
pony, for a change; or else he should have done a bit of good quick burgling. A
really first-class and legendary burglar would at this point have picked the trolls'
pockets-it is nearly always worthwhile if you can manage it-, pinched the very
mutton off the spite, purloined the beer, and walked off without their noticing him.
Others more practical but with less professional pride would perhaps have stuck a
dagger into each of them before they observed it. Then the night could have been
spent cheerily.
    Bilbo knew it. He had read of a good many things he had never seen or done.
He was very much alarmed, as well as disgusted; he wished himself a hundred
miles away, and yet-and yet somehow he could not go straight back to Thorin and
Company empty-handed. So he stood and hesitated in the shadows. Of the various
burglarious proceedings he had heard of picking the trolls' pockets seemed the
least difficult, so at last he crept behind a tree just behind William.
    Bert and Tom went off to the barrel. William was having another drink. Then
Bilbo plucked up courage and put his little hand in William's enormous pocket.
There was a purse in it, as big as a bag to Bilbo. "Ha!" thought he warming to his
new work as he lifted it carefully out, "this is a beginning!"
    It was! Trolls' purses are the mischief, and this was no exception. " 'Ere, 'oo are
you?" it squeaked, as it left the pocket; and William turned round at once and
grabbed Bilbo by the neck, before he could duck behind the tree.
    "Blimey, Bert, look what I've copped!" said William.
    "What is it?" said the others coming up.
    "Lumme, if I knows! What are yer?"
    "Bilbo Baggins, a bur— a hobbit," said poor Bilbo, shaking all over, and
wondering how to make owl-noises before they throttled him.
    "A burrahobbit?" said they a bit startled. Trolls are slow in the uptake, and
mighty suspicious about anything new to them.
    "What's a burrahobbit got to do with my pocket, anyways?" said William.
    "And can yer cook 'em?" said Tom.
    "Yer can try," said Bert, picking up a skewer.
     "He wouldn't make above a mouthful," said William, who had already had a
fine supper, "not when he was skinned and boned."
     "P'raps there are more like him round about, and we might make a pie," said
Bert. "Here you, are there any more of your sort a-sneakin' in these here woods,
yer nassty little rabbit," said he looking at the hobbit's furry feet; and he picked
him up by the toes and shook him.
     "Yes, lots," said Bilbo, before he remembered not to give his friends away.
"No, none at all, not one," he said immediately afterwards.
     "What d'yer mean?" said Bert, holding him right away up, by the hair this
time.
     "What I say," said Bilbo gasping. "And please don't cook me, kind sirs! I am a
good cook myself, and cook bet-ter than I cook, if you see what I mean. I'll cook
beautifully for you, a perfectly beautiful breakfast for you, if only you won't have
me for supper."
     "Poor little blighter," said William. He had already had as much supper as he
could hold; also he had had lots of beer. "Poor little blighter! Let him go!"
     "Not till he says what he means by lots and none at all," said Bert. "I don't
want to have me throat cut in me sleep. Hold his toes in the fire, till he talks!"
     "I won't have it," said William. "I caught him anyway."
     "You're a fat fool, William," said Bert, "as I've said afore this evening."
     "And you're a lout!"
     "And I won't take that from you. Bill Huggins," says Bert, and puts his fist in
William's eye.
     Then there was a gorgeous row. Bilbo had just enough wits left, when Bert
dropped him on the ground, to scramble out of the way of their feet, before they
were fighting like dogs, and calling one another all sorts of perfectly true and
applicable names in very loud voices. Soon they were locked in one another's
arms, and rolling nearly into the fire kicking and thumping, while Tom whacked
at then both with a branch to bring them to their senses-and that of course only
made them madder than ever. That would have been the time for Bilbo to have
left. But his poor little feet had been very squashed in Bert's big paw, and he had
no breath in his body, and his head was going round; so there he lay for a while
panting, just outside the circle of firelight.
     Right in the middle of the fight up came Balin. The dwarves had heard noises
from a distance, and after wait-ing for some time for Bilbo to come back, or to
hoot like an owl, they started off one by one to creep towards the light as quietly
as they could. No sooner did Tom see Balin come into the light than he gave an
awful howl. Trolls simply detest the very sight of dwarves (uncooked). Bert and
Bill stopped fighting immediately, and "a sack, Tom, quick!" they said, before
Balin, who was wondering where in all this commotion Bilbo was, knew what
was happening, a sack was over his head, and he was down.
     "There's more to come yet," said Tom, "or I'm mighty mistook. Lots and none
at all, it is," said he. "No burra- hobbits, but lots of these here dwarves. That's
about the shape of it!"
     "I reckon you're right," said Bert, "and we'd best get out of the light."
     And so they did. With sacks in their hands, that they used for carrying off
mutton and other plunder, they waited in the shadows. As each dwarf came up and
looked at the fire, and the spilled jugs, and the gnawed mutton, in surprise, pop!
went a nasty smelly sack over his head, and he was down. Soon Dwalin lay by
Balin, and Fili and Kili together, and Dori and Nori and Ori all in a heap, and Oin
and Gloin and Bifur and Bofur and Bombur piled uncomfortably near the fire.
     "That'll teach 'em," said Tom; for Bifur and Bombur had given a lot of trouble,
and fought like mad, as dwarves will when cornered.
     Thorin came last-and he was not caught unawares. He came expecting
mischief, and didn't need to see his friends' legs sticking out of sacks to tell him
that things were not all well. He stood outside in the shadows some way off, and
said: "What's all this trouble? Who has been knocking my people about?"
     "It's trolls!" said Bilbo from behind a tree. They had forgotten all about him.
"They're hiding in the bushes with sacks," said he.
     "O! are they?" said Thorin, and he jumped forward to the fire, before they
could leap on him. He caught up a big branch all on fire at one end; and Bert got
that end in his eye before he could step aside. That put him out of the battle for a
bit. Bilbo did his best. He caught hold of Tom's leg-as well as he could, it was
thick as a young tree-trunk -but he was sent spinning up into the top of some
bushes, when Tom kicked the sparks up in Thorin's face.
     Tom got the branch in his teeth for that, and lost one of the front ones. It made
him howl, I can tell you. But just at that moment William came up behind and
popped a sack right over Thorin's head and down to his toes. And so the fight
ended. A nice pickle they were all in now: all neatly tied up in sacks, with three
angry trolls (and two with burns and bashes to remember) sitting by them, arguing
whether they should roast them slowly, or mince them fine and boil them, or just
sit on them one by one and squash them into jelly: and Bilbo up in a bush, with his
clothes and his skin torn, not daring to move for fear they should hear him.
    It was just then that Gandalf came back. But no one saw him. The trolls had
just decided to roast the dwarves now and eat them later-that was Bert's idea, and
after a lot of argument they had all agreed to it.
    "No good roasting 'em now, it’d take all night," said a voice. Bert thought it
was William's.
    "Don't start the argument all over-again. Bill," he said, "or it will take all
night."
    "Who's a-arguing?" said William, who thought it was. Bert that had spoken.
    "You are," said Bert.
    "You're a liar," said William; and so the argument beg all over again. In the
end they decided to mince them fine and boil them. So they got a black pot, and
they took out their knives.
    "No good boiling 'em! We ain't got no water, and it's a long way to the well
and all," said a voice. Bert and William thought it was Tom's.
    "Shut up!" said they, "or we'll never have done. And yer can fetch the water
yerself, if yer say any more."
    "Shut up yerself!" said Tom, who thought it was William's voice. "Who's
arguing but you. I'd like to know."
    "You're a booby," said William.
    "Booby yerself!" said Tom.
    And so the argument began all over again, and went on hotter than ever, until
at last they decided to sit on the sacks one by one and squash them, and boil them
next time.
    "Who shall we sit on first?" said the voice.
    "Better sit on the last fellow first," said Bert, whose eye had been damaged by
Thorin. He thought Tom was talking.
    "Don't talk to yerself!" said Tom. "But if you wants to sit on the last one, sit on
him. Which is he?"
    "The one with the yellow stockings," said Bert.
    "Nonsense, the one with the grey stockings," said a voice like William's.
    "I made sure it was yellow," said Bert.
    "Yellow it was," said William.
    "Then what did yer say it was grey for?" said Bert.
    "I never did. Tom said it."
    "That I never did!" said Tom. "It was you."
    "Two to one, so shut yer mouth!" said Bert.
    "Who are you a-talkin' to?" said William.
     "Now stop it!" said Tom and Bert together. "The night's gettin' on, and dawn
comes early. Let's get on with it!"
     "Dawn take you all, and be stone to you!" said a voice that sounded like
William's. But it wasn't. For just at that moment the light came over the hill, and
there was a mighty twitter in the branches. William never spoke for he stood
turned to stone as he stooped; and Bert and Tom were stuck like rocks as they
looked at him. And there they stand to this day, all alone, unless the birds perch on
them; for trolls, as you probably know, must be underground before dawn, or they
go back to the stuff of the mountains they are made of, and never move again.
That is what had happened to Bert and Tom and William.
     "Excellent!" said Gandalf, as he stepped from behind a tree, and helped Bilbo
to climb down out of a thorn-bush. Then Bilbo understood. It was the wizard's
voice that had kept the trolls bickering and quarrelling, until the light came and
made an end of them.
     The next thing was to untie the sacks and let out the dwarves. They were
nearly suffocated, and very annoyed: they had not at all enjoyed lying there
listening to the trolls making plans for roasting them and squashing them and
mincing them. They had to hear Bilbo's account of what had happened to him
twice over, before they were satisfied.
     "Silly time to go practising pinching and pocket-picking," said Bombur, "when
what we wanted was fire and food!"
     "And that's just what you wouldn't have got of those fellows without a
struggle, in any case," said Gandalf.
     "Anyhow you are wasting time now. Don't you realize that the trolls must have
a cave or a hole dug somewhere near to hide from the sun in? We must look into
it!"
     They searched about, and soon found the marks of trolls' stony boots going
away through the trees. They followed the tracks up the hill, until hidden by
bushes they came on a big door of stone leading to a cave. But they could not
open it, not though they all pushed while Gandalf tried various incantations.
     "Would this be any good?" asked Bilbo, when they were getting tired and
angry. "I found it on the ground where the trolls had their fight." He held out a
largish key, though no doubt William had thought it very small and secret. It must
have fallen out of his pocket, very luckily, before he was turned to stone.
     "Why on earth didn't you mention it before?" they cried.
     Gandalf grabbed it and fitted it into the key-hole. Then the stone door swung
back with one big push, and they all went inside. There were bones on the floor
and a nasty smell was in the air; but there was a good deal of food jumbled
carelessly on shelves and on the ground, among an untidy litter of plunder, of all
sorts from brass buttons to pots full of gold coins standing in a corner. There were
lots of clothes, too, hanging on the walls-too small for trolls, I am afraid they
belonged to victims-and among them were several swords of various makes,
shapes, and sizes. Two caught their eyes particularly, because of their beautiful
scabbards and jewelled hilts. Gandalf and Thorin each took one of these; and
Bilbo took a knife in a leather sheath. It would have made only a tiny pocket-knife
for a troll, but it was as good as a short sword for the hobbit.
    "These look like good blades," said the wizard, half drawing them and looking
at them curiously. "They were not made by any troll, nor by any smith among men
in these parts and days; but when we can read the runes on them, we shall know
more about them."
    "Let's get out of this horrible smell!" said Fili So they carried out the pots of
coins, and such food as was un-touched and looked fit to eat, also one barrel of ale
which was still full. By that time they felt like breakfast, and being very hungry
they did not turn their noses up at what they had got from the trolls' larder. Their
own provisions were very scanty. Now they had bread and cheese, and plenty of
ale, and bacon to toast in the embers of the fire. After that they slept, for their
night had been disturbed; (and they did nothing more till the afternoon. Then they
I brought up their ponies, and carried away the pots of gold, and buried them very
secretly not far from the track by the river, putting a great many spells over them,
just in case they ever had the-chance to come back and recover them. When that
was done, they all mounted once more, and jogged along again on the path
towards the East.
    "Where did you go to, if I may ask?" said Thorin to Gandalf as they rode
along.
    "To look ahead," said he.
    "And what brought you back in the nick of time?"
    "Looking behind," said he.
    "Exactly!" said Thorin; "but could you be more plain?"
    "I went on to spy out our road. It will soon become dangerous and difficult.
Also I was anxious about replenishing our small stock of provisions. I had not
gone very far, however, when I met a couple of friends of mine from Rivendell."
    "Where's that?" asked Bilbo,
    "Don't interrupt!" said Gandalf. "You will get there in a few days now, if we're
lucky, and find out all about it As I was saying I met two of Elrond's people. They
were hurrying along for fear of the trolls. It was they who told me that three of
them had come down from the mountains and settled in the woods not far from the
road; they had frightened everyone away from the district, and they waylaid
strangers.
    "I immediately had a feeling that I was wanted back. Looking behind I saw a
fire in the distance and made for it. So now you know. Please be more careful,
next time, or we shall never get anywhere!"
    "Thank you!" said Thorin.
                                       Chapter 3
                                     A Short Rest

    They did not sing or tell stories that day, even though the weather improved;
nor the next day, nor the day after. They had begun to feel that danger was not far
away on either side. They camped under the stars, and their horses had more to eat
than they had; for there was plenty of grass, but there was not much in their bags,
even with what they had got from the trolls. One morning they forded a river at a
wide shallow place full of the noise of stones and foam. The far bank was steep
and slippery. When they got to the top of it, leading their ponies, they saw that the
great mountains had marched down very near to them. Already they I seemed only
a day's easy journey from the feet of the nearest. Dark and drear it looked, though
there were patches of sunlight on its brown sides, and behind its shoulders the tips
of snow-peaks gleamed.
    "Is that The Mountain?" asked Bilbo in a solemn voice, looking at it with
round eyes. He had never seen a thing that looked so big before.
    "Of course not!" said Balin. "That is only the beginning of the Misty
Mountains, and we have to get through, or over, or under those somehow, before
we can come into Wilderland beyond. And it is a deal of a way even from the
other side of them to the Lonely Mountain in the East Where Smaug lies on our
treasure."
    "O!" said Bilbo, and just at that moment he felt more fared than he ever
remembered feeling before. He was thinking once again of his comfortable chair
before the fire in his favourite sitting-room in his hobbit-hole, and of the kettle
singing. Not for the last time!
    Now Gandalf led the way. "We must not miss the road, or we shall be done
for," he said. "We need food, for one thing, and rest in reasonable safety-also it is
very necessary to tackle the Misty Mountains by the proper path, or else you will
get lost in them, and have to come back and start at the beginning again (if you
ever get back at all)."
    They asked him where he was making for, and he answered: "You are come to
the very edge of the Wild, as some of you may know. Hidden somewhere ahead of
us is the fair valley of Rivendell where Elrond lives in the Last Homely House. I
sent a message by my friends, and we are expected."
    That sounded nice and comforting, but they had not got there yet, and it was
not so easy as it sounds to find the Last Homely House west of the Mountains.
There seemed to be no trees and no valleys and no hills to break the ground in
front of them, only one vast slope going slowly up and up to meet the feet of the
nearest mountain, a wide land the colour of heather and crumbling rock, with
patches and slashes of grass-green and moss-green showing where water might be.
    Morning passed, afternoon came; but in all the silent waste there was no sign
of any dwelling. They were growing anxious, for they now saw that the house
might be hidden almost anywhere between them and the mountains. They came on
unexpected valleys, narrow with deep sides, that opened suddenly at their feet, and
they looked down surprised to see trees below them and running water at the
bottom. There were gullies that they could almost leap over; but very deep with
waterfalls in them. There were dark ravines that one could neither jump nor climb
into. There were bogs, some of them green pleasant places to look at with flowers
growing bright and tall; but a pony that walked there with a pack on its back
would never have come out again.
    It was indeed a much wider land from the ford to the mountains than ever you
would have guessed. Bilbo was astonished. The only path was marked with white
stones some of which were small, and others were half covered with moss or
heather. Altogether it was a very slow business following the track, even guided
by Gandalf, who seemed to know his way about pretty well.
    His head and beard wagged this way and that as he looked for the stones, and
they followed his head, but they seemed no nearer to the end of the search when
the day began to fail. Tea-time had long gone by, and it seemed supper-time would
soon do the same. There were moths fluttering about, and the light became very
dim, for the moon had not risen. Bilbo's pony began to stumble over roots and
stones. They came to the edge of a steep fall in the ground so suddenly that
Gandalf s horse nearly slipped down the slope.
    "Here it is at last!" he called, and the others gathered round him and looked
over the edge. They saw a valley far below. They could hear the voice of hurrying
water in rocky bed at the bottom; the scent of trees was in the air; and there was a
light on the valley-side across the water. Bilbo never forgot the way they slithered
and slipped in the dusk down the steep zig-zag path into the secret valley of
Rivendell. The air grew warmer as they got lower, and the smell of the pine-trees
made him drowsy, so that every now and again he nodded and nearly fell off, or
bumped his nose on the pony's neck. Their spirits rose as they went down and
down. The trees changed to beech and oak, and hire was a comfortable feeling in
the twilight. The last green had almost faded out of the grass, when they came at
length to an open glade not far above the banks of the stream.
   "Hrnmm! it smells like elves!" thought Bilbo, and he looked up at the stars.
They were burning bright and blue. Just then there came a burst of song like
laughter in the trees:

               O! What are you doing,
               And where are you going?
               Your ponies need shoeing!
               The river is flowing!
               O! tra-la-la-lally
               here down in the valley!

               O! What are you seeking,
               And where are you making?
               The faggots are reeking,
               The bannocks are baking!
               O! tril-lil-lil-lolly
               the valley is jolly,
               ha! ha!

               O! Where are you going
               With beards all a-wagging?
               No knowing, no knowing
               What brings Mister Baggins,
               And Balin and Dwalin
               down into the valley
               in June
               ha! ha!

               O! Will you be staying,
               Or will you be flying?
               Your ponies are straying!
               The daylight is dying!
               To fly would be folly,
               To stay would be jolly
               And listen and hark
               Till the end of the dark
               to our tune
               ha! ha.'
    So they laughed and sang in the trees; and pretty fair nonsense I daresay you
think it. Not that they would care they would only laugh all the more if you told
them so. They were elves of course. Soon Bilbo caught glimpses of them as the
darkness deepened. He loved elves, though he seldom met them; but he was a little
frightened of them too. Dwarves don't get on well with them. Even decent enough
dwarves like Thorin and his friends think them foolish (which is a very foolish
thing to think), or get annoyed with them. For some elves tease them and laugh at
them, and most of all at their beards.
    "Well, well!" said a voice. "Just look! Bilbo the hobbit on a pony, my dear!
Isn't it delicious!"
    "Most astonishing wonderful!"
    Then off they went into another song as ridiculous as the one I have written
down in full. At last one, a tall young fellow, came out from the trees and bowed
to Gandalf and to Thorin.
    "Welcome to the valley!" he said.
    "Thank you!" said Thorin a bit gruffly; but Gandalf was already off his horse
and among the elves, talking merrily with them.
    "You are a little out of your way," said the elf: "that is, if you are making for
the only path across the water and to the house beyond. We will set you right, but
you had best get on foot, until you are over the bridge. Are you going to stay a bit
and sing with us, or will you go straight on? Supper is preparing over there," he
said. "I can smell the Wood-fires for the cooking."
    Tired as he was, Bilbo would have liked to stay awhile. Elvish singing is not a
thing to miss, in June under the stars, not if you care for such things. Also he
would have liked to have a few private words with these people that seemed to
know his name and all about him, although he had never been them before. He
thought their opinion of his adventure might be interesting. Elves know a lot and
are wondrous folk for news, and know what is going on among the peoples of the
land, as quick as water flows, or quicker. But the dwarves were all for supper as
soon 'as possible just then, and would not stay. On they all went, leading their
ponies, till they were brought to a good path and so at last to the very brink of the
river. It was flowing fast and noisily, as mountain-streams do of a summer
evening, when sun has been all day on the snow far up above. There was only a
narrow bridge of stone without a parapet, as narrow as a pony could well walk on;
and over that they had to go, slow and careful, one by one, each leading his pony
by the bridle. The elves had brought bright lanterns to the shore, and they sang a
merry song as the party went across.
    "Don't dip your beard in the foam, father!" they cried to Thorin, who was bent
almost on to his hands and knees. "It is long enough without watering it."
    "Mind Bilbo doesn't eat all the cakes!" they called. "He is too fat to get
through key-holes yet!"
    "Hush, hush! Good People! and good night!" said Gandalf, who came last.
"Valleys have ears, and some elves have over merry tongues. Good night!"
    And so at last they all came to the Last Homely House, and found its doors
flung wide.
    Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are
good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are
uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a
deal of telling anyway. They stayed long in that good house, fourteen days at least,
and they found it hard to leave. Bilbo would gladly have stopped there for ever
and ever-even supposing a wish would have taken him right back to his hobbit-
hole without trouble. Yet there is little to tell about their stay.
    The master of the house was an elf-friend-one of those people whose fathers
came into the strange stories before the beginning of History, the wars of the evil
goblins and the elves and the first men in the North. In those days of our tale there
were still some people who had both elves and heroes of the North for ancestors,
and Elrond the master of the house was their chief. He was as noble and as fair in
face as an elf-lord, as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as venerable as a
king of dwarves, and as kind as summer. He comes into. many tales, but his part
in the story of Bilbo's great adventure is only a small one, though important, as
you will see, if we ever get to the end of it. His house was perfect, whether you
liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and
thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Evil things did not come into that
valley.
    I wish I had time to tell you even a few of the tales or one or two of the songs
that they heard in that house. All of them, the ponies as well, grew refreshed and
strong in a few days there. Their clothes were mended as well as their bruises,
their tempers and their hopes. Their bags were filled with food and provisions light
to carry but strong to bring them over the mountain passes. Their plans were
improved with the best advice. So the time came to mid- summer eve, and they
were to go on again with the early sun on midsummer morning.
    Elrond knew all about runes of every kind. That day he looked at the swords
they had brought from the trolls' lair, and he said: "These are not troll-make. They
are old swords, very old swords of the High Elves of the West, my kin. They were
made in Gondolin for the Goblin-wars. They must have come from a dragon's
hoard or goblin plunder, for dragons and goblins destroyed that city many ages
ago. This, Thorin, the runes name Orcrist, the Goblin-cleaver in the ancient
tongue of Gondolin; it was a famous blade. This, Gandalf, was Glamdring, Foe-
hammer that the king of Gondolin once wore. Keep them well!"
    "Whence did the trolls get them, I wonder?" said Thorin looking at his sword
with new interest.
    "I could not say," said Elrond, "but one may guess that your trolls had
plundered other plunderers, or come on the remnants of old robberies in some hold
in the mountains of the North. I have heard that there are still forgotten treasures
of old to be found in the deserted caverns of the mines of Moria, since the dwarf
and goblin war."
    Thorin pondered these words. "I will keep this sword in honour," he said.
"May it soon cleave goblins once again!"
    "A wish that is likely to be granted soon enough in the mountains!" said
Elrond. "But show me now your map!" He took it and gazed long at it, and he
shook his head; for if he did not altogether approve of dwarves and their love of
gold, he hated dragons and their cruel wickedness, and he grieved to remember the
ruin of the town of Dale and its merry bells, and the burned banks of the bright
River Running. The moon was shining in a broad silver crescent. He held up the
map and the white light shone through it. "What is this?" he said. "There are
moon-letters here, beside the plain runes which say 'five feet high the door and
three may walk abreast.' "
    "What are moon-letters?" asked the hobbit full of excitement. He loved maps,
as I have told you before; and he also liked runes and letters and cunning
handwriting, though when he wrote himself it was a bit thin and spidery.
    "Moon-letters are rune-letters, but you cannot see them," said Elrond, "not
when you look straight at them. They can only be seen when the moon shines
behind them, and what is more, with the more cunning sort it must be a moon of
the same shape and season as the day when they were written. The dwarves
invented them and wrote them with silver pens, as your friends could tell you.
These must have been written on a midsummer's eve in a crescent moon, a long
while ago."
    "What do they say?" asked Gandalf and Thorin together, a bit vexed perhaps
that even Elrond should have found this out first, though really there had not been
a chance before, and there would not have been another until goodness knows
when.
    "Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks," read Elrond, "and the
setting sun with the last light of Durin's Day will shine upon the key-hole."
    "Durin, Durin!" said Thorin. "He was the father of the fathers of the eldest
race of Dwarves, the Longbeards, and my first ancestor: I am his heir."
    "Then what is Durin's Day?" asked Elrond.
    "The first day of the dwarves' New Year," said Thorin, "is as all should know
the first, day of the last moon of Autumn on the threshold of Winter. We still call it
Durin's Day when the last moon of Autumn and the sun are in the sky together.
But this will not help us much, I fear, for it passes our skill in these days to guess
when such a time will come again."
    "That remains to be seen," said Gandalf. "Is there any more writing?"
    "None to be seen by this moon," said Elrond, and he gave the map back to
Thorin; and then they went down to the water to see the elves dance and sing upon
the midsummer's eve.
    The next morning was a midsummer's morning as fair and fresh as could be
dreamed: blue sky and never a cloud, and the sun dancing on the water. Now they
rode away amid songs of farewell and good speed, with their hearts ready for more
adventure, and with a knowledge of the road they must follow over the Misty
Mountains to the land beyond.
                                    Chapter 4
                            Over Hill and Under Hill

    There were many paths that led up into those mountains, and many passes
over them. But most of the paths were cheats and deceptions and led nowhere or to
bad ends; and most of the passes were infested by evil things and dreadful dangers.
The dwarves and the hobbit, helped by the wise advice of Elrond and the
knowledge and memory of Gandalf, took the right road to the right pass.
    Long days after they had climbed out of the valley and left the Last Homely
House miles behind, they were still going up and up and up. It was a hard path
and a dangerous path, a crooked way and a lonely and a long. Now they could
look back over the lands they had left, laid out behind them far below. Far, far
away in the West, where things were blue and faint, Bilbo knew there lay his own
country of safe and comfortable things, and his little hobbit-hole. He shivered. It
was getting bitter cold up here, and the wind came shrill among the rocks.
Boulders, too, at times came galloping down the mountain-sides, let loose by
midday sun upon the snow, and passed among them (which was lucky), or over
their heads (which was alarming). The nights were comfortless and chill, and they
did not dare to sing or talk too loud, for the echoes were uncanny, and the silence
seemed to dislike being broken-except by the noise of water and the wail of wind
and the crack of stone.
    "The summer is getting on down below," thought Bilbo, "and haymaking is
going on and picnics. They will be harvesting and blackberrying, before we even
begin to go down the other side at this rate." And the others were thinking equally
gloomy thoughts, although when they had said good-bye to Elrond in the high
hope of a midsummer morning, they' had spoken gaily of the passage of the
mountains, and of riding swift across the lands beyond. They had thought of
coming to the secret door in the Lonely Mountain, perhaps that very next first
moon of Autumn—" and perhaps it will be Durin's Day" they had said. Only
Gandalf had shaken his head and said nothing. Dwarves had not passed that way
for many years, but Gandalf had, and he knew how evil and danger had grown
and thriven in the Wild, since the dragons had driven men from the lands, and the
goblins had spread in secret after the battle of the Mines of Moria. Even the good
plans of wise wizards like Gandalf and of good friends like Elrond go astray
sometimes when you are off on dangerous adventures over the Edge of the Wild;
and Gandalf was a wise enough wizard to know it.
     He knew that something unexpected might happen, and he hardly dared to
hope that they would pass without fearful adventure over those great tall
mountains with lonely peaks and valleys where no king ruled. They did not. All
was well, until one day they met a thunderstorm - more than a thunderstorm, a
thunder-battle. You know how terrific a really big thunderstorm can be down in
the land and in a river-valley; especially at times when two great thunderstorms
meet and clash. More terrible still are thunder and lightning in the mountains at
night, when storms come up from East and West and make war. The lightning
splinters on the peaks, and rocks shiver, and great crashes split the air and go
rolling and tumbling into every cave and hollow; and the darkness is filled with
overwhelming noise and sudden light.
     Bilbo had never seen or imagined anything of the kind. They were high up in a
narrow place, with a dreadful fall into a dim valley at one side of them. There they
were sheltering under a hanging rock for the night, and he lay beneath a blanket
and shook from head to toe. When he peeped out in the lightning-flashes, he saw
that across the valley the stone-giants were out and were hurling rocks at one
another for a. game, and catching them, and tossing them down into the darkness
where they smashed among the trees far below, or splintered into little bits with a
bang. Then came a wind and a rain, and the wind whipped the rain and the hail
about in every direction, so that an overhanging rock was no protection at all.
Soon they were getting drenched and their ponies were standing with their heads
down and their tails between their legs, and some of them were whinnying with
fright. They could hear the giants guffawing and shouting all over the
mountainsides.
     "This won't do at all!" said Thorin. "If we don't get blown off or drowned, or
struck by lightning, we shall be picked up by some giant and kicked sky-high for a
football."
     "Well, if you know of anywhere better, take us there!" said Gandalf, who was
feeling very grumpy, and was far from happy about the giants himself.
     The end of their argument was that they sent Fill and Kili to look for a better
shelter. They had very sharp eyes, and being the youngest of the dwarves by some
fifty years they usually got these sort of jobs (when everybody could see that it
was absolutely no use sending Bilbo). There is nothing like looking, if you want
to find something (or so Thorin said to the young dwarves). You certainly usually
find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were
after. So it proved on this occasion.
    Soon Fili and Kili came crawling back, holding on to the rocks in the wind.
"We have found a dry cave," they said, "not far round the next corner; and ponies
and all could get inside."
    "Have you thoroughly explored it?" said the wizard, who knew that caves up
in the mountains were seldom unoccupied.
    "Yes, yes!" they said, though everybody knew they could not have been long
about it; they had come back too quick. "It isn't all that big, and it does not go far
back."
    That, of course, is the dangerous part about caves: you don't know how far
they go back, sometimes, or where a passage behind may lead to, or what is
waiting for you inside. But now Fili and Kill's news seemed good enough. So they
all got up and prepared to move. The wind was howling and the thunder still
growling, and they had a business getting themselves and their ponies along. Still
it was not very far to go, and before long they came to a big rock standing out into
the path. If you stepped behind, you found a low arch in the side of the mountain.
There was just room to get the ponies through with a squeeze, when they had been
unpacked and unsaddled. As they passed under the arch, it was good to hear the
wind and the rain outside instead of all about them, and to feel safe from the giants
and their rocks. But the wizard was taking no risks. He lit up his wand - as he did
that day in Bilbo's dining-room that seemed so long ago, if you remember—, and
by its light they explored the cave from end to end.
    It seemed quite a fair size, but not too large and mysterious. It had a dry floor
and some comfortable nooks. At one end there was room for the ponies; and there
they stood (mighty glad of the change) steaming, and champing in their nosebags.
Oin and Gloin wanted to light a fire at the door to dry their clothes, but Gandalf
would not hear of it. So they spread out their wet things on the floor, and got dry
ones out of their bundles; then they made their blankets comfortable, got out their
pipes and blew smoke rings, which Gandalf turned into different colours and set
dancing up by the roof to amuse them. They talked and talked, and forgot about
the storm, and discussed what each would do with his share of the treasure (when
they got it, which at the moment did not seem so impossible); and so they dropped
off to sleep one by one. And that was the last time that they used the ponies,
packages, baggages, tools and paraphernalia that they had brought with them.
    It turned out a good thing that night that they had brought little Bilbo with
them, after all. For somehow, he could not go to sleep for a long while; and when
he did sleep, he had very nasty dreams. He dreamed that a crack in the wall at the
back of the cave got bigger and bigger, and opened wider and wider, and he was
very afraid but could not call out or do anything but lie and look. Then he
dreamed that the floor of the cave was giving way, and he was slipping-beginning
to fall down, down, goodness knows where to.
    At that he woke up with a horrible start, and found that part of his dream was
true. A crack had opened at the back of the cave, and was already a wide passage.
He was just in time to see the last of the ponies' tails disappearing into it. Of
course he gave a very loud yell, as loud a yell as a hobbit can give, which is
surprising for their size.
    Out jumped the goblins, big goblins, great ugly-looking goblins, lots of
goblins, before you could say rocks and blocks. There were six to each dwarf, at
least, and two even for Bilbo; and they were all grabbed and carried through the
crack, before you could say tinder and flint. But not Gandalf. Bilbo's yell had
done that much good. It had wakened him up wide in a splintered second, and
when goblins came to grab him, there was a terrible flash like lightning in the
cave, a smell like gunpowder, and several of them fell dead.
    The crack closed with a snap, and Bilbo and the dwarves were on the wrong
side of it! Where was Gandalf? Of that neither they nor the goblins had any idea,
and the goblins did not wait to find out. It was deep, deep, dark, such as only
goblins that have taken to living in the heart of the mountains can see through.
The passages there were crossed and tangled in all directions, but the goblins
knew their way, as well as you do to the nearest post-office; and the way went
down and down, and it was most horribly stuffy. The goblins were very rough, and
pinched unmercifully, and chuckled and laughed in their horrible stony voices;
and Bilbo was more unhappy even than when the troll had picked him up by his
toes. He wished again and again for his nice bright hobbit-hole. Not for the last
time.
    Now there came a glimmer of a red light before them. The goblins began to
sing, or croak, keeping time with the flap of their flat feet on the stone, and
shaking their prisoners as well.

               Clap! Snap! the black crack!
               Grip, grab! Pinch, nab!
               And down down to Goblin-town
               You go, my lad!

               Clash, crash! Crush, smash!
               Hammer and tongs! Knocker and gongs!
               Pound, pound, far underground!
                Ho, ho! my lad!

                Swish, smack! Whip crack!
                Batter and beat! Yammer and bleat!
                Work, work! Nor dare to shirk,
                While Goblins quaff, and Goblins laugh,
                Round and round far underground
                Below, my lad!

    It sounded truly terrifying. The walls echoed to the clap, snap! and the crush,
smash! and to the ugly laughter of their ho, ho! my lad! The general meaning of
the song was only too plain; for now the goblins took out whips and whipped them
with a swish, smack!, and set them running as fast as they could in front of them;
and more than one of the dwarves were already yammering and bleating like
anything, when they stumbled into a big cavern.
    It was lit by a great red fire in the middle, and by torches along the walls, and
it was full of goblins. They all laughed and stamped and clapped their hands,
when the dwarves (with poor little Bilbo at the back and nearest to the whips)
came running in, while the goblin-drivers whooped and cracked their whips
behind. The ponies were already there huddled in a corner; and there were all the
baggages and packages lying broken open, and being rummaged by goblins, and
smelt by goblins, and fingered by goblins, and quarreled over by goblins.
    I am afraid that was the last they ever saw of those excellent little ponies,
including a jolly sturdy little white fellow that Elrond had lent to Gandalf, since
his horse was not suitable for the mountain-paths. For goblins eat horses and
ponies and donkeys (and other much more dreadful things), and they are always
hungry. Just now however the prisoners were thinking only of themselves. The
goblins chained their hands behind their backs and linked them all together in a
line and dragged them to the far end of the cavern with little Bilbo tugging at the
end of the row.
    There in the shadows on a large flat stone sat a tremendous goblin with a huge
head, and armed goblins were standing round him carrying the axes and the bent
swords that they use. Now goblins are cruel, wicked, and bad-hearted. They make
no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones. They can tunnel and mine as
well as any but the most skilled dwarves, when they take the trouble, though they
are usually untidy and dirty. Hammers, axes, swords, daggers, pickaxes, tongs,
and also instruments of torture, they make very well, or get other people to make
to their design, prisoners and slaves that have to work till they die for want of air
and light. It is not unlikely that they invented some of the machines that have since
troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of
people at once, for wheels and engines and explosions always delighted them, and
also not working with their own hands more than they could help; but in those
days and those wild parts they had not advanced (as it is called) so far. They did
not hate dwarves especially, no more than they hated everybody and everything,
and particularly the orderly and prosperous; in some parts wicked dwarves had
even made alliances with them. But they had a special grudge against Thorin's
people, because of the war which you have heard mentioned, but which does not
come into this tale; and anyway goblins don't care who they catch, as long as it is
done smart and secret, and the prisoners are not able to defend themselves.
     "Who are these miserable persons?" said the Great Goblin.
     "Dwarves, and this!" said one of the drivers, pulling at Bilbo's chain so that he
fell forward onto his knees.
     "We found them sheltering in our Front Porch."
     "What do you mean by it?" said the Great Goblin turning to Thorin. "Up to no
good, I'll warrant! Spying on the private business of my people, I guess! Thieves, I
shouldn't be surprised to learn! Murderers and friends of Elves, not unlikely!
Come! What have you got to say?"
     "Thorin the dwarf at your service!" he replied-it was merely a polite nothing.
"Of the things which you suspect and imagine we had no idea at all. We sheltered
from a storm in what seemed a convenient cave and unused; nothing was further
from our thoughts than inconveniencing goblins in any way whatever." That was
true enough!
     "Urn!" said the Great Goblin. "So you say! Might I ask what you were doing
up in the mountains at all, and where you were coming from, and where you were
going to? In fact I should like to know all about you. Not that it willdo you much
good, Thorin Oakenshield, I know too much about your folk already; but let's
have the truth, or I will prepare something particularly uncomfortable for you!"
     "We were on a journey to visit our relatives, our nephews and nieces, and first,
second, and third cousins, and the other descendants of our grandfathers, who live
on the East side of these truly hospitable mountains," said Thorin, not quite
knowing what to say all at once in a moment, when obviously the exact truth
would not do at all.
     "He is a liar, O truly tremendous one!" said one of the drivers. "Several of our
people were struck by lightning in the cave, when we invited these creatures to
come below; and they are as dead as stones. Also he has not explained this!" He
held out the sword which Thorin had worn, the sword which came from the Trolls'
lair.
     The Great Goblin gave a truly awful howl of rage when he looked at it, and all
his soldiers gnashed their teeth, clashed their shields, and stamped. They knew the
sword at once. It had killed hundreds of goblins in its time, when the fair elves of
Gondolin hunted them in the hills or did battle before their walls. They had called
it Orcrist, Goblin-cleaver, but the goblins called it simply Biter. They hated it and
hated worse any one that carried it.
     "Murderers' and elf-friends!" the Great Goblin shouted. "Slash them! Beat
them! Bite them! Gnash them! Take them away to dark holes full of snakes, and
never let them see the light again!" He was in such a rage that he jumped off his
seat and himself rushed at Thorin with his mouth open.
     Just at that moment all the lights in the cavern went out, and the great fire
went off poof! into a tower of blue glowing smoke, right up to the roof, that
scattered piercing white sparks all among the goblins.
     The yells and yammering, croaking, jibbering and jabbering; howls, growls
and curses; shrieking and skriking, that followed were beyond description. Several
hundred wild cats and wolves being roasted slowly alive together would not have
compared with it. The sparks were burning holes in the goblins, and the smoke
that now fell from the roof made the air too thick for even their eyes to see
through. Soon they were falling over one another and rolling in heaps on the floor,
biting and kicking and fighting as if they had all gone mad.
     Suddenly a sword flashed in its own light. Bilbo saw it go right through the
Great Goblin as he stood dumbfounded in the middle of his rage. He fell dead, and
the goblin soldiers fled before the sword shrieking into the darkness.
     The sword went back into its sheath. "Follow me quick!" said a voice fierce
and quiet; and before Bilbo understood what had happened he was trotting along
again, as fast as he could trot, at the end of the line, down more dark passages with
the yells of the goblin-hall growing fainter behind him. A pale light was leading
them on.
     "Quicker, quicker!" said the voice. "The torches will soon be relit."
     "Half a minute!" said Dori, who was at the back next to Bilbo, and a decent
fellow. He made the hobbit scramble on his shoulders as best he could with his
tied hands, and then off they all went at a run, with a clink-clink of chains, and
many a stumble, since they had no hands to steady themselves with. Not for a long
while did they stop, and by that time they must have been right down in the very
mountain's heart.
    Then Gandalf lit up his wand. Of course it was Gandalf; but just then they
were too busy to ask how he got there. He took out his sword again, and again it
flashed in the dark by itself. It burned with a rage that made it gleam if goblins
were about; now it was bright as blue flame for delight in the killing of the great
lord of the cave. It made no trouble whatever of cutting through the goblin-chains
and setting all the prisoners free as quickly as possible. This sword's name was
Glamdring the Foe-hammer, if you remember. The goblins just called it Beater,
and hated it worse than Biter if possible. Orcrist, too, had been saved; for Gandalf
had brought it along as well, snatching it from one of the terrified guards. Gandalf
thought of most things; and though he could not do everything, he could do a great
deal for friends in a tight comer.
    "Are we all here?" said he, handing his sword back to Thorin with a bow. "Let
me see: one-that's Thorin; two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven;
where are Fili and Kili? Here they are, twelve, thirteen-and here's Mr. Baggins:
fourteen! Well, well! it might be worse, and then again it might be a good deal
better. No ponies, and no food, and no knowing quite where we are, and hordes of
angry goblins just behind! On we go!"
    On they went. Gandalf was quite right: they began to hear goblin noises and
horrible cries far behind in the passages they had come through. That sent them on
faster than ever, and as poor Bilbo could not possibly go half as fast-for dwarves
can roll along at a tremendous pace, I can tell you, when they have to-they took it
in turn to carry him on their backs.
    Still goblins go faster than dwarves, and these goblins knew the way better
(they had made the paths themselves), and were madly angry; so that do what they
could the dwarves heard the cries and howls getting closer and closer. Soon they
could hear even the flap of the goblin feet, many many feet which seemed only
just round the last corner. The blink of red torches could be seen behind them in
the tunnel they were following; and they were getting deadly tired.
    "Why, O why did I ever leave my hobbit-hole!" said poor Mr. Baggins
bumping up and down on Bombur's back.
    "Why, O why did I ever bring a wretched little hobbit on a treasure hunt!" said
poor Bombur, who was fat, and staggered along with the sweat dripping down his
nose in his heat and terror.
    At this point Gandalf fell behind, and Thorin with him. They turned a sharp
corner. "About turn!" he shouted. "Draw your sword, Thorin!"
    There was nothing else to be done; and the goblins did not like it. They came
scurrying round the corner in full cry, and found Goblin-cleaver and Foe-hammer
shining cold and bright right in their astonished eyes. The ones in front dropped
their torches and gave one yell before they were killed. The ones behind yelled
still more, and leaped back knocking over those that were running after them.
"Biter and Beater!" they shrieked; and soon they were all in confusion, and most
of them were hustling back the way they had come.
     It was quite a long while before any of them dared to turn that comer. By that
time the dwarves had gone on again, a long, long, way on into the dark tunnels of
the goblins' realm. When the goblins discovered that, they put out their torches
and they slipped on soft shoes, and they chose out their very quickest runners with
the sharpest ears and eyes. These ran forward, as swift as weasels in the dark, and
with hardly any more noise than bats.
     That is why neither Bilbo, nor the dwarves, nor even Gandalf heard them
coming. Nor did they see them. But they were seen by the goblins that ran silently
up behind, for Gandalf was letting his wand give out a faint light to help the
dwarves as they went along.
     Quite suddenly Dori, now at the back again carrying Bilbo, was grabbed from
behind in the dark. He shouted and fell; and the hobbit rolled off his shoulders into
the blackness, bumped his head on hard rock, and remembered nothing more.
                                     Chapter 5
                                Riddles in the Dark

    When Bilbo opened his eyes, he wondered if he had; for it was just as dark as
with them shut. No one was anywhere near him. Just imagine his fright! He could
hear nothing, see nothing, and he could feel nothing except the stone of the floor.
    Very slowly he got up and groped about on all fours, till he touched the wall of
the tunnel; but neither up nor down it could he find anything: nothing at all, no
sign of goblins, no sign of dwarves. His head was swimming, and he was far from
certain even of the direction they had been going in when he had his fall. He
guessed as well as he could, and crawled along for a good way, till suddenly his
hand met what felt like a tiny ring of cold metal lying on the floor of the tunnel. It
was a turning point in his career, but he did not know it. He put the ring in his
pocket almost without thinking; certainly it did not seem of any particular use at
the moment. He did not go much further, but sat down on the cold floor and gave
himself up to complete miserableness, for a long while. He thought of himself
frying bacon and eggs in his own kitchen at home - for he could feel inside that it
was high time for some meal or other; but that only made him miserabler.
    He could not think what to do; nor could he think what had happened; or why
he had been left behind; or why, if he had been left behind, the goblins had not
caught him; or even why his head was so sore. The truth was he had been lying
quiet, out of sight and out of mind, in a very dark corner for a long while.
    After some time he felt for his pipe. It was not broken, and that was something.
Then he felt for his pouch, and there was some tobacco in it, and that was
something more. Then he felt for matches and he could not find any at all, and that
shattered his hopes completely. Just as well for him, as he agreed when he came to
his senses. Goodness knows what the striking of matches and the smell of tobacco
would have brought on him out of dark holes in that horrible place. Still at the
moment he felt very crushed. But in slapping all his pockets and feeling all round
himself for matches his hand came on the hilt of his little sword - the little dagger
that he got from the trolls, and that he had quite forgotten; nor do the goblins seem
to have noticed it, as he wore it inside his breeches.
    Now he drew it out. It shone pale and dim before his eyes. "So it is an elvish
blade, too," he thought; "and goblins are not very near, and yet not far enough."
    But somehow he was comforted. It was rather splendid to be wearing a blade
made in Gondolin for the goblin-wars of which so many songs had sung; and also
he had noticed that such weapons made a great impression on goblins that came
upon them suddenly.
     "Go back?" he thought. "No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go
forward? Only thing to do! On we go!" So up he got, and trotted along with his
little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of
a patter and a pitter.

     Now certainly Bilbo was in what is called a tight place. But you must
remember it was not quite so tight for him as it would have been for me or for
you. Hobbits are not quite like ordinary people; and after all if their holes are nice
cheery places and properly aired, quite different from the tunnels of the goblins,
still they are more used to tunnelling than we are, and they do not easily lose their
sense of direction underground-not when their heads have recovered from being
bumped. Also they can move very quietly, and hide easily, and recover
wonderfully from falls and bruises, and they have a fund of wisdom and wise
sayings that men have mostly never heard or have forgotten long ago.
     I should not have liked to have been in Mr. Baggins' place, all the same. The
tunnel seemed to have no end. All he knew was that it was still going down pretty
steadily and keeping in the same direction in spite of a twist and a turn or two.
There were passages leading off to the side every now and then, as he knew by the
glimmer of his sword, or could feel with his hand on the wall. Of these he took no
notice, except to hurry past for fear of goblins or half-imagined dark things
coming out of them. On and on he went, and down and down; and still he heard no
sound of anything except the occasional whirr of a bat by his ears, which startled
him at first, till it became too frequent to bother about. I do not know how long he
kept on like this, hating to go on, not daring to stop, on, on, until he was tireder
than tired. It seemed like all the way to tomorrow and over it to the days beyond.
     Suddenly without any warning he trotted splash into water! Ugh! it was icy
cold. That pulled him up sharp and short. He did not know whether it was just a
pool in the path, or the edge of an underground stream that crossed the passage, or
the brink of a deep dark subterranean lake. The sword was hardly shining at all.
He stopped, and he could hear, when he listened hard, drops drip-drip-dripping
from an unseen roof into the water below; but there seemed no other sort of sound.
     "So it is a pool or a lake, and not an underground river," he thought. Still he
did not dare to wade out into the darkness. He could not swim; and he thought,
too, of nasty slimy things, with big bulging blind eyes, wriggling in the water.
There are strange things living in the pools and lakes in the hearts of mountains:
fish whose fathers swam in, goodness only knows how many years ago, and never
swam out again, while their eyes grew bigger and bigger and bigger from trying to
see in the blackness; also there are other things more slimy than fish. Even in the
tunnels and caves the goblins have made for themselves there are other things
living unbeknown to them that have sneaked in from outside to lie up in the dark.
Some of these caves, too, go back in their beginnings to ages before the goblins,
who only widened them and joined them up with passages, and the original
owners are still there in odd comers, slinking and nosing about.
     Deep down here by the dark water lived old Gollum, a small slimy creature. I
don't know where he came from, nor who or what he was. He was Gollum — as
dark as darkness, except for two big round pale eyes in his thin face. He had a
little boat, and he rowed about quite quietly on the lake; for lake it was, wide and
deep and deadly cold. He paddled it with large feet dangling over the side, but
never a ripple did he make. Not he. He was looking out of his pale lamp-like eyes
for blind fish, which he grabbed with his long fingers as quick as thinking. He
liked meat too. Goblin he thought good, when he could get it; but he took care
they never found him out. He just throttled them from behind, if they ever came
down alone anywhere near the edge of the water, while he was prowling about.
They very seldom did, for they had a feeling that something unpleasant was
lurking down there, down at the very roots of the mountain. They had come on the
lake, when they were tunnelling down long ago, and they found they could go no
further; so there their road ended in that direction, and there was no reason to go
that way-unless the Great Goblin sent them. Sometimes he took a fancy for fish
from the lake, and sometimes neither goblin nor fish came back.
     Actually Gollum lived on a slimy island of rock in the middle of the lake. He
was watching Bilbo now from the distance with his pale eyes like telescopes.
Bilbo could not see him, but he was wondering a lot about Bilbo, for he could see
that he was no goblin at all.
     Gollum got into his boat and shot off from the island, while Bilbo was sitting
on the brink altogether flummoxed and at the end of his way and his wits.
Suddenly up came Gollum and whispered and hissed:
     "Bless us and splash us, my precioussss! I guess it's a choice feast; at least a
tasty morsel it'd make us, gollum!" And when he said gollum he made a horrible
swallowing noise in his throat. That is how he got his name, though he always
called himself 'my precious.'
     The hobbit jumped nearly out of his skin when the hiss came in his ears, and
he suddenly saw the pale eyes sticking out at him.
    "Who are you?" he said, thrusting his dagger in front of him.
    "What iss he, my preciouss?" whispered Gollum (who always spoke to himself
through never having anyone else to speak to). This is what he had come to find
out, for he was not really very hungry at the moment, only curious; otherwise he
would have grabbed first and whispered afterwards.
    "I am Mr. Bilbo Baggins. I have lost the dwarves and I have lost the wizard,
and I don't know where I am; and "I don't want to know, if only I can get ,away."
    "What's he got in his handses?" said Gollum, looking at the sword, which he
did not quite like.
    "A sword, a blade which came out of Gondolin!"
    "Sssss," said Gollum, and became quite polite. "Praps ye sits here and chats
with it a bitsy, my preciousss. It like riddles, praps it does, does it?" He was
anxious to appear friendly, at any rate for the moment, and until he found out
more about the sword and the hobbit, whether he was quite alone really, whether
he was good to eat, and whether Gollum was really hungry. Riddles were all he
could think of. Asking them, and sometimes guessing them, had been the only
game he had ever played with other funny creatures sitting in their holes in the
long, long ago, before he lost all his friends and was driven away, alone, and crept
down, down, into the dark under the mountains.
    "Very well," said Bilbo, who was anxious to agree, until he found out more
about the creature, whether he was quite alone, whether he was fierce or hungry,
and whether he was a friend of the goblins.
    "You ask first," he said, because he had not had time to think of a riddle.
    So Gollum hissed:

                What has roots as nobody sees,
                Is taller than trees,
                Up, up it goes,
                And yet never grows?

    "Easy!" said Bilbo. "Mountain, I suppose."
    "Does it guess easy? It must have a competition with us, my preciouss! If
precious asks, and it doesn't answer, we eats it, my preciousss. If it asks us, and we
doesn't answer, then we does what it wants, eh? We shows it the way out, yes!"
    "All right!" said Bilbo, not daring to disagree, and nearly bursting his brain to
think of riddles that could save him from being eaten.

                Thirty white horses on a red hill,
                First they champ,
                Then they stamp,
                Then they stand still.

    That was all he could think of to ask-the idea of eating was rather on his mind.
It was rather an old one, too, and Gollum knew the answer as well as you do.
    "Chestnuts, chestnuts," he hissed. "Teeth! teeth! my preciousss; but we has
only six!" Then he asked his second:

                Voiceless it cries,
                Wingless flutters,
                Toothless bites,
                Mouthless mutters.

     "Half a moment!" cried Bilbo, who was still thinking uncomfortably about
eating. Fortunately he had once heard something rather like this before, and
getting his wits back he thought of the answer. "Wind, wind of course," he said,
and he was so pleased that he made up one on the spot. "This'll puzzle the nasty
little underground creature," he thought:

                An eye in a blue face
                Saw an eye in a green face.
                "That eye is like to this eye"
                Said the first eye,
                "But in low place,
                Not in high place."

    "Ss, ss, ss," said Gollum. He had been underground a long long time, and was
forgetting this sort of thing. But just as Bilbo was beginning to hope that the
wretch would not be able to answer, Gollum brought up memories of ages and
ages and ages before, when he lived with his grandmother in a hole in a bank by a
river, "Sss, sss, my preciouss," he said. "Sun on the daisies it means, it does."
    But these ordinary aboveground everyday sort of riddles were tiring for him.
Also they reminded him of days when he had been less lonely and sneaky and
nasty, and that put him out of temper. What is more they made him hungry; so this
time he tried something a bit more difficult and more unpleasant:

                It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,
                Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt.
                It lies behind stars and under hills,
                And empty holes it fills.
                It comes first and follows after,
                Ends life, kills laughter.

   Unfortunately for Gollum Bilbo had heard that sort of thing before; and the
answer was all round him anyway. "Dark!" he said without even scratching his
head or putting on his thinking cap.

                A box without hinges, key, or lid,
                Yet golden treasure inside is hid,

he asked to gain time, until he could think of a really hard one. This he thought a
dreadfully easy chestnut, though he had not asked it in the usual words. But it
proved a nasty poser for Gollum. He hissed to himself, and still he did not answer;
he whispered and spluttered.
   After some while Bilbo became impatient. "Well, what is it?" he said. "The
answer's not a kettle boiling over, as you seem to think from the noise you are
making."
   "Give us a chance; let it give us a chance, my preciouss-ss-ss."
   "Well," said Bilbo, after giving him a long chance, "what about your guess?"
   But suddenly Gollum remembered thieving from nests long ago, and sitting
under the river bank teaching his grandmother, teaching his grandmother to suck-
"Eggses!" he hissed. "Eggses it is!" Then he asked:

                A live without breath,
                As cold as death;
                Never thirsty, ever drinking,
                All in mail never clinking.

    He also in his turn thought this was a dreadfully easy one, because he was
always thinking of the answer. But he could not remember anything better at the
moment, he was so flustered by the egg-question. All the same it was a poser for
poor Bilbo, who never had anything to do with the water if he could help it. I
imagine you know the answer, of course, or can guess it as easy as winking, since
you are sitting comfortably at home and have not the danger of being eaten to
disturb your thinking. Bilbo sat and cleared his throat once or twice, but no
answer came.
    After a while Gollum began to hiss with pleasure to himself: "Is it nice, my
preciousss? Is it juicy? Is it scrumptiously crunchable?" He began to peer at Bilbo
out of the darkness.
    "Half a moment," said the hobbit shivering. "I gave you a good long chance
just now."
    "It must make haste, haste!" said Gollum, beginning to climb out of his boat
on to the shore to get at Bilbo. But when he put his long webby foot in the water, a
fish jumped out in a fright and fell on Bilbo's toes.
    "Ugh!" he said, "it is cold and clammy!"-and so he guessed. "Fish! Fish!" he
cried. "It is fish!"
    Gollum was dreadfully disappointed; but Bilbo asked another riddle as quick
as ever be could, so that Gollum had to get back into his boat and think.

  No-legs lay on one-leg, two-legs sat near on three-legs, four-legs got some.

    It was not really the right time for this riddle, but Bilbo was in a hurry. Gollum
might have had some trouble guessing it, if he had asked it at another time. As it
was, talking of fish, "no-legs" was not so very difficult, and after that the rest was
easy. "Fish on a little table, man at table sitting on a stool, the cat has the bones"-
that of course is the answer, and Gollum soon gave it. Then he thought the time
had come to ask something hard and horrible. This is what he said:

                 This thing all things devours:
                 Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
                 Gnaws iron, bites steel;
                 Grinds hard stones to meal;
                 Slays king, ruins town,
                 And beats high mountain down.

    Poor Bilbo sat in the dark thinking of all the horrible names of all the giants
and ogres he had ever heard told of in tales, but not one of them had done all these
things. He had a feeling that the answer was quite different and that he ought to
know it, but he could not think of it. He began to get frightened, and that is bad for
thinking. Gollum began to get out of his boat. He flapped into the water and
paddled to the bank; Bilbo could see his eyes coming towards him. His tongue
seemed to stick in his mouth; he wanted to shout out: "Give me more time! Give
me time!" But all that came out with a sudden squeal was:
                                     "Time! Time!"
    Bilbo was saved by pure luck. For that of course was the answer.
    Gollum was disappointed once more; and now he was getting angry, and also
tired of the game. It had made him very hungry indeed. This time he did not go
back to the boat. He sat down in the dark by Bilbo. That made the hobbit most
dreadfully uncomfortable and scattered his wits.
    "It's got to ask uss a quesstion, my preciouss, yes, yess, yesss. Jusst one more
quesstion to guess, yes, yess," said Gollum.
    But Bilbo simply could not think of any question with that nasty wet cold
thing sitting next to him, and pawing and poking him. He scratched himself, he
pinched himself; still he could not think of anything.
    "Ask us! ask us!" said Gollum.
    Bilbo pinched himself and slapped himself; he gripped on his little sword; he
even felt in his pocket with his other hand. There he found the ring he had picked
up in the passage and forgotten about.
    "What have I got in my pocket?" he said aloud. He was talking to himself, but
Gollum thought it was a riddle, and he was frightfully upset.
    "Not fair! not fair!" he hissed. "It isn't fair, my precious, is it, to ask us what it's
got in its nassty little pocketses?"
    Bilbo seeing what had happened and having nothing better to ask stuck to his
question. "What have I got in my pocket?" he said louder.
    "S-s-s-s-s," hissed Gollum. "It must give us three guesseses, my preciouss,
three guesseses."
    "Very well! Guess away!" said Bilbo.
    "Handses!" said Gollum.
    "Wrong," said Bilbo, who had luckily just taken his hand
    out again. "Guess again!"
    "S-s-s-s-s," said Gollum more upset than ever. He thought of all the things he
kept in his own pockets: fishbones, goblins' teeth, wet shells, a bit of bat-wing, a
sharp stone to sharpen his fangs on, and other nasty things. He tried to think what
other people kept in their pockets.
    "Knife!" he said at last.
    "Wrong!" said Bilbo, who had lost his some time ago. "Last guess!"
    Now Gollum was in a much worse state than when Bilbo had asked him the
egg-question. He hissed and spluttered and rocked himself backwards and
forwards, and slapped his feet on the floor, and wriggled and squirmed; but still he
did not dare to waste his last guess.
    "Come on!" said Bilbo. "I am waiting!" He tried to sound bold and cheerful,
but he did not feel at all sure how the game was going to end, whether Gollum
guessed right or not.
    "Time's up!" he said.
    "String, or nothing!" shrieked Gollum, which was not quite fair-working in
two guesses at once.
    "Both wrong," cried Bilbo very much relieved; and he jumped at once to his
feet, put his back to the nearest wall, and held out his little sword. He knew, of
course, that the riddle-game was sacred and of immense antiquity, and even
wicked creatures were afraid to cheat when they played at it. But he felt he could
not trust this slimy thing to keep any promise at a pinch. Any excuse would do for
him to slide out of it. And after all that last question had not been a genuine riddle
according to the ancient laws.
    But at any rate Gollum did not at once attack him. He could see the sword in
Bilbo's hand. He sat still, shivering and whispering. At last Bilbo could wait no
longer.
    "Well?" he said. "What about your promise? I want to go. You must show me
the way."
    "Did we say so, precious? Show the nassty little Baggins the way out, yes, yes.
But what has it got in its pocketses, eh? Not string, precious, but not nothing. Oh
no! gollum!"
    "Never you mind," said Bilbo. "A promise is a promise."
    "Cross it is, impatient, precious," hissed Gollum. "But it must wait, yes it
must. We can't go up the tunnels so hasty. We must go and get some things first,
yes, things to help us."
    "Well, hurry up!" said Bilbo, relieved to think of Gollum going away. He
thought he was just making an excuse and did not mean to come back. What was
Gollum talking about? What useful thing could he keep out on the dark lake? But
he was wrong. Gollum did mean to come back. He was angry now and hungry.
And he was a miserable wicked creature, and already he had a plan.
    Not far away was his island, of which Bilbo knew nothing, and there in his
hiding-place he kept a few wretched oddments, and one very beautiful thing, very
beautiful, very wonderful. He had a ring, a golden ring, a precious ring.
    "My birthday-present!" he whispered to himself, as he had often done in the
endless dark days. "That's what we wants now, yes; we wants it!"
     He wanted it because it was a ring of power, and if you slipped that ring on
your finger, you were invisible; only in the full sunlight could you be seen, and
then only by your shadow, and that would be shaky and faint.
     "My birthday-present! It came to me on my birthday, my precious," So he had
always said to himself. But who knows how Gollum came by that present, ages
ago in the old days when such rings were still at large in the world? Perhaps even
the Master who ruled them could not have said. Gollum used to wear it at first, till
it tired him; and then he kept it in a pouch next his skin, till it galled him; and now
usually he hid it in a hole in the rock on his island, and was always going back to
look at it. And still sometimes he put it on, when he could not bear to be parted
from it any longer, or when he was very, very, hungry, and tired of fish. Then he
would creep along dark passages looking for stray goblins. He might even venture
into places where the torches were lit and made his eyes blink and smart; for he
would be safe. Oh yes, quite safe. No one would see him, no one would notice
him, till he had his fingers on their throat. Only a few hours ago he had worn it,
and caught a small goblin-imp. How it squeaked! He still had a bone or two left to
gnaw, but he wanted something softer.
     "Quite safe, yes," he whispered to himself. "It won't see us, will it, my
precious? No. It won't see us, and its nassty little sword will be useless, yes quite."
     That is what was in his wicked little mind, as he slipped suddenly from Bilbo's
side, and flapped back to his boat, and went off into the dark. Bilbo thought he
had heard the last of him. Still he waited a while; for he had no idea how to find
his way out alone.
     Suddenly he heard a screech. It sent a shiver down his back. Gollum was
cursing and wailing away in the gloom, not very far off by the sound of it. He was
on his island, scrabbling here and there, searching and seeking in vain.
     "Where is it? Where iss it?" Bilbo heard him crying. "Losst it is, my precious,
lost, lost! Curse us and crush us, my precious is lost!"
     "What's the matter?" Bilbo called. "What have you lost?"
     "It mustn't ask us," shrieked Gollum. "Not its business, no, gollum! It's losst,
gollum, gollum, gollum."
     "Well, so am I," cried Bilbo, "and I want to get unlost. And I won the game,
and you promised. So come along! Come and let me out, and then go on with your
looking!"
     Utterly miserable as Gollum sounded, Bilbo could not find much pity in his
heart, and he had a feeling that anything Gollum wanted so much could hardly be
something good.
    "Come along!" he shouted.
    "No, not yet, precious!" Gollum answered. "We must search for it, it's lost,
gollum."
    "But you never guessed my last question, and you promised," said Bilbo.
    "Never guessed!" said Gollum. Then suddenly out of the gloom came a sharp
hiss. "What has it got in its pocketses? Tell us that. It must tell first."
    As far as Bilbo knew, there was no particular reason why he should not tell.
Gollum's mind had jumped to a guess quicker than his; naturally, for Gollum had
brooded for ages on this one thing, and he was always afraid of its being stolen.
But Bilbo was annoyed at the delay. After all, he had won the game, pretty fairly,
at a horrible risk. "Answers were to be guessed not given," he said.
    "But it wasn't a fair question," said Gollum. "Not a riddle, precious, no."
    "Oh well, if it's a matter of ordinary questions," Bilbo replied, "then I asked
one first. What have you lost? Tell me that!"
    "What has it got in its pocketses?" The sound came hissing louder and sharper,
and as he looked towards it, to his alarm Bilbo now saw two small points of light
peering at him. As suspicion grew in Gollum's mind, the light of his eyes burned
with a pale flame.
    "What have you lost?" Bilbo persisted. But now the light in Gollum's eyes had
become a green fire, and it was coming swiftly nearer. Gollum was in his boat
again, paddling wildly back to the dark shore; and such a rage of loss and
suspicion was in his heart that no sword had any more terror for him.
    Bilbo could not guess what had maddened the wretched creature, but he saw
that all was up, and that Gollum meant to murder him at any rate. Just in time he
turned and ran blindly back up the dark passage down which he had come,
keeping close to the wall and feeling it with his left hand.
    "What has it got in its pocketses?" he heard the hiss loud behind him, and the
splash as Gollum leapt from his boat.
    "What have I, I wonder?" he said to himself, as he panted and stumbled along.
He put his left hand in his pocket. The ring felt very cold as it quietly slipped on to
his groping forefinger.
    The hiss was close behind him. He turned now and saw Gollum's eyes like
small green lamps coming up the slope. Terrified he tried to run faster, but
suddenly he struck his toes on a snag in the floor, and fell flat with his little sword
under him.
     In a moment Gollum was on him. But before Bilbo could do anything, recover
his breath, pick himself up, or wave his sword, Gollum passed by, taking no notice
of him, cursing and whispering as he ran.
     What could it mean? Gollum could see in the dark. Bilbo could see the light of
his eyes palely shining even from behind. Painfully he got up, and sheathed his
sword, which was now glowing faintly again, then very cautiously he followed.
There seemed nothing else to do. It was no good crawling back down to Gollum's
water. Perhaps if he followed him, Gollum might lead him to some way of escape
without meaning to.
     "Curse it! curse it! curse it!" hissed Gollum. "Curse the Baggins! It's gone!
What has it got in its pocketses? Oh we guess, we guess, my precious. He's found
it, yes he must have. My birthday-present."
     Bilbo pricked up his ears. He was at last beginning to guess himself. He
hurried a little, getting as close as he dared behind Gollum, who was still going
quickly, not looking back, but turning his head from side to side, as Bilbo could
see from the faint glimmer on the walls.
     "My birthday-present! Curse it! How did we lose it, my precious? Yes, that's it.
When we came this way last, when we twisted that nassty young squeaker. That's
it. Curse it! It slipped from us, after all these ages and ages! It's gone, gollum."
     Suddenly Gollum sat down and began to weep, a whistling and gurgling sound
horrible to listen to. Bilbo halted and flattened himself against the tunnel-wall.
After a while Gollum stopped weeping and began to talk. He seemed to be having
an argument with himself.
     "It's no good going back there to search, no. We doesn't remember all the
places we've visited. And it's no use. The Baggins has got it in its pocketses; the
nassty noser has found it, we says."
     "We guesses, precious, only guesses. We can't know till we find the nassty
creature and squeezes it. But it doesn't know what the present can do, does it? It'll
just keep it in its pocketses. It doesn't know, and it can't go far. It's lost itself, the
nassty nosey thing. It doesn't know the way out It said so."
     "It said so, yes; but it's tricksy. It doesn't say what it means. It won't say what
it's got in its pocketses. It knows. It knows a way in, it must know a way out, yes.
It's off to the back-door. To the back-door, that's it."
     "The goblinses will catch it then. It can't get out that way, precious."
     "Ssss, sss, gollum! Goblinses! Yes, but if it's got the present, our precious
present, then goblinses will get it, gollum! They'll find it, they'll find out what it
does. We shan't ever be safe again, never, gollum! One of the goblinses will put it
on, and then no one will see him. He'll be there but not seen. Not even our clever
eyeses will notice him; and he'll come creepsy and tricksy and catch us, gollum,
gollum!"
     "Then let's stop talking, precious, and make haste. If the Baggins has gone that
way, we must go quick and see. Go! Not far now. Make haste!"
     With a spring Gollum got up and started shambling off at a great pace. Bilbo
hurried after him, still cautiously, though his chief fear now was of tripping on
another snag and falling with a noise. His head was in a whirl of hope and wonder.
It seemed that the ring he had was a magic ring: it made you invisible! He had
heard of such things, of course, in old old tales; but it was hard to believe that he
really had found one, by accident. Still there it was: Gollum with his bright eyes
had passed him by, only a yard to one side.
     On they went, Gollum flip-flapping ahead, hissing and cursing; Bilbo behind
going as softly as a hobbit can. Soon they came to places where, as Bilbo had
noticed on the way down, side-passages opened, this way and that. Gollum began
at once to count them.
     "One left, yes. One right, yes. Two right, yes, yes. Two left, yes, yes." And so
on and on.
     As the count grew he slowed down, and he began to get shaky and weepy; for
he was leaving the water further and further behind, and he was getting afraid.
Goblins might be about, and he had lost his ring. At last he stopped by a low
opening, on their left as they went up.
     "Seven right, yes. Six left, yes!" he whispered. "This is it. This is the way to
the back-door, yes. Here's the passage!"
     He peered in, and shrank back. "But we durstn't go in, precious, no we
durstn't. Goblinses down there. Lots of goblinses. We smells them. Ssss!"
     "What shall we do? Curse them and crush them! We must wait here, precious,
wait a bit and see."
     So they came to a dead stop. Gollum had brought Bilbo to the way out after
all, but Bilbo could not get in! There was Gollum sitting humped up right in the
opening, and his eyes gleamed cold in his head, as he swayed it from side to side
between his knees.
     Bilbo crept away from the wall more quietly than a mouse; but Gollum
stiffened at once, and sniffed, and his eyes went green. He hissed softly but
menacingly. He could not see the hobbit, but now he was on the alert, and he had
other senses that the darkness had sharpened: hearing and smell. He seemed to be
crouched right down with his flat hands splayed on the floor, and his head thrust
out, nose almost to the stone. Though he was only a black shadow in the gleam of
his own eyes, Bilbo could see or feel that he was tense as a bowstring, gathered for
a spring.
    Bilbo almost stopped breathing, and went stiff himself. He was desperate. He
must get away, out of this horrible darkness, while he had any strength left. He
must fight. He must stab the foul thing, put its eyes out, kill it. It meant to kill
him. No, not a fair fight. He was invisible now. Gollum had no sword. Gollum
had not actually threatened to kill him, or tried to yet. And he was miserable,
alone, lost. A sudden understanding, a pity mixed with horror, welled up in Bilbo's
heart: a glimpse of endless unmarked days without light or hope of betterment,
hard stone, cold fish, sneaking and whispering. All these thoughts passed in a flash
of a second. He trembled. And then quite suddenly in another flash, as if lifted by
a new strength and resolve, he leaped.
    No great leap for a man, but a leap in the dark. Straight over Gollum's head he
jumped, seven feet forward and three in the air; indeed, had he known it, he only
just missed cracking his skull on the low arch of the passage.
    Gollum threw himself backwards, and grabbed as the hobbit flew over him,
but too late: his hands snapped on thin air, and Bilbo, falling fair on his sturdy
feet, sped off down the new tunnel. He did not turn to see what Gollum was doing.
There was a hissing and cursing almost at his heels at first, then it stopped. All at
once there came a bloodcurdling shriek, filled with hatred and despair. Gollum
was defeated. He dared go no further. He had lost: lost his prey, and lost, too, the
only thing he had ever cared for, his precious. The cry brought Bilbo's heart to his
mouth, but still he held on. Now faint as an echo, but menacing, the voice came
behind:
    "Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it for ever!"
    Then there was a silence. But that too seemed menacing to Bilbo. "If goblins
are so near that he smelt them," he thought, "then they'll have heard his shrieking
and cursing. Careful now, or this way will lead you to worse things."
    The passage was low and roughly made. It was not too difficult for the hobbit,
except when, in spite of all care, he stubbed his poor toes again, several times, on
nasty jagged stones in the floor. "A bit low for goblins, at least for the big ones,"
thought Bilbo, not knowing that even the big ones, the ores of the mountains, go
along at a great speed stooping low with their hands almost on the ground.
    Soon the passage that had been sloping down began to go up again, and after a
while it climbed steeply. That slowed Bilbo down. But at last the slope stopped,
the passage turned a corner, and dipped down again, and there, at the bottom of a
short incline, he saw, filtering round another corner-a glimpse of light. Not red
light, as of fire or lantern, but a pale out-of-doors sort of light. Then Bilbo began
to run.
     Scuttling as fast as his legs would carry him he turned the last corner and came
suddenly right into an open space, where the light, after all that time in the dark,
seemed dazzlingly bright. Really it was only a leak of sunshine in through a
doorway, where a great door, a stone door, was left standing open.
     Bilbo blinked, and then suddenly he saw the goblins: goblins in full armour
with drawn swords sitting just inside the door, and watching it with wide eyes, and
watching the passage that led to it. They were aroused, alert, ready for anything.
     They saw him sooner than he saw them. Yes, they saw him. Whether it was .an
accident, or a last trick of the ring before it took a new master, it was not on his
finger. With yells of delight the goblins rushed upon him.
     A pang of fear and loss, like an echo of Gollum's misery, smote Bilbo, and
forgetting even to draw his sword he struck his hands into his pockets. And- there
was the ring still, in his left pocket, and it slipped on his finger. The goblins
stopped short. They could not see a sign of him. He had vanished. They yelled
twice as loud as before, but not so delightedly.
     "Where is it?" they cried.
     "Go back up the passage!" some shouted.
     "This way!" some yelled. "That way!" others yelled.
     "Look out for the door," bellowed the captain.
     Whistles blew, armour clashed, swords rattled, goblins cursed and swore and
ran hither and thither, falling over one another and getting very angry. There was a
terrible outcry, to-do, and disturbance.
     Bilbo was dreadfully frightened, but he had the sense to understand what had
happened and to sneak behind a big barrel which held drink for the goblin-guards,
and so get out of the way and avoid being bumped into, trampled to death, or
caught by feel.
     "I must get to the door, I must get to the door!" he kept on saying to himself,
but it was a long time before he ventured to try. Then it was like a horrible game
of blind-man's buff. The place was full of goblins running about, and the poor
little hobbit dodged this way and that, was knocked over by a goblin who could
not make out what he had bumped into, scrambled away on all fours, slipped
between the legs of the captain just in time, got up, and ran for the door.
     It was still ajar, but a goblin had pushed it nearly to. Bilbo struggled but he
could not move it. He tried to squeeze through the crack. He squeezed and
squeezed, and he stuck! It was awful. His buttons had got wedged on the edge of
the door and the door-post. He could see outside into the open air: there were a
few steps running down into a narrow valley between tall mountains; the sun
came out from behind a cloud and shone bright on the outside of the door-but he
could not get through.
    Suddenly one of the goblins inside shouted: "There is a shadow by the door.
Something is outside!"
    Bilbo's heart jumped into his mouth. He gave a terrific squirm. Buttons burst
off in all directions. He was through, with a torn coat and waistcoat, leaping down
the steps like a goat, while bewildered goblins were still picking up his nice brass
buttons on the doorstep.
    Of course they soon came down after him, hooting and hallooing, and hunting
among the trees. But they don't like the sun: it makes their legs wobble and their
heads giddy. They could not find Bilbo with the ring on, slipping in and out of the
shadow of the trees, running quick and quiet, and keeping out of the sun; so soon
they went back grumbling and cursing to guard the door. Bilbo had escaped.
                                     Chapter 6
                        Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire

     Bilbo had escaped the goblins, but he did not know where he was. He had lost
hood, cloak, food, pony, his buttons and his friends. He wandered on and on, till
the sun began to sink westwards-behind the mountains. Their shadows fell across
Bilbo's path, and he looked back. Then he looked forward and could see before
him only ridges and slopes falling towards lowlands and plains glimpsed
occasionally between the trees.
     "Good heavens!" he exclaimed. "I seem to have got right to the other side of
the Misty Mountains, right to the edge of the Land Beyond! Where and O where
can Gandalf and the dwarves have got to? I only hope to goodness they are not
still back there in the power of the goblins!"
     He still wandered on, out of the little high valley, over its edge, and down the
slopes beyond; but all the while a very uncomfortable thought was growing inside
him. He wondered whether he ought not, now he had the magic ring, to go back
into the horrible, horrible, tunnels and look for his friends. He had just made up
his mind that it was his duty, that he must turn back-and very miserable he felt
about it-when he heard voices.
     He stopped and listened. It did not sound like goblins; so he crept forward
carefully. He was on a stony path winding downwards with a rocky wall. on the
left hand; on the other side the ground sloped away and there were dells below the
level of the path overhung with bushes and low trees. In one of these dells under
the bushes people were talking.
     He crept still nearer, and suddenly he saw peering between two big boulders a
head with a red hood on: it was Balin doing look-out. He could have clapped and
shouted for joy, but he did not. He had still got the ring on, for fear of meeting
something unexpected and unpleasant, and he saw that Balin was looking straight
at him without noticing him.
     "I will give them all a surprise," he thought, as he crawled into the bushes at
the edge of the dell. Gandalf was arguing with the dwarves. They were discussing
all that had happened to them in the tunnels, and wondering and debating what
they were to do now. The dwarves were grumbling, and Gandalf was saying that
they could not possibly go on with their journey leaving Mr. Baggins in the hands
of the goblins, without trying to find out if he was alive or dead, and without
trying to rescue him.
    "After all he is my friend," said the wizard, "and not a bad little chap. I feel
responsible for him. I wish to goodness you had not lost him."
    The dwarves wanted to know why he had ever been brought at all, why he
could not stick to his friends and come along with them, and why the wizard had
not chosen someone with more sense. "He has been more trouble than use so far,"
said one. "If we have got to' go back now into those abominable tunnels to look
for him, then drat him, I say."
    Gandalf answered angrily: "I brought him, and I don't bring things that are of
no use. Either you help me to look for him, or I go and leave you here to get out of
the mess as best you can yourselves. If we can only find him again, you will thank
me before all is over. Whatever did you want to go and drop him for, Dori?"
    "You would have dropped him," said Dori, "if a goblin had suddenly grabbed
your leg from behind in the dark, tripped up your feet, and kicked you in the
back!"
    "Then why didn't you pick him up again?"
    "Good heavens! Can you ask! Goblins fighting and biting in the dark,
everybody falling over bodies and hitting one another! You nearly chopped off my
head with Glamdring, and Thorin Was stabbing here there and everywhere with
Orcrist. All of a sudden you gave one of your blinding flashes, and we saw the
goblins running back yelping. You shouted 'follow me everybody!' and everybody
ought to have followed. We thought everybody had. There was no time to count,
as you know quite well, till we had dashed through the gate-guards, out of the
lower door, and helter-skelter down here. And here we are-without the burglar,
confusticate him!"
    "And here's the burglar!" said Bilbo stepping down into the middle of them,
and slipping off the ring.
    Bless me, how they jumped! Then they shouted with surprise and delight.
Gandalf was as astonished as any of them, but probably more pleased than all the
others. He called to Balin and told him what he thought of a look-out man who let
people walk right into them like that without warning. It is a fact that Bilbo's
reputation went up a very great deal with the dwarves after this. If they had still
doubted that he was really a first-class burglar, in spite of Gandalf's words, they
doubted no longer. Balin was the most puzzled of all; but everyone said it was a
very clever bit of work.
    Indeed Bilbo was so pleased with their praise that he just chuckled inside and
said nothing whatever about the ring; and when they asked him how he did it, he
said: "O, just crept along, you know-very carefully and quietly."
    "Well, it is the first time that even a mouse has crept along carefully and
quietly under my very nose and not been spotted," said Balin, "and I take off my
hood to you." Which he did.
    "Balin at your service," said he.
    "Your servant, Mr. Baggins," said Bilbo.
    Then they wanted to know all about his adventures after they had lost him,
and he sat down and told them everything-except about the finding of the ring
("not just now" he thought). They were particularly interested in the riddle-
competition, and shuddered most appreciatively at his description of Gollum.
    "And then I couldn't think of any other question with him sitting beside me,"
ended Bilbo; "so I said 'what's in my pocket?' And he couldn't guess in three goes.
So I said: 'what about your promise? Show me the way out!' But he came at me to
kill me, and I ran, and fell over, and he missed me in the dark. Then I followed
him, because I heard him talking to himself. He thought I really knew the way
out, and so he was making for it. And then he sat down in the entrance, and I
could not get by. So I jumped over him and escaped, and ran down to the gate."
    "What about guards?" they asked. "Weren't there any?"
    "O yes! lots of them; but I dodged 'em. I got stuck in the door, which was only
open a crack, and I lost lots of buttons," he said sadly looking at his torn clothes.
"But I squeezed through all right-and here I am."
    The dwarves looked at him with quite a new respect, when he talked about
dodging guards, jumping over Gollum, and squeezing through, as if it was not
very difficult or very alarming.
    "What did I tell you?" said Gandalf laughing. "Mr. Baggins has more about
him than you guess." He gave Bilbo a queer look from under his bushy eyebrows,
as he said this, and the hobbit wondered if he guessed at the part of his tale that he
had left out.
    Then he had questions of his own to ask, for if Gandalf had explained it all by
now to the dwarves, Bilbo had not heard it. He wanted to know how the wizard
had turned up again, and where they had all got to now.
    The wizard, to tell the truth, never minded explaining his cleverness more than
once, so now he had told Bilbo that both he and Elrond had been well aware of the
presence of evil goblins in that part of the mountains. But their main gate used to
come out on a different pass, one more easy to travel by, so that they often caught
people benighted near their gates. Evidently people had given up going that way,
and the goblins must have opened their new entrance at the top of the pass the
dwarves had taken, quite recently, because it had been found quite safe up to now.
     "I must see if I can't find a more or less decent giant to block it up again," said
Gandalf, "or soon there will be no getting over the mountains at all."
     As soon as Gandalf had heard Bilbo's yell he realized what had happened. In
the flash which killed the goblins that were grabbing him he had nipped inside the
crack, just as it snapped to. He followed after the drivers and prisoners right to the
edge of the great hall, and there he sat down and worked up the best magic he
could in the shadows.
     "A very ticklish business, it was," he said. "Touch and go!"
     But, of course, Gandalf had made a special study of bewitchments with fire
and lights (even the hobbit had never forgotten the magic fireworks at Old Took's
midsummer-eve parties, as you remember). The rest we all know - except that
Gandalf knew all about the back-door, as the goblins called the lower gate, where
Bilbo lost his buttons. As a matter of fact it was well known to anybody who was
acquainted with this part of the mountains; but it took a wizard to keep his head in
the tunnels and guide them in the right direction.
     "They made that gate ages ago," he said, "partly for a way of escape, if they
needed one; partly as a way out into the lands beyond, where they still come in the
dark and do great damage. They guard it always and no one has ever managed to
block it up. They will guard it doubly after this," he laughed.
     All the others laughed too. After all they had lost a good deal, but they had
killed the Great Goblin and a great many others besides, and they had all escaped,
so they might be said to have had the best of it so far.
     But the wizard called them to their senses. "We must be getting on at once,
now we are a little rested," he said. "They will be out after us in hundreds when
night comes on; and already shadows are lengthening. They can smell our
footsteps for hours and hours after we have passed. We must be miles on before
dusk. There will be a bit of moon, if it keeps fine, and that is lucky. Not that they
mind the moon much, but it will give us a little light to steer by."
     "O yes!" he said in answer to more questions from the hobbit. "You lose track
of time inside goblin-tunnels. Today's Thursday, and it was Monday night or
Tuesday morning that we were captured. We have gone miles and miles, and come
right down through the heart of the mountains, and are now on the other side-quite
a short cut. But we are not at the point to which our pass would have brought us;
we are too far to the North, and have some awkward country ahead. And we are
still pretty high up. Let's get on!"
    "I am so dreadfully hungry," groaned Bilbo, who was suddenly aware that he
had not had a meal since the night before the night before last. Just think of that
for a hobbit! His stomach felt all empty and loose and his legs all wobbly, now
that the excitement was over.
    "Can't help it," said Gandalf, "unless you like to go back and ask the goblins
nicely to let you have your pony back and your luggage."
    "No thank you!" said Bilbo.
    "Very well then, we must just tighten our belts and trudge on - or we shall be
made into supper, and that will be much worse than having none ourselves."
    As they went on Bilbo looked from side to side for something to eat; but the
blackberries were still only in flower, and of course there were no nuts, nor even
hawthorn-berries. He nibbled a bit of sorrel, and he drank from a small mountain-
stream that crossed the path, and he ate three wild strawberries that he found on its
bank, but it was not much good.
    They still went on and on. The rough path disappeared. The bushes, and the
long grasses, between the boulders, the patches of rabbit-cropped turf, the thyme
and the sage and the marjoram, and the yellow rockroses all vanished, and they
found themselves at the top of a wide steep slope of fallen stones, the remains of a
landslide. When they began to go down this, rubbish and small pebbles rolled
away from their feet; soon larger bits of split stone went clattering down and
started other pieces below them slithering and rolling; then lumps of rocks were
disturbed and bounded off, crashing down with a dust and a noise. Before long the
whole slope above them and below them seemed on the move, and they were
sliding away, huddled all together, in a fearful confusion of slipping, rattling,
cracking slabs and stones.
    It was the trees at the bottom that saved them. They slid into the edge of a
climbing wood of pines that here stood right up the mountain slope from the
deeper darker forests of the valleys below. Some caught hold of the trunks and
swung themselves into lower branches, some (like the little hobbit) got behind a
tree to shelter from the onslaught of the rocks. Soon the danger was over, the slide
had stopped, and the last faint crashes could be heard as the largest of the
disturbed stones went bounding and spinning among the bracken and the pine-
roots far below.
    "Well! that has got us on a bit," said Gandalf; "and even goblins tracking us
will have a job to come down here quietly."
    "I daresay," grumbled Bombur; "but they won't find it difficult to send stones
bouncing down on our heads." The dwarves (and Bilbo) were feeling far from
happy, and were rubbing their bruised and damaged legs and feet.
    "Nonsense! We are going to turn aside here out of the path of the slide. We
must be quick! Look at the light!" The sun had long gone behind the mountains.
Already the shadows were deepening about them, though far away through the
trees and over the black tops of those growing lower down they could still see the
evening lights on the plains beyond. They limped along now as fast as they were
able down the gentle slopes of a pine forest in a slanting path leading steadily
southwards. At times they were pushing through a sea of bracken with tall fronds
rising right above the hobbit's head; at times they were marching along quiet as
quiet over a floor of pine-needles; and all the while the forest-gloom got heavier
and the forest-silence deeper. There was no wind that evening to bring even a sea-
sighing into the branches of the trees.

    "Must we go any further?" asked Bilbo, when it was so dark that he could only
just see Thorin's beard wagging beside him, and so quiet that he could hear the
dwarves' breathing like a loud noise. "My toes are all bruised and bent, and my
legs ache, and my stomach is wagging like an empty sack."
    "A bit further," said Gandalf.
    After what seemed ages further they came suddenly to an opening where no
trees grew. The moon was up and was shining into the clearing. Somehow it
struck all of them as not at all a nice place, although there was nothing wrong to
see.
    All of a sudden they heard a howl away down hill, a long shuddering howl. It
was answered by another away to the right and a good deal nearer to them; then
by another not far away to the left. It was wolves howling at the moon, wolves
gathering together!
    There were no wolves living near Mr. Baggins' hole at home, but he knew that
noise. He had had it described to him often enough in tales. One of his elder
cousins (on the Took side), who had been a great traveller, used to imitate it to
frighten him. To hear it out in the forest under the moon was too much for Bilbo.
Even magic rings are not much use against wolves-especially against the evil
packs that lived under the shadow of the goblin-infested mountains, over the Edge
of the Wild on the borders of the unknown. Wolves of that sort smell keener than
goblins, and do not need to see you to catch you!
    "What shall we do, what shall we do!" he cried. "Escaping goblins to be
caught by wolves!" he said, and it became a proverb, though we now say 'out of
the frying-pan into the fire' in the same sort of uncomfortable situations.
    "Up the trees quick!" cried Gandalf; and they ran to the trees at the edge of the
glade, hunting for those that had branches fairly low, or were slender enough to
swarm up. They found them as quick as ever they could, you can guess; and up
they went as high as ever they could trust the branches. You would have laughed
(from a safe distance), if you had seen the dwarves sitting up in the trees with their
beards dangling down, like old gentlemen gone cracked and playing at being boys.
Fili and Kili were at the top of a tall larch like an enormous Christmas tree. Dori,
Nori, On, Oin, and Gloin were more comfortable in a huge pine with regular
branches sticking out at intervals like the spokes of a wheel. Bifur, Bofur,
Bombur, and Thorin were in another. Dwalin and Balin had swarmed up a tall
slender fir with few branches and were trying to find a place to sit in the greenery
of the topmost boughs. Gandalf, who was a good deal taller than the others, had
found a tree into which they could not climb, a large pine standing at the very
edge of the glade. He was quite hidden in its boughs, but you could see his eyes
gleaming in the moon as he peeped out.
    And Bilbo? He could not get into any tree, and was scuttling about from trunk
to trunk, like a rabbit that has lost its hole and has a dog after it.
    "You've left the burglar behind again}" said Nori to Dori looking down.
    "I can't be always carrying burglars on my back," said Dori, "down tunnels
and up trees! What do you think I am? A porter?"
    "He'll be eaten if we don't 'do something," said Thorin, for there were howls all
around them now, getting nearer and nearer. "Dori!" he called, for Dori was
lowest down in the easiest tree, "be quick, and give Mr. Baggins a hand up!"
    Dori was really a decent fellow in spite of his grumbling. Poor Bilbo could not
reach his hand even when he climbed down to the bottom branch and hung his
arm down as far as ever he could. So Dori actually climbed out of the tree and let
Bilbo scramble up and stand on his back.
    Just at that moment the wolves trotted howling into the clearing. All of a
sudden there were hundreds of eyes looking at them. Still Dori did not let Bilbo
down. He waited till he had clambered off his shoulders into the branches, and
then he jumped for the branches himself. Only just in time! A wolf snapped- at his
cloak as he swung up, and nearly got him. In a minute there was a whole pack of
them yelping all round the tree and leaping up at the trunk, with eyes blazing and
tongues hanging out.
     But even the wild Wargs (for so the evil wolves over the Edge of the Wild
were named) cannot climb trees. For a time they were safe. 'Luckily it was warm
and not windy. Trees are not very comfortable to sit in for long at any time; but in
the cold and the wind, with wolves all round below waiting for you, they can be
perfectly miserable places.
     This glade in the ring of trees was evidently a meeting-place of the wolves.
More and more kept coming in. They left guards at the foot of the tree in which
Dori and Bilbo were, and then went sniffling about till they had smelt out every
tree that had anyone in it. These they guarded too, while all the rest (hundreds and
hundreds it seemed) went and sat in a great circle in the glade; and in the middle
of the circle was a great grey wolf. He spoke to them in the dreadful language of
the Wargs. Gandalf understood it. Bilbo did not, but it sounded terrible to him,
and as if all their talk was about cruel and wicked things, as it was. Every now
and then all the Wargs in the circle would answer their grey chief all together, and
their dreadful clamour almost made the hobbit fall out of his pine-tree.
     I will tell you what Gandalf heard, though Bilbo did not understand it. The
Wargs and the goblins often helped one another in wicked deeds. Goblins do not
usually venture very far from their mountains, unless they are driven out and are
looking for new homes, or are marching to war (which I am glad to say has not
happened for a long while). But in those days they sometimes used to go on raids,
especially to get food or slaves to work for them. Then they often got the Wargs to
help and shared the plunder with them. Sometimes they rode on wolves like men
do on horses. Now it seemed that a great goblin-raid had been planned for that
very night. The Wargs had come to meet the goblins and the goblins were late.
The reason, no doubt, was the death of the Great Goblin, and all the excitement
caused by the dwarves and Bilbo and the wizard, for whom they were probably
still hunting.
     In spite of the dangers of this far land bold men had of late been making their
way back into it from the South, cutting down trees, and building themselves
places to live in among the more pleasant woods in the valleys and along the river-
shores. There were many of them, and they were brave and well-armed, and even
the Wargs dared not attack them if there were many together, or in the bright day.
But now they had planned with the goblins' help to come by night upon some of
the villages nearest the mountains. If their plan had been carried out, there would
have been none left there next day; all would have been killed except the few the
goblins kept from the wolves and carried back as prisoners to their caves.
     This was dreadful talk to listen to, not only because of the brave woodmen and
their wives and children, but also because of the danger which now threatened
Gandalf and his friends. The Wargs were angry and puzzled at finding them here
in their very meeting-place. They thought they were friends of the woodmen, and
were come to spy on them, and would take news of their plans down into the
valleys, and then the goblins and the wolves would have to fight a terrible battle
instead of capturing prisoners and devouring people waked suddenly from their
sleep. So the Wargs had no intention of going away and letting the people up the
trees escape, at any rate not until morning. And long before that, they said, goblin
soldiers would be coming down from the mountains; and goblins can climb trees,
or cut them down.
     Now you can understand why Gandalf, listening to their growling and yelping,
began to be dreadfully afraid, wizard though he was, and to feel that they were in
a very bad place, and had not yet escaped at all. All the same he was not going to
let them have it all their own way, though he could not do very much stuck up in a
tall tree with wolves all round on the ground below. He gathered the huge
pinecones from the branches of his tree. Then he set one alight with bright blue
fire, and threw it whizzing down among the circle of the wolves. It struck one on
the back, and immediately his shaggy coat caught fire, and he was leaping to and
fro yelping horribly. Then another came and another, one in blue flames, one in
red, another in green. They burst on the ground in the middle of the circle and
went off in coloured sparks and smoke. A specially large one hit the chief wolf on
the nose, and he leaped in the air ten feet, and then rushed round and round the
circle biting and snapping even at the other wolves in his anger and fright.
     The dwarves and Bilbo shouted and cheered. The rage of the wolves was
terrible to see, and the commotion they made filled all the forest. Wolves are
afraid of fire at all times, but this was a most horrible and uncanny fire. If a spark
got in their coats it stuck and burned into them, and unless they rolled over quick
they were soon all in flames. Very soon all about the glade wolves were rolling
over and over to put out the sparks on their backs, while those that were burning
were running about howling and setting others alight, till their own friends chased
them away and they fled off down the slopes crying and yammering and looking
for water.

   "What's all this uproar in the forest tonight?" said the Lord of the Eagles. He
was sitting, black in the moonlight, on the top of a lonely pinnacle of rock at the
eastern edge of the mountains. "I hear wolves' voices! Are the goblins at mischief
in the woods?"
    He swept up into the air, and immediately two of his guards from the rocks at
either hand leaped up to follow him. They circled up in the sky and looked down
upon the ring of the Wargs, a tiny spot far far below. But eagles have keen eyes
and can see small things at a great distance. The lord of the eagles of the Misty
Mountains had eyes that could look at the sun unblinking, and could see a rabbit
moving on the ground a mile below even in the moonlight. So though he could not
see the people in the trees, he could make out the commotion among the wolves
and see the tiny flashes of fire, and hear the howling and yelping come up faint
from far beneath him. Also he could see the glint of the moon on goblin spears and
helmets, as long lines of the wicked folk crept down the hillsides from their gate
and wound into the wood.
    Eagles are not kindly birds. Some are cowardly and cruel. But the ancient race
of the northern mountains were the greatest of all birds; they were proud and
strong and noble-hearted. They did not love goblins, or fear them. When they took
any notice of them at all (which was seldom, for they did not eat such creatures ),
they swooped on them and drove them shrieking back to their caves, and stopped
whatever wickedness they were doing. The goblins hated the eagles and feared
them, but could not reach their lofty seats, or drive them from the mountains.
    Tonight the Lord of the Eagles was filled with curiosity to know what was
afoot; so he summoned many other eagles to him, and they flew away from the
mountains, and slowly circling ever round and round they came down, down,
down towards the ring of the wolves and the meeting-place of the goblins.
    A very good thing too! Dreadful things had been going on down there. The
wolves that had caught fire and fled into the forest had set it alight in several
places. It was high summer, and on this eastern side of the mountains there had
been little rain for some time. Yellowing bracken, fallen branches, deep-piled pine-
needles, and here and there dead trees, were soon in flames. All round the clearing
of the Wargs fire was leaping. But the wolf-guards did not leave the trees.
Maddened and angry they were leaping and howling round the trunks, and cursing
the dwarves in their horrible language, with their tongues hanging out, and their
eyes shining as red and fierce as the flames.
    Then suddenly goblins came running up yelling. They thought a battle with
the woodmen was going on; but they goon learned what had really happened.
Some of them actually sat down and laughed. Others waved their spears and
clashed the shafts against their shields. Goblins are not afraid of fire, and they
soon had a plan which seemed to them most amusing.
    Some got all the wolves together in a pack. Some stacked fern and brushwood
round the tree-trunks. Others rushed round and stamped and beat, and beat and
stamped, until nearly all the flames were put out-but they did not put out the fire
nearest to the trees where the dwarves were. That fire they fed with leaves and
dead branches and bracken. Soon they had a ring of smoke and flame all round
the dwarves, a ring which they kept from spreading outwards; but it closed slowly
in, till the running fire was licking the fuel piled under the trees. Smoke was in
Bilbo's eyes, he could feel the heat of the flames; and through the reek he could
see the goblins dancing round and round in a circle like people round a
midsummer bonfire. Outside the ring of dancing warriors with spears and axes
stood the wolves at a respectful distance, watching and waiting.
    He could hear the goblins beginning a horrible song:

                Fifteen birds in five firtrees,
                their feathers were fanned in a fiery breeze!
                But, funny little birds, they had no wings!
                O what shall we do with the funny little things?
                Roast 'em alive, or stew them in a pot;
                fry them, boil them and eat them hot?

    Then they stopped and shouted out: "Fly away little birds! Fly away if you
can! Come down little birds, or you will get roasted in your nests! Sing, sing little
birds! Why don't you sing?"
    "Go away! little boys!" shouted Gandalf in answer. "It isn't bird-nesting time.
Also naughty little boys that play with fire get punished." He said it to make them
angry, and to show them he was not frightened of them-though of course he was,
wizard though he was. But they took no notice, and they went on singing.

                Burn, burn tree and fern!
                Shrivel and scorch! A fizzling torch
                To light the night for our delight,
                Ya hey!

                Bake and toast 'em, fry and roast 'em
                till beards blaze, and eyes glaze;
                till hair smells and skins crack,
                fat melts, and bones black
                in cinders lie
                beneath the sky!

                So dwarves shall die,
                and light the night for our delight,
                Ya hey!
                Ya-harri-heyl
                Ya hoy!

    And with that Ya hoy! the flames were under Gandalf’s tree. In a moment it
spread to the others. The bark caught fire, the lower branches cracked.
    Then Gandalf climbed to the top of his tree. The sudden splendour flashed
from his wand like lightning, as he got ready to spring down from on high right
among the spears of the goblins. That would have been the end of him, though he
would probably have killed many of them as he came hurtling down like a
thunderbolt. But he never leaped.
    Just at that moment the Lord of the Eagles swept down from above, seized him
in his talons, and was gone.

    There was a howl of anger and surprise from the goblins. Loud cried the Lord
of the Eagles, to whom Gandalf had now spoken. Back swept the great birds that
were with him, and down they came like huge black shadows. The wolves
yammered and gnashed their teeth; the goblins yelled and stamped with rage, and
flung their heavy spears in the air in vain. Over them swooped the eagles; the dark
rush of their beating wings smote them to the floor or drove them far away; their
talons tore at goblin faces. Other birds flew to the tree-tops and seized the
dwarves, who were scrambling up now as far as ever they dared to go.
    Poor little Bilbo was very nearly left behind again! He just managed to catch
hold of Dori's legs, as Dori was borne off last of all; and they went together above
the tumult and the burning, Bilbo swinging in the air with his arms nearly
breaking.
    Now far below the goblins and the wolves were scattering far and wide in the
woods. A few eagles were still circling and sweeping above the battle-ground. The
flames about the trees sprang suddenly up above the highest branches. They went
up in crackling fire. There was a sudden flurry of sparks and smoke. Bilbo had
escaped only just in time!
    Soon the light of the burning was faint below, a red twinkle on the black floor;
and they were high up in the sky, rising all the time in strong sweeping circles.
Bilbo never forgot that flight, clinging onto Dori's ankles. He moaned "my arms,
my arms!"; but Dori groaned "my poor legs, my poor legs!"
     At the best of times heights made Bilbo giddy. He used to turn queer if he
looked over the edge of quite a little cliff; and he had never liked ladders, let alone
trees (never having had to escape from wolves before). So you can imagine how
his head swam now, when he looked down between his dangling toes and saw the
dark lands opening wide underneath him, touched here and there with the light of
the moon on a hill-side rock or a stream in the plains.
     The pale peaks of the mountains were coming nearer, moonlit spikes of rock
sticking out of black shadows. Summer or not, it seemed very cold. He shut his
eyes and wondered if he could hold on any longer. Then he imagined what would
happen if he did not. He felt sick. The flight ended only just in time for him, just
before his arms gave way. He loosed Dori's ankles with a gasp and fell onto the
rough platform of an eagle's eyrie. There he lay without speaking, and his
thoughts were a mixture of surprise at being saved from the fire, and fear lest he
fell off that narrow place into the deep shadows on either side. He was feeling very
queer indeed in his head by this time after the dreadful adventures of the last three
days with next to nothing to eat, and he found himself saying aloud: "Now I know
what a piece of bacon feels like when it is suddenly picked out of the pan on a fork
and put back on the shelf!"
     "No you don't!" be heard Dori answering, "because the bacon knows that it
will get back in the pan sooner or later; and it is to be hoped we shan't. Also eagles
aren't forks!"
     "O no! Not a bit like storks-forks, I mean," said Bilbo sitting up and looking
anxiously at the eagle who was perched close by. He wondered what other
nonsense he had been saying, and if the eagle would think it rude. You ought not
to be rude to an eagle, when you are only the size of a hobbit, and are up in his
eyrie at night!
     The eagle only sharpened his beak on a stone and trimmed his feathers and
took no notice.
     Soon another eagle flew up. "The Lord of the Eagles bids you to bring your
prisoners to the Great Shelf," he cried and was off again. The other seized Dori in
his claws and flew away with him into the night leaving Bilbo all alone. He had
just strength to wonder what the messenger had meant by 'prisoners,' and to begin
to think of being torn up for supper like a rabbit, when his own turn came. The
eagle came back, seized him in his talons by the back of his coat, and swooped off.
This time he flew only a short way. Very soon Bilbo was laid down, trembling
with fear, on a wide shelf of rock on the mountain-side. There was no path down
on to it save by flying; and no path down off it except by jumping over a precipice.
There he found all the others sitting with their backs to the mountain wall. The
Lord of the Eagles also was there and was speaking to Gandalf.
    It seemed that Bilbo was not going to be eaten after all. The wizard and the
eagle-lord appeared to know one another slightly, and even to be on friendly
terms. As a matter of fact Gandalf, who had often been in the mountains, had once
rendered a service to the eagles and healed their lord from an arrow-wound. So
you see 'prisoners' had meant 'prisoners rescued from the goblins' only, and not
captives of the eagles. As Bilbo listened to the talk of Gandalf he realized that at
last they were going to escape really and truly from the dreadful mountains. He
was discussing plans with the Great Eagle for carrying the dwarves and himself
and Bilbo far away and setting them down well on their journey across the plains
below.
    The Lord of the Eagles would not take them anywhere near where men lived.
"They would shoot at us with their great bows of yew," he said, "for they would
think we were after their sheep. And at other times they would be right. No! we
are glad to cheat the goblins of their sport, and glad to repay our thanks to you,
but we will not risk ourselves for dwarves in the southward plains."
    "Very well," said Gandalf. "Take us where and as far as you will! We are
already deeply obliged to you. But in the meantime we are famished with hunger."
    "I am nearly dead of it," said Bilbo in a weak little voice that nobody heard.
    "That can perhaps be mended," said the Lord of the Eagles.
    Later on you might have seen a bright fire on the shelf of rock and the figures
of the dwarves round it cooking and making a fine roasting smell. The eagles had
brought up dry boughs for fuel, and they had brought rabbits, hares, and a small
sheep. The dwarves managed all the preparations. Bilbo was too weak to help,
and anyway he was not much good at skinning rabbits or cutting up meat, being
used to having it delivered by the butcher all ready to cook. Gandalf, too, was
lying down after doing his part in setting the fire going, since Oin and Gloin had
lost their tinder-boxes. (Dwarves have never taken to matches even yet.)
    So ended the adventures of the Misty Mountains. Soon Bilbo's stomach was
feeling full and comfortable again, and he felt he could sleep contentedly, though
really he would have liked a loaf and butter better than bits of meat toasted on
sticks. He slept curled up on the hard rock more soundly than ever he had done on
his feather-bed in his own little hole at home. But all night he dreamed of his own
house and wandered in his sleep into all his different rooms looking for something
that he could not find nor remember what it looked like.
                                     Chapter 7
                                  Queer Lodgings

     The next morning Bilbo woke up with the early sun in his eyes. He jumped up
to look at the time and to go and put his kettle on-and found he was not home at
all. So he sat down and wished in vain for a wash and a brush. He did not get
either, nor tea nor toast nor bacon for his breakfast, only cold mutton and rabbit.
And after that he had to get ready for a fresh start.
     This time he was allowed to climb on to an eagle's back and cling between his
wings. The air rushed over him and he shut his eyes. The dwarves were crying
farewells and promising to repay the lord of the eagles if ever they could, as off
rose fifteen great birds from the mountain's side. The sun was still close to the
eastern edge of things. The morning was cool, and mists were in the valleys and
hollows and twined here and there about the peaks and pinnacles of the hills.
Bilbo opened an eye to peep and saw that the birds were already high up and the
world was far away, and the mountains were falling back behind them into the
distance. He shut his eyes again and held on tighter.
     "Don't pinch!" said his eagle. "You need not be frightened like a rabbit, even if
you look rather like one. It is a fair morning with little wind. What is finer than
flying?"
     Bilbo would have liked to say: "A warm bath and late breakfast on the lawn
afterwards;" but he thought it better to say nothing at all, and to let go his clutch
just a tiny bit.
     After a good while the eagles must have seen the point they were making for,
'even from their great height, for they began to go down circling round in great
spirals. They did this for a long while, and at last the hobbit opened his eyes again.
The earth was much nearer, and below them were trees that looked like oaks and
elms, and wide grass lands, and a river running through it all. But cropping out of
the ground, right in the path of the stream which looped itself about it, was a great
rock, almost a hill of stone, like a last outpost of the distant mountains, or a huge
piece cast miles into the plain by some giant among giants.
     Quickly now to the top of this rock the eagles swooped one by one and set
down their passengers.
     "Farewell!" they cried, "wherever you fare, till your eyries receive you at the
journey's end!" That is the polite thing to say among eagles.
    "May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon
walks," answered Gandalf, who knew the correct reply.
    And so they parted. And though the lord of the eagles became in after days the
King of All Birds and wore a golden crown, and his fifteen chieftains golden
collars (made of the gold that the dwarves gave them), Bilbo never saw them
again-except high and far off in the battle of Five Armies. But as that comes in at
the end of this tale we will say no more about it just now.
    There was a flat space on the top of the hill of stone and a well worn path with
many steps leading down it to the river, across which a ford of huge flat stones led
to the grass-land beyond the stream. There was a little cave (a wholesome one
with a pebbly floor) at the foot of the steps and near the end of the stony ford. Here
the party gathered and discussed what was to be done.
    "I always meant to see you all safe (if possible) over the mountains," said the
wizard, "and now by good management and good luck I have done it. Indeed we
are now a good deal further east than I ever meant to come with you, for after all
this is not my adventure. I may look in on it again before it is all over, but in the
meanwhile I have some other pressing business to attend to."
    The dwarves groaned and looked most distressed, and Bilbo wept. They had
begun to think Gandalf was going in come all the way and would always be there
to help them out of difficulties. "I am not going to disappear this very instant,"
said he. "I can give you a day or two more. Probably I can help you out of your
present plight, and I need a little help myself. We have no food, and no baggage,
and no ponies to ride; and you don't know where you are. Now I can tell you that.
You are still some miles north of the path which we should have been following, if
we had not left the mountain pass in a hurry. Very few people live in these parts,
unless they have come here since I was last down this way, which is some years
ago. But there is somebody that I know of, who lives not far away. That
Somebody made the
    steps on the great rock-the Carrock I believe he calls it. He does not come here
often, certainly not in the daytime, and it is no good waiting for him. In fact it
would be very dangerous. We must go and find him; and if all goes well at our
meeting, I think I shall be off and wish you like the eagles 'farewell wherever you
fare!' "
    They begged him not to leave them. They offered him dragon-gold and silver
and jewels, but he would not change his mind.
    "We shall see, we shall see!" he said, "and I think I have earned already some
of your dragon-gold - when you have got it."
     After that they stopped pleading. Then they took off their clothes and bathed in
the river, which was shallow and clear and stony at the ford. When they had dried
in the sun, which was now strong and warm, they were refreshed, if still sore and a
little hungry. Soon they crossed the ford (carrying the hobbit), and then began to
march through the long green grass and down the lines of the wide-armed oaks
and the tall elms.
     "And why is it called the Carrock?" asked Bilbo as he went along at the
wizard's side.
     "He called it the Carrock, because carrock is his word for it. He calls things
like that carrocks, and this one is the Carrock because it is the only one near his
home and he knows it well."
     "Who calls it? Who knows it?"
     "The Somebody I spoke of-a very great person. You must all be very polite
when I introduce you. I shall introduce you slowly, two by two, I think; and you
must be careful not to annoy him, or heaven knows what will happen. He can be
appalling when he is angry, though he is kind enough if humoured. Still I warn
you he gets angry easily."
     The dwarves all gathered round when they heard the wizard talking like this to
Bilbo. "Is that the person you are taking us to now?" they asked. "Couldn't you
find someone more easy-tempered? Hadn't you better explain it all a bit clearer?"-
and so on.
     "Yes it certainly is! No I could not! And I was explaining very carefully,"
answered the wizard crossly. "If you must know more, his name is Beorn. He is
very strong, and he is a skin-changer."
     "What! a furrier, a man that calls rabbits conies, when he doesn't turn their
skins into squirrels?" asked Bilbo.
     "Good gracious heavens, no, no, NO, NO!" said Gandalf. "Don't be a fool Mr.
Baggins if you can help it; and in the name of all wonder don't mention the word
furrier again as long as you are within a hundred miles of his house, nor, rug,
cape, tippet, muff, nor any other such unfortunate word! He is a skin-changer. He
changes his skin; sometimes he is a huge black bear, sometimes he is a great
strong black-haired man with huge arms and a great beard. I cannot tell you much
more, though that ought to be enough. Some say that he is a bear descended from
the great and ancient bears of the mountains that lived there before the giants
came. Others say that he is a man descended from the first men who lived before
Smaug or the other dragons came into this part of the world, and before the
goblins came into the hills out of the North. I cannot say, though I fancy the last is
the true tale. He is not the sort of person to ask questions of.
    "At any rate he is under no enchantment but his own. He lives in an oak-wood
and has a great wooden house; and as a man he keeps cattle and horses which are
nearly is marvellous as himself. They work for him and talk to him. He does not
eat them; neither does he hunt or eat wild animals. He keeps hives and hives of
great fierce bees, and lives most on cream and honey. As a bear he ranges far and
wide. I once saw him sitting all alone on the top of the Carrock at night watching
the moon sinking towards the Misty Mountains, and I heard him growl in the
tongue of bears; 'The day will come when they will perish and I shall go back!'
That is why I believe he once came from the mountains himself."

    Bilbo and the dwarves had now plenty to think about, and they asked no more
questions. They still had a long way to walk before them. Up slope and down dale
they plodded. It grew very hot. Sometimes they rested under the trees, and then
Bilbo felt so hungry that he would have eaten acorns, if any had been ripe enough
yet to have fallen to the ground.
    It was the middle of the afternoon before they noticed that great patches of
flowers had begun to spring up, all the same kinds growing together as if they had
been planted. Especially there was clover, waving patches of cockscomb clover,
and purple clover, and wide stretches of short white sweet honey-smelling clover.
There was a buzzing and a whirring and a droning in the air. Bees were busy
everywhere. And such bees! Bilbo had never seen anything like them.
    "If one was to sting me," he thought, "I should swell up as big again as I am!"
    They were bigger than hornets. The drones were bigger than your thumb, a
good deal, and the bands of yellow on their deep black bodies shone like fiery
gold.
    "We are getting near," said Gandalf. "We are on the edge of his bee-pastures."
    After a while they came to a belt of tall and very ancient oaks, and beyond
these to a high thorn-hedge through which you could neither see nor scramble.
    "You had better wait here," said the wizard to the dwarves; "and when I call or
whistle begin to come after me — you will see the way I go-but only in pairs,
mind, about five minutes between each pair of you. Bombur is fattest and will do
for two, he had better come alone and last. Come on Mr. Baggins! There is a gate
somewhere round this way." And with that he went off along the hedge taking the
frightened hobbit with him.
    They soon came to a wooden gate, high and broad, beyond which they could
see gardens and a cluster of low wooden buildings, some thatched and made of
unshaped logs; barns, stables, sheds, and a long low wooden house.
    Inside on the southward side of the great hedge were rows and rows of hives
with bell-shaped tops made of straw. The noise of the giant bees flying to and fro
and crawling in and out filled all the air.
    The wizard and the hobbit pushed open the heavy creaking gate and went
down a wide track towards the house. Some horses, very sleek and well-groomed,
trotted up across the grass and looked at them intently with very intelligent faces;
then off they galloped to the buildings.
    "They have gone to tell him of the arrival of strangers," said Gandalf.
    Soon they reached a courtyard, three walls of which were formed by the
wooden house and its two long wings. In the middle there was lying a great oak-
trunk with many lopped branches beside it. Standing near was a huge man with a
thick black beard and' hair, and great bare arms and legs with knotted muscles. He
was clothed in a tunic of wool down to his knees, and was leaning on a large axe.
    The horses were standing by him with their noses at his shoulder.
    "Ugh! here they are!" he said to the horses. "They don't look dangerous. You
can be off!" He laughed a great rolling laugh, put down his axe and came forward.
    "Who are you and what do you want?" he asked gruffly, standing in front of
them and towering tall above Gandalf.
    As for Bilbo he could easily have trotted through his legs without ducking his
head to miss the fringe of the man's brown tunic.
    "I am Gandalf," said the wizard.
    "Never heard of him," growled the man, "And what's this little fellow?" he
said, stooping down to frown at the hobbit with his bushy eyebrows.
    "That is Mr. Baggins, a hobbit of good family and unimpeachable reputation,"
said Gandalf. Bilbo bowed. He had no hat to take off, and was painfully conscious
of his many missing buttons. "I am a wizard," continued Gandalf. "I have heard of
you, if you have not heard of me; but perhaps you have heard of my good cousin
Radagast who lives near the Southern borders of Mirkwood?"
    "Yes; not a bad fellow as wizards go, I believe. I used to see him now and
again," said Beorn. "Well, now I know who you are, or who you say you are.
What do you want?"
    "To tell you the truth, we have lost our luggage and nearly lost our way, and
are rather in need of help, or at least advice. I may say we have had rather a bad
time with goblins in the mountains."
    "Goblins?" said the big man less gruffly. "O ho, so you've been having trouble
with them have you? What did you go near them for?"
    "We did not mean to. They surprised us at night in a pass which we had to
cross, we were coming out of the Lands over West into these countries-it is a long
tale."
    "Then you had better come inside and tell me some of it, if it won't take all
day," said the man leading the way through a dark door that opened out of the
courtyard into the house.
    Following him they found themselves in a wide hall with a fire-place in the
middle. Though it was summer there was a wood-fire burning and the smoke was
rising to the blackened rafters in search of the way out through an opening in the
roof. They passed through this dim hall, lit only by the fire and the hole above it,
and came through another smaller door into a sort of veranda propped on wooden
posts made of single tree-trunks. It faced south and was still warm and filled with
the light of the westering sun which slanted into it, and fell golden on the garden
full of flowers that came right up to the steps.
    Here they sat on wooden benches while Gandalf began his tale, and Bilbo
swung his dangling legs and looked at the flowers in the garden, wondering what
their names could be, as he had never seen half of them before.
    "I was coming over the mountains with a friend or two…" said the wizard.
    "Or two? I can only see one, and a little one at that," said Beorn.
    "Well to tell you the truth, I did not like to bother you with a lot of us, until I
found out if you were busy. I will give a call, if I may."
    "Go on, call away!"
    So Gandalf gave a long shrill whistle, and presently Thorin and Dori came
round the house by the garden path and stood bowing low before them.
    "One or three you meant, I see!" said Beorn. "But these aren't hobbits, they are
dwarves!"
    "Thorin Oakenshield, at your service! Dori at your service!" said the two
dwarves bowing again.
    "I don't need your service, thank you," said Beorn, "but I expect you need
mine. I am not over fond of dwarves; but if it is true you are Thorin (son of
Thrain, son of Thror, I believe), and that your companion is respectable, and that
you are enemies of goblins and are not up to any mischief in my lands-what are
you up to, by the way?"
    "They are on their way to visit the land of their fathers, away east beyond
Mirkwood," put in Gandalf, "and it is entirely an accident that we are in your
lands at all. We were crossing by the High Pass that should have brought us to the
road that lies to the south of your country, when we were attacked by the evil
goblins-as I was about to tell you."
    "Go on telling, then!" said Beorn, who was never very polite.
    "There was a terrible storm; the stone-giants were out hurling rocks, and at the
head of the pass we took refuge in a cave, the hob bit and I and several of our
companions…"
    "Do you call two several?"
    "Well, no. As a matter of fact there were more than two."
    "Where are they? Killed, eaten, gone home?"
    "Well, no. They don't seem all to have come when I whistled. Shy, I expect.
You see, we are very much afraid that we are rather a lot for you to entertain."
    "Go on, whistle again! I am in for a party, it seems, and one or two more won't
make much difference," growled Beorn.
    Gandalf whistled again; but Nori and Ori were there almost before he had
stopped, for, if you remember, Gandalf had told them to come in pairs every five
minutes.
    "Hullo!" said Beorn. "You came pretty quick-where were you hiding? Come
on my jack-in-the-boxes!"
    "Nori at your service, Ori at . . ." they began; but Beorn interrupted them.
    "Thank you! When I want your help I will ask for it. Sit down, and let's get on
with this tale, or it will be supper-time before it is ended."
    "As soon as we were asleep," went on Gandalf, "a crack at the back of the cave
opened; goblins came out and grabbed the hobbit and the dwarves and our troop
of ponies—"
    "Troop of ponies? What were you-a travelling circus? Or were you carrying
lots of goods? Or do you always call six a troop?"
    "O no! As a matter of fact there were more than six ponies, for there were
more than six of us-and well, here are two more!" Just at that moment Balin and
Dwalin appeared and bowed so low that their beards swept the stone floor. The big
man was frowning at first, but they did their very best to be frightfully polite, and
kept on nodding and bending and bowing and waving their hoods before their
knees (in proper dwarf-fashion), till he stopped frowning and burst into a
chuckling laugh; they looked so comical.
    "Troop, was right," he said. "A fine comic one. Come in my merry men, and
what are your names? I don't want your service just now, only your names; and
then sit down and stop wagging!"
     "Balin and Dwalin," they said not daring to be offended, and sat flop on the
floor looking rather surprised.
     "Now go on again!" said Beorn to the wizard.
     "Where was 1? O yes— I was not grabbed. I killed a goblin or two with a
flash—"
     "Good!" growled Beorn. "It is some good being a wizard, then."
     "—and slipped inside the crack before it closed. I followed down into the main
hall, which was crowded with goblins. The Great Goblin was there with thirty or
forty armed guards. I thought to myself 'even if they were not all chained together,
what can a dozen do against so many?' "
     "A dozen! That's the first time I've heard eight called a dozen. Or have you
still got some more jacks that haven't yet come out of their boxes?"
     "Well, yes, there seem to be a couple more here now – Fili and Kili, I believe,"
said Gandalf, as these two now appeared and stood smiling and bowing.
     "That's enough!" said Beorn. "Sit down and be quiet! Now go on, Gandalf!"
     So Gandalf went on with the tale, until he came to the fight in the dark, the
discovery of the lower gate, and their horror when they found that Mr. Baggins
had been mislaid.
     "We counted ourselves and found that there was no hobbit. There were only
fourteen of us left!"
     "Fourteen! That's the first time I've heard one from ten leave fourteen. You
mean nine, or else you haven't told me yet all the names of your party."
     "Well, of course you haven't seen Oin and Gloin yet. And, bless me! here they
are. I hope you will forgive them for bothering you."
     "O let 'em all come! Hurry up! Come along, you two, and sit down! But look
here, Gandalf, even now we have only got yourself and ten dwarves and the hobbit
that was lost. That only makes eleven (plus one mislaid) and not fourteen, unless
wizards count differently to other people. But now please get on with the tale."
Beorn did not show it more than he could help, but really he had begun to get very
interested. You see, in the old days he had known the very part of the mountains
that Gandalf was describing. He nodded and he growled, when he heard of the
hobbit's reappearance and of their scramble down the stone-slide and of the wolf-
ring m the woods. When Gandalf came to their climbing into trees with the wolves
all underneath, he got up and strode about and muttered:
     "I wish I had been there! I would have given them more than fireworks!"
     "Well," said Gandalf very glad to see that his tale was making a good
impression, "I did the best I could. There we were with the wolves going mad
underneath us and the forest beginning to blaze in places, when the goblins came
down from the hills and discovered us. They yelled with delight and sang songs
making fun of us. Fifteen birds in five fir-trees…"
     "Good heavens!" growled Beorn. "Don't pretend that goblins can't count. They
can. Twelve isn't fifteen and they know it."
     "And so do 1. There were Bifur and Bofur as well. I haven't ventured to
introduce them before, but here they are."
     In came Bifur and Bofur. "And me!" gasped Bombur pulling up behind. He
was fat, and also angry at being left till last. He refused to wait five minutes, and
followed immediately after the other two.
     "Well, now there are fifteen of you; and since goblins can count, I suppose that
is all that there were up the trees. Now perhaps we can finish this story without
any more interruptions." Mr. Baggins saw then how clever Gandalf had been. The
interruptions had really made Beorn more interested in the story, and the story had
kept him from sending the dwarves off at once like suspicious beggars. He never
invited people into his house, if he could help it. He had very few friends and they
lived a good way away; and he never invited more than a couple of these to his
house at a time. Now he had got fifteen strangers sitting in his porch!
     By the time the wizard had finished his tale and had told of the eagles' rescue
and of how they had all been brought to the Carrock, the sun had fallen behind the
peaks of the Misty Mountains and the shadows were long in Beorn's garden.
     "A very good tale!" said he. "The best I have heard for a long while. If all
beggars could tell such a good one, they might find me kinder. You may be
making it all up, of course, but you deserve a supper for the story all the same.
Let's have something to eat!"
     "Yes, please!" they all said together. "Thank you very much!"
     Inside the hall it was now quite dark. Beorn clapped his hands, and in trotted
four beautiful white ponies and several large long-bodied grey dogs. Beorn said
something to them in a queer language like animal noises turned into talk. They
went out again and soon came back carrying torches in their mouths, which they
lit at the fire and stuck in low brackets on the pillars of the hall about the central
hearth.
     The dogs could stand on their hind-legs when they wished, and carry things
with their fore-feet. Quickly they got out boards and trestles from the side walls
and set them up near the fire.
     Then baa-baa-baa! was heard, and in came some snow-white sheep led by a
large coal-black ram. One bore a white cloth embroidered at the edges with
figures of animals; others bore on their broad backs trays with bowls and platters
and knives and wooden spoons, which the dogs took and quickly laid on the trestle
tables. These were very low, low enough even for Bilbo to sit at comfortably.
Beside them a pony pushed two low-seated benches with wide rush-bottoms and
little short thick legs for Gandalf and Thorin, while at the far end he put Beorn's
big black chair of the same sort (in which he sat with his great legs stuck far out
under the table). These were all the chairs he had in his hall, and he probably had
them low like the tables for the convenience of the wonderful animals that waited
on him. What did the rest sit on? They were not forgotten. The other ponies came
in rolling round drum-shaped sections of logs, smoothed and polished, and low
enough even for Bilbo; so soon they were all seated at Beorn's table, and the hall
had not seen such a gathering for many a year.
     There they had a supper, or a dinner, such as they had not had since they left
the Last Homely House in the West and said good-bye to Elrond. The light of the
torches and the fire flickered about them, and on the table were two tall red
beeswax candles. All the time they ate, Beorn in his deep rolling voice told tales of
the wild lands on this side of the mountains, and especially of the dark and
dangerous wood, that lay outstretched far to North and South a day's ride before
them, barring their way to the East, the terrible forest of Mirkwood.
     The dwarves listened and shook their beards, for they knew that they must
soon venture into that forest and that after the mountains it was the worst of the
perils they had to pass before they came to the dragon's stronghold. When dinner
was over they began to tell tales of their own, but Beorn seemed to be growing
drowsy and paid little heed to them. They spoke most of gold and silver and
jewels and the making of things by smith-craft, and Beorn did not appear to care
for such things: there were no things of gold or silver in his hall, and few save the
knives were made of metal at all.
     They sat long at the table with their wooden drinking-bowls filled with mead.
The dark night came on outside. The fires in the middle of the hall were built with
fresh logs and the torches were put out, and still they sat in the light of the dancing
flames with the pillars of the house standing tall behind them, arid dark at the top
like trees of the forest. Whether it was magic or not, it seemed to Bilbo that he
heard a sound like wind in the branches stirring in the rafters, and the hoot of
owls. Soon he began to nod with sleep and the voices seemed to grow far away,
until he woke with a start.
     The great door had creaked and slammed. Beorn was gone. The dwarves were
sitting cross-legged on the floor round the fire, and presently they began to sing.
Some of the verses were like this, but there were many more, and their singing
went on for a long while:
                The wind was on the withered heath,
                but in the forest stirred no leaf:
                there shadows lay by night and day,
                and dark things silent crept beneath.
                The wind came down from mountains cold,
                and like a tide it roared and rolled;
                the branches groaned, the forest moaned,
                and leaves were laid upon the mould.

                The wind went on from West to East ;
                all movement in the forest ceased,
                but shrill and harsh across the marsh
                its whistling voices were released.

                The grasses hissed, their tassels bent,
                the reeds were rattling-on it went
                o' er shaken pool under heavens cool
                where racing clouds were torn and rent.

                It passed the lonely Mountain bare
                and swept above the dragon's lair :
                there black and dark lay boulders stark
                and flying smoke was in the air.

                It left the world and took its flight
                over the wide seas of the night.
                The moon set sail upon the gale,
                and stars were fanned to leaping light.

    Bilbo began to nod again. Suddenly up stood Gandalf. "It is time for us to
sleep," be said, "—for us, but not I think for Beorn. In this hall we can rest sound
and safe, but I warn you all not to forget what Beorn said before he left us: you
must not stray outside until the sun is up, on your peril."
    Bilbo found that beds had already been laid at the side of the hall, on a sort of
raised platform between the pillars and the outer wall. For him there was a little
mattress of straw and woollen blankets. He snuggled into them very gladly,
summertime though it was. The fire burned low and he fell asleep. Yet in the night
he woke: the fire had now sunk to a few embers; the dwarves and Gandalf were all
asleep, to judge by their breathing; a splash of white on the floor came from the
high moon, which was peering down through the smoke-hole in the roof.
    There was a growling sound outside, and a noise as of some great animal
scuffling at the door. Bilbo .wondered what it was, and whether it could be Beorn
in enchanted shape, and if he would come in as a bear and kill them.
    He dived under the blankets and hid his head, and fell asleep again at last in
spite of his fears.
    It was full morning when he awoke. One of the dwarves had fallen over him in
the shadows where he lay, and had rolled down with a bump from the platform on
to the floor. It was Bofur, and he was grumbling about it, when Bilbo opened his
eyes.
    "Get up lazybones," he said, "or there will be no breakfast left for you."
    Up jumped Bilbo. "Breakfast!" he cried. "Where is breakfast?"
    "Mostly inside us," answered the other dwarves who were moving around the
hall; "but what is left is out on the veranda. We have been about looking for Beorn
ever since the sun got up; but there is no sign of him anywhere, though we found
breakfast laid as soon as we went out."
    "Where is Gandalf?" asked Bilbo, moving off to find something to eat as quick
as he could.
    "O! out and about somewhere," they told him. But he saw no sign of the
wizard all that day until the evening. Just before sunset he walked into the hall,
where the hobbit and the dwarves were having supper, waited on by Beorn's
wonderful animals, as they had been all day. Of Beorn they had seen and heard
nothing since the night before, and they were getting puzzled.
    "Where is our host, and where have you been all day yourself?" they all cried.
    "One question at a time-and none till after supper! I haven't had a bite since
breakfast."
    At last Gandalf pushed away his plate and jug — he had eaten two whole
loaves (with masses of butter and honey and clotted cream) and drunk at least a
quart of mead and he took out his pipe. "I will answer the second question first,"
he said, "-but bless me! this is a splendid place for smoke rings!" Indeed for a long
time they could get nothing more out of him, he was so busy sending smoke-rings
dodging round the pillars of the hall, changing them into all sorts of different
shapes and colours, and setting them at last chasing one another out of the hole in
the roof.
    They must have looked very queer from outside, popping out into the air one
after another, green, blue, red, silver-grey, yellow, white; big ones, little ones; little
ones dodging through big ones and joining into figure-eights, and going off like a
flock of birds into the distance.
    "I have been picking out bear-tracks," he said at last. "There must have been a
regular bears' meeting outside here last night. I soon saw that Beorn could not
have made them all: there were far too many of them, and they were of various
sizes too. I should say there were little bears, large bears, ordinary bears, and
gigantic big bears, all dancing outside from dark to nearly dawn. They came from
almost every direction, except from the west over the river, from the Mountains. In
that direction only one set of footprints led-none coming, only ones going away
from here.
    I followed these as far as the Carrock. There they disappeared into the river,
but the water was too deep and strong beyond the rock for me to cross. It is easy
enough, as you remember, to get from this bank to the Carrock by the ford, but on
the other side is a cliff standing up from a swirling channel. I had to walk miles
before I found a place where the river was wide and shallow enough for me to
wade and swim, and then miles back again to pick up the tracks again. By that
time it was too late for me to follow them far. They went straight off in the
direction of the pine-woods on the east side of the Misty Mountains, where we had
our pleasant little party with the Wargs the night before last. And now I think I
have answered your first question, too," ended Gandalf, and he sat a long while
silent.
    Bilbo thought he knew what the wizard meant. "What shall we do," he cried,
"if he leads all the Wargs and the goblins down here? We shall all be caught and
killed! I thought you said he was not 9 friend of theirs."
    "So I did. And don't be silly! You had better go to bed, your wits are sleepy."
    The hobbit felt quite crushed, and as there seemed nothing else to do he did go
to bed; and while the dwarves were still singing songs he dropped asleep, still
puzzling his little head about Beorn, till he dreamed a dream of hundreds of black
bears dancing slow heavy dances round and round in the moonlight in the
courtyard. Then he woke up when everyone else was asleep, and he heard the
same scraping, scuffling, snuffling, and growling as before. Next morning they
were all wakened by Beorn himself.
    "So here you all are still!" he said. He picked up the hobbit and laughed: "Not
eaten up by Wargs or goblins or wicked bears yet I see"; and he poked Mr.
Baggins' waistcoat most disrespectfully. "Little bunny is getting nice and fat again
on bread and honey," he chuckled. "Come and have some more!"

   So they all went to breakfast with him. Beorn was most jolly for a change;
indeed he seemed to be in a splendidly good humour and set them all laughing
with his funny stories; nor did they have to wonder long where he had been or why
he was so nice to them, for he told them himself. He had been over the river and
right back up into the mountains-from which you can guess that he could travel
quickly, in bear's shape at any rate. From the burnt wolf-glade he had soon found
out that part of their story was true; but he had found more than that: he had
caught a Warg and a goblin wandering in the woods. From these he had got news:
the goblin patrols were still hunting with Wargs for the dwarves, and they were
fiercely angry because of the death of the Great Goblin, and also because of the
burning of the chief wolf's nose and the death from the wizard's fire of many of his
chief servants. So much they told him when he forced them, but he guessed there
was more wickedness than this afoot, and that a great raid of the whole goblin
army with their wolf-allies into the lands shadowed by the mountains might soon
be made to find the dwarves, or to take vengeance on the men and creatures that
lived there, and who they thought must be sheltering them.
    "It was a good story, that of yours," said Beorn, "but I like it still better now I
am sure it is true. You must forgive my not taking your word. If you lived near the
edge of Mirkwood, you would take the word of no one that you did not know as
well as your brother or better. As it is, I can only say that I have hurried home as
fast as I could to see that you were safe, and to offer you any help that I can. I
shall think more kindly of dwarves after this. Killed the Great Goblin, killed the
Great Goblin!" he chuckled fiercely to himself.
    "What did you do with the goblin and the Warg?" asked Bilbo suddenly.
    "Come and see!" said Beorn, and they followed round the house. A goblin's
head was stuck outside the gate and a warg-skin was nailed to a tree just beyond.
Beorn was a fierce enemy. But now he was their friend, and Gandalf thought it
wise to tell him their whole story and the reason of their journey, so that they
could get the most help he could offer.
    This is what he promised to do for them. He would provide ponies for each of
them, and a horse for Gandalf, for their journey to the forest, and he would lade
them with food to last them for weeks with care, and packed so as to be as easy as
possible to carry-nuts, flour, sealed jars of dried fruits, and red earthenware pots of
honey, and twice-baked cakes that would keep good a long time, and on a little of
which they could march far. The making of these was one of his secrets; but honey
was in them, as in most of his foods, and they were good to eat, though they made
one thirsty. Water, he said, they would not need to carry this side of the forest, for
there were streams and springs along the road. "But your way through Mirkwood
is dark, dangerous and difficult," he said. "Water is not easy to find there, nor
food. The time is not yet come for nuts (though it may be past and gone indeed
before you get to the other side), and nuts are about all that grows there fit for
food; in there the wild things are dark, queer, and savage. I will provide you with
skins for carrying water, and I will give you some bows and arrows. But I doubt
very much whether anything you find in Mirkwood will be wholesome to eat or to
drink. There is one stream there, I know, black and strong which crosses the path.
That you should neither drink of, nor bathe in; for I have heard that it carries
enchantment and a great drowsiness and forgetfulness. And in the dim shadows of
that place I don't think you will shoot anything, wholesome or unwholesome,
without straying from the path. That you MUST NOT do, for any reason. "That is
all the advice I can give you. Beyond the edge of the forest I cannot help you
much; you must depend on your luck and your courage and the food I send with
you. At the gate of the forest I must ask you to send back my horse and my ponies.
But I wish you all speed, and my house is open to you, if ever you come back this
way again."
    They thanked him, of course, with many bows and sweepings of their hoods
and with many an "at your service, O master of the wide wooden halls!" But their
spirits sank at his grave words, and they all felt that the adventure was far more
dangerous than they had thought, while all the time, even if they passed all the
perils of the road, the dragon was waiting at the end.
    All that morning they were busy with preparations. Soon after midday they ate
with Beorn for the last time, and after the meal they mounted the steeds he was
lending them, and bidding him many farewells they rode off through his gate at a
good pace.
    As soon as they left his high hedges at the east of his fenced lands they turned
north and then bore to the north-west. By his advice they were no longer making
for the main forest-road to the south of his land. Had they followed the pass, their
path would have led them down the stream from the mountains that joined the
great river miles south of the Carrock. At that point there was a deep ford which
they might have passed, if they had still had their ponies, and beyond that a track
led to the skirts of the wood and to the entrance of the old forest road. But Beorn
had warned them that that way was now often used by the goblins, while the
forest-road itself, he bad heard, was overgrown and disused at the eastern end and
led to impassable marshes where the paths had long been lost. Its eastern opening
had also always been far to the south of the Lonely Mountain, and would have left
them still with a long and difficult northward march when they got to the other
side.
    North of the Carrock the edge of Mirkwood drew closer to the borders of the
Great River, and though here the Mountains too drew down nearer, Beorn advised
them to take this way; for at a place a few days' ride due north of the Carrock was
the gate of a little-known pathway through Mirkwood that led almost straight
towards the Lonely Mountain.
    "The goblins," Beorn had said, "will not dare to cross the Great River for a
hundred miles north of the Carrock nor to come near my house – it is well
protected at night!– but I should ride fast; for if they make their raid soon they
will cross the river to the south and scour all the edge of the forest so as to cut you
off, and Wargs run swifter than ponies. Still you are safer going north, even
though you seem to be going back nearer to their strongholds; for that is what they
will least expect, and they will have the longer ride to catch you. Be off now as
quick as you may!"
    That is why they were now riding in silence, galloping wherever the ground
was grassy and smooth, with the mountains dark on their left, and in the distance
the line of the river with its trees drawing ever closer. The sun had only just turned
west when they started, and till evening it lay golden on the land about them. It
was difficult to think of pursuing goblins behind, and when they had put many
miles between them and Beorn's house they began to talk and to sing again and to
forget the dark forest-path that lay in front. But in the evening when the dusk
came on and the peaks of the mountains glowered against the sunset they made a
camp and set a guard, and most of them slept uneasily with dreams in which there
came the howl of hunting wolves and the cries of goblins. Still the next morning
dawned bright and fair again.
    There was an autumn-like mist white upon the ground and the air was chill,
but soon the sun rose red in the East and the mists vanished, and while the
shadows were still long they were off again. So they rode now for two more days,
and all the while they saw nothing save grass and flowers and birds and scattered
trees, and occasionally small herds of red deer browsing or sitting at noon in the
shade. Sometimes Bilbo saw the horns of the harts sticking up out of the long
grass, and at first he thought they were the dead branches of trees. That third
evening they were so eager to press on, for Beorn had said that they should reach
the forest-gate early on the fourth day, that they rode still forward after dusk and
into the night beneath the moon. As the light faded Bilbo thought he saw away to
the right, or to the left, the shadowy form of a great bear prowling along in the
same direction. But if he dared to mention it to Gandalf, the wizard only said:
"Hush! Take no notice!"
     Next day they started before dawn, though their night had been short. As soon
as it was light they could see the forest coming as it were to meet them, or waiting
for them like a black and frowning wall before them. The land began to slope up
and up, and it seemed to the hobbit that a silence began to draw in upon them.
Birds began to sing less. There were no more deer; not even rabbits were to be
seen. By the afternoon they had reached the eaves of Mirkwood, and were resting
almost beneath the great overhanging boughs of its outer trees. Their trunks were
huge and gnarled, their branches twisted, their leaves were dark and long. Ivy
grew on them and trailed along the ground.
     "Well, here is Mirkwood!" said Gandalf. "The greatest of the forests of the
Northern world. I hope you like the look of it. Now you must send back these
excellent ponies you have borrowed."
     The dwarves were inclined to grumble at this, but the wizard told them they
were fools. "Beorn is not as far off as you seem to think, and you had better keep
your promises anyway, for he is a bad enemy. Mr. Baggins' eyes are sharper than
yours, if you have not seen each night after dark a great bear going along with us
or sitting far of in the moon watching our camps. Not only to guard you and guide
you, but to keep an eye on the ponies too. Beorn may be your friend, but he loves
his animals as his children. You do not guess what kindness he has shown you in
letting dwarves ride them so far and so fast, nor what would happen to you, if you
tried to take them into the forest."
     "What about the horse, then?" said Thorin. "You don't mention sending that
back."
     "I don't, because I am not sending it."
     "What about your promise then?"
     "I will look after that. I am not sending the horse back, I am riding it!"
     Then they knew that Gandalf was going to leave them at the very edge of
Mirkwood, and they were in despair.
     But nothing they could say would change his mind.
     "Now we had this all out before, when we landed on the Carrock," he said. "It
is no use arguing. I have, as I told you, some pressing business away south; and I
am already late through bothering with you people. We may meet again before all
is over, and then again of course we may not. That depends on your luck and on
your courage and sense; and I am sending Mr. Baggins with you. I have told you
before that he has more about him than you guess, and you will find that out
before long. So cheer up Bilbo and don't look so glum. Cheer up Thorin and
Company! This is your expedition after all. Think of the treasure at the end, and
forget the forest and the dragon, at any rate until tomorrow morning!"
    When tomorrow morning came he still said the same.
    So now there was nothing left to do but to fill their water-skins at a clear
spring they found close to the forest-gate, and unpack the ponies. They distributed
the packages as fairly as they could, though Bilbo thought his lot was
wearisomely heavy, and did not at all like the idea of trudging for miles and miles
with all that on his back.
    "Don't you worry!" said Thorin. "It will get lighter all too soon. Before long I
expect we shall all wish our packs heavier, when the food begins to run short."
    Then at last they said good-bye to their ponies and turned their heads for
home. Off they trotted gaily, seeming very glad to put their tails towards the
shadow of Mirkwood. As they went away Bilbo could have sworn that a thing like
a bear left the shadow of the trees and shambled off quickly after them.
    Now Gandalf too said farewell. Bilbo sat on the ground feeling very unhappy
and wishing he was beside the wizard on his tall horse. He had gone just inside the
forest after breakfast (a very poor one), and it had seemed as dark in there in the
morning as at night, and very secret: "a sort of watching and waiting feeling," he
said to himself.
    "Good-bye!" said Gandalf to Thorin. "And good-bye to you all, good-bye!
Straight through the forest is your way now. Don't stray off the track!-if you do, it
is a thousand to one you will never find it again and never get out of Mirkwood;
and then I don't suppose I, or any one else, will ever see you again."
    "Do we really have to go through?" groaned the hobbit.
    "Yes, you do!" said the wizard, "if you want to get to the other side. You must
either go through or give up your quest. And I am not going to allow you to back
out now, Mr. Baggins. I am ashamed of you for thinking of it. You have got to
look after all these dwarves for me," he laughed.
    "No! no!" said Bilbo. "I didn't mean that. I meant, is there no way round?"
    "There is, if you care to go two hundred miles or so out of your way north, and
twice that south. But you wouldn't get a safe path even then. There are no safe
paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now,
and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go. Before you could get round Mirkwood
in the North you would be right among the slopes of the Grey Mountains, and
they are simply stiff with goblins, hobgoblins, and rest of the worst description.
Before you could get round it in the South, you would get into the land of the
Necromancer; and even you. Bilbo, won't need me to tell you tales of that black
sorcerer. I don't advise you to go anywhere near the places overlooked by his dark
tower! Stick to the forest-track, keep your spirits up, hope for the best, and with a
tremendous slice of luck you may come out one day and see the Long Marshes
lying below you, and beyond them, high in the East, the Lonely Mountain where
dear old Smaug lives, though I hope he is not expecting you."
    "Very comforting you are to be sure," growled Thorin. "Good-bye! If you
won't come with us, you had better get off without any more talk!"
    "Good-bye then, and really good-bye!" said Gandalf, and he turned his horse
and rode down into the West. But he could not resist the temptation to have the
last word. Before he had passed quite out of hearing he turned and put his hands to
his mouth and called to them. They heard his voice come faintly: "Good-bye! Be
good, take care of yourselves-and DON'T LEAVE THE PATH!"
    Then he galloped away and was soon lost to sight. "O good-bye and go away!"
grunted the dwarves, all the more angry because they were really filled with
dismay at losing him. Now began the most dangerous part of all the journey.
    They each shouldered the heavy pack and the water-skin which was their
share, and turned from the light that lay on the lands outside and plunged into the
forest.
                                      Chapter 8
                                  Flies and Spiders

     They walked in single file. The entrance to the path was like a sort of arch
leading into a gloomy tunnel made by two great trees that leant together, too old
and strangled with ivy and hung with lichen to bear more than a few blackened
leaves. The path itself was narrow and wound in and out among the trunks. Soon
the light at the gate was like a little bright hole far behind, and the quiet was so
deep that their feet seemed to thump along while all the trees leaned over them and
listened. As theft eyes became used to the dimness they could see a little way to
either side in a sort of darkened green glimmer. Occasionally a slender beam of
sun that had the luck to slip in through some opening in the leaves far above, and
still more luck in not being caught in the tangled boughs and matted twigs
beneath, stabbed down thin and bright before them. But this was seldom, and it
soon ceased altogether.
     There were black squirrels in the wood. As Bilbo's sharp inquisitive eyes got
used to seeing things he could catch glimpses of them whisking off the path and
scuttling behind tree-trunks. There were queer noises too, grunts, scufflings, and
hurryings in the undergrowth, and among the leaves that lay piled endlessly thick
in places on the forest-floor; but what made the noises he could not see. The
nastiest things they saw were the cobwebs: dark dense cobwebs with threads
extraordinarily thick, often stretched from tree to tree, or tangled in the lower
branches on either side of them. There were none stretched across the path, but
whether because some magic kept it clear, or for what other reason they could not
guess.
     It was not long before they grew to hate the forest as heartily as they had hated
the tunnels of the goblins, and it seemed to offer even less hope of any ending. But
they had to go on and on, long after they were sick for a sight of the sun and of the
sky, and longed for the feel of wind on their faces. There was no movement of air
down under the forest-roof, and it was everlastingly still and dark and stuffy. Even
the dwarves felt it, who were used to tunnelling, and lived at times for long whiles
without the light of the sun; but the hobbit, who liked holes to make a house in but
not to spend summer days in, felt he was being slowly suffocated.
     The nights were the worst. It then became pitch-dark – not what you call pitch-
dark, but really pitch; so black that you really could see nothing. Bilbo tried
flapping his hand in front of his nose, but he could not see it at all. Well, perhaps it
is not true to say that they could see nothing: they could see eyes. They slept all
closely huddled together, and took it in turns to watch; and when it was Bilbo's
turn he would see gleams in the darkness round them, and sometimes pairs of
yellow or red or green eyes would stare at him from a little distance, and then
slowly fade and disappear and slowly shine out again in another place. And
sometimes they would gleam down from the branches just above him; and that
was most terrifying. But the eyes that he liked the least were horrible pale bulbous
sort of eyes. "Insect eyes" he thought, "not animal eyes, only they are much too
big."
    Although it was not yet very cold, they tried lighting watch-fires at night, but
they soon gave that up. It seemed to bring hundreds and hundreds of eyes all
round them, though the creatures, whatever they were, were careful never to let
their bodies show in the little flicker of the flames. Worse still it brought thousands
of dark-grey and black moths, some nearly as big as your hand, flapping and
whirring round their ears. They could not stand that, nor the huge bats, black as a
top-hat, either; so they gave up fires and sat at night and dozed in the enormous
uncanny darkness.
    All this went on for what seemed to the hobbit ages upon ages; and he was
always hungry, for they were extremely careful with their provisions. Even so, as
days followed days, and still the forest seemed just the same, they began to get
anxious. The food would not last for ever: it was in fact already beginning to get
low. They tried shooting at the squirrels, and they wasted many arrows before they
managed to bring one down on the path. But when they roasted it, it proved
horrible to taste, and they shot no more squirrels.
    They were thirsty too, for they had none too much water, and in all the time
they had seen neither spring nor stream. This was their state when one day they
found their path blocked by a running water. It flowed fast and strong but not very
wide right across the way, and it was black, or looked it in the gloom. It was well
that Beorn had warned them against it, or they would have drunk from it,
whatever its colour, and filled some of their emptied skins at its bank. As it was
they only thought of how to cross it without wetting themselves in its water. There
had been a bridge of wood across, but it had rotted and fallen leaving only the
broken posts near the bank.
    Bilbo kneeling on the brink and peering forward cried: "There is a boat against
the far bank! Now why couldn't it have been this side!"
    "How far away do you think it is?" asked Thorin, for by now they knew Bilbo
had the sharpest eyes among them.
     "Not at all far. I shouldn't think above twelve yards."
     "Twelve yards! I should have thought it was thirty at least, but my eyes don't
see as well as they used a hundred years ago. Still twelve yards is as good as a
mile. We can't jump it, and we daren't try to wade or swim."
     "Can any of you throw a rope?"
     "What's the good of that? The boat is sure to be tied up, even if we could hook
it, which I doubt."
     "I don't believe it is tied," said Bilbo, "though of course I can't be sure in this
light; but it looks to me as if it was just drawn up on the bank, which is low just
there where the path goes down into the water."
     "Dori is the strongest, but Fili is the youngest and still has the best sight," said
Thorin. "Come here Fili, and see if you can see the boat Mr. Baggins is talking
about."
     Fili thought he could; so when he had stared a long while to get an idea of the
direction, the others brought him a rope. They had several with them, and on the
end of the longest they fastened one of the large iron hooks they had used for
catching their packs to the straps about their shoulders. Fili took this in his hand,
balanced it for a moment, and then flung it across the stream.
     Splash it fell in the water! "Not far enough!" said Bilbo who was peering
forward. "A couple of feet and you would have dropped it on to the boat. Try
again. I don't suppose the magic is strong enough to hurt you, if you just touch a
bit of wet rope."
     Fili picked up the hook when he had drawn it back, rather doubtfully all the
same. This time he threw it with greater strength.
     "Steady!" said Bilbo, "you have thrown it right into the wood on the other side
now. Draw it back gently." Fili hauled the rope back slowly, and after a while
Bilbo said:
     "Carefully! It is lying on the boat; let's hope the hook will catch."
     It did. The rope went taut, and Fili pulled in vain. Kili came to his help, and
then Oin and Gloin. They tugged and tugged, and suddenly they all fell over on
their backs. Bilbo was on the lockout, however, caught the rope, and with a piece
of stick fended off the little black boat as it came rushing across the stream.
"Help!" he shouted, and Balin was just in time to seize the boat before it floated
off down the current.
     "It was tied after all," said he, looking at the snapped painter that was still
dangling from it. "That was a good pull, my lads; and a good job that our rope
was the stronger."
    "Who'll cross first?" asked Bilbo.
    "I shall," said Thorin, "and you will come with me, and Fili and Balin. That's
as many as the boat will hold at a time. After that Kili and Oin and Gloin and
Don; next On and Nori, Bifur and Bofur; and last Dwalin and Bombur."
    "I'm always last and I don't like it," said Bombur. "It's somebody else's turn
today."
    "You should not be so fat. As you are, you must be with the last and lightest
boatload. Don't start grumbling against orders, or something bad will happen to
you."
    "There aren't any oars. How are you going to push the boat back to the far
bank?" asked the hobbit.
    "Give me another length of rope and another hook," said Fili, and when they
had got it ready, he cast into the darkness ahead and as high as he could throw it.
Since it did not fall down again, they saw that it must have stuck in the branches.
"Get in now," said Fili, "and one of you haul on the rope that is stuck in a tree on
the other side. One of the others must keep hold of the hook we used at first, and
when we are safe on the other side he can hook it on, and you can draw the boat
back."
    In this way they were all soon on the far bank safe across the enchanted
stream. Dwalin had just scrambled out with the coiled rope on his arm, and
Bombur (still grumbling) was getting ready to follow, when something bad did
happen. There was a flying sound of hooves on the path ahead. Out of the gloom
came suddenly the shape of a flying deer. It charged into the dwarves and bowled
them over, then gathered itself for a leap. High it sprang and cleared the water
with a mighty jump. But it did not reach the other side in safety. Thorin was the
only one who had kept his feet and his wits. As soon as they had landed he had
bent his bow and fitted an arrow in case any hidden guardian of the boat appeared.
Now he sent a swift and sure shot into the leaping beast. As it reached the further
bank it stumbled. The shadows swallowed it up, but they heard the sound of
hooves quickly falter and then go still.
    Before they could shout in praise of the shot, however, a dreadful wail from
Bilbo put all thoughts of venison out of their minds. "Bombur has fallen in!
Bombur is drowning!" he cried. It was only too true. Bombur had only one foot on
the land when the hart bore down on him, and sprang over him. He had stumbled,
thrusting the boat away from the bank, and then toppled back into the dark water,
his hands slipping off the slimy roots at the edge, while the boat span slowly off
and disappeared.
    They could still see his hood above the water when they ran to the bank.
Quickly they flung a rope with a hook towards him. His hand caught it, and they
pulled him to the shore. He was drenched from hair to boots, of course, but that
was not the worst. When they laid him on the bank he was already fast asleep,
with one hand clutching the rope so tight that they could not get it from his grasp;
and fast asleep he remained in spite of all they could do. They were still standing
over him, cursing their ill luck, and Bombur's clumsiness, and lamenting the loss
of the boat which made it impossible for them to go back and look for the hart,
when they became aware of the dim blowing of horns in the wood and the sound
as of dogs baying far off. Then they all fell silent; and as they sat it seemed they
could hear the noise of a great hunt going by to the north of the path, though they
saw no sign of it. There they sat for a long while and did not dare to make a move.
Bombur slept on with a smile on his fat face, as if he no longer cared for all the
troubles that vexed them.
    Suddenly on the path ahead appeared some white deer, a hind and fawns as
snowy white as the hart had been dark. They glimmered in the shadows. Before
Thorin could cry out three of the dwarves had leaped to their feet and loosed off
arrows from their bows. None seemed to find their mark. The deer turned and
vanished in the trees as silently as they had come, and in vain the dwarves shot
their arrows after them.
    "Stop! stop!" shouted Thorin; but it was too late, the excited dwarves had
wasted their last arrows, and now the bows that Beorn had given them were
useless.
    They were a gloomy party that night, and the gloom gathered still deeper on
them in the following days. They had crossed the enchanted stream; but beyond it
the path seemed to straggle on just as before, and in the forest they could see no
change. Yet if they had known more about it and considered the meaning of the
hunt and the white deer that had appeared upon their path, they would have
known that they were at last drawing towards the eastern edge, and would soon
have come, if they could have kept up their courage and their hope, to thinner
trees and places where the sunlight came again.
    But they did not know this, and they were burdened with the heavy body of
Bombur, which they had to carry along with them as best they could, taking the
wearisome task in turns of four each while the others shared their packs. If these
had not become all too light in the last few days, they would never have managed
it; but a slumbering and smiling Bombur was a poor exchange for packs filled
with food however heavy. In a few days a time came when there was practically
nothing left to eat or to drink. Nothing wholesome could they see growing in the
woods, only funguses and herbs with pale leaves and unpleasant smell.
     About four days from the enchanted stream they came to a part where most of
the trees were beeches. They were at first inclined to be cheered by the change, for
here there was no undergrowth and the shadow was not so deep. There was a
greenish light about them, and in places they could see some distance to either side
of the path. Yet the light only showed them endless lines of straight grey trunks
like the pillars of some huge twilight hall. There was a breath of air and a noise of
wind, but it had a sad sound. A few leaves came rustling down to remind them
that outside autumn was coming on. Their feet ruffled among the dead leaves of
countless other autumns that drifted over the banks of the path from the deep red
carpets of the forest.
     Still Bombur slept and they grew very weary. At times they heard disquieting
laughter. Sometimes there was singing in the distance too. The laughter was the
laughter of fair voices not of goblins, and the singing was beautiful, but it sounded
eerie and strange, and they were not comforted, rather they hurried on from those
parts with what strength they had left.
     Two days later they found their path going downwards and before long they
were in a valley filled almost entirely with a mighty growth of oaks.
     "Is there no end to this accursed forest?" said Thorin.
     "Somebody must climb a tree and see if he can get his head above the roof and
have a look round. The only way is to choose the tallest tree that overhangs the
path."
     Of course "somebody" meant Bilbo. They chose him because to be of any use
the climber must get his head above the topmost leaves, and so he must be light
enough for the highest and slenderest branches to bear him. Poor Mr. Baggins had
never had much practice in climbing trees, but they hoisted him up into the lowest
branches of an enormous oak that grew right out into the path, and up he had to go
as best he could. He pushed his way through the tangled twigs with many a slap in
the eye; he was greened and grimed from the old bark of the greater boughs; more
than once he slipped and caught himself just in time; and at last, after a dreadful
struggle in a difficult place where there seemed to be no convenient branches at
all, he got near the top. All the time he was wondering whether there were spiders
in the tree, and how he was going to get down again (except by falling).
     In the end he poked his head above the roof of leaves, and then he found
spiders all right. But they were only small ones of ordinary size, and they were
after the butterflies. Bilbo's eyes were nearly blinded by the light. He could hear
the dwarves shouting up at him from far below, but he could not answer, only hold
on and blink. The sun was shining brilliantly, and it was a long while before he
could bear it. When he could, he saw all round him a sea of dark green, ruffled
here and there by the breeze; and there were everywhere hundreds of butterflies. I
expect they were a kind of 'purple emperor,' a butterfly that loves the tops of oak-
woods, but these were not purple at all, they were a dark dark velvety black
without any markings to be seen.
    He looked at the 'black emperors' for a long time, and enjoyed the feel of the
breeze in his hair and on his face; but at length the cries of the dwarves, who were
now simply stamping with impatience down below, reminded him of his real
business. It was no good. Gaze as much as he might, he could see no end to the
trees and the leaves in any direction. His heart, that had been lightened by the
sight of the sun and the feel of the wind, sank back into his toes: there was no food
to go back to down below.
    Actually, as I have told you, they were not far off the edge of the forest; and if
Bilbo had had the sense to see it, the tree that he had climbed, though it was tall in
itself, was standing near the bottom of a wide valley, so that from its top the trees
seemed to swell up all round like the edges of a great bowl, and he could not
expect to see how far the forest lasted. Still he did not see this, and he climbed
down full of despair. He got to the bottom again at last scratched, hot, and
miserable, and he could not see anything in the gloom below when he got there.
His report soon made the others as miserable as he was.
    "The forest goes on for ever and ever and ever in all directions! Whatever shall
we do? And what is the use of sending a hobbit!" they cried, as if it was his fault.
They did not care tuppence about the butterflies, and were only made more angry
when he told them of the beautiful breeze, which they were too heavy to climb up
and feel.

    That night they ate their very last scraps and crumbs of food; and next
morning when they woke the first thing they noticed was that they were still
gnawingly hungry, and the next thing was that it was raining and that here and
there the drip of it was dropping heavily on the forest floor. That only reminded
them that they were also parchingly thirsty, without doing anything to relieve
them: you cannot quench a terrible thirst by standing under giant oaks and waiting
for a chance drip to fall on your tongue. The only scrap of comfort there was,
came unexpectedly from Bombur.
    He woke up suddenly and sat up scratching his head. He could not make out
where he was at all, nor why he felt so hungry; for he had forgotten everything
that had happened since they started their journey that May morning long ago.
The last thing that he remembered was the party at the hobbit's house, and they
had great difficulty in making him believe their tale of all the many adventures
they had had since.
    When he heard that there was nothing to eat, he sat down and wept, for he felt
very weak and wobbly in the legs. "Why ever did I wake up!" he cried. "I was
having such beautiful dreams. I dreamed I was walking in a forest rather like this
one, only lit with torches on the trees and lamps swinging from the branches and
fires burning on the ground; and there was a great feast going on, going on for
ever. A woodland king was there with a crown of leaves, and there was a merry
singing, and I could not count or describe the things there were to eat and drink."
    "You need not try," said Thorin. "In fact if you can't talk about something else,
you had better be silent. We are quite annoyed enough with you as it is. If you
hadn't waked up, we should have left you to your idiotic dreams in the forest; you
are no joke to carry even after weeks of short commons."
    There was nothing now to be done but to tighten the belts round their empty
stomachs, and hoist their empty sacks and packs, and trudge along the track
without any great hope of ever getting to the end before they lay down and died of
starvation. This they did all that day, going very slowly and wearily, while
Bombur kept on wailing that his legs would not carry him and that he wanted to
lie down and sleep.
    "No you don't!" they said. "Let your legs take their share, we have carried you
far enough."
    All the same he suddenly refused to go a step further and flung himself on the
ground. "Go on, if you must," he said. "I'm just going to lie here and sleep and
dream of food, if I can't get it any other way. I hope I never wake up again."
    At that very moment Balin, who was a little way ahead, called out: "What was
that? I thought I saw a twinkle of light in the forest."
    They all looked, and a longish way off, it seemed, they saw a red twinkle in
the dark; then another and another sprang out beside it. Even Bombur got up, and
they hurried along then, not caring if it was trolls or goblins. The light was in front
of them and to the left of the path, and when at last they had drawn level with it, it
seemed plain that torches and fires were burning under the trees, but a good way
off their track.
     "It looks as if my dreams were coming true," gasped Bombur puffing up
behind. He wanted to rush straight off into the wood after the lights. But the others
remembered only too well the warnings of the wizard and of Beorn. "A feast
would be no good, if we never got back alive from it," said Thorin.
     "But without a feast we shan't remain alive much longer anyway," said
Bombur, and Bilbo heartily agreed with him. They argued about it backwards and
forwards for a long while, until they agreed at length to send out a couple of spies,
to creep near the lights and find out more about them. But then they could not
agree on who was to be sent: no one seemed anxious to run the chance of being
lost and never finding his friends again. In the end, in spite of warnings, hunger
decided them, because Bombur kept on describing all the good things that were
being eaten, according to his dream, in the woodland feast; so they all left the path
and plunged into the forest together.
     After a good deal of creeping and crawling they peered round the trunks and
looked into a clearing where some trees had been felled and the ground levelled.
There were many people there, elvish-looking folk, all dressed in green and brown
and sitting on sawn rings of the felled trees in a great circle. There was a fire in
their midst and there were torches fastened to some of the trees round about; but
most splendid sight of all: they were eating and drinking and laughing merrily.
     The smell of the roast meats was so enchanting that, without waiting to consult
one another, every one of them got up and scrambled forwards into the ring with
the one idea of begging for some food. No sooner had the first stepped into the
clearing than all the lights went out as if by magic. Somebody kicked the fire and
it went up in rockets of glittering sparks and vanished. They were lost in a
completely lightless dark and they could not even find one another, not for a long
time at any rate. After blundering frantically in the gloom, falling over logs,
bumping crash into trees, and shouting and calling till they must have waked
everything in the forest for miles, at last they managed to gather themselves in a
bundle and count themselves by touch. By that time they had, of course, quite
forgotten in what direction the path lay, and they were all hopelessly lost, at least
till morning.
     There was nothing for it but to settle down for the night where they were; they
did not even dare to search on the ground for scraps of food for fear of becoming
separated again. But they had not been lying long, and Bilbo was only just getting
drowsy, when Dori, whose turn it was to watch first, said in a loud whisper:
     "The lights are coming out again over there, and there are more than ever of
them."
    Up they all jumped. There, sure enough, not far away were scores of twinkling
lights, and they heard the voices and the laughter quite plainly. They crept slowly
towards them, in a single line, each touching the back of the one in front. When
they got near Thorin said: "No rushing forward this time! No one is to stir from
hiding till I say. I shall send Mr. Baggins alone first to talk to them. They won't be
frightened of him-('What about me of them?' thought Bilbo)-and any way I hope
they won't do anything nasty to him."
    When they got to the edge of the circle of lights they pushed Bilbo suddenly
from behind. Before he had time to slip on his ring, he stumbled forward into the
full blaze of the fire and torches. It was no good. Out went all the lights again and
complete darkness fell. If it had been difficult collecting themselves before, it was
far worse this time. And they simply could not find the hobbit. Every time they
counted themselves it only made thirteen. They shouted and called: "Bilbo
Baggins! Hobbit! You dratted hobbit! Hi! hobbit, confusticate you, where are
you?" and other things of that sort, but there was no answer.
    They were just giving up hope, when Dori stumbled across him by sheer luck.
In the dark he fell over what he thought was a log, and he found it was the hobbit
curled up fast asleep. It took a deal of shaking to wake him, and when he was
awake he was not pleased at all.
    "I was having such a lovely dream," he grumbled, "all about having a most
gorgeous dinner."
    "Good heavens! he has gone like Bombur," they said. "Don't tell us about
dreams. Dream-dinners aren't any good, and we can't share them."
    "They are the best I am likely to get in this beastly place," he muttered, as he
lay down beside the dwarves and tried to go back to sleep and find his dream
again. But that was not the last of the lights in the forest. Later when the night
must have been getting old, Kili who was watching then, came and roused them
all again, saying:
    "There's a regular blaze of light begun not far away – hundreds of torches and
many fires must have been lit suddenly and by magic. And hark to the singing and
the harps!"
    After lying and listening for a while, they found they could not resist the desire
to go nearer and try once more to get help. Up they got again; and this time the
result was disastrous. The feast that they now saw was greater and more
magnificent than before; and at the head of a long line of feasters sat a woodland
king with a crown of leaves upon his golden hair, very much as Bombur had
described the figure in his dream. The elvish folk were passing bowls from hand to
hand and across the fires, and some were harping and many were singing. Their
gloaming hair was twined with flowers; green and white gems glinted on their
collars and their belts; and their faces and their songs were filled with mirth. Loud
and clear and fair were those songs, and out stepped Thorin into their midst.
    Dead silence fell in the middle of a word. Out went all light. The fires leaped
up in black smokes. Ashes and cinders were in the eyes of the dwarves, and the
wood was filled again with their clamour and their cries. Bilbo found himself
running round and round (as he thought) and calling and calling: "Dori, Nori, Ori,
Oin, Gloin, Fili, Kili, Bombur, Bifur, Bofur, Dwalin, Balin, Thorin Oakenshield,"
while people he could not see or feel were doing the same all round him (with an
occasional "Bilbo!" thrown in). But the cries of the others got steadily further and
fainter, and though after a while it seemed to him they changed to yells and cries
for help in the far distance, all noise at last died right away, and he was left alone
in complete silence and darkness.

     That was one of his most miserable moments. But he soon made up his mind
that it was no good trying to do anything till day came with some little light, and
quite useless to go blundering about tiring himself out with no hope of any
breakfast to revive him. So he sat himself down with his back to a tree, and not for
the last time fell to thinking of his far-distant hobbit-hole with its beautiful
pantries. He was deep in thoughts of bacon and eggs and toast and butter when he
felt something touch him. Something like a strong sticky string was against his left
hand, and when he tried to move he found that his legs were already wrapped in
the same stuff, so that when he got up he fell over.
     Then the great spider, who had been busy tying him up while he dozed, came
from behind him and came at him. He could only see the things's eyes, but he
could feel its hairy legs as it struggled to wind its abominable threads round and
round him. It was lucky that he had come to his senses in time. Soon he would not
have been able to move at all. As it was, he had a desperate fight before he got
free. He beat the creature off with his hands-it was trying to poison him to keep
him quiet, as small spiders do to flies-until he remembered his sword and drew it
out. Then the spider jumped back, and he had time to cut his legs loose. After that
it was his turn to attack. The spider evidently was not used to things that carried
such stings at their sides, or it would have hurried away quicker. Bilbo came at it
before it could disappear and struck it with his sword right in the eyes. Then it
went mad and leaped and danced and flung out its legs in horrible jerks, until he
killed it with another stroke; and then he fell down and remembered nothing more
for a long while.
    There was the usual dim grey light of the forest-day about him when he came
to his senses. The spider lay dead beside him, and his sword-blade was stained
black. Somehow the killing of the giant spider, all alone by himself in the dark
without the help of the wizard or the dwarves or of anyone else, made a great
difference to Mr. Baggins. He felt a different person, and much fiercer and bolder
in spite of an empty stomach, as he wiped his sword on the grass and put it back
into its sheath.
    "I will give you a name," he said to it, "and I shall call you Sting."
    After that he set out to explore. The forest was grim and silent, but obviously
he had first of all to look for his friends, who were not likely to be very far off,
unless they had been made prisoners by the elves (or worse things).
    Bilbo felt that it was unsafe to shout, and he stood a long while wondering in
what direction the path lay, and in what direction he should go first to look for the
dwarves. "O! why did we not remember Beorn's advice, and Gandalf's!" he
lamented. "What a mess we are in now! We! I only wish it was we: it is horrible
being all alone."
    In the end he made as good a guess as he could at the direction from which the
cries for help had come in the night – and by luck (he was born with a good share
of it) be guessed more or less right, as you will see. Having made up his mind he
crept along as cleverly as he could. Hobbits are clever at quietness, especially in
woods, as 1. have already told you; also Bilbo had slipped on his ring before he
started. That is why the spiders neither saw nor heard him coming.
    He had picked his way stealthily 'for some distance, when he noticed a place of
dense black shadow ahead of him black even for that forest, like a patch of
midnight that had never been cleared away. As he drew nearer, he saw that it was
made by spider-webs one behind and over and tangled with another. Suddenly he
saw, too, that there were spiders huge and horrible sitting in the branches above
him, and ring or no ring he trembled with fear lest they should discover him.
Standing behind a tree he watched a group of them for some time, and then in the
silence and stillness of the wood he realised that these loathsome creatures were
speaking one to another. Their voices were a sort of thin creaking and hissing, but
he could make out many of the words that they said. They were talking about the
dwarves!
    "It was a sharp struggle, but worth it," said one. "What nasty thick skins they
have to be sure, but I'll wager there is good juice inside."
     "Aye, they'll make fine eating, when they've hung a bit," said another.
     "Don't hang 'em too long," said a third. "They're not as fat as they might be.
Been feeding none too well of late, I should guess."
     "Kill'em, I say," hissed a fourth; "kill 'em now and hang 'em dead for a while."
     "They're dead now, I'll warrant," said the first.
     "That they are not. I saw one a-struggling just now. Just coming round again, I
should say, after a bee-autiful sleep. I'll show you."
     With that one of the fat spiders ran along a rope, till it came to a dozen bundles
hanging in a row from a high branch. Bilbo was horrified, now that he noticed
them for the first time dangling in the shadows, to see a dwarvish foot sticking out
of the bottoms of some of the bundles, or here and there the tip of a nose, or a bit
of beard or of a hood.
     To the fattest of these bundles the spider went--"It is poor old Bombur, I'll bet,"
thought Bilbo – and nipped hard at the nose that stuck out. There was a muffled
yelp inside, and a toe shot up and kicked the spider straight and hard. There was
life in Bombur still. There was a noise like the kicking of a flabby football, and
the enraged spider fell off the branch, only catching itself with its own thread just
in time.
     The others laughed. "You were quite right," they said, "the meat's alive and
kicking!"                  "
     "I'll soon put an end to that," hissed the angry spider climbing back onto the
branch.
     Bilbo saw that the moment had come when he must do something. He could
not get up at the brutes and he had nothing to shoot with; but looking about he
saw that in this place there were many stones lying in what appeared to be a now
dry little watercourse. Bilbo was a pretty fair shot with a stone, and it did not take
him long to find a nice smooth egg-shaped one that fitted his hand cosily.
     As a boy he used to practise throwing stones at things, until rabbits and
squirrels, and even birds, got out of his way as quick as lightning if they saw him
stoop; and even grownup he had still spent a deal of his time at quoits, dart-
throwing, shooting at the wand, bowls, ninepins and other quiet games of the
aiming and throwing sort-indeed he could do lots of things, besides blowing
smoke-rings, asking riddles and cooking, that I haven't had time to tell you about.
There is no time now. While he was picking up stones, the spider had reached
Bombur, and soon he would have been dead. At that moment Bilbo threw. The
stone struck the spider plunk on the head, and it dropped senseless off the tree, flop
to the ground, with all its legs curled up.
    The next stone went whizzing through a big web, snapping its cords, and
taking off the spider sitting in the middle of it, whack, dead. After that there was a
deal of commotion in the spider-colony, and they forgot the dwarves for a bit, I
can tell you. They could not see Bilbo, but they could make a good guess at the
direction from which the stones were coming. As quick as lightning they came
running and swinging towards the hobbit, flinging out their long threads in all
directions, till the air seemed full of waving snares. Bilbo, however, soon slipped
away to a different place. The idea came to him to lead the furious spiders further
and further away from the dwarves, if he could; to make them curious, excited and
angry all at once. When about fifty had gone off to the place where he had stood
before, he threw some more stones at these, and at others that had stopped behind;
then dancing among the trees he began to sing a song to infuriate them and bring
them all after him, and also to let the dwarves hear his voice.
    This is what he sang:

                Old fat spider spinning in a tree!
                Old fat spider can't see me!
                Attercop! Attercop!
                Won't you stop,
                Stop your spinning and look for me!

                Old Tomnoddy, all big body,
                Old Tomnoddy can't spy me!
                Attercop! Attercop!
                Down you drop!
                You'll never catch me up your tree!

    Not very good perhaps, but then you must remember that he had to make it up
himself, on the spur of a very awkward moment. It did what he wanted any way.
As he sang he threw some more stones and stamped. Practically all the spiders in
the place came after him: some dropped to the ground, others raced along the
branches, swung from tree to tree, or cast new ropes across the dark spaces. They
made for his noise far quicker than he had expected. They were frightfully angry.
Quite apart from the stones no spider has ever liked being called Attercop, and
Tomnoddy of course is insulting to anybody.
    Off Bilbo scuttled to a fresh place, but several of the spiders had run now to
different points in the glade where they lived, and were busy spinning webs across
all the spaces between the tree-stems. Very soon the hobbit would be caught in a
thick fence of them all round him-that at least was the spiders' idea. Standing now
in the middle of the hunting and spinning insects Bilbo plucked up his courage
and began a new song:
                Lazy Lob and crazy Cob
                are weaving webs to wind me.
                I am far more sweet than other meat,
                but still they cannot find me!

                Here am I, naughty little fly;
                you are fat and lazy.
                You cannot trap me, though you try,
                in your cobwebs crazy.

     With that he turned and found that the last space between two tall trees had
been closed with a web-but luckily not a proper web, only great strands of double-
thick spider-rope run hastily backwards and forwards from trunk to trunk. Out
came his little' sword. He slashed the threads to pieces and went off singing.
     The spiders saw the sword, though I don't suppose they knew what it was, and
at once the whole lot of them came hurrying after the hobbit along the ground and
the branches, hairy legs waving, nippers and spinners snapping, eyes popping, full
of froth and rage. They followed him into the forest until Bilbo had gone as far as
he dared.
     Then quieter than a mouse he stole back. He had precious little time, he knew,
before the spiders were disgusted and came back to their trees where the dwarves
were hung. In the meanwhile he had to rescue them. The worst part of the job was
getting up on to the long branch where the bundles were dangling. I don't suppose
he would have managed it, if a spider had not luckily left a rope hanging down;
with its help, though it stuck to his hand and hurt him, he scrambled up-only to
meet an old slow wicked fat-bodied spider who had remained behind to guard the
prisoners, and had been busy pinching them to see which was the juiciest to eat. It
had thought of starting the feast while the others were away, but Mr. Baggins was
in a hurry, and before the spider knew what was happening it felt his sting and
rolled off the branch dead. Bilbo's next job was to loose a dwarf. What was he to
do? If he cut the string which hung him up, the wretched dwarf would tumble
thump to the ground a good way below. Wriggling along the branch (which made
all the poor dwarves dance and dangle like ripe fruit) he reached the first bundle.
     "Fili or Kili," he thought by the tip of a blue hood sticking out at the top.
"Most likely Fili," he thought by the tip of a long nose poking out of the winding
threads. He managed by leaning over to cut most of the strong sticky threads that
bound him round, and then, sure enough, with a kick and a struggle most of Fili
emerged. I am afraid Bilbo actually laughed at the sight of him jerking his stiff
arms and legs as he danced on the spider-string under his armpits, just like one of
those funny toys bobbing on a wire.
     Somehow or other Fili was got on to the branch, and then he did his best to
help the hobbit, although he was feeling very sick and ill from spider-poison, and
from hanging most of the night and the next day wound round and round with
only his nose to breathe through. It took him ages to get the beastly stuff out of his
eyes and eyebrows, and as for his beard, he had to cut most of it off. Well, between
them they started to haul up first one dwarf and then another and slash them free.
None of them were better off than Fili, and some of them were worse. Some had
hardly been able to breathe at all (long noses are sometimes useful you see), and
some had been more poisoned.
     In this way they rescued Kili, Bifur, Bofur, Don and Nori. Poor old Bombur
was so exhausted-he was the fattest and had been constantly pinched and poked-
that he just rolled off the branch and fell plop on to the ground, fortunately on to
leaves, and lay there. But there were still five dwarves hanging at the end of the
branch when the spiders began to come back, more full of rage than ever. Bilbo
immediately went to the end of the branch nearest the tree-trunk and kept back
those that crawled up. He had taken off his ring when he rescued Fili and forgotten
to put it on again, so now they all began to splutter and hiss:
     "Now we see you, you nasty little creature! We will eat you and leave your
bones and skin hanging on a tree. Ugh! he's got a sting has he? Well, we'll get him
all the same, and then we'll hang him head downwards for a day or two."
     While this was going on, the other dwarves were working at the rest of the
captives, and cutting at the threads with their knives. Soon all would be free,
though it was not clear what would happen after that. The spiders had caught
them pretty easily the night before, but that had been unawares and in the dark.
This time there looked like being a horrible battle.
     Suddenly Bilbo noticed that some of the spiders had gathered round old
Bombur on the floor, and had tied him up again and were dragging him away. He
gave a shout and slashed at the spiders in front of him. They quickly gave way,
and he scrambled and fell down the tree right into the middle of those on the
ground. His little sword was something new in the way of stings for them. How it
darted to and fro! It shone with delight as he stabbed at them. Half a dozen were
killed before the rest drew off and left Bombur to Bilbo.
     "Come down! Come down!" he shouted to the dwarves on the branch. "Don't
stay up there and be netted!" For he saw spiders swarming up all the neighboring
trees, and crawling along the boughs above the heads of the dwarves.
    Down the dwarves scrambled or jumped or dropped, eleven all in a heap, most
of them very shaky and little use on their legs. There they were at last, twelve of
them counting poor old Bombur, who was being propped up on either side by his
cousin Bifur, and his brother Bofur; and Bilbo was dancing about and waving his
Sting; and hundreds of angry spiders were goggling at them all round and about
and above. It looked pretty hopeless.
    Then the battle began. Some of the dwarves had knives, and some had sticks,
and all of them could get at stones; and Bilbo had his elvish dagger. Again and
again the spiders were beaten off, and many of them were killed. But it could not
go on for long. Bilbo was nearly tired out; only four of the dwarves were able to
stand firmly, and soon they would all be overpowered like weary flies. Already the
spiders were beginning to weave their webs all round them again from tree to tree.
In the end Bilbo could think of no plan except to let the dwarves into the secret of
his ring. He was rather sorry about it, but it could not be helped.
    "I am going to disappear," he said. "I shall draw the spiders off, if I can; and
you must keep together and make in the opposite direction. To the left there, that
is more or less the way towards the place where we last saw the elf-fires."
    It was difficult to get them to understand, what with their dizzy heads, and the
shouts, and the whacking of sticks and the throwing of stones; but at last Bilbo felt
he could delay no longer-the spiders were drawing their circle ever closer. He
suddenly slipped on his ring, and to the great astonishment of the dwarves he
vanished.
    Soon there came the sound of "Lazy Lob" and "Attercop" from among the
trees away on the right. That upset the spiders greatly. They stopped advancing,
and some, went off in the direction of the voice. "Attercop" made them so angry
that they lost their wits. Then Balin, who had grasped Bilbo's plan better than the
rest, led an attack. The dwarves huddled together in a knot, and sending a shower
of stones they drove at the spiders on the left, and burst through the ring. Away
behind them now the shouting and singing suddenly stopped.
    Hoping desperately that Bilbo had not been caught the dwarves went on. Not
fast enough, though. They were sick and weary, and they could not go much better
than a hobble and a wobble, though many of the spiders were close behind. Every
now and then they had to turn and fight the creatures that were overtaking them
and already some spiders were in the trees above them and throwing down their
long clinging threads.
    Things were looking pretty bad again, when suddenly Bilbo appeared and
charged into the astonished spiders unexpectedly from the side.
    "Go on! Go on!" he shouted. "I will do the stinging!" And he did. He darted
backwards and forwards, slashing at spider-threads, hacking at their legs, and
stabbing at their fat bodies if they came too near. The spiders swelled with rage,
and spluttered and frothed, and hissed out horrible curses; but they had become
mortally afraid of Sting, and dared not come very near, now that it had come back.
So curse as they would, their prey moved slowly but steadily away. It was a most
terrible business, and seemed to take hours. But at last, just when Bilbo felt that he
could not lift his hand for a single stroke more, the spiders suddenly gave it up,
and followed them no more, but went back disappointed to their dark colony.
    The dwarves then noticed that they had come to the edge of a ring where elf-
fires had been. Whether it was one of those they had seen the night before, they
could not tell. But it seemed that some good magic lingered in such spots, which
the spiders did not like. At any rate here the light was greener, and the boughs less
thick and threatening, and they had a chance to rest and draw breath.
    There they lay for some time, puffing and panting. put very soon they began to
ask questions. They had to have the whole vanishing business carefully explained,
and the finding of the ring interested them so much that for a while they forgot
their own troubles. Balin in particular insisted on having the Gollum story, riddles
and all, told all over again, with the ring in its proper place. But after a time the
light began to fail, and then other questions were asked. Where were they, and
where was their path, and where was there any food, and what were they going to
do next? These questions they asked over and over again, and it was from little
Bilbo that they seemed to expect to get the answers. From which you can see that
they had changed their opinion of Mr. Baggins very much, and had begun to have
a great respect for him (as Gandalf had said they would). Indeed they really
expected him to think of some wonderful plan for helping them, and were not
merely grumbling. They knew only too well that they would soon all have been
dead, if it had not been for the hobbit; and they thanked him many times. Some of
them even got up and bowed right to the ground before him, though they fell over
with the effort, and could not get on their legs again for some time. Knowing the
truth about the vanishing did not lessen their opinion of Bilbo at all; for they saw
that he had some wits, as well as luck and a magic ring-and all three are very
useful possessions. In fact they praised him so much that Bilbo began to feel there
really was something of a bold adventurer about himself after all, though he I
would have felt a lot bolder still, if there had been anything to eat.
    But there was nothing, nothing at all; and none of them Were fit to go and look
for anything, or to search for the lost path. The lost path! No other idea would
come into Bilbo's tired head. He just sat staring in front of him at the endless trees;
and after a while they all fell silent again. All except Balin. Long after the others
had stopped talking and shut their eyes, he kept on muttering and chuckling to
himself.
    "Gollum! Well I'm blest! So that's how he sneaked past me is it? Now I know!
Just crept quietly along did you, Mr. Baggins? Buttons all over the doorstep?
Good old Bilbo-Bilbo-Bilbo-bo-bo-bo–" And then he fell asleep, and there was
complete silence for a long time.
    All of a sudden Dwalin opened an eye, and looked round at them. "Where is
Thorin?" he asked. It was a terrible shock. Of course there were only thirteen of
them, twelve dwarves and the hobbit. Where indeed was Thorin? They wondered
what evil fate had befallen him, magic or dark monsters; and shuddered as they
lay lost in the forest. There they dropped off one by one into uncomfortable sleep
full of horrible dreams, as evening wore to black night; and there we must leave
them for the present, too sick and weary to set guards or take turns watching.
    Thorin had been caught much faster than they had. You remember Bilbo
falling like a log into sleep, as he stepped into a circle of light? The next time it
had been Thorin who stepped forward, and as the lights went out he fell like a
stone enchanted. All the noise of the dwarves lost in the night, their cries as the
spiders caught them and bound them, and all the sounds of the battle next day, had
passed over him unheard. Then the Wood-elves had come to him, and bound him,
and carried him away. The feasting people were Wood-elves, of course. These are
not wicked folk. If they have a fault it is distrust of strangers. Though their magic
was strong, even in those days they were wary. They differed from the High Elves
of the West, and were more dangerous and less wise. For most of them (together
with their scattered relations in the hills and mountains) were descended from the
ancient tribes that never went to Faerie in the West. There the Light-elves and the
Deep-elves and the Sea-elves went and lived for ages, and grew fairer and wiser
and more learned, and invented their magic and their cunning craft, in the making
of beautiful and marvellous things, before some came back into the Wide World.
In the Wide World the Wood-elves lingered in the twilight of our Sun and Moon
but loved best the stars; and they wandered in the great forests that grew tall in
lands that are now lost. They dwelt most often by the edges of the woods, from
which they could escape at times to hunt, or to ride and run over the open lands by
moonlight or starlight; and after the coming of Men they took ever more and more
to the gloaming and the dusk. Still elves they were and remain, and that is Good
People.
    In a great cave some miles within the edge of Mirkwood on its eastern side
there lived at this time their greatest king. Before his huge doors of stone a river
ran out of the heights of the forest and flowed on and out into the marshes at the
feet of the high wooded lands. This great cave, from which countless smaller ones
opened out on every side, wound far underground and had many passages and
wide halls; but it was lighter and more wholesome than any goblin-dwelling, and
neither so deep nor so dangerous. In fact the subjects of the king mostly lived and
hunted in the open woods, and had houses or huts on the ground and in the
branches. The beeches were their favourite trees. The king's cave was his palace,
and the strong place of his treasure, and the fortress of his people against their
enemies.
    It was also the dungeon of his prisoners. So to the cave they dragged Thorin-
not too gently, for they did not love dwarves, and thought he was an enemy. In
ancient days they had had wars with some of the dwarves, whom they accused of
stealing their treasure. It is only fair to say that the dwarves gave a different
account, and said that they only took what was their due, for the elf-king had bar-
gained with them to shape his raw gold and silver, and had afterwards refused to
give them their pay. If the elf-king had a weakness it was for treasure, especially
for silver and white gems; and though his hoard was rich, he was ever eager for
more, since he had not yet as great a treasure as other elf-lords of old. His people
neither mined nor worked metals or jewels, nor did they bother much with trade or
with tilling the earth. All this was well known to every dwarf, though Thorin's
family had had nothing to do with the old quarrel I have spoken of. Consequently
Thorin was angry at their treatment of him, when they took their spell off him and
he came to his senses; and also he was determined that no word of gold or jewels
should be dragged out of him.
    The king looked sternly on Thorin, when he was brought before him, and
asked him many questions. But Thorin would only say that he was starving.
    "Why did you and your folk three times try to attack my people at their
merrymaking?" asked the king.
    "We did not attack them," answered Thorin; "we came to beg, because we
were starving."
    "Where are your friends now, and what are they doing?"
    "I don't know, but I expect starving in the forest."
    "What were you doing in the forest?"
    "Looking for food and drink, because we were starving."
    "But what brought you into the forest at all?" asked the king angrily.
    At that Thorin shut his mouth and would not say another word.
    "Very well!" said the king. "Take him away and keep him safe, until he feels
inclined to tell the truth, even if he waits a hundred years.'"
    Then the elves put thongs on him, and shut him in one of the inmost caves with
strong wooden doors, and left him. They gave him food and drink, plenty of both,
if not very fine; for Wood-elves were not goblins, and were reasonably well-
behaved even to their worst enemies, when they captured them. The giant spiders
were the only living things that they had no mercy upon.
    There in the king's dungeon poor Thorin lay; and after he had got over his
thankfulness for bread and meat and water, he began to wonder what had become
of his unfortunate friends. It was not very long before he discovered; but that
belongs to the next chapter and the beginning of another adventure in which the
hobbit again showed his usefulness.
                                       Chapter 9
                                 Barrels Out of Bond

     The day after the battle with the spiders Bilbo and the dwarves made one last
despairing effort to find a way out before they died of hunger and thirst. They got
up and staggered on in the direction which eight out of the thirteen of them
guessed to be the one in which the path lay; but they never found out if they were
right. Such day as there ever was in the forest was fading once more into the
blackness of night, when suddenly out sprang the light of many torches all round
them, like hundreds of red stars. Out leaped Wood-elves with their bows and
spears and called the dwarves to halt.
     There was no thought of a fight. Even if the dwarves had not been in such a
state that they were actually glad to be captured, their small knives, the only
weapons they had, would have been of no use against the arrows of the elves that
could hit a bird's eye in the dark. So they simply stopped dead and sat down and
waited-all except Bilbo, who popped on his ring and slipped quickly to one side.
     That is why, when the elves bound the dwarves in a long line, one behind the
other, and counted them, they never found or counted the hobbit. Nor did they
hear or feel him trotting along well behind their torch-light as they led off their
prisoners into the forest. Each dwarf was blindfold, but that did not make much
difference, for even Bilbo with the use of his eyes could not see where they were
going, and neither he nor the others knew where they had started from anyway.
Bilbo had all he could do to keep up with the torches, for the elves were making
the dwarves go as fast as ever they could, sick and weary as they were. The king
had ordered them to make haste. Suddenly the torches stopped, and the hobbit had
just time to catch them up before they began to cross the bridge. This was the
bridge that led across the river to the king's doors. The water flowed dark and
swift and strong beneath; and at the far end were gates before the mouth of a huge
cave that ran into the side of a steep slope covered with trees. There the great
beeches came right down to the bank, till their feet were in the stream. Across this
bridge the elves thrust their prisoners, but Bilbo hesitated in the rear. He did not at
all like the look of the cavern-mouth and he only made up his mind not to desert
his friends just in time to scuttle over at the heels of the fast elves, before the great
gates of the king closed behind them with a clang.
     Inside the passages were lit with red torch-light, and the elf-guards sang as
they marched along the twisting, crossing, and echoing paths. These were not like
those of the goblin-cities: they were smaller, less deep underground, and filled
with a cleaner air. In a great hall with pillars hewn out of the living stone sat the
Elvenking on a chair of carven wood. On his head was a crown of berries and red
leaves, for the autumn was come again. In the spring he wore a crown of
woodland flowers. In his hand he held a carven staff of oak.
     The prisoners were brought before him; and though he looked grimly at them,
he told his men to unbind them, for they were ragged and weary. "Besides they
need no ropes in here," said he. "There is no escape from my magic doors for those
who are once brought inside."
     Long and searchingly he questioned the dwarves about their doings, and where
they were going to, and where they were coming from; but he got little more news
out of them than out of Thorin. They were surly and angry and did not even
pretend to be polite.
     "What have we done, O king?" said Balin, who was the eldest left. "Is it a
crime to be lost in the forest, to be hungry and thirsty, to be trapped by spiders?
Are the spiders your tame beasts or your pets, if killing them makes you angry?"
Such a question of course made the king angrier than ever, and he answered: "It is
a crime to wander in my realm without leave. Do you forget that you were in my
kingdom, using the road that my people made? Did you not three times pursue
and trouble my people in the forest and ' rouse the spiders with your riot and
clamour? After all the disturbance you have made I have a right to know what
brings you here, and if you will not tell me now, I will keep you all in prison until
you have learned sense and manners!"
     Then he ordered the dwarves each to be put in a separate cell and to be given
food and drink, but not to be allowed to pass the doors of their little prisons, until
one at least of them was willing to tell him all he wanted to know. But be did not
tell them that Thorin was also a prisoner with him. It was Bilbo who found that
out.

    Poor Mr. Baggins – it was a weary long time that he lived in that place all
alone, and always in hiding, never daring to take off his ring, hardly daring to
sleep, even tucked away in the darkest and remotest comers he could find. For
something to do he took to wandering about the Elven-king's palace. Magic shut
the gates, but be could sometimes get out, if he was quick. Companies of the
Wood-elves, sometimes with the king at their head, would from time to time ride
out to hunt, or to other business in the woods and in the lands to the East. Then if
Bilbo was very nimble, he could slip out just behind them; though it was a
dangerous thing to do. More than once he was nearly caught in the doors, as they
clashed together when the last elf passed; yet he did not dare to march among
them because of his shadow (altogether thin and wobbly as it was in torch-light),
or for fear of being bumped into and discovered. And when he did go out, which
was not very often, he did no good. He did not wish to desert the dwarves, and
indeed he did not know where in the world to go without them. He could not keep
up with the hunting elves all the time they were out, so he never discovered the
ways out of the wood, and was left to wander miserably in the forest, terrified of
losing himself, until a chance came of returning. He was hungry too outside, for
he was no hunter; but inside the caves he could pick up a living of some sort by
stealing food from store or table when no one was at hand. "I am like a burglar
that can't get away, but must go on miserably burgling the same house day after
day," he thought. "This is the dreariest and dullest part of all this wretched,
tiresome, uncomfortable adventure! I wish I was back in my hobbit-hole by my
own warm fireside with the lamp shining!" He often wished, too, that he could get
a message for help sent to the wizard, but that of course was quite impossible; and
he soon realized that if anything was to be done, it would have to be done by Mr.
Baggins, alone and unaided.
     Eventually, after a week or two of this sneaking sort of life, by watching and
following the guards and taking what chances he could, he managed to find out
where each dwarf was kept. He found all their twelve cells in different parts of the
palace, and after a time he got to know his way about very well. What was his
surprise one day to overhear some of the guards talking and to learn that there was
another dwarf in prison too, in a specially deep dark place. He guessed at once, of
course, that that was Thorin; and after a while he found that his guess was right.
At last after many difficulties he managed to find the place when no one was
about, and to have a word with the chief of the dwarves. Thorin was too wretched
to be angry any longer at his misfortunes, and was even beginning to think of
telling the king all about his treasure and his quest (which shows how low-spirited
he had become), when he heard Bilbo's little voice at his keyhole. He could hardly
believe his ears. Soon however he made up his mind that he could not be
mistaken, and he came to the door and had a long whispered talk with the hobbit
on the other side.
     So it was that Bilbo was able to take secretly Thorin's message to each of the
other imprisoned dwarves, telling them that Thorin their chief was also in prison
close at hand, and that no one was to reveal their errand to the long, not yet, not
before Thorin gave the word. For Thorin had taken heart again hearing how the
hobbit had rescued his companions from the spiders, and was determined once
more not to ransom himself with promises to the king of a share in the treasure,
until all hope of escaping in any other way had disappeared; until in fact the
remarkable Mr. Invisible Baggins (of whom he began to have a very high opinion
indeed) had altogether failed to think of something clever.
    The other dwarves quite agreed when they got the message. They all thought
their own shares in the treasure (which they quite regarded as theirs, in spite of
their plight and the still unconquered dragon) would suffer seriously if the Wood-
elves claimed part of it, and they all trusted Bilbo. Just what Gandalf had said
would happen, you see. Perhaps that war part of his reason for going off and
leaving them.
    Bilbo, however, did not feel nearly so hopeful as they did. He did not like
being depended on by everyone, and he wished he had the wizard at hand. But that
was no use: probably all the dark distance of Mirkwood lay between them. He sat
and thought and thought, until his head nearly burst, but no bright idea would
come. One invisible ring was a very fine thing, but it was not much good among
fourteen. But of course, as you have guessed, he did rescue his friends in the end,
and this is how it happened. One day, nosing and wandering about. Bilbo
discovered a very interesting thing: the great gates were not the only entrance to
the caves. A stream flowed under part of the lowest regions of the palace, and
joined the Forest River some way further to the east, beyond the steep slope out of
which the main mouth opened. Where this underground watercourse came forth
from the hillside there was a water-gate. There the rocky roof came down close to
the surface of the stream, and from it a portcullis could be dropped right to the bed
of the river to prevent anyone coming in or out that way. But the portcullis was
often open, for a good deal of traffic went out and in by the water-gate. If anyone
had come in that way, he would have found himself in a dark rough tunnel leading
deep into the heart of the hill; but at one point where it passed under the caves the
roof had been cut away and covered with great oaken trapdoors. These opened
upwards into the king's cellars. There stood barrels, and barrels, and barrels; for
the Wood-elves, and especially their king, were very fond of wine, though no vines
grew in those parts. The wine, and other goods, were brought from far away, from
their kinsfolk in the South, or from the vineyards of Men in distant lands.
    Hiding behind one of the largest barrels Bilbo discovered the trapdoors and
their use, and lurking there, listening to the talk of the king's servants, he learned
how the wine and other goods came up the rivers, or over land, to the Long Lake.
It seemed a town of Men still throve there, built out on bridges far into the water
as a protection against enemies of all sorts, and especially against the dragon of
the Mountain. From Lake-town the barrels were brought up the Forest River.
Often they were just tied together like big rafts and poled or rowed up the stream;
sometimes they were loaded on to flat boats.
    When the barrels were empty the elves cast them through the trapdoors,
opened the water-gate, and out the barrels floated on the stream, bobbing along,
until they were carried by the current to a place far down the river where the bank
jutted out, near to the very eastern edge of Mirkwood. There they were collected
and tied together and floated back to Lake-town, which stood close to the point
where the Forest River flowed into the Long Lake.

     For some time Bilbo sat and thought about this water-gate, and wondered if it
could be used for the escape of his friends, and at last he had the desperate
beginnings of a plan.
     The evening meal had been taken to the prisoners. The guards were tramping
away down the passages taking the torch-light with them and leaving everything
in darkness. Then Bilbo heard the king's butler bidding the chief of the guards
good-night.
     "Now come with me," he said, "and taste the new wine that has just come in. I
shall be hard at work tonight clearing the cellars of the empty wood, so let us have
a drink first to help the labour."
     "Very good," laughed the chief of the guards. "I'll taste with you, and see if it is
fit for the king's table. There is a feast tonight and it would not do to send up poor
stuff!"

    When he heard this Bilbo was all in a flutter, for he saw that luck was with
him and he had a chance at once to try his desperate plan. He followed the two
elves, until they entered a small cellar and sat down at a table on which two large
flagons were set. Soon they began to drink and laugh merrily. Luck of an unusual
kind was with Bilbo then. It must be potent wine to make a wood-elf drowsy; but
this wine, it would seem, was the heady vintage of the great gardens of Dorwinion,
not meant for his soldiers or his servants, but for the king's feasts only, and for
smaller bowls, not for the butler's great flagons.
    Very soon the chief guard nodded his head, then he laid it on the table and fell
fast asleep. The butler went on talking and laughing to himself for a while without
seeming to notice, but soon his head too nodded to the table, and he fell asleep and
snored beside his friend. Then in crept the hobbit. Very soon the chief guard had
no keys, but Bilbo was trotting as fast as he could along the passage towards the
cells. The great bunch seemed very heavy to his arms, and his heart was often in
his mouth, in spite of his ring, for he could not prevent the keys from making
every now and then a loud clink and clank, which put him all in a tremble.
    First he unlocked Balin's door, and locked it again carefully as soon as the
dwarf was outside. Balin was most surprised, as you can imagine; but glad as he
was to get out of his wearisome little stone room, he wanted to stop and ask
questions, and know what Bilbo was going to do, and all about it.
    "No time now!" said the hobbit. "You must follow me! We must all keep
together and not risk getting separated. All of us must escape or none, and this is
our last chance. If this is found out, goodness knows where the king will put you
next, with chains on your hands and feet too, I expect. Don't argue, there's a good
fellow!"
    Then off he went from door to door, until his following had grown to twelve-
none of them any too nimble, what with the dark, and what with their long
imprisonment. Bilbo's heart thumped every time one of them bumped into another,
or grunted or whispered in the dark. "Drat this dwarvish racket!" he said to
himself. But all went well, and they met no guards. As a matter of fact there was a
great autumn feast in the woods that night, and in the halls above. Nearly all the
king's folks were merrymaking. At last after much blundering they came to
Thorin's dungeon, far down in a deep place and fortunately not far from the
cellars.
    "Upon my word!" said Thorin, when Bilbo whispered to him to come out and
join his friends, "Gandalf spoke true, as usual. A pretty fine burglar you make, it
seems, when the time comes. I am sure we are all for ever at your service,
whatever happens after this. But what comes next?"
    Bilbo saw that the time had come to explain his idea, as far as he could; but he
did not feel at all sure bow the dwarves would take it. His fears were quite
justified, for they did not like it a bit, and started grumbling loudly in spite of their
danger.
    "We shall be bruised and battered to pieces, and drowned too, for certain!"
they muttered. "We thought you had got some sensible notion, when you managed
to get hold of the keys. This is a mad idea!"
    "Very well!" said Bilbo very downcast, and also rather annoyed. "Come along
back to your nice cells, and I will lock you all in again, and you can sit there
comfortably and think of a better plan-but I don't suppose I shall ever get hold of
the keys again, even if I feel inclined to try."
     "That was too much for them, and they calmed down. In the end, of course,
they had to do just what Bilbo suggested, because it was obviously impossible for
them to try and find their way into the upper halls, or to fight their way out of
gates that closed by magic; and it was no good grumbling in the passages until
they were caught again. So following the hobbit, down into the lowest cellars they
crept. They passed a door through which the chief guard and the butler could be
seen still happily snoring with smiles upon their faces. The wine of Dorwinion
brings deep and pleasant dreams. There would be a different expression on the
face of the chief guard next day, even though Bilbo, before they went on, stole in
and kindheartedly put the keys back on his belt.
     "That will save him some of the trouble he is in for," said Mr. Baggins to
himself. "He wasn't a bad fellow, and quite decent to the prisoners. It will puzzle
them all too. They will think we had a very strong magic to pass through all those
locked doors and disappear. Disappear! We have got to get busy very quick, if that
is to happen!"

     Balin was told off to watch the guard and the butler and give warning if they
stirred. The rest went into the adjoining cellar with the trapdoors. There was little
time to lose. Before long, as Bilbo knew, some elves were under orders to come
down and help the butler get the empty barrels through the doors into the stream.
These were in fact already standing in rows in the middle of the floor waiting to be
pushed off. Some of them were wine-barrels, and these were not much use, as they
could not easily be opened at the end without a deal of noise, nor could they easily
be secured again. But among them were several others which had been used for
bringing other stuffs, butter, apples, and all sorts of things, to the king's palace.
     They soon found thirteen with room enough for a dwarf in each. In fact some
were too roomy, and as they climbed in the dwarves thought anxiously of the
shaking and the bumping they would get inside, though Bilbo did his best to find
straw and other stuff to pack them in as cosily as could be managed in a short
time. At last twelve dwarves were stowed. Thorin had given a lot of trouble, and
turned and twisted in his tub and grumbled like a large dog in a small kennel;
while Balin, who came last, made a great fuss about his air-holes and said he was
stifling, even before his lid was on. Bilbo had done what he could to close holes in
the sides of the barrels, and to fix on all the lids as safely as could be managed,
and now he was left alone again, running round putting the finishing touches-to
the packing, and hoping against hope that his plan would come off.
     It had not been a-bit too soon. Only a minute or two after Balin's lid had been
fitted on there came the sound of voices and the flicker of lights. A number of
elves came laughing and talking into the cellars and singing snatches of song.
They had left a merry feast in one of the halls and were bent on returning as soon
as they could. "Where's old Galion, the butler?" said one. "I haven't seen him at
the tables tonight. He ought to be here now to show us what is to be done."
     "I shall be angry if the old slowcoach is late," said another. "I have no wish to
waste time down here while the song is up!"
     "Ha, ha!" came a cry. "Here's the old villain with his head on a jug! He's been
having a little feast all to himself and his friend the captain."
     "Shake him! Wake him!" shouted the others impatiently. Gallon was not at all
pleased at being shaken or wakened, and still less at being laughed at. "You're all
late," he grumbled. "Here am I waiting and waiting down here, while you fellows
drink and make merry and forget your tasks. Small wonder if I fall asleep from
weariness!"
     "Small wonder," said they, "when the explanation stands close at hand in a
jug! Come give us a taste of your sleeping-draught before we fall to! No need to
wake the turnkey yonder. He has had his share by the looks of it."
     Then they drank once round and became mighty merry all of a sudden. But
they did not quite lose their wits. "Save us, Galion!" cried some, "you began your
feasting early and muddled your wits! You have stacked some full casks here
instead of the empty ones, if there is anything in weight."
     "Get on with the work!" growled the butler. "There is nothing in the feeling of
weight in an idle toss-pot's arms. These are the ones to go and no others. Do as I
say!"
     "Very well, very well," they answered rolling the barrels to the opening. "On
your head be it, if the king's full buttertubs and his best wine is pushed into the
river for the Lake-men to feast on for nothing!"

                Roll-roll-roll-roll,
                roll-roll-rolling down the hole I
                Heave ho! Splash plump !
                Down they go, down they bump!

    So they sang as first one barrel and then another rumbled to the dark opening
and was pushed over into the cold water some feet below. Some were barrels
really empty, some were tubs neatly packed with a dwarf each; but down they all
went, one after another, with many a clash and a bump, thudding on top of ones
below, smacking into the water, jostling against the walls of the tunnel, knocking
into one another, and bobbing away down the current.
    It was just at this moment that Bilbo suddenly discovered the weak point in his
plan. Most likely you saw it some time ago and have been laughing at him; but I
don't suppose you would have done half as well yourselves in his place. Of course
he was not in a barrel himself, nor was there anyone to pack him in, even if there
had been a chance! It looked as if he would certainly lose his friends this time
(nearly all of them had already disappeared through the dark trap-door), and get
utterly left behind and have to stay lurking as a permanent burglar in the elf-caves
for ever. For even if he could have escaped through the upper gates at once, he had
precious small chance of ever finding the dwarves again. He did not know the way
by land to the place where the barrels were collected. He wondered what on earth
would happen to them without him; for he had not had time to tell the dwarves all
that he had learned, or what he had meant to do, once they were out of the wood.
While all these thoughts were passing through his mind, the elves being very
merry began to sing a song round the river-door. Some had already gone to haul
on the ropes which pulled up the portcullis at the water-gate so as to let out the
barrels as soon as they were all afloat below.

                Down the swift dark stream you go
                Back to lands you once did know!
                Leave the halls and caverns deep,
                Leave the northern mountains steep,
                Where the forest wide and dim
                Stoops in shadow grey and grim!
                Float beyond the world of trees
                Out into the whispering breeze,
                Past the rushes, past the reeds,
                Past the marsh's waving weeds,
                Through the mist that riseth white
                Up from mere and pool at night!
                Follow, follow stars that leap
                Up the heavens cold and steep;
                Turn when dawn comes over land,
                Over rapid, over sand,
                South away! and South away!
                Seek the sunlight and the day,
                Back to pasture, back to mead,
                Where the kine and oxen feed!
                Back to gardens on the hills
                Where the berry swells and fills
                Under sunlight, under day!
                South away! and South away!
                Down the swift dark stream you go
                Back to lands you once did know!

     Now the very last barrel was being rolled to the doors! In despair and not
knowing what else to do, poor little Bilbo caught hold of it and was pushed over
the edge with it. Down into the water he fell, splash! into the cold dark water with
the barrel on top of him. He came up again spluttering and clinging to the wood
like a rat, but for all his efforts he could not scramble on top. Every time he tried,
the barrel rolled round and ducked him under again. It was really empty, and
floated light as a cork. Though his ears were full of water, he could hear the elves
still singing in the cellar above. Then suddenly the trapdoors fell to with a boom
and their voices faded away. He was in the dark tunnel, floating in icy water, all
alone-for you cannot count friends that are all packed up in barrels.
     Very soon a grey patch came up in the darkness ahead. He heard the creak of
the water-gate being hauled up, and he found that he was in the midst of a bobbing
and bumping mass of casks and tubs all pressing together to pass under the arch
and get out into the open stream. He had as much as he could do to prevent
himself from being hustled and battered to bits; but at last the jostling crowd
began to break up and swing off, one by one, under the stone arch and away. Then
he saw that it would have been no good even if he had managed to get astride his
barrel, for there was no room to spare, not even for a hobbit, between its top and
the suddenly stooping roof where the gate was.

    Out they went under the overhanging branches of the trees on either bank.
Bilbo wondered what the dwarves were feeling and whether a lot of water was
getting into their tubs. Some of those that bobbed along by him in the gloom
seemed pretty low in the water, and he guessed that these had dwarves inside.
    "I do hope I put the lids on tight enough!" he thought, but before long he was
worrying too much about himself to remember the dwarves. He managed to keep
his head above the water, but he was shivering with the cold, and he wondered if
he would die of it before the luck turned, and how much longer he would be able
to hang on, and whether he should risk the chance of letting go and trying to swim
to the bank.
    The luck turned all right before long: the eddying current carried several
barrels close ashore at one point and there for a while they stuck against some
hidden root. Then Bilbo took the opportunity of scrambling up the side of his
barrel while it was held steady against another. Up he crawled like a drowned rat,
and lay on the top spread out to keep the balance as best he could. The breeze was
cold but better than the water, and he hoped he would not suddenly roll off again
when they started off once more. Before long the barrels broke free again and
turned and twisted off down the stream, and out into the main current Then he
found it quite as difficult to stick on as he had feared; but he managed it somehow,
though it was miserably uncomfortable. Luckily he was very light, and the barrel
was a good big one and being rather leaky had now shipped a small amount of
water. All the same it was like trying to ride, without bridle or stirrups, a round-
bellied pony that was always thinking of rolling on the grass. In this way at last
Mr. Baggins came to a place where the trees on either hand grew thinner. He could
see the paler sky between them. The dark river opened suddenly wide, and there it
was joined to the main water of the Forest River flowing down in haste from the
king's great doors. There was a dim sheet of water no longer overshadowed, and
on its sliding surface there were dancing and broken reflections of clouds and of
stars. Then the hurrying water of the Forest River swept all the company of casks
and tubs away to the north bank, in which it had eaten out a wide bay. This had a
shingly shore under hanging banks and was walled at the eastern end by a little
jutting cape of hard rock. On the shallow shore most of the barrels ran aground,
though a few went on to bump against the stony pier.
    There were people on the look-out on the banks. They quickly poled and
pushed all the barrels together into the shallows, and when they had counted them
they roped them together and left them till the morning. Poor dwarves! Bilbo was
not so badly off now. He slipped from his barrel and waded ashore, and then
sneaked along to some huts that he could see near the water's edge. He no longer
thought twice about picking up a supper uninvited if he got the chance, he had
been obliged to do it for so long, and he knew only too well what it was to be
really hungry, not merely politely interested in the dainties of a well-filled larder.
Also he had caught a glimpse of a fire through the trees, and that appealed to him
with his dripping and ragged clothes clinging to him cold and clammy.

   There is no need to tell you much of his adventures that night, for now we are
drawing near the end of the eastward journey and coming to the last and greatest
adventure, so we must hurry on. Of course helped by his magic ring he got on
very well at first, but he was given away in the end by his wet footsteps and the
trail of drippings that he left wherever he went or sat; and also he began to snivel,
and wherever he tried to hide he was found out by the terrific explosions of his
suppressed sneezes. Very soon there was a fine commotion in the village by the
riverside; but Bilbo escaped into the woods carrying a loaf and a leather bottle of
wine and a pie that did not belong to him. The rest of the night he had to pass wet
as he was and far from a fire, but the bottle helped him to do that, and he actually
dozed a little on some dry leaves, even though the year was getting late and the air
was chilly.
    He woke again with a specially loud sneeze. It was already grey morning, and
there was a merry racket down by the river. They were making up a raft of barrels,
and the raft-elves would soon be steering it off down the stream to Lake-town.
Bilbo sneezed again. He was no longer dripping but he felt cold all over. He
scrambled down as fast as his stiff legs would take him and managed just in time
to get on to the mass of casks without being noticed in the general bustle. Luckily
there was no sun at the time to cast an awkward shadow, and for a mercy he did
not sneeze again for a good while.
    There was a mighty pushing of poles. The elves that were standing in the
shallow .water heaved and shoved. The barrels now all lashed together creaked
and fretted. .
    "This is a heavy load!" some grumbled. "They float too deep-some of these are
never empty. If they had come ashore in the daylight, we might have had a look
inside," they said.
    "No time now!" cried the raftman. "Shove off!"
    And off they went at last, slowly at first, until they had passed the point of rock
where other elves stood to fend them off with poles, and then quicker and quicker
as they caught the main stream and went sailing away down, down towards the
Lake.
    They had escaped the dungeons of the king and were through the wood, but
whether alive or dead still remains to be seen.
                                    Chapter 10
                                A Warm Welcome

    The day grew lighter and warmer as they floated along. After a while the river
rounded a steep shoulder of land that came down upon their left. Under its rocky
feet like an inland cliff the deepest stream had flowed lapping and bubbling.
Suddenly the cliff fell away. The shores sank. The trees ended. Then Bilbo saw a
sight: The lands opened wide about him, filled with the waters of the river which
broke up and wandered in a hundred winding courses, or halted in marshes and
pools dotted with isles on every side: but still a strong water flowed on steadily
through the midst. And far away, its dark head in a torn cloud, there loomed the
Mountain! Its nearest neighbours to the North-East and the tumbled land that
joined it to them could not be seen. All alone it rose and looked across the marshes
to the forest. The Lonely Mountain! Bilbo had come far and through many
adventures to see it, and now he did not like the look of it in the least.
    As he listened to the talk of the raftmen and pieced together the scraps of
information they let fall, he soon realized that he was very fortunate ever to have
seen it at all, even from this distance. Dreary as had been his imprisonment and
unpleasant as was his position (to say nothing of the poor dwarves underneath
him) still, he had been more lucky than he had guessed. The talk was all of the
trade that came and went on the waterways and the growth of the traffic on the
river, as the roads out of the East towards Mirkwood vanished or fell into disuse;
and of the bickerings of the Lake-men and the Wood-elves about the upkeep of the
Forest River and the care of the banks.
    Those lands had changed much since the days when dwarves dwelt in the
Mountain, days which most people now remembered only as a very shadowy
tradition. They had changed even in recent years, and since the last news that
Gandalf had had of them. Great floods and rains had swollen the waters that
flowed east; and there had been an earthquake or two (which some were inclined
to attribute to the dragon-alluding to him chiefly with a curse and an ominous nod
in the direction of the Mountain). The marshes and bogs had spread wider and
wider on either side. Paths had vanished, and many a rider and wanderer too, if
they had tried to find the lost ways across. The elf-road through the wood which
the dwarves had followed on the advice of Beorn now came to a doubtful and little
used end at the eastern edge of the forest; only the river offered any longer a safe
way from the skirts of Mirkwood in the North to the mountain-shadowed plains
beyond, and the river was guarded by the Wood-elves' king.
    So you see Bilbo had come in the end by the only road that was any good. It
might have been some comfort to Mr. Baggins shivering on the barrels, if he had
known that news of this had reached Gandalf far away and given him great
anxiety, and that he was in fact finishing his other business (which does not come
into this tale) and getting ready to come in search of Thorin's company. But Bilbo
did not know it.
    All he knew was that the river seemed to go on and on and on for ever, and he
was hungry, and had a nasty cold in the nose, and did not like the way the
Mountain seemed to frown at him and threaten him as it drew ever nearer. After a
while, however, the river took a more southerly course and the Mountain receded
again, and at last, late in the day the shores grew rocky, the river gathered all its
wandering waters together into a deep and rapid flood, and they swept along at
great speed.
    The sun had set when turning with another sweep towards the East the forest-
river rushed into the Long Lake. There it had a wide mouth with stony clifflike
gates at either side whose feet were piled with shingles. The Long Lake! Bilbo had
never imagined that any water that was not the sea could look so big. It was so
wide that the opposite shores looked small and far, but it was so long that its
northerly end, which pointed towards the Mountain, could not be seen at all. Only
from the map did Bilbo know that away up there, where the stars of the Wain were
already twinkling, the Running River came down into the lake from Dale and
with the Forest River filled with deep waters what must once have been a great
deep rocky valley. At the southern end the doubled waters poured out again over
high waterfalls and ran away hurriedly to unknown lands. In the still evening air
the noise of the falls could be heard like a distant roar.
    Not far from the mouth of the Forest River was the strange town he heard the
elves speak of in the king's cellars. It was not built on the shore, though there were
a few huts and buildings there, but right out on the surface of the lake, protected
from the swirl of the entering river by a promontory of rock which formed a calm
bay. A great . bridge made of wood ran out to where on huge piles made of forest
trees was built a busy wooden town, not a town of elves but of Men, who still
dared to dwell here under the shadow of the distant dragon-mountain. They still
throve on the trade that came up the great river from the South and was carted
past the falls to their town; but in the great days of old, when Dale in the North
was rich and prosperous, they had been wealthy and powerful, and there had been
fleets of boats on the waters, and some were filled with gold and some with
warriors in armour, and there had been wars and deeds which were now only a
legend. The rotting piles of a greater town could still be seen along the shores
when the waters sank in a drought.
    But men remembered little of all that, though some still sang old songs of the
dwarf-kings of the Mountain, Thror and Thrain of the race of Durin, and of the
coming of the Dragon, and the fall of the lords of Dale. Some sang too that Thror
and Thrain would come back one day and gold would flow in rivers through the
mountain-gates, and all that land would be filled with new song and new laughter.
But this pleasant legend did not much affect their daily business.

    As soon as the raft of barrels came in sight boats rowed out from the piles of
the town, and voices hailed the raft-steerers. Then ropes were cast and oars were
pulled, and soon the raft was drawn out of the current of the Forest River and
towed away round the high shoulder of rock into the little bay of Lake-town.
There it was moored not far from the shoreward head of the great bridge. Soon
men would come up from the South and take some of the casks away, and others
they would fill with goods they had brought to be taken back up the stream to the
Wood-elves' home. In the meanwhile the barrels were left afloat while the elves of
the raft and the boatmen went to feast in Lake-town.
    They would have been surprised, if they could have seen what happened down
by the shore, after they had gone and the shades of night had fallen. First of all a
barrel was cut loose by Bilbo and pushed to the shore and opened. Groans came
from inside, and out crept a most unhappy dwarf. Wet straw was in his draggled
beard; he was so sore and stiff, so bruised and buffeted he could hardly stand or
stumble through the shallow water to lie groaning on the shore. He had a famished
and a savage look like a dog that has been chained and forgotten in a kennel for a
week. It was Thorin, but you could only have told it by his golden chain, and by
the colour of his now dirty and tattered sky-blue hood with its tarnished silver
tassel. It was some time before he would be even polite to the hobbit.
    "Well, are you alive or are you dead?" asked Bilbo quite crossly. Perhaps he
had forgotten that he had had at least one good meal more than the dwarves, and
also the use of his arms and legs, not to speak of a greater allowance of air. "Are
you still in prison, or are you free? If you want food, and if you want to go on with
this silly adventure- it's yours after all and not mine-you had better slap your arms
and rub your legs and try and help me get the others out while there is a chance!"
    Thorin of course saw the sense of this, so after a few more groans he got up
and helped the hobbit as well as he could. In the darkness floundering in the cold
water they had a difficult and very nasty job finding which were the right barrels.
Knocking outside and calling only discovered about six dwarves that could
answer. They were unpacked and helped ashore where they sat or lay muttering
and moaning; they were so soaked and bruised and cramped that they could
hardly yet realize their release or be properly thankful for it.
    Dwalin and Balin were two of the most unhappy, and it was no good asking
them to help. Bifur and Bofur were less knocked about and drier, but they lay
down and would do nothing. Fili and Kili, however, who were young (for
dwarves) and had also been packed more neatly with plenty of straw into smaller
casks, came out more or less smiling, with only a bruise or two and a stiffness that
soon wore off.
    "I hope I never smell the smell of apples again!" said Fili. "My tub was full of
it. To smell apples everlastingly when you can scarcely move and are cold and
sick with hunger is maddening. I could eat anything in the wide world now, for
hours on end-but not an apple!"
    With the willing help of Fili and Kili, Thorin and Bilbo at last discovered the
remainder of the company and got them out. Poor fat Bombur was asleep or
senseless; Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin and Gloin were waterlogged and seemed only half
alive; they all had to be carried one by one and laid helpless on the shore.
    "Well! Here we are!" said Thorin. "And I suppose we ought to thank our stars
and Mr. Baggins. I am sure he has a right to expect it, though I wish he could have
arranged a more comfortable journey. Still-all very much at your service once
more, Mr. Baggins. No doubt we shall feel properly grateful, when we are fed and
recovered. In the meanwhile what next?"
    "I suggest Lake-town," said Bilbo, "What else is there?" Nothing else could, of
course, be suggested; so leaving the others Thorin and Fili and Kili and the hobbit
went along the shore to the great bridge. There were guards at the head of it, but
they were not keeping very careful watch, for it was so long since there had been
any real need. Except for occasional squabbles about river-tolls they were friends
with the Wood-elves. Other folk were far away; and some of the younger people in
the town openly doubted the existence of any dragon in the mountain, and laughed
at the greybeards and gammers who said that they had seen him flying in the sky
in their young days. That being so it is not surprising that the guards were
drinking and laughing by a fire in their hut, and did not hear the noise of the
unpacking of the dwarves or the footsteps of the four scouts. Their astonishment
was enormous when Thorin Oakenshield stepped in through the door.
    "Who are you and what do you want?" they shouted leaping to their feet and
gipping for weapons.
    "Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror King under the Mountain!" said the dwarf
in a loud voice, and he looked it, in spite of his torn clothes and draggled hood.
The gold gleamed on his neck and waist: his eyes were dark and deep. "I have
come back. I wish to see the Master of your town!"
    Then there was tremendous excitement. Some of the more foolish ran out of
the hut as if they expected the Mountain to go golden in the night and all the
waters of the lake to turn yellow right away. The captain of the guard came
forward.
    "And who are these?" he asked, pointing to Fili and: Kili and Bilbo.
    "The sons of my father's daughter," answered Thorin, "Fili and Kili of the race
of Durin, and Mr. Baggins who has travelled with us out of the West."
    "If you come in peace lay down your arms!" said the captain.
    "We have none," said Thorin, and it was true enough: their knives had been
taken from them by the wood-elves, and the great sword Orcrist too. Bilbo had his
short sword, hidden as usual, but he said nothing about that. "We have no need of
weapons, who return at last to our own as spoken of old. Nor could we fight
against so many. Take us to your master!"
    "He is at feast," said the captain.
    "Then all the more reason for taking us to him," burst in Fili, who was getting
impatient at these solemnities. "We are worn and famished after our long road and
we have sick comrades. Now make haste and let us have no more words, or your
master may have something to say to you."
    "Follow me then," said the captain, and with six men about them he led them
over the bridge through the gates and into the market-place of the town. This was
a wide circle of quiet water surrounded by the tall piles on which were built the
greater houses, and by long wooden quays with many steps and ladders going
down to the surface of the lake. From one great hall shone many lights and there
came the sound of many voices. They passed its doors and stood blinking in the
light looking at long tables filled with folk.
    "I am Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror King under the Mountain! I return!"
cried Thorin in a loud voice from the door, before the captain could say anything.
All leaped to their feet. The Master of the town sprang from his great chair. But
none rose in greater surprise than the raft-men of the elves who were sitting at the
lower end of the hall. Pressing forward before the Master's table they cried:
    "These are prisoners of our king that have escaped, wandering vagabond
dwarves that could not give any good account of themselves, sneaking through the
woods and molesting our people!"
    "Is this true?" asked the Master. As a matter of fact he thought it far more
likely than the return of the King under the Mountain, if any such person had ever
existed.
    "It is true that we were wrongfully waylaid by the Elven-king and imprisoned
without cause as we journeyed back to our own land," answered Thorin. "But
lock nor bar may hinder the homecoming spoken of old. Nor is this town in the
Wood-elves' realm. I speak to the Master of the town of the Men of the lake, not to
the raft-men of the king."
    Then the Master hesitated and looked from one to the other. The Elvenking
was very powerful in those parts and the Master wished for no enmity with him,
nor did he think much of old songs, giving his mind to .trade and tolls, to cargoes
and gold, to which habit he owed his position. Others were of different mind,
however, and quickly the matter was settled without him. The news had spread
from the doors of the hall like fire through all the town. People were shouting
inside the hall and outside it. The quays were thronged with hurrying feet. Some
began to sing snatches of old songs concerning the return of the King under the
Mountain; that it was Thror's grandson not Thror himself that had come back did
not bother them at all. Others took up the song and it rolled loud and high over the
lake.

                The King beneath the mountains,
                The King of carven stone,
                The lord of silver fountains
                Shall come into his own!

                His crown shall be upholden,
                His harp shall be restrung,
                His halls shall echo golden
                To songs of yore re-sung.

                The woods shall wave on mountains
                And grass beneath the sun;
                His wealth shall flow in fountains
                And the rivers golden run.
                The streams shall run in gladness,
                The lakes shall shine and burn,
                And sorrow fail and sadness
                At the Mountain-king's return!

    So they sang, or very like that, only there was a great deal more of it, and there
was much shouting as well as the music of harps and of fiddles mixed up with it.
Indeed such excitement had not been known in the town in the memory of the
oldest grandfather. The Wood-elves themselves began to wonder greatly and even
to be afraid. They did not know of course how Thorin had escaped, and they
began to think their king might have made a serious mistake. As for the Master he
saw there was nothing else for it but to obey the general clamour, for the moment
at any rate, and to pretend to believe that Thorin was what he said. So he gave up
to him his own great chair and set Fili and Kili beside him in places of honour.
Even Bilbo was given a seat at the high table, and no explanation of where he
came in-no songs had alluded to him even in the obscurest way-was asked for in
the general bustle.
    Soon afterwards the other dwarves were brought into the town amid scenes of
astonishing enthusiasm. They were all doctored and fed and housed and pampered
in the most delightful and satisfactory fashion. A large house was given up to
Thorin and his company; boats and rowers were put at their service; and crowds
sat outside and sang songs all day, or cheered if any dwarf showed so much as his
nose.
    Some of the songs were old ones; but some of them were quite new and spoke
confidently of the sudden death of the dragon and of cargoes of rich presents
coming down the river to Lake-town. These were inspired largely by the Master
and they did not particularly please the dwarves, but in the meantime they were
well contented and they quickly grew fat and strong again. Indeed within a week
they were quite recovered, fitted out in fine cloth of their proper colours, with
beards combed and trimmed, and proud steps. Thorin looked and walked as if his
kingdom was already regained and Smaug chopped up into little pieces.
    Then, as he had said, the dwarves' good feeling towards the little hobbit grew
stronger every day. There were no more groans or grumbles. They drank his
health, and they patted him on the back, and they made a great fuss of him; which
was just as well, for he was not feeling particularly cheerful. He had not forgotten
the look of the Mountain, nor the thought of the dragon, and he had besides a
shocking cold. For three days he sneezed and coughed, and he could not go out,
and even after that his speeches at banquets were limited to "Thag you very buch."

    In the meanwhile the Wood-elves had gone back up the Forest River with their
cargoes, and there was great excitement in the king's palace. I have never heard
what happened to the chief of the guards and the butler. Nothing of course was
ever said about keys or barrels while the dwarves stayed in Lake-town, and Bilbo
was careful never to become invisible. Still, I daresay, more was guessed than was
known, though doubtless Mr. Baggins remained a bit of a mystery. In any case the
king knew now the dwarves' errand, or thought he did, and he said to himself:
    "Very well! We'll see! No treasure will come back through Mirkwood without
my having something to say in the matter. But I expect they will all come to a bad
end, and serve them right!" He at any rate did not believe in dwarves fighting and
killing dragons like Smaug, and he strongly suspected attempted burglary or
something like it which shows he was a wise elf and wiser than the men of the
town, though not quite right, as we shall see in the end. He sent out his spies about
the shores of the lake and as far northward towards the Mountains as they would
go, and waited.
    At the end of a fortnight Thorin began to think of departure. While the
enthusiasm still lasted in the town was the time to get help. It would not do to let
everything cool down with delay. So he spoke to the Master and his councillors
and said that soon he and his company must go on towards the Mountain.
    Then for the first time the Master was surprised and a little frightened; and he
wondered if Thorin was after all really a descendant of the old kings. He had
never thought that the dwarves would actually dare to approach Smaug, but
believed they were frauds who would sooner or later be discovered and be turned
out. He was wrong. Thorin, of course, was really the grandson of the King under
the Mountain, and there is no knowing what a dwarf will not dare and do for
revenge or the recovery of his own. But the Master was not sorry at all to let them
go. They were expensive to keep, and their arrival had turned things into a long
holiday in which business was at a standstill.
    "Let them go and bother Smaug, and see how he welcomes them!" he thought.
"Certainly, O Thorin Thrain's son Thror's son!" was what he said. "You must
claim your own. The hour is at hand, spoken of old. What help we can offer shall
be yours, and we trust to your gratitude when your kingdom is regained."
    So one day, although autumn was now getting far on, and winds were cold,
and leaves were falling fast, three large boats left Lake-town, laden with rowers,
dwarves, Mr. Baggins, and many provisions. Horses and ponies had been sent
round by circuitous paths to meet them at their appointed landing-place. The
Master and his councillors bade them farewell from the great steps of the town-
hall that went down to the lake. People sang on the quays and out of windows.
The white oars dipped and splashed, and off they went north up the lake on the
last stage of their long journey. The only person thoroughly unhappy was Bilbo.
                                    Chapter 11
                                 On the Doorstep

    In two days going they rowed right up the Long Lake and passed out into the
River Running, and now they could all see the Lonely Mountain towering grim
and tall before them. The stream was strong and their going slow. At the; end of
the third day, some miles up the river, they drew in to the left or western bank and
disembarked. Here they were joined by the horses with other provisions and
necessaries and the ponies for their own use that had been sent to meet them. They
packed what they could on the ponies and the rest was made into a store under a
tent, but none of the men of the town would stay with them even for the night so
near the shadow of the Mountain.
    "Not at any rate until the songs have come true!" said they. It was easier to
believe in the Dragon and less easy to believe in Thorin in these wild parts. Indeed
their stores had no need of any guard, for all the land was desolate and empty. So
their escort left them, making off swiftly down the river and the shoreward paths,
although the night was already drawing on.
    They spent a cold and lonely night and their spirits fell. The next day they set
out again. Balin and Bilbo rode behind, each leading another pony heavily laden
beside him; the others were some way ahead picking out a slow road, for there
were no paths. They made north-west, slanting away from the River Running, and
drawing ever nearer and nearer to a great spur of the Mountain that was flung out
southwards towards them.
    It was a weary journey, and a quiet and stealthy one. There was no laughter or
song or sound of harps, and the pride and hopes which had stirred in their hearts at
the singing of old songs by the lake died away to a plodding gloom. They knew
that they were drawing near to the end of their journey, and that it might be a very
horrible end. The land about them grew bleak and barren, though once, as Thorin
told them, it had been green and fair. There was little grass, and before long there
was neither bush nor tree, and only broken and blackened stumps to speak of ones
long vanished. They were come to the Desolation of the Dragon, and they were
come at the waning of the year.

    They reached the skirts of the Mountain all the same without meeting any
danger or any sign of the Dragon other than the wilderness he had made about his
lair. The Mountain lay dark and silent before them and ever higher above them.
They made their first camp on the western side of the great southern spur, which
ended in a height called Ravenhill. On this there had been an old watch-post; but
they dared not climb it yet, it was too exposed.
     Before setting out to search the western spurs of the Mountain for the hidden
door, on which all their hopes rested, Thorin sent out a scouting expedition to spy
out the land to the South where the Front Gate stood. For this purpose he chose
Balin and Fili and Kili, and with them went Bilbo. They marched under the grey
and silent cliffs to the feet of Ravenhill. There the river, after winding a wide loop
over the valley of Dale, turned from the Mountain on its road to the Lake, flowing
swift and noisily. Its bank was bare and rocky, tall and steep above the stream; and
gazing out from it over the narrow water, foaming and splashing among many
boulders, they could see in the wide valley shadowed by the Mountain's arms the
grey ruins of ancient houses, towers, and walls.
     "There lies all that is left of Dale," said Balin. "The mountain's sides were
green with woods and all the sheltered valley rich and pleasant in the days when
the bells rang in that town." He looked both sad and grim as he said this: he had
been one of Thorin's companions on the day the Dragon came.
     They did not dare to follow the river much further to. wards the Gate; but they
went on beyond the end of the southern spur, until lying hidden behind a rock they
could look out and see the dark cavernous opening in a great cliff-wall between
the arms of the Mountain. Out of it the waters of the Running River sprang; and
out of it too there came a steam and a dark smoke. Nothing moved in the waste,
save the vapour and the water, and every now and again a black and ominous
crow. The only sound was the sound of the stony water, and every now and again
the harsh croak of a bird. Balin shuddered.
     "Let us return!" he said. "We can do no good here!– And I don't like these dark
birds, they look like spies of evil."
     "The dragon is still alive and in the halls under the Mountain then-or I imagine
so from the smoke," said the hobbit.
     "That does not prove it," said Balin, "though I don't doubt you are right. But
he might be gone away some time, or he might be lying out on the mountain-side
keeping watch, and still I expect smokes and steams would come out of the gates:
all the halls within must be filled with his foul reek."

    With such gloomy thoughts, followed ever by croaking crows above them,
they made their weary way back to the camp. Only in June they had been guests
in the fair house of Elrond, and though autumn was now crawling towards winter
that pleasant time now seemed years ago. They were alone in the perilous waste
without hope of further help. They were at the end of their journey, but as far as
ever, it seemed, from the end of their quest. None of them had much spirit left.
     Now strange to say Mr. Baggins had more than the others. He would often
borrow Thorin's map and gaze at it, pondering over the runes and the message of
the moon-letters Elrond had read. It was he that made the dwarves begin the
dangerous search on the western slopes for the secret door. They moved their
camp then to a long valley, narrower than the great dale in the South where the
Gates of the river stood, and walled with lower spurs of the Mountain. Two of
these here thrust forward west from the main mass in long steep-sided ridges that
fell ever downwards towards the plain. On this western side there were fewer signs
of the dragon's marauding feet, and there was some grass for their ponies. From
this western camp, shadowed all day by cliff and wall until the sun began to sink
towards the forest, day by day they toiled in parties searching for paths up the
mountain-side. If the map was true, somewhere high above the cliff at the valley's
head must stand the secret door. Day by day they came back to their camp without
success.
     But at last unexpectedly they found what they were seeking. Fili and Kili and
the hobbit went back one day down the valley and scrambled among the tumbled
rocks at its southern corner. About midday, creeping behind a great stone that
stood alone like a pillar, Bilbo came on what looked like rough steps going
upwards. Following these excitedly he and the dwarves found traces of a narrow
track, often lost, often rediscovered, that wandered on to the top of the southern
ridge and brought them at last to a still narrower ledge, which turned north across
the face of the Mountain. Looking down they saw that they were at the top of the
cliff at the valley's head and were gazing down on to their own camp below.
Silently, clinging to the rocky wall on their right, they went in single file along the
ledge, till the wall opened and they turned into a little steep-walled bay, grassy-
floored, still and quiet. Its entrance which they had found could not be seen from
below because of the overhang of the cliff, nor from further off because it was so
small that it looked like a dark crack and no more. It was not a cave and was open
to the sky above; but at its inner end a flat wall rose up that in the lower I part,
close to the ground, was as smooth and upright as mason's work, but without a
joint or crevice to be seen.
     "No sign was there of post or lintel or threshold, nor any sign of bar or bolt or
key-hole; yet they did not doubt that they had found the door at last.
   They beat on it, they thrust and pushed at it, they implored it to move, they
spoke fragments of broken spells of opening, and nothing stirred. At last tired out
they. rested on the grass at its feet, and then at evening began, their long climb
down.

    There was excitement in the camp that night. In the morning they prepared to
move once more. Only Bofur and Bombur were left behind to guard the ponies
and such stores as they had brought with them from the river. The others went
down the valley and up the newly found path, and so to the narrow ledge. Along
this they could carry no bundles or packs, so narrow and breathless was it, with a
fall of a hundred and fifty feet beside them on to sharp rocks below; but each of
them took a good coil of rope wound tight about his waist, and so at last without
mishap they reached the little grassy bay.
    There they made their third camp, hauling up what they needed from below
with their ropes. Down the same way they were able occasionally to lower one of
the more active dwarves, such as Kili, to exchange such news as there was, or to
take a share in the guard below, while Bofur was hauled up to the higher camp.
Bombur would not come up either the rope or the path.
    "I am too fat for such fly-walks," he said. "I should turn dizzy and tread on my
beard, and then you would be thirteen again. And the knotted ropes are too slender
for my weight." Luckily for him that was not true, as you will see.
    In the meanwhile some of them explored the ledge beyond the opening and
found a path that led higher and higher on to the mountain; but they did not dare
to venture very far that way, nor was there much use in it. Out up there a silence
reigned, broken by no bird or sound except that of the wind in the crannies of
stone. They spoke low and never called or sang, for danger brooded in every rock.
    The others who were busy with the secret of the door had no more success.
They were too eager to trouble about the runes or the moon-letters, but tried
without resting to discover where exactly in the smooth face of the rock the door
was hidden. They had brought picks and tools of many sorts from Lake-town, and
at first they tried to use these. But when they struck the stone the handles
splintered and jarred their arms cruelly, and the steel heads broke or bent like lead.
Mining work, they saw clearly was no good against the magic that had shut this
door; and they grew terrified, too, of the echoing noise.
    Bilbo found sitting on the doorstep lonesome and wearisome-there was not a
doorstep, of course, really, but they used to call the little grassy space between the
wall and the opening the "doorstep" in fun, remembering Bilbo's words long ago
at the unexpected party in his hobbit-hole, when he said they could sit on the
doorstep till they thought of something. And sit and think they did, or wandered
aimlessly about, and glummer and glummer they became.
     Their spirits had risen a little at the discovery of the path, but now they sank
into their boots; and yet they would not give it up and go away. The hobbit was no
longer much brighter than the dwarves. He would do nothing but sit with his back
to the rock-face and stare away west through the opening, over the cliff, over the
wide lands to the black wall of Mirkwood, and to the distances beyond, in which
he sometimes thought he could catch glimpses of the Misty Mountains small and
far. If the dwarves asked him what he was doing he answered:
     "You said sitting on the doorstep and thinking would be my job, not to
mention getting inside, so I am sitting and thinking." But I am afraid he was not
thinking much of the job, but of what lay beyond the blue distance, the quiet
Western Land and the Hill and his hobbit-hole under it. A large grey stone lay in
the centre of the grass and he stared moodily at it or watched the great snails. They
seemed to love the little shut-in bay with its walls of cool rock, and there were
many of them of huge size crawling slowly and stickily along its sides.
     "Tomorrow begins the last week of Autumn," said Thorin one day.
     "And winter comes after autumn," said Bifur.
     "And next year after that," said Dwalin, "and our beards will grow till they
hang down the cliff to the valley before anything happens here. What is our
burglar doing for us?
     Since he has got an invisible ring, and ought to be a specially excellent
performer now, I am beginning to think he might go through the Front Gate and
spy things out a bit!"
     Bilbo heard this-the dwarves were on the rocks just : above the enclosure
where he was sitting-and "Good Gracious!" he thought, "so that is what they are
beginning to think, is it? It is always poor me that has to get them out : of their
difficulties, at least since the wizard left. Whatever am I going to do? I might have
known that something dreadful would happen to me in the end. I don't think I
could bear to see the unhappy valley of Dale again, and as for that steaming gate!
! !"
     That night he was very miserable and hardly slept. Next day the dwarves all
went wandering off in various directions; some were exercising the ponies down
below, some were roving about the mountain-side. All day Bilbo sat gloomily in
the grassy bay gazing at the stone, or out west through the narrow opening. He
had a queer feeling that he was waiting for something. "Perhaps the wizard will
suddenly come back today," he thought.
    If he lifted his head he could see a glimpse of the distant forest. As the sun
turned west there was a gleam of yellow upon its far roof, as if the light caught the
last pale leaves. Soon he saw the orange ball of the sun sinking towards the level
of his eyes. He went to the opening and there pale and faint was a thin new moon
above the rim of Earth. At that very moment he heard a sharp crack behind him.
There on the grey stone in the grass was an enormous thrush, nearly coal black, its
pale yellow breast freckled dark spots. Crack! It had caught a snail and was
knocking it on the stone. Crack! Crack!
    Suddenly Bilbo understood. Forgetting all danger he stood on the ledge and
hailed the dwarves, shouting and paying. Those that were nearest came tumbling
over the rocks and as fast as they could along the ledge to him, wondering what on
earth was the matter; the others shouted to be hauled up the ropes (except
Bombur, of course: he was asleep).
    Quickly Bilbo explained. They all fell silent: the hobbit standing by the grey
stone, and the dwarves with wagging beards watching impatiently. The sun sank
lower and lower, and their hopes fell. It sank into a belt of reddened cloud and
disappeared. The dwarves groaned, but still Bilbo stood almost without moving.
The little moon was dipping to the horizon. Evening was coming on. Then
suddenly when their hope was lowest a red ray of the sun escaped like a finger
through a rent in the cloud. A gleam of light came straight through the opening
into the bay and fell on the smooth rock-face. The old thrush, who had been
watching from a high perch with beady eyes and head cocked on one side, gave a
sudden trill. There was a loud attack. A flake of rock split from the wall and fell.
A hole appeared suddenly about three feet from the ground. Quickly, trembling
lest the chance should fade, the dwarves rushed to the rock and pushed-in vain.
    "The key! The key!" cried Bilbo. "Where is Thorin?"
    Thorin hurried up.
    "The key!" shouted Bilbo. "The key that went with the map! Try it now while
there is still time!"
    Then Thorin stepped up and drew the key on its chain from round his neck. He
put it to the hole. It fitted and it turned! Snap! The gleam went out, the sun sank,
the moon was gone, and evening sprang into the sky.
    Now they all pushed together, and slowly a part of the rock-wall gave way.
Long straight cracks appeared and widened. A door five feet high and three broad
was out- lined, and slowly without a sound swung inwards. It seemed as if
darkness flowed out like a vapour from the hole in the mountain-side, and deep
darkness in which nothing could be seen lay before their eyes mouth leading in
and down.
                                     Chapter 12
                                 Inside Information

    For a long time the dwarves stood in the dark before the door and debated,
until at last Thorin spoke:
    "Now is the time for our esteemed Mr. Baggins, who has proved himself a
good companion on our long road, and a hobbit full of courage and resource far
exceeding his size, and if I may say so possessed of good luck far exceeding the
usual allowance-now is the time for him to perform the service for which he was
included in our Company; now is the time for him to earn his Reward."
    You are familiar with Thorin's style on important occasions, so I will not give
you any more of it, though he went on a good deal longer than this. It certainly
was an important occasion, but Bilbo felt impatient. By now he was quite familiar
with Thorin too, and he knew what be was driving at.
    "If you mean you think it is my job to go into the secret passage first, O Thorin
Thrain's son Oakenshield, may your beard grow ever longer," he said crossly, "say
so at once and have done! I might refuse. I have got you out of two messes
already, which were hardly in the original bargain, so that I am, I think, already
owed some reward. But ‘third time pays for all' as my father used to say, and
somehow I don't think I shall refuse. Perhaps I have begun to trust my luck more
than I used to in the old days" – he meant last spring before he left his own house,
but it seemed centuries ago – "but anyway I think I will go and have a peep at
once and get it over. Now who is coming with me?"
    He did not expect a chorus of volunteers, so he was not disappointed. Fili and
Kili looked uncomfortable and stood on One leg, but the others made no pretence
of offering – except old Balin. the look-out man, who was rather fond the hobbit.
He said he would come inside at least and perhaps a bit of the way too, really to
call for help if necessary.
    The most that can be said for the dwarves is this: they intended to pay Bilbo
really handsomely for his services; they had brought him to do a nasty job for
them, and they did not mind the poor little fellow doing it if he would; but they
would all have done their best to get him out of trouble, if he got into it, as they
did in the case of the trolls at the beginning of their adventures before they had any
particular reasons for being grateful to him. There it is: dwarves are not heroes,
but calculating folk with a great idea of the value of money; some are tricky and
treacherous and pretty bad lots; some are not, but are decent enough people like
Thorin and Company, if you don't expect too much.

     The stars were coming out behind him in a pale sky barred with black when
the hobbit crept through the enchanted door and stole into the Mountain. It was far
easier going than he expected. This was no goblin entrance, or rough wood-elves'
cave. It was a passage made by dwarves, at the height of their wealth and skill:
straight as a ruler, smooth-floored and smooth-sided, going with a gentle never-
varying slope direct-to some distant end in the blackness below.
     After a while Balin bade Bilbo "Good luck!" and stopped where he could still
see the faint outline of the door, and by a trick of, the echoes of the tunnel hear the
rustle of the whispering voices of the others just outside. Then the hobbit slipped
on his ring, and warned by the echoes to take more than hobbit's care to make no
sound, he crept noiselessly down, down, down into the dark. He was trembling
with fear, but his little face was set and grim. Already he was a very different
hobbit from the one that had run out without a pocket-handkerchief from Bag-End
long ago. He had not had a pocket-handkerchief for ages. He loosened his dagger
in its sheath, tightened his belt, and went on.

    "Now you are in for it at last, Bilbo Baggins," he said to himself. "You went
and put your foot right in it that night of the party, and now you have got to pull it
out and pay for it! Dear me, what a fool I was and am!" said the least Tookish part
of him. "I have absolutely no use for dragon-guarded treasures, and the whole lot
could stay here for ever, if only I could wake up and find this beastly tunnel was
my own front-hall at home!"
    He did not wake up of course, but went still on and on, till all sign of the door
behind had faded away. He was altogether alone. Soon he thought it was
beginning to feel warm. "Is that a kind of a glow I seem to see coming right ahead
down there?" he thought. It was. As he went forward it grew and grew, till there
was no doubt about it. It was a red light steadily getting redder and redder. Also it
was now undoubtedly hot in the tunnel. Wisps of vapour floated up and past him
and he began to sweat. A sound, too, began to throb in his ears, a sort of bubbling
like the noise of a large pot galloping on the fire, mixed with a rumble as of a
gigantic tom-cat purring. This grew to the unmistakable gurgling noise of some
vast animal snoring in its sleep down there in the red glow in front of him.
     It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest
thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterward were as nothing
compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw
the vast danger that lay in wait. At any rate after a short halt go on he did; and you
can picture him coming to the end of the tunnel, an opening of much the same size
and shape as the door above. Through it peeps the hobbit's little head. Before him
lies the great bottommost cellar or dungeon-hall of the ancient dwarves right at the
Mountain's root. It is almost dark so that its vastaess can only be dimly guessed,
but rising from the near side of the rocky floor there is a great glow. The glow of
Smaug!

     There he lay, a vast red-golden dragon, fast asleep; thrumming came from his
jaws and nostrils, and wisps of smoke, but his fires were low in slumber. Beneath
him, under all his limbs and his huge coiled tail, and about him on all sides
stretching away across the unseen floors, lay countless piles of precious things,
gold wrought and unwrought, gems and jewels, and silver red-stained in the ruddy
light.
     Smaug lay, with wings folded like an immeasurable bat, turned partly on one
side, so that the hobbit could see his underparts and his long pale belly crusted
with gems and fragments of gold from his long lying on his costly bed. Behind
him where the walls were nearest could dimly be seen coats of mail, helms and
axes, swords and spears hanging; and there in rows stood great jars and vessels
filled with a wealth that could not be guessed. To say that Bilbo's breath was taken
away is no description at all. There are no words left to express his staggerment,
since Men changed the language that they learned of elves in the days when all the
world was wonderful. Bilbo had heard tell and sing of dragon-hoards before, but
the splendour, the lust, the glory of such treasure had never yet come home to him.
His heart was filled and pierced with enchantment and with the desire of dwarves;
and he gazed motionless, almost forgetting the frightful guardian, at the gold
beyond price and count.

    He gazed for what seemed an age, before drawn almost against his will, he
stole from the shadow of the doorway, across the floor to the nearest edge of the
mounds of treasure. Above him the sleeping dragon lay, a dire menace even in his
sleep. He grasped a great two-handled cup, as heavy as he could carry, and cast
one fearful eye upwards. Smaug stirred a wing, opened a claw, the rumble of his
snoring changed its note.
    Then Bilbo fled. But the dragon did not wake-not yet but shifted into other
dreams of greed and violence, lying there in his stolen hall while the little hobbit
toiled back up the long tunnel. His heart was beating and a more fevered shaking
was in his legs than when he was going down, but still he clutched the cup, and his
chief thought was: "I've done it! This will show them. 'More like a grocer than a
burglar' indeed! Well, we'll hear no more of that."
    Nor did he. Balin was overjoyed to see the hobbit again, and as delighted as he
was surprised. He picked Bilbo up and carried him out into the open air. It was
midnight and clouds had covered the stars, but Bilbo lay with his eyes shut,
gasping and taking pleasure in the feel of the fresh air again, and hardly noticing
the excitement of the dwarves, or how they praised him and patted him on the
back and put themselves and all their families for generations to come at his
service.

    The dwarves were still passing the cup from hand to hand and talking
delightedly of the recovery of their treasure, when suddenly a vast rumbling woke
in the mountain underneath as if it was an old volcano that had made up its mind
to start eruptions once again. The door behind them was pulled nearly to, and
blocked from closing with a stone, but up the long tunnel came the dreadful
echoes, from far down in the depths, of a bellowing and a trampling that made the
ground beneath them tremble.
    Then the dwarves forgot their joy and their confident boasts of a moment
before and cowered down in fright. Smaug was still to be reckoned with. It does
not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.
Dragons may not have much real use for all their wealth, but they know it to an
ounce as a rule, especially after long possession; and Smaug was no exception. He
had passed from an uneasy dream (in which a warrior, altogether insignificant in
size but provided with a bitter sword and great courage, figured most
unpleasantly) to a doze, and from a doze to wide waking. There was a breath of
strange air in his cave. Could there be a draught from that little hole? He had
never felt quite happy about it, though was so small, and now he glared at it in
suspicion an wondered why he had never blocked it up. Of late he had half fancied
he had caught the dim echoes of a knocking sound from far above that came down
through it to his lair. He stirred and stretched forth his neck to sniff. Then he
missed the cup!
    Thieves! Fire! Murder! Such a thing had not happened since first he came to
the Mountain! His rage passes description – the sort of rage that is only seen when
rich folk that have more than they can enjoy suddenly lose something that they
have long had but have never before used or wanted. His fire belched forth, the
hall smoked, he shook the mountain-roots. He thrust his head in vain at the little
hole, and then coiling his length together, roaring like thunder underground, he
sped from his deep lair through its great door, out into the huge passages of the
mountain-palace and up towards the Front Gate.
    To hunt the whole mountain till he had caught the thief and had torn and
trampled him was his one thought. He issued from the Gate, the waters rose in
fierce whistling steam, and up he soared blazing into the air and settled on the
mountain-top in a spout of green and scarlet flame. The dwarves heard the awful
rumour of his flight, and they crouched against the walls of the grassy terrace
cringing under boulders, hoping somehow to escape the frightful eyes of the
hunting dragon.
    There they would have all been killed, if it had not been for Bilbo once again.
"Quick! Quick!" he gasped. "The door! The tunnel! It's no good here."
    Roused by these words they were just about to creep inside the tunnel when
Bifur gave a cry: "My cousins! Bombur and Bofur – we have forgotten them, they
are down in the valley!"
    "They will be slain, and all our ponies too, and all out stores lost," moaned the
others. "We can do nothing."
    "Nonsense!" said Thorin, recovering his dignity. "We cannot leave them. Get
inside Mr. Baggins and Balin, and you two Fili and Kili-the dragon shan't have all
of us. Now you others, where are the ropes? Be quick!"
    Those were perhaps the worst moments they had been through yet. The
horrible sounds of Smaug's anger were echoing in the stony hollows far above; at
any moment he might come blazing down or fly whirling round and find them
there, near the perilous cliff's edge hauling madly on the ropes. Up came Bofur,
and still all was safe. Up came Bombur, puffing and blowing while the ropes
creaked, and still all was safe. Up came some tools and bundles of stores, and then
danger was upon them. A whirring noise was heard. A red light touched the points
of standing rocks. The dragon came. They had barely time to fly back to the
tunnel, pulling and dragging in their bundles, when Smaug came hurtling from the
North, licking the mountain-sides with flame, beating his great wings with a noise
like a roaring wind. His hot breath shrivelled the grass before the door, and drove
in through the crack they had left and scorched them as they lay hid. Flickering
fires leaped up and black rock-shadows danced. Then darkness fell as he passed
again.
    The ponies screamed with terror, burst their ropes and galloped wildly off. The
dragon swooped and turned to pursue them, and was gone.
    "That'll be the end of our poor beasts!" said Thorin.
    "Nothing can escape Smaug once he sees it. Here we are and here we shall
have to stay, unless any one fancies tramping the long open miles back to the river
with Smaug on the watch!"
    It was not a pleasant thought! They crept further down the tunnel, and there
they lay and shivered though it was warm and stuffy, until dawn came pale
through the crack of the door. Every now and again through the night they could
hear the roar of the flying dragon grow and then pass and fade, as he hunted round
and round the mountain-sides.
    He guessed from the ponies, and from the traces of the camps he had
discovered, that men had come up from the river and the lake and had scaled the
mountain-side from the valley where the ponies had been standing; but the door
withstood his searching eye, and the little high-walled bay had kept out his fiercest
flames. Long he had hunted in vain till the dawn chilled his wrath and he went
back to his golden couch to sleep – and to gather new strength.
    He would not forget or forgive the theft, not if a thousand years turned him to
smouldering stone, but he could afford to wait. Slow and silent he crept back to
his lair and half closed his eyes.
    When morning came the terror of the dwarves grew less. They realized that
dangers of this kind were inevitable in dealing with such a guardian, and that it
was no good giving up their quest yet. Nor could they get away just now, as
Thorin had pointed out. Their ponies were lost or killed, and they would have to
wait some time before Smaug relaxed his watch sufficiently for them to dare the
long way on foot. Luckily they had saved enough of their stores to last them still
for some time.
    They debated long on what was to be done, but they could think of no way of
getting rid of Smaug – which had always been a weak point in their plans, as
Bilbo felt inclined to point out. Then as is the nature of folk that are thoroughly
perplexed, they began to grumble at the hobbit, blaming him for what had at first
so pleased them: for bringing away a cup and stirring up Smaug's wrath so soon.
    "What else do you suppose a burglar is to do?" asked Bilbo angrily. "I was not
engaged to kill dragons, that is warrior's work, but to steal treasure. I made the
best beginning I could. Did you expect me to trot back with the whole hoard of
Thror on my back? If there is any grumbling to be done, I think I might have a
say. You ought to have brought five hundred burglars not one. I am sure it reflects
great credit on your grandfather, but you cannot pretend that you ever made the
vast extent of his wealth clear to me. I should want hundreds of years to bring it
all up, if I was fifty times as big, and Smaug as tame as a rabbit."
    After that of course the dwarves begged his pardon.
    "What then do you propose we should do, Mr. Baggins?" asked Thorin
politely.
    "I have no idea at the moment – if you mean about removing the treasure.
That obviously depends entirely on some new turn of luck and the getting rid of
Smaug.
    Getting rid of dragons is not at all in my line, but I will do my best to think
about it. Personally I have no hopes at all, and wish I was safe back at home."
    "Never mind that for the moment! What are we to do now, to-day?"
    "Well, if you really want my advice, I should say we can do nothing but stay
where we are. By day we can no doubt creep out safely enough to take the air.
Perhaps before long one or two could be chosen to go back to the store by the river
and replenish our supplies. But in the meanwhile everyone ought to be well inside
the tunnel by night.
    "Now I will make you an offer. I have got my ring and will creep down this
very noon-then if ever Smaug ought to be napping-and see what he is up to.
Perhaps something will turn up. 'Every worm has his weak spot,' as my father used
to say, though I am sure it was not from personal experience."
    Naturally the dwarves accepted the offer eagerly. Already they had come to
respect little Bilbo. Now he had become the real leader in their adventure. He had
begun to have ideas and plans of his own. When midday came he got ready for
another journey down into the Mountain. He did not like it of course, but it was
not so bad now he knew, more or less, what was in front of him. Had he known
more about dragons and their wily ways, he might have teen more frightened and
less hopeful of catching this one napping.
    The sun was shining when he started, but it was as dark as night in the tunnel.
The light from the door, almost closed, soon faded as he went down. So silent was
his going that smoke on a gentle wind could hardly have surpasses it, and he was
inclined to feel a bit proud of himself as he drew near the lower door. There was
only the very fainter glow to be seen.
    "Old Smaug is weary and asleep," he thought. "He can't, see me and he won't
hear me. Cheer up Bilbo!" He had forgotten or had never heard about dragons'
sense of smell.
    It is also an awkward fact that they keep half an eye open watching while they
sleep, if they are suspicious. Smaug certainly looked fast asleep, almost dead and
dark, with scarcely a snore more than a whiff of unseen steam, when Bilbo peeped
once more from the entrance. He was just about to step out on to the floor when he
caught a sudden thin and piercing ray of red from under the drooping lid. of
Smaug's left eye. He was only pretending to sleep! He was watching the tunnel
entrance! Hurriedly Bilbo stepped back and blessed the luck of his ring. Then
Smaug spoke.

    "Well, thief! I smell you and I feel your air. I hear your breath. Come along!
Help yourself again, there is plenty and to spare!"
    But Bilbo was not quite so unlearned in dragon-lore as all that, and if Smaug
hoped to get him to come nearer so easily he was disappointed.
    "No thank you, O Smaug the. Tremendous!" he replied. "I did not come for
presents. I only wished to have a look at you and see if you were truly as great as
tales say. I did not believe them."
    "Do you now?" said the dragon somewhat flattered, even though he did not
believe a word of it.             j
    "Truly songs and tales fall utterly short of the reality, O Smaug the Chiefest
and Greatest of Calamities," replied Bilbo.                                I
    You have nice manners for a thief and a liar," said the dragon. "You seem
familiar with my name, but I don't seem to remember smelling you before. Who
are you and where do you come from, may I ask?"
    "You may indeed! I come from under the hill, and under hills and over the
hills my paths led. And through the air, I am he that walks unseen."
    "So I can well believe," said Smaug, "but that is hardly our usual name."
    "I am the clue-finder, the web-cutter, the stinging fly. I as chosen for the lucky
number."
    "Lovely titles!" sneered the dragon. "But lucky numbers don't always come
off."
    "I am he that buries his friends alive and drowns them and draws them alive
again from the water. I came from the end of a bag, but no bag went over me."
    "These don't sound so creditable," scoffed Smaug.
    "I am the friend of bears and the guest of eagles. I am Ringwinner and
Luckwearer; and I am Barrel-rider," went on Bilbo beginning to be pleased with
his riddling.
    "That's better!" said Smaug. "But don't let your imagination run away with
you!"
    This of course is the way to talk to dragons, if you don't want to reveal your
proper name (which is wise), and don't want to infuriate them by a flat refusal
(which is also very wise). No dragon can resist the fascination of riddling talk and
of wasting time trying to understand it. There was a lot here which Smaug did not
understand at all (though I expect you do, since you know all about Bilbo's
adventures to which he was referring), but he thought he understood enough, and
he chuckled in his wicked inside.
    "I thought so last night," he smiled to himself. "Lake-men, some nasty scheme
of those miserable tub-trading Lake-men, or I'm a lizard. I haven't been down that
way for an age and an age; but I will soon alter that!"
    "Very well, O Barrel-rider!" he said aloud. "Maybe Barrel was your pony's
name; and maybe not, though it was fat enough. You may walk unseen, but you
did not walk all the way. Let me tell you I ate six ponies last night and I shall
catch and eat all the others before long. In return for the excellent meal I will give
you one piece of advice for your good: don't have more to do with dwarves than
you can help!"
    "Dwarves!" said Bilbo in pretended surprise.
    "Don't talk to me!" said Smaug. "I know the smell (and taste) of dwarf-no one
better. Don't tell me that I can eat a dwarf-ridden pony and not know it! You'll
come to a bad end, if you go with such friends. Thief Barrel-rider. I don't mind if
you go back and tell them so from me."
    But he did not tell Bilbo that there was one smell he could not make out at all,
hobbit-smell; it was quite outside his experience and puzzled him mightily.
    "I suppose you got a fair price for that cup last night?" he went on. "Come
now, did you? Nothing at all! Well, that's just like them. And I suppose they are
skulking outside, and your job is to do all the dangerous work and get what you
can when I'm not looking-for them? And you will get a fair share? Don't you
believe it! If you get off alive, you will be lucky."

    Bilbo was now beginning to feel really uncomfortable. Whenever Smaug's
roving eye, seeking for him in the shadows, flashed across him, he trembled, and
an unaccountable desire seized hold of him to rush out and reveal himself and tell
all the truth to Smaug. In fact he was in grievous danger of coming under the
dragon-spell. But plucking up courage he spoke again.
    "You don't know everything, O Smaug the Mighty," said he. "Not gold alone
brought us hither."
     "Ha! Ha! You admit the 'us'," laughed Smaug. "Why not say 'us fourteen' and
be done with it. Mr. Lucky Number? I am pleased to hear that you had other
business in these parts besides my gold. In that case you may, perhaps, not
altogether waste your time.
     "I don't know if it has occurred to you that, even if you could steal the gold bit
by bit-a matter of a hundred years or so – you could not get it very far? Not much
use on the mountain-side? Not much use in the forest? Bless me! Had you never
thought of the catch? A fourteenth share, I suppose, Or something like it, those
were the terms, eh? But what about delivery? What about cartage? What about
armed guards and tolls?" And Smaug laughed aloud. He had a wicked and a wily
heart, and he knew his guesses were not far out, though he suspected that the
Lake-men were at the back of the plans, and that most of the plunder was meant to
stop there in the town by the shore that in his young days had been called
Esgaroth.
     You will hardly believe it, but poor Bilbo was really very taken aback. So far
all his. thoughts and energies had been concentrated on getting to the Mountain
and finding the entrance. He had never bothered to wonder how the treasure was
to be removed, certainly never how any part of it that might fall to his share was to
be brought back all the way to Bag-End Under-Hill.
     Now a nasty suspicion began to grow in his mind-had the dwarves forgotten
this important point too, or were they laughing in their sleeves at him all the time?
That is the effect that dragon-talk has on the inexperienced. Bilbo of course ought
to have been on his guard; but Smaug had rather an overwhelming personality.
     "I tell you," he said, in an effort to remain loyal to his friends and to keep his
end up, "that gold was only an afterthought with us. We came over hill and under
hill, by wave and win, for Revenge. Surely, O Smaug the unassessably wealthy,
you must realize that your success has made you some bitter enemies?"
     Then Smaug really did laugh-a devastating sound which shook Bilbo to the
floor, while far up in the tunnel the dwarves huddled together and imagined that
the hobbit had come to a sudden and a nasty end.
     "Revenge!" he snorted, and the light of his eyes lit the the hall from floor to
ceiling like scarlet lightning. "Revenge! The King under the Mountain is dead and
where are hi kin that dare seek revenge? Girion Lord of Dale is dead, and I have
eaten his people like a wolf among sheep, and where are his sons' sons that dare
approach me? I kill where I wish and none dare resist. I laid low the warriors of
old and their like is not in the world today. Then I was but young and tender. Now
I am old and strong, strong strong. Thief in the Shadows!" he gloated. "My
armour is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of
my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!"
    "I have always understood," said Bilbo in a frightened squeak, "that dragons
were softer underneath, especially in the region of the–er–chest; but doubtless one
so fortified has thought of that."
    The dragon stopped short in his boasting. "Your information is antiquated," he
snapped. "I am armoured above and below with iron scales and hard gems. No
blade can pierce me."
    "I might have guessed it," said Bilbo. "Truly there can; nowhere be found the
equal of Lord Smaug the Impenetrable. What magnificence to possess a waistcoat
of fine diamonds!"
    "Yes, it is rare and wonderful, indeed," said Smaug absurdly pleased. He did
not know that the hobbit had already caught a glimpse of his peculiar under-
covering on his previous visit, and was itching for a closer view for reasons of his
own. The dragon rolled over. "Look!" he said. "What do you say to that?"
    "Dazzlingly marvellous! Perfect! Flawless! Staggering!" exclaimed Bilbo
aloud, but what he thought inside was: "Old fool! Why there is a large patch in the
hollow of his left breast as bare as a snail out of its shell!"
    After he had seen that Mr. Baggins' one idea was to get away. "Well, I really
must not detain Your Magnificence any longer," he said, "or keep you from much
needed rest. Ponies take some catching, I believe, after a long start. And so do
burglars," he added as a parting shot, as he darted back and fled up the tunnel.
    It was an unfortunate remark, for the dragon spouted terrific flames after him,
and fast though he sped up the slope, he had not gone nearly far enough to be
comfortable before the ghastly head of Smaug was thrust against the opening
behind. Luckily the whole head and jaws could not squeeze in, but the nostrils
sent forth fire and vapour to pursue him, and he was nearly overcome, and
stumbled blindly on in great pain and fear. He had been feeling rather pleased with
the cleverness of his conversation with Smaug, but his mistake at the end shook
him into better sense.
    "Never laugh at live dragons, Bilbo you fool!" he said to himself, and it
became a favourite saying of his later, and passed into a proverb. "You aren't
nearly through this adventure yet," he added, and that was pretty true as well.

   The afternoon was turning into evening when he came out again and stumbled
and fell in a faint on the 'door-step.' The dwarves revived him, and doctored his
scorches as well as they could; but it was a long time before the hair on the back
of his head and his heels grew properly again: it had all been singed and frizzled
right down to the skin. In the meanwhile his friends did their best to cheer him up;
and they were eager for his story, especially wanting to know why the dragon had
made such an awful noise, and how Bilbo had escaped.
     But the hobbit was worried and uncomfortable, and they had difficulty in
getting anything out of him. On thinking things over he was now regretting some
of the things he had said to the dragon, and was not eager to repeat them. The old
thrush was sitting on a rock near by with his head cocked on one side, listening to
all that was said. It shows what an ill temper Bilbo was in: he picked up a stone
and threw it at the thrush, which merely fluttered aside and came back.
     "Drat the bird!" said Bilbo crossly. "I believe he is listening, and I don't like
the look of him."
     "Leave him alone!" said Thorin. "The thrushes are good and friendly-this is a
very old bird indeed, and is maybe the last left of the ancient breed that used to
live about here, tame to the hands of my father and grandfather. They were a long-
lived and magical race, and this might even be one of those that were alive then, a
couple of hundreds years or more ago. The Men of Dale used to have the trick of
understanding their language, and used them for messengers to fly to the Men of
the Lake and elsewhere."
     "Well, he'll have news to take to Lake-town all right, if that is what he is after,"
said Bilbo; "though I don't suppose there are any people left there that trouble with
thrush-language."
     "Why what has happened?" cried the dwarves. "Do get on with your tale!"
     So Bilbo told them all he could remember, and he confessed that he had a
nasty feeling that the dragon guessed too much from his riddles added to the
camps and the ponies. "I am sure he knows we came from Lake-town and had
help from there; and I have a horrible feeling that his next move may be in that
direction. I wish to goodness I had never said that about Barrel-rider; it would
make even a blind rabbit in these parts think of the Lake-men."
     "Well, well! It cannot be helped, and it is difficult not to slip in talking to a
dragon, or so I have always heard," said Balin anxious to comfort him. "I think
you did very well, if you ask me-you found out one very useful thing at any rate,
and got home alive, and that is more than most can say who have had words with
the likes of Smaug. It may be a mercy and a blessing yet to know of the bare patch
in the old Worm's diamond waistcoat."
     That turned the conversation, and they all began discussing dragon-slayings
historical, dubious, and mythical, and the various sorts of stabs and jabs and
undercuts, and the different arts, devices and stratagems by which they had been
accomplished. The general opinion was that catching a dragon napping was not as
easy as it sounded, and the attempt to stick one or prod one asleep was more likely
to end in disaster than a bold frontal attack. All the while they talked the thrush
listened, till at last when the stars began to peep forth, it silently spread its wings
and flew away. And all the while they talked and the shadows lengthened Bilbo
became more and more unhappy and his foreboding
     At last he interrupted them. "I am sure we are very unsafe here," he said, "and
I don't see the point of sitting here. The dragon has withered all the pleasant green,
and anyway the night has come and it is cold. But I feel it in my bones that this
place will be attacked again. Smaug knows now how I came down to his hall, and
you can trust him to guess where the other end of the tunnel is. He will break all
this side of the Mountain to bits, if necessary, to stop up our entrance, and if we
are smashed with it the better he will like it."
     "You are very gloomy, Mr. Baggins!" said Thorin. "Why has not Smaug
blocked the lower end, then, if he is so eager to keep us out? He has not, or we
should have heard him."
     "I don't know, I don't know-because at first he wanted to try and lure me in
again, I suppose, and now perhaps because he is waiting till after tonight's hunt, or
because he does not want to damage his bedroom if he can help it – but I wish you
would not argue. Smaug will be coming out at any minute now, and our only hope
is to get well in the tunnel and shut the door."
     He seemed so much in earnest that the dwarves at last did as he said, though
they delayed shutting the door-it seemed a desperate plan, for no one knew
whether or how they could get it open again from the inside, and the thought of
being shut in a place from which the only way out led through the dragon's lair
was not one they liked. Also everything seemed quite quiet, both outside and
down the tunnel. So for a longish while they sat inside not far down from the half-
open door and went on talking. The talk turned to the dragon's wicked words
about the dwarves. Bilbo wished he had never heard them, or at least that he could
feel quite certain that the dwarves now were absolutely honest when they declared
that they had never thought at all about what would happen after the treasure had
been won.
     "We knew it would be a desperate venture," said Thorin, "and we know that
still; and I still think that when we have won it will be time enough to think what
to do about it. As for your share, Mr. Baggins, I assure you we are more than
grateful and you shall choose you own fourteenth, as soon as we have anything to
divide, am sorry if you are worried about transport, and I admit the difficulties are
great-the lands have not become less wild with the passing of time, rather the
reverse-but we will do whatever we can for you, and take our share of the cost
when the time comes. Believe me or not as you like!"
    From that the talk turned to the great hoard itself and to the things that Thorin
and Balin remembered. They wondered if they were still lying there .unharmed in
the hall below: the spears that were made for the armies of the great King
Bladorthin (long since dead), each had a thrice-forged head and their shafts were
inlaid with cunning gold, but they were never delivered or paid for; shields made
for warriors long dead; the great golden cup of Thror, two-handed, hammered and
carven with birds and flowers whose eyes and petals were of jewels; coats of mail
gilded and silvered and impenetrable; the necklace of Girion, Lord of Dale, made
of five hundred emeralds green as grass, which he gave for the arming of his eldest
son in a coat of dwarf-linked rings the like of which had never been made before,
for it was wrought of pure silver to the power and strength of triple steel. But
fairest of all was the great white gem, which the dwarves had found beneath the
roots of the Mountain, the Heart of the Mountain, the Arkenstone of Thrain.
    "The Arkenstone! The Arkenstone!" murmured Thorin in the dark, half
dreaming with his chin upon his knees. "It was like a globe with a thousand facets;
it shone like silver in the firelight, like water in the sun, like snow under the stars,
like rain upon the Moon!"
    But the enchanted desire of the hoard had fallen from Bilbo. All through their
talk he was only half listening to them. He sat nearest to the door with one ear
cocked for any beginnings of a sound without, his other was alert or echoes
beyond the murmurs of the dwarves, for any whisper of a movement from far
below.
    Darkness grew deeper and he grew ever more uneasy. "Shut the door!" he
begged them. "I fear that dragon in my marrow. I like this silence far less than the
uproar of last night. Shut the door before it is too late!"
    Something in his voice gave the dwarves an uncomfortable feeling. Slowly
Thorin shook off his dreams and getting up he kicked away the stone that wedged
the door. Then they thrust upon it, and it closed with a snap and a clang. No trace
of a keyhole was there left on the inside. They were shut in the Mountain!
    And not a moment too soon. They had hardly gone any distance down the
tunnel when a blow smote the side of the Mountain like the crash of battering-
rams made of forest oaks and swung by giants. The rock boomed, the walls
cracked and stones fell from the roof on their heads. What would have happened if
the door had still been open I don't like to think. They fled further down the tunnel
glad to be still alive, while behind them outside they heard the roar and rumble of
Smaug's fury. He was breaking rocks to pieces, smashing wall and cliff with the
lashings of his huge tail, till their little lofty camping ground, the scorched grass,
the thrush's stone, the snail-covered walls, the narrow ledge, and all disappeared in
a jumble of smithereens, and an avalanche of splintered stones fell over the cliff
into the valley below.
    Smaug had left his lair in silent stealth, quietly soared into the air, and then
floated heavy and slow in the dark like a monstrous crow, down the wind towards
the west of the Mountain, in the hopes of catching unawares something or
somebody there, and of spying the outlet to the passage which the thief had used.
This was the outburst of his wrath when he could find nobody and see nothing,
even where he guessed the outlet must actually be.
    After he had let off his rage in this way he felt better and he thought in his
heart that he would not be troubled again from that direction. In-the meanwhile he
had further vengeance to take. "Barrel-rider!" he snorted. "Your fee came from the
waterside and up the water you came with out a doubt. I don't know your smell,
but if you are not one of those men of the Lake, you had their help. They shall see
me and remember who is the real King under the Mountain!"
    He rose in fire and went away south towards the Running River.
                                     Chapter 13
                                    Not at Home

     In the meanwhile, the dwarves sat in darkness, and utter silence fell about
them. Little they ate and little they spoke. They could not count the passing of
time; and they scarcely dared to move, for the whisper of their voices echoed and
rustled in the tunnel. If they dozed, they woke still to darkness and to silence going
on unbroken. At last after days and days of waiting, as it seemed, when they were
becoming choked and dazed for want of air, they could bear it no longer. They
would almost have welcomed sounds from below of the dragon's return. In the
silence they feared some cunning devilry of his, but they could not sit there for
ever.
     Thorin spoke: "Let us try the door!" he said. "I must feel the wind on my face
soon or die. I think I would rather be smashed by Smaug in the open than
suffocate in here!"
     So several of the dwarves got up and groped back to where the door had been.
But they found that the upper end of the tunnel had been shattered and blocked
with broken rock. Neither key nor the magic it had once obeyed would ever open
that door again.
     "We are trapped!" they groaned. "This is the end. We shall die here."
     But somehow, just when the dwarves were most despairing, Bilbo felt a
strange lightening of the heart, as if a heavy weight had gone from under his
waistcoat.
     "Come, come!" he said. "While there's life there's hope!" as my father used to
say, and 'Third time pays for all.' I am going down the tunnel once again. I have
been that way twice, when I knew there was a dragon at the other end, so I will
risk a third visit when I am no longer sure. Anyway the only way out is down.
And I think time you had better all come with me."
     In desperation they agreed, and Thorin was the first go forward by Bilbo's side.
     "Now do be careful!" whispered the hobbit, "and quiet as you can be! There
may be no Smaug at the bottom but then again there may be. Don't let us take any
unnecessary risks!"
     Down, down they went. The dwarves could not, course, compare with the
hobbit in real stealth, and the made a deal of puffing and shuffling which echoes
magnified alarmingly; but though every now and again Bilbo in fear stopped and
listened, not a sound stirred below Near the bottom, as well as he could judge,
Bilbo slipped on his ring and went ahead. But he did not need it: the darkness was
complete, and they were all invisible, ring or no ring. In fact so black was it that
the hobbit came to the opening unexpectedly, put his hand on air, stumbled for
ward, and rolled headlong into the hall!
    There he lay face downwards on the floor and did no dare to get up, or hardly
even to breathe. But nothing moved. There was not a gleam of light-unless, as
seemed to him, when at last he slowly raised his head, there was a pale white glint,
above him and far off in the gloom. But certainly it was not a spark of dragon-fire,
though the wormstench was heavy in the place, and the taste of vapour was on his
tongue.
    At length Mr. Baggins could bear it no longer. "Come found you, Smaug, you
worm!" he squeaked aloud. "Stop playing hide-and-seek! Give me a light, and
then eat me if you can catch me!"
    Faint echoes ran round the unseen hall, but there was no answer. Bilbo got up,
and found that he did not know in what direction to turn.
    "Now I wonder what on earth Smaug is playing at," he said. "He is not at
home today (or tonight, or whatever it is), I do believe. If Oin and Gloin have not
lost their time tinder-boxes, perhaps we can make a little light, and have a look
round before the luck turns."
    "Light!" he cried. "Can anybody make a light?"
    The dwarves, of course, were very alarmed when Bilbo fell forward down the
step with a bump into the hall, and they sat huddled just where he had left them at
the end the tunnel.
    "Sh! sh!" they hissed, when they heard his voice: and though that helped the
hobbit to find out where they were, was some time before he could get anything
else out of them. But in the end, when Bilbo actually began to stamp in the floor,
and screamed out light!' at the top of his thrill voice, Thorin gave way, and Oin
and Gloin were sent back to their bundles at the top of the tunnel. After a while a
twinkling gleam showed them returning, in with a small pine-torch alight in his
hand, and Gloin with a bundle of others under his arm. Quickly Bilbo trotted to
the door and took the torch; but he could not persuade the dwarves to light the
others or to come and join him yet. As Thorin carefully explained, Mr. Baggins
was still officially their expert burglar and investigator. If he liked to risk a light,
that was his affair. They would wait in the tunnel for his report. So they sat near
the door and watched.
    They saw the little dark shape of the hobbit start across the floor holding his
tiny light aloft. Every now and again, while he was still near enough, they caught
a glint and a tinkle as he stumbled on some golden thing. The light grew smaller
as he wandered away into the vast hall; then it began to rise dancing into the air.
Bilbo was climbing the great mound of treasure. Soon he stood upon the top, and
still went on. Then they saw him halt and stoop for a moment; but they did not
know the reason. It was the Arkenstone, the Heart of the Mountain. So Bilbo
guessed from Thorin's description; but indeed there could not be two such gems,
even in so marvellous a hoard, even in all the world. Ever as he climbed, the same
white gleam had shone before him and drawn his feet towards Slowly it grew to a
little globe of pallid light. Now as came near, it was tinged with a flickering
sparkle of man colours at the surface, reflected and splintered from the wavering
light of his torch. At last he looked down upon it and he caught his breath. The
great jewel shone before he feet of its own inner light, and yet, cut and fashioned
by the dwarves, who had dug it from the heart of the mountain long ago, it took
all light that fell upon it and-changes it into ten thousand sparks of white radiance
shot with glints of the rainbow.
     Suddenly Bilbo's arm went towards it drawn by it enchantment. His small
hand would not close about it for it was a large and heavy gem; but he lifted it,
shut his eyes, and put it in his deepest pocket.
     "Now I am a burglar indeed!" thought he. "But I suppose I must tell the
dwarves about it-some time. The did say I could pick and choose my own share;
and I think I would choose this, if they took all the rest!" All the same he had an
uncomfortable feeling that the picking and choosing had not really been meant to
include this marvellous gem, and that trouble would yet come of it. Now he went
on again. Down the other side of the great mound he climbed, and the spark of his
torch vanished from the sight of the watching dwarves. But soon they saw it far
away in the distance again. Bilbo was crossing the floor of the hall.
     He went on, until he came to the great doors at the further side, and there a
draught of air refreshed him, but it almost puffed out his light. He peeped timidly
through and caught a glimpse of great passages and of the dim beginnings of wide
stairs going up into the gloom. And still there was no sight nor sound of Smaug.
He was just going to turn and go back, when a black shape swooped at him and
brushed his face. He squeaked and started, stumbled backwards and fell. His torch
dropped head downwards and went out!
     "Only a bat, I suppose and hope!" he said miserably. But now what am I to
do? Which is East, South, North West?"
    "Thorin! Balin! Oin! Gloin! Fill! Kili!" he cried as loud he could-it seemed a
thin little noise in the wide blackness. "The light's gone out! Someone come and
find and help me!" For the moment his courage had failed together.
    Faintly the dwarves heard his small cries, though the only word they could
catch was 'help!'
    "Now what on earth or under it has happened?" said Thorin. "Certainly not the
dragon, or he would not go on squeaking."
    They waited a moment or two, and still there were no dragon-noises, no sound
at all in fact but Bilbo's distant voice. "Come, one of you, get another light or
two!" Thorin ordered. "It seems we have got to go and help our burglar."
    "It is about our turn to help," said Balin, "and I am quite willing to go.
Anyway I expect it is safe for the moment."
    Gloin lit several more torches, and then they all crept out, one by one, and
went along the wall as hurriedly as they could. It was not long before they met
Bilbo himself coming back towards them. His wits had quickly returned soon as
he saw the twinkle of their lights.
    "Only a bat and a dropped torch, nothing worse!" he said in answer to their
questions. Though they were much relieved, they were inclined to be grumpy at
being frightened for nothing; but what they would have said, if he had told them at
that moment about the Arkenstone, I don't know. The mere fleeting glimpses of
treasure which they had caught as they went along had rekindled all the fire of
their dwarvish hearts; and when the heart of a dwarf, even the most respectable, is
wakened by gold and by jewels, he grows suddenly bold, and he may become
fierce.
    The dwarves indeed no longer needed any urging. All were now eager to
explore the hall while they had the chance, and willing to believe that, for the
present, Smaug was away from home. Each now gripped a lighted torch; and as
they gazed, first on one side and then on another, they forgot fear and even
caution. They spoke aloud, and cried out to one another, as they lifted old
treasures from the mound or from the wall and held them in the light caressing and
fingering them. Fili and Kili were almost in merry mood, and finding still hanging
there many golden harps strung with silver they took them and struck them; and
being magical (and also untouched by the dragon, who had small interests in
music) they were still in tune. The dark hall was filled with a melody that had
long been silent. But most of the dwarves were more practical; they gathered gems
and stuffed their pockets, and let what they could not carry far back through their
fingers with a sigh. Thorin was not least among these; but always he searched
from side to side for something which he could not find. It was the Arkenstone but
he spoke of it yet to no one.
    Now the dwarves took down mail and weapons from the walls, and armed
themselves. Royal indeed did Thorin look, clad in a coat of gold-plated rings, with
a silver hafted axe in a belt crusted with scarlet stones.
    "Mr. Baggins!" he cried. "Here is the first payment of your reward! Cast off
your old coat and put on this!"
    With that he put on Bilbo a small coat of mail, wrought for some young elf-
prince long ago. It was of silver-steel which the elves call mithril, and with it went
a belt of pearls and crystals. A light helm of figured leather, strengthened beneath
with hoops of steel, and studded about the bring with white gems, was set upon the
hobbit's head.
    "I feel magnificent," he thought; "but I expect I look rather absurd. How they
would laugh on the Hill at home Still I wish there was a looking-glass handy!"
    All the same Mr. Baggins kept his head more clear of the bewitchment of the
hoard than the dwarves did. Long before the dwarves were tired of examining the
treasures he became wary of it and sat down on the floor; and he began to wonder
nervously what the end of it all would be
    "I would give a good many of these precious goblets, thought, "for a drink of
something cheering out of one Beorn's wooden bowls!"
    "Thorin!" he cried aloud. "What next? We are armed, but what good has any
armour ever been before against Smaug the Dreadful? This treasure is not yet won
back. We are not looking for gold yet, but for a way of escape; and we have
tempted luck too long!"
    '"You speak the truth!" answered Thorin, recovering his wits. "Let us go! I will
guide you. Not in a thousand years should I forget the ways of this palace." Then
he hailed the others, and they gathered together, and holding their torches above
their heads they passed through the gaping doors, not without many a backward
glance of longing.
    Their glittering mail they had covered again with their old cloaks and their
bright helms with their tattered hoods, and one by one they walked behind Thorin,
a line of little lights in the darkness that halted often, listening in fear once more
for any rumour of the dragon's coming. Though all the old adornments were long
mouldered or destroyed, and though all was befouled and blasted with the
comings and goings of the monster, Thorin knew every passage and every turn.
They climbed long stairs, and turned and went down wide echoing ways, and
turned again and climbed yet more stairs, and yet more' stairs again.
     These were smooth, cut out of the living rock broad and lair; and up, up, the
dwarves went, and they met no sign of any living thing, only furtive shadows that
fled from the approach of their torches fluttering in the draughts. The steps were
not made, all the same, for hobbit-legs, and Bilbo was just feeling that he could go
on no longer, when suddenly the roof sprang high and far beyond the reach of their
torch-light. A white glimmer could be seen coming through some opening far
above, and the air smelt sweeter. Before them light came dimly through great
doors, that hung twisted on their hinges and half burnt.
     "This is the great chamber of Thror," said Thorin; "the hall of feasting and of
council. Not far off now is the Front Gate."
     They passed through the ruined chamber. Tables were rotting there; chairs and
benches were lying there overturned, charred and decaying. Skulls and bones were
upon the floor among flagons and bowls and broken drinking-horns and dust. As
they came through yet more doors at the further end, a sound of water fell upon
their ears, and the grey light grew suddenly more full.
     "There is the birth of the Running River," said Thorin. "From here it hastens to
the Gate. Let us follow it!"
     Out of a dark opening in a wall of rock there issued a boiling water, and it
flowed swirling in a narrow channel, carved and made straight and deep by the
cunning of ancient hands. Beside it ran a stone-paved road, wide enough for many
men abreast. Swiftly along this they ran, and round a wide-sweeping turn-and
behold! before them stood the broad light of day. In front there rose a tall arch,
still showing the fragments of old carven work within, worn and splintered and
blackened though it was. A misty sun sent its pale light between the arms of the
Mountain, and beams of gold fell on the pavement at the threshold.
     A whirl of bats frightened from slumber by their smoking torches flurried over
them; as they sprang forward their feet slithered on stones rubbed smooth and
slimed by the passing of the dragon. Now before them the water fell noisily
outward and foamed down towards the valley. They flung their pale torches to the
ground, and stood gazing out with dazzled eyes. They were come to the Front
Gate, and were looking out upon Dale.
     "Well!" said Bilbo, "I never expected to be looking out of this door. And I
never expected to be so pleased to see the sun again, and to feel the wind on my
face. But, ow! this wind is cold!"
     It was. A bitter easterly breeze blew with a threat of oncoming winter. It
swirled over and round the arms of the Mountain into the valley, and sighed
among the rocks. After their long time in the stewing depths of the dragon-haunted
caverns, they shivered in the sun. Suddenly Bilbo realized that he was not only
tired but also very hungry indeed. "It seems to be late morning," he said, "and so I
suppose it is more or less breakfast-time – if there is any breakfast to have. But I
don't feel that Smaug's front doorstep is the safest place for a meal. Do let's go
somewhere where we can sit quiet for a bit!"
    "Quite right!" said Balin. "And I think I know which way we should go: we
ought to make for the old look-out post at the Southwest corner of the Mountain."
    "How far is that?" asked the hobbit.
    "Five hours march, I should think. It will be rough going. The road from the
Gate along the left edge of the stream seems all broken up. But look down there!
The river loops suddenly east across Dale in front of the ruined town. At that point
there was once a bridge, leading to steep stairs that climbed up the right bank, and
so to a road running towards Ravenhill. There is (or was) a path that left the road
and climbed up to the post. A hard climb, too, even if the old steps are still there."
    "Dear me!" grumbled the hobbit. "More walking and more climbing without
breakfast! I wonder how many breakfasts, and other meals, we have missed inside
that nasty clockless, timeless hole?"
    As a matter of fact two nights and the day between had gone by (and not
altogether without food) since the dragon smashed the magic door, but Bilbo had
quite lost count, and it might have been one night or a week of nights for all he
could tell.
    "Come, come!" said Thorin laughing – his spirits had begun to rise again, and
he rattled the precious stones in his pockets. "Don't call my place a nasty hole!
You wait till it has been cleaned and redecorated!"
    "That won't be till Smaug's dead," said Bilbo glumly. "In the meanwhile where
is he? I would give a good breakfast to know. I hope he is not up on the Mountain
looking down at us!"

    That idea disturbed the dwarves mightily, and they quickly decided that Bilbo
and Balin were right.
    "We must move away from here," said Don. "I feel as if his eyes were on the
back of my head."
    "It's a cold lonesome place," said Bombur. "There may be drink, but I see no
sign of food. A dragon would always be hungry in such parts."
    "Come on! Come on!" cried the others. "Let us follow Balm's path!"
    Under the rocky wall to the right there was no path, so on they trudged among
the stones on the left side of the river, and the emptiness and desolation soon
sobered even Thorin again. The bridge that Balin had spoken of they found long
fallen, and most of its stones were now only boulders in the shallow noisy stream;
but they forded the water without much difficulty, and found the ancient steps, and
climbed the high bank. After going a short way they struck the old road, and
before long came to a deep dell sheltered among the rocks; there they rested for a
while and had such a breakfast as they could, chiefly cram and water. (If you want
to know what cram is, I can only say that I don't know the recipe; but it is
biscuitish, keeps good indefinitely, is supposed to be sustaining, and is certainly
not entertaining, being in fact very uninteresting except as a chewing exercise. It
was made by the Lake-men for long journeys).
    After that they went on again; and now the road struck westwards and left the
river, and the great shoulder of the south-pointing mountain-spur drew ever nearer.
At length they reached the hill path. It scrambled steeply up, and they plodded
slowly one behind the other, till at last in the late afternoon they came to the top of
the ridge and saw the wintry sun going downwards to the West.
    Here they found a flat place without a wall on three sides, but backed to the
North by a rocky face in which there was an opening like a door. From that door
there was a wide view East and South and West.
    "Here," said Balin, "in the old days we used always to keep watchmen, and
that door behind leads into a rock-hewn chamber that was made here as a
guardroom. There were several places like it round the Mountain. But there
seemed small need for watching in the days of our prosperity, and the guards were
made over comfortable, perhaps – otherwise we might have had longer warnings
of the coming of the dragon, and things might have been different. Still, "here we
can now lie hid and sheltered for a while, and can see much without being seen."
    "Not much use, if we have been seen coming here," said Dori, who was always
looking up towards the Mountain's peak, as if he expected to see Smaug perched
there like a bird on a steeple.
    "We must take our chance of that," said Thorin. "We can go no further to-day."
    "Hear, hear!" cried Bilbo, and flung himself on the ground.
    In the rock-chamber there would have been room for a hundred, and there was
a small chamber further in, more removed from the cold outside. It was quite
deserted; not even wild animals seemed to have used it in all the days of Smaug's
dominion. There they laid their burdens; and some threw themselves down at once
and slept, but the others sat near the outer door and discussed their plans.
    In all their talk they came perpetually back to one thing: where was Smaug?
They looked West and there was nothing, and East there was nothing, and in the
South there was no sign of the dragon, but there was a gathering of very many
birds. At that they gazed and wondered; but they were no nearer understanding it,
when the first cold stars came out.
                                    Chapter 14
                                  Fire and Water

    Now if you wish, like the dwarves, to hear news of Smaug, you must go back
again to the evening when he smashed the door and flew off in rage, two days
before.
    The men of the lake-town Esgaroth were mostly indoors, for the breeze was
from the black East and chill, but a few were walking on the quays, and watching,
as they were fond of doing, the stars shine out from the smooth patches of the lake
as they opened in the sky. From their town the Lonely Mountain was mostly
screened by the low hills at the far end of the lake, through a gap in which the
Running River came down from the North. Only its high peak could they see in
clear weather, and they looked seldom at it, for it was ominous and dreary even in
the light of morning. Now it was lost and gone, blotted in the dark.
    Suddenly it flickered back to view; a brief glow touched it and faded.
    "Look!" said one. "The lights again! Last night the watchmen saw them start
and fade from midnight until dawn. Something is happening up there."
    "Perhaps the King under the Mountain is forging gold," said another. "It is
long since he went north. It is time the songs began to prove themselves again."
    "Which king?" said another with a grim voice. "As like as not it is the
marauding fire of the Dragon, the only king under the Mountain we have ever
known."
    "You are always foreboding gloomy things!" said the others. "Anything from
floods to poisoned fish. Think of something cheerful!"
    Then suddenly a great light appeared in the low place in the hills and the
northern end of the lake turned golden.
    "The King beneath the Mountain!" they shouted. "His wealth is like the Sun,
his silver like a fountain, his rivers golden run! The river is running gold from the
Mountain!" they cried, and everywhere windows were opening and feet were
hurrying.
    There was once more a tremendous excitement and enthusiasm. But the grim-
voiced fellow ran hotfoot to the Master. "The dragon is coming or I am a fool!" he
cried. "Cut the bridges! To arms! To arms!"
    Then warning trumpets were suddenly sounded, and echoed along the rocky
shores. The cheering stopped and the joy was turned to dread. So it was that the
dragon did not find them quite unprepared. Before long, so great was his speed,
they could see him as a spark of fire rushing towards them and growing ever
huger and more bright, and not the most foolish doubted that the prophecies had
gone rather wrong. Still they had a little time. Every vessel in the town was filled
with water, every warrior was armed, every arrow and dart was ready, and the
bridge to the land was thrown down and destroyed, before the roar of Smaug's
terrible approach grew loud, and the lake rippled red as fire beneath the awful
beating of his wings.
    Amid shrieks and wailing and the shouts of men he came over them, swept
towards the bridges and was foiled! The bridge was gone, and his enemies were on
an island in deep water-too deep and dark and cool for his liking. If he plunged
into it, a vapour and a steam would arise enough to cover all the land with a mist
for days; but the lake was mightier than he, it would quench him before he could
pass through.
    Roaring he swept back over the town. A hail of dark arrows leaped up and
snapped and rattled on his scales and jewels, and their shafts fell back kindled by
his breath burning and hissing into the lake. No fireworks you ever imagined
equalled the sights that night. At the twanging of the bows and the shrilling of the
trumpets the dragon's wrath blazed to its height, till he was blind and mad with it.
No one had dared to give battle to him for many an age; nor would they have
dared now, if it had not been for the grim-voiced man (Bard was his name), who
ran to and fro cheering on the archers and urging the Master to order them to fight
to the last arrow.
    Fire leaped from the dragon's jaws. He circled for a while high in the air above
them lighting all the lake; the trees by the shores shone like copper and like blood
with leaping shadows of dense black at their feet. Then down he swooped straight
through the arrow-storm, reckless in his rage, taking no heed to turn his scaly
sides towards his foes, seeking only to set their town ablaze.
    Fire leaped from thatched roofs and wooden beam-ends as he hurtled down
and past and round again, though all had been drenched with water before he
came. Once more water was flung by a hundred hands wherever a spark appeared.
Back swirled the dragon. A sweep of his tail and the roof of the Great House
crumbled and smashed down. Flames unquenchable sprang high into the night.
Another swoop and another, and another house and then another sprang afire and
fell; and still no arrow hindered Smaug or hurt him more than a fly from the
marshes. Already men were jumping into the water on every side. Women and
children were being huddled into laden boats in the market-pool. Weapons were
flung down. There was mourning and weeping, where but a little time ago the old
songs of mirth to come had been sung about the dwarves. Now men cursed their
names. The Master himself was turning to his great gilded boat, hoping to row
away in the confusion and save himself. Soon all the town would be deserted and
burned down to the surface of the lake. That was the dragon's hope. They could all
get into boats for all he cared. There he could have fine sport hunting them, or
they could stop till they starved. Let them try to get to land and he would be ready.
Soon he would set all the shoreland woods ablaze and wither every field and
pasture. Just now he was enjoying the sport of town-baiting more than he had
enjoyed anything for years. But there was still a company of archers that held their
ground among the burning houses. Their captain was Bard, grim-voiced and grim-
faced, whose friends had accused him of prophesying floods and poisoned fish,
though they knew his worth and courage. He was a descendant in long line of
Girion, Lord of Dale, whose wife and child had escaped down the Running River
from the ruin long ago. Now he shot with a great yew bow, till all his arrows but
one were spent. The flames were near him. His companions were leaving him. He
bent his bow for the last time. Suddenly out of the dark something fluttered to his
shoulder. He started-but it was only an old thrush. Unafraid it perched by his ear
and it brought him news. Marvelling he found he could understand its tongue, for
he was of the race of Dale.
    "Wait! Wait!" it said to him. "The moon is rising. Look for the hollow of the
left breast as he flies and turns above you!" And while Bard paused in wonder it
told him of tidings up in the Mountain and of all that it had heard. Then Bard
drew his bow-string to his ear. The dragon was circling back, flying low, and as he
came the moon rose above the eastern shore and silvered his great wings.
    "Arrow!" said the bowman. "Black arrow! I have saved you to the last. You
have never failed me and always I have recovered you. I had you from my father
and he from of old. If ever you came from the forges of the true king under the
Mountain, go now and speed well!"
    The dragon swooped once more lower than ever, and as he turned and dived
down his belly glittered white with sparkling fires of gems in the moon-but not in
one place. The great bow twanged. The black arrow sped straight from the string,
straight for the hollow by the left breast where the foreleg was flung wide. In it
smote and vanished, barb, shaft and feather, so fierce was its flight. With a shriek
that deafened men, felled trees and split stone, Smaug shot spouting into the air,
turned over and crashed down from on high in ruin.
    Full on the town he fell. His last throes splintered it to sparks and gledes. The
lake roared in. A vast steam leaped up, white in the sudden dark under the moon.
There was a hiss, a gushing whirl, and then silence. And that was the end of
Smaug and Esgaroth, but not of Bard. The waxing moon rose higher and higher
and the wind grew loud and cold. It twisted the white fog into bending pillars and
hurrying clouds and drove it off to the West to scatter in tattered shreds over the
marshes before Mirkwood. Then the many boats could be seen dotted dark on the
surface of the lake, and down the wind came the voices of the people of Esgaroth
lamenting their lost town and goods and ruined houses. But they had really much
to be thankful for, had they thought of it, though it could hardly be expected that
they should just then: three quarters of the people of the town had at least escaped
alive; their woods and fields and pastures and cattle and most of their boats
remained undamaged; and the dragon was dead. What that meant they had not yet
realized.
     They gathered in mournful crowds upon the western shores, shivering in the
cold wind, and their first complaints and anger were against the Master, who had
left the town so soon, while some were still willing to defend it.
     "He may have a good head for business-especially his own business," some
murmured, "but he is no good when anything serious happens!" And they praised
the courage of Bard and his last mighty shot. "If only he had not been killed," they
all said, "we would make him a king. Bard the Dragon-shooter of the line of
Girion! Alas that he is lost!"
     And in the very midst of their talk, a tall figure stepped from the shadows. He
was drenched with water, his black hair hung wet over his face and shoulders, and
a fierce light was in his eyes.
     "Bard is not lost!" he cried. "He dived from Esgaroth, when the enemy was
slain. I am Bard, of the line of Girion; I am the slayer of the dragon!"
     "King Bard! King Bard!" they shouted; but the Master ground his chattering
teeth.
     "Girion was lord of Dale, not king of Esgaroth," he said. "In the Lake-town we
have always elected masters from among the old and wise, and have not endured
the rule of mere fighting men. Let 'King Bard' go back to his own kingdom-Dale is
now freed by his valour, and nothing binders his return. And any that wish can go
with him, if they prefer the cold shores under the shadow of the Mountain to the
green shores of the lake. The wise will stay here and hope to rebuild our town, and
enjoy again in time its peace and riches."
     "We will have King Bard!" the people near at hand shouted in reply. "We have
had enough of the old men and the money-counters!" And people further off took
up the cry: "Up the Bowman, and down with Moneybags," till the clamour echoed
along the shore.
    "I am the last man to undervalue Bard the Bowman," said the Master warily
(for Bard now stood close beside him). "He has tonight earned an eminent place in
the roll of the benefactors of our town; and he is worthy of many imperishable
songs. But, why O People?"-and here the Master rose to his feet and spoke very
loud and clear – "why do I get all your blame? For what fault am I to be deposed?
Who aroused the dragon from his slumber, I might ask? Who obtained of us rich
gifts and ample help, and led us to believe that old songs could come true? Who
played on our soft hearts and our pleasant fancies? What sort of gold have they
sent down the river to reward us? Dragon-fire and ruin! From whom should we
claim the recompense of our damage, and aid for our widows and orphans?"
    As you see, the Master had not got his position for nothing. The result of his
words was that for the moment the people quite forgot their idea of a new king,
and turned their angry thoughts towards Thorin and his company. Wild and bitter
words were shouted from many sides; and some of those who had before sung the
old songs loudest, were now heard as loudly crying that the dwarves had stirred
the dragon up against them deliberately!
    "Fools!" said Bard. "Why waste words and wrath on those unhappy creatures?
Doubtless they perished first in fire, before Smaug came to us." Then even as he
was speaking, the thought came into his heart of the fabled treasure of the
Mountain lying without guard or owner, and he fell suddenly silent. He thought of
the Master's words, and of Dale rebuilt, and filled with golden bells, if he could
but find the men.
    At length he spoke again: "This is no time for angry words. Master, or for
considering weighty plans of change. There is work to do. I serve you still-though
after a while I may think again of your words and go North with any that will
follow me."
    Then he strode off to help in the ordering of the camps and in the care of the
sick and the wounded. But the Master scowled at his back as he went, and
remained sitting on the ground. He thought much but said little, unless it was to
call loudly for men to bring him fire and food. Now everywhere Bard went he
found talk running like fire among the people concerning the vast treasure that
was now unguarded. Men spoke of the recompense for all their harm that they
would soon get from it, and wealth over and to spare with which to buy rich things
from the South; and it cheered them greatly in their plight. That was as well, for
the night was bitter and miserable. Shelters could be contrived for few (the Master
had one) and there was little food (even the Master went short). Many took ill of
wet and cold and sorrow that night, and afterwards died, who had escaped
uninjured from the ruin of the town; and in the days that followed there was much
sickness and great hunger.
    Meanwhile Bard took the lead, and ordered things as he wished, though
always in the Master's name, and he had a hard task to govern the people and
direct the preparations for their protection and housing. Probably most of them
would have perished in the winter that now hurried after autumn, if help had not
been to hand. But help came swiftly; for Bard at once had speedy messengers sent
up the river to the Forest to ask the aid of the King of the Elves of the Wood, and
these messengers had found a host already on the move, although it was then only
the third day after the fall of Smaug.
    The Elvenking had received news from his own messengers and from the birds
that loved his folk, and already knew much of what had happened. Very great
indeed was the commotion among all things with wings that dwelt on the borders
of the Desolation of the Dragon. The air was filled with circling flocks, and their
swift-flying messengers flew here and there across the sky. Above the borders of
the Forest there was whistling, crying and piping. Far over Mirkwood tidings
spread: "Smaug is dead!" Leaves rustled and startled ears were lifted. Even before
the Elvenking rode forth the news had passed west right to the pinewoods of the
Misty Mountains; Beorn had heard it in his wooden house, and the goblins were at
council in their caves.
    "That will be the last we shall hear of Thorin Oakenshield, I fear," said the
king. "He would have done better to have remained my guest. It is an ill wind, all
the same," he added, "that blows no one any good." For he too had not forgotten
the legend of the wealth of Thror. So it was that Bard's messengers found him now
marching with many spearmen and bowmen; and crows were gathered thick,
above him, for they thought that war was awakening again, such as had not been
in those parts for a long age. But the king, when he received the prayers of Bard,
had pity, for he was the lord of a good and kindly people; so turning his march,
which had at first been direct towards the Mountain, he hastened now down the
river to the Long Lake. He had not boats or rafts enough for his host, and they
were forced to go the slower way by foot; but great store of goods he sent ahead
by water. Still elves are light–footed, and though they were not in these days much
used to the marches and the treacherous lands between the Forest and the Lake,
their going was swift. Only five days after the death of the dragon they came upon
the shores and looked on the ruins of the town. Their welcome was good, as may
be expected, and the men and their Master were ready to make any bargain for the
future in return for the Elvenking's aid.
    Their plans were soon made. With the women and the children, the old and the
unfit, the Master remained behind; and with him were some men of crafts and
many skilled elves; and they busied themselves felling trees, and collecting the
timber sent down from the Forest. Then they set about raising many huts by the
shore against the oncoming winter; and also under the Master's direction they
began the planning of a new town, designed more fair and large even than before,
but not in the same place. They removed northward higher up the shore; for ever
after they had a dread of the water where the dragon lay. He would never again
return to his golden bed, but was stretched cold as stone, twisted upon the floor of
the shallows. There for ages his huge bones could be seen in calm weather amid
the ruined piles of the old town. But few dared to cross the cursed spot, and none
dared to dive into the shivering water or recover the precious stones that fell from
his rotting carcass.
    But all the men of arms who were still able, and the most of the Elvenking's
array, got ready to march north to the Mountain. It was thus that in eleven days
from the ruin of the town the head of their host passed the rock-gates at the end of
the lake and came into the desolate lands.
                                    Chapter 15
                           The Gathering of the Clouds

     Now we will return to Bilbo and the dwarves. All night one of them had
watched, but when morning came they had not heard or seen any sign of danger.
But ever more thickly the birds were gathering. Their companies came flying from
the South; and the crows that still lived about the Mountain were wheeling and
crying unceasingly above.
     "Something strange is happening," said Thorin. "The time has gone for the
autumn wanderings; and these are birds that dwell always in the land; there are
starlings and flocks of finches; and far off there are many carrion birds as if a
battle were afoot!"
     Suddenly Bilbo pointed: "There is that old thrush again!" he cried. "He seems
to have escaped, when Smaug smashed the mountain-side, but I don't suppose the
snails have!"
     Sure enough the old thrush was there, and as Bilbo pointed, he flew towards
them and perched on a stone near by. Then he fluttered his wings and sang; then
he cocked his head on one side, as if to listen; and again he sang, and again he
listened.
     "I believe he is trying to tell us something," said Balin; "but I cannot follow
the speech of such birds, it is very quick and difficult. Can you make it out
Baggins?"
     "Not very well," said Bilbo (as a matter of fact, he could make nothing of it at
all); "but the old fellow seems .very excited."
     "I only wish he was a raven!" said Balin.
     "I thought you did not like them! You seemed very shy of them, when we
came this way before."
     "Those were crows! And nasty suspicious-looking creatures at that, and rude
as well. You must have heard the ugly names they were calling after us. But the
ravens are different. There used to be great friendship between them and the
people of Thror; and they often brought us secret news, and were rewarded with
such bright things as they coveted to hide in their dwellings.
     "They live many a year, and their memories are long, and they hand on their
wisdom to their children. I knew many among the ravens of the rocks when I was
a dwarf- lad. This very height was once named Ravenhill, because there was a
wise and famous pair, old Care and his wife, that lived here above the guard-
chamber. But I don't suppose that any of that ancient breed linger here now."
     No sooner had he finished speaking than the old thrush gave a loud call, and
immediately flew away.
     "We may not understand him, but that old bird understands us, I am sure," said
Balin. "Keep watch now, and see what happens!"
     Before long there was a fluttering of wings, and back came the thrush; and
with him came a most decrepit old bird. He was getting blind, he could hardly fly,
and the top of his head was bald. He was an aged raven of great size. He alighted
stiffly on the ground before them, slowly flapped his wings, and bobbed towards
Thorin.
     "O Thorin son of Thrain, and Balin son of Fundin," he croaked (and Bilbo
could understand what he said, for he used ordinary language and not bird-
speech). "I am Róac son of Carc. Carc is dead, but he was well known to you
once. It is a hundred years and three and fifty since I came out of the egg, but I do
not forget what my father told me. Now I am the chief of the great ravens of the
Mountain. We are few, but we remember still the king that was of old. Most of my
people are abroad, for there are great tidings in the South – some are tidings of joy
to you, and some you will not think so good.
     "Behold! the birds are gathering back again to the Mountain and to Dale from
South and East and West, for word has gone out that Smaug is dead!"
     "Dead! Dead?" shouted the dwarves. "Dead! Then we have been in needless
fear-and the treasure is ours!"
     They all sprang up and began to caper about for joy.
     "Yes, dead," said Róac. "The thrush, may his feathers never fall, saw him die,
and we may trust his words. He saw him fall in battle with the men of Esgaroth
the third night back from now at the rising of the moon."
     It was some time before Thorin could bring the dwarves to be silent and listen
to the raven's news. At length when he had told all the tale of the battle he went
on:
     "So much for joy, Thorin Oakenshield. You may go back to your halls in
safety; all the treasure is yours-for the moment. But many are gathering hither
beside the birds. The news of the death of the guardian has already gone far and
wide, and the legend of the wealth of Thror has not lost in the telling during many
years; many are eager for a share of the spoil. Already a host of the elves is on the
way, and carrion birds are with them hoping for battle and slaughter. By the lake
men murmur that their sorrows are due to the dwarves; for they are homeless and
many have died, and Smaug has destroyed their town. They too think to find
amends from your treasure, whether you are alive or dead.
     "Your own wisdom must decide your course, but thirteen is small remnant of
the great folk of Durin that once dwelt here, and now are scattered far. If you will
listen to my counsel, you will not trust the Master of the Lake-men, but rather him
that shot the dragon with his bow. Bard is he, of the race of Dale, of the line of
Girion; he is a grim man but true. We would see peace once more among dwarves
and men and elves after the long desolation; but it may cost you dear in gold. I
have spoken."
     Then Thorin burst forth in anger: "Our thanks, Róac Carc's son. You and your
people shall not be forgotten. But none of our gold shall thieves take or the violent
carry off while we are alive. If you would earn our thanks still more, bring us
news of any that draw near. Also I would beg of you, if any of you are still young
and strong of wing, that you would send messengers to our kin in the mountains of
the North, both west from here and east, and tell them of our plight. But go
specially to my cousin Dain in the Iron Hills, for he has many people well-armed,
and dwells nearest to this place. Bid him hasten!"
     "I will not say if this counsel be good or bad," croaked Róac; "but I will do
what can be done." Then off he slowly flew.
     "Back now to the Mountain!" cried Thorin. "We have little time to lose."
     "And little food to use!" cried Bilbo, always practical on such points. In any
case he felt that the adventure was, properly speaking, over .with the death of the
dragon-in which he was much mistaken-and he would have given most of his
share of the profits for the peaceful winding up of these affairs.
     "Back to the Mountain!" cried the dwarves as if they had not heard him; so
back he had to go with them. As you have heard some of the events already, you
will see that the dwarves still had some days before them. They explored the
caverns once more, and found, as they expected, that only the Front Gate
remained open; all the other gates (except, of course, the small secret door) had
long ago been broken and blocked by Smaug, and no sign of them remained. So
now they began to labour hard in fortifying the main entrance, and in remaking
the road that led from it. Tools were to be found in plenty that the miners and
quarriers and builders of old had used; and at such work the dwarves were still
very skilled.
     As they worked the ravens brought them constant tidings. In this way they
learned that the Elvenking had turned aside to the Lake, and they still had a
breathing space. Better still, they heard that three of their ponies had escaped and
were wandering wild far down the banks of the Running River, not far from where
the rest of their stores had been left. So while the others went on with their work,
Fili and Kili were sent, guided by a raven, to find the ponies and bring back all
they could.
    They were four days gone, and by that time they knew that the joined armies
of the Lake-men and the Elves were hurrying towards the Mountain. But now
their hopes were higher; for they had food for some weeks with care-chiefly cram,
of course, and they were very tired of it; but cram is much better than nothing-and
already the gate was blocked with a wall of squared stones laid dry, but very thick
and high across the opening. There were holes in the wall through which they
could see (or shoot) but no entrance. They climbed in or out with ladders, and
hauled stuff up with ropes. For the issuing of the stream they had contrived a small
low arch under the new wall; but near the entrance they had so altered the narrow
bed that a wide pool stretched from the mountain-wall to the head of the fall over
which the stream went towards Dale. Approach to the Gate was now only
possible, without swimming, along a narrow ledge of the cliff, to the right as one
looked outwards from the wall. The ponies they had brought only to the head of
the steps above the old bridge, and unloading them there had bidden them return
to their masters and sent them back riderless to the South.
    There came a night when suddenly there were many lights as of fires and
torches away south in Dale before them.
    "They have come!" called Balin. "And their camp is very great. They must
have come into the valley under the cover of dusk along both banks of the river."
    That night the dwarves slept little. The morning was still pale when they saw a
company approaching. From behind their wall they watched them come up to the
valley's head and climb slowly up. Before long they could see that both men of the
lake armed as if for war and elvish bowmen were among them. At length the
foremost of these climbed the tumbled rocks and appeared at the top of the falls;
and very great was their surprise to see the pool before them and the Gate blocked
with a wall of new-hewn stone.
    As they stood pointing and speaking to one another Thorin hailed them: "Who
are you," he called in a very loud voice, "that come as if in war to the gates of
Thorin son of Thrain, King under the Mountain, and what do you desire?"
    But they answered nothing. Some turned swiftly back, and the others after
gazing for a while at the Gate and its defences soon followed them. That day the
camp was moved and was brought right between the arms of the Mountain. The
rocks echoed then with voices and with song, as they had not done for many a day.
There was the sound, too, of elven-harps and of sweet music; and as it echoed up
towards them it seemed that the chill of the air was warmed, and they caught
faintly the fragrance of woodland flowers blossoming in spring.
    Then Bilbo longed to escape from the dark fortress and to go down and join in
the mirth and feasting by the fires. Some of the younger dwarves were moved in
their hearts, too, and they muttered that they wished things had fallen out
otherwise and that they might welcome such folk as friends; but Thorin scowled.
    Then the dwarves themselves brought forth harps and instruments regained
from the hoard, and made music to soften his mood; but their song was not as
elvish song, and was much like the song they had sung long before in Bilbo's little
hobbit-hole.

                Under the Mountain dark and tall
                The King has come unto his hall!
                His foe is dead, the Worm of Dread,
                And ever so his foes shall fall.

                The sword is sharp, the spear is long,
                The arrow swift, the Gate is strong;
                The heart is bold that looks on gold;
                The dwarves no more shall suffer wrong.

                The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
                While hammers fell like ringing bells
                In places deep, where dark things sleep,
                In hollow halls beneath the fells.

                On silver necklaces they strung
                The light of stars, on crowns they hung
                The dragon-fire, from twisted wire
                The melody of harps they wrung.

                The mountain throne once more is freed!
                O! wandering folk, the summons heed!
                Come haste! Come haste! across the waste!
                The king of friend and kin has need.

                Now call we over mountains cold,
                'Come hack unto the caverns old'!
                Here at the Gates the king awaits,
                His hands are rich with gems and gold.

                The king is come unto his hall
                Under the Mountain dark and tall.
                The Worm of Dread is slain and dead,
                And ever so our foes shall fall!

    This song appeared to please Thorin, and he smiled again and grew merry; and
he began reckoning the distance to the Iron Hills and how long it would be before
Dain could reach the Lonely Mountain, if he had set out as soon as the message
reached him. But Bilbo's heart fell, both at the song and the talk: they sounded
much too warlike. The next morning early a company of spearmen was seen
crossing the river, and marching up the valley. They bore with them the green
banner of the Elvenking and the blue banner of the Lake, and they advanced until
they stood right before the wall at the Gate.
    Again Thorin hailed them in a loud voice: "Who are you that come armed for
war to the gates of Thorin son of Thrain, King under the Mountain?" This time he
was answered.
    A tall man stood forward, dark of hair and grim of face, and he cried: "Hail
Thorin! Why do you fence yourself like a robber in his hold? We are not yet foes,
and we rejoice that you are alive beyond our hope. We came expecting to find
none living here; yet now that we are met there is matter for a parley and a
council."
    "Who are you, and of what would you parley?"
    "I am Bard, and by my hand was the dragon slain and your treasure delivered.
Is that not a matter that concerns you? Moreover I am by right descent the heir of
Girion of Dale, and in your hoard is mingled much of the wealth of his halls and
town, which of old Smaug stole. Is not that a matter of which we may speak?
Further in his last battle Smaug destroyed the dwellings of the men of Esgaroth,
and I am yet the servant of their Master. I would speak for him and ask whether
you have no thought for the sorrow and misery of his people. They aided you in
your distress, and in recompense you have thus far brought ruin only, though
doubtless undesigned."
    Now these were fair words and true, if proudly and grimly spoken; and Bilbo
thought that Thorin would at once admit what justice was in them. He did not, of
course, expect that any one would remember that it was he who discovered all by
himself the dragon's weak spot; and that was just as well, for no one ever did. But
also he did not reckon with the power that gold has upon which a dragon has long
brooded, nor with dwarvish hearts. Long hours in the past days Thorin had spent
in the treasury, and the lust of it was heavy on him. Though he had hunted chiefly
for the Arkenstone, yet he had an eye for many another wonderful thing that was
lying there, about which were wound old memories of the labours and the sorrows
of his race.
    "You put your worst cause last and in the chief place," Thorin answered. "To
the treasure of my people no man has a claim, because Smaug who stole it from us
also robbed him of life or home. The treasure was not his that his evil deeds
should be amended with a share of it. The price of the goods and the assistance
that we received of the Lake-men we will fairly pay-in due time. But nothing will
we give, not even a loaf's worth, under threat of force. While an armed host lies
before our doors, we look on you as foes and thieves.
    "It is in my mind to ask what share of their inheritance you would have paid to
our kindred, had you found the hoard unguarded and us slain."
    "A just question," replied Bard. "But you are not dead, and we are not robbers.
Moreover the wealthy may have pity beyond right on the needy that befriended
them when they were in want. And still my other claims remain unanswered."
    "I will not parley, as I have said, with armed men at my gate. Nor at all with
the people of the Elvenking, whom I remember with small kindness. In this debate
they have no place. Begone now ere our arrows fly! And if you would speak with
me again, first dismiss the elvish host to the woods where it belongs, and then
return, laying down your arms before you approach the threshold."
    "The Elvenking is my friend, and he has succoured the people of the Lake in
their need, though they had no claim but friendship on him," answered Bard. "We
will give you time to repent your words. Gather your wisdom ere we return!"
Then he departed and went back to the camp.
    Ere many hours were past, the banner-bearers returned, and trumpeters stood
forth and blew a blast:
    "In the name of Esgaroth and the Forest," one cried, "we speak unto Thorin
Thrain's son Oakenshield, calling himself the King under the Mountain, and we
bid him consider well the claims that have been urged, or be declared our foe. At
the least he shall deliver one twelfth portion of the treasure unto Bard, as the
dragon-slayer, and as the heir of Girion. From that portion Bard will himself
contribute to the aid of Esgaroth; but if Thorin would have the friendship and
honour of the lands about, as his sires had of old, then he will give also somewhat
of his own for the comfort of the men of the Lake." Then Thorin seized a bow of
horn and shot an arrow at the speaker. It smote into his shield and stuck there
quivering.
    '"Since such is your answer," he called in return, "I declare the Mountain
besieged. You shall not depart from it, until you call on your side for a truce and a
parley. We will bear no weapons against you, but we leave you to your gold. You
may eat that, if you will!"
    With that the messengers departed swiftly, and the dwarves were left to
consider their case. So grim had Thorin become, that even if they had wished, the
others would not have dared to find fault with him; but indeed most of them
seemed to share his mind-except perhaps old fat Bombur and Fili and Kili. Bilbo,
of course, disapproved of the whole turn of affairs. He had by now had more than
enough of the Mountain, and being besieged inside it was not at all to his taste.
    "The whole place still stinks of dragon," he grumbled to himself, "and it makes
me sick. And cram is beginning simply to stick in my throat."
                                    Chapter 16
                               A Thief in the Night

    Now the days passed slowly and wearily. Many of the dwarves spent their time
piling and ordering the treasure; and now Thorin spoke of the Arkenstone of
Thrain, and bade them eagerly to look for it in every comer.
    "For the Arkenstone of my father," he said, "is worth more than a river of gold
in itself, and to me it is beyond price. That stone of all the treasure I name unto
myself, and I will be avenged on anyone who finds it and withholds it."
    Bilbo heard these words and he grew afraid, wondering what would happen, if
the stone was found-wrapped in an old bundle of tattered oddments that he used as
a pillow. All the same he did not speak of it, for as the weariness of the days grew
heavier, the beginnings of a plan had come into his little head.
    Things had gone on like this for some time, when the ravens brought news that
Dain and more than five hundred dwarves, hurrying from the Iron Hills, were now
within about two days' march of Dale, coming from the North-East.
    "But they cannot reach the Mountain unmarked," said Róac, "and I fear lest
there be battle in the valley. I do not call this counsel good. Though they are a
grim folk, they are not likely to overcome the host that besets you; and even if
they did so, what will you gain? Winter and snow is hastening behind them. How
shall you be fed without the friendship and goodwill of the lands about you? The
treasure is likely to be your death, though the dragon is no more!"'
    But Thorin was not moved. "Winter and snow will bite both men and elves,"
he said, "and they may find their dwelling in the Waste grievous to bear. With my
friends behind them and winter upon them, they will perhaps be in softer mood to
parley with."
    That night Bilbo made up his mind. The sky was black and moonless. As soon
as it was full dark, he went to a corner of an inner chamber just within the gate
and drew from his bundle a rope, and also the Arkenstone wrapped in a rag. Then
he climbed to the top of the wall. Only Bombur was there, for it was his turn to
watch, and the dwarves kept only one watchman at a time.
    "It is mighty cold!" said Bombur. "I wish we could have a fire up here as they
have in the camp!"
    "It is warm enough inside," said Bilbo.
    "I daresay; but I am bound here till midnight," grumbled the fat dwarf. "A
sorry business altogether. Not that I venture to disagree with Thorin, may his
beard grow ever longer; yet he was ever a dwarf with a stiff neck."
    "Not as stiff as my legs," said Bilbo. "I am tired of stairs and stone passages. I
would give a good deal for the feel of grass at my toes."
    "I would give a good deal for the feel of a strong drink in my throat, and for a
soft bed after a good supper!"
    "I can't give you those, while the siege is going on. But it is long since I
watched, and I will take your turn for you, if you like. There is no sleep in me
tonight."
      "You are a good fellow, Mr. Baggins, and I will take your offer kindly. If
there should be anything to note, rouse me first, mind you! I will lie in the inner
chamber to the left, not far away."
    "Off you go!" said Bilbo. "I will wake you at midnight, and you can wake the
next watchman." As soon as Bombur had gone, Bilbo put on his ring, fastened his
rope, slipped down over the wall, and was gone. He had about five hours before
him. Bombur would sleep (he could sleep at any time, and ever since the
adventure in the forest he was always trying to recapture the beautiful dreams he
had then); and all the others were busy with Thorin. It was unlikely that any, even
Fili or Kili, would come out on the wall until it was their turn. It was very dark,
and the road after a while, when he left the newly made path and climbed down
towards the lower course of the stream, was strange to him. At last he came to the
bend where he had to cross the water, if he was to make for the camp, as he
wished. The bed of the stream was there shallow but already broad, and fording it
in the dark was not easy for the little hobbit. He was nearly across when he missed
his footing on a round stone and fell into the cold water with a splash. He had
barely scrambled out on the far bank, shivering and spluttering, when up came
elves in the gloom with bright lanterns and searched for the cause of the noise.
    "That was no fish!" one said. "There is a spy about. Hide your lights! They
will help him more than us, if it is that queer little creature that is said to be their
servant."
    "Servant, indeed!" snorted Bilbo; and in the middle of his snort he sneezed
loudly, and the elves immediately gathered towards the sound.
    "Let's have a light!" he said. "I am here, if you want me!" and he slipped off
his ring, and popped from behind a rock.
    They seized him quickly, in spite of their surprise. "Who are you? Are you the
dwarves' hobbit? What are you doing? How did you get so far past our sentinels?"
they asked one after another.
    "I am Mr. Bilbo Baggins," he answered, "companion of Thorin, if you want to
know. I know your king well by sight, though perhaps he doesn't know me to look
at. But Bard will remember me, and it is Bard I particularly want to see."
    "Indeed!" said they, "and what may be your business?"
    "Whatever it is, it's my own, my good elves. But if you wish ever to get back
to your own woods from this cold cheerless place," he answered shivering, "you
will take me along quiet to a fire, where I can dry-and then you will let me speak
to your chiefs as quick as may be. I have only an hour or two to spare."
    That is how it came about that some two hours after his escape from the Gate,
Bilbo was sitting beside a warm fire in front of a large tent, and there sat too,
gazing curiously at him, both the Elvenking and Bard. A hobbit in elvish armour,
partly wrapped in an old blanket, was something new to them.
    "Really you know," Bilbo was saying in his best business manner, "things are
impossible. Personally I am tired of the whole affair. I wish I was back in the West
in my own home, where folk are more reasonable. But I have an interest in this
matter-one fourteenth share, to be precise, according to a letter, which fortunately
I believe I have kept." He drew from a pocket in his old jacket (which he still wore
over his mail), crumpled and much folded, Thorin's letter that had been put under
the clock on his mantelpiece in May!
    "A share in the profits, mind you," he went on. "I am aware of that. Personally
I am only too ready to consider all your claims carefully, and deduct what is right
from the total before putting in my own claim. However you don't know Thorin
Oakenshield as well as I do now. I assure you, he is quite ready to sit on a heap of
gold and starve, as long as you sit here."
    "Well, let him!" said Bard. "Such a fool deserves to starve."
    "Quite so," said Bilbo. "I see your point of view. At the same time winter is
coming on fast. Before long you will be having snow and what not, and supplies
will be difficult – even for elves I imagine. Also there will be other difficulties.
You have not heard of Dain and the dwarves of the Iron Hills?"
    "We have, a long time ago; but what has he got to do with us?" asked the king.
    "I thought as much. I see I have some information you have not got. Dain, I
may tell you, is now less than two days' march off, and has at least five hundred
grim dwarves with him – a good many of them have had experience in the
dreadful dwarf and goblin wars, of which you have no doubt heard. When they
arrive there may be serious trouble."
    "Why do you tell us this? Are you betraying your friends, or are you
threatening us?" asked Bard grimly.
    "My dear Bard!" squeaked Bilbo. "Don't be so hasty! I never met such
suspicious folk! I am merely trying to avoid trouble for all concerned. Now I will
make you an offer!!"
    "Let us hear it!" they said.
    "You may see it!" said he. "It is this!" and he drew forth the Arkenstone, and
threw away the wrapping.
    The Elvenking himself, whose eyes were used to things of wonder and beauty,
stood up in amazement. Even Bard gazed marvelling at it in silence. It was as if a
globe had been filled with moonlight and hung before them in a net woven of the
glint of frosty stars.
    "This is the Arkenstone of Thrain," said Bilbo, "the Heart of the Mountain;
and it is also the heart of Thorin. He values it above a river of gold. I give it to
you. It will aid you in your bargaining." Then Bilbo, not without a shudder, not
without a glance of longing, handed the marvellous stone to Bard, and he held it in
his hand, as though dazed.
    "But how is it yours to give?" he asked at last with an effort.
    "O well!" said the hobbit uncomfortably. "It isn't exactly; but, well, I am
willing to let it stand against all my claim, don't you know. I may be a burglar-or
so they say: personally I never really felt like one-but I am an honest one, I hope,
more or less. Anyway I am going back now, and the dwarves can do what they
like to me. I hope you will find it useful."
    The Elvenking looked at Bilbo with a new wonder.
    "Bilbo Baggins!" he said. "You are more worthy to wear the armour of elf-
princes than many that have looked more comely in it. But I wonder if Thorin
Oakenshield will see it so. I have more knowledge of dwarves in general than you
have perhaps. I advise you to remain with us, and here you shall be honoured and
thrice welcome."
    "Thank you very much I am sure," said Bilbo with a bow. "But I don't think I
ought to leave my friends like this, after all we have gone through together. And I
promised to wake old Bombur at midnight, too! Really I must be going, and
quickly."
    Nothing they could say would stop him; so an escort was provided for him,
and as he went both the king and Bard saluted him with honour. As they passed
through the camp an old man wrapped in a dark cloak, rose from a tent door
where he was sitting and came towards them.
    "Well done! Mr. Baggins!" he said, clapping Bilbo on the back. "There is
always more about you than anyone expects!" It was Gandalf.
    For the first time for many a day Bilbo was really delighted. But there was no
time for all the questions that he immediately wished to ask.
    "All in good time!" said Gandalf. "Things are drawing towards the end now,
unless I am mistaken. There is an unpleasant time just in front of you; but keep
your heart up! You may come through all right. There is news brewing that even
the ravens have not heard. Good night!"
    Puzzled but cheered. Bilbo hurried on. He was guided to a safe ford and set
across dry, and then he said farewell to the elves and climbed carefully back
towards the Gate. Great weariness began to come over him; but it was well before
midnight when he clambered up the rope again – it was still where he had left it.
He untied it and hid it, and then he sat down on the wall and wondered anxiously
what would happen next.
    At midnight he woke up Bombur; and then in turn rolled himself up in his
corner, without listening to old dwarfs thanks (which he felt he had hardly
earned). He was soon fast asleep forgetting all his worries till the morning. As
matter of fact he was dreaming of eggs and bacon.
                                   Chapter 17
                                The Clouds Burst

    Next day the trumpets rang early in the camp. Soon a single runner was seen
hurrying along the narrow path. At a distance he stood and hailed them, asking
whether Thorin would now listen to another embassy, since new tidings had come
to hand, and matters were changed.
    "That will be Dain!" said Thorin when he heard. "They will have got wind of
his coming. I thought that would alter their mood! Bid them come few in number
and weaponless, and I will hear," he called to the messenger.
    About midday the banners of the Forest and the Lake were seen to be borne
forth again. A company of twenty was approaching. At the beginning of the
narrow way they laid aside sword and spear, and came on towards the Gate.
Wondering, the dwarves saw that among them were both Bard and the Elvenking,
before whom an old man wrapped in cloak and hood bore a strong casket of iron-
bound wood.
    "Hail Thorin!" said Bard. "Are you still of the same mind?"
    "My mind does not change with the rising and setting of a few suns," answered
Thorin. "Did you come to ask me idle questions? Still the elf-host has not departed
as I bade! Till then you come in vain to bargain with me." "Is there then nothing
for which you would yield any of your gold?"
    "Nothing that you or your friends have to offer."
    "What of the Arkenstone of Thrain?" said he, and at the same moment the old
man opened the casket and held aloft the jewel. The light leapt from his hand,
bright and white in the morning.
    Then Thorin was stricken dumb with amazement and confusion. No one spoke
for a long while. Thorin at length broke the silence, and his voice was thick with
wrath. "That stone was my father's, and is mine," he said. "Why should I purchase
my own?" But wonder overcame him and he added: "But how came you by the
heirloom of my house-if there is need to ask such a question of thieves?"
    "We are not thieves," Bard answered. "Your own we will give back in return
for our own."
    'How came you by it?" shouted Thorin in gathering rage.
    "I gave it them!" squeaked Bilbo, who was peeping over the wall, by now, in a
dreadful fright.
     "You! You!" cried Thorin, turning upon him and grasping him with both
hands. "You miserable hobbit! You undersized-burglar!" he shouted at a loss for
words, and he shook poor Bilbo like a rabbit.
     "By the beard of Durin! I wish I had Gandalf here! Curse him for his choice of
you! May his beard wither! As for you I will throw you to the rocks!" he cried and
lifted Bilbo in his arms.
     "Stay! Your wish is granted!" said a voice. The old man with the casket threw
aside his hood and cloak. "Here is Gandalf! And none too soon it seems. If you
don't like my Burglar, please don't damage him. Put him down, and listen first to
what he has to say!"
     "You all seem in league!" said Thorin dropping Bilbo on the top of the wall.
"Never again will I have dealings with any wizard or his friends. What have you
to say, you descendant of rats?"
     "Dear me! Dear me!" said Bilbo. "I am sure this is all very uncomfortable.
You may remember saying that I might choose my own fourteenth share? Perhaps
I took it too literally –1 have been told that dwarves are sometimes politer in word
than in deed. The time was, all the same, when you seemed to think that I had
been of some service. Descendant of rats, indeed! Is this ail the service of you and
your family that I was promised. Thorin? Take it that I have disposed of my share
as I wished, and let it go at that!"
     "I will," said Thorin grimly. "And I will let you go at that-and may we never
meet again!" Then he turned and spoke over the wall. "I am betrayed," he said. "It
was rightly guessed that I could not forbear to redeem the Arkenstone, the treasure
of my house. For it I will give one fourteenth share of the hoard in silver and gold,
setting aside the gems; but that shall be accounted the promised share of this
traitor, and with that reward he shall depart, and you can divide it as you will. He
will get little enough, I doubt not. Take him, if you wish him to live; and no
friendship of mine goes with him.
     "Get down now to your friends!" he said to Bilbo, "or I will throw you down."
     "What about the gold and silver?" asked Bilbo.
     "That shall follow after, as can be arranged," said he.
     "Get down!"
     "Until then we keep the stone," cried Bard.
     "You are not making a very splendid figure as King under the Mountain," said
Gandalf. "But things may change yet."
     "They may indeed," said Thorin. And already, so strong was the bewilderment
of the treasure upon him, he was pondering whether by the help of Dain he might
not recapture the Arkenstone and withhold the share of the reward.
     And so Bilbo was swung down from the wall, and departed with nothing for
all his trouble, except the armour which Thorin had given him already. More than
one of the dwarves 'in their hearts felt shame and pity at his going.
     "Farewell!" he cried to them. "We may meet again as friends."
     "Be off!" called Thorin. "You have mail upon you, which was made by my
folk, and is too good for you. It cannot be pierced .by arrows; but if you do not
hasten, I will sting your miserable feet. So be swift!"
     "Not so hasty!" said Bard. "We will give you until tomorrow. At noon we will
return, and see if you have brought from the hoard the portion that is to be set
against the stone. If that is done without deceit, then we will depart, and the elf-
host will go back to the Forest. In the meanwhile farewell!"
     With that they went back to the camp; but Thorin sent messengers by Róac
telling Dain of what had passed, and bidding him come with wary speed.
     That day passed and the night. The next day the wind shifted west, and the air
was dark and gloomy. The morning was still early when a cry was heard in the
camp. Runners came in to report that a host of dwarves had appeared round the
eastern spur of the Mountain and was now hastening to Dale. Dain had come. He
had hurried on through the night, and so had come upon them sooner than they
had expected. Each one of his folk was clad in a hauberk of steel mail that hung to
his knees, and his legs were covered with hose of a fine and flexible metal mesh,
the secret of whose making was possessed by Dain's people.
     The dwarves are exceedingly strong for their height, but most of these were
strong even for dwarves. In battle they wielded heavy two-handed mattocks; but
each of them had also a short broad sword at his side and a round shield slung at
his back. Their beards were forked and plaited and thrust into their belts. Their
caps were of iron and they were shod with iron, and their faces were grim.
Trumpets called men and elves to arms. Before long the dwarves could be seen
coming up the valley at a great pace. They halted between the river and the
eastern spur; but a few held on their way, and crossing the river drew near the
camp; and there they laid down their weapons and held up their hands in sign of
peace. Bard went out to meet them, and with him went Bilbo.
     "We are sent from Dain son of Nain," they said when questioned. "We are
hastening to our kinsmen in the Mountain, since we learn that the kingdom of old
is renewed. But who are you that sit in the plain as foes before defended walls?"
This, of. course, in the polite and rather old-fashioned language of such occasions,
meant simply: "You have no business here. We are going on, so make way or we
shall fight you!" They meant to push on between the Mountain and the loop of the
river, for the narrow land there did not seem to be strongly guarded.
    Bard, of course, refused to allow the dwarves to go straight on to the
Mountain. He was determined to wait until the gold and silver had been brought
out in exchange for the Arkenstone: for he did not believe that this would be done,
if once the fortress was manned with so large and warlike a company. They had
brought with them a great store of supplies; for the dwarves can carry very heavy
burdens, and nearly all of Dain's folks, in spite of their rapid march, bore huge
packs on their backs in addition to their weapons. They would stand a siege for
weeks, and by that time yet more dwarves might come, and yet more, for Thorin
had many relatives. Also they would be able to reopen and guard some other gate,
so that the besiegers would have to encircle the whole mountain; and for that they
had not sufficient numbers.
    These were, in fact, precisely their plans (for the raven-messengers had been
busy between Thorin and Dain); but for the moment the way was barred, so after
angry words the dwarf-messengers retired muttering in their beards. Bard then
sent messengers at once to the Gate; but they found no gold or payment. Arrows
came forth as soon as they were within shot, and they hastened back in dismay. In
the camp all was now astir, as if for battle; for the dwarves of Dain were
advancing along the eastern bank.
    "Fools!" laughed Bard, "to come thus beneath the Mountain's arm! They do
not understand war above ground, whatever they may know of battle in the mines.
There are many of our archers and spearmen now hidden in the rocks upon their
right flank. Dwarf-mail may be good, but they will soon be hard put to it. Let us
set on them now from both sides, before they are fully rested!"
    But the Elvenking said: "Long will I tarry, ere I begin this war for gold. The
dwarves cannot press us, unless we will, or do anything that we cannot mark. Let
us hope still for something that will bring reconciliation. Our advantage in
numbers will be enough, if in the end it must come to unhappy blows."
    But he reckoned without the dwarves. The knowledge that the Arkenstone was
in the hands of the besiegers burned in their thoughts; also they guessed the
hesitation of Bard and his friends, and resolved to strike while they debated.
    Suddenly without a signal they sprang silently forward to attack. Bows
twanged and arrows whistled; battle was about to be joined.
    Still more suddenly a darkness came on with dreadful swiftness! A black
cloud hurried over the sky. Winter thunder on a wild wind rolled roaring up and
rumbled in the Mountain, and lightning lit its peak. And beneath the thunder
another blackness could be seen whirling forward; but it did not come with the
wind, it came from the North, like a vast cloud of birds, so dense that no light
could be seen between their wings.
    "Halt!" cried Gandalf, who appeared suddenly, and stood alone, with arms
uplifted, between the advancing dwarves and the ranks awaiting them. "Halt!" he
called in a voice like thunder, and his staff blazed forth with a flash like the
lightning. "Dread has come upon you all! Alas! it has come more swiftly than I
guessed. The Goblins are upon you! Bolg∗ of the North is coming. O Dain! whose
father you slew in Moria. Behold! the bats are above his army like a sea of
locusts. They ride upon wolves and Wargs are in their train!"
    Amazement and confusion fell upon them all. Even as Gandalf had been
speaking the darkness grew. The dwarves halted and gazed at the sky. The elves
cried out with many voices.
    "Come!" called Gandalf. "There is yet time for council. Let Dain son of Nain
come swiftly to us!"

    So began a battle that none had expected; and it was called the Battle of Five
Armies, and it was very terrible. Upon one side were the Goblins and the wild
Wolves, and upon the other were Elves and Men and Dwarves. This is how it fell
out. Ever since the fall of the Great Goblin of the Misty Mountains the hatred of
their race for the dwarves had been rekindled to fury. Messengers had passed to
and fro between all their cities, colonies and strongholds; for they resolved now to
win the dominion of the North. Tidings they had gathered in secret ways; and in
all the mountains there was a forging and an arming. Then they marched and
gathered by hill and valley, going ever by tunnel or under dark, until around and
beneath the great mountain Gundabad of the North, where was their capital, a vast
host was assembled ready to sweep down in time of storm unawares upon the
South. Then they learned of the death of Smaug, and joy was in their hearts: and
they hastened night after night through the mountains, and came thus at last on a
sudden from the North hard on the heels of Dain. Not even the ravens knew of
their coming until they came out in the broken lands which divided the Lonely
Mountain from the hills behind. How much Gandalf knew cannot be said, but it is
plain that he had not expected this sudden assault.
∗
    Son of Azog
    This is the plan that he made in council with the Elvenking and with Bard; and
with Dain, for the dwarf-lord now joined them: the Goblins were the foes of all,
and at their coming all other quarrels were forgotten. Their only hope was to lure
the goblins into the valley between the arms of the Mountain; and themselves to
man the great spurs that struck south and east. Yet this would be perilous, if the
goblins were in sufficient numbers to overrun the Mountain itself, and so attack
them also from behind and above; but there was no time for make any other plan,
or to summon any help.
    Soon the thunder passed, rolling away to the South-East; but the bat-cloud
came, flying lower, over the shoulder of the Mountain, and whirled above them
shutting out the light and filling them with dread.
    "To the Mountain!" called Bard. "To the Mountain! Let us take our places
while there is yet time!"
    On the Southern spur, in its lower slopes and in the rocks at its feet, the Elves
were set; on the Eastern spur were men and dwarves. But Bard and some of the
nimblest of men and elves climbed to the height of the Eastern shoulder to gain a
view to the North. Soon they could see the lands before the Mountain's feet black
with a hurrying multitude. Ere long the vanguard swirled round the spur's end and
came rushing into Dale. These were the swiftest wolf-riders, and already their
cries and howls rent the air afar. A few brave men were strung before them to
make a feint of resistance, and many there fell before the rest drew back and fled
to either side. As Gandalf had hoped, the goblin army had gathered behind the
resisted vanguard, and poured now in rage into the valley, driving wildly up
between the arms of the Mountain, seeking for the foe. Their banners were
countless, black and red, and they came on like a tide in fury and disorder.
    It was a terrible battle. The most dreadful of all Bilbo's experiences, and the
one which at the time he hated most – which is to say it was the one he was most
proud of, and most fond of recalling long afterwards, although he was quite
unimportant in it. Actually I must say he put on his ring early in the business, and
vanished from sight, if not from all danger. A magic ring of that sort is not a
complete protection in a goblin charge, nor does it stop flying arrows and wild
spears; but it does help in getting out of the way, and it prevents your head from
being specially chosen for a sweeping stroke by a goblin swordsman.
    The elves were the first to charge. Their hatred for the goblins is cold and
bitter. Their spears and swords shone in the gloom with a gleam of chill flame, so
deadly was the wrath of the hands that held them. As soon as the host of their
enemies was dense in the valley, they sent against it a shower of arrows, and each
flickered as it fled as if with stinging fire. Behind the arrows a thousand of their
spearmen leapt down and charged. The yells were deafening. The rocks were
stained black with goblin blood. Just as the goblins were recovering from the
onslaught and the elf-charge was halted, there rose from across the valley a deep-
throated roar. With cries of "Moria!" and "Dain, Dain!" the dwarves of the Iron
Hills plunged in, wielding their mattocks, upon the other side; and beside them
came the men of the Lake with long swords. Panic came upon the Goblins; and
even as they turned to meet this new attack, the elves charged again with renewed
numbers. Already many of the goblins were flying back down the river to escape
from the trap: and many of their own wolves were turning upon them and rending
the dead and the wounded. Victory seemed at hand, when a cry rang out on the
heights above.
     Goblins had scaled the Mountain from the other side and already many were
on the slopes above the Gate, and others were streaming down recklessly, heedless
of those that fell screaming from cliff and precipice, to attack the spurs from
above. Each of these could be reached by paths that ran down from the main mass
of the Mountain in the centre; and the defenders had too few to bar the way for
long. Victory now vanished from hope. They had only stemmed the first onslaught
of the black tide.
     Day drew on. The goblins gathered again in the valley. There a host of Wargs
came ravening and with them came the bodyguard of Bolg, goblins of huge size
with scimitars of steel. Soon actual darkness was coming into a stormy sky; while
still the great bats swirled about the heads and ears of elves and men, or fastened
vampire-like on the stricken. Now Bard was fighting to defend the Eastern spur,
and yet giving slowly back; and the elf-lords were at bay about their king upon the
southern arm, near to the watch-post on Ravenhill.
     Suddenly there was a great shout, and from the Gate came a trumpet call.
They had forgotten Thorin! Part of the wall, moved by levers, fell outward with a
crash into the pool. Out leapt the King under the Mountain, and his companions
followed him. Hood and cloak were gone; they were in shining armour, and red
light leapt from their eyes. In the gloom the great dwarf gleamed like gold in a
dying fire.
     Rocks were buried down from on high by the goblins above; but they held on.
leapt down to the falls' foot, and rushed forward to battle. Wolf and rider fell or
fled before them. Thorin wielded his axe with mighty strokes, and nothing seemed
to harm him.
    "To me! To me! Elves and Men! To me! O my kinsfolk!" he cried, and his
voice shook like a horn in the valley.
    Down, heedless of order, rushed all the dwarves of Dain to his help. Down too
came many of the Lake-men, for Bard could not restrain them; and out upon the
other side came many of the spearmen of the elves. Once again the goblins were
stricken in the valley; and they were piled in heaps till Dale was dark and hideous
with their corpses. The Wargs were scattered and Thorin drove right against the
bodyguards of Bolg. But he could not pierce their ranks. Already behind him
among the goblin dead lay many men and many dwarves, and many a fair elf that
should have lived yet long ages merrily in the wood. And as the valley widened
his onset grew ever slower. His numbers were too few. His flanks were unguarded.
Soon the attackers were attacked, and they were forced into a great ring, facing
every way, hemmed all about with goblins and wolves returning to the assault.
The bodyguard of Bolg came howling against them, and drove in upon their ranks
like waves upon cliffs of sand. Their friends could not help them, for the assault
from the Mountain was renewed with redoubled force, and upon either side men
and elves were being slowly beaten down.
    On all this Bilbo looked with misery. He had taken his stand on Ravenhill
among the Elves-partly because there was more chance of escape from that point,
and partly (with the more Tookish part of his mind) because if he was going to be
in a last desperate stand, he preferred on the whole to defend the Elvenking.
Gandalf, too, I may say, was there, sitting on the ground as if in deep thought,
preparing, I suppose, some last blast of magic before the end. That did not seem
far off. "It will not be long now," thought Bilbo, "before the goblins win the Gate,
and we are all slaughtered or driven down and captured. Really it is enough to
make one weep, after all one has gone through. I would rather old Smaug had
been left with all the wretched treasure, than that these vile creatures should get it,
and poor old Bombur, and Balin and Fili and Kili and all the rest come to a bad
end; and Bard too, and the Lake-men and the merry elves. Misery me! I have
heard songs of many battles, and I have always understood that defeat may be
glorious. It seems very uncomfortable, not to say distressing. I wish I was well out
of it."
    The clouds were torn by the wind, and a red sunset slashed the West. Seeing
the sudden gleam in the gloom Bilbo looked round. He gave a great cry: he had
seen a sight that made his heart leap, dark shapes small yet majestic against the
distant glow.
    "The Eagles! The Eagles!" he shouted. "The Eagles are coming!"
    Bilbo's eyes were seldom wrong. The eagles were coming down the wind, line
after line, in such a host as must have gathered from all the eyries of the North.
    "The Eagles! the Eagles!" Bilbo cried, dancing and waving his arms. If the
elves could not see him they could hear him. Soon they too took up the cry, and it
echoed across the valley. Many wondering eyes looked up, though as yet nothing
could be seen except from the southern shoulders of the Mountain.
    "The Eagles!" cried Bilbo once more, but at that moment a stone hurtling from
above smote heavily on his helm, and he fell with a crash and knew no more.
                                    Chapter 18
                               The Return Journey

     When Bilbo came to himself, he was literally by himself. He was lying on the
flat stones of Ravenhill, and no one was near. A cloudless day, but cold, was broad
above him. He was shaking, and as chilled as stone, but his head burned with fire.
     "Now I wonder what has happened?" he said to himself. "At any rate I am not
yet one of the fallen heroes; but I suppose there is still time enough for that!"
     He sat up painfully. Looking into the valley he could see no living goblins.
After a while as his head cleared a little, he thought he could see elves moving in
the rocks below. He rubbed his eyes. Surely there was a camp still in the plain
some distance off; and there was a coming and going about the Gate? Dwarves
seemed to be busy removing the wall. But all was deadly still. There was no call
and no echo of a song. Sorrow seemed to be in the air. "Victory after all, I
suppose!" he said, feeling his aching head. "Well, it seems a very gloomy
business."
     Suddenly he was aware of a man climbing up and coming towards him.
     "Hullo there!" he called with a shaky voice. "Hullo there! What news?"
     "What voice is it that speaks among the stones?" said the man halting and
peering about him not far from where Bilbo sat.
     Then Bilbo remembered his ring! "Well I'm blessed!" said he. "This invisibility
has its drawbacks after all. Otherwise I suppose I might have spent a warm and
comfortable night in bed!"
     "It's me, Bilbo Baggins, companion of Thorin!" he cried, hurriedly taking off
the ring.
     "It is well that I have found you!" said the man striding forward. "You are
needed and we have looked for you long. You would have been numbered among
the dead, who are many, if Gandalf the wizard had not said that your voice was
last heard in this place. I have been sent to look here for the last time. Are you
much hurt?"
     "A nasty knock on the head, I think," said Bilbo. "But I have a helm and a
hard skull. All the same I feel sick and my legs are like straws."
     "I will carry you down to the camp in the valley," said the man, and picked
him lightly up.
     The man was swift and sure-footed. It was not long before Bilbo was set down
before a tent in Dale; and there stood Gandalf, with his arm in a sling. Even the
wizard had not escaped without a wound; and there were few unharmed in all the
host.
    When Gandalf saw Bilbo, he was delighted. "Baggins!" he exclaimed. "Well I
never! Alive after all – 1 am glad! I began to wonder if even your luck would see
you through! A terrible business, and it nearly was disastrous. But other news can
wait. Come!" he said more gravely. "You are called for;" and leading the hobbit he
took him within the tent.
    "Hail! Thorin," he said as he entered. "I have brought him."
    There indeed lay Thorin Oakenshield, wounded with many wounds, and his
rent armour and notched axe were cast upon the floor. He looked up as Bilbo
came beside him.
    "Farewell, good thief," he said. "I go now to the halls of waiting to sit beside
my fathers, until the world is renewed. Since I leave now all gold and silver, and
go where it is of little worth, I wish to part in friendship from you, and I would
take back my words and deeds at the Gate."
    Bilbo knelt on one knee filled with sorrow. "Farewell, King under the
Mountain!" he said. "This is a bitter adventure, if it must end so; and not a
mountain of gold can amend it. Yet I am glad that I have shared in your perils –
that has been more than any Baggins deserves."
    "No!" said Thorin. "There is more in you of good than you know, child of the
kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us
valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
But sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell!"
    Then Bilbo turned away, and he went by himself, and sat alone wrapped in a
blanket, and, whether you believe it or not, he wept until his eyes were red and his
voice was hoarse. He was a kindly little soul. Indeed it was long before he had the
heart to make a joke again. "A mercy it is," he said at last to himself, "that I woke
up when I did. I wish Thorin were living, but I am glad that we parted in kindness.
You are a fool, Bilbo Baggins, and you made a great mess of that business with
the stone; and there was a battle, in spite of all your efforts to buy peace and quiet,
but I suppose you can hardly be blamed for that."
    All that had happened after he was stunned, Bilbo learned later; but it gave
him more sorrow than joy, and he was now weary of his adventure. He was aching
in his bones for the homeward journey. That, however, was a little delayed, so in
the meantime I will tell something of events. The Eagles had long had suspicion of
the goblins' mustering; from their watchfulness the movements in the mountains
could not be altogether hid. So they too had gathered in great numbers, under the
great Eagle of the Misty Mountains; and at length smelling battle from afar they
had come speeding down the gale in the nick of time. They it was who dislodged
the goblins from the mountain-slopes, casting them over precipices, or driving
them down shrieking and bewildered among their foes. It was not long before they
had freed the Lonely Mountain, and elves and men on either side of the valley
could come at last to the help of the battle below.
    But even with the Eagles they were still outnumbered.
    In that last hour Beorn himself had appeared – no one knew how or from
where. He came alone, and in bear's shape; and he seemed to have grown almost
to giant-size in his wrath. The roar of his voice was like drums and guns; and he
tossed wolves and goblins from his path like straws and feathers. He fell upon
their rear, and broke like a clap of thunder through the ring. The dwarves were
making a stand still about their lords upon a low rounded hill. Then Beorn
stooped and lifted Thorin, who had fallen pierced with spears, and bore him out of
the fray. Swiftly he returned and his wrath was redoubled, so that nothing could
withstand him, and no weapon seemed to bite upon him. He scattered the
bodyguard, and pulled down Bolg himself and crushed him. Then dismay fell on
the Goblins and they fled in all directions. But weariness left their enemies with
the coming of new hope, and they pursued them closely, and prevented most of
them from escaping where they could. They drove many of them into the Running
River, and such as fled south or west they hunted into the marshes about the Forest
River; and there the greater part of the last fugitives perished, while those that
came hardly to the Wood-elves' realm were there slain, or drawn in to die in the
trackless dark of Mirkwood. Songs have said that three parts of the goblin
warriors of the North perished on that day, and the mountains had peace for many
a year.
    Victory had been assured before the fall of night, but the pursuit was still on
foot, when Bilbo returned to the camp; and not many were in the valley save the
more grievously wounded.
    "Where are the Eagles?" he asked Gandalf that evening, as he lay wrapped in
many warm blankets.
    "Some are in the hunt," said the wizard, "but most have gone back to their
eyries. They would not stay here, and departed with the first light of morning.
Dain has crowned their chief with gold, and sworn friendship with them for ever."
    "I am sorry. I mean, I should have liked to see them again," said Bilbo
sleepily; "perhaps I shall see them on the way home. I suppose I shall be going
home soon?"
    "As soon as you like," said the wizard.
    Actually it was some days before Bilbo really set out.
    They buried Thorin deep beneath the Mountain, and Bard laid the Arkenstone
upon his breast.
    "There let it lie till the Mountain falls!" he said. "May it bring good fortune to
all his folk that dwell here after!" Upon his tomb the Elvenking then laid Orcrist,
the elvish sword that had been taken from Thorin in captivity. It is said in songs
that it gleamed ever in the dark if foes approached, and the fortress of the dwarves
could not be taken by surprise. There now Dain son of Nain took up his abode,
and he became King under the Mountain, and in time many other dwarves
gathered to his throne in the ancient halls. Of the twelve companions of Thorin,
ten remained. Fili and Kili had fallen defending him with shield and body, for he
was their mother's elder brother. The others remained with Dain; for Dain dealt his
treasure well. There was, of course, no longer any question of dividing the hoard
in such shares as had been planned, to Balin and Dwalin, and Dori and Nori and
Ori, and Oin and Gloin, and Bifur and Bofur and Bombur-or to Bilbo. Yet a
fourteenth share of all the silver and gold, wrought and unwrought, was given up
to Bard; for Dain said: "We will honour the agreement of the dead, and he has
now the Arkenstone in his keeping."
    Even a fourteenth share was wealth exceedingly great, greater than that of
many mortal kings. From that treasure Bard sent much gold to the Master of
Lake-town; and he rewarded his followers and friends freely. To the Elvenking he
gave the emeralds of Girion, such jewels as he most loved, which Dain had
restored to him. To Bilbo he said: "This treasure is as much yours as it is mine;
though old agreements cannot stand, since so many have a claim in its winning
and defence. Yet even though you were willing to lay aside all your claim, I
should wish that the words of Thorin, of which he repented, should not prove true:
that we should give you little. I would reward you most richly of all."
    "Very kind of you," said Bilbo. "But really it is a relief to me. How on earth
should I have got all that treasure home without war and murder all along the
way, I don't know. And I don't know what I should have done with it when I got
home. I am sure it is better in your hands."
    In the end he would only take two small chests, one filled with silver, and the
other with gold, such as one strong pony could carry. "That will be quite as much
as I can manage," said he.
    At last the time came for him to say good-bye to his friends. "Farewell, Balin!"
he said; "and farewell, Dwalin; and farewell Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, Gloin, Bifur,
Bofur, and Bombur! May your beards never grow thin!" And turning towards the
Mountain he added: "Farewell Thorin Oakenshield! And Fili and Kili! May your
memory never fade!"
    Then the dwarves bowed low before their Gate, but words stuck in their
throats. "Good-bye and good luck, wherever you fare!" said Balin at last. "If ever
you visit us again, when our halls are made fair once more, then the feast shall
indeed be splendid!"
    "If ever you are passing my way," said Bilbo, "don't wait to knock! Tea is at
four; but any of you are welcome at any time!"
    Then he turned away.
    The elf-host was on the march;. and if it was sadly lessened, yet many were
glad, for now the northern world would be merrier for many a long day. The
dragon was dead, and the goblins overthrown, and their hearts looked forward
after winter to a spring of joy. Gandalf and Bilbo rode behind the Elvenking, and
beside them strode Beorn, once again in man's shape, and he laughed and sang in
a loud voice upon the road. So they went on until they drew near to the borders of
Mirkwood, to the north of the place where the Forest River ran out.
    Then they halted, for the wizard and Bilbo would not enter the wood, even
though the king bade them stay a while in his halls. They intended to go along the
edge of the forest, and round its northern end in the waste that lay between it and
the beginning of the Grey Mountains. It was a long and cheerless road, but now
that the goblins were crushed, it seemed safer to them than the dreadful pathways
under the trees. Moreover Beorn was going that way too.
    "Farewell! O Elvenking!" said Gandalf. "Merry be the greenwood, while the
world is yet young! And merry be all your folk!"
    "Farewell! O Gandalf!" said the king. "May you ever appear where you are
most needed and least expected! The oftener you appear in my halls the better
shall I be pleased!"
    "I beg of you," said Bilbo stammering and standing on one foot, "to accept this
gift!" and he brought out a necklace of silver and pearls that Dain had given him
at their parting.
    "In what way have I earned such a gift, O hobbit?" said the king.
    "Well, er, I thought, don't you know," said Bilbo rather confused, "that, er,
some little return should be made for your, er, hospitality. I mean even a burglar
has his feelings. I have drunk much of your wine and eaten much of your bread."
     "I will take your gift, O Bilbo the Magnificent!" said the king gravely. "And I
name you elf-friend and blessed. May your shadow never grow less (or stealing
would be too easy)! Farewell!"
     Then the elves turned towards the Forest, and Bilbo started on his long road
home.
     He had many hardships and adventures before he got back. The Wild was still
the Wild, and there were many other things in it in those days besides goblins; but
he was well guided and well guarded-the wizard was with him, and Beorn for
much of the way-and he was never in great danger again. Anyway by mid-winter
Gandalf and Bilbo had come all the way back, along both edges of the Forest, to
the doors of Beorn's house; and there for a while they both stayed. Yule-tide was
warm and merry there; and men came from far and wide to feast at Beorn's
bidding. The goblins of the Misty Mountains were now few and terrified, and
hidden in the deepest holes they could find; and the Wargs had vanished from the
woods, so that men went abroad without fear. Beorn indeed became a great chief
afterwards in those regions and ruled a wide land between the mountains and the
wood; and it is said that for many generations the men of his line had the power of
taking bear's shape, and some were grim men and bad, but most were in heart like
Beorn, if less in size and strength. In their day the last goblins were hunted from
the Misty Mountains and a new peace came over the edge of the Wild. It was
spring, and a fair one with mild weathers and a bright sun, before Bilbo and
Gandalf took their leave at last of Beorn, and though he longed for home. Bilbo
left with regret, for the flowers of the gardens of Beorn were m springtime no less
marvellous than in high summer. At last they came up the long road, and reached
the very pass where the goblins had captured them before. But they came to that
high point at morning, and looking backward they saw a white sun shining over
the out-stretched lands. There behind lay Mirkwood, blue in the distance, and
darkly green at the nearer edge even in the spring. There far away was the Lonely
Mountain on the edge of eyesight. On its highest peak snow yet unmelted was
gleaming pale.
     "So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their ending!" said Bilbo,
and he turned his back on his adventure. The Tookish part was getting very tired,
and the Baggins was daily getting stronger. "I wish now only to be in my own
arm-chair!" he said.
                                     Chapter 19
                                   The Last Stage

     It was on May the First that the two came back at last to the brink of the valley
of Rivendell, where stood the Last (or the First) Homely House. Again it was
evening, their ponies were tired, especially the one that carried the baggage; and
they all felt in need of rest. As they rode down the steep path, Bilbo heard the elves
still singing in the trees, as if they had not stopped since he left; and as soon as
their riders came down into the lower glades of the wood they burst into a song of
much the same kind as before. This is something like it:

                The dragon is withered,
                His bones are now crumbled;
                His armour is shivered,
                His splendour is humbled!
                Though sword shall be rusted,
                And throne and crown perish
                With strength that men trusted
                And wealth that they cherish,
                Here grass is still growing,
                And leaves are yet swinging,
                The white water flowing,
                And elves are yet singing
                Come! Tra-la-la-lally!
                Come back to the valley!

                The stars are far brighter
                Than gems without measure,
                The moon is far whiter
                Than silver in treasure:
                The fire is more shining
                On hearth in the gloaming
                Than gold won by mining,
                So why go a-roaming?
                O! Tra-la-la-lally
                Come back to the Valley.

                O! Where are you going,
                So late in returning?
                The river is flowing,
                The stars are all burning!
                O! Whither so laden,
                So sad and so dreary?
                Here elf and elf-maiden
                Now welcome the weary
                With Tra-la-la-lally
                Come back to the Va lley,
                Tra-la-la-lally
                Fa-la-la-lally
                Fa-la!

     Then the elves of the valley came out and greeted them and led them across
the water to the house of Elrond. There a warm welcome was made them, and
there were many eager ears that evening to hear the tale of their adventures.
Gandalf it was who spoke, for Bilbo was fallen quiet and drowsy. Most of the tale
he knew, for he had been in it, and had himself told much of it to the wizard on
their homeward way or in the house of Beorn; but every now and again he would
open one eye, and listen, when a part of the story which he did not yet know came
in. It was in this way that he learned where Gandalf had been to; for he overheard
the words of the wizard to Elrond. It appeared that Gandalf had been to a great
council of the white wizards, masters of lore and good magic; and that they had at
last driven the Necromancer from his dark hold in the south of Mirkwood.
     "Ere long now," Gandalf was saying, "The Forest will grow somewhat more
wholesome. The North will be freed from that horror for many long years, I hope.
Yet I wish he were banished from the world!"
     "It would be well indeed," said Elrond; "but I fear that will not come about in
this age of the world, or for many after."
     When the tale of their joumeyings was told, there were other tales, and yet
more tales, tales of long ago, and tales . of new things, and tales of no time at all,
till Bilbo's head fell forward on his chest, and he snored comfortably in a corner.
     He woke to find himself in a white bed, and the moon shining through an open
window. Below it many elves were singing loud and clear on the banks of the
stream.

                Sing all ye joyful, now sing all together?
                The wind's in the free-top, the wind's in the heather;
                The stars are in blossom, the moon is in flower,
                And bright are the windows of Night in her tower.

                Dance all ye joyful, now dance all together!
                Soft is the grass, and let foot be like feather!
                The river is silver, the shadows are fleeting;
                Merry is May-time, and merry our meeting.

                Sing we now softly, and dreams let us weave him!
                Wind him in slumber and there let us leave him!
                The wanderer sleepeth. Now soft be his pillow!
                Lullaby! Lullaby! Alder and Willow!

                Sigh no more Pine, till the wind of the morn!
                Fall Moon! Dark be the land!
                Hush! Hush! Oak, Ash, and Thorn!
                Hushed be all water, till dawn is at hand!

     "Well, Merry People!" said Bilbo looking out. "What time by the moon is this?
Your lullaby would waken a drunken goblin! Yet I thank you."
     "And your snores would waken a stone dragon – yet we thank you," they
answered with laughter. "It is drawing towards dawn, and you have slept now
since the night's beginning. Tomorrow, perhaps, you will be cured of weariness."
     "A little sleep does a great cure in the house of Elrond," said he; "but I will
take all the cure I can get. A second good night, fair friends!" And with that he
went back to bed and slept till late morning.
     Weariness fell from him soon in that house, and he had many a merry jest and
dance, early and late, with the elves of the valley. Yet even that place could not
long delay him now, and he thought always of his own home. After a week,
therefore, he said farewell to Elrond, and giving him such small gifts as he would
accept, he rode away with Gandalf. Even as they left the valley the sky darkened
in the West before them, and wind and rain came up to meet them.
     "Merry is May-time!" said Bilbo, as the rain beat into his face. "But our back
is to legends and we are coming home. I suppose this is a first taste of it."
     "There is a long road yet," said Gandalf.
     "But it is the last road," said Bilbo. They came to the river that marked the
very edge of the borderland of the Wild, and to the ford beneath the steep bank,
which you may remember. The water was swollen both with the melting of the
snows at the approach of summer, and with the daylong rain; but they crossed
with some difficulty, and pressed forward, as evening fell, on the last stage of their
journey. This was much as it had been before, except that the company was
smaller, and more silent; also this time there were no trolls. At each point on the
road Bilbo recalled the happenings and the words of a year ago-it seemed to him
more like ten-so that, of course, he quickly noted the place where the pony had
fallen in the river, and they had turned aside for their nasty adventure with Tom
and Bert and Bill. Not far from the road they found the gold of the trolls, which
they had buried, still hidden and untouched. "I have enough to last me my time,"
said Bilbo, when they had dug it up. "You had better take this, Gandalf. I daresay
you can find a use for it."
    "Indeed I can!" said the wizard. "But share and share alike! You may find you
have more needs than you expect."
    So they put the gold in bags and slung them on the ponies, who were not at all
pleased about it. After that their going was slower, for most of the time they
walked. But the land was green and there was much grass through which the
hobbit strolled along contentedly. He mopped his face with a red silk
handkerchief-no! not a single one of his own had survived, he had borrowed this
one from Elrond –for now June had brought summer, and the weather was bright
and hot again.
    As all things come to an end, even this story, a day came at last when they
were in sight of the country where Bilbo had been born and bred, where the shapes
of the land and of the trees were as well known to him as his hands and toes.
Coming to a rise he could see his own Hill in the distance, and he stopped
suddenly and said:

                Roads go ever ever on,
                Over rock and under tree,
                By caves where never sun has shone,
                By streams that never find the sea;

                Over snow by winter sown,
                And through the merry flowers of June,
                Over grass and over stone,
                And under mountains in the moon.

                Roads go ever ever on
                Under cloud and under star,
                Yet feet that wandering have gone
                Turn at last to home afar.
                Eyes that fire and sword have seen
                And horror in the halls of stone
                Look at last on meadows green
                And trees and hills they long have known.

    Gandalf looked at him. "My dear Bilbo!" he said. "Something is the matter
with you! You are not the hobbit that you were."
    And so they crossed the bridge and passed the mill by the river and came right
back to Bilbo's own door. "Bless me! What's going on?" he cried. There was a
great commotion, and people of all sorts, respectable and unrespectable, were
thick round the door, and many were going in and out-not even wiping their feet
on the mat, as Bilbo noticed with annoyance.
    If he was surprised, they were more surprised still. He had arrived back in the
middle of an auction! There was a large notice in black and red hung on the gate,
stating that on June the Twenty-second Messrs. Grubb, Grubb, and Bun-owes
would sell by auction the effects of the late Bilbo Baggins Esquire, of Bag-End,
Underhill, Hobbiton. Sale to commence at ten o'clock sharp. It was now nearly
lunch-time, and most of the things had already been sold, for various prices from
next to nothing to old songs (as is not unusual at auctions). Bilbo's cousins the
Sackville-Bagginses were, in fact, busy measuring his rooms to see if their own
furniture would fit. In short Bilbo was "Presumed Dead," and not everybody that
said so was sorry to find the presumption wrong.
    The return of Mr. Bilbo Baggins created quite a disturbance, both under the
Hill and over the Hill, and across the Water; it was a great deal more than a nine
days' wonder. The legal bother, indeed, lasted for years. It was quite a long time
before Mr. Baggins was in fact admitted to be alive again. The people who had got
specially good bargains at the Sale took a deal of convincing; and in the end to
sav6 time Bilbo had to buy back quite a lot of his own furniture. Many of his
silver spoons mysteriously disappeared and were never accounted for. Personally
he suspected the Sackville-Bagginses. On their side they never admitted that the
returned Baggins was genuine, and they were not on friendly terms with Bilbo
ever after. They really had wanted to live in his nice hobbit-hole so very much.
    Indeed Bilbo found he had lost more than spoons – he had lost his reputation.
It is true that for ever after he remained an elf-friend, and had the honour of
dwarves, wizards, and all such folk as ever passed that way; but he was no longer
quite respectable. He was in fact held by all the hobbits of the neighbourhood to
be 'queer'-except by his nephews and nieces on the Took side, but even they were
not encouraged in their friendship by their elders. I am sorry to say he did not
mind. He was quite content; and the sound of the kettle on his hearth was ever
after more musical than it had been even in the quiet days before the Unexpected
Party. His sword he hung over the mantelpiece. His coat of mail was arranged on
a stand in the hall (until he lent it to a Museum). His gold and silver was largely
spent in presents, both useful and extravagant – which to a certain extent accounts
for the affection of his nephews and his nieces. His magic ring he kept a great
secret, for he chiefly used it when unpleasant callers came. He took to writing
poetry and visiting the elves; and though many shook their heads and touched
their foreheads and said "Poor old Baggins!" and though few believed any of his
tales, he remained very happy to the end of his days, and those were
extraordinarily long.
    One autumn evening some years afterwards Bilbo was sitting in his study
writing his memoirs – he thought of calling them "There and Back Again, a
Hobbit's Holiday" – when there was a ring at the door. It was Gandalf and a
dwarf; and the dwarf was actually Balin.
    "Come in! Come in!" said Bilbo, and soon they were settled in chairs by the
fire. If Balin noticed that Mr. Baggins' waistcoat was more extensive (and had real
gold buttons), Bilbo also noticed that Balm's beard was several inches longer, and
his jewelled belt was of great magnificence.
    They fell to talking of their times together, of course, and Bilbo asked how
things were going in the lands of the Mountain. It seemed they were going very
well. Bard had rebuilt the town in Dale and men had gathered to him from the
Lake and from South and West, and all the valley had become tilled again and
rich, and the desolation was now filled with birds and blossoms in spring and fruit
and feasting in autumn. And Lake-town was refounded and was more prosperous
than ever, and much wealth went up and down the Running River; and there was
friendship in those parts between elves and dwarves and men.
    The old Master had come to a bad end. Bard had given him much gold for the
help of the Lake-people, but being of the kind that easily catches such disease he
fell under the dragon-sickness, and took most of the gold and fled with it, and died
of starvation in the Waste, deserted by his companions.
    "The new Master is of wiser kind," said Balin, "and very popular, for, of
course, he gets most of the credit for the present prosperity. They are making
songs which say that in his day the rivers run with gold."
    "Then the prophecies of the old songs have turned out to be true, after a
fashion!" said Bilbo.
    "Of course!" said Gandalf. "And why should not they prove true? Surely you
don't disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about
yourself? You don't really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes
were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine
person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little
fellow in a wide world after all!"
    "Thank goodness!" said Bilbo laughing, and handed him the tobacco-jar.
           Complete Table of Contents
Foreword

Prologue
  1.       Concerning Hobbits
  2.       Concerning Pipe-weed
  3.       Of the Ordering of the Shire
  4.       Of the Finding of the Ring

note on the shire records
Book I
  Chapter 1    A Long-expected Party
  Chapter 2    The Shadow of the Past
  Chapter 3    Three is Company
  Chapter 4    A Short Cut to Mushrooms
  Chapter 5    A Conspiracy Unmasked
  Chapter 6    The Old Forest
  Chapter 7    In the House of Tom Bombadil
  Chapter 8    Fog on the Barrow-Downs
  Chapter 9    At the Sign of The Prancing Pony
  Chapter 10   Strider
  Chapter 11   A Knife in the Dark
  Chapter 12   Flight to the Ford

Book II
  Chapter 1    Many Meetings
  Chapter 2    The Council of Elrond
  Chapter 3    The Ring Goes South
  Chapter 4    A Journey in the Dark
  Chapter 5    The Bridge of Khazad-dym
  Chapter 6    Lothlurien
  Chapter 7    The Mirror of Galadriel
  Chapter 8    Farewell to Lurien
  Chapter 9    The Great River
  Chapter 10   The Breaking of the Fellowship
Book III
  Chapter 1    The Departure of Boromir
  Chapter 2    The Riders of Rohan
  Chapter 3    The Uruk-Hai
  Chapter 4    Treebeard
  Chapter 5    The White Rider
  Chapter 6    The King of the Golden Hall
  Chapter 7    Helm's Deep
  Chapter 8    The Road to Isengard
  Chapter 9    Flotsam and Jetsam
  Chapter 10   The Voice of Saruman
  Chapter 11   The Palantnr

Book IV
  Chapter 1    The Taming of Smjagol
  Chapter 2    The Passage of the Marshes
  Chapter 3    The Black Gate is Closed
  Chapter 4    Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
  Chapter 5    The Window on the West
  Chapter 6    The Forbidden Pool
  Chapter 7    Journey to the Cross-roads
  Chapter 8    The Stairs of Cirith Ungol
  Chapter 9    Shelob's Lair
  Chapter 10   The Choices of Master Samwise
Book V
  Chapter 1    Minas Tirith
  Chapter 2    The Passing of the Grey Company
  Chapter 3    The Muster of Rohan
  Chapter 4    The Siege of Gondor
  Chapter 5    The Ride of the Rohirrim
  Chapter 6    The Battle of the Pelennor Fields
  Chapter 7    The Pyre of Denethor
  Chapter 8    The Houses of Healing
  Chapter 9    The Last Debate
  Chapter 10   The Black Gate Opens

Book VI
  Chapter 1    The Tower of Cirith Ungo
  Chapter 2    The Land of Shadow
  Chapter 3    Mount Doom
  Chapter 4    The Field of Cormallen
  Chapter 5    The Steward and the King
  Chapter 6    Many Partings
  Chapter 7    Homeward Bound
  Chapter 8    The Scouring of the Shire
  Chapter 9    The Grey Havens
                                  Foreword

    This tale grew in the telling, until it became a history of the Great
War of the Ring and included many glimpses of the yet more ancient history
that preceded it. It was begun soon after The Hobbit was written and before
its publication in 1937; but I did not go on with this sequel, for I wished
first to complete and set in order the mythology and legends of the Elder
Days, which had then been taking shape for some years. I desired to do this
for my own satisfaction, and I had little hope that other people would be
interested in this work, especially since it was primarily linguistic in
inspiration and was begun in order to provide the necessary background of
'history' for Elvish tongues.
    When those whose advice and opinion I sought corrected little hope to
no hope, I went back to the sequel, encouraged by requests from readers for
more information concerning hobbits and their adventures. But the story was
drawn irresistibly towards the older world, and became an account, as it
were, of its end and passing away before its beginning and middle had been
told. The process had begun in the writing of The Hobbit, in which there
were already some references to the older matter: Elrond, Gondolin, the
High-elves, and the orcs, as well as glimpses that had arisen unbidden of
things higher or deeper or darker than its surface: Durin, Moria, Gandalf,
the Necromancer, the Ring. The discovery of the significance of these
glimpses and of their relation to the ancient histories revealed the Third
Age and its culmination in the War of the Ring.
    Those who had asked for more information about hobbits eventually got
it, but they had to wait a long time; for the composition of The Lord of the
Rings went on at intervals during the years 1936 to 1949, a period in which
I had many duties that I did not neglect, and many other interests as a
learner and teacher that often absorbed me. The delay was, of course, also
increased by the outbreak of war in 1939, by the end of which year the tale
had not yet reached the end of Book One. In spite of the darkness of the
next five years I found that the story could not now be wholly abandoned,
and I plodded on, mostly by night, till I stood by Balin's tomb in Moria.
There I halted for a long while. It was almost a year later when I went on
and so came to Lothlurien and the Great River late in 1941. In the next year
I wrote the first drafts of the matter that now stands as Book Three, and
the beginnings of chapters I and III of Book Five; and there as the beacons
flared in Anurien and Thjoden came to Harrowdale I stopped. Foresight had
failed and there was no time for thought.
    It was during 1944 that, leaving the loose ends and perplexities of a
war which it was my task to conduct, or at least to report, 1 forced myself
to tackle the journey of Frodo to Mordor. These chapters, eventually to
become Book Four, were written and sent out as a serial to my son,
Christopher, then in South Africa with the RAF. Nonetheless it took another
five years before the tale was brought to its present end; in that time I
changed my house, my chair, and my college, and the days though less dark
were no less laborious. Then when the 'end' had at last been reached the
whole story had to be revised, and indeed largely re-written backwards. And
it had to be typed, and re-typed: by me; the cost of professional typing by
the ten-fingered was beyond my means.
    The Lord of the Rings has been read by many people since it finally
appeared in print; and I should like to say something here with reference to
the many opinions or guesses that I have received or have read concerning
the motives and meaning of the tale. The prime motive was the desire of a
tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the
attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite
them or deeply move them. As a guide I had only my own feelings for what is
appealing or moving, and for many the guide was inevitably often at fault.
Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it
boring, absurd, or contemptible; and I have no cause to complain, since I
have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they
evidently prefer. But even from the points of view of many who have enjoyed
my story there is much that fails to please. It is perhaps not possible in a
long tale to please everybody at all points, nor to displease everybody at
the same points; for I find from the letters that I have received that the
passages or chapters that are to some a blemish are all by others specially
approved. The most critical reader of all, myself, now finds many defects,
minor and major, but being fortunately under no obligation either to review
the book or to write it again, he will pass over these in silence, except
one that has been noted by others: the book is too short.
    As for any inner meaning or 'message', it has in the intention of the
author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical. As the story grew it put
down roots (into the past) and threw out unexpected branches: but its main
theme was settled from the outset by the inevitable choice of the Ring as
the link between it and The Hobbit. The crucial chapter, "The Shadow of the
Past', is one of the oldest parts of the tale. It was written long before
the foreshadow of 1939 had yet become a threat of inevitable disaster, and
from that point the story would have developed along essentially the same
lines, if that disaster had been averted. Its sources are things long before
in mind, or in some cases already written, and little or nothing in it was
modified by the war that began in 1939 or its sequels.
    The real war does not resemble the legendary war in its process or its
conclusion. If it had inspired or directed the development of the legend,
then certainly the Ring would have been seized and used against Sauron; he
would not have been annihilated but enslaved, and Barad-dyr would not have
been destroyed but occupied. Saruman, failing to get possession of the Ring,
would m the confusion and treacheries of the time have found in Mordor the
missing links in his own researches into Ring-lore, and before long he would
have made a Great Ring of his own with which to challenge the self-styled
Ruler of Middle-earth. In that conflict both sides would have held hobbits
in hatred and contempt: they would not long have survived even as slaves.
    Other arrangements could be devised according to the tastes or views of
those who like allegory or topical reference. But I cordially dislike
allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old
and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or
feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of
readers. I think that many confuse 'applicability' with 'allegory'; but the
one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed
domination of the author.
    An author cannot of course remain wholly unaffected by his experience,
but the ways in which a story-germ uses the soil of experience are extremely
complex, and attempts to define the process are at best guesses from
evidence that is inadequate and ambiguous. It is also false, though
naturally attractive, when the lives of an author and critic have
overlapped, to suppose that the movements of thought or the events of times
common to both were necessarily the most powerful influences. One has
indeed
personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression; but
as the years go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth
by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and
the following years. By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead. Or
to take a less grievous matter: it has been supposed by some that 'The
Scouring of the Shire' reflects the situation in England at the time when I
was finishing my tale. It does not. It is an essential part of the plot,
foreseen from the outset, though in the event modified by the character of
Saruman as developed in the story without, need I say, any allegorical
significance or contemporary political reference whatsoever. It has indeed
some basis in experience, though slender (for the economic situation was
entirely different), and much further back. The country in which I lived in
childhood was being shabbily destroyed before I was ten, in days when
motor-cars were rare objects (I had never seen one) and men were still
building suburban railways. Recently I saw in a paper a picture of the last
decrepitude of the once thriving corn-mill beside its pool that long ago
seemed to me so important. I never liked the looks of the Young miller, but
his father, the Old miller, had a black beard, and he was not named
Sandyman.
    The Lord of the Rings is now issued in a new edition, and the
opportunity has been taken of revising it. A number of errors and
inconsistencies that still remained in the text have been corrected, and an
attempt has been made to provide information on a few points which attentive
readers have raised. I have considered all their comments and enquiries, and
if some seem to have been passed over that may be because I have failed to
keep my notes in order; but many enquiries could only be answered by
additional appendices, or indeed by the production of an accessory volume
containing much of the material that I did not include in the original
edition, in particular more detailed linguistic information. In the meantime
this edition offers this Foreword, an addition to the Prologue, some notes,
and an index of the names of persons and places. This index is in intention
complete in items but not in references, since for the present purpose it
has been necessary to reduce its bulk. A complete index, making full use of
the material prepared for me by Mrs. N. Smith, belongs rather to the
accessory volume.
                             * PROLOGUE *


     1. Concerning Hobbits


    This book is largely concerned with Hobbits, and from its pages a
reader may discover much of their character and a little of their history.
Further information will also be found in the selection from the Red Book of
Westmarch that has already been published, under the title of The Hobbit.
That story was derived from the earlier chapters of the Red Book, composed
by Bilbo himself, the first Hobbit to become famous in the world at large,
and called by him There and Back Again, since they told of his journey into
the East and his return: an adventure which later involved all the Hobbits
in the great events of that Age that are here related.
    Many, however, may wish to know more about this remarkable people
from
the outset, while some may not possess the earlier book. For such readers a
few notes on the more important points are here collected from Hobbit-lore,
and the first adventure is briefly recalled.
    Hobbits are an unobtrusive but very ancient people, more numerous
formerly than they are today; for they love peace and quiet and good tilled
earth: a well-ordered and well-farmed countryside was their favourite haunt.
They do not and did not understand or like machines more complicated than a
forge-bellows, a water-mill, or a hand-loom, though they were skilful with
tools. Even in ancient days they were, as a rule, shy of 'the Big Folk', as
they call us, and now they avoid us with dismay and are becoming hard to
find. They are quick of hearing and sharp-eyed, and though they are inclined
to be fat and do not hurry unnecessarily, they are nonetheless nimble and
deft in their movements. They possessed from the first the art of
disappearing swiftly and silently, when large folk whom they do not wish to
meet come blundering by; and this an they have developed until to Men it may
seem magical. But Hobbits have never, in fact, studied magic of any kind,
and their elusiveness is due solely to a professional skill that heredity
and practice, and a close friendship with the earth, have rendered
inimitable by bigger and clumsier races.
   For they are a little people, smaller than Dwarves: less tout and
stocky, that is, even when they are not actually much shorter. Their height
is variable, ranging between two and four feet of our measure. They seldom
now reach three feet; but they hive dwindled, they say, and in ancient days
they were taller. According to the Red Book, Bandobras Took (Bullroarer),
son of Isengrim the Second, was four foot five and able to ride a horse. He
was surpassed in all Hobbit records only by two famous characters of old;
but that curious matter is dealt with in this book.
    As for the Hobbits of the Shire, with whom these tales are concerned,
in the days of their peace and prosperity they were a merry folk. They
dressed in bright colours, being notably fond of yellow and green; but they
seldom wore shoes, since their feet had tough leathery soles and were clad
in a thick curling hair, much like the hair of their heads, which was
commonly brown. Thus, the only craft little practised among them was
shoe-making; but they had long and skilful fingers and could make many other
useful and comely things. Their faces were as a rule good-natured rather
than beautiful, broad, bright-eyed, red-cheeked, with mouths apt to
laughter, and to eating and drinking. And laugh they did, and eat, and
drink, often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of
six meals a day (when they could get them). They were hospitable and
delighted in parties, and in presents, which they gave away freely and
eagerly accepted.
   It is plain indeed that in spite of later estrangement Hobbits are
relatives of ours: far nearer to us than Elves, or even than Dwarves. Of old
they spoke the languages of Men, after their own fashion, and liked and
disliked much the same things as Men did. But what exactly our relationship
is can no longer be discovered. The beginning of Hobbits lies far back in
the Elder Days that are now lost and forgotten. Only the Elves still
preserve any records of that vanished time, and their traditions are
concerned almost entirely with their own history, in which Men appear seldom
and Hobbits are not mentioned at all. Yet it is clear that Hobbits had, in
fact, lived quietly in Middle-earth for many long years before other folk
became even aware of them. And the world being after all full of strange
creatures beyond count, these little people seemed of very little
importance. But in the days of Bilbo, and of Frodo his heir, they suddenly
became, by no wish of their own, both important and renowned, and troubled
the counsels of the Wise and the Great.
    Those days, the Third Age of Middle-earth, are now long past, and the
shape of all lands has been changed; but the regions in which Hobbits then
lived were doubtless the same as those in which they still linger: the
North-West of the Old World, east of the Sea. Of their original home the
Hobbits in Bilbo's time preserved no knowledge. A love of learning (other
than genealogical lore) was far from general among them, but there remained
still a few in the older families who studied their own books, and even
gathered reports of old times and distant lands from Elves, Dwarves, and
Men. Their own records began only after the settlement of the Shire, and
their most ancient legends hardly looked further back than their Wandering
Days. It is clear, nonetheless, from these legends, and from the evidence of
their peculiar words and customs, that like many other folk Hobbits had in
the distant past moved westward. Their earliest tales seem to glimpse a time
when they dwelt in the upper vales of Anduin, between the eaves of
Greenwood
the Great and the Misty Mountains. Why they later undertook the hard and
perilous crossing of the mountains into Eriador is no longer certain. Their
own accounts speak of the multiplying of Men in the land, and of a shadow
that fell on the forest, so that it became darkened and its new name was
Mirkwood.
    Before the crossing of the mountains the Hobbits had already become
divided into three somewhat different breeds: Harfoots, Stoors, and
Fallohides. The Harfoots were browner of skin, smaller, and shorter, and
they were beardless and bootless; their hands and feet were neat and nimble;
and they preferred highlands and hillsides. The Stoors were broader, heavier
in build; their feet and hands were larger, and they preferred flat lands
and riversides. The Fallohides were fairer of skin and also of hair, and
they were taller and slimmer than the others; they were lovers of trees and
of woodlands.
    The Harfoots had much to do with Dwarves in ancient times, and long
lived in the foothills of the mountains. They moved westward early, and
roamed over Eriador as far as Weathertop while the others were still in the
Wilderland. They were the most normal and representative variety of Hobbit,
and far the most numerous. They were the most inclined to settle in one
place, and longest preserved their ancestral habit of living in tunnels and
holes.
     The Stoors lingered long by the banks of the Great River Anduin, and
were less shy of Men. They came west after the Harfoots and followed the
course of the Loudwater southwards; and there many of them long dwelt
between Tharbad and the borders of Dunland before they moved north again.
    The Fallohides, the least numerous, were a northerly branch. They were
more friendly with Elves than the other Hobbits were, and had more skill in
language and song than in handicrafts; and of old they preferred hunting to
tilling. They crossed the mountains north of Rivendell and came down the
River Hoarwell. In Eriador they soon mingled with the other kinds that had
preceded them, but being somewhat bolder and more adventurous, they were
often found as leaders or chieftains among clans of Harfoots or Stoors. Even
in Bilbo's time the strong Fallohidish strain could still be noted among the
greater families, such as the Tooks and the Masters of Buckland.
    In the westlands of Eriador, between the Misty Mountains and the
Mountains of Lune, the Hobbits found both Men and Elves. Indeed, a remnant
still dwelt there of the D®nedain, the kings of Men that came over the Sea
out of Westernesse; but they were dwindling fast and the lands of their
North Kingdom were falling far and wide into waste. There was room and to
spare for incomers, and ere long the Hobbits began to settle in ordered
communities. Most of their earlier settlements had long disappeared and been
forgotten in Bilbo's time; but one of the first to become important still
endured, though reduced in size; this was at Bree and in the Chetwood that
lay round about, some forty miles east of the Shire.
    It was in these early days, doubtless, that the Hobbits learned their
letters and began to write after the manner of the D®nedain, who had in
their turn long before learned the art from the Elves. And in those days
also they forgot whatever languages they had used before, and spoke ever
after the Common Speech, the Westron as it was named, that was current
through all the lands of the kings from Arnor to Gondor, and about all the
coasts of the Sea from Belfalas to Lune. Yet they kept a few words of their
own, as well as their own names of months and days, and a great store of
personal names out of the past.
    About this time legend among the Hobbits first becomes history with a
reckoning of years. For it was in the one thousand six hundred and first
year of the Third Age that the Fallohide brothers, Marcho and Blanco, set
out from Bree; and having obtained permission from the high king at
Fornost1, they crossed the brown river Baranduin with a great following of
Hobbits. They passed over the Bridge of Stonebows, that had been built in
the days of the power of the North Kingdom, and they took ail the land
beyond to dwell in, between the river and the Far Downs. All that was
demanded of them was that they should keep the Great Bridge in repair, and
all other bridges and roads, speed the king's messengers, and acknowledge
his lordship.
    Thus began the Shire-reckoning, for the year of the crossing of the
Brandywine (as the Hobbits turned the name) became Year One of the Shire,
and all later dates were reckoned from it.2 At once the western Hobbits fell
in love with their new land, and they remained there, and soon passed once
more out of the history of Men and of Elves. While there was still a king
they were in name his subjects, but they were, in fact, ruled by their own
chieftains and meddled not at all with events in the world outside. To the
last battle at Fornost with the Witch-lord of Angmar they sent some bowmen
to the aid of the king, or so they maintained, though no tales of Men record
it. But in that war the North Kingdom ended; and then the Hobbits took the
land for their own, and they chose from their own chiefs a Thain to hold the
authority of the king that was gone. There for a thousand years they were
little troubled by wars, and they prospered and multiplied after the Dark
Plague (S.R. 37) until the disaster of the Long Winter and the famine that
followed it. Many thousands then perished, but the Days of Dearth (1158-60)
were at the time of this tale long past and the Hobbits had again become
accustomed to plenty. The land was rich and kindly, and though it had long
been deserted when they entered it, it had before been well tilled, and
there the king had once had many farms, cornlands, vineyards, and woods.
     Forty leagues it stretched from the Far Downs to the Brandywine Bridge,
and fifty from the northern moors to the marshes in the south. The Hobbits
named it the Shire, as the region of the authority of their Thain, and a
district of well-ordered business; and there in that pleasant comer of the
world they plied their well-ordered business of living, and they heeded less
and less the world outside where dark things moved, until they came to think
that peace and plenty were the rule in Middle-earth and the right of all
sensible folk. They forgot or ignored what little they had ever known of the
Guardians, and of the labours of those that made possible the long peace of
the Shire. They were, in fact, sheltered, but they had ceased to remember
it.
     At no time had Hobbits of any kind been warlike, and they had never
fought among themselves. In olden days they had, of course, been often
obliged to fight to maintain themselves in a hard world; but in Bilbo's time
that was very ancient history. The last battle, before this story opens, and
indeed the only one that had ever been fought within the borders of the
Shire, was beyond living memory: the Battle of Greenfields, S.R. 1147, in
which Bandobras Took routed an invasion of Orcs. Even the weathers had
grown
milder, and the wolves that had once come ravening out of the North in
bitter white winters were now only a grandfather's tale. So, though there
was still some store of weapons in the Shire, these were used mostly as
trophies, hanging above hearths or on walls, or gathered into the museum at
Michel Delving. The Mathom-house it was called; for anything that Hobbits
had no immediate use for, but were unwilling to throw away, they called a
mathom. Their dwellings were apt to become rather crowded with mathoms,
and
many of the presents that passed from hand to hand were of that son.
    Nonetheless, ease and peace had left this people still curiously tough.
They were, if it came to it, difficult to daunt or to kill; and they were,
perhaps, so unwearyingly fond of good things not least because they could,
when put to it, do without them, and could survive rough handling by grief,
foe, or weather in a way that astonished those who did not know them well
and looked no further than their bellies and their well-fed faces. Though
slow to quarrel, and for sport killing nothing that lived, they were doughty
at bay, and at need could still handle arms. They shot well with the bow,
for they were keen-eyed and sure at the mark. Not only with bows and arrows.
If any Hobbit stooped for a stone, it was well to get quickly under cover,
as all trespassing beasts knew very well.
    All Hobbits had originally lived in holes in the ground, or so they
believed, and in such dwellings they still felt most at home; but in the
course of time they had been obliged to adopt other forms of abode. Actually
in the Shire in Bilbo's days it was, as a rule, only the richest and the
poorest Hobbits that maintained the old custom. The poorest went on living
in burrows of the most primitive kind, mere holes indeed, with only one
window or none; while the well-to-do still constructed more luxurious
versions of the simple diggings of old. But suitable sites for these large
and ramifying tunnels (or smials as they called them) were not everywhere to
be found; and in the flats and the low-lying districts the Hobbits, as they
multiplied, began to build above ground. Indeed, even in the hilly regions
and the older villages, such as Hobbiton or Tuckborough, or in the chief
township of the Shire, Michel Delving on the White Downs, there were now
many houses of wood, brick, or stone. These were specially favoured by
millers, smiths, ropers, and cartwrights, and others of that sort; for even
when they had holes to live in. Hobbits had long been accustomed to build
sheds and workshops.
    The habit of building farmhouses and barns was said to have begun among
the inhabitants of the Marish down by the Brandywine. The Hobbits of that
quarter, the Eastfarthing, were rather large and heavy-legged, and they wore
dwarf-boots in muddy weather. But they were well known to be Stoors in a
large part of their blood, as indeed was shown by the down that many grew on
their chins. No Harfoot or Fallohide had any trace of a beard. Indeed, the
folk of the Marish, and of Buckland, east of the River, which they
afterwards occupied, came for the most part later into the Shire up from
south-away; and they still had many peculiar names and strange words not
found elsewhere in the Shire.
    It is probable that the craft of building, as many other crafts beside,
was derived from the D®nedain. But the Hobbits may have learned it direct
from the Elves, the teachers of Men in their youth. For the Elves of the
High Kindred had not yet forsaken Middle-earth, and they dwelt still at that
time at the Grey Havens away to the west, and in other places within reach
of the Shire. Three Elf-towers of immemorial age were still to be seen on
the Tower Hills beyond the western marches. They shone far off in the
moonlight. The tallest was furthest away, standing alone upon a green mound.
The Hobbits of the Westfarthing said that one could see the Sea from the lop
of that tower; but no Hobbit had ever been known to climb it. Indeed, few
Hobbits had ever seen or sailed upon the Sea, and fewer still had ever
returned to report it. Most Hobbits regarded even rivers and small boats
with deep misgivings, and not many of them could swim. And as the days of
the Shire lengthened they spoke less and less with the Elves, and grew
afraid of them, and distrustful of those that had dealings with them; and
the Sea became a word of fear among them, and a token of death, and they
turned their faces away from the hills in the west.
    The craft of building may have come from Elves or Men, but the Hobbits
used it in their own fashion. They did not go in for towers. Their houses
were usually long, low, and comfortable. The oldest kind were, indeed, no
more than built imitations of smials, thatched with dry grass or straw, or
roofed with turves, and having walls somewhat bulged. That stage, however,
belonged to the early days of the Shire, and hobbit-building had long since
been altered, improved by devices, learned from Dwarves, or discovered by
themselves. A preference for round windows, and even round doors, was the
chief remaining peculiarity of hobbit-architecture.
    The houses and the holes of Shire-hobbits were often large, and
inhabited by large families. (Bilbo and Frodo Baggins were as bachelors very
exceptional, as they were also in many other ways, such as their friendship
with the Elves.) Sometimes, as in the case of the Tooks of Great Smials, or
the Brandybucks of Brandy Hall, many generations of relatives lived in
(comparative) peace together in one ancestral and many-tunnelled mansion.
All Hobbits were, in any case, clannish and reckoned up their relationships
with great care. They drew long and elaborate family-trees with innumerable
branches. In dealing with Hobbits it is important to remember who is related
to whom, and in what degree. It would be impossible in this book to set out
a family-tree that included even the more important members of the more
important families at the time which these tales tell of. The genealogical
trees at the end of the Red Book of Westmarch are a small book in
themselves, and all but Hobbits would find them exceedingly dull. Hobbits
delighted in such things, if they were accurate: they liked to have books
filled with things that they already knew, set out fair and square with no
contradictions.
     2. Concerning Pipe-weed


    There is another astonishing thing about Hobbits of old that must be
mentioned, an astonishing habit: they imbibed or inhaled, through pipes of
clay or wood, the smoke of the burning leaves of a herb, which they called
pipe-weed or leaf, a variety probably of Nicotiana. A great deal of mystery
surrounds the origin of this peculiar custom, or 'art' as the Hobbits
preferred to call it. All that could be discovered about it in antiquity was
put together by Meriadoc Brandybuck (later Master of Buckland), and since he
and the tobacco of the Southfarthing play a part in the history that
follows, his remarks in the introduction to his Herblore of the Shire may be
quoted.
    'This,' he says, 'is the one art that we can certainly claim to be our
own invention. When Hobbits first began to smoke is not known, all the
legends and family histories take it for granted; for ages folk in the Shire
smoked various herbs, some fouler, some sweeter. But all accounts agree that
Tobold Hornblower of Longbottom in the Southfarthing first grew the true
pipe-weed in his gardens in the days of Isengrim the Second, about the year
1070 of Shire-reckoning. The best home-grown still comes from that district,
especially the varieties now known as Longbottom Leaf, Old Toby, and
Southern Star.
    'How Old Toby came by the plant is not recorded, for to his dying day
he would not tell. He knew much about herbs, but he was no traveller. It is
said that in his youth he went often to Bree, though he certainly never went
further from the Shire than that. It is thus quite possible that he learned
of this plant in Bree, where now, at any rate, it grows well on the south
slopes of the hill. The Bree-hobbits claim to have been the first actual
smokers of the pipe-weed. They claim, of course, to have done everything
before the people of the Shire, whom they refer to as "colonists"; but in
this case their claim is, I think, likely to be true. And certainly it was
from Bree that the art of smoking the genuine weed spread in the recent
centuries among Dwarves and such other folk, Rangers, Wizards, or wanderers,
as still passed to and fro through that ancient road-meeting. The home and
centre of the an is thus to be found in the old inn of Bree, The Prancing
Pony, that has been kept by the family of Butterbur from time beyond record.
    'All the same, observations that I have made on my own many journeys
south have convinced me that the weed itself is not native to our parts of
the world, but came northward from the lower Anduin, whither it was, I
suspect, originally brought over Sea by the Men of Westernesse. It grows
abundantly in Gondor, and there is richer and larger than in the North,
where it is never found wild, and flourishes only in warm sheltered places
like Longbottom. The Men of Gondor call it sweet galenas, and esteem it only
for the fragrance of its flowers. From that land it must have been carried
up the Greenway during the long centuries between the coming of Elendil and
our own day. But even the D®nedain of Gondor allow us this credit: Hobbits
first put it into pipes. Not even the Wizards first thought of that before
we did. Though one Wizard that I knew took up the art long ago, and became
as skilful in it as in all other things that he put his mind to.'
     3. Of the Ordering of the Shire


   The Shire was divided into four quarters, the Farthings already
referred to. North, South, East, and West; and these again each into a
number of folklands, which still bore the names of some of the old leading
families, although by the time of this history these names were no longer
found only in their proper folklands. Nearly all Tooks still lived in the
Tookland, but that was not true of many other families, such as the
Bagginses or the Boffins. Outside the Farthings were the East and West
Marches: the Buckland (see beginning of Chapter V, Book I); and the
Westmarch added to the Shire in S.R. 1462.
   The Shire at this time had hardly any 'government'. Families for the
most part managed their own affairs. Growing food and eating it occupied
most of their time. In other matters they were, as a rule, generous and not
greedy, but contented and moderate, so that estates, farms, workshops, and
small trades tended to remain unchanged for generations.
   There remained, of course, the ancient tradition concerning the high
king at Fornost, or Norbury as they called it, away north of the Shire. But
there had been no king for nearly a thousand years, and even the ruins of
Kings' Norbury were covered with grass. Yet the Hobbits still said of wild
folk and wicked things (such as trolls) that they had not heard of the king.
For they attributed to the king of old all their essential laws; and usually
they kept the laws of free will, because they were The Rules (as they said),
both ancient and just.
   It is true that the Took family had long been pre-eminent; for the
office of Thain had passed to them (from the Oldbucks) some centuries
before, and the chief Took had borne that title ever since. The Thain was
the master of the Shire-moot, and captain of the Shire-muster and the
Hobbitry-in-arms, but as muster and moot were only held in times of
emergency, which no longer occurred, the Thainship had ceased to be more
than a nominal dignity. The Took family was still, indeed, accorded a
special respect, for it remained both numerous and exceedingly wealthy, and
was liable to produce in every generation strong characters of peculiar
habits and even adventurous temperament. The latter qualities, however, were
now rather tolerated (in the rich) than generally approved. The custom
endured, nonetheless, of referring to the head of the family as The Took,
and of adding to his name, if required, a number: such as Isengrim the
Second, for instance.
    The only real official in the Shire at this date was the Mayor of
Michel Delving (or of the Shire), who was elected every seven years at the
Free Fair on the White Downs at the Lithe, that is at Midsummer. As mayor
almost his only duty was to preside at banquets, given on the
Shire-holidays, which occurred at frequent intervals. But the offices of
Postmaster and First Shirriff were attached to the mayoralty, so that he
managed both the Messenger Service and the Watch. These were the only
Shire-services, and the Messengers were the most numerous, and much the
busier of the two. By no means all Hobbits were lettered, but those who were
wrote constantly to all their friends (and a selection of their relations)
who lived further off than an afternoon's walk.
    The Shirriffs was the name that the Hobbits gave to their police, or
the nearest equivalent that they possessed. They had, of course, no uniforms
(such things being quite unknown), only a feather in their caps; and they
were in practice rather haywards than policemen, more concerned with the
strayings of beasts than of people. There were in all the Shire only twelve
of them, three in each Farthing, for Inside Work. A rather larger body,
varying at need, was employed to 'beat the bounds', and to see that
Outsiders of any kind, great or small, did not make themselves a nuisance.
    At the time when this story begins the Bounders, as they were called,
had been greatly increased. There were many reports and complaints of
strange persons and creatures prowling about the borders, or over them: the
first sign that all was not quite as it should be, and always had been
except in tales and legends of long ago. Few heeded the sign, and not even
Bilbo yet had any notion of what it portended. Sixty years had passed since
he set out on his memorable journey, and he was old even for Hobbits, who
reached a hundred as often as not; but much evidently still remained of the
considerable wealth that he had brought back. How much or how little he
revealed to no one, not even to Frodo his favourite 'nephew'. And he still
kept secret the ring that he bad found.
     4. Of the Finding of the Ring


    As is told in The Hobbit, there came one day to Bilbo's door the great
Wizard, Gandalf the Grey, and thirteen dwarves with him: none other, indeed,
than Thorin Oakenshield, descendant of kings, and his twelve companions in
exile. With them he set out, to his own lasting astonishment, on a morning
of April, it being then the year 1341 Shire-reckoning, on a quest of great
treasure, the dwarf-hoards of the Kings under the Mountain, beneath Erebor
in Dale, far off in the East. The quest was successful, and the Dragon that
guarded the hoard was destroyed. Yet, though before all was won the Battle
of Five Armies was fought, and Thorin was slain, and many deeds of renown
were done, the matter would scarcely have concerned later history, or earned
more than a note in the long annals of the Third Age, but for an 'accident'
by the way. The party was assailed by Orcs in a high pass of the Misty
Mountains as they went towards Wilderland; and so it happened that Bilbo was
lost for a while in the black orc-mines deep under the mountains, and there,
as he groped in vain in the dark, he put his hand on a ring, lying on the
floor of a tunnel. He put it in his pocket. It seemed then like mere luck.
    Trying to find his way out. Bilbo went on down to the roots of the
mountains, until he could go no further. At the bottom of the tunnel lay a
cold lake far from the light, and on an island of rock in the water lived
Gollum. He was a loathsome little creature: he paddled a small boat with his
large flat feet, peering with pale luminous eyes and catching blind fish
with his long fingers, and eating them raw. He ate any living thing, even
orc, if he could catch it and strangle it without a struggle. He possessed a
secret treasure that had come to him long ages ago, when he still lived in
the light: a ring of gold that made its wearer invisible. It was the one
thing he loved, his 'precious', and he talked to it, even when it was not
with him. For he kept it hidden safe in a hole on his island, except when he
was hunting or spying on the ores of the mines.
    Maybe he would have attacked Bilbo at once, if the ring had been on him
when they met; but it was not, and the hobbit held in his hand an Elvish
knife, which served him as a sword. So to gain time Gollum challenged Bilbo
to the Riddle-game, saying that if he asked a riddle which Bilbo could not
guess, then he would kill him and eat him; but if Bilbo defeated him, then
he would do as Bilbo wished: he would lead him to a way out of the tunnels.
    Since he was lost in the dark without hope, and could neither go on nor
back. Bilbo accepted the challenge; and they asked one another many riddles.
In the end Bilbo won the game, more by luck (as it seemed) than by wits; for
he was stumped at last for a riddle to ask, and cried out, as his hand came
upon the ring he lad picked up and forgotten: What haw I got in my pocket?
This Gollum failed to answer, though he demanded three guesses.
    The Authorities, it is true, differ whether this last question was a
mere 'question' and not a 'riddle' according to the strict rules of the
Game; but all agree that, after accepting it and trying to guess the answer,
Gollum was bound by his promise. And Bilbo pressed him to keep his word;
for
the thought came to him that this slimy creature might prove false, even
though such promises were held sacred, and of old all but the wickedest
things feared to break them. But after ages alone in the dark Gollum's heart
was black, and treachery was in it. He slipped away, and returned to the
island, of which Bilbo knew nothing, not far off in the dark water. There,
he thought, lay his ring. He was hungry now, and angry, and once his
'precious' was with him he would not fear any weapon at all.
    But the ring was not on the island; he had lost it, it was gone. His
screech sent a shiver down Bilbo's back, though he did not yet understand
what had happened. But Gollum had at last leaped to a guess, too late. What
has it got in its pocketses? he cried. The light in his eyes was like a
green flame as he sped back to murder the hobbit and recover his 'precious'.
Just in time Bilbo saw his peril, and he fled blindly up the passage away
from the water; and once more he was saved by his luck. For just as he ran
he put his hand in his pocket, and the ring slipped quietly on to his
finger. So it was that Gollum passed him without seeing him, and went to
guard the way out, lest the 'thief' should escape. Warily Bilbo followed
him, as he went along, cursing, and talking to himself about his 'precious';
from which talk at last even Bilbo guessed the truth, and hope came to him
in the darkness: he himself had found the marvellous ring and a chance of
escape from the orcs and from Gollum.
    At length they came to a halt before an unseen opening that led to the
lower gates of the mines, on the eastward side of the mountains. There
Gollum crouched at bay, smelling and listening; and Bilbo was tempted to
slay him with his sword. But pity stayed him, and though he kept the ring,
in which his only hope lay, he would not use it to help him kill the
wretched creature at a disadvantage. In the end, gathering his courage, he
leaped over Gollum in the dark, and fled away down the passage, pursued by
his enemy's cries of hate and despair: Thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it
for ever!
    Now it is a curious fact that this is not the story as Bilbo first told
it to his companions. To them his account was that Gollum had promised to
give him a present, if he won the game; but when Gollum went to fetch it
from his island he found the treasure was gone: a magic ring, which had been
given to him long ago on his birthday. Bilbo guessed that this was the very
ring that he had found, and as he had won the game, it was already his by
right. But being in a tight place, he said nothing about it, and made Gollum
show him the way out, as a reward instead of a present. This account Bilbo
set down in his memoirs, and he seems never to have altered it himself, not
even after the Council of Elrond. Evidently it still appeared in the
original Red Book, as it did in several of the copies and abstracts. But
many copies contain the true account (as an alternative), derived no doubt
from notes by Frodo or Samwise, both of whom learned the truth, though they
seem to have been unwilling to delete anything actually written by the old
hobbit himself.
    Gandalf, however, disbelieved Bilbo's first story, as soon as he heard
it, and he continued to be very curious about the ring. Eventually he got
the true tale out of Bilbo after much questioning, which for a while
strained their friendship; but the wizard seemed to think the truth
important. Though he did not say so to Bilbo, he also thought it important,
and disturbing, to find that the good hobbit had not told the truth from the
first: quite contrary to his habit. The idea of a 'present' was not mere
hobbitlike invention, all the same. It was suggested to Bilbo, as he
confessed, by Gollum's talk that he overheard; for Gollum did, in fact, call
the ring his 'birthday present', many times. That also Gandalf thought
strange and suspicious; but he did not discover the truth in this point for
many more years, as will be seen in this book.
    Of Bilbo's later adventures little more need be said here. With the
help of the ring he escaped from the orc-guards at the gate and rejoined his
companions. He used the ring many times on his quest, chiefly for the help
of his friends; but he kept it secret from them as long as he could. After
his return to his home he never spoke of it again to anyone, save Gandalf
and Frodo; and no one else in the Shire knew of its existence, or so he
believed. Only to Frodo did he show the account of his Journey that he was
writing.
   His sword, Sting, Bilbo hung over his fireplace, and his coat of
marvellous mail, the gift of the Dwarves from the Dragon-hoard, he lent to a
museum, to the Michel Delving Mathom-house in fact. But he kept in a drawer
at Bag End the old cloak and hood that he had worn on his travels; and the
ring, secured by a fine chain, remained in his pocket.
   He returned to his home at Bag End on June the 22nd in his fifty-second
year (S.R. 1342), and nothing very notable occurred in the Shire until Mr.
Baggins began the preparations for the celebration of his
hundred-and-eleventh birthday (S.R. 1401). At this point this History
begins.
     NOTE ON THE SHIRE RECORDS


    At the end of the Third Age the part played by the Hobbits in the great
events that led to the inclusion of the Shire in the Reunited Kingdom
awakened among them a more widespread interest in their own history; and
many of their traditions, up to that time still mainly oral, were collected
and Written down. The greater families were also concerned with events in
the Kingdom at large, and many of their members studied its ancient
histories and legends. By the end of the first century of the Fourth Age
there were already to be found in the Shire several libraries that contained
many historical books and records.
    The largest of these collections were probably at Undertowers, at Great
Smials, and at Brandy Hall. This account of the end of the Third Age is
drawn mainly from the Red Book of Westmarch. That most important source
for
the history of the War of the Ring was so called because it was long
preserved at Undertowers, the home of the Fairbairns, Wardens of the
Westmarch.1 It was in origin Bilbo's private diary, which he took with him
to Rivendell. Frodo brought it back to the Shire, together with many loose
leaves of notes, and during S.R. 1420-1 he nearly filled its pages with his
account of the War. But annexed to it and preserved with it, probably m a
single red case, were the three large volumes, bound in red leather, that
Bilbo gave to him as a parting gift. To these four volumes there was added
in Westmarch a fifth containing commentaries, genealogies, and various other
matter concerning the hobbit members of the Fellowship.
    The original Red Book has not been preserved, but many copies were
made, especially of the first volume, for the use of the descendants of the
children of Master Samwise. The most important copy, however, has a
different history. It was kept at Great Smials, but it was written in
Condor, probably at the request of the great-grandson of Peregrin, and
completed in S.R. 1592 (F.A. 172). Its southern scribe appended this note:
Findegil, King's Writer, finished this work in IV 172. It is an exact copy
in all details of the Thain's Book m Minas Tirith. That book was a copy,
made at the request of King Elessar, of the Red Book of the Periannath, and
was brought to him by the Thain Peregrin when he retired to Gondor in IV 64.
    The Thain's Book was thus the first copy made of the Red Book and
contained much that was later omitted or lost. In Minas Tirith it received
much annotation, and many corrections, especially of names, words, and
quotations in the Elvish languages; and there was added to it an abbreviated
version of those parts of The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen which lie outside
the account of the War. The full tale is stated to have been written by
Barahir, grandson of the Steward Faramir, some time after the passing of the
King. But the chief importance of Findegil's copy is that it alone contains
the whole of Bilbo's 'Translations from the Elvish'. These three volumes
were found to be a work of great skill and learning in which, between 1403
and 1418, he had used all the sources available to him in Rivendell, both
living and written. But since they were little used by Frodo, being almost
entirely concerned with the Elder Days, no more is said of them here.
    Since Meriadoc and Peregrin became the heads of their great families,
and at the same time kept up their connexions with Rohan and Gondor, the
libraries at Bucklebury and Tuckborough contained much that did not appear
in the Red Book. In Brandy Hall there were many works dealing with Eriador
and the history of Rohan. Some of these were composed or begun by
Meriadoc
himself, though in the Shire he was chiefly remembered for his Herblore of
the Shire, and for his Reckoning of Years m which he discussed the relation
of the calendars of the Shire and Bree to those of Rivendell, Gondor, and
Rohan. He also wrote a short treatise on Old Words and Names in the Shire,
having special interest in discovering the kinship with the language of the
Rohirrim of such 'shire-words' as mathom and old elements in place names.
    At Great Smials the books were of less interest to Shire-folk, though
more important for larger history. None of them was written by Peregrin, but
he and his successors collected many manuscripts written by scribes of
Gondor: mainly copies or summaries of histories or legends relating to
Elendil and his heirs. Only here in the Shire were to be found extensive
materials for the history of N®menor and the arising of Sauron. It was
probably at Great Smials that The Tale of Years1 was put together, with the
assistance of material collected by Meriadoc. Though the dates given are
often conjectural, especially for the Second Age, they deserve attention. It
is probable that Meriadoc obtained assistance and information from
Rivendell, which he visited more than once. There, though Elrond had
departed, his sons long remained, together with some of the High-elven folk.
It is said that Celeborn went to dwell there after the departure of
Galadriel; but there is no record of the day when at last he sought the Grey
Havens, and with him went the last living memory of the Elder Days in
Middle-earth.
     * BOOK I *

     Chapter 1. A Long-expected Party

    When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be
celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special
magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.
    Bilbo was very rich and very peculiar, and had been the wonder of the
Shire for sixty years, ever since his remarkable disappearance and
unexpected return. The riches he had brought back from his travels had now
become a local legend, and it was popularly believed, whatever the old folk
might say, that the Hill at Bag End was full of tunnels stuffed with
treasure. And if that was not enough for fame, there was also his prolonged
vigour to marvel at. Time wore on, but it seemed to have little effect on
Mr. Baggins. At ninety he was much the same as at fifty. At ninety-nine they
began to call him well-preserved, but unchanged would have been nearer the
mark. There were some that shook their heads and thought this was too much
of a good thing; it seemed unfair that anyone should possess (apparently)
perpetual youth as well as (reputedly) inexhaustible wealth.
    'It will have to be paid for,' they said. 'It isn't natural, and
trouble will come of it!'
    But so far trouble had not come; and as Mr. Baggins was generous with
his money, most people were willing to forgive him his oddities and his good
fortune. He remained on visiting terms with his relatives (except, of
course, the Sackville-Bagginses), and he had many devoted admirers among
the
hobbits of poor and unimportant families. But he had no close friends, until
some of his younger cousins began to grow up.
    The eldest of these, and Bilbo's favourite, was young Frodo Baggins.
When Bilbo was ninety-nine, he adopted Frodo as his heir, and brought him to
live at Bag End; and the hopes of the Sackville-Bagginses were finally
dashed. Bilbo and Frodo happened to have the same birthday, September
22nd.
'You had better come and live here, Frodo my lad,' said Bilbo one day; 'and
then we can celebrate our birthday-parties comfortably together.' At that
time Frodo was still in his tweens, as the hobbits called the irresponsible
twenties between childhood and coming of age at thirty-three.
    Twelve more years passed. Each year the Bagginses had given very lively
combined birthday-parties at Bag End; but now it was understood that
something quite exceptional was being planned for that autumn. Bilbo was
going to be eleventy-one, 111, a rather curious number and a very
respectable age for a hobbit (the Old Took himself had only reached 130);
and Frodo was going to be thirty-three, 33) an important number: the date of
his 'coming of age'.
    Tongues began to wag in Hobbiton and Bywater; and rumour of the coming
event travelled all over the Shire. The history and character of Mr. Bilbo
Baggins became once again the chief topic of conversation; and the older
folk suddenly found their reminiscences in welcome demand.
    No one had a more attentive audience than old Ham Gamgee, commonly
known as the Gaffer. He held forth at The Ivy Bush, a small inn on the
Bywater road; and he spoke with some authority, for he had tended the garden
at Bag End for forty years, and had helped old Holman in the same job before
that. Now that he was himself growing old and stiff in the joints, the job
was mainly carried on by his youngest son, Sam Gamgee. Both father and son
were on very friendly terms with Bilbo and Frodo. They lived on the Hill
itself, in Number 3 Bagshot Row just below Bag End.
    'A very nice well-spoken gentlehobbit is Mr. Bilbo, as I've always
said,' the Gaffer declared. With perfect truth: for Bilbo was very polite to
him, calling him 'Master Hamfast', and consulting him constantly upon the
growing of vegetables - in the matter of 'roots', especially potatoes, the
Gaffer was recognized as the leading authority by all in the neighbourhood
(including himself).
    'But what about this Frodo that lives with him?' asked Old Noakes of
Bywater. 'Baggins is his name, but he's more than half a Brandybuck, they
say. It beats me why any Baggins of Hobbiton should go looking for a wife
away there in Buckland, where folks are so queer.'
    'And no wonder they're queer,' put in Daddy Twofoot (the Gaffer's
next-door neighbour), 'if they live on the wrong side of the Brandywine
River, and right agin the Old Forest. That's a dark bad place, if half the
tales be true.'
    'You're right, Dad!' said the Gaffer. 'Not that the Brandybucks of
Buck-land live in the Old Forest; but they're a queer breed, seemingly. They
fool about with boats on that big river - and that isn't natural. Small
wonder that trouble came of it, I say. But be that as it may, Mr. Frodo is
as nice a young hobbit as you could wish to meet. Very much like Mr. Bilbo,
and in more than looks. After all his father was a Baggins. A decent
respectable hobbit was Mr. Drogo Baggins; there was never much to tell of
him, till he was drownded.'
    'Drownded?' said several voices. They had heard this and other darker
rumours before, of course; but hobbits have a passion for family history,
and they were ready to hear it again. 'Well, so they say,' said the Gaffer.
'You see: Mr. Drogo, he married poor Miss Primula Brandybuck. She was
our
Mr. Bilbo's first cousin on the mother's side (her mother being the youngest
of the Old Took's daughters); and Mr. Drogo was his second cousin. So Mr.
Frodo is his first and second cousin, once removed either way, as the saying
is, if you follow me. And Mr. Drogo was staying at Brandy Hall with his
father-in-law, old Master Gorbadoc, as he often did after his marriage (him
being partial to his vittles, and old Gorbadoc keeping a mighty generous
table); and he went out boating on the Brandywine River; and he and his wife
were drownded, and poor Mr. Frodo only a child and all. '
    'I've heard they went on the water after dinner in the moonlight,' said
Old Noakes; 'and it was Drogo's weight as sunk the boat.'
    'And I heard she pushed him in, and he pulled her in after him,' said
Sandyman, the Hobbiton miller.
    'You shouldn't listen to all you hear, Sandyman,' said the Gaffer, who
did not much like the miller. 'There isn't no call to go talking of pushing
and pulling. Boats are quite tricky enough for those that sit still without
looking further for the cause of trouble. Anyway: there was this Mr. Frodo
left an orphan and stranded, as you might say, among those queer
Bucklanders, being brought up anyhow in Brandy Hall. A regular warren, by
all accounts. Old Master Gorbadoc never had fewer than a couple of hundred
relations in the place. Mr. Bilbo never did a kinder deed than when he
brought the lad back to live among decent folk.
    'But I reckon it was a nasty shock for those Sackville-Bagginses. They
thought they were going to get Bag End, that time when he went off and was
thought to be dead. And then he comes back and orders them off; and he goes
on living and living, and never looking a day older, bless him! And suddenly
he produces an heir, and has all the papers made out proper. The
Sackville-Bagginses won't never see the inside of Bag End now, or it is to
be hoped not.'
    'There's a tidy bit of money tucked away up there, I hear tell,' said a
stranger, a visitor on business from Michel Delving in the Westfarthing.
'All the top of your hill is full of tunnels packed with chests of gold and
silver, and jools, by what I've heard. '
    'Then you've heard more than I can speak to,' answered the Gaffer. I
know nothing about jools. Mr. Bilbo is free with his money, and there seems
no lack of it; but I know of no tunnel-making. I saw Mr. Bilbo when he came
back, a matter of sixty years ago, when I was a lad. I'd not long come
prentice to old Holman (him being my dad's cousin), but he had me up at Bag
End helping him to keep folks from trampling and trapessing all over the
garden while the sale was on. And in the middle of it all Mr. Bilbo comes up
the Hill with a pony and some mighty big bags and a couple of chests. I
don't doubt they were mostly full of treasure he had picked up in foreign
parts, where there be mountains of gold, they say; but there wasn't enough
to fill tunnels. But my lad Sam will know more about that. He's in and out
of Bag End. Crazy about stories of the old days he is, and he listens to all
Mr. Bilbo's tales. Mr. Bilbo has learned him his letters - meaning no harm,
mark you, and I hope no harm will come of it.
    'Elves and Dragons' I says to him. 'Cabbages and potatoes are better
for me and you. Don't go getting mixed up in the business of your betters,
or you'll land in trouble too big for you,' I says to him. And I might say
it to others,' he added with a look at the stranger and the miller.
    But the Gaffer did not convince his audience. The legend of Bilbo's
wealth was now too firmly fixed in the minds of the younger generation of
hobbits.
    'Ah, but he has likely enough been adding to what he brought at first,'
argued the miller, voicing common opinion. 'He's often away from home. And
look at the outlandish folk that visit him: dwarves coming at night, and
that old wandering conjuror, Gandalf, and all. You can say what you like,
Gaffer, but Bag End's a queer place, and its folk are queerer.'
    'And you can say what you like, about what you know no more of than you
do of boating, Mr. Sandyman,' retorted the Gaffer, disliking the miller even
more than usual. If that's being queer, then we could do with a bit more
queerness in these parts. There's some not far away that wouldn't offer a
pint of beer to a friend, if they lived in a hole with golden walls. But
they do things proper at Bag End. Our Sam says that everyone's going to be
invited to the party, and there's going to be presents, mark you, presents
for all - this very month as is.'
    That very month was September, and as fine as you could ask. A day or
two later a rumour (probably started by the knowledgeable Sam) was spread
about that there were going to be fireworks - fireworks, what is more, such
as had not been seen in the Shire for nigh on a century, not indeed since
the Old Took died.
    Days passed and The Day drew nearer. An odd-looking waggon laden with
odd-looking packages rolled into Hobbiton one evening and toiled up the Hill
to Bag End. The startled hobbits peered out of lamplit doors to gape at it.
It was driven by outlandish folk, singing strange songs: dwarves with long
beards and deep hoods. A few of them remained at Bag End. At the end of the
second week in September a cart came in through Bywater from the direction
of the Brandywine Bridge in broad daylight. An old man was driving it all
alone. He wore a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, and a silver
scarf. He had a long white beard and bushy eyebrows that stuck out beyond
the brim of his hat. Small hobbit-children ran after the cart all through
Hobbiton and right up the hill. It had a cargo of fireworks, as they rightly
guessed. At Bilbo's front door the old man began to unload: there were great
bundles of fireworks of all sorts and shapes, each labelled with a large red
G and the elf-rune, .
    That was Gandalf's mark, of course, and the old man was Gandalf the
Wizard, whose fame in the Shire was due mainly to his skill with fires,
smokes, and lights. His real business was far more difficult and dangerous,
but the Shire-folk knew nothing about it. To them he was just one of the
'attractions' at the Party. Hence the excitement of the hobbit-children. 'G
for Grand!' they shouted, and the old man smiled. They knew him by sight,
though he only appeared in Hobbiton occasionally and never stopped long; but
neither they nor any but the oldest of their elders had seen one of his
firework displays - they now belonged to the legendary past.
    When the old man, helped by Bilbo and some dwarves, had finished
unloading. Bilbo gave a few pennies away; but not a single squib or cracker
was forthcoming, to the disappointment of the onlookers.
    'Run away now!' said Gandalf. 'You will get plenty when the time
comes.' Then he disappeared inside with Bilbo, and the door was shut. The
young hobbits stared at the door in vain for a while, and then made off,
feeling that the day of the party would never come.
    Inside Bag End, Bilbo and Gandalf were sitting at the open window of a
small room looking out west on to the garden. The late afternoon was bright
and peaceful. The flowers glowed red and golden: snap-dragons and
sun-flowers, and nasturtiums trailing all over the turf walls and peeping in
at the round windows.
     'How bright your garden looks!' said Gandalf.
     'Yes,' said Bilbo. I am very fond indeed of it, and of all the dear old
Shire; but I think I need a holiday.'
     'You mean to go on with your plan then?'
     'I do. I made up my mind months ago, and I haven't changed it.'
     'Very well. It is no good saying any more. Stick to your plan - your
whole plan, mind - and I hope it will turn out for the best, for you, and
for all of us.'
     'I hope so. Anyway I mean to enjoy myself on Thursday, and have my
little joke.'
     'Who will laugh, I wonder?' said Gandalf, shaking his head.
     'We shall see,' said Bilbo.
    The next day more carts rolled up the Hill, and still more carts. There
might have been some grumbling about 'dealing locally', but that very week
orders began to pour out of Bag End for every kind of provision, commodity,
or luxury that could be obtained in Hobbiton or Bywater or anywhere in the
neighbourhood. People became enthusiastic; and they began to tick off the
days on the calendar; and they watched eagerly for the postman, hoping for
invitations.
    Before long the invitations began pouring out, and the Hobbiton
post-office was blocked, and the Bywater post-office was snowed under, and
voluntary assistant postmen were called for. There was a constant stream of
them going up the Hill, carrying hundreds of polite variations on Thank you,
I shall certainly come.
     A notice appeared on the gate at Bag End: NO ADMITTANCE EXCEPT
ON PARTY
BUSINESS. Even those who had, or pretended to have Party Business were
seldom allowed inside. Bilbo was busy: writing invitations, ticking off
answers, packing up presents, and making some private preparations of his
own. From the time of Gandalf's arrival he remained hidden from view.
     One morning the hobbits woke to find the large field, south of Bilbo's
front door, covered with ropes and poles for tents and pavilions. A special
entrance was cut into the bank leading to the road, and wide steps and a
large white gate were built there. The three hobbit-families of Bagshot Row,
adjoining the field, were intensely interested and generally envied. Old
Gaffer Gamgee stopped even pretending to work in his garden.
    The tents began to go up. There was a specially large pavilion, so big
that the tree that grew in the field was right inside it, and stood proudly
near one end, at the head of the chief table. Lanterns were hung on all its
branches. More promising still (to the hobbits' mind): an enormous open-air
kitchen was erected in the north corner of the field. A draught of cooks,
from every inn and eating-house for miles around, arrived to supplement the
dwarves and other odd folk that were quartered at Bag End. Excitement rose
to its height.
    Then the weather clouded over. That was on Wednesday the eve of the
Party. Anxiety was intense. Then Thursday, September the 22nd, actually
dawned. The sun got up, the clouds vanished, flags were unfurled and the fun
began.
    Bilbo Baggins called it a party, but it was really a variety of
entertainments rolled into one. Practically everybody living near was
invited. A very few were overlooked by accident, but as they turned up all
the same, that did not matter. Many people from other parts of the Shire
were also asked; and there were even a few from outside the borders. Bilbo
met the guests (and additions) at the new white gate in person. He gave away
presents to all and sundry - the latter were those who went out again by a
back way and came in again by the gate. Hobbits give presents to other
people on their own birthdays. Not very expensive ones, as a rule, and not
so lavishly as on this occasion; but it was not a bad system. Actually in
Hobbiton and Bywater every day in the year it was somebody's birthday, so
that every hobbit in those parts had a fair chance of at least one present
at least once a week. But they never got tired of them.
    On this occasion the presents were unusually good. The hobbit-children
were so excited that for a while they almost forgot about eating. There were
toys the like of which they had never seen before, all beautiful and some
obviously magical. Many of them had indeed been ordered a year before, and
had come all the way from the Mountain and from Dale, and were of real
dwarf-make.
    When every guest had been welcomed and was finally inside the gate,
there were songs, dances, music, games, and, of course, food and drink.
There were three official meals: lunch, tea, and dinner (or supper). But
lunch and tea were marked chiefly by the fact that at those times all the
guests were sitting down and eating together. At other times there were
merely lots of people eating and drinking - continuously from elevenses
until six-thirty, when the fireworks started.
    The fireworks were by Gandalf: they were not only brought by him, but
designed and made by him; and the special effects, set pieces, and flights
of rockets were let off by him. But there was also a generous distribution
of squibs, crackers, backarappers, sparklers, torches, dwarf-candles,
elf-fountains, goblin-barkers and thunder-claps. They were all superb. The
art of Gandalf improved with age.
    There were rockets like a flight of scintillating birds singing with
sweet voices. There were green trees with trunks of dark smoke: their leaves
opened like a whole spring unfolding in a moment, and their shining branches
dropped glowing flowers down upon the astonished hobbits, disappearing with
a sweet scent just before they touched their upturned faces. There were
fountains of butterflies that flew glittering into the trees; there were
pillars of coloured fires that rose and turned into eagles, or sailing
ships, or a phalanx of flying swans; there was a red thunderstorm and a
shower of yellow rain; there was a forest of silver spears that sprang
suddenly into the air with a yell like an embattled army, and came down
again into the Water with a hiss like a hundred hot snakes. And there was
also one last surprise, in honour of Bilbo, and it startled the hobbits
exceedingly, as Gandalf intended. The lights went out. A great smoke went
up. It shaped itself like a mountain seen in the distance, and began to glow
at the summit. It spouted green and scarlet flames. Out flew a red-golden
dragon - not life-size, but terribly life-like: fire came from his jaws, his
eyes glared down; there was a roar, and he whizzed three times over the
heads of the crowd. They all ducked, and many fell flat on their faces. The
dragon passed like an express train, turned a somersault, and burst over
Bywater with a deafening explosion.
    'That is the signal for supper!' said Bilbo. The pain and alarm
vanished at once, and the prostrate hobbits leaped to their feet. There was
a splendid supper for everyone; for everyone, that is, except those invited
to the special family dinner-party. This was held in the great pavilion with
the tree. The invitations were limited to twelve dozen (a number also called
by the hobbits one Gross, though the word was not considered proper to use
of people); and the guests were selected from all the families to which
Bilbo and Frodo were related, with the addition of a few special unrelated
friends (such as Gandalf). Many young hobbits were included, and present by
parental permission; for hobbits were easy-going with their children in the
matter of sitting up late, especially when there was a chance of getting
them a free meal. Bringing up young hobbits took a lot of provender.
    There were many Bagginses and Boffins, and also many Tooks and
Brandybucks; there were various Grubbs (relations of Bilbo Baggins'
grandmother), and various Chubbs (connexions of his Took grandfather); and a
selection of Burrowses, Bolgers, Bracegirdles, Brockhouses, Goodbodies,
Hornblowers and Proudfoots. Some of these were only very distantly
connected
with Bilbo, and some of them had hardly ever been in Hobbiton before, as
they lived in remote corners of the Shire. The Sackville-Bagginses were not
forgotten. Otho and his wife Lobelia were present. They disliked Bilbo and
detested Frodo, but so magnificent was the invitation card, written in
golden ink, that they had felt it was impossible to refuse. Besides, their
cousin, Bilbo, had been specializing in food for many years and his table
had a high reputation.
    All the one hundred and forty-four guests expected a pleasant feast;
though they rather dreaded the after-dinner speech of their host (an
inevitable item). He was liable to drag in bits of what he called poetry;
and sometimes, after a glass or two, would allude to the absurd adventures
of his mysterious journey. The guests were not disappointed: they had a very
pleasant feast, in fact an engrossing entertainment: rich, abundant, varied,
and prolonged. The purchase of provisions fell almost to nothing throughout
the district in the ensuing weeks; but as Bilbo's catering had depleted the
stocks of most stores, cellars and warehouses for miles around, that did not
matter much.
    After the feast (more or less) came the Speech. Most of the company
were, however, now in a tolerant mood, at that delightful stage which they
called 'filling up the corners'. They were sipping their favourite drinks,
and nibbling at their favourite dainties, and their fears were forgotten.
They were prepared to listen to anything, and to cheer at every full stop.
    My dear People, began Bilbo, rising in his place. 'Hear! Hear! Hear!'
they shouted, and kept on repeating it in chorus, seeming reluctant to
follow their own advice. Bilbo left his place and went and stood on a chair
under the illuminated tree. The light of the lanterns fell on his beaming
face; the golden buttons shone on his embroidered silk waistcoat. They could
all see him standing, waving one hand in the air, the other was in his
trouser-pocket.
    My dear Bagginses and Boffins, he began again; and my dear Tooks and
Brandybucks, and Grubbs, and Chubbs, and Burrowses, and Hornblowers,
and
Bolgers, Bracegirdles, Goodbodies, Brockhouses and Proudfoots.
'ProudFEET!'
shouted an elderly hobbit from the back of the pavilion. His name, of
course, was Proudfoot, and well merited; his feet were large, exceptionally
furry, and both were on the table.
    Proudfoots, repeated Bilbo. Also my good Sackville-Bagginses that I
welcome back at last to Bag End. Today is my one hundred and eleventh
birthday: I am eleventy-one today! 'Hurray! Hurray! Many Happy Returns!'
they shouted, and they hammered joyously on the tables. Bilbo was doing
splendidly. This was the sort of stuff they liked: short and obvious.
    / hope you are all enjoying yourselves as much as I am. Deafening
cheers. Cries of Yes (and No). Noises of trumpets and horns, pipes and
flutes, and other musical instruments. There were, as has been said, many
young hobbits present. Hundreds of musical crackers had been pulled. Most of
them bore the mark DALE on them; which did not convey much to most of
the
hobbits, but they all agreed they were marvellous crackers. They contained
instruments, small, but of perfect make and enchanting tones. Indeed, in one
corner some of the young Tooks and Brandybucks, supposing Uncle Bilbo to
have finished (since he had plainly said all that was necessary), now got up
an impromptu orchestra, and began a merry dance-tune. Master Everard Took
and Miss Melilot Brandybuck got on a table and with bells in their hands
began to dance the Springle-ring: a pretty dance, but rather vigorous.
    But Bilbo had not finished. Seizing a horn from a youngster near by, he
blew three loud hoots. The noise subsided. / shall not keep you long, he
cried. Cheers from all the assembly. / have called you all together for a
Purpose. Something in the way that he said this made an impression. There
was almost silence, and one or two of the Tooks pricked up their ears.
    Indeed, for Three Purposes! First of all, to tell you that I am
immensely fond of you all, and that eleventy-one years is too short a time
to live among such excellent and admirable hobbits. Tremendous outburst of
approval.
    / don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less
than half of you half as well as you deserve. This was unexpected and rather
difficult. There was some scattered clapping, but most of them were trying
to work it out and see if it came to a compliment.
    Secondly, to celebrate my birthday. Cheers again. / should say: OUR
birthday. For it is, of course, also the birthday of my heir and nephew,
Frodo. He comes of age and into his inheritance today. Some perfunctory
clapping by the elders; and some loud shouts of 'Frodo! Frodo! Jolly old
Frodo,' from the juniors. The Sackville-Bagginses scowled, and wondered what
was meant by 'coming into his inheritance'. Together we score one hundred
and forty-four. Your numbers were chosen to fit this remarkable total: One
Gross, if I may use the expression. No cheers. This was ridiculous. Many of
his guests, and especially the Sackville-Bagginses, were insulted, feeling
sure they had only been asked to fill up the required number, like goods in
a package. 'One Gross, indeed! Vulgar expression.'
    It is also, if I may be allowed to refer to ancient history, the
anniversary of my arrival by barrel at Esgaroth on the Long Lake; though the
fact that it was my birthday slipped my memory on that occasion. I was only
fifty-one then, and birthdays did not seem so important. The banquet was
very splendid, however, though I had a bad cold at the time, I remember, and
could only say 'thag you very buch'. I now repeat it more correctly: Thank
you very much for coming to my little party. Obstinate silence. They all
feared that a song or some poetry was now imminent; and they were getting
bored. Why couldn't he stop talking and let them drink his health? But Bilbo
did not sing or recite. He paused for a moment.
    Thirdly and finally, he said, I wish to make an ANNOUNCEMENT. He
spoke
this last word so loudly and suddenly that everyone sat up who still could.
I regret to announce that - though, as I said, eleventy-one years is far too
short a time to spend among you - this is the END. I am going. I am leaving
NOW. GOOD-BYE!
    He stepped down and vanished. There was a blinding flash of light, and
the guests all blinked. When they opened their eyes Bilbo was nowhere to be
seen. One hundred and forty-four flabbergasted hobbits sat back speechless.
Old Odo Proudfoot removed his feet from the table and stamped. Then there
was a dead silence, until suddenly, after several deep breaths, every
Baggins, Boffin, Took, Brandybuck, Grubb, Chubb, Burrows, Bolger,
Bracegirdle, Brockhouse, Goodbody, Hornblower, and Proudfoot began to
talk
at once.
    It was generally agreed that the joke was in very bad taste, and more
food and drink were needed to cure the guests of shock and annoyance. 'He's
mad. I always said so,' was probably the most popular comment. Even the
Tooks (with a few exceptions) thought Bilbo's behaviour was absurd. For the
moment most of them took it for granted that his disappearance was nothing
more than a ridiculous prank.
    But old Rory Brandybuck was not so sure. Neither age nor an enormous
dinner had clouded his wits, and he said to his daughter-in-law, Esmeralda:
'There's something fishy in this, my dear! I believe that mad Baggins is off
again. Silly old fool. But why worry? He hasn't taken the vittles with him.'
He called loudly to Frodo to send the wine round again.
    Frodo was the only one present who had said nothing. For some time he
had sat silent beside Bilbo's empty chair, and ignored all remarks and
questions. He had enjoyed the joke, of course, even though he had been in
the know. He had difficulty in keeping from laughter at the indignant
surprise of the guests. But at the same time he felt deeply troubled: he
realized suddenly that he loved the old hobbit dearly. Most of the guests
went on eating and drinking and discussing Bilbo Baggins' oddities, past and
present; but the Sackville-Bagginses had already departed in wrath. Frodo
did not want to have any more to do with the party. He gave orders for more
wine to be served; then he got up and drained his own glass silently to the
health of Bilbo, and slipped out of the pavilion.
    As for Bilbo Baggins, even while he was making his speech, he had been
fingering the golden ring in his pocket: his magic ring that he had kept
secret for so many years. As he stepped down he slipped it on his finger,
and he was never seen by any hobbit in Hobbiton again.
    He walked briskly back to his hole, and stood for a moment listening
with a smile to the din in the pavilion and to the sounds of merrymaking in
other parts of the field. Then he went in. He took off his party clothes,
folded up and wrapped in tissue-paper his embroidered silk waistcoat, and
put it away. Then he put on quickly some old untidy garments, and fastened
round his waist a worn leather belt. On it he hung a short sword in a
battered black-leather scabbard. From a locked drawer, smelling of
moth-balls, he took out an old cloak and hood. They had been locked up as if
they were very precious, but they were so patched and weatherstained that
their original colour could hardly be guessed: it might have been dark
green. They were rather too large for him. He then went into his study, and
from a large strong-box took out a bundle wrapped in old cloths, and a
leather-bound manuscript; and also a large bulky envelope. The book and
bundle he stuffed into the top of a heavy bag that was standing there,
already nearly full. Into the envelope he slipped his golden ring, and its
fine chain, and then sealed it, and addressed it to Frodo. At first he put
it on the mantelpiece, but suddenly he removed it and stuck it in his
pocket. At that moment the door opened and Gandalf came quickly in.
    'Hullo!' said Bilbo. 'I wondered if you would turn up.'
   'I am glad to find you visible,' replied the wizard, sitting down in a
chair, 'I wanted to catch you and have a few final words. I suppose you feel
that everything has gone off splendidly and according to plan?'
    'Yes, I do,' said Bilbo. "Though that flash was surprising: it quite
startled me, let alone the others. A little addition of your own, I
suppose?'
   It was. You have wisely kept that ring secret all these years, and it
seemed to me necessary to give your guests something else that would seem to
explain your sudden vanishment.'
    'And would spoil my joke. You are an interfering old busybody,' laughed
Bilbo, 'but I expect you know best, as usual.'
    'I do - when I know anything. But I don't feel too sure about this
whole affair. It has now come to the final point. You have had your joke,
and alarmed or offended most of your relations, and given the whole Shire
something to talk about for nine days, or ninety-nine more likely. Are you
going any further?'
   'Yes, I am. I feel I need a holiday, a very long holiday, as I have
told you before. Probably a permanent holiday: I don't expect I shall
return. In fact, I don't mean to, and I have made all arrangements.
   'I am old, Gandalf. I don't look it, but I am beginning to feel it in
my heart of hearts. Well-preserved indeed!' he snorted. 'Why, I feel all
thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been
scraped over too much bread. That can't be right. I need a change, or
something.'
    Gandalf looked curiously and closely at him. 'No, it does not seem
right,' he said thoughtfully. 'No, after all I believe your plan is probably
the best.'
    'Well, I've made up my mind, anyway. I want to see mountains again,
Gandalf, mountains, and then find somewhere where I can rest. In peace and
quiet, without a lot of relatives prying around, and a string of confounded
visitors hanging on the bell. I might find somewhere where I can finish my
book. I have thought of a nice ending for it: and he lived happily ever
after to the end of his days. '
    Gandalf laughed. I hope he will. But nobody will read the book, however
it ends.'
    'Oh, they may, in years to come. Frodo has read some already, as far as
it has gone. You'll keep an eye on Frodo, won't you?'
    'Yes, I will - two eyes, as often as I can spare them.'
    'He would come with me, of course, if I asked him. In fact he offered
to once, just before the party. But he does not really want to, yet. I want
to see the wild country again before I die, and the Mountains; but he is
still in love with the Shire, with woods and fields and little rivers. He
ought to be comfortable here. I am leaving everything to him, of course,
except a few oddments. I hope he will be happy, when he gets used to being
on his own. It's time he was his own master now.'
    'Everything?' said Gandalf. 'The ring as well? You agreed to that, you
remember.'
    'Well, er, yes, I suppose so,' stammered Bilbo.
    'Where is it?'
    'In an envelope, if you must know,' said Bilbo impatiently. 'There on
the mantelpiece. Well, no! Here it is in my pocket!' He hesitated. 'Isn't
that odd now?' he said softly to himself. 'Yet after all, why not? Why
shouldn't it stay there?'
    Gandalf looked again very hard at Bilbo, and there was a gleam in his
eyes. 'I think, Bilbo,' he said quietly, 'I should leave it behind. Don't
you want to?'
    'Well yes - and no. Now it comes to it, I don't like parting with it at
all, I may say. And I don't really see why I should. Why do you want me to?'
he asked, and a curious change came over his voice. It was sharp with
suspicion and annoyance. 'You are always badgering me about my ring; but
you
have never bothered me about the other things that I got on my journey.'
    'No, but I had to badger you,' said Gandalf. 'I wanted the truth. It
was important. Magic rings are - well, magical; and they are rare and
curious. I was professionally interested in your ring, you may say; and I
still am. I should like to know where it is, if you go wandering again. Also
I think you have had it quite long enough. You won't need it any more.
Bilbo, unless I am quite mistaken.'
    Bilbo flushed, and there was an angry light in his eyes. His kindly
face grew hard. 'Why not?' he cried. 'And what business is it of yours,
anyway, to know what I do with my own things? It is my own. I found it. It
came to me.'
    'Yes, yes,' said Gandalf. 'But there is no need to get angry.'
    'If I am it is your fault,' said Bilbo. 'It is mine, I tell you. My
own. My precious. Yes, my precious.'
    The wizard's face remained grave and attentive, and only a flicker in
his deep eyes showed that he was startled and indeed alarmed. 'It has been
called that before,' he said, 'but not by you.'
    'But I say it now. And why not? Even if Gollum said the same once. It's
not his now, but mine. And I shall keep it, I say.'
    Gandalf stood up. He spoke sternly. 'You will be a fool if you do.
Bilbo,' he said. 'You make that clearer with every word you say. It has got
far too much hold on you. Let it go! And then you can go yourself, and be
free.'
    'I'll do as I choose and go as I please,' said Bilbo obstinately.
    'Now, now, my dear hobbit! ' said Gandalf. 'All your long life we have
been friends, and you owe me something. Come! Do as you promised: give it
up! '
    'Well, if you want my ring yourself, say so!' cried Bilbo. 'But you
won't get it. I won't give my precious away, I tell you.' His hand strayed
to the hilt of his small sword.
    Gandalf's eyes flashed. It will be my turn to get angry soon,' he said.
If you say that again, I shall. Then you will see Gandalf the Grey
uncloaked.' He took a step towards the hobbit, and he seemed to grow tall
and menacing; his shadow filled the little room.
    Bilbo backed away to the wall, breathing hard, his hand clutching at
his pocket. They stood for a while facing one another, and the air of the
room tingled. Gandalf's eyes remained bent on the hobbit. Slowly his hands
relaxed, and he began to tremble.
    'I don't know what has come over you, Gandalf,' he said. 'You have
never been like this before. What is it all about? It is mine isn't it? I
found it, and Gollum would have killed me, if I hadn't kept it. I'm not a
thief, whatever he said.'
    'I have never called you one,' Gandalf answered. 'And I am not one
either. I am not trying to rob you, but to help you. I wish you would trust
me, as you used.' He turned away, and the shadow passed. He seemed to
dwindle again to an old grey man, bent and troubled.
    Bilbo drew his hand over his eyes. I am sorry,' he said. 'But I felt so
queer. And yet it would be a relief in a way not to be bothered with it any
more. It has been so growing on my mind lately. Sometimes I have felt it was
like an eye looking at me. And I am always wanting to put it on and
disappear, don't you know; or wondering if it is safe, and pulling it out to
make sure. I tried locking it up, but I found I couldn't rest without it in
my pocket. I don't know why. And I don't seem able to make up my mind.'
   'Then trust mine,' said Gandalf. 'It is quite made up. Go away and
leave it behind. Stop possessing it. Give it to Frodo, and I will look after
him.'
    Bilbo stood for a moment tense and undecided. Presently he sighed. 'All
right,' he said with an effort. I will.' Then he shrugged his shoulders, and
smiled rather ruefully. 'After all that's what this party business was all
about, really: to give away lots of birthday presents, and somehow make it
easier to give it away at the same time. It hasn't made it any easier in the
end, but it would be a pity to waste all my preparations. It would quite
spoil the joke.'
   'Indeed it would take away the only point I ever saw in the affair,'
said Gandalf.
    'Very well,' said Bilbo, 'it goes to Frodo with all the rest.' He drew
a deep breath. 'And now I really must be starting, or somebody else will
catch me. I have said good-bye, and I couldn't bear to do it all over
again.' He picked up his bag and moved to the door.
    'You have still got the ring in your pocket,' said the wizard. 'Well,
so I have!' cried Bilbo. 'And my will and all the other documents too. You
had better take it and deliver it for me. That will be safest.'
    'No, don't give the ring to me,' said Gandalf. 'Put it on the
mantelpiece. It will be safe enough there, till Frodo comes. I shall wait
for him.'
    Bilbo took out the envelope, but just as he was about to set it by the
clock, his hand jerked back, and the packet fell on the floor. Before he
could pick it up, the wizard stooped and seized it and set it in its place.
A spasm of anger passed swiftly over the hobbit's face again. Suddenly it
gave way to a look of relief and a laugh. 'Well, that's that,' he said. 'Now
I'm off!'
    They went out into the hall. Bilbo chose his favourite stick from the
stand; then he whistled. Three dwarves came out of different rooms where
they had been busy.
    'Is everything ready?' asked Bilbo. 'Everything packed and labelled?'
    'Everything,' they answered.
    'Well, let's start then!' He stepped out of the front-door.
    It was a fine night, and the black sky was dotted with stars. He looked
up, sniffing the air. 'What fun! What fun to be off again, off on the Road
with dwarves! This is what I have really been longing for, for years!
Good-bye! ' he said, looking at his old home and bowing to the door.
'Good-bye, Gandalf!'
    'Good-bye, for the present, Bilbo. Take care of yourself! You are old
enough, and perhaps wise enough.'
    'Take care! I don't care. Don't you worry about me! I am as happy now
as I have ever been, and that is saying a great deal. But the time has come.
I am being swept off my feet at last,' he added, and then in a low voice, as
if to himself, he sang softly in the dark:
    The Road goes ever on and on
    Down from the door where it began.
    Now far ahead the Road has gone,
    And I must follow, if I can,
    Pursuing it with eager feet,
    Until it joins some larger way
    Where many paths and errands meet.
    And whither then? I cannot say.
    He paused, silent for a moment. Then without another word he turned
away from the lights and voices in the fields and tents, and followed by his
three companions went round into his garden, and trotted down the long
sloping path. He jumped over a low place in the hedge at the bottom, and
took to the meadows, passing into the night like a rustle of wind in the
grass.
    Gandalf remained for a while staring after him into the darkness.
'Goodbye, my dear Bilbo - until our next meeting!' he said softly and went
back indoors.
    Frodo came in soon afterwards, and found him sitting in the dark, deep
in thought. 'Has he gone?' he asked.
    'Yes,' answered Gandalf, 'he has gone at last.'
    ' I wish - I mean, I hoped until this evening that it was only a joke,'
said Frodo. 'But I knew in my heart that he really meant to go. He always
used to joke about serious things. I wish I had come back sooner, just to
see him off.'
    I think really he preferred slipping off quietly in the end,' said
Gandalf. 'Don't be too troubled. He'll be all right - now. He left a packet
for you. There it is!'
    Frodo took the envelope from the mantelpiece, and glanced at it, but
did not open it.
    'You'll find his will and all the other documents in there, I think,'
said the wizard. 'You are the master of Bag End now. And also, I fancy,
you'll find a golden ring.'
    'The ring!' exclaimed Frodo. 'Has he left me that? I wonder why. Still,
it may be useful.'
    'It may, and it may not,' said Gandalf. 'I should not make use of it,
if I were you. But keep it secret, and keep it safe! Now I am going to bed.'
    As master of Bag End Frodo felt it his painful duty to say good-bye to
the guests. Rumours of strange events had by now spread all over the field,
but Frodo would only say no doubt everything will be cleared up in the
morning. About midnight carriages came for the important folk. One by one
they rolled away, filled with full but very unsatisfied hobbits. Gardeners
came by arrangement, and removed in wheel-barrows those that had
inadvertently remained behind.
    Night slowly passed. The sun rose. The hobbits rose rather later.
Morning went on. People came and began (by orders) to clear away the
pavilions and the tables and the chairs, and the spoons and knives and
bottles and plates, and the lanterns, and the flowering shrubs in boxes, and
the crumbs and cracker-paper, the forgotten bags and gloves and
handkerchiefs, and the uneaten food (a very small item). Then a number of
other people came (without orders): Bagginses, and Boffins, and Bolgers, and
Tooks, and other guests that lived or were staying near. By mid-day, when
even the best-fed were out and about again, there was a large crowd at Bag
End, uninvited but not unexpected.
    Frodo was waiting on the step, smiling, but looking rather tired and
worried. He welcomed all the callers, but he had not much more to say than
before. His reply to all inquiries was simply this: 'Mr. Bilbo Baggins has
gone away; as far as I know, for good.' Some of the visitors he invited to
come inside, as Bilbo had left 'messages' for them.
    Inside in the hall there was piled a large assortment of packages and
parcels and small articles of furniture. On every item there was a label
tied. There were several labels of this sort:
    For ADELARD TOOK, for his VERY OWN, from Bilbo, on an umbrella.
Adelard
had carried off many unlabelled ones.
    For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love
from
Bilbo, on a large waste-paper basket. Dora was Drogo's sister and the eldest
surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had
written reams of good advice for more than half a century.
    For MILO BURROWS, hoping it will be useful, from B.B., on a gold pen
and ink-bottle. Milo never answered letters.
    For ANGELICA'S use, from Uncle Bilbo, on a round convex mirror. She
was
a young Baggins, and too obviously considered her face shapely.
    For the collection of HUGO BRACEGIRDLE, from a contributor, on an
(empty) book-case. Hugo was a great borrower of books, and worse than usual
at returning them.
    For LOBELIA SACKVILLE-BAGGINS, as a PRESENT, on a case of
silver
spoons. Bilbo believed that she had acquired a good many of his spoons,
while he was away on his former journey. Lobelia knew that quite well. When
she arrived later in the day, she took the point at once, but she also took
the spoons.
    This is only a small selection of the assembled presents. Bilbo's
residence had got rather cluttered up with things in the course of his long
life. It was a tendency of hobbit-holes to get cluttered up: for which the
custom of giving so many birthday-presents was largely responsible. Not, of
course, that the birthday-presents were always new, there were one or two
old mathoms of forgotten uses that had circulated all around the district;
but Bilbo had usually given new presents, and kept those that he received.
The old hole was now being cleared a little.
    Every one of the various parting gifts had labels, written out
personally by Bilbo, and several had some point, or some joke. But, of
course, most of the things were given where they would be wanted and
welcome. The poorer hobbits, and especially those of Bagshot Row, did very
well. Old Gaffer Gamgee got two sacks of potatoes, a new spade, a woollen
waistcoat, and a bottle of ointment for creaking joints. Old Rory
Brandybuck, in return for much hospitality, got a dozen bottles of Old
Winyards: a strong red wine from the Southfarthing, and now quite mature, as
it had been laid down by Bilbo's father. Rory quite forgave Bilbo, and voted
him a capital fellow after the first bottle.
    There was plenty of everything left for Frodo. And, of course, all the
chief treasures, as well as the books, pictures, and more than enough
furniture, were left in his possession. There was, however, no sign nor
mention of money or jewellery: not a penny-piece or a glass bead was given
away.
    Frodo had a very trying time that afternoon. A false rumour that the
whole household was being distributed free spread like wildfire; and before
long the place was packed with people who had no business there, but could
not be kept out. Labels got torn off and mixed, and quarrels broke out. Some
people tried to do swaps and deals in the hall; and others tried to make off
with minor items not addressed to them, or with anything that seemed
unwanted or unwatched. The road to the gate was blocked with barrows and
handcarts.
    In the middle of the commotion the Sackville-Bagginses arrived. Frodo
had retired for a while and left his friend Merry Brandybuck to keep an eye
on things. When Otho loudly demanded to see Frodo, Merry bowed politely.
    'He is indisposed,' he said. 'He is resting.'
    'Hiding, you mean,' said Lobelia. 'Anyway we want to see him and we
mean to see him. Just go and tell him so!'
    Merry left them a long while in the hall, and they had time to discover
their parting gift of spoons. It did not improve their tempers. Eventually
they were shown into the study. Frodo was sitting at a table with a lot of
papers in front of him. He looked indisposed - to see Sackville-Bagginses at
any rate; and he stood up, fidgeting with something in his pocket. But he
spoke quite politely.
    The Sackville-Bagginses were rather offensive. They began by offering
him bad bargain-prices (as between friends) for various valuable and
unlabelled things. When Frodo replied that only the things specially
directed by Bilbo were being given away, they said the whole affair was very
fishy.
    'Only one thing is clear to me,' said Otho, 'and that is that you are
doing exceedingly well out of it. I insist on seeing the will.'
    Otho would have been Bilbo's heir, but for the adoption of Frodo. He
read the will carefully and snorted. It was, unfortunately, very clear and
correct (according to the legal customs of hobbits, which demand among other
things seven signatures of witnesses in red ink).
    'Foiled again!' he said to his wife. 'And after waiting sixty years.
Spoons? Fiddlesticks!' He snapped his fingers under Frodo's nose and slumped
off. But Lobelia was not so easily got rid of. A little later Frodo came out
of the study to see how things were going on and found her still about the
place, investigating nooks and comers and tapping the floors. He escorted
her firmly off the premises, after he had relieved her of several small (but
rather valuable) articles that had somehow fallen inside her umbrella. Her
face looked as if she was in the throes of thinking out a really crushing
parting remark; but all she found to say, turning round on the step, was:
    'You'll live to regret it, young fellow! Why didn't you go too? You
don't belong here; you're no Baggins - you - you're a Brandybuck!'
    'Did you hear that, Merry? That was an insult, if you like,' said Frodo
as he shut the door on her.
    'It was a compliment,' said Merry Brandybuck, 'and so, of course, not
true.'
    Then they went round the hole, and evicted three young hobbits (two
Boffins and a Bolger) who were knocking holes in the walls of one of the
cellars. Frodo also had a tussle with young Sancho Proudfoot (old Odo
Proudfoot's grandson), who had begun an excavation in the larger pantry,
where he thought there was an echo. The legend of Bilbo's gold excited both
curiosity and hope; for legendary gold (mysteriously obtained, if not
positively ill-gotten), is, as every one knows, any one's for the finding
-unless the search is interrupted.
    When he had overcome Sancho and pushed him out, Frodo collapsed on a
chair in the hall. It's time to close the shop, Merry,' he said. 'Lock the
door, and don't open it to anyone today, not even if they bring a battering
ram.' Then he went to revive himself with a belated cup of tea.
    He had hardly sat down, when there came a soft knock at the front-door.
'Lobelia again most likely,' he thought. 'She must have thought of something
really nasty, and have come back again to say it. It can wait.'
    He went on with his tea. The knock was repeated, much louder, but he
took no notice. Suddenly the wizard's head appeared at the window.
    'If you don't let me in, Frodo, I shall blow your door right down your
hole and out through the hill,' he said.
    'My dear Gandalf! Half a minute!' cried Frodo, running out of the room
to the door. 'Come in! Come in! I thought it was Lobelia.'
    'Then I forgive you. But I saw her some time ago, driving a pony-trap
towards Bywater with a face that would have curdled new milk.'
    'She had already nearly curdled me. Honestly, I nearly tried on Bilbo's
ring. I longed to disappear.'
    'Don't do that!' said Gandalf, sitting down. 'Do be careful of that
ring, Frodo! In fact, it is partly about that that I have come to say a last
word.'
    'Well, what about it?'
    'What do you know already?'
    'Only what Bilbo told me. I have heard his story: how he found it, and
how he used it: on his journey, I mean.'
    'Which story, I wonder,' said Gandalf.
    'Oh, not what he told the dwarves and put in his book,' said Frodo. 'He
told me the true story soon after I came to live here. He said you had
pestered him till he told you, so I had better know too. "No secrets between
us, Frodo," he said; "but they are not to go any further. It's mine
anyway."'
    'That's interesting,' said Gandalf. 'Well, what did you think of it
all?'
    'If you mean, inventing all that about a "present", well, I thought the
true story much more likely, and I couldn't see the point of altering it at
all. It was very unlike Bilbo to do so, anyway; and I thought it rather
odd.'
    'So did I. But odd things may happen to people that have such treasures
- if they use them. Let it be a warning to you to be very careful with it.
It may have other powers than just making you vanish when you wish to.'
    'I don't understand,' said Frodo.
    'Neither do I,' answered the wizard. 'I have merely begun to wonder
about the ring, especially since last night. No need to worry. But if you
take my advice you will use it very seldom, or not at all. At least I beg
you not to use it in any way that will cause talk or rouse suspicion. I say
again: keep it safe, and keep it secret!'
    'You are very mysterious! What are you afraid of?'
    'I am not certain, so I will say no more. I may be able to tell you
something when I come back. I am going off at once: so this is good-bye for
the present.' He got up.
    'At once!' cried Frodo. 'Why, I thought you were staying on for at
least a week. I was looking forward to your help.'
    'I did mean to - but I have had to change my mind. I may be away for a
good while; but I'll come and see you again, as soon as I can. Expect me
when you see me! I shall slip in quietly. I shan't often be visiting the
Shire openly again. I find that I have become rather unpopular. They say I
am a nuisance and a disturber of the peace. Some people are actually
accusing me of spiriting Bilbo away, or worse. If you want to know, there is
supposed to be a plot between you and me to get hold of his wealth.'
    'Some people!' exclaimed Frodo. 'You mean Otho and Lobelia. How
abominable! I would give them Bag End and everything else, if I could get
Bilbo back and go off tramping in the country with him. I love the Shire.
But I begin to wish, somehow, that I had gone too. I wonder if I shall ever
see him again.'
    'So do I,' said Gandalf. 'And I wonder many other things. Good-bye now!
Take care of yourself! Look out for me, especially at unlikely times!
Good-bye!'
    Frodo saw him to the door. He gave a final wave of his hand, and walked
off at a surprising pace; but Frodo thought the old wizard looked unusually
bent, almost as if he was carrying a great weight. The evening was closing
in, and his cloaked figure quickly vanished into the twilight. Frodo did not
see him again for a long time.
     Chapter 2. The Shadow of the Past

    The talk did not die down in nine or even ninety-nine days. The second
disappearance of Mr. Bilbo Baggins was discussed in Hobbiton, and indeed all
over the Shire, for a year and a day, and was remembered much longer than
that. It became a fireside-story for young hobbits; and eventually Mad
Baggins, who used to vanish with a bang and a flash and reappear with bags
of jewels and gold, became a favourite character of legend and lived on long
after all the true events were forgotten.
    But in the meantime, the general opinion in the neighbourhood was that
Bilbo, who had always been rather cracked, had at last gone quite mad, and
had run off into the Blue. There he had undoubtedly fallen into a pool or a
river and come to a tragic, but hardly an untimely, end. The blame was
mostly laid on Gandalf.
    'If only that dratted wizard will leave young Frodo alone, perhaps
he'll settle down and grow some hobbit-sense,' they said. And to all
appearance the wizard did leave Frodo alone, and he did settle down, but the
growth of hobbit-sense was not very noticeable. Indeed, he at once began to
carry on Bilbo's reputation for oddity. He refused to go into mourning; and
the next year he gave a party in honour of Bilbo's hundred-and-twelfth
birthday, which he called Hundred-weight Feast. But that was short of the
mark, for twenty guests were invited and there were several meals at which
it snowed food and rained drink, as hobbits say.
    Some people were rather shocked; but Frodo kept up the custom of giving
Bilbo's Birthday Party year after year until they got used to it. He said
that he did not think Bilbo was dead. When they asked: 'Where is he then?'
he shrugged his shoulders.
    He lived alone, as Bilbo had done; but he had a good many friends,
especially among the younger hobbits (mostly descendants of the Old Took)
who had as children been fond of Bilbo and often in and out of Bag End.
Folco Boffin and Fredegar Bolger were two of these; but his closest friends
were Peregrin Took (usually called Pippin), and Merry Brandybuck (his real
name was Meriadoc, but that was seldom remembered). Frodo went tramping
all
over the Shire with them; but more often he wandered by himself, and to the
amazement of sensible folk he was sometimes seen far from home walking in
the hills and woods under the starlight. Merry and Pippin suspected that he
visited the Elves at times, as Bilbo had done.
    As time went on, people began to notice that Frodo also showed signs of
good 'preservation': outwardly he retained the appearance of a robust and
energetic hobbit just out of his tweens. 'Some folk have all the luck,' they
said; but it was not until Frodo approached the usually more sober age of
fifty that they began to think it queer.
    Frodo himself, after the first shock, found that being his own master
and the Mr. Baggins of Bag End was rather pleasant. For some years he was
quite happy and did not worry much about the future. But half unknown to
himself the regret that he had not gone with Bilbo was steadily growing. He
found himself wondering at times, especially in the autumn, about the wild
lands, and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his
dreams. He began to say to himself: 'Perhaps I shall cross the River myself
one day.' To which the other half of his mind always replied: 'Not yet.'
    So it went on, until his forties were running out, and his fiftieth
birthday was drawing near: fifty was a number that he felt was somehow
significant (or ominous); it was at any rate at that age that adventure had
suddenly befallen Bilbo. Frodo began to feel restless, and the old paths
seemed too well-trodden. He looked at maps, and wondered what lay beyond
their edges: maps made in the Shire showed mostly white spaces beyond its
borders. He took to wandering further afield and more often by himself; and
Merry and his other friends watched him anxiously. Often he was seen walking
and talking with the strange wayfarers that began at this time to appear in
the Shire.
    There were rumours of strange things happening in the world outside;
and as Gandalf had not at that time appeared or sent any message for several
years, Frodo gathered all the news he could. Elves, who seldom walked in the
Shire, could now be seen passing westward through the woods in the evening,
passing and not returning; but they were leaving Middle-earth and were no
longer concerned with its troubles. There were, however, dwarves on the road
in unusual numbers. The ancient East-West Road ran through the Shire to its
end at the Grey Havens, and dwarves had always used it on their way to their
mines in the Blue Mountains. They were the hobbits' chief source of news
from distant parts - if they wanted any: as a rule dwarves said little and
hobbits asked no more. But now Frodo often met strange dwarves of far
countries, seeking refuge in the West. They were troubled, and some spoke in
whispers of the Enemy and of the Land of Mordor.
    That name the hobbits only knew in legends of the dark past, like a
shadow in the background of their memories; but it was ominous and
disquieting. It seemed that the evil power in Mirkwood had been driven out
by the White Council only to reappear in greater strength in the old
strongholds of Mordor. The Dark Tower had been rebuilt, it was said. From
there the power was spreading far and wide, and away far east and south
there were wars and growing fear. Orcs were multiplying again in the
mountains. Trolls were abroad, no longer dull-witted, but cunning and armed
with dreadful weapons. And there were murmured hints of creatures more
terrible than all these, but they had no name.
    Little of all this, of course, reached the ears of ordinary hobbits.
But even the deafest and most stay-at-home began to hear queer tales; and
those whose business took them to the borders saw strange things. The
conversation in The Green Dragon at Bywater, one evening in the spring of
Frodo's fiftieth year, showed that even in the comfortable heart of the
Shire rumours had been heard, though most hobbits still laughed at them.
    Sam Gamgee was sitting in one corner near the fire, and opposite him
was Ted Sandyman, the miller's son; and there were various other rustic
hobbits listening to their talk.
    'Queer things you do hear these days, to be sure,' said Sam.
    'Ah,' said Ted, 'you do, if you listen. But I can hear fireside-tales
and children's stories at home, if I want to.'
    'No doubt you can,' retorted Sam, 'and I daresay there's more truth in
some of them than you reckon. Who invented the stories anyway? Take
dragons
now.'
    'No thank 'ee,' said Ted, 'I won't. I heard tell of them when I was a
youngster, but there's no call to believe in them now. There's only one
Dragon in Bywater, and that's Green,' he said, getting a general laugh.
    'All right,' said Sam, laughing with the rest. 'But what about these
Tree-men, these giants, as you might call them? They do say that one bigger
than a tree was seen up away beyond the North Moors not long back.'
    'Who's they?'
    'My cousin Hal for one. He works for Mr. Boffin at Overhill and goes up
to the Northfarthing for the hunting. He saw one.'
    'Says he did, perhaps. Your Hal's always saying he's seen things; and
maybe he sees things that ain't there.'
     'But this one was as big as an elm tree, and walking - walking seven
yards to a stride, if it was an inch.'
     'Then I bet it wasn't an inch. What he saw was an elm tree, as like as
not.'
     'But this one was walking, I tell you; and there ain't no elm tree on
the North Moors.'
     'Then Hal can't have seen one,' said Ted. There was some laughing and
clapping: the audience seemed to think that Ted had scored a point.
     'All the same,' said Sam, 'you can't deny that others besides our
Halfast have seen queer folk crossing the Shire - crossing it, mind you:
there are more that are turned back at the borders. The Bounders have never
been so busy before.
     'And I've heard tell that Elves are moving west. They do say they are
going to the harbours, out away beyond the White Towers.' Sam waved his
arm
vaguely: neither he nor any of them knew how far it was to the Sea, past the
old towers beyond the western borders of the Shire. But it was an old
tradition that away over there stood the Grey Havens, from which at times
elven-ships set sail, never to return.
     'They are sailing, sailing, sailing over the Sea, they are going into
the West and leaving us,' said Sam, half chanting the words, shaking his
head sadly and solemnly. But Ted laughed.
     'Well, that isn't anything new, if you believe the old tales. And I
don't see what it matters to me or you. Let them sail! But I warrant you
haven't seen them doing it; nor any one else in the Shire.'
     'Well I don't know,' said Sam thoughtfully. He believed he had once
seen an Elf in the woods, and still hoped to see more one day. Of all the
legends that he had heard in his early years such fragments of tales and
half-remembered stories about the Elves as the hobbits knew, had always
moved him most deeply. 'There are some, even in these parts, as know the
Fair Folk and get news of them,' he said. 'There's Mr. Baggins now, that I
work for. He told me that they were sailing and he knows a bit about Elves.
And old Mr. Bilbo knew more: many's the talk I had with him when I was a
little lad.'
     'Oh, they're both cracked,' said Ted. 'Leastways old Bilbo was cracked,
and Frodo's cracking. If that's where you get your news from, you'll never
want for moonshine. Well, friends, I'm off home. Your good health!' He
drained his mug and went out noisily.
    Sam sat silent and said no more. He had a good deal to think about. For
one thing, there was a lot to do up in the Bag End garden, and he would have
a busy day tomorrow, if the weather cleared. The grass was growing fast. But
Sam had more on his mind than gardening. After a while he sighed, and got up
and went out.
    It was early April and the sky was now clearing after heavy rain. The
sun was down, and a cool pale evening was quietly fading into night. He
walked home under the early stars through Hobbiton and up the Hill,
whistling softly and thoughtfully.
    It was just at this time that Gandalf reappeared after his long
absence. For three years after the Party he had been away. Then he paid
Frodo a brief visit, and after taking a good look at him he went off again.
During the next year or two he had turned up fairly often, coming
unexpectedly after dusk, and going off without warning before sunrise. He
would not discuss his own business and journeys, and seemed chiefly
interested in small news about Frodo's health and doings.
    Then suddenly his visits had ceased. It was over nine years since Frodo
had seen or heard of him, and he had begun to think that the wizard would
never return and had given up all interest in hobbits. But that evening, as
Sam was walking home and twilight was fading, there came the once familiar
tap on the study window.
    Frodo welcomed his old friend with surprise and great delight. They
looked hard at one another.
    'Ah well eh?' said Gandalf. 'You look the same as ever, Frodo!'
   'So do you,' Frodo replied; but secretly he thought that Gandalf looked
older and more careworn. He pressed him for news of himself and of the wide
world, and soon they were deep in talk, and they stayed up far into the
night.
    Next morning after a late breakfast, the wizard was sitting with Frodo
by the open window of the study. A bright fire was on the hearth, but the
sun was warm, and the wind was in the South. Everything looked fresh, and
the new green of Spring was shimmering in the fields and on the tips of the
trees' fingers.
    Gandalf was thinking of a spring, nearly eighty years before, when
Bilbo had run out of Bag End without a handkerchief. His hair was perhaps
whiter than it had been then, and his beard and eyebrows were perhaps
longer, and his face more lined with care and wisdom; but his eyes were as
bright as ever, and he smoked and blew smoke-rings with the same vigour and
delight.
    He was smoking now in silence, for Frodo was sitting still, deep in
thought. Even in the light of morning he felt the dark shadow of the tidings
that Gandalf had brought. At last he broke the silence.
    'Last night you began to tell me strange things about my ring,
Gandalf,' he said. 'And then you stopped, because you said that such matters
were best left until daylight. Don't you think you had better finish now?
You say the ring is dangerous, far more dangerous than I guess. In what
way?'
    'In many ways,' answered the wizard. It is far more powerful than I
ever dared to think at first, so powerful that in the end it would utterly
overcome anyone of mortal race who possessed it. It would possess him.
    'In Eregion long ago many Elven-rings were made, magic rings as you
call them, and they were, of course, of various kinds: some more potent and
some less. The lesser rings were only essays in the craft before it was
full-grown, and to the Elven-smiths they were but trifles - yet still to my
mind dangerous for mortals. But the Great Rings, the Rings of Power, they
were perilous.
    'A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but
he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last
every minute is a weariness. And if he often uses the Ring to make himself
invisible, he fades: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks
in the twilight under the eye of the dark power that rules the Rings. Yes,
sooner or later - later, if he is strong or well-meaning to begin with, but
neither strength nor good purpose will last - sooner or later the dark power
will devour him.'
    'How terrifying!' said Frodo. There was another long silence. The sound
of Sam Gamgee cutting the lawn came in from the garden.
    'How long have you known this?' asked Frodo at length. 'And how much
did Bilbo know?'
    'Bilbo knew no more than he told you, I am sure,' said Gandalf. 'He
would certainly never have passed on to you anything that he thought would
be a danger, even though I promised to look after you. He thought the ring
was very beautiful, and very useful at need; and if anything was wrong or
queer, it was himself. He said that it was "growing on his mind", and he was
always worrying about it; but he did not suspect that the ring itself was to
blame. Though he had found out that the thing needed looking after; it did
not seem always of the same size or weight; it shrank or expanded in an odd
way, and might suddenly slip off a finger where it had been tight.'
    'Yes, he warned me of that in his last letter,' said Frodo, 'so I have
always kept it on its chain.'
    'Very wise,' said Gandalf. 'But as for his long life, Bilbo never
connected it with the ring at all. He took all the credit for that to
himself, and he was very proud of it. Though he was getting restless and
uneasy. Thin and stretched he said. A sign that the ring was getting
control.'
    'How long have you known all this?' asked Frodo again.
    'Known?' said Gandalf. 'I have known much that only the Wise know,
Frodo. But if you mean "known about this ring", well, I still do not know,
one might say. There is a last test to make. But I no longer doubt my guess.
    'When did I first begin to guess?' he mused, searching back in memory.
'Let me see - it was in the year that the White Council drove the dark power
from Mirkwood, just before the Battle of Five Armies, that Bilbo found his
ring. A shadow fell on my heart then, though I did not know yet what I
feared. I wondered often how Gollum came by a Great Ring, as plainly it was
- that at least was clear from the first. Then I heard Bilbo's strange story
of how he had "won" it, and I could not believe it. When I at last got the
truth out of him, I saw at once that he had been trying to put his claim to
the ring beyond doubt. Much like Gollum with his "birthday present". The
lies were too much alike for my comfort. Clearly the ring had an unwholesome
power that set to work on its keeper at once. That was the first real
warning I had that all was not well. I told Bilbo often that such rings were
better left unused; but he resented it, and soon got angry. There was little
else that I could do. I could not take it from him without doing greater
harm; and I had no right to do so anyway. I could only watch and wait. I
might perhaps have consulted Saruman the White, but something always held
me
back.'
    'Who is he?' asked Frodo. I have never heard of him before.'
    'Maybe not,' answered Gandalf. 'Hobbits are, or were, no concern of
his. Yet he is great among the Wise. He is the chief of my order and the
head of the Council. His knowledge is deep, but his pride has grown with it,
and he takes ill any meddling. The lore of the Elven-rings, great and small,
is his province. He has long studied it, seeking the lost secrets of their
making; but when the Rings were debated in the Council, all that he would
reveal to us of his ring-lore told against my fears. So my doubt slept - but
uneasily. Still I watched and I waited.
    'And all seemed well with Bilbo. And the years passed. Yes, they
passed, and they seemed not to touch him. He showed no signs of age. The
shadow fell on me again. But I said to myself: "After all he comes of a
long-lived family on his mother's side. There is time yet. Wait!"
    'And I waited. Until that night when he left this house. He said and
did things then that filled me with a fear that no words of Saruman could
allay. I knew at last that something dark and deadly was at work. And I have
spent most of the years since then in finding out the truth of it.'
    'There wasn't any permanent harm done, was there?' asked Frodo
anxiously. 'He would get all right in time, wouldn't he? Be able to rest in
peace, I mean?'
    'He felt better at once,' said Gandalf. 'But there is only one Power in
this world that knows all about the Rings and their effects; and as far as I
know there is no Power in the world that knows all about hobbits. Among the
Wise I am the only one that goes in for hobbit-lore: an obscure branch of
knowledge, but full of surprises. Soft as butter they can be, and yet
sometimes as tough as old tree-roots. I think it likely that some would
resist the Rings far longer than most of the Wise would believe. I don't
think you need worry about Bilbo.
    'Of course, he possessed the ring for many years, and used it, so it
might take a long while for the influence to wear off - before it was safe
for him to see it again, for instance. Otherwise, he might live on for
years, quite happily: just stop as he was when he parted with it. For he
gave it up in the end of his own accord: an important point. No, I was not
troubled about dear Bilbo any more, once he had let the thing go. It is for
you that I feel responsible.
    'Ever since Bilbo left I have been deeply concerned about you, and
about all these charming, absurd, helpless hobbits. It would be a grievous
blow to the world, if the Dark Power overcame the Shire; if all your kind,
jolly, stupid Bolgers, Hornblowers, Boffins, Bracegirdles, and the rest, not
to mention the ridiculous Bagginses, became enslaved.'
    Frodo shuddered. 'But why should we be?' he asked. 'And why should he
want such slaves?'
    'To tell you the truth,' replied Gandalf, 'I believe that hitherto -
hitherto, mark you - he has entirely overlooked the existence of hobbits.
You should be thankful. But your safety has passed. He does not need you -
he has many more useful servants - but he won't forget you again. And
hobbits as miserable slaves would please him far more than hobbits happy and
free. There is such a thing as malice and revenge.'
    'Revenge?' said Frodo. 'Revenge for what? I still don't understand what
all this has to do with Bilbo and myself, and our ring.'
    'It has everything to do with it,' said Gandalf. 'You do not know the
real peril yet; but you shall. I was not sure of it myself when I was last
here; but the time has come to speak. Give me the ring for a moment.'
    Frodo took it from his breeches-pocket, where it was clasped to a chain
that hung from his belt. He unfastened it and handed it slowly to the
wizard. It felt suddenly very heavy, as if either it or Frodo himself was in
some way reluctant for Gandalf to touch it.
    Gandalf held it up. It looked to be made of pure and solid gold. 'Can
you see any markings on it?' he asked.
    'No,' said Frodo. 'There are none. It is quite plain, and it never
shows a scratch or sign of wear.'
    'Well then, look!' To Frodo's astonishment and distress the wizard
threw it suddenly into the middle of a glowing corner of the fire. Frodo
gave a cry and groped for the tongs; but Gandalf held him back.
    'Wait!' he said in a commanding voice, giving Frodo a quick look from
under his bristling brows.
    No apparent change came over the ring. After a while Gandalf got up,
closed the shutters outside the window, and drew the curtains. The room
became dark and silent, though the clack of Sam's shears, now nearer to the
windows, could still be heard faintly from the garden. For a moment the
wizard stood looking at the fire; then he stooped and removed the ring to
the hearth with the tongs, and at once picked it up. Frodo gasped.
    It is quite cool,' said Gandalf. 'Take it!' Frodo received it on his
shrinking palm: it seemed to have become thicker and heavier than ever.
    'Hold it up!' said Gandalf. 'And look closely!'
    As Frodo did so, he now saw fine lines, finer than the finest
pen-strokes, running along the ring, outside and inside: lines of fire that
seemed to form the letters of a flowing script. They shone piercingly
bright, and yet remote, as if out of a great depth.

     I cannot read the fiery letters,' said Frodo in a quavering voice.
    'No,' said Gandalf, 'but I can. The letters are Elvish, of an ancient
mode, but the language is that of Mordor, which I will not utter here. But
this in the Common Tongue is what is said, close enough:
    One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
    One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
    It is only two lines of a verse long known in Elven-lore:
    Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
    Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
    Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
    One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
    In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
    One Ring to rule them all. One Ring to find them,
    One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
    In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.'
     He paused, and then said slowly in a deep voice: 'This is the
Master-ring, the One Ring to rule them all. This is the One Ring that he
lost many ages ago, to the great weakening of his power. He greatly desires
it - but he must not get it.'
     Frodo sat silent and motionless. Fear seemed to stretch out a vast
hand, like a dark cloud rising in the East and looming up to engulf him.
'This ring!' he stammered. 'How, how on earth did it come to me?'
     'Ah!' said Gandalf. 'That is a very long story. The beginnings lie back
in the Black Years, which only the lore-masters now remember. If I were to
tell you all that tale, we should still be sitting here when Spring had
passed into Winter.
    'But last night I told you of Sauron the Great, the Dark Lord. The
rumours that you have heard are true: he has indeed arisen again and left
his hold in Mirkwood and returned to his ancient fastness in the Dark Tower
of Mordor. That name even you hobbits have heard of, like a shadow on the
borders of old stories. Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow
takes another shape and grows again.'
     'I wish it need not have happened in my time,' said Frodo.
     'So do I,' said Gandalf, 'and so do all who live to see such times. But
that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the
time that is given, us. And already, Frodo, our time is beginning to look
black. The Enemy is fast becoming very strong. His plans are far from ripe,
I think, but they are ripening. We shall be hard put to it. We should be
very hard put to it, even if it were not for this dreadful chance.
     'The Enemy still lacks one thing to give him strength and knowledge to
beat down all resistance, break the last defences, and cover all the lands
in a second darkness. He lacks the One Ring.
     'The Three, fairest of all, the Elf-lords hid from him, and his hand
never touched them or sullied them. Seven the Dwarf-kings possessed, but
three he has recovered, and the others the dragons have consumed. Nine he
gave to Mortal Men, proud and great, and so ensnared them. Long ago they
fell under the dominion of the One, and they became Ringwraiths, shadows
under his great Shadow, his most terrible servants. Long ago. It is many a
year since the Nine walked abroad. Yet who knows? As the Shadow grows
once
more, they too may walk again. But come! We will not speak of such things
even in the morning of the Shire.
    'So it is now: the Nine he has gathered to himself; the Seven also, or
else they are destroyed. The Three are hidden still. But that no longer
troubles him. He only needs the One; for he made that Ring himself, it is
his, and he let a great part of his own former power pass into it, so that
he could rule all the others. If he recovers it, then he will command them
all again, wherever they be, even the Three, and all that has been wrought
with them will be laid bare, and he will be stronger than ever.
     'And this is the dreadful chance, Frodo. He believed that the One had
perished; that the Elves had destroyed it, as should have been done. But he
knows now that it has not perished, that it has been found. So he is seeking
it, seeking it, and all his thought is bent on it. It is his great hope and
our great fear.'
     'Why, why wasn't it destroyed?' cried Frodo. 'And how did the Enemy
ever come to lose it, if he was so strong, and it was so precious to him?'
He clutched the Ring in his hand, as if he saw already dark fingers
stretching out to seize it.
     'It was taken from him,' said Gandalf. 'The strength of the Elves to
resist him was greater long ago; and not all Men were estranged from them.
The Men of Westernesse came to their aid. That is a chapter of ancient
history which it might be good to recall; for there was sorrow then too, and
gathering dark, but great valour, and great deeds that were not wholly vain.
One day, perhaps, I will tell you all the tale, or you shall hear it told in
full by one who knows it best.
     'But for the moment, since most of all you need to know how this thing
came to you, and that will be tale enough, this is all that I will say. It
was Gil-galad, Elven-king and Elendil of Westernesse who overthrew Sauron,
though they themselves perished in the deed; and Isildur Elendil's son cut
the Ring from Sauron's hand and took it for his own. Then Sauron was
vanquished and his spirit fled and was hidden for long years, until his
shadow took shape again in Mirkwood.
    'But the Ring was lost. It fell into the Great River, Anduin, and
vanished. For Isildur was marching north along the east banks of the River,
and near the Gladden Fields he was waylaid by the Orcs of the Mountains, and
almost all his folk were slain. He leaped into the waters, but the Ring
slipped from his finger as he swam, and then the Orcs saw him and killed him
with arrows.'
     Gandalf paused. 'And there in the dark pools amid the Gladden Fields,'
he said, 'the Ring passed out of knowledge and legend; and even so much of
its history is known now only to a few, and the Council of the Wise could
discover no more. But at last I can carry on the story, I think.
     'Long after, but still very long ago, there lived by the banks of the
Great River on the edge of Wilderland a clever-handed and quiet-footed
little people. I guess they were of hobbit-kind; akin to the fathers of the
fathers of the Stoors, for they loved the River, and often swam in it, or
made little boats of reeds. There was among them a family of high repute,
for it was large and wealthier than most, and it was ruled by a grandmother
of the folk, stern and wise in old lore, such as they had. The most
inquisitive and curious-minded of that family was called Smjagol. He was
interested in roots and beginnings; he dived into deep pools; he burrowed
under trees and growing plants; he tunnelled into green mounds; and he
ceased to look up at the hill-tops, or the leaves on trees, or the flowers
opening in the air: his head and his eyes were downward.
     'He had a friend called Djagol, of similar sort, sharper-eyed but not
so quick and strong. On a time they took a boat and went down to the Gladden
Fields, where there were great beds of iris and flowering reeds. There
Smjagol got out and went nosing about the banks but Deal sat in the boat and
fished. Suddenly a great fish took his hook, and before he knew where he
was, he was dragged out and down into the water, to the bottom. Then he let
go of his line, for he thought he saw something shining in the river-bed;
and holding his breath he grabbed at it.
    'Then up he came spluttering, with weeds in his hair and a handful of
mud; and he swam to the bank. And behold! when he washed the mud away,
there
in his hand lay a beautiful golden ring; and it shone and glittered in the
sun, so that his heart was glad. But Smjagol had been watching him from
behind a tree, and as Deal gloated over the ring, Smjagol came softly up
behind.
    '"Give us that, Deal, my love," said Smjagol, over his friend's
shoulder.
    '"Why?" said Deal.
    ' "Because it's my birthday, my love, and I wants it," said Smjagol.
    '"I don't care," said Deal. "I have given you a present already, more
than I could afford. I found this, and I'm going to keep it."
    ' "Oh, are you indeed, my love," said Smjagol; and he caught Deal by
the throat and strangled him, because the gold looked so bright and
beautiful. Then he put the ring on his finger.
    'No one ever found out what had become of Deal; he was murdered far
from home, and his body was cunningly hidden. But Smjagol returned alone;
and he found that none of his family could see him, when he was wearing the
ring. He was very pleased with his discovery and he concealed it; and he
used it to find out secrets, and he put his knowledge to crooked and
malicious uses. He became sharp-eyed and keen-eared for all that was
hurtful. The ring had given him power according to his stature. It is not to
be wondered at that he became very unpopular and was shunned (when
visible)
by all his relations. They kicked him, and he bit their feet. He took to
thieving, and going about muttering to himself, and gurgling in his throat.
So they called him Gollum, and cursed him, and told him to go far away; and
his grandmother, desiring peace, expelled him from the family and turned him
out of her hole.
    'He wandered in loneliness, weeping a little for the hardness of the
world, and he journeyed up the River, till he came to a stream that flowed
down from the mountains, and he went that way. He caught fish in deep pools
with invisible fingers and ate them raw. One day it was very hot, and as he
was bending over a pool, he felt a burning on the back of his head) and a
dazzling light from the water pained his wet eyes. He wondered at it, for he
had almost forgotten about the Sun. Then for the last time he looked up and
shook his fist at her.
     'But as he lowered his eyes, he saw far above the tops of the Misty
Mountains, out of which the stream came. And he thought suddenly: "It would
be cool and shady under those mountains. The Sun could not watch me there.
The roots of those mountains must be roots indeed; there must be great
secrets buried there which have not been discovered since the beginning."
     'So he journeyed by night up into the highlands, and he found a little
cave out of which the dark stream ran; and he wormed his way like a maggot
into the heart of the hills, and vanished out of all knowledge. The Ring
went into the shadows with him, and even the maker, when his power had
begun
to grow again, could learn nothing of it.'
     'Gollum!' cried Frodo. 'Gollum? Do you mean that this is the very
Gollum-creature that Bilbo met? How loathsome!'
     'I think it is a sad story,' said the wizard, 'and it might have
happened to others, even to some hobbits that I have known.'
     'I can't believe that Gollum was connected with hobbits, however
distantly,' said Frodo with some heat. 'What an abominable notion!'
     'It is true all the same,' replied Gandalf. 'About their origins, at
any rate, I know more than hobbits do themselves. And even Bilbo's story
suggests the kinship. There was a great deal in the background of their
minds and memories that was very similar. They understood one another
remarkably well, very much better than a hobbit would understand, say, a
Dwarf, or an Orc, or even an Elf. Think of the riddles they both knew, for
one thing.'
     'Yes,' said Frodo. 'Though other folks besides hobbits ask riddles, and
of much the same sort. And hobbits don't cheat. Gollum meant to cheat all
the time. He was just trying to put poor Bilbo off his guard. And I daresay
it amused his wickedness to start a game which might end in providing him
with an easy victim, but if he lost would not hurt him.'
     'Only too true, I fear,' said Gandalf. 'But there was something else in
it, I think, which you don't see yet. Even Gollum was not wholly ruined. He
had proved tougher than even one of the Wise would have guessed -as a hobbit
might. There was a little corner of his mind that was still his own, and
light came through it, as through a chink in the dark: light out of the
past. It was actually pleasant, I think, to hear a kindly voice again,
bringing up memories of wind, and trees, and sun on the grass, and such
forgotten things.
    'But that, of course, would only make the evil part of him angrier in
the end - unless it could be conquered. Unless it could be cured.' Gandalf
sighed. 'Alas! there is little hope of that for him. Yet not no hope. No,
not though he possessed the Ring so long, almost as far back as he can
remember. For it was long since he had worn it much: in the black darkness
it was seldom needed. Certainly he had never "faded". He is thin and tough
still. But the thing was eating up his mind, of course, and the torment had
become almost unbearable.
    'All the "great secrets" under the mountains had turned out to be just
empty night: there was nothing more to find out, nothing worth doing, only
nasty furtive eating and resentful remembering. He was altogether wretched.
He hated the dark, and he hated light more: he hated everything, and the
Ring most of all.'
    'What do you mean?' said Frodo. 'Surely the Ring was his precious and
the only thing he cared for? But if he hated it, why didn't he get rid of
it, or go away and leave it?'
    'You ought to begin to understand, Frodo, after all you have heard,'
said Gandalf. 'He hated it and loved it, as he hated and loved himself. He
could not get rid of it. He had no will left in the matter.
    'A Ring of Power looks after itself, Frodo. It may slip off
treacherously, but its keeper never abandons it. At most he plays with the
idea of handing it on to someone else's care - and that only at an early
stage, when it first begins to grip. But as far as I know Bilbo alone in
history has ever gone beyond playing, and really done it. He needed all my
help, too. And even so he would never have just forsaken it, or cast it
aside. It was not Gollum, Frodo, but the Ring itself that decided things.
The Ring left him.'
    'What, just in time to meet Bilbo?' said Frodo. 'Wouldn't an Orc have
suited it better?'
    'It is no laughing matter,' said Gandalf. 'Not for you. It was the
strangest event in the whole history of the Ring so far: Bilbo's arrival
just at that time, and putting his hand on it, blindly, in the dark.
    'There was more than one power at work, Frodo. The Ring was trying to
get back to its master. It had slipped from Isildur's hand and betrayed him;
then when a chance came it caught poor Deal, and he was murdered; and after
that Gollum, and it had devoured him. It could make no further use of him:
he was too small and mean; and as long as it stayed with him he would never
leave his deep pool again. So now, when its master was awake once more and
sending out his dark thought from Mirkwood, it abandoned Gollum. Only to
be
picked up by the most unlikely person imaginable: Bilbo from the Shire!
    'Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the
Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to
find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to
have it. And that maybe an encouraging thought.'
    It is not,' said Frodo. "Though I am not sure that I understand you.
But how have you learned all this about the Ring, and about Gollum? Do you
really know it all, or are you just guessing still?'
    Gandalf looked at Frodo, and his eyes glinted. I knew much and I have
learned much,' he answered. 'But I am not going to give an account of all my
doings to you. The history of Elendil and Isildur and the One Ring is known
to all the Wise. Your ring is shown to be that One Ring by the fire-writing
alone, apart from any other evidence.' 'And when did you discover that?'
asked Frodo, interrupting. 'Just now in this room, of course,' answered the
wizard sharply. 'But I expected to find it. I have come back from dark
journeys and long search to make that final test. It is the last proof, and
all is now only too clear. Making out Gollum's part, and fitting it into the
gap in the history, required some thought. I may have started with guesses
about Gollum, but I am not guessing now. I know. I have seen him.'
    'You have seen Gollum?' exclaimed Frodo in amazement.
    'Yes. The obvious thing to do, of course, if one could. I tried long
ago; but I have managed it at last.'
    'Then what happened after Bilbo escaped from him? Do you know that?'
    'Not so clearly. What I have told you is what Gollum was willing to
tell - though not, of course, in the way I have reported it. Gollum is a
liar, and you have to sift his words. For instance, he called the Ring his
"birthday present", and he stuck to that. He said it came from his
grandmother, who had lots of beautiful things of that kind. A ridiculous
story. I have no doubt that Smjagol's grandmother was a matriarch, a great
person in her way, but to talk of her possessing many Elven-rings was
absurd, and as for giving them away, it was a lie. But a lie with a grain of
truth.
    'The murder of Deal haunted Gollum, and he had made up a defence,
repeating it to his "precious" over and over again, as he gnawed bones in
the dark, until he almost believed it. It was his birthday. Deal ought to
have given the ring to him. It had previously turned up just so as to be a
present. It was his birthday present, and so on, and on.
    I endured him as long as I could, but the truth was desperately
important, and in the end I had to be harsh. I put the fear of fire on him,
and wrung the true story out of him, bit by bit, together with much
snivelling and snarling. He thought he was misunderstood and ill-used. But
when he had at last told me his history, as far as the end of the
Riddle-game and Bilbo's escape, he would not say any more, except in dark
hints. Some other fear was on him greater than mine. He muttered that he was
going to gel his own back. People would see if he would stand being kicked,
and driven into a hole and then robbed. Gollum had good friends now, good
friends and very strong. They would help him. Baggins would pay for it. That
was his chief thought. He hated Bilbo and cursed his name. What is more, he
knew where he came from.'
    'But how did he find that out?' asked Frodo.
    'Well, as for the name, Bilbo very foolishly told Gollum himself; and
after that it would not be difficult to discover his country, once Gollum
came out. Oh yes, he came out. His longing for the Ring proved stronger than
his fear of the Orcs, or even of the light. After a year or two he left the
mountains. You see, though still bound by desire of it, the Ring was no
longer devouring him; he began to revive a little. He felt old, terribly
old, yet less timid, and he was mortally hungry.
    'Light, light of Sun and Moon, he still feared and hated, and he always
will, I think; but he was cunning. He found he could hide from daylight and
moonshine, and make his way swiftly and softly by dead of night with his
pale cold eyes, and catch small frightened or unwary things. He grew
stronger and bolder with new food and new air. He found his way into
Mirkwood, as one would expect.'
    'Is that where you found him?' asked Frodo.
    'I saw him there,' answered Gandalf, 'but before that he had wandered
far, following Bilbo's trail. It was difficult to learn anything from him
for certain, for his talk was constantly interrupted by curses and threats.
"What had it got in its pocketses?" he said. "It wouldn't say, no precious.
Little cheat. Not a fair question. It cheated first, it did. It broke the
rules. We ought to have squeezed it, yes precious. And we will, precious!"
    'That is a sample of his talk. I don't suppose you want any more. I had
weary days of it. But from hints dropped among the snarls I even gathered
that his padding feet had taken him at last to Esgaroth, and even to the
streets of Dale, listening secretly and peering. Well, the news of the great
events went far and wide in Wilderland, and many had heard Bilbo's name and
knew where he came from. We had made no secret of our return journey to his
home in the West. Gollum's sharp ears would soon learn what he wanted.'
    'Then why didn't he track Bilbo further?' asked Frodo. 'Why didn't he
come to the Shire?'
    'Ah,' said Gandalf, 'now we come to it. I think Gollum tried to. He set
out and came back westward, as far as the Great River. But then he turned
aside. He was not daunted by the distance, I am sure. No, something else
drew him away. So my friends think, those that hunted him for me.
    'The Wood-elves tracked him first, an easy task for them, for his trail
was still fresh then. Through Mirkwood and back again it led them, though
they never caught him. The wood was full of the rumour of him, dreadful
tales even among beasts and birds. The Woodmen said that there was some
new
terror abroad, a ghost that drank blood. It climbed trees to find nests; it
crept into holes to find the young; it slipped through windows to find
cradles.
    'But at the western edge of Mirkwood the trail turned away. It wandered
off southwards and passed out of the Wood-elves' ken, and was lost. And then
I made a great mistake. Yes, Frodo, and not the first; though I fear it may
prove the worst. I let the matter be. I let him go; for I had much else to
think of at that time, and I still trusted the lore of Saruman.
    'Well, that was years ago. I have paid for it since with many dark and
dangerous days. The trail was long cold when I took it up again, after Bilbo
left here. And my search would have been in vain, but for the help that I
had from a friend: Aragorn, the greatest traveller and huntsman of this age
of the world. Together we sought for Gollum down the whole length of
Wilderland, without hope, and without success. But at last, when I had given
up the chase and turned to other parts, Gollum was found. My friend returned
out of the great perils bringing the miserable creature with him.
    'What he had been doing he would not say. He only wept and called us
cruel, with many a gollum in his throat; and when we pressed him he whined
and cringed, and rubbed his long hands, licking his fingers as if they
pained him, as if he remembered some old torture. But I am afraid there is
no possible doubt: he had made his slow, sneaking way, step by step, mile by
mile, south, down at last to the Land of Mordor.'
    A heavy silence fell in the room. Frodo could hear his heart beating.
Even outside everything seemed still. No sound of Sam's shears could now be
heard.
    'Yes, to Mordor,' said Gandalf. 'Alas! Mordor draws all wicked things,
and the Dark Power was bending all its will to gather them there. The Ring
of the Enemy would leave its mark, too, leave him open to the summons. And
all folk were whispering then of the new Shadow in the South, and its hatred
of the West. There were his fine new friends, who would help him in his
revenge!
    'Wretched fool! In that land he would learn much, too much for his
comfort. And sooner or later as he lurked and pried on the borders he would
be caught, and taken - for examination. That was the way of it, I fear. When
he was found he had already been there long, and was on his way back. On
some errand of mischief. But that does not matter much now. His worst
mischief was done.
    'Yes, alas! through him the Enemy has learned that the One has been
found again. He knows where Isildur fell. He knows where Gollum found his
ring. He knows that it is a Great Ring, for it gave long life. He knows that
it is not one of the Three, for they have never been lost, and they endure
no evil. He knows that it is not one of the Seven, or the Nine, for they are
accounted for. He knows that it is the One. And he has at last heard, I
think, of hobbits and the Shire.
    'The Shire - he may be seeking for it now, if he has not already found
out where it lies. Indeed, Frodo, I fear that he may even think that the
long-unnoticed name of Baggins has become important.'
    'But this is terrible!' cried Frodo. 'Far worse than the worst that I
imagined from your hints and warnings. O Gandalf, best of friends, what am I
to do? For now I am really afraid. What am I to do? What a pity that Bilbo
did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!'
    'Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike
without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so
little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his
ownership of the Ring so. With Pity.'
     'I am sorry,' said Frodo. 'But I am frightened; and I do not feel any
pity for Gollum.'
     'You have not seen him,' Gandalf broke in.
     'No, and I don't want to,' said Frodo. I can't understand you. Do you
mean to say that you, and the Elves, have let him live on after all those
horrible deeds? Now at any rate he is as bad as an Orc, and just an enemy.
He deserves death.'
     'Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some
that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to
deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I
have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a
chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells
me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and
when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many - yours not
least. In any case we did not kill him: he is very old and very wretched.
The Wood-elves have him in prison, but they treat him with such kindness as
they can find in their wise hearts.'
     'All the same,' said Frodo, 'even if Bilbo could not kill Gollum, I
wish he had not kept the Ring. I wish he had never found it, and that I had
not got it! Why did you let me keep it? Why didn't you make me throw it
away, or, or destroy it?'
     'Let you? Make you?' said the wizard. 'Haven't you been listening to
all that I have said? You are not thinking of what you are saying. But as
for throwing it away, that was obviously wrong. These Rings have a way of
being found. In evil hands it might have done great evil. Worst of all, it
might have fallen into the hands of the Enemy. Indeed it certainly would;
for this is the One, and he is exerting all his power to find it or draw it
to himself.
     'Of course, my dear Frodo, it was dangerous for you; and that has
troubled me deeply. But there was so much at stake that I had to take some
risk - though even when I was far away there has never been a day when the
Shire has not been guarded by watchful eyes. As long as you never used it, I
did not think that the Ring would have any lasting effect on you, not for
evil, not at any rate for a very long time. And you must remember that nine
years ago, when I last saw you, I still knew little for certain.'
    'But why not destroy it, as you say should have been done long ago?'
cried Frodo again. If you had warned me, or even sent me a message, I would
have done away with it.'
    'Would you? How would you do that? Have you ever tried?'
    'No. But I suppose one could hammer it or melt it.'
    'Try!' said Gandalf. Try now!'
    Frodo drew the Ring out of his pocket again and looked at it. It now
appeared plain and smooth, without mark or device that he could see. The
gold looked very fair and pure, and Frodo thought how rich and beautiful was
its colour, how perfect was its roundness. It was an admirable thing and
altogether precious. When he took it out he had intended to fling it from
him into the very hottest part of the fire. But he found now that he could
not do so, not without a great struggle. He weighed the Ring in his hand,
hesitating, and forcing himself to remember all that Gandalf had told him;
and then with an effort of will he made a movement, as if to cast it away -
but he found that he had put it back in his pocket.
    Gandalf laughed grimly. 'You see? Already you too, Frodo, cannot easily
let it go, nor will to damage it. And I could not "make" you - except by
force, which would break your mind. But as for breaking the Ring, force is
useless. Even if you took it and struck it with a heavy sledge-hammer, it
would make no dint in it. It cannot be unmade by your hands, or by mine.
    'Your small fire, of course, would not melt even ordinary gold. This
Ring has already passed through it unscathed, and even unheated. But there
is no smith's forge in this Shire that could change it at all. Not even the
anvils and furnaces of the Dwarves could do that. It has been said that
dragon-fire could melt and consume the Rings of Power, but there is not now
any dragon left on earth in which the old fire is hot enough; nor was there
ever any dragon, not even Ancalagon the Black, who could have harmed the
One
Ring, the Ruling Ring, for that was made by Sauron himself. There is only
one way: to find the Cracks of Doom in the depths of Orodruin, the
Fire-mountain, and cast the Ring in there, if you really wish to destroy it,
to put it beyond the grasp of the Enemy for ever.'
    'I do really wish to destroy it!' cried Frodo. 'Or, well, to have it
destroyed. I am not made for perilous quests. I wish I had never seen the
Ring! Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen?'
    'Such questions cannot be answered,' said Gandalf. 'You may be sure
that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or
wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use
such strength and heart and wits as you have.'
    'But I have so little of any of these things! You are wise and
powerful. Will you not take the Ring?'
    'No!' cried Gandalf, springing to his feet. 'With that power I should
have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power
still greater and more deadly.' His eyes flashed and his face was lit as by
a fire within. 'Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark
Lord himself. Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for
weakness and the desire of strength to do good. Do not tempt me! I dare not
take it, not even to keep it safe, unused. The wish to wield it would be too
great, for my strength. I shall have such need of it. Great perils lie
before me.'
    He went to the window and drew aside the curtains and the shutters.
Sunlight streamed back again into the room. Sam passed along the path
outside whistling. 'And now,' said the wizard, turning back to Frodo, 'the
decision lies with you. But I will always help you.' He laid his hand on
Frodo's shoulder. 'I will help you bear this burden, as long as It is yours
to bear. But we must do something, soon. The Enemy is moving.'
    There was a long silence. Gandalf sat down again and puffed at his
pipe, as if lost in thought. His eyes seemed closed, but under the lids he
was watching Frodo intently. Frodo gazed fixedly at the red embers on the
hearth, until they filled all his vision, and he seemed to be looking down
into profound wells of fire. He was thinking of the fabled Cracks of Doom
and the terror of the Fiery Mountain.
    'Well!' said Gandalf at last. 'What are you thinking about? Have you
decided what to do?'
    'No!' answered Frodo, coming back to himself out of darkness, and
finding to his surprise that it was not dark, and that out of the window he
could see the sunlit garden. 'Or perhaps, yes. As far as I understand what
you have said, I suppose I must keep the Ring and guard it, at least for the
present, whatever it may do to me.'
    'Whatever it may do, it will be slow, slow to evil, if you keep it with
that purpose,' said Gandalf.
    'I hope so,' said Frodo. 'But I hope that you may find some other
better keeper soon. But in the meanwhile it seems that I am a danger, a
danger to all that live near me. I cannot keep the Ring and stay here. I
ought to leave Bag End, leave the Shire, leave everything and go away.' He
sighed.
    'I should like to save the Shire, if I could - though there have been
times when I thought the inhabitants too stupid and dull for words, and have
felt that an earthquake or an invasion of dragons might be good for them.
But I don't feel like that now. I feel that as long as the Shire lies
behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall
know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand
there again.
    'Of course, I have sometimes thought of going away, but I imagined that
as a kind of holiday, a series of adventures like Bilbo's or better, ending
in peace. But this would mean exile, a flight from danger into danger,
drawing it after me. And I suppose I must go alone, if I am to do that and
save the Shire. But I feel very small, and very uprooted, and well -
desperate. The Enemy is so strong and terrible.'
    He did not tell Gandalf, but as he was speaking a great desire to
follow Bilbo flamed up in his heart - to follow Bilbo, and even perhaps to
find him again. It was so strong that it overcame his fear: he could almost
have run out there and then down the road without his hat, as Bilbo had done
on a similar morning long ago.
    'My dear Frodo!' exclaimed Gandalf. 'Hobbits really are amazing
creatures, as I have said before. You can learn all that there is to know
about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still
surprise you at a pinch. I hardly expected to get such an answer, not even
from you. But Bilbo made no mistake in choosing his heir, though he little
thought how important it would prove. I am afraid you are right. The Ring
will not be able to stay hidden in the Shire much longer; and for your own
sake, as well as for others, you will have to go, and leave the name of
Baggins behind you. That name will not be safe to have, outside the Shire or
in the Wild. I will give you a travelling name now. When you go, go as Mr.
Underhill.
    'But I don't think you need go alone. Not if you know of anyone you can
trust, and who would be willing to go by your side - and that you would be
willing to take into unknown perils. But if you look for a companion, be
careful in choosing! And be careful of what you say, even to your closest
friends! The enemy has many spies and many ways of hearing.'
    Suddenly he stopped as if listening. Frodo became aware that all was
very quiet, inside and outside. Gandalf crept to one side of the window.
Then with a dart he sprang to the sill, and thrust a long arm out and
downwards. There was a squawk, and up came Sam Gamgee's curly head
hauled by
one ear.
    'Well, well, bless my beard!' said Gandalf. 'Sam Gamgee is it? Now what
may you be doing?'
    'Lor bless you, Mr. Gandalf, sir!' said Sam. 'Nothing! Leastways I was
just trimming the grass-border under the window, if you follow me.' He
picked up his shears and exhibited them as evidence.
    'I don't,' said Gandalf grimly. It is some time since I last heard the
sound of your shears. How long have you been eavesdropping?'
    'Eavesdropping, sir? I don't follow you, begging your pardon. There
ain't no eaves at Bag End, and that's a fact.'
    'Don't be a fool! What have you heard, and why did you listen?'
Gandalf's eyes flashed and his brows stuck out like bristles.
    'Mr. Frodo, sir!' cried Sam quaking. 'Don't let him hurt me, sir! Don't
let him turn me into anything unnatural! My old dad would take on so. I
meant no harm, on my honour, sir!'
    'He won't hurt you,' said Frodo, hardly able to keep from laughing,
although he was himself startled and rather puzzled. 'He knows, as well as I
do, that you mean no harm. But just you up and answer his questions straight
away!'
    'Well, sir,' said Sam dithering a little. 'I heard a deal that I didn't
rightly understand, about an enemy, and rings, and Mr. Bilbo, sir, and
dragons, and a fiery mountain, and - and Elves, sir. I listened because I
couldn't help myself, if you know what I mean. Lor bless me, sir, but I do
love tales of that sort. And I believe them too, whatever Ted may say.
Elves, sir! I would dearly love to see them. Couldn't you take me to see
Elves, sir, when you go?'
    Suddenly Gandalf laughed. 'Come inside!' he shouted, and putting out
both his arms he lifted the astonished Sam, shears, grass-clippings and all,
right through the window and stood him on the floor. 'Take you to see Elves,
eh?' he said, eyeing Sam closely, but with a smile flickering on his face.
'So you heard that Mr. Frodo is going away?'
    'I did, sir. And that's why I choked: which you heard seemingly. I
tried not to, sir, but it burst out of me: I was so upset.'
    'It can't be helped, Sam,' said Frodo sadly. He had suddenly realized
that flying from the Shire would mean more painful partings than merely
saying farewell to the familiar comforts of Bag End. 'I shall have to go.
But' - and here he looked hard at Sam - 'if you really care about me, you
will keep that dead secret. See? If you don't, if you even breathe a word of
what you've heard here, then I hope Gandalf will turn you into a spotted
toad and fill the garden full of grass-snakes.'
    Sam fell on his knees, trembling. 'Get up, Sam!' said Gandalf. I have
thought of something better than that. Something to shut your mouth, and
punish you properly for listening. You shall go away with Mr. Frodo!'
    'Me, sir!' cried Sam, springing up like a dog invited for a walk. 'Me
go and see Elves and all! Hooray!' he shouted, and then burst into tears.
     Chapter 3. Three is Company

    'You ought to go quietly, and you ought to go soon,' said Gandalf. Two
or three weeks had passed, and still Frodo made no sign of getting ready to
go.
    'I know. But it is difficult to do both,' he objected. If I just vanish
like Bilbo, the tale will be all over the Shire in no time.'
    'Of course you mustn't vanish!' said Gandalf. 'That wouldn't do at all!
I said soon, not instantly. If you can think of any way of slipping out of
the Shire without its being generally known, it will be worth a little
delay. But you must not delay too long.'
    'What about the autumn, on or after Our Birthday?' asked Frodo. 'I
think I could probably make some arrangements by then.'
    To tell the truth, he was very reluctant to start, now that it had come
to the point. Bag End seemed a more desirable residence than it had for
years, and he wanted to savour as much as he could of his last summer in the
Shire. When autumn came, he knew that part at least of his heart would think
more kindly of journeying, as it always did at that season. He had indeed
privately made up his mind to leave on his fiftieth birthday: Bilbo's one
hundred and twenty-eighth. It seemed somehow the proper day on which to set
out and follow him. Following Bilbo was uppermost in his mind, and the one
thing that made the thought of leaving bearable. He thought as little as
possible about the Ring, and where it might lead him in the end. But he did
not tell all his thoughts to Gandalf. What the wizard guessed was always
difficult to tell.
    He looked at Frodo and smiled. 'Very well,' he said. 'I think that will
do - but it must not be any later. I am getting very anxious. In the
mean-while, do take care, and don't let out any hint of where you are going!
And see that Sam Gamgee does not talk. If he does, I really shall turn him
into a toad.'
    'As for where I am going,' said Frodo, 'it would be difficult to give
that away, for I have no clear idea myself, yet.'
    'Don't be absurd!' said Gandalf. 'I am not warning you against leaving
an address at the post-office! But you are leaving the Shire - and that
should not be known, until you are far away. And you must go, or at least
set out, either North, South, West or East - and the direction should
certainly not be known.'
   'I have been so taken up with the thoughts of leaving Bag End, and of
saying farewell, that I have never even considered the direction,' said
Frodo. 'For where am I to go? And by what shall I steer? What is to be my
quest? Bilbo went to find a treasure, there and back again; but I go to lose
one, and not return, as far as I can see.'
   'But you cannot see very far,' said Gandalf. 'Neither can I. It may be
your task to find the Cracks of Doom; but that quest may be for others: I do
not know. At any rate you are not ready for that long road yet.'
   'No indeed!' said Frodo. 'But in the meantime what course am I to
lake?'
   'Towards danger; but not too rashly, nor too straight,' answered the
wizard. 'If you want my advice, make for Rivendell. That journey should not
prove too perilous, though the Road is less easy than it was, and it will
grow worse as the year fails.'
   'Rivendell!' said Frodo. 'Very good: I will go east, and I will make
for Rivendell. I will take Sam to visit the Elves; he will be delighted.' He
spoke lightly; but his heart was moved suddenly with a desire to see the
house of Elrond Halfelven, and breathe the air of that deep valley where
many of the Fair Folk still dwelt in peace.
   One summer's evening an astonishing piece of news reached the Ivy Bush
and Green Dragon. Giants and other portents on the borders of the Shire were
forgotten for more important matters: Mr. Frodo was selling Bag End, indeed
he had already sold it - to the Sackville-Bagginses!
   'For a nice bit, loo,' said some. 'At a bargain price,' said others,
'and that's more likely when Mistress Lobelia's the buyer.' (Otho had died
some years before, at the ripe but disappointed age of 102.)
   Just why Mr. Frodo was selling his beautiful hole was even more
debatable than the price. A few held the theory - supported by the nods and
hints of Mr. Baggins himself - that Frodo's money was running out: he was
going to leave Hobbiton and live in a quiet way on the proceeds of the sale
down in Buckland among his Brandybuck relations. 'As far from the
Sackville-Bagginses as may be,' some added. But so firmly fixed had the
notion of the immeasurable wealth of the Bagginses of Bag End become that
most found this hard to believe, harder than any other reason or unreason
that their fancy could suggest: to most it suggested a dark and yet
unrevealed plot by Gandalf. Though he kept himself very quiet and did not go
about by day, it was well known that he was 'hiding up in the Bag End'. But
however a removal might fit in with the designs of his wizardry, there was
no doubt about the fact: Frodo Baggins was going back to Buckland.
    'Yes, I shall be moving this autumn,' he said. 'Merry Brandybuck is
looking out for a nice little hole for me, or perhaps a small house.'
    As a matter of fact with Merry's help he had already chosen and bought
a little house at Crickhollow in the country beyond Bucklebury. To all but
Sam he pretended he was going to settle down there permanently. The decision
to set out eastwards had suggested the idea to him; for Buckland was on the
eastern borders of the Shire, and as he had lived there in childhood his
going back would at least seem credible.
    Gandalf stayed in the Shire for over two months. Then one evening, at
the end of June, soon after Frodo's plan had been finally arranged, he
suddenly announced that he was going off again next morning. 'Only for a
short while, I hope,' he said. 'But I am going down beyond the southern
borders to get some news, if I can. I have been idle longer than I should.'
    He spoke lightly, but it seemed to Frodo that he looked rather worried.
'Has anything happened?' he asked.
    'Well no; but I have heard something that has made me anxious and needs
looking into. If I think it necessary after all for you to get off at once,
I shall come back immediately, or at least send word. In the meanwhile stick
to your plan; but be more careful than ever, especially of the Ring. Let me
impress on you once more: don't use it!'
    He went off at dawn. 'I may be back any day,' he said. 'At the very
latest I shall come back for the farewell party. I think after all you may
need my company on the Road.'
    At first Frodo was a good deal disturbed, and wondered often what
Gandalf could have heard; but his uneasiness wore off, and in the fine
weather he forgot his troubles for a while. The Shire had seldom seen so
fair a summer, or so rich an autumn: the trees were laden with apples, honey
was dripping in the combs, and the corn was tall and full.
    Autumn was well under way before Frodo began to worry about Gandalf
again. September was passing and there was still no news of him. The
Birthday, and the removal, drew nearer, and still he did not come, or send
word. Bag End began to be busy. Some of Frodo's friends came to stay and
help him with the packing: there was Fredegar Bolger and Folco Boffin, and
of course his special friends Pippin Took and Merry Brandybuck. Between
them
they turned the whole place upside-down.
    On September 20th two covered carts went off laden to Buckland,
conveying the furniture and goods that Frodo had not sold to his new home,
by way of the Brandywine Bridge. The next day Frodo became really anxious,
and kept a constant look-out for Gandalf. Thursday, his birthday morning,
dawned as fair and clear as it had long ago for Bilbo's great party. Still
Gandalf did not appear. In the evening Frodo gave his farewell feast: it was
quite small, just a dinner for himself and his four helpers; but he was
troubled and fell in no mood for it. The thought that he would so soon have
to part with his young friends weighed on his heart. He wondered how he
would break it to them.
    The four younger hobbits were, however, in high spirits, and the party
soon became very cheerful in spite of Gandalf's absence. The dining-room was
bare except for a table and chairs, but the food was good, and there was
good wine: Frodo's wine had not been included in the sale to the
Sackville-Bagginses.
    'Whatever happens to the rest of my stuff, when the S.-B.s get their
claws on it, at any rate I have found a good home for this!' said Frodo, as
he drained his glass. It was the last drop of Old Winyards.
    When they had sung many songs, and talked of many things they had done
together, they toasted Bilbo's birthday, and they drank his health and
Frodo's together according to Frodo's custom. Then they went out for a sniff
of air, and glimpse of the stars, and then they went to bed. Frodo's party
was over, and Gandalf had not come.
    The next morning they were busy packing another cart with the remainder
of the luggage. Merry took charge of this, and drove off with Fatty (that is
Fredegar Bolger). 'Someone must get there and warm the house before you
arrive,' said Merry. 'Well, see you later - the day after tomorrow, if you
don't go to sleep on the way!'
    Folco went home after lunch, but Pippin remained behind. Frodo was
restless and anxious, listening in vain for a sound of Gandalf. He decided
to wait until nightfall. After that, if Gandalf wanted him urgently, he
would go to Crickhollow, and might even get there first. For Frodo was going
on foot. His plan - for pleasure and a last look at the Shire as much as any
other reason - was to walk from Hobbiton to Bucklebury Ferry, taking it
fairly easy.
    'I shall get myself a bit into training, too,' he said, looking at
himself in a dusty mirror in the half-empty hall. He had not done any
strenuous walking for a long time, and the reflection looked rather flabby,
he thought.
    After lunch, the Sackville-Bagginses, Lobelia and her sandy-haired son,
Lotho, turned up, much to Frodo's annoyance. 'Ours at last!' said Lobelia,
as she stepped inside. It was not polite; nor strictly true, for the sale of
Bag End did not take effect until midnight. But Lobelia can perhaps be
forgiven: she had been obliged to wait about seventy-seven years longer for
Bag End than she once hoped, and she was now a hundred years old.
Anyway,
she had come to see that nothing she had paid for had been carried off; and
she wanted the keys. It took a long while to satisfy her, as she had brought
a complete inventory with her and went right through it. In the end she
departed with Lotho and the spare key and the promise that the other key
would be left at the Gamgees' in Bagshot Row. She snorted, and showed
plainly that she thought the Gamgees capable of plundering the hole during
the night. Frodo did not offer her any tea.
    He took his own tea with Pippin and Sam Gamgee in the kitchen. It had
been officially announced that Sam was coming to Buckland 'to do for Mr.
Frodo and look after his bit of garden'; an arrangement that was approved by
the Gaffer, though it did not console him for the prospect of having Lobelia
as a neighbour.
    'Our last meal at Bag End!' said Frodo, pushing back his chair. They
left the washing up for Lobelia. Pippin and Sam strapped up their three
packs and piled them in the porch. Pippin went out for a last stroll in the
garden. Sam disappeared.
    The sun went down. Bag End seemed sad and gloomy and dishevelled.
Frodo
wandered round the familiar rooms, and saw the light of the sunset fade on
the walls, and shadows creep out of the corners. It grew slowly dark
indoors. He went out and walked down to the gate at the bottom of the path,
and then on a short way down the Hill Road. He half expected to see Gandalf
come striding up through the dusk.
    The sky was clear and the stars were growing bright. 'It's going to be
a fine night,' he said aloud. 'That's good for a beginning. I feel like
walking. I can't bear any more hanging about. I am going to start, and
Gandalf must follow me.' He turned to go back, and then slopped, for he
heard voices, just round the corner by the end of Bagshot Row. One voice was
certainly the old Gaffer's; the other was strange, and somehow unpleasant.
He could not make out what it said, but he heard the Gaffer's answers, which
were rather shrill. The old man seemed put out.
    'No, Mr. Baggins has gone away. Went this morning, and my Sam went
with
him: anyway all his stuff went. Yes, sold out and gone, I tell'ee. Why?
Why's none of my business, or yours. Where to? That ain't no secret. He's
moved to Bucklebury or some such place, away down yonder. Yes it is - a tidy
way. I've never been so far myself; they're queer folks in Buckland. No, I
can't give no message. Good night to you!'
   Footsteps went away down the Hill. Frodo wondered vaguely why the fact
that they did not come on up the Hill seemed a great relief. 'I am sick of
questions and curiosity about my doings, I suppose,' he thought. 'What an
inquisitive lot they all are!' He had half a mind to go and ask the Gaffer
who the inquirer was; but he thought better (or worse) of it, and turned and
walked quickly back to Bag End.
   Pippin was sitting on his pack in the porch. Sam was not there. Frodo
stepped inside the dark door. 'Sam!' he called. 'Sam! Time!'
    'Coming, sir!' came the answer from far within, followed soon by Sam
himself, wiping his mouth. He had been saying farewell to the beer-barrel in
the cellar.
   'All aboard, Sam?' said Frodo.
   'Yes, sir. I'll last for a bit now, sir.'
   Frodo shut and locked the round door, and gave the key to Sam. 'Run
down with this to your home, Sam!' he said. 'Then cut along the Row and meet
us as quick as you can at the gate in the lane beyond the meadows. We are
not going through the village tonight. Too many ears pricking and eyes
prying.' Sam ran off at full speed.
    'Well, now we're off at last!' said Frodo. They shouldered their packs
and took up their sticks, and walked round the corner to the west side of
Bag End. 'Good-bye!' said Frodo, looking at the dark blank windows. He
waved
his hand, and then turned and (following Bilbo, if he had known it) hurried
after Peregrin down the garden-path. They jumped over the low place in the
hedge at the bottom and took to the fields, passing into the darkness like a
rustle in the grasses.
    At the bottom of the Hill on its western side they came to the gate
opening on to a narrow lane. There they halted and adjusted the straps of
their packs. Presently Sam appeared, trotting quickly and breathing hard;
his heavy pack was hoisted high on his shoulders, and he had put on his head
a tall shapeless fell bag, which he called a hat. In the gloom he looked
very much like a dwarf.
    'I am sure you have given me all the heaviest stuff,' said Frodo. 'I
pity snails, and all that carry their homes on their backs.'
    'I could take a lot more yet, sir. My packet is quite light,' said Sam
stoutly and untruthfully.
    'No, you don't, Sam!' said Pippin. 'It is good for him. He's got
nothing except what he ordered us to pack. He's been slack lately, and he'll
feel the weight less when he's walked off some of his own.'
    'Be kind to a poor old hobbit!' laughed Frodo. 'I shall be as thin as a
willow-wand, I'm sure, before I get to Buckland. But I was talking nonsense.
I suspect you have taken more than your share, Sam, and I shall look into it
at our next packing.' He picked up his stick again. 'Well, we all like
walking in the dark,' he said, 'so let's put some miles behind us before
bed.'
    For a short way they followed the lane westwards. Then leaving it they
turned left and took quietly to the fields again. They went in single file
along hedgerows and the borders of coppices, and night fell dark about them.
In their dark cloaks they were as invisible as if they all had magic rings.
Since they were all hobbits, and were trying to be silent, they made no
noise that even hobbits would hear. Even the wild things in the fields and
woods hardly noticed their passing.
    After some time they crossed the Water, west of Hobbiton, by a narrow
plank-bridge. The stream was there no more than a winding black ribbon,
bordered with leaning alder-trees. A mile or two further south they hastily
crossed the great road from the Brandywine Bridge; they were now in the
Tookland and bending south-eastwards they made for the Green Hill Country.
As they began to climb its first slopes they looked back and saw the lamps
in Hobbiton far off twinkling in the gentle valley of the Water. Soon it
disappeared in the folds of the darkened land, and was followed by Bywater
beside its grey pool. When the light of the last farm was far behind,
peeping among the trees, Frodo turned and waved a hand in farewell.
    'I wonder if I shall ever look down into that valley again,' he said
quietly.
    When they had walked for about three hours they rested. The night was
clear, cool, and starry, but smoke-like wisps of mist were creeping up the
hill-sides from the streams and deep meadows. Thin-clad birches, swaying in
a light wind above their heads, made a black net against the pale sky. They
ate a very frugal supper (for hobbits), and then went on again. Soon they
struck a narrow road, that went rolling up and down, fading grey into the
darkness ahead: the road to Woodhall, and Stock, and the Bucklebury Ferry.
It climbed away from the main road in the Water-valley, and wound over the
skirts of the Green Hills towards Woody-End, a wild corner of the
Eastfarthing.
    After a while they plunged into a deeply cloven track between tall
trees that rustled their dry leaves in the night. It was very dark. At first
they talked, or hummed a tune softly together, being now far away from
inquisitive ears. Then they marched on in silence, and Pippin began to lag
behind. At last, as they began to climb a steep slope, he stopped and
yawned.
    'I am so sleepy,' he said, 'that soon I shall fall down on the road.
Are you going to sleep on your legs? It is nearly midnight.'
    'I thought you liked walking in the dark,' said Frodo. 'But there is no
great hurry. Merry expects us some time the day after tomorrow; but that
leaves us nearly two days more. We'll halt at the first likely spot.'
    'The wind's in the West,' said Sam. 'If we get to the other side of
this hill, we shall find a spot that is sheltered and snug enough, sir.
There is a dry fir-wood just ahead, if I remember rightly.' Sam knew the
land well within twenty miles of Hobbiton, but that was the limit of his
geography.
    Just over the top of the hill they came on the patch of fir-wood.
Leaving the road they went into the deep resin-scented darkness of the
trees, and gathered dead sticks and cones to make a fire. Soon they had a
merry crackle of flame at the foot of a large fir-tree and they sat round it
for a while, until they began to nod. Then, each in an angle of the great
tree's roots, they curled up in their cloaks and blankets, and were soon
fast asleep. They set no watch; even Frodo feared no danger yet, for they
were still in the heart of the Shire. A few creatures came and looked at
them when the fire had died away. A fox passing through the wood on business
of his own stopped several minutes and sniffed.
    'Hobbits!' he thought. 'Well, what next? I have heard of strange doings
in this land, but I have seldom heard of a hobbit sleeping out of doors
under a tree. Three of them! There's something mighty queer behind this.' He
was quite right, but he never found out any more about it.
    The morning came, pale and clammy. Frodo woke up first, and found that
a tree-root had made a hole in his back, and that his neck was stiff.
    'Walking for pleasure! Why didn't I drive?' he thought, as he usually
did at the beginning of an expedition. 'And all my beautiful feather beds
are sold to the Sackville-Bagginses! These tree-roots would do them good.'
He stretched. 'Wake up, hobbits!' he cried. It's a beautiful morning.'
    'What's beautiful about it?' said Pippin, peering over the edge of his
blanket with one eye. 'Sam! Gel breakfast ready for half-past nine! Have you
got the bath-water hot?'
    Sam jumped up, looking rather bleary. 'No, sir, I haven't, sir!' he
said.
    Frodo stripped the blankets from Pippin and rolled him over, and then
walked off to the edge of the wood. Away eastward the sun was rising red out
of the mists that lay thick on the world. Touched with gold and red the
autumn trees seemed to be sailing rootless in a shadowy sea. A little below
him to the left the road ran down steeply into a hollow and disappeared.
    When he returned Sam and Pippin had got a good fire going. 'Water!'
shouted Pippin. 'Where's the water?'
    'I don't keep water in my pockets,' said Frodo. 'We thought you had
gone to find some,' said Pippin, busy setting out the food, and cups. 'You
had better go now.'
    'You can come too,' said Frodo, 'and bring all the water-bottles.'
There was a stream at the foot of the hill. They filled their bottles and
the small camping kettle at a little fall where the water fell a few feet
over an outcrop of grey stone. It was icy cold; and they spluttered and
puffed as they bathed their faces and hands.
    When their breakfast was over, and their packs all trussed up again, it
was after ten o'clock, and the day was beginning to turn fine and hot. They
went down the slope, and across the stream where it dived under the road,
and up the next slope, and up and down another shoulder of the hills; and by
that time their cloaks, blankets, water, food, and other gear already seemed
a heavy burden.
    The day's march promised to be warm and tiring work. After some miles,
however, the road ceased to roll up and down: it climbed to the top of a
steep bank in a weary zig-zagging sort of way, and then prepared to go down
for the last time. In front of them they saw the lower lands dotted with
small clumps of trees that melted away in the distance to a brown woodland
haze. They were looking across the Woody End towards the Brandywine
River.
The road wound away before them like a piece of string.
    'The road goes on for ever,' said Pippin; 'but I can't without a rest.
It is high time for lunch.' He sat down on the bank at the side of the road
and looked away east into the haze, beyond which lay the River, and the end
of the Shire in which he had spent all his life. Sam stood by him. His round
eyes were wide open - for he was looking across lands he had never seen to a
new horizon.
    'Do Elves live in those woods?' he asked.
    'Not that I ever heard,' said Pippin. Frodo was silent. He too was
gazing eastward along the road, as if he had never seen it before. Suddenly
he spoke, aloud but as if to himself, saying slowly:
    The Road goes ever on and on
    Down from the door where it began.
    Now far ahead the Road has gone,
    And I must follow, if I can,
    Pursuing it with weary feet,
    Until it joins some larger way,
    Where many paths and errands meet.
    And whither then? I cannot say.
    'That sounds like a bit of old Bilbo's rhyming,' said Pippin. 'Or is it
one of your imitations? It does not sound altogether encouraging.'
    'I don't know,' said Frodo. It came to me then, as if I was making it
up; but I may have heard it long ago. Certainly it reminds me very much of
Bilbo in the last years, before he went away. He used often to say there was
only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every
doorstep, and every path was its tributary. "It's a dangerous business,
Frodo, going out of your door," he used to say. "You step into the Road, and
if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept
off to. Do you realize that this is the very path that goes through
Mirkwood, and that if you let it, it might take you to the Lonely Mountain
or even further and to worse places?" He used to say that on the path
outside the front door at Bag End, especially after he had been out for a
long walk.'
    'Well, the Road won't sweep me anywhere for an hour at least,' said
Pippin, unslinging his pack. The others followed his example, putting their
packs against the bank and their legs out into the road. After a rest they
had a good lunch, and then more rest.
    The sun was beginning to get low and the light of afternoon was on the
land as they went down the hill. So far they had not met a soul on the road.
This way was not much used, being hardly fit for carts, and there was little
traffic to the Woody End. They had been jogging along again for an hour or
more when Sam stopped a moment as if listening. They were now on level
ground, and the road after much winding lay straight ahead through
grass-land sprinkled with tall trees, outliers of the approaching woods.
    'I can hear a pony or a horse coming along the road behind,' said Sam.
    They looked back, but the turn of the road prevented them from seeing
far. 'I wonder if that is Gandalf coming after us,' said Frodo; but even as
he said it, he had a feeling that it was not so, and a sudden desire to hide
from the view of the rider came over him.
    'It may not matter much,' he said apologetically, 'but I would rather
not be seen on the road - by anyone. I am sick of my doings being noticed
and discussed. And if it is Gandalf,' he added as an afterthought, 'we can
give him a little surprise, to pay him out for being so late. Let's get out
of sight!'
    The other two ran quickly to the left and down into a little hollow not
far from the road. There they lay flat. Frodo hesitated for a second:
curiosity or some other feeling was struggling with his desire to hide. The
sound of hoofs drew nearer. Just in time he threw himself down in a patch of
long grass behind a tree that overshadowed the road. Then he lifted his head
and peered cautiously above one of the great roots.
    Round the corner came a black horse, no hobbit-pony but a full-sized
horse; and on it sat a large man, who seemed to crouch in the saddle,
wrapped in a great black cloak and hood, so that only his boots in the high
stirrups showed below; his face was shadowed and invisible.
    When it reached the tree and was level with Frodo the horse stopped.
The riding figure sat quite still with its head bowed, as if listening. From
inside the hood came a noise as of someone sniffing to catch an elusive
scent; the head turned from side to side of the road.
    A sudden unreasoning fear of discovery laid hold of Frodo, and he
thought of his Ring. He hardly dared to breathe, and yet the desire to get
it out of his pocket became so strong that he began slowly to move his hand.
He felt that he had only to slip it on, and then he would be safe. The
advice of Gandalf seemed absurd. Bilbo had used the Ring. 'And I am still in
the Shire,' he thought, as his hand touched the chain on which it hung. At
that moment the rider sat up, and shook the reins. The horse stepped
forward, walking slowly at first, and then breaking into a quick trot.
    Frodo crawled to the edge of the road and watched the rider, until he
dwindled into the distance. He could not be quite sure, but it seemed to him
that suddenly, before it passed out of sight, the horse turned aside and
went into the trees on the right.
    'Well, I call that very queer, and indeed disturbing,' said Frodo to
himself, as he walked towards his companions. Pippin and Sam had remained
flat in the grass, and had seen nothing; so Frodo described the rider and
his strange behaviour.
    'I can't say why, but I felt certain he was looking or smelling for me;
and also I felt certain that I did not want him to discover me. I've never
seen or fell anything like it in the Shire before.'
    'But what has one of the Big People got to do with us?' said Pippin.
'And what is he doing in this part of the world?'
    'There are some Men about,' said Frodo. 'Down in the Southfarthing they
have had trouble with Big People, I believe. But I have never heard of
anything like this rider. I wonder where he comes from.'
    'Begging your pardon,' put in Sam suddenly, 'I know where he comes
from. It's from Hobbiton that this here black rider comes, unless there's
more than one. And I know where he's going to.'
    'What do you mean?' said Frodo sharply, looking at him in astonishment.
'Why didn't you speak up before?'
    'I have only just remembered, sir. It was like this: when I got back to
our hole yesterday evening with the key, my dad, he says to me: Hello, Sam!
he says. I thought you were away with Mr. Frodo this morning. There's been a
strange customer asking for Mr. Baggins of Bag End, and he's only just gone.
I've sent him on to Bucklebury. Not that I liked the sound of him. He seemed
mighty put out, when I told him Mr. Baggins had left his old home for good.
Hissed at me, he did. It gave me quite a shudder. What sort of a fellow was
he? says I to the Gaffer. / don't know, says he; but he wasn't a hobbit. He
was tall and black-like, and he stooped aver me. I reckon it was one of the
Big Folk from foreign parts. He spoke funny.
    'I couldn't stay to hear more, sir, since you were waiting; and I
didn't give much heed to it myself. The Gaffer is getting old, and more than
a bit blind, and it must have been near dark when this fellow come up the
Hill and found him taking the air at the end of our Row. I hope he hasn't
done no harm, sir, nor me.'
    'The Gaffer can't be blamed anyway,' said Frodo. 'As a matter of fact I
heard him talking to a stranger, who seemed to be inquiring for me, and I
nearly went and asked him who it was. I wish I had, or you had told me about
it before. I might have been more careful on the road.'
    'Still, there may be no connexion between this rider and the Gaffer's
stranger,' said Pippin. 'We left Hobbiton secretly enough, and I don't see
how he could have followed us.'
    'What about the smelling, sir?' said Sam. 'And the Gaffer said he was a
black chap.'
    'I wish I had waited for Gandalf,' Frodo muttered. 'But perhaps it
would only have made matters worse.'
    'Then you know or guess something about this rider?' said Pippin, who
had caught the muttered words.
    'I don't know, and I would rather not guess,' said Frodo. 'All right,
cousin Frodo! You can keep your secret for the present, if you want to be
mysterious. In the meanwhile what are we to do? I should like a bite and a
sup, but somehow I think we had better move on from here. Your talk of
sniffing riders with invisible noses has unsettled me.'
    'Yes, I think we will move on now,' said Frodo; 'but not on the road
-in case that rider comes back, or another follows him. We ought to do a
good step more today. Buckland is still miles away.'
    The shadows of the trees were long and thin on the grass, as they
started off again. They now kept a stone's throw to the left of the road,
and kept out of sight of it as much as they could. But this hindered them;
for the grass was thick and tussocky, and the ground uneven, and the trees
began to draw together into thickets.
    The sun had gone down red behind the hills at their backs, and evening
was coming on before they came back to the road at the end of the long level
over which it had run straight for some miles. At that point it bent left
and went down into the lowlands of the Yale making for Stock; but a lane
branched right, winding through a wood of ancient oak-trees on its way to
Woodhall. 'That is the way for us,' said Frodo.
    Not far from the road-meeting they came on the huge hulk of a tree: it
was still alive and had leaves on the small branches that it had put out
round the broken stumps of its long-fallen limbs; but it was hollow, and
could be entered by a great crack on the side away from the road. The
hobbits crept inside, and sat there upon a floor of old leaves and decayed
wood. They rested and had a light meal, talking quietly and listening from
time to time.
    Twilight was about them as they crept back to the lane. The West wind
was sighing in the branches. Leaves were whispering. Soon the road began to
fall gently but steadily into the dusk. A star came out above the trees in
the darkening East before them. They went abreast and in step, to keep up
their spirits. After a time, as the stars grew thicker and brighter, the
feeling of disquiet left them, and they no longer listened for the sound of
hoofs. They began to hum softly, as hobbits have a way of doing as they walk
along, especially when they are drawing near to home at night. With most
hobbits it is a supper-song or a bed-song; but these hobbits hummed a
walking-song (though not, of course, without any mention of supper and bed).
Bilbo Baggins had made the words, to a tune that was as old as the hills,
and taught it to Frodo as they walked in the lanes of the Water-valley and
talked about Adventure.
    Upon the hearth the fire is red,
    Beneath the roof there is a bed;
    But not yet weary are our feet,
    Still round the corner we may meet
    A sudden tree or standing stone
    That none have seen but we alone.
    Tree and flower and leaf and grass,
    Let them pass! Let them pass!
    Hill and water under sky,
    Pass them by! Pass them by!

  Still round the corner there may wait
  A new road or a secret gate,
  And though we pass them by today,
  Tomorrow we may come this way
  And take the hidden paths that run
  Towards the Moon or to the Sun.
  Apple, thorn, and nut and sloe,
  Let them go! Let them go!
  Sand and stone and pool and dell,
  Fare you well! Fare you well!

   Home is behind, the world ahead,
   And there are many paths to tread
   Through shadows to the edge of night,
   Until the stars are all alight.
   Then world behind and home ahead,
   We'll wander back to home and bed.
   Mist and twilight, cloud and shade,
   Away shall fade! Away shall fade!
   Fire and lamp, and meat and bread,
   And then to bed! And then to bed!
   The song ended. 'And now to bed! And now to bed!' sang Pippin in a high
voice.
   'Hush!' said Frodo. 'I think I hear hoofs again.'
   They slopped suddenly and stood as silent as tree-shadows, listening.
There was a sound of hoofs in the lane, some way behind, but coming slow and
clear down the wind. Quickly and quietly they slipped off the path, and ran
into the deeper shade under the oak-trees.
    'Don't let us go too far!' said Frodo. 'I don't want to be seen, but I
want to see if it is another Black Rider.'
   'Very well!' said Pippin. 'But don't forget the sniffing!'
   The hoofs drew nearer. They had no time to find any hiding-place better
than the general darkness under the trees; Sam and Pippin crouched behind a
large tree-bole, while Frodo crept back a few yards towards the lane. It
showed grey and pale, a line of fading light through the wood. Above it the
stars were thick in the dim sky, but there was no moon.
    The sound of hoofs stopped. As Frodo watched he saw something dark pass
across the lighter space between two trees, and then halt. It looked like
the black shade of a horse led by a smaller black shadow. The black shadow
stood close to the point where they had left the path, and it swayed from
side to side. Frodo thought he heard the sound of snuffling. The shadow bent
to the ground, and then began to crawl towards him.
    Once more the desire to slip on the Ring came over Frodo; but this time
it was stronger than before. So strong that, almost before he realized what
he was doing, his hand was groping in his pocket. But at that moment there
came a sound like mingled song and laughter. Clear voices rose and fell in
the starlit air. The black shadow straightened up and retreated. It climbed
on to the shadowy horse and seemed to vanish across the lane into the
darkness on the other side. Frodo breathed again.
    'Elves!' exclaimed Sam in a hoarse whisper. 'Elves, sir!' He would have
burst out of the trees and dashed off towards the voices, if they had not
pulled him back.
    'Yes, it is Elves,' said Frodo. 'One can meet them sometimes in the
Woody End. They don't live in the Shire, but they wander into it in Spring
and Autumn, out of their own lands away beyond the Tower Hills. I am
thankful that they do! You did not see, but that Black Rider stopped just
here and was actually crawling towards us when the song began. As soon as he
heard the voices he slipped away.'
    'What about the Elves?' said Sam, too excited to trouble about the
rider. 'Can't we go and see them?'
    'Listen! They are coming this way,' said Frodo. 'We have only to wait.'
The singing drew nearer. One clear voice rose now above the others. It was
singing in the fair elven-tongue, of which Frodo knew only a little, and the
others knew nothing. Yet the sound blending with the melody seemed to shape
itself in their thought into words which they only partly understood. This
was the song as Frodo heard it:
    Snow-white! Snow-white! O Lady clear!
    O Queen beyond the Western Seas!
    O Light to us that wander here
    Amid the world of woven trees!

  Gilthoniel! O Elbereth!
  Clear are thy eyes and bright thy breath!
  Snow-white! Snow-white! We sing to thee
  In a far land beyond the Sea.
   O stars that in the Sunless Year
   With shining hand by her were sawn,
   In windy fields now bright and clear
   We see your silver blossom blown!

    O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!
    We still remember, we who dwell
    In this far land beneath the trees,
    Thy starlight on the Western Seas.
    The song ended. 'These are High Elves! They spoke the name of
Elbereth!' said Frodo in amazement, 'Few of that fairest folk are ever seen
in the Shire. Not many now remain in Middle-earth, east of the Great Sea.
This is indeed a strange chance!'
    The hobbits sat in shadow by the wayside. Before long the Elves came
down the lane towards the valley. They passed slowly, and the hobbits could
see the starlight glimmering on their hair and in their eyes. They bore no
lights, yet as they walked a shimmer, like the light of the moon above the
rim of the hills before it rises, seemed to fall about their feet. They were
now silent, and as the last Elf passed he turned and looked towards the
hobbits and laughed.
    'Hail, Frodo!' he cried. 'You are abroad late. Or are you perhaps
lost?' Then he called aloud to the others, and all the company stopped and
gathered round.
    'This is indeed wonderful!' they said. 'Three hobbits in a wood at
night! We have not seen such a thing since Bilbo went away. What is the
meaning of it?'
    'The meaning of it, fair people,' said Frodo, 'is simply that we seem
to be going the same way as you are. I like walking under the stars. But I
would welcome your company.'
    'But we have no need of other company, and hobbits are so dull,' they
laughed. 'And how do you know that we go the same way as you, for you do
not
know whither we are going?'
    'And how do you know my name?' asked Frodo in return.
    'We know many things,' they said. 'We have seen you often before with
Bilbo, though you may not have seen us.'
    'Who are you, and who is your lord?' asked Frodo.
    'I am Gildor,' answered their leader, the Elf who had first hailed him.
'Gildor Inglorion of the House of Finrod. We are Exiles, and most of our
kindred have long ago departed and we too are now only tarrying here a
while, ere we return over the Great Sea. But some of our kinsfolk dwell
still in peace in Rivendell. Come now, Frodo, tell us what you are doing?
For we see that there is some shadow of fear upon you.'
    'O Wise People!' interrupted Pippin eagerly. 'Tell us about the Black
Riders!'
    'Black Riders?' they said in low voices. 'Why do you ask about Black
Riders?'
    'Because two Black Riders have overtaken us today, or one has done so
twice,' said Pippin; 'only a little while ago he slipped away as you drew
near.'
    The Elves did not answer at once, but spoke together softly in their
own tongue. At length Gildor turned to the hobbits. 'We will not speak of
this here,' he said. 'We think you had best come now with us. It is not our
custom, but for this time we will lake you on our road, and you shall lodge
with us tonight, if you will.'
    'O Fair Folk! This is good fortune beyond my hope,' said Pippin. Sam
was speechless. 'I thank you indeed, Gildor Inglorion,' said Frodo bowing.
'Elen snla l®menn' omentielvo, a star shines on the hour of our meeting,' he
added in the high-elven speech.
    'Be careful, friends!' cried Gildor laughing. 'Speak no secrets! Here
is a scholar in the Ancient Tongue. Bilbo was a good master. Hail,
Elf-friend!' he said, bowing to Frodo. 'Come now with your friends and join
our company! You had best walk in the middle so that you may not stray. You
may be weary before we halt.'
    'Why? Where are you going?' asked Frodo.
    'For tonight we go to the woods on the hills above Woodhall. It is some
miles, but you shall have rest at the end of it, and it will shorten your
journey tomorrow.'
    They now marched on again in silence, and passed like shadows and faint
lights: for Elves (even more than hobbits) could walk when they wished
without sound or footfall. Pippin soon began to feel sleepy, and staggered
once or twice; but each time a tall Elf at his side put out his arm and
saved him from a fall. Sam walked along at Frodo's side, as if in a dream,
with an expression on his face half of fear and half of astonished joy.
    The woods on either side became denser; the trees were now younger and
thicker; and as the lane went lower, running down into a fold of the hills,
there were many deep brakes of hazel on the rising slopes at either hand. At
last the Elves turned aside from the path. A green ride lay almost unseen
through the thickets on the right; and this they followed as it wound away
back up the wooded slopes on to the top of a shoulder of the hills that
stood out into the lower land of the river-valley. Suddenly they came out of
the shadow of the trees, and before them lay a wide space of grass, grey
under the night. On three sides the woods pressed upon it; but eastward the
ground fell steeply and the tops of the dark trees, growing at the bottom of
the slope, were below their feet. Beyond, the low lands lay dim and flat
under the stars. Nearer at hand a few lights twinkled in the village of
Woodhall.
   The Elves sat on the grass and spoke together in soft voices; they
seemed to take no further notice of the hobbits. Frodo and his companions
wrapped themselves in cloaks and blankets, and drowsiness stole over them.
The night grew on, and the lights in the valley went out. Pippin fell
asleep, pillowed on a green hillock.
    Away high in the East swung Remmirath, the Netted Stars, and slowly
above the mists red Borgil rose, glowing like a jewel of fire. Then by some
shift of airs all the mist was drawn away like a veil, and there leaned up,
as he climbed over the rim of the world, the Swordsman of the Sky,
Menelvagor with his shining belt. The Elves all burst into song. Suddenly
under the trees a fire sprang up with a red light.
    'Come!' the Elves called to the hobbits. 'Come! Now is the time for
speech and merriment!'
   Pippin sat up and rubbed his eyes. He shivered. 'There is a fire in the
hall, and food for hungry guests,' said an Elf standing before him.
    At the south end of the greensward there was an opening. There the
green floor ran on into the wood, and formed a wide space like a hall,
roofed by the boughs of trees. Their great trunks ran like pillars down each
side. In the middle there was a wood-fire blazing, and upon the tree-pillars
torches with lights of gold and silver were burning steadily. The Elves sat
round the fire upon the grass or upon the sawn rings of old trunks. Some
went to and fro bearing cups and pouring drink; others brought food on
heaped plates and dishes.
    'This is poor fare,' they said to the hobbits; 'for we are lodging in
the greenwood far from our halls. If ever you are our guests at home, we
will treat you better.'
    'It seems to me good enough for a birthday-party,' said Frodo.
    Pippin afterwards recalled little of either food or drink, for his mind
was filled with the light upon the elf-faces, and the sound of voices so
various and so beautiful that he felt in a waking dream. But he remembered
that there was bread, surpassing the savour of a fair white loaf to one who
is starving; and fruits sweet as wildberries and richer than the tended
fruits of gardens; he drained a cup that was filled with a fragrant draught,
cool as a clear fountain, golden as a summer afternoon.
    Sam could never describe in words, nor picture clearly to himself, what
he felt or thought that night, though it remained in his memory as one of
the chief events of his life. The nearest he ever got was to say: 'Well,
sir, if I could grow apples like that, I would call myself a gardener. But
it was the singing that went to my heart, if you know what I mean.'
    Frodo sat, eating, drinking, and talking with delight; but his mind was
chiefly on the words spoken. He knew a little of the elf-speech and listened
eagerly. Now and again he spoke to those that served him and thanked them in
their own language. They smiled at him and said laughing: 'Here is a jewel
among hobbits!'
    After a while Pippin fell fast asleep, and was lifted up and borne away
to a bower under the trees; there he was laid upon a soft bed and slept the
rest of the night away. Sam refused to leave his master. When Pippin had
gone, he came and sat curled up at Frodo's feet, where at last he nodded and
closed his eyes. Frodo remained long awake, talking with Gildor.
    They spoke of many things, old and new, and Frodo questioned Gildor
much about happenings in the wide world outside the Shire. The tidings were
mostly sad and ominous: of gathering darkness, the wars of Men, and the
flight of the Elves. At last Frodo asked the question that was nearest to
his heart:
    'Tell me, Gildor, have you ever seen Bilbo since he left us?'
    Gildor smiled. 'Yes,' he answered. 'Twice. He said farewell to us on
this very spot. But I saw him once again, far from here.' He would say no
more about Bilbo, and Frodo fell silent.
    'You do not ask me or tell me much that concerns yourself, Frodo,' said
Gildor. 'But I already know a little, and I can read more in your face and
in the thought behind your questions. You are leaving the Shire, and yet you
doubt that you will find what you seek, or accomplish what you intend, or
that you will ever return. Is not that so?'
    'It is,' said Frodo; 'but I thought my going was a secret known only to
Gandalf and my faithful Sam.' He looked down at Sam, who was snoring
gently.
    'The secret will not reach the Enemy from us,' said Gildor.
    'The Enemy?' said Frodo. 'Then you know why I am leaving the Shire?'
    'I do not know for what reason the Enemy is pursuing you,' answered
Gildor; 'but I perceive that he is - strange indeed though that seems to me.
And I warn you that peril is now both before you and behind you, and upon
either side.'
    'You mean the Riders? I feared that they were servants of the Enemy.
What are the Black Riders?'
    'Has Gandalf told you nothing?'
    'Nothing about such creatures.'
    'Then I think it is not for me to say more - lest terror should keep
you from your journey. For it seems to me that you have set out only just in
time, if indeed you are in time. You must now make haste, and neither stay
nor turn back; for the Shire is no longer any protection to you.'
    'I cannot imagine what information could be more terrifying than your
hints and warnings,' exclaimed Frodo. 'I knew that danger lay ahead, of
course; but I did not expect to meet it in our own Shire. Can't a hobbit
walk from the Water to the River in peace?'
    'But it is not your own Shire,' said Gildor. 'Others dwelt here before
hobbits were; and others will dwell here again when hobbits are no more. The
wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for
ever fence it out.'
    'I know - and yet it has always seemed so safe and familiar. What can I
do now? My plan was to leave the Shire secretly, and make my way to
Rivendell; but now my footsteps are dogged, before ever I get to Buckland.'
    'I think you should still follow that plan,' said Gildor. 'I do not
think the Road will prove too hard for your courage. But if you desire
clearer counsel, you should ask Gandalf. I do not know the reason for your
flight, and therefore I do not know by what means your pursuers will assail
you. These things Gandalf must know. I suppose that you will see him before
you leave the Shire?'
    'I hope so. But that is another thing that makes me anxious. I have
been expecting Gandalf for many days. He was to have come to Hobbiton at
the
latest two nights ago; but he has never appeared. Now I am wondering what
can have happened. Should I wait for him?'
    Gildor was silent for a moment. 'I do not like this news,' he said at
last. 'That Gandalf should be late, does not bode well. But it is said: Do
not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to
anger. The choice is yours: to go or wait.'
    'And it is also said,' answered Frodo: 'Go not to the Elves for
counsel, for they will say both no and yes.'
    'Is it indeed?' laughed Gildor. 'Elves seldom give unguarded advice,
for advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all
courses may run ill. But what would you? You have not told me all concerning
yourself; and how then shall I choose better than you? But if you demand
advice, I will for friendship's sake give it. I think you should now go at
once, without delay; and if Gandalf does not come before you set out, then I
also advise this: do not go alone. Take such friends as are trusty and
willing. Now you should be grateful, for I do not give this counsel gladly.
The Elves have their own labours and their own sorrows, and they are little
concerned with the ways of hobbits, or of any other creatures upon earth.
Our paths cross theirs seldom, by chance or purpose. In this meeting there
may be more than chance; but the purpose is not clear to me, and I fear to
say too much.'
    'I am deeply grateful,' said Frodo; 'but I wish you would tell me
plainly what the Black Riders are. If I take your advice I may not see
Gandalf for a long while, and I ought to know what is the danger that
pursues me.'
    'Is it not enough to know that they are servants of the Enemy?'
answered Gildor. 'Flee them! Speak no words to them! They are deadly. Ask no
more of me! But my heart forbodes that, ere all is ended, you, Frodo son of
Drogo, will know more of these fell things than Gildor Inglorion. May
Elbereth protect you!'
    'But where shall I find courage?' asked Frodo. 'That is what I chiefly
need.'
    'Courage is found in unlikely places,' said Gildor. 'Be of good hope!
Sleep now! In the morning we shall have gone; but we will send our messages
through the lands. The Wandering Companies shall know of your journey,
and
those that have power for good shall be on the watch. I name you Elf-friend;
and may the stars shine upon the end of your road! Seldom have we had such
delight in strangers, and it is fair to hear words of the Ancient Speech
from the lips of other wanderers in the world.'
   Frodo felt sleep coming upon him, even as Gildor finished speaking. 'I
will sleep now,' he said; and the Elf led him to a bower beside Pippin, and
he threw himself upon a bed and fell at once into a dreamless slumber.
     Chapter 4. A Short Cut to Mushrooms

    In the morning Frodo woke refreshed. He was lying in a bower made by a
living tree with branches laced and drooping to the ground; his bed was of
fern and grass, deep and soft and strangely fragrant. The sun was shining
through the fluttering leaves, which were still green upon the tree. He
jumped up and went out.
    Sam was sitting on the grass near the edge of the wood. Pippin was
standing studying the sky and weather. There was no sign of the Elves.
    'They have left us fruit and drink, and bread,' said Pippin. 'Come and
have your breakfast. The bread tastes almost as good as it did last night. I
did not want to leave you any, but Sam insisted.'
    Frodo sat down beside Sam and began to eat. 'What is the plan for
today?' asked Pippin.
    'To walk to Bucklebury as quickly as possible,' answered Frodo, and
gave his attention to the food.
    'Do you think we shall see anything of those Riders?' asked Pippin
cheerfully. Under the morning sun the prospect of seeing a whole troop of
them did not seem very alarming to him.
    'Yes, probably,' said Frodo, not liking the reminder. 'But I hope to
get across the river without their seeing us.'
    'Did you find out anything about them from Gildor?'
    'Not much - only hints and riddles,' said Frodo evasively. 'Did you ask
about the sniffing?'
    'We didn't discuss it,' said Frodo with his mouth full.
    'You should have. I am sure it is very important.'
    'In that case I am sure Gildor would have refused to explain it,' said
Frodo sharply. 'And now leave me in peace for a bit! I don't want to answer
a string of questions while I am eating. I want to think!'
    'Good heavens!' said Pippin. 'At breakfast?' He walked away towards the
edge of the green.
    From Frodo's mind the bright morning - treacherously bright, he thought
- had not banished the fear of pursuit; and he pondered the words of Gildor.
The merry voice of Pippin came to him. He was running on the green turf and
singing.
   'No! I could not!' he said to himself. 'It is one thing to take my
young friends walking over the Shire with me, until we are hungry and weary,
and food and bed are sweet. To take them into exile, where hunger and
weariness may have no cure, is quite another - even if they are willing to
come. The inheritance is mine alone. I don't think I ought even to take
Sam.' He looked at Sam Gamgee, and discovered that Sam was watching him.
    'Well, Sam!' he said. 'What about it? I am leaving the Shire as soon as
ever I can - in fact I have made up my mind now not even to wait a day at
Crickhollow, if it can be helped.'
   'Very good, sir!'
    'You still mean to come with me?'
    'I do.'
    'It is going to be very dangerous, Sam. 'It is already dangerous. Most
likely neither of us will come back.'
    'If you don't come back, sir, then I shan't, that's certain,' said Sam.
'Don't you leave him! they said to me. Leave him! I said. I never mean to. I
am going with him, if he climbs to the Moon, and if any of those Black
Rulers try to stop him, they'll have Sam Gamgee to reckon with, I said. They
laughed.'
   'Who are they, and what are you talking about?'
   'The Elves, sir. We had some talk last night; and they seemed to know
you were going away, so I didn't see the use of denying it. Wonderful folk,
Elves, sir! Wonderful!'
    'They are,' said Frodo. 'Do you like them still, now you have had a
closer view?'
    'They seem a bit above my likes and dislikes, so to speak,' answered
Sam slowly. 'It don't seem to matter what I think about them. They are quite
different from what I expected - so old and young, and so gay and sad, as it
were.'
   Frodo looked at Sam rather startled, half expecting to see some outward
sign of the odd change that seemed to have come over him. It did not sound
like the voice of the old Sam Gamgee that he thought he knew. But it looked
like the old Sam Gamgee sitting there, except that his face was unusually
thoughtful.
   'Do you feel any need to leave the Shire now - now that your wish to
see them has come true already?' he asked.
    'Yes, sir. I don't know how to say it, but after last night I feel
different. I seem to see ahead, in a kind of way. I know we are going to
take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can't turn back. It isn't
to see Elves now, nor dragons, nor mountains, that I want - I don't rightly
know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies
ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through, sir, if you understand me.'
    'I don't altogether. But I understand that Gandalf chose me a good
companion. I am content. We will go together.'
    Frodo finished his breakfast in silence. Then standing up he looked
over the land ahead, and called to Pippin.
    'All ready to start?' he said as Pippin ran up. 'We must be getting off
at once. We slept late; and there are a good many miles to go.'
    'You slept late, you mean,' said Pippin. 'I was up long before; and we
are only waiting for you to finish eating and thinking.'
    'I have finished both now. And I am going to make for Bucklebury Ferry
as quickly as possible. I am not going out of the way, back to the road we
left last night: I am going to cut straight across country from here.'
    'Then you are going to fly,' said Pippin. 'You won't cut straight on
foot anywhere in this country.'
    'We can cut straighter than the road anyway,' answered Frodo. 'The
Ferry is east from Woodhall; but the hard road curves away to the left -you
can see a bend of it away north over there. It goes round the north end of
the Marish so as to strike the causeway from the Bridge above Stock. But
that is miles out of the way. We could save a quarter of the distance if we
made a line for the Ferry from where we stand.'
    'Short cuts make long delays,' argued Pippin. 'The country is rough
round here, and there are bogs and all kinds of difficulties down in the
Marish -I know the land in these parts. And if you are worrying about Black
Riders, I can't see that it is any worse meeting them on a road than in a
wood or a field.'
    'It is less easy to find people in the woods and fields,' answered
Frodo. 'And if you are supposed to be on the road, there is some chance that
you will be looked for on the road and not off it.'
    'All right!' said Pippin. 'I will follow you into every bog and ditch.
But it is hard! I had counted on passing the Golden Perch at Stock before
sundown. The best beer in the Eastfarthing, or used to be: it is a long time
since I tasted it.'
    'That settles it!' said Frodo. 'Short cuts make delays, but inns make
longer ones. At all costs we must keep you away from the Golden Perch. We
want to get to Bucklebury before dark. What do you say, Sam?'
    'I will go along with you, Mr. Frodo,' said Sam (in spite of private
misgiving and a deep regret for the best beer in the Eastfarthing).
    'Then if we are going to toil through bog and briar, let's go now!'
said Pippin.
    It was already nearly as hot as it had been the day before; but clouds
were beginning to come up from the West. It looked likely to turn to rain.
The hobbits scrambled down a steep green bank and plunged into the thick
trees below. Their course had been chosen to leave Woodhall to their left,
and to cut slanting through the woods that clustered along the eastern side
of the hills, until they reached the flats beyond. Then they could make
straight for the Ferry over country that was open, except for a few ditches
and fences. Frodo reckoned they had eighteen miles to go in a straight line.
    He soon found that the thicket was closer and more tangled than it had
appeared. There were no paths in the undergrowth, and they did not get on
very fast. When they had struggled to the bottom of the bank, they found a
stream running down from the hills behind in a deeply dug bed with steep
slippery sides overhung with brambles. Most inconveniently it cut across the
line they had chosen. They could not jump over it, nor indeed get across it
at all without getting wet, scratched, and muddy. They halted, wondering
what to do. 'First check!' said Pippin, smiling grimly.
    Sam Gamgee looked back. Through an opening in the trees he caught a
glimpse of the top of the green bank from which they had climbed down.
    'Look!' he said, clutching Frodo by the arm. They all looked, and on
the edge high above them they saw against the sky a horse standing. Beside
it stooped a black figure.
    They at once gave up any idea of going back. Frodo led the way, and
plunged quickly into the thick bushes beside the stream. 'Whew!' he said to
Pippin. 'We were both right! The short cut has gone crooked already; but we
got under cover only just in time. You've got sharp ears, Sam: can you hear
anything coming?'
    They stood still, almost holding their breath as they listened; but
there was no sound of pursuit. 'I don't fancy he would try bringing his
horse down that bank,' said Sam. 'But I guess he knows we came down it. We
had better be going on.'
    Going on was not altogether easy. They had packs to carry, and the
bushes and brambles were reluctant to let them through. They were cut off
from the wind by the ridge behind, and the air was still and stuffy. When
they forced their way at last into more open ground, they were hot and tired
and very scratched, and they were also no longer certain of the direction in
which they were going. The banks of the stream sank, as it reached the
levels and became broader and shallower, wandering off towards the Marish
and the River.
    'Why, this is the Stock-brook!' said Pippin. 'If we are going to try
and get back on to our course, we must cross at once and bear right.'
    They waded the stream, and hurried over a wide open space, rush-grown
and treeless, on the further side. Beyond that they came again to a belt of
trees: tall oaks, for the most part, with here and there an elm tree or an
ash. The ground was fairly level, and there was little undergrowth; but the
trees were loo close for them to see far ahead. The leaves blew upwards in
sudden gusts of wind, and spots of rain began to fall from the overcast sky.
Then the wind died away and the rain came streaming down. They trudged
along
as fast as they could, over patches of grass, and through thick drifts of
old leaves; and all about them the rain pattered and trickled. They did not
talk, but kept glancing back, and from side to side.
    After half an hour Pippin said: 'I hope we have not turned too much
towards the south, and are not walking longwise through this wood! It is not
a very broad belt --I should have said no more than a mile at the widest -
and we ought to have been through it by now.'
    'It is no good our starting to go in zig-zags,' said Frodo. 'That won't
mend matters. Let us keep on as we are going! I am not sure that I want to
come out into the open yet.'
    They went on for perhaps another couple of miles. Then the sun gleamed
out of ragged clouds again and the rain lessened. It was now past mid-day,
and they felt it was high time for lunch. They halted under an elm tree: its
leaves though fast turning yellow were still thick, and the ground at its
feel was fairly dry and sheltered. When they came to make their meal, they
found that the Elves had filled their bottles with a clear drink, pale
golden in colour: it had the scent of a honey made of many flowers, and was
wonderfully refreshing. Very soon they were laughing, and snapping their
fingers at rain, and at Black Riders. The last few miles, they felt, would
soon be behind them.
   Frodo propped his back against the tree-trunk, and closed his eyes. Sam
and Pippin sat near, and they began to hum, and then to sing softly:
   Ho! Ho! Ho! to the bottle I go
   To heal my heart and drown my woe.
   Rain may fall and wind may blow,
   And many miles be still to go,
   But under a tall tree I will lie,
   And let the clouds go sailing by.
   Ho! Ho! Ho! they began again louder. They stopped short suddenly. Frodo
sprang to his feet. A long-drawn wail came down the wind, like the cry of
some evil and lonely creature. It rose and fell, and ended on a high
piercing note. Even as they sat and stood, as if suddenly frozen, it was
answered by another cry, fainter and further off, but no less chilling to
the blood. There was then a silence, broken only by the sound of the wind in
the leaves.
   'And what do you think that was?' Pippin asked at last, trying to speak
lightly, but quavering a little. 'If it was a bird, it was one that I never
heard in the Shire before.'
   'It was not bird or beast,' said Frodo. 'It was a call, or a signal --
there were words in that cry, though I could not catch them. But no hobbit
has such a voice.'
   No more was said about it. They were all thinking of the Riders, but no
one spoke of them. They were now reluctant either to stay or go on; but
sooner or later they had got to get across the open country to the Ferry,
and it was best to go sooner and in daylight. In a few moments they had
shouldered their packs again and were off.
   Before long the wood came to a sudden end. Wide grass-lands stretched
before them. They now saw that they had, in fact, turned too much to the
south. Away over the flats they could glimpse the low hill of Bucklebury
across the River, but it was now to their left. Creeping cautiously out from
the edge of the trees, they set off across the open as quickly as they
could.
   At first they felt afraid, away from the shelter of the wood. Far back
behind them stood the high place where they had breakfasted. Frodo half
expected to see the small distant figure of a horseman on the ridge dark
against the sky; but there was no sign of one. The sun escaping from the
breaking clouds, as it sank towards the hills they had left, was now shining
brightly again. Their fear left them, though they still felt uneasy. But the
land became steadily more tame and well-ordered. Soon they came into
well-tended fields and meadows: there were hedges and gates and dikes for
drainage. Everything seemed quiet and peaceful, just an ordinary corner of
the Shire. Their spirits rose with every step. The line of the River grew
nearer; and the Black Riders began to seem like phantoms of the woods now
left far behind.
    They passed along the edge of a huge turnip-field, and came to a stout
gate. Beyond it a rutted lane ran between low well-laid hedges towards a
distant clump of trees. Pippin stopped.
    'I know these fields and this gate!' he said. 'This is Bamfurlong, old
Farmer Maggot's land. That's his farm away there in the trees.'
    'One trouble after another!' said Frodo, looking nearly as much alarmed
as if Pippin had declared the lane was the slot leading to a dragon's den.
The others looked at him in surprise.
    'What's wrong with old Maggot?' asked Pippin. 'He's a good friend to
all the Brandy bucks. Of course he's a terror to trespassers, and keeps
ferocious dogs - but after all, folk down here are near the border and have
to be more on their guard.'
    'I know,' said Frodo. 'But all the same,' he added with a shamefaced
laugh, 'I am terrified of him and his dogs. I have avoided his farm for
years and years. He caught me several times trespassing after mushrooms,
when I was a youngster at Brandy Hall. On the last occasion he beat me, and
then took me and showed me to his dogs. "See, lads," he said, "next time
this young varmint sets foot on my land, you can eat him. Now see him off!"
They chased me all the way to the Ferry. I have never got over the fright -
though I daresay the beasts knew their business and would not really have
touched me.'
    Pippin laughed. 'Well, it's time you made it up. Especially if you are
coming back to live in Buckland. Old Maggot is really a stout fellow - if
you leave his mushrooms alone. Let's get into the lane and then we shan't be
trespassing. If we meet him, I'll do the talking. He is a friend of Merry's,
and I used to come here with him a good deal at one time.'
    They went along the lane, until they saw the thatched roofs of a large
house and farm-buildings peeping out among the trees ahead. The Maggots,
and
the Puddifoots of Stock, and most of the inhabitants of the Marish, were
house-dwellers; and this farm was stoutly built of brick and had a high wall
all round it. There was a wide wooden gate opening out of the wall into the
lane.
     Suddenly as they drew nearer a terrific baying and barking broke out,
and a loud voice was heard shouting: 'Grip! Fang! Wolf! Come on, lads!'
     Frodo and Sam stopped dead, but Pippin walked on a few paces. The gate
opened and three huge dogs came pelting out into the lane, and dashed
towards the travellers, barking fiercely. They took no notice of Pippin; but
Sam shrank against the wall, while two wolvish-looking dogs sniffed at him
suspiciously, and snarled if he moved. The largest and most ferocious of the
three halted in front of Frodo, bristling and growling.
     Through the gate there now appeared a broad thick-set hobbit with a
round red face. 'Hallo! Hallo! And who may you be, and what may you be
wanting?' he asked.
     'Good afternoon, Mr. Maggot!' said Pippin.
     The farmer looked at him closely. 'Well, if it isn't Master Pippin -
Mr. Peregrin Took, I should say!' he cried, changing from a scowl to a grin.
'It's a long time since I saw you round here. It's lucky for you that I know
you. I was just going out to set my dogs on any strangers. There are some
funny things going on today. Of course, we do get queer folk wandering in
these parts at times. Too near the River,' he said, shaking his head. 'But
this fellow was the most outlandish I have ever set eyes on. He won't cross
my land without leave a second time, not if I can stop it.'
     'What fellow do you mean?' asked Pippin.
     'Then you haven't seen him?' said the farmer. 'He went up the lane
towards the causeway not a long while back. He was a funny customer and
asking funny questions. But perhaps you'll come along inside, and we'll pass
the news more comfortable. I've a drop of good ale on tap, if you and your
friends are willing, Mr. Took.'
     It seemed plain that the farmer would tell them more, if allowed to do
it in his own time and fashion, so they all accepted the invitation. 'What
about the dogs?' asked Frodo anxiously.
     The farmer laughed. 'They won't harm you - not unless I tell 'em to.
Here, Grip! Fang! Heel!' he cried. 'Heel, Wolf!' To the relief of Frodo and
Sam, the dogs walked away and let them go free.
     Pippin introduced the other two to the farmer. 'Mr. Frodo Baggins,' he
said. 'You may not remember him, but he used to live at Brandy Hall.' At the
name Baggins the farmer started, and gave Frodo a sharp glance. For a moment
Frodo thought that the memory of stolen mushrooms had been aroused, and
that
the dogs would be told to see him off. But Farmer Maggot took him by the
arm.
    'Well, if that isn't queerer than ever?' he exclaimed. 'Mr. Baggins is
it? Come inside! We must have a talk.'
    They went into the farmer's kitchen, and sat by the wide fire-place.
Mrs. Maggot brought out beer in a huge jug, and filled four large mugs. It
was a good brew, and Pippin found himself more than compensated for
missing
the Golden Perch. Sam sipped his beer suspiciously. He had a natural
mistrust of the inhabitants of other parts of the Shire; and also he was not
disposed to be quick friends with anyone who had beaten his master, however
long ago.
    After a few remarks about the weather and the agricultural prospects
(which were no worse than usual), Farmer Maggot put down his mug and
looked
at them all in turn.
    'Now, Mr. Peregrin,' he said, 'where might you be coming from, and
where might you be going to? Were you coming to visit' me? For, if so, you
had gone past my gate without my seeing you.'
    'Well, no,' answered Pippin. 'To tell you the truth, since you have
guessed it, we got into the lane from the other end: we had come over your
fields. But that was quite by accident. We lost our way in the woods, back
near Woodhall, trying to take a short cut to the Ferry.'
    'If you were in a hurry, the road would have served you better,' said
the farmer. 'But I wasn't worrying about that. You have leave to walk over
my land, if you have a mind, Mr. Peregrin. And you, Mr. Baggins - though I
daresay you still like mushrooms.' He laughed. 'Ah yes, I recognized the
name. I recollect the time when young Frodo Baggins was one of the worst
young rascals of Buckland. But it wasn't mushrooms I was thinking of. I had
just heard the name Baggins before you turned up. What do you think that
funny customer asked me?'
    They waited anxiously for him to go on. 'Well,' the farmer continued,
approaching his point with slow relish, 'he came riding on a big black horse
in at the gate, which happened to be open, and right up to my door. All
black he was himself, too, and cloaked and hooded up, as if he did not want
to be known. "Now what in the Shire can he want?" I thought to myself. We
don't see many of the Big Folk over the border; and anyway I had never heard
of any like this black fellow.
    ' "Good-day to you!" I says, going out to him. "This lane don't lead
anywhere, and wherever you may be going, your quickest way will be back to
the road." I didn't like the looks of him; and when Grip came out, he took
one sniff and let out a yelp as if he had been slung: he put down his tail
and bolted off howling. The black fellow sat quite still.
    ' "I come from yonder," he said, slow and stiff-like, pointing back
west, over my fields, if you please. "Have you seen Baggins?" he asked in a
queer voice, and bent down towards me. I could not see any face, for his
hood fell down so low; and I felt a sort of shiver down my back. But I did
not see why he should come riding over my land so bold.
    ' "Be off!" I said. "There are no Bagginses here. You're in the wrong
part of the Shire. You had better go back west to Hobbiton - but you can go
by road this time."
    ' "Baggins has left," he answered in a whisper. "He is coming. He is
not far away. I wish to find him. If he passes will you tell me? I will come
back with gold."
    ' "No you won't," I said. "You'll go back where you belong, double
quick. I give you one minute before I call all my dogs."
    'He gave a sort of hiss. It might have been laughing, and it might not.
Then he spurred his great horse right at me, and I jumped out of the way
only just in time. I called the dogs, but he swung off, and rode through the
gate and up the lane towards the causeway like a bolt of thunder. What do
you think of that?'
    Frodo sat for a moment looking at the fire, but his only thought was
how on earth would they reach the Ferry. 'I don't know what to think,' he
said at last.
    'Then I'll tell you what to think,' said Maggot. 'You should never have
gone mixing yourself up with Hobbiton folk, Mr. Frodo. Folk are queer up
there.' Sam stirred in his chair, and looked at the farmer with an
unfriendly eye. 'But you were always a reckless lad. When I heard you had
left the Brandybucks and gone off to that old Mr. Bilbo, I said that you
were going to find trouble. Mark my words, this all comes of those strange
doings of Mr. Bilbo's. His money was got in some strange fashion in foreign
parts, they say. Maybe there is some that want to know what has become of
the gold and jewels that he buried in the hill of Hobbiton, as I hear?'
    Frodo said nothing: the shrewd guesses of the farmer were rather
disconcerting.
    'Well, Mr. Frodo,' Maggot went on, 'I'm glad that you've had the sense
to come back to Buckland. My advice is: stay there! And don't get mixed up
with these outlandish folk. You'll have friends in these parts. If any of
these black fellows come after you again, I'll deal with them. I'll say
you're dead, or have left the Shire, or anything you like. And that might be
true enough; for as like as not it is old Mr. Bilbo they want news of.'
    'Maybe you're right,' said Frodo, avoiding the farmer's eye and staring
at the fire.
    Maggot looked at him thoughtfully. 'Well, I see you have ideas of your
own,' he said. 'It is as plain as my nose that no accident brought you and
that rider here on the same afternoon; and maybe my news was no great news
to you, after all. I am not asking you to tell me anything you have a mind
to keep to yourself; but I see you are in some kind of trouble. Perhaps you
are thinking it won't be too easy to get to the Ferry without being caught?'
     'I was thinking so,' said Frodo. 'But we have got to try and get there;
and it won't be done by sitting and thinking. So I am afraid we must be
going. Thank you very much indeed for your kindness! I've been in terror of
you and your dogs for over thirty years, Farmer Maggot, though you may laugh
to hear it. It's a pity: for I've missed a good friend. And now I'm sorry to
leave so soon. But I'll come back, perhaps, one day - if I get a chance.'
    'You'll be welcome when you come,' said Maggot. 'But now I've a notion.
It's near sundown already, and we are going to have our supper; for we
mostly go to bed soon after the Sun. If you and Mr. Peregrin and all could
stay and have a bite with us, we would be pleased!'
    'And so should we!' said Frodo. 'But we must be going at once, I'm
afraid. Even now it will be dark before we can reach the Ferry.'
    'Ah! but wait a minute! I was going to say: after a bit of supper, I'll
gel out a small waggon, and I'll drive you all to the Ferry. That will save
you a good step, and it might also save you trouble of another sort.'
    Frodo now accepted the invitation gratefully, to the relief of Pippin
and Sam. The sun was already behind the western hills, and the light was
failing. Two of Maggot's sons and his three daughters came in, and a
generous supper was laid on the large table. The kitchen was lit with
candles and the fire was mended. Mrs. Maggot hustled in and out. One or two
other hobbits belonging to the farm-household came in. In a short while
fourteen sat down to eat. There was beer in plenty, and a mighty dish of
mushrooms and bacon, besides much other solid farmhouse fare. The dogs lay
by the fire and gnawed rinds and cracked bones.
     When they had finished, the farmer and his sons went out with a lantern
and got the waggon ready. It was dark in the yard, when the guests came out.
They threw their packs on board and climbed in. The farmer sat in the
driving-seat, and whipped up his two stout ponies. His wife stood in the
light of the open door.
     'You be careful of yourself. Maggot!' she called. 'Don't go arguing
with any foreigners, and come straight back!'
     'I will!' said he, and drove out of the gate. There was now no breath
of wind stirring; the night was still and quiet, and a chill was in the air.
They went without lights and took it slowly. After a mile or two the lane
came to an end, crossing a deep dike, and climbing a short slope up on to
the high-banked causeway.
    Maggot got down and took a good look either way, north and south, but
nothing could be seen in the darkness, and there was not a sound in the
still air. Thin strands of river-mist were hanging above the dikes, and
crawling over the fields.
     'It's going to be thick,' said Maggot; 'but I'll not light my lantern
till I turn for home. We'll hear anything on the road long before we meet it
tonight.'
     It was five miles or more from Maggot's lane to the Ferry. The hobbits
wrapped themselves up, but their ears were strained for any sound above the
creak of the wheels and the slow clop of the ponies' hoofs. The waggon
seemed slower than a snail to Frodo. Beside him Pippin was nodding towards
sleep; but Sam was staring forwards into the rising fog.
    They reached the entrance to the Ferry lane at last. It was marked by
two tall white posts that suddenly loomed up on their right. Farmer Maggot
drew in his ponies and the waggon creaked to a halt. They were just
beginning lo scramble out, when suddenly they heard what they had all been
dreading: hoofs on the road ahead. The sound was coming towards them.
     Maggot jumped down and stood holding the ponies' heads, and peering
forward into the gloom. Clip-clop, clip-clop came the approaching rider. The
fall of the hoofs sounded loud in the still, foggy air.
    'You'd better be hidden, Mr. Frodo,' said Sam anxiously. 'You get down
in the waggon and cover up with blankets, and we'll send this rider to the
rightabouts!' He climbed out and went to the farmer's side. Black Riders
would have to ride over him to get near the waggon.
    Clop-clop, clop-clop. The rider was nearly on them.
    'Hallo there!' called Farmer Maggot. The advancing hoofs stopped short.
They thought they could dimly guess a dark cloaked shape in the mist, a yard
or two ahead. 'Now then!' said the farmer, throwing the reins to Sam and
striding forward. 'Don't you come a step nearer! What do you want, and where
are you going?'
    'I want Mr. Baggins. Have you seen him?' said a muffled voice - but the
voice was the voice of Merry Brandybuck. A dark lantern was uncovered, and
its light fell on the astonished face of the farmer.
    'Mr. Merry!' he cried.
    'Yes, of course! Who did you think it was?' said Merry coming forward.
As he came out of the mist and their fears subsided, he seemed suddenly to
diminish to ordinary hobbit-size. He was riding a pony, and a scarf was
swathed round his neck and over his chin to keep out the fog.
    Frodo sprang out of the waggon to greet him. 'So there you are at
last!' said Merry. 'I was beginning to wonder if you would turn up at all
today, and I was just going back to supper. When it grew foggy I came across
and rode up towards Stock to see if you had fallen in any ditches. But I'm
blest if I know which way you have come. Where did you find them, Mr.
Maggot? In your duck-pond?'
    'No, I caught 'em trespassing,' said the farmer, 'and nearly set my
dogs on 'em; but they'll tell you all the story, I've no doubt. Now, if
you'll excuse me, Mr. Merry and Mr. Frodo and all, I'd best be turning for
home. Mrs. Maggot will be worriting with the night getting thick.'
    He backed the waggon into the lane and turned it. 'Well, good night to
you all,' he said. 'It's been a queer day, and no mistake. But all's well as
ends well; though perhaps we should not say that until we reach our own
doors. I'll not deny that I'll be glad now when I do.' He lit his lanterns,
and got up. Suddenly he produced a large basket from under the seat. 'I was
nearly forgetting,' he said. 'Mrs. Maggot put this up for Mr. Baggins, with
her compliments.' He handed it down and moved off, followed by a chorus of
thanks and good-nights.
    They watched the pale rings of light round his lanterns as they
dwindled into the foggy night. Suddenly Frodo laughed: from the covered
basket he held, the scent of mushrooms was rising.
     Chapter 5. A Conspiracy Unmasked

    'Now we had better get home ourselves,' said Merry. There's something
funny about all this, I see; but it must wait till we get in.'
    They turned down the Ferry lane, which was straight and well-kept and
edged with large white-washed stones. In a hundred yards or so it brought
them to the river-bank, where there was a broad wooden landing-stage. A
large flat ferry-boat was moored beside it. The white bollards near the
water's edge glimmered in the light of two lamps on high posts. Behind them
the mists in the flat fields were now above the hedges; but the water before
them was dark, with only a few curling wisps like steam among the reeds by
the bank. There seemed to be less fog on the further side.
    Merry led the pony over a gangway on to the ferry, and the others
followed. Merry then pushed slowly off with a long pole. The Brandywine
flowed slow and broad before them. On the other side the bank was steep, and
up it a winding path climbed from the further landing. Lamps were twinkling
there. Behind loomed up the Buck Hill; and out of it, through stray shrouds
of mist, shone many round windows, yellow and red. They were the windows
of
Brandy Hall, the ancient home of the Brandybucks.
    Long ago Gorhendad Oldbuck, head of the Oldbuck family, one of the
oldest in the Marish or indeed in the Shire, had crossed the river, which
was the original boundary of the land eastwards. He built (and excavated)
Brandy Hall, changed his name to Brandybuck, and settled down to become
master of what was virtually a small independent country. His family grew
and grew, and after his days continued to grow, until Brandy Hall occupied
the whole of the low hill, and had three large front-doors, many side-doors,
and about a hundred windows. The Brandybucks and their numerous
dependants
then began to burrow, and later to build, all round about. That was the
origin of Buckland, a thickly inhabited strip between the river and the Old
Forest, a sort of colony from the Shire. Its chief village was Bucklebury,
clustering in the banks and slopes behind Brandy Hall.
    The people in the Marish were friendly with the Bucklanders, and the
authority of the Master of the Hall (as the head of the Brandybuck family
was called) was still acknowledged by the farmers between Stock and Rushey.
But most of the folk of the old Shire regarded the Bucklanders as peculiar,
half foreigners as it were. Though, as a matter of fact, they were not very
different from the other hobbits of the Four Farthings. Except in one point:
they were fond of boats, and some of them could swim.
    Their land was originally unprotected from the East; but on that side
they had built a hedge: the High Hay. It had been planted many generations
ago, and was now thick and tail, for it was constantly tended. It ran all
the way from Brandywine Bridge, in a big loop curving away from the river,
to Haysend (where the Withywindle flowed out of the Forest into the
Brandywine): well over twenty miles from end to end. But, of course, it was
not a complete protection. The Forest drew close to the hedge in many
places. The Bucklanders kept their doors locked after dark, and that also
was not usual in the Shire.
    The ferry-boat moved slowly across the water. The Buckland shore drew
nearer. Sam was the only member of the party who had not been over the river
before. He had a strange feeling as the slow gurgling stream slipped by: his
old life lay behind in the mists, dark adventure lay in front. He scratched
his head, and for a moment had a passing wish that Mr. Frodo could have gone
on living quietly at Bag End.
    The four hobbits stepped off the ferry. Merry was tying it up, and
Pippin was already leading the pony up the path, when Sam (who had been
looking back, as if to take farewell of the Shire) said in a hoarse whisper:
    'Look back, Mr. Frodo! Do you see anything?'
    On the far stage, under the distant lamps, they could just make out a
figure: it looked like a dark black bundle left behind. But as they looked
it seemed to move and sway this way and that, as if searching the ground. It
then crawled, or went crouching, back into the gloom beyond the lamps.
    'What in the Shire is that?' exclaimed Merry.
    'Something that is following us,' said Frodo. 'But don't ask any more
now! Let's get away at once!' They hurried up the path to the top of the
bank, but when they looked back the far shore was shrouded in mist, and
nothing could be seen.
    'Thank goodness you don't keep any boats on the west-bank!' said Frodo.
'Can horses cross the river?'
    'They can go twenty miles north to Brandywine Bridge - or they might
swim,' answered Merry. 'Though I never heard of any horse swimming the
Brandywine. But what have horses to do with it?' I'll tell you later. Let's
get indoors and then we can talk.'
    'All right! You and Pippin know your way; so I'll just ride on and tell
Fatty Bolger that you are coming. We'll see about supper and things.'
    'We had our supper early with Farmer Maggot,' said Frodo; 'but we could
do with another.'
    'You shall have it! Give me that basket!' said Merry, and rode ahead
into the darkness.
    It was some distance from the Brandywine to Frodo's new house at
Crickhollow. They passed Buck Hill and Brandy Hall on their left, and on the
outskirts of Bucklebury struck the main road of Buckland that ran south from
the Bridge. Half a mile northward along this they came to a lane opening on
their right. This they followed for a couple of miles as it climbed up and
down into the country.
    At last they came to a narrow gate in a thick hedge. Nothing could be
seen of the house in the dark: it stood back from the lane in the middle of
a wide circle of lawn surrounded by a belt of low trees inside the outer
hedge. Frodo had chosen it, because it stood in an out-of-the-way corner of
the country, and there were no other dwellings close by. You could get in
and out without being noticed. It had been built a long while before by the
Brandybucks, for the use of guests, or members of the family that wished to
escape from the crowded life of Brandy Hall for a time. It was an
old-fashioned countrified house, as much like a hobbit-hole as possible: it
was long and low, with no upper storey; and it had a roof of turf, round
windows, and a large round door.
    As they walked lip the green path from the gate no light was visible;
the windows were dark and shuttered. Frodo knocked on the door, and Fatty
Bolger opened it. A friendly light streamed out. They slipped in quickly and
shut themselves and the light inside. They were in a wide hall with doors on
either side; in front of them a passage ran back down the middle of the
house.
    'Well, what do you think of it?' asked Merry coming up the passage. 'We
have done our best in a short time to make it look like home. After all
Fatty and I only got here with the last cart-load yesterday.'
   Frodo looked round. It did look like home. Many of his own favourite
things - or Bilbo's things (they reminded him sharply of him in their new
selling) - were arranged as nearly as possible as they had been at Bag End.
It was a pleasant, comfortable, welcoming place; and he found himself
wishing that he was really coming here to settle down in quiet retirement.
It seemed unfair to have put his friends to all this trouble; and he
wondered again how he was going to break the news to them that he must leave
them so soon, indeed at once. Yet that would have to be done that very
night, before they all went to bed.
    'It's delightful!' he said with an effort. 'I hardly feel that I have
moved at all.'
    The travellers hung up their cloaks, and piled their packs on the
floor. Merry led them down the passage and threw open a door at the far end.
Firelight came out, and a puff of steam.
    'A bath!' cried Pippin. 'O blessed Meriadoc!'
    'Which order shall we go in?' said Frodo. 'Eldest first, or quickest
first? You'll be last either way, Master Peregrin.'
    'Trust me to arrange things better than that!' said Merry. 'We can't
begin life at Crickhollow with a quarrel over baths. In that room there are
three tubs, and a copper full of boiling water. There are also towels, mats
and soap. Get inside, and be quick!'
    Merry and Fatty went into the kitchen on the other side of the passage,
and busied themselves with the final preparations for a late supper.
Snatches of competing songs came from the bathroom mixed with the sound
of
splashing and wallowing. The voice of Pippin was suddenly lifted up above
the others in one of Bilbo's favourite bath-songs.
    Sing hey! for the bath at close of day
    that washes the weary mud away!
    A loon is he that will not sing:
    O! Water Hot is a noble thing!

  O! Sweet is the sound of falling rain,
  and the brook that leaps from hill to plain;
  but better than rain or rippling streams
  is Water Hot that smokes and steams.

  O! Water cold we may pour at need
  down a thirsty throat and be glad indeed;
  but better is Beer, if drink we lack,
  and Water Hot poured down the back.

    O! Water is fair that leaps on high
    in a fountain white beneath the sky;
    but never did fountain sound so sweet
    as splashing Hot Water with my feet!
    There was a terrific splash, and a shout of Whoa! from Frodo. It
appeared that a lot of Pippin's bath had imitated a fountain and leaped on
high.
    Merry went to the door: 'What about supper and beer in the throat?' he
called. Frodo came out drying his hair.
    'There's so much water in the air that I'm coming into the kitchen to
finish,' he said.
    'Lawks!' said Merry, looking in. The stone floor was swimming. 'You
ought to mop all that up before you get anything to eat. Peregrin,' he said.
'Hurry up, or we shan't wait for you.'
    They had supper in the kitchen on a table near the fire. 'I suppose you
three won't want mushrooms again?' said Fredegar without much hope.
    'Yes we shall!' cried Pippin.
    'They're mine!' said Frodo. 'Given to me by Mrs. Maggot, a queen among
farmers' wives. Take your greedy hands away, and I'll serve them.'
    Hobbits have a passion for mushrooms, surpassing even the greediest
likings of Big People. A fact which partly explains young Frodo's long
expeditions to the renowned fields of the Marish, and the wrath of the
injured Maggot. On this occasion there was plenty for all, even according to
hobbit standards. There were also many other things to follow, and when they
had finished even Fatty Bolger heaved a sigh of content. They pushed back
the table, and drew chairs round the fire.
    'We'll clear up later,' said Merry. 'Now tell me all about it! I guess
that you have been having adventures, which was not quite fair without me. I
want a full account; and most of all I want to know what was the matter with
old Maggot, and why he spoke to me like that. He sounded almost as if he was
scared, if that is possible.'
    'We have all been scared,' said Pippin after a pause, in which Frodo
stared at the fire and did not speak. 'You would have been, too, if you had
been chased for two days by Black Riders.'
    'And what are they?'
    'Black figures riding on black horses,' answered Pippin. 'If Frodo
won't talk, I will tell you the whole tale from the beginning.' He then gave
a full account of their journey from the time when they left Hobbiton. Sam
gave various supporting nods and exclamations. Frodo remained silent.
    'I should think you were making it all up,' said Merry, 'if I had not
seen that black shape on the landing-stage - and heard the queer sound in
Maggot's voice. What do you make of it all, Frodo?'
    'Cousin Frodo has been very close,' said Pippin. 'But the time has come
for him to open out. So far we have been given nothing more to go on than
Farmer Maggot's guess that it has something to do with old Bilbo's
treasure.'
    'That was only a guess,' said Frodo hastily. 'Maggot does not know
anything.'
    'Old Maggot is a shrewd fellow,' said Merry. 'A lot goes on behind his
round face that does not come out in his talk. I've heard that he used to go
into the Old Forest at one time, and he has the reputation of knowing a good
many strange things. But you can at least tell us, Frodo, whether you think
his guess good or bad.'
    'I think,' answered Frodo slowly, 'that it was a good guess, as far as
it goes. There is a connexion with Bilbo's old adventures, and the Riders
are looking, or perhaps one ought to say searching, for him or for me. I
also fear, if you want to know, that it is no joke at all; and that I am not
safe here or anywhere else.' He looked round at the windows and walls, as if
he was afraid they would suddenly give way. The others looked at him in
silence, and exchanged meaning glances among themselves.
    'It's coming out in a minute,' whispered Pippin to Merry. Merry nodded.
    'Well!' said Frodo at last, sitting up and straightening his back, as
if he had made a decision. 'I can't keep it dark any longer. I have got
something to tell you all. But I don't know quite how to begin.'
    'I think I could help you,' said Merry quietly, 'by telling you some of
it myself.'
    'What do you mean?' said Frodo, looking at him anxiously. 'Just this,
my dear old Frodo: you are miserable, because you don't know how to say
good-bye. You meant to leave the Shire, of course. But danger has come on
you sooner than you expected, and now you are making up your mind to go at
once. And you don't want to. We are very sorry for you.'
    Frodo opened his mouth and shut it again. His look of surprise was so
comical that they laughed. 'Dear old Frodo!' said Pippin. 'Did you really
think you had thrown dust in all our eyes? You have not been nearly careful
or clever enough for that! You have obviously been planning to go and saying
farewell to all your haunts all this year since April. We have constantly
heard you muttering: "Shall I ever look down into that valley again, I
wonder", and things like that. And pretending that you had come to the end
of your money, and actually selling your beloved Bag End to those
Sackville-Bagginses! And all those close talks with Gandalf.'
   'Good heavens!' said Frodo. 'I thought I had been both careful and
clever. I don't know what Gandalf would say. Is all the Shire discussing my
departure then?'
   'Oh no!' said Merry. 'Don't worry about that! The secret won't keep for
long, of course; but at present it is, I think, only known to us
conspirators. After all, you must remember that we know you well, and are
often with you. We can usually guess what you are thinking. I knew Bilbo,
too. To tell you the truth, I had been watching you rather closely ever
since he left. I thought you would go after him sooner or later; indeed I
expected you to go sooner, and lately we have been very anxious. We have
been terrified that you might give us the slip, and go off suddenly, all on
your own like he did. Ever since this spring we have kept our eyes open, and
done a good deal of planning on our own account. You are not going to escape
so easily!'
   'But I must go,' said Frodo. 'It cannot be helped, dear friends. It is
wretched for us all, but it is no use your trying to keep me. Since you have
guessed so much, please help me and do not hinder me!'
   'You do not understand!' said Pippin. 'You must go - and therefore we
must, too. Merry and I are coming with you. Sam is an excellent fellow, and
would jump down a dragon's throat to save you, if he did not trip over his
own feet; but you will need more than one companion in your dangerous
adventure.'
   'My dear and most beloved hobbits!' said Frodo deeply moved. 'But I
could not allow it. I decided that long ago, too. You speak of danger, but
you do not understand. This is no treasure-hunt, no there-and-back journey.
I am flying from deadly peril into deadly peril.'
   'Of course we understand,' said Merry firmly. 'That is why we have
decided to come. We know the Ring is no laughing-matter; but we are going to
do our best to help you against the Enemy.'
   'The Ring!' said Frodo, now completely amazed.
    'Yes, the Ring,' said Merry. 'My dear old hobbit, you don't allow for
the inquisitiveness of friends. I have known about the existence of the Ring
for years - before Bilbo went away, in fact; but since he obviously regarded
it as secret, I kept the knowledge in my head, until we formed our
conspiracy. I did not know Bilbo, of course, as well as I know you; I was
too young, and he was also more careful - but he was not careful enough. If
you want to know how I first found out, I will tell you.'
   'Go on!' said Frodo faintly.
   'It was the Sackville-Bagginses that were his downfall, as you might
expect. One day, a year before the Party, I happened to be walking along the
road, when I saw Bilbo ahead. Suddenly in the distance the S.-B.s appeared,
coming towards us. Bilbo slowed down, and then hey presto! he vanished. I
was so startled that I hardly had the wits to hide myself in a more ordinary
fashion; but I got through the hedge and walked along the field inside. I
was peeping through into the road, after the S.-B.s had passed, and was
looking straight at Bilbo when he suddenly reappeared. I caught a glint of
gold as he put something back in his trouser-pocket.
   'After that I kept my eyes open. In fact, I confess that I spied. But
you must admit that it was very intriguing, and I was only in my teens. I
must be the only one in the Shire, besides you Frodo, that has ever seen the
old fellow's secret book.'
   'You have read his book!' cried Frodo. 'Good heavens above! Is nothing
safe?'
   'Not too safe, I should say,' said Merry. 'But I have only had one
rapid glance, and that was difficult to get. He never left the book about. I
wonder what became of it. I should like another look. Have you got it,
Frodo?'
    'No. It was not at Bag End. He must have taken it away.'
    'Well, as I was saying,' Merry proceeded, 'I kept my knowledge to
myself, till this Spring when things got serious. Then we formed our
conspiracy; and as we were serious, too, and meant business, we have not
been too scrupulous. You are not a very easy nut to crack, and Gandalf is
worse. But if you want to be introduced to our chief investigator, I can
produce him.'
   'Where is he?' said Frodo, looking round, as if he expected a masked
and sinister figure to come out of a cupboard.
     'Step forward, Sam!' said Merry; and Sam stood up with a face scarlet
up to the ears. 'Here's our collector of information! And he collected a
lot, I can tell you, before he was finally caught. After which, I may say,
he seemed to regard himself as on parole, and dried up.'
     'Sam!' cried Frodo, feeling that amazement could go no further, and
quite unable to decide whether he felt angry, amused, relieved, or merely
foolish.
     'Yes, sir!' said Sam. 'Begging your pardon, sir! But I meant no wrong
to you, Mr. Frodo, nor to Mr. Gandalf for that matter. He has some sense,
mind you; and when you said go alone, he said no! lake someone as you can
trust.'
     'But it does not seem that I can trust anyone,' said Frodo. Sam looked
at him unhappily. 'It all depends on what you want,' put in Merry. 'You can
trust us to stick to you through thick and thin - to the bitter end. And you
can trust us to keep any secret of yours - closer than you keep it yourself.
But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a
word. We are your friends, Frodo. Anyway: there it is. We know most of what
Gandalf has told you. We know a good deal about the Ring. We are horribly
afraid - but we are coming with you; or following you like hounds.'
     'And after all, sir,' added Sam, 'you did ought to take the Elves'
advice. Gildor said you should take them as was willing, and you can't deny
it.'
     'I don't deny it,' said Frodo, looking at Sam, who was now grinning. 'I
don't deny it, but I'll never believe you are sleeping again, whether you
snore or not. I shall kick you hard to make sure.
     'You are a set of deceitful scoundrels!' he said, turning to the
others. 'But bless you!' he laughed, getting up and waving his arms, 'I give
in. I will take Gildor's advice. If the danger were not so dark, I should
dance for joy. Even so, I cannot help feeling happy; happier than I have
felt for a long time. I had dreaded this evening.'
     'Good! That's settled. Three cheers for Captain Frodo and company!'
they shouted; and they danced round him. Merry and Pippin began a song,
which they had apparently got ready for the occasion.
     It was made on the model of the dwarf-song that started Bilbo on his
adventure long ago, and went to the same tune:
     Farewell we call to hearth and hall!
     Though wind may blow and rain may fall,
   We must away ere break of day
   Far over wood and mountain tall.

  To Rivendell, where Elves yet dwell
  In glades beneath the misty fell,
  Through moor and waste we ride in haste,
  And whither then we cannot tell.

  With foes ahead, behind us dread,
  Beneath the sky shall be our bed,
  Until at last our toil be passed,
  Our journey done, our errand sped.

    We must away! We must away!
    We ride before the break of day!
    'Very good!' said Frodo. 'But in that case there are a lot of things to
do before we go to bed - under a roof, for tonight at any rate.'
     'Oh! That was poetry!' said Pippin. 'Do you really mean to start before
the break of day?'
    'I don't know,' answered Frodo. 'I fear those Black Riders, and I am
sure it is unsafe to stay in one place long, especially in a place to which
it is known I was going. Also Gildor advised me not to wait. But I should
very much like to see Gandalf. I could see that even Gildor was disturbed
when he heard that Gandalf had never appeared. It really depends on two
things. How soon could the Riders get to Bucklebury? And how soon could
we
get off? It will take a good deal of preparation.'
    'The answer to the second question,' said Merry, 'is that we could get
off in an hour. I have prepared practically everything. There are six ponies
in a stable across the fields; stores and tackle are all packed, except for
a few extra clothes, and the perishable food.'
     'It seems to have been a very efficient conspiracy,' said Frodo. 'But
what about the Black Riders? Would it be safe to wait one day for Gandalf?'
    'That all depends on what you think the Riders would do, if they found
you here,' answered Merry. 'They could have reached here by now, of course,
if they were not stopped at the North-gate, where the Hedge runs down to the
river-bank, just this side of the Bridge. The gate-guards would not let them
through by night, though they might break through. Even in the daylight they
would try to keep them out, I think, at any rate until they got a message
through to the Master of the Hall - for they would not like the look of the
Riders, and would certainly be frightened by them. But, of course, Buckland
cannot resist a determined attack for long. And it is possible that in the
morning even a Black Rider that rode up and asked for Mr. Baggins would be
let through. It is pretty generally known that you are coming back to live
at Crickhollow.'
    Frodo sat for a while in thought. 'I have made up my mind,' he said
finally. 'I am starting tomorrow, as soon as it is light. But I am not going
by road: it would be safer to wait here than that. If I go through the
North-gate my departure from Buckland will be known at once, instead of
being secret for several days at least, as it might be. And what is more,
the Bridge and the East Road near the borders will certainly be watched,
whether any Rider gets into Buckland or not. We don't know how many there
are; but there are at least two, and possibly more. The only thing to do is
to go off in a quite unexpected direction.'
    'But that can only mean going into the Old Forest!' said Fredegar
horrified. 'You can't be thinking of doing that. It is quite as dangerous as
Black Riders.'
    'Not quite,' said Merry. It sounds very desperate, but I believe Frodo
is right. It is the only way of getting off without being followed at once.
With luck we might gel a considerable start.'
    'But you won't have any luck in the Old Forest,' objected Fredegar. 'No
one ever has luck in there. You'll gel lost. People don't go in there.'
    'Oh yes they do!' said Merry. 'The Brandybucks go in - occasionally
when the fit takes them. We have a private entrance. Frodo went in once,
long ago. I have been in several times: usually in daylight, of course, when
the trees are sleepy and fairly quiet.'
    'Well, do as you think best!' said Fredegar. 'I am more afraid of the
Old Forest than of anything I know about: the stories about it are a
nightmare; but my vote hardly counts, as I am not going on the journey.
Still, I am very glad someone is stopping behind, who can tell Gandalf what
you have done, when he turns up, as I am sure he will before long.'
    Fond as he was of Frodo, Fatty Bolger had no desire to leave the Shire,
nor to see what lay outside it. His family came from the Eastfarthing, from
Budgeford in Bridgefields in fact, but he had never been over the Brandywine
Bridge. His task, according to the original plans of the conspirators, was
to stay behind and deal with inquisitive folk, and to keep up as long as
possible the pretence that Mr. Baggins was still living at Crickhollow. He
had even brought along some old clothes of Frodo's to help him in playing
the part. They little thought how dangerous that part might prove.
    'Excellent!' said Frodo, when he understood the plan. 'We could not
have left any message behind for Gandalf otherwise. I don't know whether
these Riders can read or not, of course, but I should not have dared to risk
a written message, in case they got in and searched the house. But if Fatty
is willing to hold the fort, and I can be sure of Gandalf knowing the way we
have gone, that decides me. I am going into the Old Forest first thing
tomorrow.'
    'Well, that's that,' said Pippin. 'On the whole I would rather have our
job than Fatty's - waiting here till Black Riders come.'
    'You wait till you are well inside the Forest,' said Fredegar. 'You'll
wish you were back here with me before this time tomorrow.'
    'It's no good arguing about it any more,' said Merry. 'We have still
got to tidy up and put the finishing touches to the packing, before we get
to bed. I shall call you all before the break of day.'
    When at last he had got to bed, Frodo could not sleep for some time.
His legs ached. He. was glad that he was riding in the morning. Eventually
he fell into a vague dream, in which he seemed to be looking out of a high
window over a dark sea of tangled trees. Down below among the roots there
was the sound of creatures crawling and snuffling. He felt sure they would
smell him out sooner or later.
    Then he heard a noise in the distance. At first he thought it was a
great wind coming over the leaves of the forest. Then he knew that it was
not leaves, but the sound of the Sea far-off; a sound he had never heard in
waking life, though it had often troubled his dreams. Suddenly he found he
was out in the open. There were no trees after all. He was on a dark heath,
and there was a strange salt smell in the air. Looking up he saw before him
a tall white tower, standing alone on a high ridge. A great desire came over
him to climb the tower and see the Sea. He started to struggle up the ridge
towards the tower: but suddenly a light came in the sky, and there was a
noise of thunder.
     Chapter 6. The Old Forest

    Frodo woke suddenly. It was still dark in the room. Merry was standing
there with a candle in one hand, and banging on the door with the other.
'All right! What is it?' said Frodo, still shaken and bewildered.
    'What is it!' cried Merry. 'It is time to get up. It is half past four
and very foggy. Come on! Sam is already getting breakfast ready. Even Pippin
is up. I am just going to saddle the ponies, and fetch the one that is to be
the baggage-carrier. Wake that sluggard Fatty! At least he must get up and
see us off.'
    Soon after six o'clock the five hobbits were ready to start. Fatty
Bolger was still yawning. They stole quietly out of the house. Merry went in
front leading a laden pony, and took his way along a path that went through
a spinney behind the house, and then cut across several fields. The leaves
of trees were glistening, and every twig was dripping; the grass was grey
with cold dew. Everything was still, and far-away noises seemed near and
clear: fowls chattering in a yard, someone closing a door of a distant
house.
    In their shed they found the ponies; sturdy little beasts of the kind
loved by hobbits, not speedy, but good for a long day's work. They mounted,
and soon they were riding off into the mist, which seemed to open
reluctantly before them and close forbiddingly behind them. After riding for
about an hour, slowly and without talking, they saw the Hedge looming
suddenly ahead. It was tall and netted over with silver cobwebs. 'How are
you going to get through this?' asked Fredegar. 'Follow me!' said Merry,
'and you will see.' He turned to the left along the Hedge, and soon they
came to a point where it bent inwards, running along the lip of a hollow. A
cutting had been made, at some distance from the Hedge, and went sloping
gently down into the ground. It had walls of brick at the sides, which rose
steadily, until suddenly they arched over and formed a tunnel that dived
deep under the Hedge and came out in the hollow on the other side.
    Here Fatty Bolger halted. 'Good-bye, Frodo!' he said. 'I wish you were
not going into the Forest. I only hope you will not need rescuing before the
day is out. But good luck to you - today and every day!'
    'If there are no worse things ahead than the Old Forest, I shall be
lucky,' said Frodo. 'Tell Gandalf to hurry along the East Road: we shall
soon be back on it and going as fast as we can.' 'Good-bye!' they cried, and
rode down the slope and disappeared from Fredegar's sight into the tunnel.
    It was dark and damp. At the far end it was closed by a gate of
thick-set iron bars. Merry got down and unlocked the gate, and when they had
all passed through he pushed it to again. It shut with a clang, and the lock
clicked. The sound was ominous.
    'There!' said Merry. 'You have left the Shire, and are now outside, and
on the edge of the Old Forest.'
    'Are the stories about it true?' asked Pippin.
    'I don't know what stories you mean,' Merry answered. 'If you mean the
old bogey-stories Fatty's nurses used to tell him, about goblins and wolves
and things of that sort, I should say no. At any rate I don't believe them.
But the Forest is queer. Everything in it is very much more alive, more
aware of what is going on, so to speak, than things are in the Shire. And
the trees do not like strangers. They watch you. They are usually content
merely to watch you, as long as daylight lasts, and don't do much.
Occasionally the most unfriendly ones may drop a branch, or stick a root
out, or grasp at you with a long trailer. But at night things can be most
alarming, or so I am told. I have only once or twice been in here after
dark, and then only near the hedge. I thought all the trees were whispering
to each other, passing news and plots along in an unintelligible language;
and the branches swayed and groped without any wind. They do say the trees
do actually move, and can surround strangers and hem them in. In fact long
ago they attacked the Hedge: they came and planted themselves right by it,
and leaned over it. But the hobbits came and cut down hundreds of trees, and
made a great bonfire in the Forest, and burned all the ground in a long
strip east of the Hedge. After that the trees gave up the attack, but they
became very unfriendly. There is still a wide bare space not far inside
where the bonfire was made.'
    'Is it only the trees that are dangerous?' asked Pippin.
    'There are various queer things living deep in the Forest, and on the
far side,' said Merry, 'or at least I have heard so; but I have never seen
any of them. But something makes paths. Whenever one comes inside one
finds
open tracks; but they seem to shift and change from time to time in a queer
fashion. Not far from this tunnel there is, or was for a long time, the
beginning of quite a broad path leading to the Bonfire Glade, and then on
more or less in our direction, east and a little north. That is the path I
am going to try and find.'
   The hobbits now left the tunnel-gate and rode across the wide hollow.
On the far side was a faint path leading up on to the floor of the Forest, a
hundred yards and more beyond the Hedge; but it vanished as soon as it
brought them under the trees. Looking back they could see the dark line of
the Hedge through the stems of trees that were already thick about them.
Looking ahead they could see only tree-trunks of innumerable sizes and
shapes: straight or bent, twisted, leaning, squat or slender, smooth or
gnarled and branched; and all the stems were green or grey with moss and
slimy, shaggy growths.
   Merry alone seemed fairly cheerful. 'You had better lead on and find
that path,' Frodo said to him. 'Don't let us lose one another, or forget
which way the Hedge lies!'
   They picked a way among the trees, and their ponies plodded along,
carefully avoiding the many writhing and interlacing roots. There was no
undergrowth. The ground was rising steadily, and as they went forward it
seemed that the trees became taller, darker, and thicker. There was no
sound, except an occasional drip of moisture falling through the still
leaves. For the moment there was no whispering or movement among the
branches; but they all got an uncomfortable feeling that they were being
watched with disapproval, deepening to dislike and even enmity. The feeling
steadily grew, until they found themselves looking up quickly, or glancing
back over their shoulders, as if they expected a sudden blow.
   There was not as yet any sign of a path, and the trees seemed
constantly to bar their way. Pippin suddenly felt that he could not bear it
any longer, and without warning let out a shout. 'Oi! Oi!' he cried. 'I am
not going to do anything. Just let me pass through, will you!'
   The others halted startled; but the cry fell as if muffled by a heavy
curtain. There was no echo or answer though the wood seemed to become
more
crowded and more watchful than before.
   'I should not shout, if I were you,' said Merry. It does more harm than
good.'
   Frodo began to wonder if it were possible to find a way through, and if
he had been right to make the others come into this abominable wood. Merry
was looking from side to side, and seemed already uncertain which way to go.
Pippin noticed it. 'It has not taken you long to lose us,' he said. But at
that moment Merry gave a whistle of relief and pointed ahead.
    'Well, well!' he said. 'These trees do shift. There is the Bonfire
Glade in front of us (or I hope so), but the path to it seems to have moved
away!'
    The light grew clearer as they went forward. Suddenly they came out of
the trees and found themselves in a wide circular space. There was sky above
them, blue and clear to their surprise, for down under the Forest-roof they
had not been able to see the rising morning and the lifting of the mist. The
sun was not, however, high enough yet to shine down into the clearing,
though its light was on the tree-tops. The leaves were all thicker and
greener about the edges of the glade, enclosing it with an almost solid
wall. No tree grew there, only rough grass and many tall plants: stalky and
faded hemlocks and wood-parsley, fire-weed seeding into fluffy ashes, and
rampant nettles and thistles. A dreary place: but it seemed a charming and
cheerful garden after the close Forest.
    The hobbits felt encouraged, and looked up hopefully at the broadening
daylight in the sky. At the far side of the glade there was a break in the
wall of trees, and a clear path beyond it. They could see it running on into
the wood, wide in places and open above, though every now and again the
trees drew in and overshadowed it with their dark boughs. Up this path they
rode. They were still climbing gently, but they now went much quicker, and
with better heart; for it seemed to them that the Forest had relented, and
was going to let them pass unhindered after all.
   But after a while the air began to get hot and stuffy. The trees drew
close again on either side, and they could no longer see far ahead. Now
stronger than ever they felt again the ill will of the wood pressing on
them. So silent was it that the fall of their ponies' hoofs, rustling on
dead leaves and occasionally stumbling on hidden roots, seemed to thud in
their ears. Frodo tried to sing a song to encourage them, but his voice sank
to a murmur.
   O! Wanderers in the shadowed land
   despair not! For though dark they stand,
   all woods there be must end at last,
   and see the open sun go past:
   the setting sun, the rising sun,
   the day's end, or the day begun.
    For east or west all woods must fail...
    Fail - even as he said the word his voice faded into silence. The air
seemed heavy and the making of words wearisome. Just behind them a large
branch fell from an old overhanging tree with a crash into the path. The
trees seemed to close in before them.
    'They do not like all that about ending and failing,' said Merry. 'I
should not sing any more at present. Wait till we do get to the edge, and
then we'll turn and give them a rousing chorus!'
    He spoke cheerfully, and if he felt any great anxiety, he did not show
it. The others did not answer. They were depressed. A heavy weight was
settling steadily on Frodo's heart, and he regretted now with every step
forward that he had ever thought of challenging the menace of the trees. He
was, indeed, just about to stop and propose going back (if that was still
possible), when things took a new turn. The path stopped climbing, and
became for a while nearly level. The dark trees drew aside, and ahead they
could see the path going almost straight forward. Before them, but some
distance off, there stood a green hill-top, treeless, rising like a bald
head out of the encircling wood. The path seemed to be making directly for
it.
    They now hurried forward again, delighted with the thought of climbing
out for a while above the roof of the Forest. The path dipped, and then
again began to climb upwards, leading them at last to the foot of the steep
hillside. There it left the trees and faded into the turf. The wood stood
all round the hill like thick hair that ended sharply in a circle round a
shaven crown.
    The hobbits led their ponies up, winding round and round until they
reached the top. There they stood and gazed about them. The air was gleaming
and sunlit, but hazy; and they could not see to any great distance. Near at
hand the mist was now almost gone; though here and there it lay in hollows
of the wood, and to the south of them, out of a deep fold cutting right
across the Forest, the fog still rose like steam or wisps of white smoke.
    'That,' said Merry, pointing with his hand, 'that is the line of the
Withywindle. It comes down out of the Downs and flows south-west through
the
midst of the Forest to join the Brandywine below Haysend. We don't want to
go that way! The Withywindle valley is said to be the queerest part of the
whole wood - the centre from which all the queerness comes, as it were.'
    The others looked in the direction that Merry pointed out, but they
could see little but mists over the damp and deep-cut valley; and beyond it
the southern half of the Forest faded from view.
    The sun on the hill-lop was now getting hot. It must have been about
eleven o'clock; but the autumn haze still prevented them from seeing much in
other directions. In the west they could not make out either the line of the
Hedge or the valley of the Brandywine beyond it. Northward, where they
looked most hopefully, they could see nothing that might be the line of the
great East Road, for which they were making. They were on an island in a sea
of trees, and the horizon was veiled.
    On the south-eastern side the ground fell very steeply, as if the
slopes of the hill were continued far down under the trees, like
island-shores that really are the sides of a mountain rising out of deep
waters. They sat on the green edge and looked out over the woods below them,
while they ate their mid-day meal. As the sun rose and passed noon they
glimpsed far off in the east the grey-green lines of the Downs that lay
beyond the Old Forest on that side. That cheered them greatly; for it was
good to see a sight of anything beyond the wood's borders, though they did
not mean to go that way, if they could help it: the Barrow-downs had as
sinister a reputation in hobbit-legend as the Forest itself.
    At length they made up their minds to go on again. The path that had
brought them to the hill reappeared on the northward side; but they had not
followed it far before they became aware that it was bending steadily to the
right. Soon it began to descend rapidly and they guessed that it must
actually be heading towards the Withywindle valley: not at all the direction
they wished lo take. After some discussion they decided to leave this
misleading path and strike northward; for although they had not been able to
see it from the hill-top, the Road must lie that way, and it could not be
many miles off. Also northward, and to the left of the path, the land seemed
lo be drier and more open, climbing up to slopes where the trees were
thinner, and pines and firs replaced the oaks and ashes and other strange
and nameless trees of the denser wood.
    At first their choice seemed to be good: they got along at a fair
speed, though whenever they got a glimpse of the sun in an open glade they
seemed unaccountably to have veered eastwards. But after a time the trees
began to close in again, just where they had appeared from a distance to be
thinner and less tangled. Then deep folds in the ground were discovered
unexpectedly, like the ruts of great giant-wheels or wide moats and sunken
roads long disused and choked with brambles. These lay usually right across
their line of march, and could only be crossed by scrambling down and out
again, which was troublesome and difficult with their ponies. Each time they
climbed down they found the hollow filled with thick bushes and matted
undergrowth, which somehow would not yield to the left, but only gave way
when they turned to the right; and they had to go some distance along the
bottom before they could find a way up the further bank. Each time they
clambered out, the trees seemed deeper and darker; and always to the left
and upwards it was most difficult to find a way, and they were forced to the
right and downwards.
   After an hour or two they had lost all clear sense of direction, though
they knew well enough that they had long ceased to go northward at all. They
were being headed off, and were simply following a course chosen for them -
eastwards and southwards, into the heart of the Forest and not out of it.
   The afternoon was wearing away when they scrambled and stumbled into a
fold that was wider and deeper than any they had yet met. It was so sleep
and overhung that it proved impossible to climb out of it again, either
forwards or backwards, without leaving their ponies and their baggage
behind. All they could do was to follow the fold - downwards. The ground
grew soft, and in places boggy; springs appeared in the banks, and soon they
found themselves following a brook that trickled and babbled through a weedy
bed. Then the ground began to fall rapidly, and the brook growing strong and
noisy, flowed and leaped swiftly downhill. They were in a deep dim-lit gully
over-arched by trees high above them.
   After stumbling along for some way along the stream, they came quite
suddenly out of the gloom. As if through a gate they saw the sunlight before
them. Coming to the opening they found that they had made their way down
through a cleft in a high sleep bank, almost a cliff. At its feet was a wide
space of grass and reeds; and in the distance could be glimpsed another bank
almost as steep. A golden afternoon of late sunshine lay warm and drowsy
upon the hidden land between. In the midst of it there wound lazily a dark
river of brown water, bordered with ancient willows, arched over with
willows, blocked with fallen willows, and flecked with thousands of faded
willow-leaves. The air was thick with them, fluttering yellow from the
branches; for there was a warm and gentle breeze blowing softly in the
valley, and the reeds were rustling, and the willow-boughs were creaking.
    'Well, now I have at least some notion of where we are!' said Merry.
'We have come almost in the opposite direction to which we intended. This is
the River Withywindle! I will go on and explore.'
    He passed out into the sunshine and disappeared into the long grasses.
After a while he reappeared, and reported that there was fairly solid ground
between the cliff-foot and the river; in some places firm turf went down to
the water's edge. 'What's more,' he said, 'there seems to be something like
a footpath winding along on this side of the river. If we turn left and
follow it, we shall be bound to come out on the east side of the Forest
eventually.'
    'I dare say!' said Pippin. 'That is, if the track goes on so far, and
does not simply lead us into a bog and leave us there. Who made the track,
do you suppose, and why? I am sure it was not for our benefit. I am getting
very suspicious of this Forest and everything in it, and I begin to believe
all the stories about it. And have you any idea how far eastward we should
have to go?'
    'No,' said Merry, 'I haven't. I don't know in the least how far down
the Withywindle we are, or who could possibly come here often enough to
make
a path along it. But there is no other way out that I can see or think of.'
    There being nothing else for it, they filed out, and Merry led them to
the path that he had discovered. Everywhere the reeds and grasses were lush
and tall, in places far above their heads; but once found, the path was easy
to follow, as it turned and twisted, picking out the sounder ground among
the bogs and pools. Here and there it passed over other rills, running down
gullies into the Withywindle out of the higher forest-lands, and at these
points there were tree-trunks or bundles of brushwood laid carefully across.
    The hobbits began to feel very hot. There were armies of flies of all
kinds buzzing round their ears, and the afternoon sun was burning on their
backs. At last they came suddenly into a thin shade; great grey branches
reached across the path. Each step forward became more reluctant than the
last. Sleepiness seemed to be creeping out of the ground and up their legs,
and falling softly out of the air upon their heads and eyes.
    Frodo felt his chin go down and his head nod. Just in front of him
Pippin fell forward on to his knees. Frodo halted. 'It's no good,' he heard
Merry saying. 'Can't go another step without rest. Must have nap. It's cool
under the willows. Less flies!'
    Frodo did not like the sound of this. 'Come on!' he cried. 'We can't
have a nap yet. We must get clear of the Forest first.' But the others were
too far gone to care. Beside them Sam stood yawning and blinking stupidly.
    Suddenly Frodo himself felt sleep overwhelming him. His head swam.
There now seemed hardly a sound in the air. The flies had stopped buzzing.
Only a gentle noise on the edge of hearing, a soft fluttering as of a song
half whispered, seemed to stir in the boughs above. He lifted his heavy eyes
and saw leaning over him a huge willow-tree, old and hoary. Enormous it
looked, its sprawling branches going up like reaching arms with many
long-fingered hands, its knotted and twisted trunk gaping in wide fissures
that creaked faintly as the boughs moved. The leaves fluttering against the
bright sky dazzled him, and he toppled over, lying where he fell upon the
grass.
    Merry and Pippin dragged themselves forward and lay down with their
backs to the willow-trunk. Behind them the great cracks gaped wide to
receive them as the tree swayed and creaked. They looked up at the grey and
yellow leaves, moving softly against the light, and singing. They shut their
eyes, and then it seemed that they could almost hear words, cool words,
saying something about water and sleep. They gave themselves up to the spell
and fell fast asleep at the foot of the great grey willow.
    Frodo lay for a while fighting with the sleep that was overpowering
him; then with an effort he struggled to his feel again. He felt a
compelling desire for cool water. 'Wait for me, Sam,' he stammered. 'Must
bathe feet a minute.'
    Half in a dream he wandered forward to the riverward side of the tree,
where great winding roots grew out into the stream, like gnarled dragonets
straining down to drink. He straddled one of these, and paddled his hot feel
in the cool brown water; and there he too suddenly fell asleep with his back
against the tree.
    Sam sat down and scratched his head, and yawned like a cavern. He was
worried. The afternoon was getting late, and he thought this sudden
sleepiness uncanny. 'There's more behind this than sun and warm air,' he
muttered to himself. 'I don't like this great big tree. I don't trust it.
Hark at it singing about sleep now! This won't do at all!'
    He pulled himself to his feet, and staggered off to see what had become
of the ponies. He found that two had wandered on a good way along the path;
and he had just caught them and brought them back towards the others, when
he heard two noises; one loud, and the other soft but very clear. One was
the splash of something heavy falling into the water; the other was a noise
like the snick of a lock when a door quietly closes fast.
    He rushed back to the bank. Frodo was in the water close to the edge,
and a great tree-root seemed to be over him and holding him down, but he was
not struggling. Sam gripped him by the jacket, and dragged him from under
the root; and then with difficulty hauled him on to the bank. Almost at once
he woke, and coughed and spluttered.
    'Do you know, Sam,' he said at length, 'the beastly tree threw me in! I
felt it. The big root just twisted round and tipped me in!'
    'You were dreaming I expect, Mr. Frodo,' said Sam. 'You shouldn't sit
in such a place, if you feel sleepy.'
    'What about the others?' Frodo asked. 'I wonder what sort of dreams
they are having.'
    They went round to the other side of the tree, and then Sam understood
the click that he had heard. Pippin had vanished. The crack by which he had
laid himself had closed together, so that not a chink could be seen. Merry
was trapped: another crack had closed about his waist; his legs lay outside,
but the rest of him was inside a dark opening, the edges of which gripped
like a pair of pincers.
    Frodo and Sam beat first upon the tree-trunk where Pippin had lain.
They then struggled frantically to pull open the jaws of the crack that held
poor Merry. It was quite useless.
    'What a foul thing to happen!' cried Frodo wildly. 'Why did we ever
come into this dreadful Forest? I wish we were all back at Crickhollow!' He
kicked the tree with all his strength, heedless of his own feet. A hardly
perceptible shiver ran through the stem and up into the branches; the leaves
rustled and whispered, but with a sound now of faint and far-off laughter.
    'I suppose we haven't got an axe among our luggage, Mr. Frodo?' asked
Sam.
    'I brought a little hatchet for chopping firewood,' said Frodo. 'That
wouldn't be much use.'
    'Wait a minute!' cried Sam, struck by an idea suggested by firewood.
'We might do something with fire!'
    'We might,' said Frodo doubtfully. 'We might succeed in roasting Pippin
alive inside.'
     'We might try to hurt or frighten this tree to begin with,' said Sam
fiercely. 'If it don't let them go, I'll have it down, if I have to gnaw
it.' He ran to the ponies and before long came back with two tinder-boxes
and a hatchet.
     Quickly they gathered dry grass and leaves, and bits of bark; and made
a pile of broken twigs and chopped sticks. These they heaped against the
trunk on the far side of the tree from the prisoners. As soon as Sam had
struck a spark into the tinder, it kindled the dry grass and a flurry of
flame and smoke went up. The twigs crackled. Little fingers of fire licked
against the dry scored rind of the ancient tree and scorched it. A tremor
ran through the whole willow. The leaves seemed to hiss above their heads
with a sound of pain and anger. A loud scream came from Merry, and from far
inside the tree they heard Pippin give a muffled yell.
     'Put it out! Put it out!' cried Merry. 'He'll squeeze me in two, if you
don't. He says so!'
     'Who? What?' shouted Frodo, rushing round to the other side of the
tree.
     'Put it out! Put it out!' begged Merry. The branches of the willow
began to sway violently. There was a sound as of a wind rising and spreading
outwards to the branches of all the other trees round about, as though they
had dropped a stone into the quiet slumber of the river-valley and set up
ripples of anger that ran out over the whole Forest. Sam kicked at the
little fire and stamped out the sparks. But Frodo, without any clear idea of
why he did so, or what he hoped for, ran along the path crying help! help!
help! It seemed to him that he could hardly hear the sound of his own shrill
voice: it was blown away from him by the willow-wind and drowned in a
clamour of leaves, as soon as the words left his mouth. He felt desperate:
lost and witless.
     Suddenly he slopped. There was an answer, or so he thought; but it
seemed to come from behind him, away down the path further back in the
Forest. He turned round and listened, and soon there could be no doubt:
someone was singing a song; a deep glad voice was singing carelessly and
happily, but it was singing nonsense:
     Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo!
     Ring a dong! hop along! fal lal the willow!
     Tom Bom, jolly Tom, Tom Bombadillo!
    Half hopeful and half afraid of some new danger, Frodo and Sam now both
stood still. Suddenly out of a long string of nonsense-words (or so they
seemed) the voice rose up loud and clear and burst into this song:
    Hey! Come merry dot! derry dol! My darling!
    Light goes the weather-wind and the feathered starling.
    Down along under Hill, shining in the sunlight,
    Waiting on the doorstep for the cold starlight,
    There my pretty lady is. River-woman's daughter,
    Slender as the willow-wand, clearer than the water.
    Old Tom Bombadil water-lilies bringing
    Comes hopping home again. Can you hear him singing?
    Hey! Come merry dol! deny dol! and merry-o,
    Goldberry, Goldberry, merry yellow berry-o!
    Poor old Willow-man, you tuck your roots away!
    Tom's in a hurry now. Evening will follow day.
    Tom's going home again water-lilies bringing.
    Hey! Come derry dol! Can you hear me singing?
    Frodo and Sam stood as if enchanted. The wind puffed out. The leaves
hung silently again on stiff branches. There was another burst of song, and
then suddenly, hopping and dancing along the path, there appeared above the
reeds an old battered hat with a tall crown and a long blue feather stuck in
the band. With another hop and a bound there came into view a man, or so it
seemed. At any rate he was too large and heavy for a hobbit, if not quite
tall enough for one of the Big People, though he made noise enough for one,
slumping along with great yellow boots on his thick legs, and charging
through grass and rushes like a cow going down to drink. He had a blue coat
and a long brown beard; his eyes were blue and bright, and his face was red
as a ripe apple, but creased into a hundred wrinkles of laughter. In his
hands he carried on a large leaf as on a tray a small pile of white
water-lilies.
    'Help!' cried Frodo and Sam running towards him with their hands
stretched out.
    'Whoa! Whoa! steady there!' cried the old man, holding up one hand, and
they stopped short, as if they had been struck stiff. 'Now, my little
fellows, where be you a-going to, puffing like a bellows? What's the matter
here then? Do you know who I am? I'm Tom Bombadil. Tell me what's
your
trouble! Tom's in a hurry now. Don't you crush my lilies!'
     'My friends are caught in the willow-tree,' cried Frodo breathlessly.
     'Master Merry's being squeezed in a crack!' cried Sam.
     'What?' shouted Tom Bombadil, leaping up in the air. 'Old Man Willow?
Naught worse than that, eh? That can soon be mended. I know the tune for
him. Old grey Willow-man! I'll freeze his marrow cold, if he don't behave
himself. I'll sing his roots off. I'll sing a wind up and blow leaf and
branch away. Old Man Willow!' Setting down his lilies carefully on the
grass, he ran to the tree. There he saw Merry's feet still sticking out -
the rest had already been drawn further inside. Tom put his mouth to the
crack and began singing into it in a low voice. They could not catch the
words, but evidently Merry was aroused. His legs began to kick. Tom sprang
away, and breaking off a hanging branch smote the side of the willow with
it. 'You let them out again, Old Man Willow!' he said. 'What be you
a-thinking of? You should not be waking. Eat earth! Dig deep! Drink water!
Go to sleep! Bombadil is talking!' He then seized Merry's feet and drew him
out of the suddenly widening crack.
     There was a tearing creak and the other crack split open, and out of it
Pippin sprang, as if he had been kicked. Then with a loud snap both cracks
closed fast again. A shudder ran through the tree from root to tip, and
complete silence fell.
     'Thank you!' said the hobbits, one after the other.
     Tom Bombadil burst out laughing. 'Well, my little fellows!' said he,
stooping so that he peered into their faces. 'You shall come home with me!
The table is all laden with yellow cream, honeycomb, and white bread and
butter. Goldberry is waiting. Time enough for questions around the supper
table. You follow after me as quick as you are able!' With that he picked up
his lilies, and then with a beckoning wave of his hand went hopping and
dancing along the path eastward, still singing loudly and nonsensically.
     Too surprised and too relieved to talk, the hobbits followed after him
as fast as they could. But that was not fast enough. Tom soon disappeared in
front of them, and the noise of his singing got fainter and further away.
Suddenly his voice came floating back to them in a loud halloo!
     Hop along, my little friends, up the Withywindle!
     Tom's going on ahead candles for to kindle.
     Down west sinks the Sun: soon you will be groping.
     When the night-shadows fall, then the door will open,
    Out of the window-panes light will twinkle yellow.
    Fear no alder black! Heed no hoary willow!
   Fear neither root nor bough! Tom goes on before you.
   Hey now! merry dot! We'll be waiting for you!
    After that the hobbits heard no more. Almost at once the sun seemed to
sink into the trees behind them. They thought of the slanting light of
evening glittering on the Brandywine River, and the windows of Bucklebury
beginning to gleam with hundreds of lights. Great shadows fell across them;
trunks and branches of trees hung dark and threatening over the path. White
mists began to rise and curl on the surface of the river and stray about the
roots of the trees upon its borders. Out of the very ground at their feet a
shadowy steam arose and mingled with the swiftly falling dusk.
   It became difficult to follow the path, and they were very tired. Their
legs seemed leaden. Strange furtive noises ran among the bushes and reeds on
either side of them; and if they looked up to the pale sky, they caught
sight of queer gnarled and knobbly faces that gloomed dark against the
twilight, and leered down at them from the high bank and the edges of the
wood. They began to feel that all this country was unreal, and that they
were stumbling through an ominous dream that led to no awakening.
   Just as they felt their feet slowing down to a standstill, they noticed
that the ground was gently rising. The water began to murmur. In the
darkness they caught the white glimmer of foam, where the river flowed over
a short fall. Then suddenly the trees came to an end and the mists were left
behind. They stepped out from the Forest, and found a wide sweep of grass
welling up before them. The river, now small and swift, was leaping merrily
down to meet them, glinting here and there in the light of the stars, which
were already shining in the sky.
    The grass under their feet was smooth and short, as if it had been mown
or shaven. The eaves of the Forest behind were clipped, and trim as a hedge.
The path was now plain before them, well-tended and bordered with stone. It
wound up on to the top of a grassy knoll, now grey under the pale starry
night; and there, still high above them on a further slope, they saw the
twinkling lights of a house. Down again the path went, and then up again, up
a long smooth hillside of turf, towards the light. Suddenly a wide yellow
beam flowed out brightly from a door that was opened. There was Tom
Bombadil's house before them, up, down, under hill. Behind it a steep
shoulder of the land lay grey and bare, and beyond that the dark shapes of
the Barrow-downs stalked away into the eastern night.
    They all hurried forward, hobbits and ponies. Already half their
weariness and all their fears had fallen from them. Hey! Come merry dol!
rolled out the song to greet them.
   Hey! Come derry dol! Hop along, my hearties!
   Hobbits! Ponies all! We are fond of parties.
   Now let the fun begin! Let us sing together!
   Then another clear voice, as young and as ancient as Spring, like the
song of a glad water flowing down into the night from a bright morning in
the hills, came falling like silver to meet them:
   Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
   Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather,
   Light on the budding leaf, dew on the feather,
   Wind on the open hill, bells on the heather,
   Reeds by the shady pool, lilies on the water:
   Old Tom Bombadil and the River-daughter!
    And with that song the hobbits stood upon the threshold, and a golden
light was all about them.
     Chapter 7. In the House of Tom Bombadil

    The four hobbits stepped over the wide stone threshold, and stood
still, blinking. They were in a long low room, filled with the light of
lamps swinging from the beams of the roof; and on the table of dark polished
wood stood many candles, tall and yellow, burning brightly.
    In a chair, at the far side of the room facing the outer door, sat a
woman. Her long yellow hair rippled down her shoulders; her gown was
green,
green as young reeds, shot with silver like beads of dew; and her belt was
of gold, shaped like a chain of flag-lilies set with the pale-blue eyes of
forget-me-nots. About her feel in wide vessels of green and brown
earthenware, white water-lilies were floating, so that she seemed to be
enthroned in the midst of a pool.
    'Enter, good guests!' she said, and as she spoke they knew that it was
her clear voice they had heard singing. They came a few timid steps further
into the room, and began to bow low, feeling strangely surprised and
awkward, like folk that, knocking at a cottage door to beg for a drink of
water, have been answered by a fair young elf-queen clad in living flowers.
But before they could say anything, she sprang lightly up and over the
lily-bowls, and ran laughing towards them; and as she ran her gown rustled
softly like the wind in the flowering borders of a river.
    'Come dear folk!' she said, taking Frodo by the hand. 'Laugh and be
merry! I am Goldberry, daughter of the River.' Then lightly she passed them
and closing the door she turned her back to it, with her white arms spread
out across it. 'Let us shut out the night!' she said. 'For you are still
afraid, perhaps, of mist and tree-shadows and deep water, and untame things.
Fear nothing! For tonight you are under the roof of Tom Bombadil.'
    The hobbits looked at her in wonder; and she looked at each of them and
smiled. 'Fair lady Goldberry!' said Frodo at last, feeling his heart moved
with a joy that he did not understand. He stood as he had at times stood
enchanted by fair elven-voices; but the spell that was now laid upon him was
different: less keen and lofty was the delight, but deeper and nearer to
mortal heart; marvellous and yet not strange. 'Fair lady Goldberry!' he said
again. 'Now the joy that was hidden in the songs we heard is made plain to
me.
   O slender as a willow-wand! O clearer than clear water!
   O reed by the living pool! Fair River-daughter!
   O spring-time and summer-time, and spring again after!
   O wind on the waterfall, and the leaves' laughter!'
    Suddenly he stopped and stammered, overcome with surprise to hear
himself saying such things. But Goldberry laughed.
    'Welcome!' she said. 'I had not heard that folk of the Shire were so
sweet-tongued. But I see you are an elf-friend; the light in your eyes and
the ring in your voice tells it. This is a merry meeting! Sit now, and wait
for the Master of the house! He will not be long. He is tending your tired
beasts.'
    The hobbits sat down gladly in low rush-seated chairs, while Goldberry
busied herself about the table; and their eyes followed her, for the slender
grace of her movement filled them with quiet delight. From somewhere behind
the house came the sound of singing. Every now and again they caught, among
many a derry dol and a merry dol and a ring a ding dillo the repeated words:
   Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow;
   Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow.
    'Fair lady!' said Frodo again after a while. 'Tell me, if my asking
does not seem foolish, who is Tom Bombadil?'
    'He is,' said Goldberry, staying her swift movements and smiling.
   Frodo looked at her questioningly. 'He is, as you have seen him,' she
said in answer to his look. 'He is the Master of wood, water, and hill.'
    'Then all this strange land belongs to him?'
    'No indeed!' she answered, and her smile faded. 'That would indeed be a
burden,' she added in a low voice, as if to herself. 'The trees and the
grasses and all things growing or living in the land belong each to
themselves. Tom Bombadil is the Master. No one has ever caught old Tom
walking in the forest, wading in the water, leaping on the hill-tops under
light and shadow. He has no fear. Tom Bombadil is master.'
    A door opened and in came Tom Bombadil. He had now no hat and his
thick
brown hair was crowned with autumn leaves. He laughed, and going to
Goldberry, took her hand.
    'Here's my pretty lady!' he said, bowing to the hobbits. 'Here's my
Goldberry clothed all in silver-green with flowers in her girdle! Is the
table laden? I see yellow cream and honeycomb, and white bread, and butter;
milk, cheese, and green herbs and ripe berries gathered. Is that enough for
us? Is the supper ready?'
    'It is,' said Goldberry; 'but the guests perhaps are not?'
    Tom clapped his hands and cried: 'Tom, Tom! your guests are tired, and
you had near forgotten! Come now, my merry friends, and Tom will refresh
you! You shall clean grimy hands, and wash your weary faces; cast off your
muddy cloaks and comb out your tangles!'
    He opened the door, and they followed him down a short passage and
round a sharp turn. They came to a low room with a sloping roof (a
penthouse, it seemed, built on to the north end of the house). Its walls
were of clean stone, but they were mostly covered with green hanging mats
and yellow curtains. The floor was flagged, and strewn with fresh green
rushes. There were four deep mattresses, each piled with white blankets,
laid on the floor along one side. Against the opposite wall was a long bench
laden with wide earthenware basins, and beside it stood brown ewers filled
with water, some cold, some steaming hot. There were soft green slippers set
ready beside each bed.
    Before long, washed and refreshed, the hobbits were seated at the
table, two on each side, while at either end sat Goldberry and the Master.
It was a long and merry meal. Though the hobbits ate, as only famished
hobbits can eat, there was no lack. The drink in their drinking-bowls seemed
to be clear cold water, yet it went to their hearts like wine and set free
their voices. The guests became suddenly aware that they were singing
merrily, as if it was easier and more natural than talking.
    At last Tom and Goldberry rose and cleared the table swiftly. The
guests were commanded to sit quiet, and were set in chairs, each with a
footstool to his tired feet. There was a fire in the wide hearth before
them, and it was burning with a sweet smell, as if it were built of
apple-wood. When everything was set in order, all the lights in the room
were put out, except one lamp and a pair of candles at each end of the
chimney-shelf. Then Goldberry came and stood before them, holding a candle;
and she wished them each a good night and deep sleep.
    'Have peace now,' she said, 'until the morning! Heed no nightly noises!
For nothing passes door and window here save moonlight and starlight and the
wind off the hill-top. Good night!' She passed out of the room with a
glimmer and a rustle. The sound of her footsteps was like a stream falling
gently away downhill over cool stones in the quiet of night.
   Tom sat on a while beside them in silence, while each of them tried to
muster the courage to ask one of the many questions he had meant to ask at
supper. Sleep gathered on their eyelids. At last Frodo spoke:
   'Did you hear me calling, Master, or was it just chance that brought
you at that moment?'
   Tom stirred like a man shaken out of a pleasant dream. 'Eh, what?' said
he. 'Did I hear you calling? Nay, I did not hear: I was busy singing. Just
chance brought me then, if chance you call it. It was no plan of mine,
though I was waiting for you. We heard news of you, and learned that you
were wandering. We guessed you'd come ere long down to the water: all paths
lead that way, down to Withywindle. Old grey Willow-man, he's a mighty
singer; and it's hard for little folk to escape his cunning mazes. But Tom
had an errand there, that he dared not hinder.' Tom nodded as if sleep was
taking him again; but he went on in a soft singing voice:
   I had an errand there: gathering water-lilies,
   green leaves and lilies white to please my pretty lady,
   the last ere the year's end to keep them from the winter,
   to flower by her pretty feet tilt the snows are melted.
   Each year at summer's end I go to find them for her,
   in a wide pool, deep and clear, far down Withywindle;
   there they open first in spring and there they linger latest.
   By that pool long ago I found the River-daughter,
   fair young Goldberry sitting in the rushes.
   Sweet was her singing then, and her heart was beating!
   He opened his eyes and looked at them with a sudden glint of blue:
   And that proved well for you -- for now I shall no longer
   go down deep again along the forest-water,
   not while the year is old. Nor shall I be passing
   Old Man Willow's house this side of spring-time,
   not till the merry spring, when the River-daughter
   dances down the withy-path to bathe in the water.
   He fell silent again; but Frodo could not help asking one more
question: the one he most desired to have answered. 'Tell us, Master,' he
said, 'about the Willow-man. What is he? I have never heard of him before.'
   'No, don't!' said Merry and Pippin together, sitting suddenly upright.
'Not now! Not until the morning!'
    'That is right!' said the old man. 'Now is the time for resting. Some
things are ill to hear when the world's in shadow. Sleep till the
morning-light, rest on the pillow! Heed no nightly noise! Fear no grey
willow!' And with that he took down the lamp and blew it out, and grasping a
candle in either hand he led them out of the room.
    Their mattresses and pillows were soft as down, and the blankets were
of white wool. They had hardly laid themselves on the deep beds and drawn
the light covers over them before they were asleep.
    In the dead night, Frodo lay in a dream without light. Then he saw the
young moon rising; under its thin light there loomed before him a black wall
of rock, pierced by a dark arch like a great gate. It seemed to Frodo that
he was lifted up, and passing over he saw that the rock-wall was a circle of
hills, and that within it was a plain, and in the midst of the plain stood a
pinnacle of stone, like a vast tower but not made by hands. On its top stood
the figure of a man. The moon as it rose seemed to hang for a moment above
his head and glistened in his white hair as the wind stirred it. Up from the
dark plain below came the crying of fell voices, and the howling of many
wolves. Suddenly a shadow, like the shape of great wings, passed across the
moon. The figure lifted his arms and a light flashed from the staff that he
wielded. A mighty eagle swept down and bore him away. The voices wailed
and
the wolves yammered. There was a noise like a strong wind blowing, and on it
was borne the sound of hoofs, galloping, galloping, galloping from the East.
'Black Riders!' thought Frodo as he wakened, with the sound of the hoofs
still echoing in his mind. He wondered if he would ever again have the
courage to leave the safety of these stone walls. He lay motionless, still
listening; but all was now silent, and at last he turned and fell asleep
again or wandered into some other unremembered dream.
    At his side Pippin lay dreaming pleasantly; but a change came over his
dreams and he turned and groaned. Suddenly he woke, or thought he had
waked,
and yet still heard in the darkness the sound that had disturbed his dream:
tip-tap, squeak: the noise was like branches fretting in the wind,
twig-fingers scraping wall and window: creak, creak, creak. He wondered if
there were willow-trees close to the house; and then suddenly he had a
dreadful feeling that he was not in an ordinary house at all, but inside the
willow and listening to that horrible dry creaking voice laughing at him
again. He sat up, and felt the soft pillows yield to his hands, and he lay
down again relieved. He seemed to hear the echo of words in his ears: 'Fear
nothing! Have peace until the morning! Heed no nightly noises!' Then he went
to sleep again.
     It was the sound of water that Merry heard falling into his quiet
sleep: water streaming down gently, and then spreading, spreading
irresistibly all round the house into a dark shoreless pool. It gurgled
under the walls, and was rising slowly but surely. 'I shall be drowned!' he
thought. It will find its way in, and then I shall drown.' He felt that he
was lying in a soft slimy bog, and springing up he set his fool on the
corner of a cold hard flagstone. Then he remembered where he was and lay
down again. He seemed to hear or remember hearing: 'Nothing passes doors or
windows save moonlight and starlight and the wind off the hill-top.' A
little breath of sweet air moved the curtain. He breathed deep and fell
asleep again.
     As far as he could remember, Sam slept through the night in deep
content, if logs are contented.
     They woke up, all four at once, in the morning light. Tom was moving
about the room whistling like a starling. When he heard them stir he clapped
his hands, and cried: 'Hey! Come merry dol! derry dol! My hearties!' He drew
back the yellow curtains, and the hobbits saw that these had covered the
windows, at either end of the room, one looking east and the other looking
west.
     They leapt up refreshed. Frodo ran to the eastern window, and found
himself looking into a kitchen-garden grey with dew. He had half expected to
see turf right up to the walls, turf all pocked with hoof-prints. Actually
his view was screened by a tall line of beans on poles; but above and far
beyond them the grey top of the hill loomed up against the sunrise. It was a
pale morning: in the East, behind long clouds like lines of soiled wool
stained red at the edges, lay glimmering deeps of yellow. The sky spoke of
rain to come; but the light was broadening quickly, and the red flowers on
the beans began to glow against the wet green leaves.
     Pippin looked out of the western window, down into a pool of mist. The
Forest was hidden under a fog. It was like looking down on to a sloping
cloud-roof from above. There was a fold or channel where the mist was broken
into many plumes and billows; the valley of the Withywindle. The stream ran
down the hill on the left and vanished into the white shadows. Near at hand
was a flower-garden and a clipped hedge silver-netted, and beyond that grey
shaven grass pale with dew-drops. There was no willow-tree to be seen.
    'Good morning, merry friends!' cried Tom, opening the eastern window
wide. A cool air flowed in; it had a rainy smell. 'Sun won't show her face
much today. I'm thinking. I have been walking wide, leaping on the hilltops,
since the grey dawn began, nosing wind and weather, wet grass underfoot, wet
sky above me. I wakened Goldberry singing under window; but nought
wakes
hobbit-folk in the early morning. In the night little folk wake up in the
darkness, and sleep after light has come! Ring a ding dillo! Wake now, my
merry friends! Forget the nightly noises! Ring a ding dillo del! derry del,
my hearties! If you come soon you'll find breakfast on the table. If you
come late you'll get grass and rain-water!'
    Needless to say - not that Tom's threat sounded very serious - the
hobbits came soon, and left the table late and only when it was beginning lo
look rather empty. Neither Tom nor Goldberry were there. Tom could be heard
about the house, clattering in the kitchen, and up and down the stairs, and
singing here and there outside. The room looked westward over the
mist-clouded valley, and the window was open. Water dripped down from the
thatched eaves above. Before they had finished breakfast the clouds had
joined into an unbroken roof, and a straight grey rain came softly and
steadily down. Behind its deep curtain the Forest was completely veiled.
    As they looked out of the window there came falling gently as if it was
flowing down the rain out of the sky, the clear voice of Goldberry singing
up above them. They could hear few words, but it seemed plain to them that
the song was a rain-song, as sweet as showers on dry hills, that told the
tale of a river from the spring in the highlands to the Sea far below. The
hobbits listened with delight; and Frodo was glad in his heart, and blessed
the kindly weather, because it delayed them from departing. The thought of
going had been heavy upon him from the moment he awoke; but he guessed
now
that they would not go further that day.
    The upper wind settled in the West and deeper and wetter clouds rolled
up to spill their laden rain on the bare heads of the Downs. Nothing could
be seen all round the house but falling water. Frodo stood near the open
door and watched the white chalky path turn into a little river of milk and
go bubbling away down into the valley. Tom Bombadil came trotting round
the
corner of the house, waving his arms as if he was warding off the rain - and
indeed when he sprang over the threshold he seemed quite dry, except for his
boots. These he took off and put in the chimney-corner. Then he sat in the
largest chair and called the hobbits to gather round him.
    'This is Goldberry's washing day,' he said, 'and her autumn-cleaning.
Too wet for hobbit-folk - let them rest while they are able! It's a good day
for long tales, for questions and for answers, so Tom will start the
talking.'
    He then told them many remarkable stories, sometimes half as if
speaking to himself, sometimes looking at them suddenly with a bright blue
eye under his deep brows. Often his voice would turn to song, and he would
get out of his chair and dance about. He told them tales of bees and
flowers, the ways of trees, and the strange creatures of the Forest, about
the evil things and good things, things friendly and things unfriendly,
cruel things and kind things, and secrets hidden under brambles.
    As they listened, they began to understand the lives of the Forest,
apart from themselves, indeed to feel themselves as the strangers where all
other things were at home. Moving constantly in and out of his talk was Old
Man Willow, and Frodo learned now enough to content him, indeed more
than
enough, for it was not comfortable lore. Tom's words laid bare the hearts of
trees and their thoughts, which were often dark and strange, and filled with
a hatred of things that go free upon the earth, gnawing, biting, breaking,
hacking, burning: destroyers and usurpers. It was not called the Old Forest
without reason, for it was indeed ancient, a survivor of vast forgotten
woods; and in it there lived yet, ageing no quicker than the hills, the
fathers of the fathers of trees, remembering times when they were lords. The
countless years had filled them with pride and rooted wisdom, and with
malice. But none were more dangerous than the Great Willow: his heart was
rotten, but his strength was green; and he was cunning, and a master of
winds, and his song and thought ran through the woods on both sides of the
river. His grey thirsty spirit drew power out of the earth and spread like
fine root-threads in the ground, and invisible twig-fingers in the air, till
it had under its dominion nearly all the trees of the Forest from the Hedge
to the Downs.
    Suddenly Tom's talk left the woods and went leaping up the young
stream, over bubbling waterfalls, over pebbles and worn rocks, and among
small flowers in close grass and wet crannies, wandering at last up on to
the Downs. They heard of the Great Barrows, and the green mounds, and the
stone-rings upon the hills and in the hollows among the hills. Sheep were
bleating in flocks. Green walls and white walls rose. There were fortresses
on the heights. Kings of little kingdoms fought together, and the young Sun
shone like fire on the red metal of their new and greedy swords. There was
victory and defeat; and towers fell, fortresses were burned, and flames went
up into the sky. Gold was piled on the biers of dead kings and queens; and
mounds covered them, and the stone doors were shut; and the grass grew over
all. Sheep walked for a while biting the grass, but soon the hills were
empty again. A shadow came out of dark places far away, and the bones were
stirred in the mounds. Barrow-wights walked in the hollow places with a
clink of rings on cold fingers, and gold chains in the wind.' Stone rings
grinned out of the ground like broken teeth in the moonlight.
    The hobbits shuddered. Even in the Shire the rumour of the
Barrow-wights of the Barrow-downs beyond the Forest had been heard. But it
was not a tale that any hobbit liked to listen to, even by a comfortable
fireside far away. These four now suddenly remembered what the joy of this
house had driven from their minds: the house of Tom Bombadil nestled under
the very shoulder of those dreaded hills. They lost the thread of his tale
and shifted uneasily, looking aside at one another.
    When they caught his words again they found that he had now wandered
into strange regions beyond their memory and beyond their waking thought,
into limes when the world was wider, and the seas flowed straight to the
western Shore; and still on and back Tom went singing out into ancient
starlight, when only the Elf-sires were awake. Then suddenly he slopped, and
they saw that he nodded as if he was falling asleep. The hobbits sat still
before him, enchanted; and it seemed as if, under the spell of his words,
the wind had gone, and the clouds had dried up, and the day had been
withdrawn, and darkness had come from East and West, and all the sky was
filled with the light of white stars.
    Whether the morning and evening of one day or of many days had passed
Frodo could not tell. He did not feel either hungry or tired, only filled
with wonder. The stars shone through the window and the silence of the
heavens seemed to be round him. He spoke at last out of his wonder and a
sudden fear of that silence:
   'Who are you, Master?' he asked.
   'Eh, what?' said Tom sitting up, and his eyes glinting in the gloom.
'Don't you know my name yet? That's the only answer. Tell me, who are you,
alone, yourself and nameless? But you are young and I am old. Eldest, that's
what I am. Mark my words, my friends: Tom was here before the river and the
trees; Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn. He made paths
before the Big People, and saw the little People arriving. He was here
before the Kings and the graves and the Barrow-wights. When the Elves passed
westward, Tom was here already, before the seas were bent. He knew the dark
under the stars when it was fearless - before the Dark Lord came from
Outside.'
    A shadow seemed to pass by the window, and the hobbits glanced hastily
through the panes. When they turned again, Goldberry stood in the door
behind, framed in light. She held a candle, shielding its flame from the
draught with her hand; and the light flowed through it, like sunlight
through a white shell.
   'The rain has ended,' she said; 'and new waters are running downhill,
under the stars. Let us now laugh and be glad!'
   'And let us have food and drink!' cried Tom. 'Long tales are thirsty.
And long listening's hungry work, morning, noon, and evening!' With that he
jumped out of his chair, and with a bound took a candle from the
chimney-shelf and lit it in the flame that Goldberry held; then he danced
about the table. Suddenly he hopped through the door and disappeared.
   Quickly he returned, bearing a large and laden tray. Then Tom and
Goldberry set the table; and the hobbits sat half in wonder and half in
laughter: so fair was the grace of Goldberry and so merry and odd the
caperings of Tom. Yet in some fashion they seemed to weave a single dance,
neither hindering the other, in and out of the room, and round about the
table; and with great speed food and vessels and lights were set in order.
The boards blazed with candles, white and yellow. Tom bowed to his guests.
'Supper is ready,' said Goldberry; and now the hobbits saw that she was
clothed all in silver with a white girdle, and her shoes were like fishes'
mail. But Tom was all in clean blue, blue as rain-washed forget-me-nots, and
he had green stockings.
   It was a supper even better than before. The hobbits under the spell of
Tom's words may have missed one meal or many, but when the food was
before
them it seemed at least a week since they had eaten. They did not sing or
even speak much for a while, and paid close attention to business. But after
a time their hearts and spirit rose high again, and their voices rang out in
mirth and laughter.
    After they had eaten, Goldberry sang many songs for them, songs that
began merrily in the hills and fell softly down into silence; and in the
silences they saw in their minds pools and waters wider than any they had
known, and looking into them they saw the sky below them and the stars like
jewels in the depths. Then once more she wished them each good night and
left them by the fireside. But Tom now seemed wide awake and plied them
with
questions.
    He appeared already to know much about them and all their families, and
indeed to know much of all the history and doings of the Shire down from
days hardly remembered among the hobbits themselves. It no longer surprised
them; but he made no secret that he owed his recent knowledge largely to
Farmer Maggot, whom he seemed to regard as a person of more importance
than
they had imagined. 'There's earth under his old feet, and clay on his
fingers; wisdom in his bones, and both his eyes are open,' said Tom. It was
also clear that Tom had dealings with the Elves, and it seemed that in some
fashion, news had reached him from Gildor concerning the flight of Frodo.
    Indeed so much did Tom know, and so cunning was his questioning, that
Frodo found himself telling him more about Bilbo and his own hopes and fears
than he had told before even to Gandalf. Tom wagged his head up and down,
and there was a glint in his eyes when he heard of the Riders.
    'Show me the precious Ring!' he said suddenly in the midst of the
story: and Frodo, to his own astonishment, drew out the chain from his
pocket, and unfastening the Ring handed it at once to Tom.
    It seemed to grow larger as it lay for a moment on his big
brown-skinned hand. Then suddenly he put it to his eye and laughed. For a
second the hobbits had a vision, both comical and alarming, of his bright
blue eye gleaming through a circle of gold. Then Tom put the Ring round the
end of his little finger and held it up to the candlelight. For a moment the
hobbits noticed nothing strange about this. Then they gasped. There was no
sign of Tom disappearing!
    Tom laughed again, and then he spun the Ring in the air - and it
vanished with a flash. Frodo gave a cry - and Tom leaned forward and handed
it back to him with a smile.
    Frodo looked at it closely, and rather suspiciously (like one who has
lent a trinket to a juggler). It was the same Ring, or looked the same and
weighed the same: for that Ring had always seemed to Frodo to weigh
strangely heavy in the hand. But something prompted him to make sure. He
was
perhaps a trifle annoyed with Tom for seeming to make so light of what even
Gandalf thought so perilously important. He waited for an opportunity, when
the talk was going again, and Tom was telling an absurd story about badgers
and their queer ways - then he slipped the Ring on.
    Merry turned towards him to say something and gave a start, and checked
an exclamation. Frodo was delighted (in a way): it was his own ring all
right, for Merry was staring blankly at his chair, and obviously could not
see him. He got up and crept quietly away from the fireside towards the
outer door.
    'Hey there!' cried Tom, glancing towards him with a most seeing look in
his shining eyes. 'Hey! Come Frodo, there! Where be you a-going? Old Tom
Bombadil's not as blind as that yet. Take off your golden ring! Your hand's
more fair without it. Come back! Leave your game and sit down beside me!
We
must talk a while more, and think about the morning. Tom must teach the
right road, and keep your feet from wandering.'
    Frodo laughed (trying to feel pleased), and taking off the Ring he came
and sat down again. Tom now told them that he reckoned the Sun would shine
tomorrow, and it would be a glad morning, and setting out would be hopeful.
But they would do well to start early; for weather in that country was a
thing that even Tom could not be sure of for long, and it would change
sometimes quicker than he could change his jacket. 'I am no weather-master,'
he said; 'nor is aught that goes on two legs.'
    By his advice they decided to make nearly due North from his house,
over the western and lower slopes of the Downs: they might hope in that way
to strike the East Road in a day's journey, and avoid the Barrows. He told
them not to be afraid - but to mind their own business.
    'Keep to the green grass. Don't you go a-meddling with old stone or
cold Wights or prying in their houses, unless you be strong folk with hearts
that never falter!' He said this more than once; and he advised them to pass
barrows by on the west-side, if they chanced to stray near one. Then he
taught them a rhyme to sing, if they should by ill-luck fall into any danger
or difficulty the next day.
   Ho! Tom Bombadil, Tom Bombadillo!
   By water, wood and hill, by the reed and willow,
   By fire, sun and moon, harken now and hear us!
   Come, Tom Bombadil, for our need is near us!
   When they had sung this altogether after him, he clapped them each on
the shoulder with a laugh, and taking candles led them back to their
bedroom.
     Chapter 8. Fog on the Barrow-Downs

    That night they heard no noises. But either in his dreams or out of
them, he could not tell which, Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his
mind; a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey
rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass and silver,
until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him
under a swift sunrise.
   The vision melted into waking; and there was Tom whistling like a
tree-full of birds; and the sun was already slanting down the hill and
through the open window. Outside everything was green and pale gold.
   After breakfast, which they again ate alone, they made ready to say
farewell, as nearly heavy of heart as was possible on such a morning: cool,
bright, and clean under a washed autumn sky of thin blue. The air came fresh
from the North-west. Their quiet ponies were almost frisky, sniffing and
moving restlessly. Tom came out of the house and waved his hat and danced
upon the doorstep, bidding the hobbits to get up and be off and go with good
speed.
   They rode off along a path that wound away from behind the house, and
went slanting up towards the north end of the hill-brow under which it
sheltered. They had just dismounted to lead their ponies up the last steep
slope, when suddenly Frodo stopped.
    'Goldberry!' he cried. 'My fair lady, clad all in silver green! We have
never said farewell to her, nor seen her since the evening!' He was so
distressed that he turned back; but at that moment a clear call came
rippling down. There on the hill-brow she stood beckoning to them: her hair
was flying loose, and as it caught the sun it shone and shimmered. A light
like the glint of water on dewy grass flashed from under her feet as she
danced.
   They hastened up the last slope, and stood breathless beside her. They
bowed, but with a wave of her arm she bade them look round; and they looked
out from the hill-top over lands under the morning. It was now as clear and
far-seen as it had been veiled and misty when they stood upon the knoll in
the Forest, which could now be seen rising pale and green out of the dark
trees in the West. In that direction the land rose in wooded ridges, green,
yellow, russet under the sun, beyond which lay hidden the valley of the
Brandywine. To the South, over the line of the Withywindle, there was a
distant glint like pale glass where the Brandywine River made a great loop
in the lowlands and flowed away out of the knowledge of the hobbits.
Northward beyond the dwindling downs the land ran away in flats and
swellings of grey and green and pale earth-colours, until it faded into a
featureless and shadowy distance. Eastward the Barrow-downs rose, ridge
behind ridge into the morning, and vanished out of eyesight into a guess: it
was no more than a guess of blue and a remote white glimmer blending with
the hem of the sky, but it spoke to them, out of memory and old tales, of
the high and distant mountains.
    They took a deep draught of the air, and felt that a skip and a few
stout strides would bear them wherever they wished. It seemed fainthearted
to go jogging aside over the crumpled skirts of the downs towards the Road,
when they should be leaping, as lusty as Tom, over the stepping stones of
the hills straight towards the Mountains.
    Goldberry spoke to them and recalled their eyes and thoughts. 'Speed
now, fair guests!' she said. 'And hold to your purpose! North with the wind
in the left eye and a blessing on your footsteps! Make haste while the Sun
shines!' And to Frodo she said: 'Farewell, Elf-friend, it was a merry
meeting!'
    But Frodo found no words to answer. He bowed low, and mounted his pony,
and followed by his friends jogged slowly down the gentle slope behind the
hill. Tom Bombadil's house and the valley, and the Forest were lost to view.
The air grew warmer between the green walls of hillside and hillside, and
the scent of turf rose strong and sweet as they breathed. Turning back, when
they reached the bottom of the green hollow, they saw Goldberry, now small
and slender like a sunlit flower against the sky: she was standing still
watching them, and her hands were stretched out towards them. As they looked
she gave a clear call, and lifting up her hand she turned and vanished
behind the hill.
    Their way wound along the floor of the hollow, and round the green feet
of a steep hill into another deeper and broader valley, and then over the
shoulder of further hills, and down their long limbs, and up their smooth
sides again, up on to new hill-tops and down into new valleys. There was no
tree nor any visible water: it was a country of grass and short springy
turf, silent except for the whisper of the air over the edges of the land,
and high lonely cries of strange birds. As they journeyed the sun mounted,
and grew hot. Each time they climbed a ridge the breeze seemed to have grown
less. When they caught a glimpse of the country westward the distant Forest
seemed to be smoking, as if the fallen rain was steaming up again from leaf
and root and mould. A shadow now lay round the edge of sight, a dark haze
above which the upper sky was like a blue cap, hot and heavy.
    About mid-day they came to a hill whose top was wide and flattened,
like a shallow saucer with a green mounded rim. Inside there was no air
stirring, and the sky seemed near their heads. They rode across and looked
northwards. Then their hearts rose, for it seemed plain that they had come
further already than they had expected. Certainly the distances had now all
become hazy and deceptive, but there could be no doubt that the Downs were
coming to an end. A long valley lay below them winding away northwards,
until it came to an opening between two steep shoulders. Beyond, there
seemed to be no more hills. Due north they faintly glimpsed a long dark
line. That is a line of trees,' said Merry, 'and that must mark the Road.
All along it for many leagues east of the Bridge there are trees growing.
Some say they were planted in the old days.'
    'Splendid!' said Frodo. 'If we make as good going this afternoon as we
have done this morning, we shall have left the Downs before the Sun sets and
be jogging on in search of a camping place.' But even as he spoke he turned
his glance eastwards, and he saw that on that side the hills were higher and
looked down upon them; and all those hills were crowned with green mounds,
and on some were standing stones, pointing upwards like jagged teeth out of
green gums.
    That view was somehow disquieting; so they turned from the sight and
went down into the hollow circle. In the midst of it there stood a single
stone, standing tall under the sun above, and at this hour casting no
shadow. It was shapeless and yet significant: like a landmark, or a guarding
finger, or more like a warning. But they were now hungry, and the sun was
still at the fearless noon; so they set their backs against the east side of
the stone. It was cool, as if the sun had had no power to warm it; but at
that time this seemed pleasant. There they took food and drink, and made as
good a noon-meal under the open sky as anyone could wish; for the food came
from 'down under Hill'. Tom had provided them with plenty for the comfort of
the day. Their ponies unburdened strayed upon the grass.
    Riding over the hills, and eating their fill, the warm sun and the
scent of turf, lying a little too long, stretching out their legs and
looking at the sky above their noses: these things are, perhaps, enough to
explain what happened. However, that may be: they woke suddenly and
uncomfortably from a sleep they had never meant to take. The standing stone
was cold, and it cast a long pale shadow that stretched eastward over them.
The sun, a pale and watery yellow, was gleaming through the mist just above
the west wall of the hollow in which they lay; north, south, and east,
beyond the wall the fog was thick, cold and white. The air was silent, heavy
and chill. Their ponies were standing crowded together with their heads
down.
    The hobbits sprang to their feet in alarm, and ran to the western rim.
They found that they were upon an island in the fog. Even as they looked out
in dismay towards the setting sun, it sank before their eyes into a white
sea, and a cold grey shadow sprang up in the East behind. The fog rolled up
to the walls and rose above them, and as it mounted it bent over their heads
until it became a roof: they were shut in a hall of mist whose central
pillar was the standing stone.
    They felt as if a trap was closing about them; but they did not quite
lose heart. They still remembered the hopeful view they had had of the line
of the Road ahead, and they still knew in which direction it lay. In any
case, they now had so great a dislike for that hollow place about the stone
that no thought of remaining there was in their minds. They packed up as
quickly as their chilled fingers would work.
    Soon they were leading their ponies in single file over the rim and
down the long northward slope of the hill, down into a foggy sea. As they
went down the mist became colder and damper, and their hair hung lank and
dripping on their foreheads. When they reached the bottom it was so cold
that they halted and got out cloaks and hoods, which soon became bedewed
with grey drops. Then, mounting their ponies, they went slowly on again,
feeling their way by the rise and fall of the ground. They were steering, as
well as they could guess, for the gate-like opening at the far northward end
of the long valley which they had seen in the morning. Once they were
through the gap, they had only lo keep on in anything like a straight line
and they were bound in the end to strike the Road. Their thoughts did not go
beyond that, except for a vague hope that perhaps away beyond the Downs
there might be no fog.
    Their going was very slow. To prevent their getting separated and
wandering in different directions they went in file, with Frodo leading. Sam
was behind him, and after him came Pippin, and then Merry. The valley
seemed
to stretch on endlessly. Suddenly Frodo saw a hopeful sign. On either side
ahead a darkness began to loom through the mist; and he guessed that they
were at last approaching the gap in the hills, the north-gate of the
Barrow-downs. If they could pass that, they would be free.
    'Come on! Follow me!' he called back over his shoulder, and he hurried
forward. But his hope soon changed to bewilderment and alarm. The dark
patches grew darker, but they shrank; and suddenly he saw, towering ominous
before him and leaning slightly towards one another like the pillars of a
headless door, two huge standing stones. He could not remember having seen
any sign of these in the valley, when he looked out from the hill in the
morning. He had passed between them almost before he was aware: and even
as
he did so darkness seemed to fall round him. His pony reared and snorted,
and he fell off. When he looked back he found that he was alone: the others
had not followed him. 'Sam!' he called. 'Pippin! Merry! Come along! Why
don't you keep up?'
    There was no answer. Fear took him, and he ran back past the stones
shouting wildly: 'Sam! Sam! Merry! Pippin!' The pony bolted into the mist
and vanished. From some way off, or so it seemed, he thought he heard a cry:
'Hoy! Frodo! Hoy!' It was away eastward, on his left as he stood under the
great stones, staring and straining into the gloom. He plunged off in the
direction of the call, and found himself going steeply uphill.
    As he struggled on he called again, and kept on calling more and more
frantically; but he heard no answer for some time, and then it seemed faint
and far ahead and high above him. 'Frodo! Hoy!' came the thin voices out of
the mist: and then a cry that sounded like help, help! often repeated,
ending with a last help! that trailed off into a long wail suddenly cut
short. He stumbled forward with all the speed he could towards the cries;
but the light was now gone, and clinging night had closed about him, so that
it was impossible to be sure of any direction. He seemed all the time to be
climbing up and up.
    Only the change in the level of the ground at his feet told him when he
at last came to the top of a ridge or hill. He was weary, sweating and yet
chilled. It was wholly dark.
    'Where are you?' he cried out miserably.
    There was no reply. He stood listening. He was suddenly aware that it
was getting very cold, and that up here a wind was beginning to blow, an icy
wind. A change was coming in the weather. The mist was flowing past him
now
in shreds and tatters. His breath was smoking, and the darkness was less
near and thick. He looked up and saw with surprise that faint stars were
appearing overhead amid the strands of hurrying cloud and fog. The wind
began to hiss over the grass.
    He imagined suddenly that he caught a muffled cry, and he made towards
it; and even as he went forward the mist was rolled up and thrust aside, and
the starry sky was unveiled. A glance showed him that he was now facing
southwards and was on a round hill-top, which he must have climbed from the
north. Out of the east the biting wind was blowing. To his right there
loomed against the westward stars a dark black shape. A great barrow stood
there.
    'Where are you?' he cried again, both angry and afraid.
    'Here!' said a voice, deep and cold, that seemed to come out of the
ground. 'I am waiting for you!'
    'No!' said Frodo; but he did not run away. His knees gave, and he fell
on the ground. Nothing happened, and there was no sound. Trembling he
looked
up, in time to see a tall dark figure like a shadow against the stars. It
leaned over him. He thought there were two eyes, very cold though lit with a
pale light that seemed to come from some remote distance. Then a grip
stronger and colder than iron seized him. The icy touch froze his bones, and
he remembered no more.
    When he came to himself again, for a moment he could recall nothing
except a sense of dread. Then suddenly he knew that he was imprisoned,
caught hopelessly; he was in a barrow. A Barrow-wight had taken him, and he
was probably already under the dreadful spells of the Barrow-wights about
which whispered tales spoke. He dared not move, but lay as he found himself:
flat on his back upon a cold stone with his hands on his breast.
    But though his fear was so great that it seemed to be part of the very
darkness that was round him, he found himself as he lay thinking about Bilbo
Baggins and his stories, of their jogging along together in the lanes of the
Shire and talking about roads and adventures. There is a seed of courage
hidden (often deeply, it is true) in the heart of the fattest and most timid
hobbit, wailing for some final and desperate danger to make it grow. Frodo
was neither very fat nor very timid; indeed, though he did not know it,
Bilbo (and Gandalf) had thought him the best hobbit in the Shire. He thought
he had come to the end of his adventure, and a terrible end, but the thought
hardened him. He found himself stiffening, as if for a final spring; he no
longer felt limp like a helpless prey.
    As he lay there, thinking and getting a hold of himself, he noticed all
at once that the darkness was slowly giving way: a pale greenish light was
growing round him. It did not at first show him what kind of a place he was
in, for the light seemed to be coming out of himself, and from the floor
beside him, and had not yet reached the roof or wall. He turned, and there
in the cold glow he saw lying beside him Sam, Pippin, and Merry. They were
on their backs, and their faces looked deathly pale; and they were clad in
white. About them lay many treasures, of gold maybe, though in that light
they looked cold and unlovely. On their heads were circlets, gold chains
were about their waists, and on their fingers were many rings. Swords lay by
their sides, and shields were at their feet. But across their three necks
lay one long naked sword.
    Suddenly a song began: a cold murmur, rising and falling. The voice
seemed far away and immeasurably dreary, sometimes high in the air and thin,
sometimes like a low moan from the ground. Out of the formless stream of sad
but horrible sounds, strings of words would now and again shape themselves:
grim, hard, cold words, heartless and miserable. The night was railing
against the morning of which it was bereaved, and the cold was cursing the
warmth for which it hungered. Frodo was chilled to the marrow. After a while
the song became clearer, and with dread in his heart he perceived that it
had changed into an incantation:
    Cold be hand and heart and bone,
    and cold be sleep under stone:
    never mare to wake on stony bed,
    never, till the Sun fails and the Moon is dead.
    In the black wind the stars shall die,
    and still on gold here let them lie,
    till the dark lord lifts his hand
    over dead sea and withered land.
    He heard behind his head a creaking and scraping sound. Raising himself
on one arm he looked, and saw now in the pale light that they were in a kind
of passage which behind them turned a corner. Round the corner a long arm
was groping, walking on its fingers towards Sam, who was lying nearest, and
towards the hilt of the sword that lay upon him.
    At first Frodo felt as if he had indeed been turned into stone by the
incantation. Then a wild thought of escape came to him. He wondered if he
put on the Ring, whether the Barrow-wight would miss him, and he might find
some way out. He thought of himself running free over the grass, grieving
for Merry, and Sam, and Pippin, but free and alive himself. Gandalf would
admit that there had been nothing else he could do.
    But the courage that had been awakened in him was now too strong: he
could not leave his friends so easily. He wavered, groping in his pocket,
and then fought with himself again; and as he did so the arm crept nearer.
Suddenly resolve hardened in him, and he seized a short sword that lay
beside him, and kneeling he stooped low over the bodies of his companions.
With what strength he had he hewed at the crawling arm near the wrist, and
the hand broke off; but at the same moment the sword splintered up to the
hilt. There was a shriek and the light vanished. In the dark there was a
snarling noise.
    Frodo fell forward over Merry, and Merry's face felt cold. All at once
back into his mind, from which it had disappeared with the first coming of
the fog, came the memory of the house down under the Hill, and of Tom
singing. He remembered the rhyme that Tom had taught them. In a small
desperate voice he began: Ho! Tom Bombadil! and with that name his voice
seemed to grow strong: it had a full and lively sound, and the dark chamber
echoed as if to drum and trumpet.
    Ho! Tom Bombadil, Tom Bombadillo!
    By water, wood and hill, by the reed and willow,
    By fire, sun and moon, harken now and hear us!
    Come, Tom Bombadil, for our need is near us!
    There was a sudden deep silence, in which Frodo could hear his heart
beating. After a long slow moment he heard plain, but far away, as if it was
coming down through the ground or through thick walls, an answering voice
singing:
    Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow,
    Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow.
    None has ever caught him yet, for Tom, he is the master:
    His songs are stronger songs, and his feet are faster.
    There was a loud rumbling sound, as of stones rolling and falling, and
suddenly light streamed in, real light, the plain light of day. A low
door-like opening appeared at the end of the chamber beyond Frodo's feet;
and there was Tom's head (hat, feather, and all) framed against the light of
the sun rising red behind him. The light fell upon the floor, and upon the
faces of the three hobbits lying beside Frodo. They did not stir, but the
sickly hue had left them. They looked now as if they were only very deeply
asleep.
    Tom stooped, removed his hat, and came into the dark chamber, singing:
    Get out, you old Wight! Vanish in the sunlight!
    Shrivel like the cold mist, like the winds go wailing,
    Out into the barren lands far beyond the mountains!
    Come never here again! Leave your barrow empty!
    Lost and forgotten be, darker than the darkness,
    Where gates stand for ever shut, till the world is mended.
    At these words there was a cry and part of the inner end of the chamber
fell in with a crash. Then there was a long trailing shriek, fading away
into an unguessable distance; and after that silence.
    'Come, friend Frodo!' said Tom. 'Let us get out on to clean grass! You
must help me bear them.'
    Together they carried out Merry, Pippin, and Sam. As Frodo left the
barrow for the last time he thought he saw a severed hand wriggling still,
like a wounded spider, in a heap of fallen earth. Tom went back in again,
and there was a sound of much thumping and stamping. When he came out he
was
bearing in his arms a great load of treasure: things of gold, silver,
copper, and bronze; many beads and chains and jewelled ornaments. He
climbed
the green barrow and laid them all on top in the sunshine.
    There he stood, with his hat in his hand and the wind in his hair, and
looked down upon the three hobbits, that had been laid on their backs upon
the grass at the west side of the mound. Raising his right hand he said in a
clear and commanding voice:
    Wake now my merry tads! Wake and hear me calling!
    Warm now be heart and limb! The cold stone is fallen;
    Dark door is standing wide; dead hand is broken.
    Night under Night is flown, and the Gate is open!
    To Frodo's great joy the hobbits stirred, stretched their arms, rubbed
their eyes, and then suddenly sprang up. They looked about in amazement,
first at Frodo, and then at Tom standing large as life on the barrow-top
above them; and then at themselves in their thin white rags, crowned and
belted with pale gold, and jingling with trinkets.
    'What in the name of wonder?' began Merry, feeling the golden circlet
that had slipped over one eye. Then he stopped, and a shadow came over his
face, and he closed his eyes. 'Of course, I remember!' he said. 'The men of
Carn Dym came on us at night, and we were worsted. Ah! the spear in my
heart!' He clutched at his breast. 'No! No!' he said, opening his eyes.
'What am I saying? I have been dreaming. Where did you get to, Frodo?'
    'I thought that I was lost,' said Frodo; 'but I don't want to speak of
it. Let us think of what we are to do now! Let us go on!'
    'Dressed up like this, sir?' said Sam. 'Where are my clothes?' He flung
his circlet, belt, and rings on the grass, and looked round helplessly, as
if he expected to find his cloak, jacket, and breeches, and other
hobbit-garments lying somewhere to hand.
    'You won't find your clothes again,' said Tom, bounding down from the
mound, and laughing as he danced round them in the sunlight. One would have
thought that nothing dangerous or dreadful had happened; and indeed the
horror faded out of their hearts as they looked at him, and saw the merry
glint in his eyes.
    'What do you mean?' asked Pippin, looking at him, half puzzled and half
amused. 'Why not?'
    But Tom shook his head, saying: 'You've found yourselves again, out of
the deep water. Clothes are but little loss, if you escape from drowning. Be
glad, my merry friends, and let the warm sunlight heal now heart and limb!
Cast off these cold rags! Run naked on the grass, while Tom goes a-hunting!'
    He sprang away down hill, whistling and calling. Looking down after him
Frodo saw him running away southwards along the green hollow between
their
hill and the next, still whistling and crying:
    Hey! now! Come hoy now! Whither do you wander?
    Up, down, near or far, here, there or yonder?
    Sharp-ears, Wise-nose, Swish-tail and Bumpkin,
    White-socks my little lad, and old Fatty Lumpkin!
    So he sang, running fast, tossing up his hat and catching it, until he
was hidden by a fold of the ground: but for some time his hey now! hoy now!
came floating back down the wind, which had shifted round towards the south.
    The air was growing very warm again. The hobbits ran about for a while
on the grass, as he told them. Then they lay basking in the sun with the
delight of those that have been wafted suddenly from bitter winter to a
friendly clime, or of people that, after being long ill and bedridden, wake
one day to find that they are unexpectedly well and the day is again full of
promise.
    By the time that Tom returned they were feeling strong (and hungry). He
reappeared, hat first, over the brow of the hill, and behind him came in an
obedient line six ponies: their own five and one more. The last was plainly
old Fatty Lumpkin: he was larger, stronger, fatter (and older) than their
own ponies. Merry, to whom the others belonged, had not, in fact, given them
any such names, but they answered to the new names that Tom had given
them
for the rest of their lives. Tom called them one by one and they climbed
over the brow and stood in a line. Then Tom bowed to the hobbits.
    'Here are your ponies, now!' he said. 'They've more sense (in some
ways) than you wandering hobbits have - more sense in their noses. For they
sniff danger ahead which you walk right into; and if they run to save
themselves, then they run the right way. You must forgive them all; for
though their hearts are faithful, to face fear of Barrow-wights is not what
they were made for. See, here they come again, bringing all their burdens!'
    Merry, Sam, and Pippin now clothed themselves in spare garments from
their packs; and they soon felt too hot, for they were obliged to put on
some of the thicker and warmer things that they had brought against the
oncoming of winter.
    'Where does that other old animal, that Fatty Lumpkin, come from?'
asked Frodo.
    'He's mine,' said Tom. 'My four-legged friend; though I seldom ride
him, and he wanders often far, free upon the hillsides. When your ponies
stayed with me, they got to know my Lumpkin; and they smelt him in the
night, and quickly ran to meet him. I thought he'd look for them and with
his words of wisdom take all their fear away. But now, my jolly Lumpkin, old
Tom's going to ride. Hey! he's coming with you, just to set you on the road;
so he needs a pony. For you cannot easily talk to hobbits that are riding,
when you're on your own legs trying to trot beside them.'
    The hobbits were delighted to hear this, and thanked Tom many times;
but he laughed, and said that they were so good at losing themselves that he
would not feel happy till he had seen them safe over the borders of his
land. 'I've got things to do,' he said: 'my making and my singing, my
talking and my walking, and my watching of the country. Tom can't be always
near to open doors and willow-cracks. Tom has his house to mind, and
Goldberry is waiting.'
    It was still fairly early by the sun, something between nine and ten,
and the hobbits turned their minds to food. Their last meal had been lunch
beside the standing stone the day before. They breakfasted now off the
remainder of Tom's provisions, meant for their supper, with additions that
Tom had brought with him. It was not a large meal (considering hobbits and
the circumstances), but they felt much better for it. While they were eating
Tom went up to the mound, and looked through the treasures. Most of these he
made into a pile that glistened and sparkled on the grass. He bade them lie
there 'free to all finders, birds, beasts. Elves or Men, and all kindly
creatures'; for so the spell of the mound should be broken and scattered and
no Wight ever come back to it. He chose for himself from the pile a brooch
set with blue stones, many-shaded like flax-flowers or the wings of blue
butterflies. He looked long at it, as if stirred by some memory, shaking his
head, and saying at last:
    'Here is a pretty toy for Tom and for his lady! Fair was she who long
ago wore this on her shoulder. Goldberry shall wear it now, and we will not
forget her!'
    For each of the hobbits he chose a dagger, long, leaf-shaped, and keen,
of marvellous workmanship, damasked with serpent-forms in red and gold.
They
gleamed as he drew them from their black sheaths, wrought of some strange
metal, light and strong, and set with many fiery stones. Whether by some
virtue in these sheaths or because of the spell that lay on the mound, the
blades seemed untouched by time, unrusted, sharp, glittering in the sun.
    'Old knives are long enough as swords for hobbit-people,' he said.
'Sharp blades are good to have, if Shire-folk go walking, east, south, or
far away into dark and danger.' Then he told them that these blades were
forged many long years ago by Men of Westernesse: they were foes of the
Dark
Lord, but they were overcome by the evil king of Carn Dym in the Land of
Angmar.
    'Few now remember them,' Tom murmured, 'yet still some go wandering,
sons of forgotten kings walking in loneliness, guarding from evil things
folk that are heedless.'
    The hobbits did not understand his words, but as he spoke they had a
vision as it were of a great expanse of years behind them, like a vast
shadowy plain over which there strode shapes of Men, tall and grim with
bright swords, and last came one with a star on his brow. Then the vision
faded, and they were back in the sunlit world. It was time to start again.
They made ready, packing their bags and lading their ponies. Their new
weapons they hung on their leather belts under their jackets, feeling them
very awkward, and wondering if they would be of any use. Fighting had not
before occurred to any of them as one of the adventures in which their
flight would land them.
    At last they set off. They led their ponies down the hill; and then
mounting they trotted quickly along the valley. They looked back and saw the
top of the old mound on the hill, and from it the sunlight on the gold went
up like a yellow flame. Then they turned a shoulder of the Downs and it was
hidden from view.
    Though Frodo looked about him on every side he saw no sign of the great
stones standing like a gate, and before long they came to the northern gap
and rode swiftly through, and the land fell away before them. It was a merry
journey with Tom Bombadil trotting gaily beside them, or before them, on
Fatty Lumpkin, who could move much faster than his girth promised. Tom
sang
most of the time, but it was chiefly nonsense, or else perhaps a strange
language unknown to the hobbits, an ancient language whose words were
mainly
those of wonder and delight.
    They went forward steadily, but they soon saw that the Road was further
away than they had imagined. Even without a fog, their sleep at mid-day
would have prevented them from reaching it until after nightfall on the day
before. The dark line they had seen was not a line of trees but a line of
bushes growing on the edge of a deep dike with a steep wall on the further
side. Tom said that it had once been the boundary of a kingdom, but a very
long lime ago. He seemed to remember something sad about it, and would not
say much.
   They climbed down and out of the dike and through a gap in the wall,
and then Tom turned due north, for they had been bearing somewhat to the
west. The land was now open and fairly level, and they quickened their pace,
but the sun was already sinking low when at last they saw a line of tall
trees ahead, and they knew that they had come back to the Road after many
unexpected adventures. They galloped their ponies over the last furlongs,
and halted under the long shadows of the trees. They were on the top of a
sloping bank, and the Road, now dim as evening drew on, wound away
below
them. At this point it ran nearly from South-west to North-east, and on
their right it fell quickly down into a wide hollow. It was rutted and bore
many signs of the recent heavy rain; there were pools and pot-holes full of
water. They rode down the bank and looked up and down. There was nothing
to
be seen. 'Well, here we are again at last!' said Frodo. 'I suppose we
haven't lost more than two days by my short cut through the Forest! But
perhaps the delay will prove useful - it may have put them off our trail.'
   The others looked at him. The shadow of the fear of the Black Riders
came suddenly over them again. Ever since they had entered the Forest they
had thought chiefly of getting back to the Road; only now when it lay
beneath their feet did they remember the danger which pursued them, and was
more than likely to be lying in wait for them upon the Road itself. They
looked anxiously back towards the setting sun, but the Road was brown and
empty.
   'Do you think,' asked Pippin hesitatingly, 'do you think we may be
pursued, tonight?'
   'No, I hope not tonight,' answered Tom Bombadil; 'nor perhaps the next
day. But do not trust my guess; for I cannot tell for certain. Out east my
knowledge fails. Tom is not master of Riders from the Black Land far beyond
his country.'
   All the same the hobbits wished he was coming with them. They felt that
he would know how to deal with Black Riders, if anyone did. They would
soon
now be going forward into lands wholly strange to them, and beyond all but
the most vague and distant legends of the Shire, and in the gathering
twilight they longed for home. A deep loneliness and sense of loss was on
them. They stood silent, reluctant to make the final parting, and only
slowly became aware that Tom was wishing them farewell, and telling them to
have good heart and to ride on till dark without halting.
    'Tom will give you good advice, till this day is over (after that your
own luck must go with you and guide you): four miles along the Road you'll
come upon a village, Bree under Bree-hill, with doors looking westward.
There you'll find an old inn that is called The Prancing Pony. Barliman
Butterbur is the worthy keeper. There you can stay the night, and afterwards
the morning will speed you upon your way. Be bold, but wary! Keep up your
merry hearts, and ride to meet your fortune!'
    They begged him to come at least as far as the inn and drink once more
with them; but he laughed and refused, saying:
    Tom's country ends here: he will not pass the borders.
    Tom has his house to mind, and Goldberry is waiting!
    Then he turned, tossed up his hat, leaped on Lumpkin's back, and rode
up over the bank and away singing into the dusk.
    The hobbits climbed up and watched him until he was out of sight.
    'I am sorry to take leave of Master Bombadil,' said Sam. 'He's a
caution and no mistake. I reckon we may go a good deal further and see
naught better, nor queerer. But I won't deny I'll be glad to see this
Prancing Pony he spoke of. I hope it'll be like The Green Dragon away back
home! What sort of folk are they in Bree?'
    'There are hobbits in Bree,' said Merry, 'as well as Big Folk. I
daresay it will be homelike enough. The Pony is a good inn by all accounts.
My people ride out there now and again.'
    'It may be all we could wish,' said Frodo; 'but it is outside the Shire
all the same. Don't make yourselves too much at home! Please remember -all
of you - that the name of Baggins must NOT be mentioned. I am Mr. Underhill,
if any name must be given.'
    They now mounted their ponies and rode off silently into the evening.
Darkness came down quickly, as they plodded slowly downhill and up again,
until at last they saw lights twinkling some distance ahead.
    Before them rose Bree-hill barring the way, a dark mass against misty
stars; and under its western flank nestled a large village. Towards it they
now hurried desiring only to find a fire, and a door between them and the
night.
     Chapter 9. At the Sign of

    The Prancing Pony
    Bree was the chief village of the Bree-land, a small inhabited region,
like an island in the empty lands round about. Besides Bree itself, there
was Staddle on the other side of the hill, Combe in a deep valley a little
further eastward, and Archet on the edge of the Chetwood. Lying round
Bree-hill and the villages was a small country of fields and tamed woodland
only a few miles broad.
    The Men of Bree were brown-haired, broad, and rather short, cheerful
and independent: they belonged to nobody but themselves; but they were more
friendly and familiar with Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves, and other inhabitants of
the world about them than was (or is) usual with Big People. According to
their own tales they were the original inhabitants and were the descendants
of the first Men that ever wandered into the West of the middle-world. Few
had survived the turmoils of the Elder Days; but when the Kings returned
again over the Great Sea they had found the Bree-men still there, and they
were still there now, when the memory of the old Kings had faded into the
grass.
    In those days no other Men had settled dwellings so far west, or within
a hundred leagues of the Shire. But in the wild lands beyond Bree there were
mysterious wanderers. The Bree-folk called them Rangers, and knew nothing
of
their origin. They were taller and darker than the Men of Bree and were
believed to have strange powers of sight and hearing, and to understand the
languages of beasts and birds. They roamed at will southwards, and eastwards
even as far as the Misty Mountains; but they were now few and rarely seen.
When they appeared they brought news from afar, and told strange forgotten
tales which were eagerly listened to; but the Bree-folk did not make friends
of them.
    There were also many families of hobbits in the Bree-land and they
claimed to be the oldest settlement of Hobbits in the world, one that was
founded long before even the Brandywine was crossed and the Shire colonized.
They lived mostly in Staddle though there were some in Bree itself,
especially on the higher slopes of the hill, above the houses of the Men.
The Big Folk and the Little Folk (as they called one another) were on
friendly terms, minding their own affairs in their own ways, but both
rightly regarding themselves as necessary parts of the Bree-folk. Nowhere
else in the world was this peculiar (but excellent) arrangement to be found.
     The Bree-folk, Big and Little, did not themselves travel much; and the
affairs of the four villages were their chief concern. Occasionally the
Hobbits of Bree went as far as Buckland, or the Eastfarthing; but though
their link land was not much further than a day's riding east of the
Brandywine Bridge, the Hobbits of the Shire now seldom visited it. An
occasional Bucklander or adventurous Took would come out to the Inn for a
night or two, but even that was becoming less and less usual. The
Shire-hobbits referred to those of Bree, and to any others that lived beyond
the borders, as Outsiders, and took very little interest in them,
considering them dull and uncouth. There were probably many more
Outsiders
scattered about in the West of the World in those days than the people of
the Shire imagined. Some, doubtless, were no better than tramps, ready to
dig a hole in any bank and stay only as long as it suited them. But in the
Bree-land, at any rate, the hobbits were decent and prosperous, and no more
rustic than most of their distant relatives Inside. It was not yet forgotten
that there had been a time when there was much coming and going between
the
Shire and Bree. There was Bree-blood in the Brandybucks by all accounts.
     The village of Bree had some hundred stone houses of the Big Folk,
mostly above the Road, nestling on the hillside with windows looking west.
On that side, running in more than half a circle from the hill and back to
it, there was a deep dike with a thick hedge on the inner side. Over this
the Road crossed by a causeway; but where it pierced the hedge it was barred
by a great gate. There was another gate in the southern comer where the Road
ran out of the village. The gates were closed at nightfall; but just inside
them were small lodges for the gatekeepers.
     Down on the Road, where it swept to the right to go round the foot of
the hill, there was a large inn. It had been built long ago when the traffic
on the roads had been far greater. For Bree stood at an old meeting of ways;
another ancient road crossed the East Road just outside (he dike at the
western end of the village, and in former days Men and other folk of various
sorts had travelled much on it. Strange as News from Bree was still a saying
in the Eastfarthing, descending from those days, when news from North,
South, and East could be heard in the inn, and when the Shire-hobbits used
to go more often to hear it. But the Northern Lands had long been desolate,
and the North Road was now seldom used: it was grass-grown, and the
Bree-folk called it the Greenway.
    The Inn of Bree was still there, however, and the innkeeper was an
important person. His house was a meeting place for the idle, talkative, and
inquisitive among the inhabitants, large and small, of the four villages;
and a resort of Rangers and other wanderers, and for such travellers (mostly
dwarves) as still journeyed on the East Road, to and from the Mountains.
    It was dark, and white stars were shining, when Frodo and his
companions came at last to the Greenway-crossing and drew near the village.
They came to the West-gate and found it shut, but at the door of the lodge
beyond it, there was a man sitting. He jumped up and fetched a lantern and
looked over the gate at them in surprise.
    'What do you want, and where do you come from?' he asked gruffly.
    'We are making for the inn here,' answered Frodo. 'We are journeying
east and cannot go further tonight.'
    'Hobbits! Four hobbits! And what's more, out of the Shire by their
talk,' said the gatekeeper, softly as if speaking to himself. He stared at
them darkly for a moment, and then slowly opened the gate and let them ride
through.
    'We don't often see Shire-folk riding on the Road at night,' he went
on, as they halted a moment by his door. 'You'll pardon my wondering what
business takes you away east of Bree! What may your names be, might I ask?'
    'Our names and our business are our own, and this does not seem a good
place to discuss them,' said Frodo, not liking the look of the man or the
tone of his voice.
    'Your business is your own, no doubt,' said the man; 'but it's my
business to ask questions after nightfall.'
    'We are hobbits from Buckland, and we have a fancy to travel and to
stay at the inn here,' put in Merry. 'I am Mr. Brandybuck. Is that enough
for you? The Bree-folk used to be fair-spoken to travellers, or so I had
heard.'
    'All right, all right!' said the man. 'I meant no offence. But you'll
find maybe that more folk than old Harry at the gate will be asking you
questions. There's queer folk about. If you go on to The Pony, you'll find
you're oat the only guests.'
    He wished them good night, and they said no more; but Frodo could see
in the lantern-light that the man was still eyeing them curiously. He was
glad to hear the gate clang to behind them, as they rode forward. He
wondered why the man was so suspicious, and whether any one had been
asking
for news of a party of hobbits. Could it have been Gandalf? He might have
arrived, while they were delayed in the Forest and the Downs. But there was
something in the look and the voice of the gatekeeper that made him uneasy.
    The man stared after the hobbits for a moment, and then he went back to
his house. As soon as his back was turned, a dark figure climbed quickly in
over the gate and melted into the shadows of the village street.
    The hobbits rode on up a gentle slope, passing a few detached houses,
and drew up outside the inn. The houses looked large and strange to them.
Sam stared up at the inn with its three storeys and many windows, and felt
his heart sink. He had imagined himself meeting giants taller than trees,
and other creatures even more terrifying, some time or other in the course
of his journey; but at the moment he was finding his first sight of Men and
their tall houses quite enough, indeed too much for the dark end of a tiring
day. He pictured black horses standing all saddled in the shadows of the
inn-yard, and Black Riders peering out of dark upper windows.
    'We surely aren't going to stay here for the night, are we, sir?' he
exclaimed. 'If there are hobbit-folk in these pans, why don't we look for
some that would be willing to take us in? It would be more homelike.'
    'What's wrong with the inn?' said Frodo. 'Tom Bombadil recommended it.
I expect it's homelike enough inside.'
    Even from the outside the inn looked a pleasant house to familiar eyes.
It had a front on the Road, and two wings running back on land partly cut
out of the lower slopes of the hill, so that at the rear the second-floor
windows were level with the ground. There was a wide arch leading to a
courtyard between the two wings, and on the left under the arch there was a
large doorway reached by a few broad steps. The door was open and light
streamed out of it. Above the arch there was a lamp, and beneath it swung a
large signboard: a fat white pony reared up on its hind legs. Over the door
was painted in white letters: THE PRANCING PONY by BARLIMAN
BUTTERBUR. Many
of the lower windows showed lights behind thick curtains.
    As they hesitated outside in the gloom, someone began singing a merry
song inside, and many cheerful voices joined loudly in the chorus. They
listened to this encouraging sound for a moment and then got off their
ponies. The song ended and there was a burst of laughter and clapping.
    They led their ponies under the arch, and leaving them standing in the
yard they climbed up the steps. Frodo went forward and nearly bumped into a
short fat man with a bald head and a red face. He had a white apron on, and
was bustling out of one door and in through another, carrying a tray laden
with full mugs.
    'Can we--' began Frodo.
    'Half a minute, if you please!' shouted the man over his shoulder, and
vanished into a babel of voices and a cloud of smoke. In a moment he was out
again, wiping his hands on his apron.
    'Good evening, little master!' he said, bending down. 'What may you be
wanting?'
    'Beds for four, and stabling for five ponies, if that can be managed.
Are you Mr. Butterbur?'
    'That's right! Barliman is my name. Barliman Butterbur at your service!
You're from the Shire, eh?' he said, and then suddenly he clapped his hand
to his forehead, as if trying to remember something. 'Hobbits!' he cried.
'Now what does that remind me of? Might I ask your names, sir?'
    'Mr. Took and Mr. Brandybuck,' said Frodo; 'and this is Sam Gamgee. My
name is Underhill.'
    'There now!' said Mr. Butterbur, snapping his fingers. 'It's gone
again! But it'll come back, when I have time to think. I'm run off my feet;
but I'll see what I can do for you. We don't often get a party out of the
Shire nowadays, and I should be sorry not to make you welcome. But there is
such a crowd already in the house tonight as there hasn't been for long
enough. It never rains but it pours, we say in Bree.
    'Hi! Nob!' he shouted. 'Where are you, you woolly-footed slow-coach?
Nob!'
    'Coming, sir! Coming!' A cheery-looking hobbit bobbed out of a door,
and seeing the travellers, stopped short and stared at them with great
interest.
    'Where's Bob?' asked the landlord. 'You don't know? Well find him!
Double sharp! I haven't got six legs, nor six eyes neither! Tell Bob there's
five ponies that have to be stabled. He must find room somehow.' Nob trotted
off with a grin and a wink.
    'Well, now, what was I going to say?' said Mr. Butterbur, tapping his
forehead. 'One thing drives out another, so to speak. I'm that busy tonight,
my head is going round. There's a party that came up the Greenway from
down
South last night - and that was strange enough to begin with. Then there's a
travelling company of dwarves going West come in this evening. And now
there's you. If you weren't hobbits, I doubt if we could house you. But
we've got a room or two in the north wing that were made special for
hobbits, when this place was built. On the ground floor as they usually
prefer; round windows and all as they like it. I hope you'll be comfortable.
You'll be wanting supper, I don't doubt. As soon as may be. This way now!'
    He led them a short way down a passage, and opened a door. 'Here is a
nice little parlour!' he said. 'I hope it will suit. Excuse me now. I'm that
busy. No time for talking. I must be trotting. It's hard work for two legs,
but I don't get thinner. I'll look in again later. If you want anything,
ring the hand-bell, and Nob will come. If he don't come, ring and shout!'
    Off he went at last, and left them feeling rather breathless. He seemed
capable of an endless stream of talk, however busy he might be. They found
themselves in a small and cosy room. There was a bit of bright fire burning
on the hearth, and in front of it were some low and comfortable chairs.
There was a round table, already spread with a white cloth, and on it was a
large hand-bell. But Nob, the hobbit servant, came bustling in long before
they thought of ringing. He brought candles and a tray full of plates.
    'Will you be wanting anything to drink, masters?' he asked. 'And shall
I show you the bedrooms, while your supper is got ready?'
    They were washed and in the middle of good deep mugs of beer when Mr.
Butterbur and Nob came in again. In a twinkling the table was laid. There
was hot soup, cold meats, a blackberry tart, new loaves, slabs of butter,
and half a ripe cheese: good plain food, as good as the Shire could show,
and homelike enough to dispel the last of Sam's misgivings (already much
relieved by the excellence of the beer).
    The landlord hovered round for a link, and then prepared to leave them.
'I don't know whether you would care to join the company, when you have
supped,' he said, standing at the door. 'Perhaps you would rather go to your
beds. Still the company would be very pleased to welcome you, if you had a
mind. We don't get Outsiders - travellers from the Shire, I should say,
begging your pardon - often; and we like to hear a bit of news, or any story
or song you may have in mind. But as you please! Ring the bell, if you lack
anything!'
    So refreshed and encouraged did they feel at the end of their supper
(about three quarters of an hour's steady going, not hindered by unnecessary
talk) that Frodo, Pippin, and Sam decided to join the company. Merry said it
would be too stuffy. 'I shall sit here quietly by the fire for a bit, and
perhaps go out later for a sniff of the air. Mind your Ps and Qs, and don't
forget that you are supposed to be escaping in secret, and are still on the
high-road and not very far from the Shire!'
    'All right!' said Pippin. 'Mind yourself! Don't get lost, and don't
forget that it is safer indoors!'
    The company was in the big common-room of the inn. The gathering was
large and mixed, as Frodo discovered, when his eyes got used to the light.
This came chiefly from a blazing log-fire, for the three lamps hanging from
the beams were dim, and half veiled in smoke. Barliman Butterbur was
standing near the fire, talking to a couple of dwarves and one or two
strange-looking men. On the benches were various folk: men of Bree, a
collection of local hobbits (sitting chattering together), a few more
dwarves, and other vague figures difficult to make out away in the shadows
and comers.
    As soon as the Shire-hobbits entered, there was a chorus of welcome
from the Bree-landers. The strangers, especially those that had come up the
Greenway, stared at them curiously. The landlord introduced the newcomers to
the Bree-folk, so quickly that, though they caught many names, they were
seldom sure who the names belonged to. The Men of Bree seemed all to have
rather botanical (and to the Shire-folk rather odd) names, like Rushlight,
Goatleaf, Heathertoes, Appledore, Thistlewool and Ferny (not to mention
Butterbur). Some of the hobbits had similar names. The Mugworts, for
instance, seemed numerous. But most of them had natural names, such as
Banks, Brockhouse, Longholes, Sandheaver, and Tunnelly, many of which
were
used in the Shire. There were several Underhills from Saddle, and as they
could not imagine sharing a name without being related, they took Frodo to
their hearts as a long-lost cousin.
    The Bree-hobbits were, in fact, friendly and inquisitive, and Frodo
soon found that some explanation of what he was doing would have to be
given. He gave out that he was interested in history and geography (at which
there was much wagging of heads, although neither of these words were much
used in the Bree-dialect). He said he was thinking of writing a book (at
which there was silent astonishment), and that he and his friends wanted to
collect information about hobbits living outside the Shire, especially in
the eastern lands.
    At this a chorus of voices broke out. If Frodo had really wanted to
write a book, and had had many ears, he would have learned enough for
several chapters in a few minutes. And if that was not enough, he was given
a whole list of names, beginning with 'Old Barliman here', to whom he could
go for further information. But after a time, as Frodo did not show any sign
of writing a book on the spot, the hobbits returned to their questions about
doings in the Shire. Frodo did not prove very communicative, and he soon
found himself sitting alone in a comer, listening and looking around.
    The Men and Dwarves were mostly talking of distant events and telling
flews of a kind that was becoming only too familiar. There was trouble away
in the South, and it seemed that the Men who had come up the Greenway
were
on the move, looking for lands where they could find some peace. The
Bree-folk were sympathetic, but plainly not very ready to take a large
number of strangers into their little land. One of the travellers, a
squint-eyed ill-favoured fellow, was foretelling that more and more people
would be coming north in the near future. 'If room isn't found for them,
they'll find it for themselves. They've a right to live, same as other
folk,' he said loudly. The local inhabitants did not look pleased at the
prospect.
    The hobbits did not pay much attention to all this, and it did not at
the moment seem to concern hobbits. Big Folk could hardly beg for lodgings
in hobbit-holes. They were more interested in Sam and Pippin, who were now
feeling quite at home, and were chatting gaily about events in the Shire.
Pippin roused a good deal of laughter with an account of the collapse of the
roof of the Town Hole in Michel Delving: Will Whitfoot, the Mayor, and the
fattest hobbit in the Westfarthing, had been buried in chalk, and came out
like a floured dumpling. But there were several questions asked that made
Frodo a little uneasy. One of the Bree-landers, who seemed to have been in
the Shire several times, wanted to know where the Underhills lived and who
they were related to.
    Suddenly Frodo noticed that a strange-looking weather-beaten man,
sitting in the shadows near the wall, was also listening intently to the
hobbit-talk. He had a tall tankard in front of him, and was smoking a
long-stemmed pipe curiously carved. His legs were stretched out before him,
showing high boots of supple leather that fitted him well, but had seen much
wear and were now caked with mud. A travel-stained cloak of heavy dark-
green
cloth was drawn close about him, and in spite of the heat of the room he
wore a hood that overshadowed his face; but the gleam of his eyes could be
seen as he watched the hobbits.
    'Who is that?' Frodo asked, when he got a chance to whisper to Mr.
Butterbur. 'I don't think you introduced him?'
    'Him?' said the landlord in an answering whisper, cocking an eye
without turning his head. 'I don't rightly know. He is one of the wandering
folk -Rangers we call them. He seldom talks: not but what he can tell a rare
tale when he has the mind. He disappears for a month, or a year, and then he
pops up again. He was in and out pretty often last spring; but I haven't
seen him about lately. What his right name is I've never heard: but he's
known round here as Strider. Goes about at a great pace on his long shanks;
though he don't tell nobody what cause he has to hurry. But there's no
accounting for East and West, as we say in Bree, meaning the Rangers and the
Shire-folk, begging your pardon. Funny you should ask about him.' But at
that moment Mr. Butterbur was called away by a demand for more ale and his
last remark remained unexplained.
    Frodo found that Strider was now looking at him, as if he had heard or
guessed all that had been said. Presently, with a wave of his hand and a
nod, he invited Frodo to come over and sit by him. As Frodo drew near be
threw back his hood, showing a shaggy head of dark hair necked with grey,
and in a pale stem face a pair of keen grey eyes.
    'I am called Strider,' he said in a low voice. 'I am very pleased to
meet you. Master - Underhill, if old Butterbur got your name right.'
    'He did,' said Frodo stiffly. He felt far from comfortable under the
stare of those keen eyes.
    'Well, Master Underhill,' said Strider, 'if I were you, I should stop
your young friends from talking too much. Drink, fire, and chance-meeting
are pleasant enough, but, well - this isn't the Shire. There are queer folk
about. Though I say it as shouldn't, you may think,' he added with a wry
smile, seeing Frodo's glance. 'And there have been even stranger travellers
through Bree lately,' he went on, watching Frodo's face.
    Frodo returned his gaze but said nothing; and Strider made no further
sign. His attention seemed suddenly to be fixed on Pippin. To his alarm
Frodo became aware that the ridiculous young Took, encouraged by his success
with the fat Mayor of Michel Delving, was now actually giving a comic
account of Bilbo's farewell party. He was already giving an imitation of the
Speech, and was drawing near to the astonishing Disappearance.
    Frodo was annoyed. It was a harmless enough tale for most of the local
hobbits, no doubt: just a funny story about those funny people away beyond
the River; but some (old Butterbur, for instance) knew a thing or two, and
had probably heard rumours long ago about Bilbo's vanishing. It would bring
the name of Baggins to their minds, especially if there had been inquiries
in Bree after that name.
   Frodo fidgeted, wondering what to do. Pippin was evidently much
enjoying the attention he was getting, and had become quite forgetful of
their danger. Frodo had a sudden fear that in his present mood he might even
mention the Ring; and that might well be disastrous.
    'You had better do something quick!' whispered Strider in his ear.
   Frodo jumped up and stood on a table, and began to talk. The attention
of Pippin's audience was disturbed. Some of the hobbits looked at Frodo and
laughed and clapped, thinking that Mr. Underhill had taken as much ale as
was good for him.
    Frodo suddenly felt very foolish, and found himself (as was his habit
when making a speech) fingering the things in his pocket. He felt the Ring
on its chain, and quite unaccountably the desire came over him to slip it on
and vanish out of the silly situation. It seemed to him, somehow, as if me
suggestion came to him from outside, from someone or something a the room.
He resisted the temptation firmly, and clasped the Ring in his hand, as if
to keep a hold on it and prevent it from escaping or doing any mischief. At
any rate it gave him no inspiration. He spoke 'a few suitable words', as
they would have said in the Shire: We are all very much gratified by the
kindness of your reception, and I venture to hope that my brief visit will
help to renew the old ties of friendship between the Shire and Bree; and
then he hesitated and coughed.
   Everyone in the room was now looking at him. 'A song!' shouted one of
the hobbits. 'A song! A song!' shouted all the others. 'Come on now, master,
sing us something that we haven't heard before!'
    For a moment Frodo stood gaping. Then in desperation he began a
ridiculous song that Bilbo had been rather fond of (and indeed rather proud
of, for he had made up the words himself). It was about an inn; and that is
probably why it came into Frodo's mind just then. Here it is in full. Only a
few words of it are now, as a rule, remembered.
    There is an inn, a merry old inn
    beneath an old grey hill,
    And there they brew a beer so brown
    That the Man in the Moon himself came down
    one night to drink his fill.

   The ostler has a tipsy cat
   that plays a five-stringed fiddle;
   And up and down he runs his bow,
   Now squeaking high, now purring low,
   now sawing in the middle.

   The landlord keeps a little dog
   that is mighty fond of jokes;
   When there's good cheer among the guests,
   He cocks an ear at all the jests
   and laughs until he chokes.

   They also keep a horned cow
   as proud as any queen;
   But music turns her head like ale,
   And makes her wave her tufted tail
   and dance upon the green.

   And O! the rows of silver dishes
   and the store of silver spoons!
   For Sunday* there's a special pair,
   And these they polish up with care
   on Saturday afternoons.

   The Man in the Moon was drinking deep,
and the cat began to wail;
A dish and a spoon on the table danced,
The cow in the garden madly pranced,
and the little dog chased his tail.

The Man in the Moon took another mug,
and then rolled beneath his chair;
And there he dozed and dreamed of ale,
Till in the sky the stars were pale,
and dawn was in the air.

Then the ostler said to his tipsy cat:
'The white horses of the Moon,
They neigh and champ their silver bits;
But their master's been and drowned his wits,
and the Sun'll be rising soon!'

So the cat on his fiddle played hey-diddle-diddle,
a jig that would wake the dead:
He squeaked and sawed and quickened the tune,
While the landlord shook the Man in the Moon:
'It's after three!' he said.

They rolled the Man slowly up the hill
and bundled him into the Moon,
While his horses galloped up in rear,
And the cow came capering like a deer,
and a dish ran up with the spoon.

Now quicker the fiddle went deedle-dum-diddle;
the dog began to roar,
The cow and the horses stood on their heads;
The guests all bounded from their beds
and danced upon the floor.

With a ping and a pong the fiddle-strings broke!
the cow jumped over the Moon,
  And the little dog laughed to see such fun,
  And the Saturday dish went off at a run
  with the silver Sunday spoon.

    The round Moon rolled behind the hill
    as the Sun raised up her head.
    She* hardly believed her fiery eyes;
    For though it was day, to her surprise
    they all went back to bed!
    There was loud and long applause. Frodo had a good voice, and the song
tickled their fancy. 'Where's old Barley?' they cried. 'He ought to hear
this. Bob ought to learn his cat the fiddle, and then we'd have a dance.'
They called for more ale, and began to shout: 'Let's have it again, master!
Come on now! Once more!'
    They made Frodo have another drink, and then begin his song again,
while many of them joined in; for the tune was well known, and they were
quick at picking up words. It was now Frodo's turn to feel pleased with
himself. He capered about on the table; and when he came a second time to
the cow jumped over the Moon, he leaped in the air. Much too vigorously; for
he came down, bang, into a tray full of mugs, and slipped, and rolled off
the table with a crash, clatter, and bump! The audience all opened their
mouths wide for laughter, and stopped short a gaping silence; for the singer
disappeared. He simply vanished, as if he had gone slap through the floor
without leaving a hole!
    The local hobbits stared in amazement, and then sprang to their feet
and shouted for Barliman. All the company drew away from Pippin and Sam,
who
found themselves left alone in a comer, and eyed darkly and doubtfully from
a distance. It was plain that many people regarded them now as the
companions of a travelling magician of unknown powers and purpose. But
there
was one swarthy Bree-lander, who stood looking at them with a knowing and
half-mocking expression that made them feel very uncomfortable. Presently he
slipped out of the door, followed by the squint-eyed southerner: the two had
been whispering together a good deal during the evening. Harry the
gatekeeper also went out just behind them..
    Frodo felt a fool. Not knowing what else to do, he crawled away under
the tables to the dark comer by Strider, who sat unmoved, giving no sign of
his thoughts. Frodo leaned back against the wall and took off the Ring. How
it came to be on his finger he could not tell. He could only suppose that he
had been handling it in his pocket while he sang, and that somehow it had
slipped on when he stuck out his hand with a jerk to save his fall. For a
moment he wondered if the Ring itself had not played him a trick; perhaps it
had tried to reveal itself in response to some wish or command that was felt
in the room. He did not like the looks of the men that had gone out.
    'Well?' said Strider, when he reappeared. 'Why did you do that? Worse
than anything your friends could have said! You have put your foot in it! Or
should I say your finger?'
    'I don't know what you mean,' said Frodo, annoyed and alarmed.
    'Oh yes, you do,' answered Strider; 'but we had better wait until the
uproar has died down. Then, if you please, Mr. Baggins, I should like a
quiet word with you.'
    'What about?' asked Frodo, ignoring the sudden use of his proper name.
    'A matter of some importance - to us both,' answered Strider, looking
Frodo in the eye. 'You may hear something to your advantage.'
    'Very well,' said Frodo, trying to appear unconcerned. 'I'll talk to
you later.'
    Meanwhile an argument was going on by the fireplace. Mr. Butterbur had
come trotting in, and he was now trying to listen to several conflicting
accounts of the event at the same time.
    'I saw him, Mr. Butterbur,' said a hobbit; 'or leastways I didn't see
him, if you take my meaning. He just vanished into thin air, in a manner of
speaking.'
    'You don't say, Mr. Mugwort!' said the landlord, looking puzzled.
    'Yes I do!' replied Mugwort. 'And I mean what I say, what's more.'
    'There's some mistake somewhere,' said Butterbur, shaking his head.
There was too much of that Mr. Underhill to go vanishing into thin air; or
into thick air, as is more likely in this room.'
    'Well, where is he now?' cried several voices.
    'How should I know? He's welcome to go where he will, so long as he
pays in the morning. There's Mr. Took, now: he's not vanished.'
    'Well, I saw what I saw, and I saw what I didn't,' said Mugwort
obstinately.
    'And I say there's some mistake,' repeated Butterbur, picking up the
tray and gathering up the broken crockery.
    'Of course there's a mistake!' said Frodo. 'I haven't vanished. Here I
am! I've just been having a few words with Strider in the comer.'
    He came forward into the firelight; but most of the company backed
away,, even more perturbed than before. They were not in the least satisfied
by his explanation that he had crawled away quickly under the tables after
he had fallen. Most of the Hobbits and the Men of Bree went off then and
there in a huff, having no fancy for further entertainment that evening. One
or two gave Frodo a black look and departed muttering among themselves.
The
Dwarves and the two or three strange Men that still remained got up and said
good night to the landlord, but not to Frodo and his friends. Before long no
one was left but Strider, who sat on, unnoticed, by the wall.
    Mr. Butterbur did not seem much put out. He reckoned, very probably,
that his house would be full again on many future nights, until the present
mystery had been thoroughly discussed. 'Now what have you been doing, Mr.
Underhill?' he asked. 'Frightening my customers and breaking up my crocks
with your acrobatics!'
    'I am very sorry to have caused any trouble,' said Frodo. 'It was quite
unintentional, I assure you. A most unfortunate accident.'
    'All right, Mr. Underhill! But if you're going to do any more tumbling,
or conjuring, or whatever it was, you'd best warn folk beforehand - and warn
me. We're a bit suspicious round here of anything out of the way -uncanny,
if you understand me; and we don't take to it all of a sudden.'
    'I shan't be doing anything of the sort again, Mr. Butterbur, I promise
you. And now I think I'll be getting to bed. We shall be making an early
start. Will you see that our ponies are ready by eight o'clock?'
    'Very good! But before you go, I should like a word with you in
private, Mr. Underhill. Something has just come back to my mind that I ought
to tell you. I hope that you'll not take it amiss. When I've seen to a thing
or two, I'll come along to your room, if you're willing.'
    'Certainly!' said Frodo; but his heart sank. He wondered how many
private talks he would have before he got to bed, and what they would
reveal. Were these people all in league against him? He began to suspect
even old Butterbur's fat face of concealing dark designs.
     Chapter 10. Strider

    Frodo, Pippin, and Sam made their way back to the parlour. There was no
light. Merry was not there, and the fire had burned low. It was not until
they had puffed up the embers into a blaze and thrown on a couple of faggots
that they discovered Strider had come with them. There he was calmly sitting
in a chair by the door!
    'Hallo!' said Pippin. 'Who are you, and what do you want?'
    'I am called Strider,' he answered: 'and though he may have forgotten
it, your friend promised to have a quiet talk with me.'
    'You said I might hear something to my advantage, I believe,' said
Frodo. 'What have you to say?'
    'Several things,' answered Strider. 'But, of course, I have my price.'
    'What do you mean?' asked Frodo sharply.
    'Don't be alarmed! I mean just this: I will tell you what I know, and
give you some good advice - but I shall want a reward.'
    'And what will that be, pray?' said Frodo. He suspected now that he had
fallen in with a rascal, and he thought uncomfortably that he had brought
only a little money with him. All of it would hardly satisfy a rogue, and he
could not spare any of it.
    'No more than you can afford,' answered Strider with a slow smile, as
if he guessed Frodo's thoughts. 'Just this: you must take me along with you,
until I wish to leave you.'
    'Oh, indeed!' replied Frodo, surprised, but not much relieved. 'Even if
I wanted another companion, I should not agree to any such thing, until I
knew a good deal more about you, and your business.'
    'Excellent!' exclaimed Strider, crossing his legs and sitting back
comfortably. 'You seem to be coming to your senses again, and that is all to
the good. You have been much too careless so far. Very well! I will tell you
what I know, and leave the reward to you. You may be glad to grant it, when
you have heard me.'
    'Go on then!' said Frodo. 'What do you know?'
    'Too much; too many dark things,' said Strider grimly. 'But as for your
business --' He got up and went to the door, opened it quickly and looked
out. Then he shut it quietly and sat down again. 'I have quick ears,' he
went on, lowering his voice, 'and though I cannot disappear, I have hunted
many wild and wary things and I can usually avoid being seen, if I wish.
Now, I was behind the hedge this evening on the Road west of Bree, when four
hobbits came out of the Downlands. I need not repeat all that they said to
old Bombadil or to one another, but one thing interested me. Please
remember, said one of them, that the name Baggins must not be mentioned. I
am Mr. Underhill, if any name must be given. That interested me so much that
I followed them here. I slipped over the gate just behind them. Maybe Mr.
Baggins has an honest reason for leaving his name behind; but if so, I
should advise him and his friends to be more careful.'
    'I don't see what interest my name has for any one in Bree,' said Frodo
angrily, 'and I have still to learn why it interests you. Mr. Strider may
have an honest reason for spying and eavesdropping; but if so, I should
advise him to explain it.'
    'Well answered!' said Strider laughing. 'But the explanation is simple:
    I was looking for a Hobbit called Frodo Baggins. I wanted to find him
quickly. I had learned that he was carrying out of the Shire, well, a secret
that concerned me and my friends.
    'Now, don't mistake me!' he cried, as Frodo rose from his seat, and Sam
jumped up with a scowl. 'I shall take more care of the secret than you do.
And care is needed!' He leaned forward and looked at them. 'Watch every
shadow!' he said in a low voice. 'Black horsemen have passed through Bree.
On Monday one came down the Greenway, they say; and another appeared
later,
coming up the Greenway from the south.'
    There was a silence. At last Frodo spoke to Pippin and Sam: 'I ought to
have guessed it from the way the gatekeeper greeted us,' he said. 'And the
landlord seems to have heard something. Why did he press us to join the
company? And why on earth did we behave so foolishly: we ought to have
stayed quiet in here.'
    'It would have been better,' said Strider. 'I would have stopped your
going into the common-room, if I could; but the innkeeper would not let me
in to see you, or take a message.'
    'Do you think he------' began Frodo.
    'No, I don't think any harm of old Butterbur. Only he does not
altogether like mysterious vagabonds of my sort.' Frodo gave him a puzzled
look. 'Well, I have rather a rascally look, have I not?' said Strider with a
curl of his lip and a queer gleam in his eye. 'But I hope we shall get to
know one another better. When we do, I hope you will explain what happened
at the end of your song. For that little prank------'
    'It was sheer accident!' interrupted Frodo.
    'I wonder,' said Strider. 'Accident, then. That accident has made your
position dangerous.'
    'Hardly more than it was already,' said Frodo. 'I knew these horsemen
were pursuing me; but now at any rate they seem to have missed me and to
have gone away.'
    'You must not count on that!' said Strider sharply. 'They will return.
And more are coming. There are others. I know their number. I know these
Riders.' He paused, and his eyes were cold and hard. 'And there are some
folk in Bree who are not to be trusted,' he went on. 'Bill Ferny, for
instance. He has an evil name in the Bree-land, and queer folk call at his
house. You must have noticed him among the company: a swarthy sneering
fellow. He was very close with one of the Southern strangers, and they
slipped out together just after your "accident". Not all of those
Southerners mean well; and as for Ferny, he would sell anything to anybody;
or make mischief for amusement.'
    'What will Ferny sell, and what has my accident got to do with him?'
said Frodo, still determined not to understand Strider's hints.
    'News of you, of course,' answered Strider. 'An account of your
performance would be very interesting to certain people. After that they
would hardly need to be told your real name. It seems to me only too likely
that they will hear of it before this night is over. Is that enough? You can
do as you like about my reward: take me as a guide or not. But I may say
that I know all the lands between the Shire and the Misty Mountains, for I
have wandered over them for many years. I am older than I look. I might
prove useful. You will have to leave the open road after tonight; for the
horsemen will watch it night and day. You may escape from Bree, and be
allowed to go forward while the Sun is up; but you won't go far. They will
come on you in the wild, in some dark place where there is no help. Do you
wish them to find you? They are terrible!'
    The hobbits looked at him, and saw with surprise that his face was
drawn as if with pain, and his hands clenched the arms of his chair. The
room was very quiet and still, and the light seemed to have grown dim. For a
while he sat with unseeing eyes as if walking in distant memory or listening
to sounds in the Night far away.
    'There!' he cried after a moment, drawing his hand across his brow.
'Perhaps I know more about these pursuers than you do. You fear them, but
you do not fear them enough, yet. Tomorrow you will have to escape, if you
can. Strider can take you by paths that are seldom trodden. Will you have
him?'
    There was a heavy silence. Frodo made no answer, his mind was confused
with doubt and fear. Sam frowned, and looked at his master; and at last he
broke out:
    'With your leave, Mr. Frodo, I'd say no! This Strider here, he warns
and he says take care; and I say yes to that, and let's begin with him. He
comes out of the Wild, and I never heard no good of such folk. He knows
something, that's plain, and more than I like; but it's no reason why we
should let him go leading us out into some dark place far from help, as he
puts it.'
    Pippin fidgeted and looked uncomfortable. Strider did not reply to Sam,
but turned his keen eyes on Frodo. Frodo caught his glance and looked away.
'No,' he said slowly. 'I don't agree. I think, I think you are not really as
you choose to look. You began to talk to me like the Bree-folk, but your
voice has changed. Still Sam seems right in this: I don't see why you should
warn us to take care, and yet ask us to take you on trust. Why the disguise?
Who are you? What do you really know about - about my business; and how
do
you know it?'
    'The lesson in caution has been well learned,' said Strider with a grim
smile. 'But caution is one thing and wavering is another. You will never get
to Rivendell now on your own, and to trust me is your only chance. You must
make up your mind. I will answer some of your questions, if that will help
you to do so. But why should you believe my story, if you do not trust me
already? Still here it is------'
   At that moment there came a knock at the door. Mr. Butterbur had
arrived with candles, and behind him was Nob with cans of hot water. Strider
withdrew into a dark corner.
    'I've come to bid you good night,' said the landlord, putting the
candles on the table. 'Nob! Take the water to the rooms!' He came in and
shut the door.
    'It's like this,' he began, hesitating and looking troubled. 'If I've
done any harm, I'm sorry indeed. But one thing drives out another, as you'll
admit; and I'm a busy man. But first one thing and then another this week
have jogged my memory, as the saying goes; and not too late I hope. You see,
I was asked to look out for hobbits of the Shire, and for one by the name of
Baggins in particular.'
    'And what has that got to do with me?' asked Frodo.
    'Ah! you know best,' said the landlord, knowingly. 'I won't give you
away; but I was told that this Baggins would be going by the name of
Underhill, and I was given a description that fits you well enough, if I may
say so.'
    'Indeed! Let's have it then!' said Frodo, unwisely interrupting.
    'A stout little fellow with red cheeks,' said Mr. Butterbur solemnly.
Pippin chuckled, but Sam looked indignant. 'That won't help you much; it
goes for most hobbits. Barley, he says to me,' continued Mr. Butterbur with
a glance at Pippin. 'But this one is taller than some and fairer than most,
and he has a cleft in his chin: perky chap with a bright eye. Begging your
pardon, but he said it, not me.'
    'He said it? And who was he?' asked Frodo eagerly.
    'Ah! That was Gandalf, if you know who I mean. A wizard they say he is,
but he's a good friend of mine, whether or no. But now I don't know what
he'll have to say to me, if I see him again: turn all my ale sour or me into
a block of wood, I shouldn't wonder. He's a bit hasty. Still what's done
can't be undone. '
    'Well, what have you done?' said Frodo, getting impatient with the slow
unravelling of Butterbur's thoughts.
    'Where was I?' said the landlord, pausing and snapping his fingers.
'Ah, yes! Old Gandalf. Three months back he walked right into my room
without a knock. Barley, he says, I'm off in the morning. Will you do
something for me? You've only to name it, I said. I'm in a hurry, said he,
and I've no time myself, but I want a message took to the Shire. Have you
anyone you can send, and trust to go? I can find someone, I said, tomorrow,
maybe, or the day after. Make it tomorrow, he says, and then he gave me a
letter.
    'It's addressed plain enough,' said Mr. Butterbur, producing a letter
from his pocket, and reading out the address slowly and proudly (he valued
his reputation as a lettered man):
    Mr FRODO BAGGINS, BAG END, HOBBITON in the SHIRE.
    'A letter for me from Gandalf!' cried Frodo.
    'Ah!' said Mr. Butterbur. 'Then your right name is Baggins?'
    'It is,' said Frodo, 'and you had better give me that letter at once,
and explain why you never sent it. That's what you came to tell me, I
suppose, though you've taken a long time to come to the point.'
   Poor Mr. Butterbur looked troubled. 'You're right, master,' he said,
'and I beg your pardon. And I'm mortal afraid of what Gandalf will say, if
harm comes of it. But I didn't keep it back a-purpose. I put it by safe.
Then I couldn't find nobody willing to go to the Shire next day, nor the day
after, and none of my own folk were to spare; and then one thing after
another drove it out of my mind. I'm a busy man. I'll do what I can to set
matters right, and if there's any help I can give, you've only to name it.
    'Leaving the letter aside, I promised Gandalf no less. Barley, he says
to me, this friend of mine from the Shire, he may be coming out this way
before long, him and another. He'll be calling himself Underhill. Mind that!
But you need ask no questions. And if I'm not with him, he may be in
trouble, and he may need help. Do whatever you can for him, and I'll be
grateful, he says. And here you are, and trouble is not far off, seemingly.'
    'What do you mean?' asked Frodo.
    'These black men,' said the landlord lowering his voice. 'They're
looking for Baggins, and if they mean well, then I'm a hobbit. It was on
Monday, and all the dogs were yammering and the geese screaming. Uncanny,
I
called it. Nob, he came and told me that two black men were at the door
asking for a hobbit called Baggins. Nob's hair was all stood on end. I bid
the black fellows be off, and slammed the door on them; but they've been
asking the same question all the way to Archet, I hear. And that Ranger,
Strider, he's been asking questions, too. Tried to get in here to see you,
before you'd had bite or sup, he did.'
   'He did!' said Strider suddenly, coming forward into the light. 'And
much trouble would have been saved, if you had let him in, Barliman.'
   The landlord jumped with surprise. 'You!' he cried. 'You're always
popping up. What do you want now?'
   'He's here with my leave,' said Frodo. 'He came to offer me his help.'
   'Well, you know your own business, maybe,' said Mr. Butterbur, looking
suspiciously at Strider. 'But if I was in your plight, I wouldn't take up
with a Ranger.'
    'Then who would you take up with?' asked Strider. 'A fat innkeeper who
only remembers his own name because people shout it at him all day? They
cannot stay in The Pony for ever, and they cannot go home. They have a long
road before them. Will you go with them and keep the black men off?'
     'Me? Leave Bree! I wouldn't do that for any money,' said Mr. Butterbur,
looking really scared. 'But why can't you stay here quiet for a bit, Mr.
Underhill? What are all these queer goings on? What are these black men
after, and where do they come from, I'd like to know?'
     'I'm sorry I can't explain it all,' answered Frodo. 'I am tired and
very worried, and it's a long tale. But if you mean to help me, I ought to
warn you that you will be in danger as long as I am in your house. These
Black Riders: I am not sure, but I think, I fear they come from------'
     'They come from Mordor,' said Strider in a low voice. 'From Mordor,
Barliman, if that means anything to you.'
     'Save us!' cried Mr. Butterbur turning pale; the name evidently was
known to him. 'That is the worst news that has come to Bree in my time.' 'It
is,' said Frodo. 'Are you still willing to help me?' 'I am,' said Mr.
Butterbur. 'More than ever. Though I don't know what the likes of me can do
against, against------' he faltered.
     'Against the Shadow in the East,' said Strider quietly. 'Not much,
Barliman, but every little helps. You can let Mr. Underhill stay here
tonight, as Mr. Underhill, and you can forget the name of Baggins, till he
is far away.'
     'I'll do that,' said Butterbur. 'But they'll find out he's here without
help from me, I'm afraid. It's a pity Mr. Baggins drew attention to himself
this evening, to say no more. The story of that Mr. Bilbo's going off has
been heard before tonight in Bree. Even our Nob has been doing some guessing
in his slow pate: and there are others in Bree quicker in the uptake than he
is.'
     'Well, we can only hope the Riders won't come back yet,' said Frodo.
     'I hope not, indeed,' said Butterbur. 'But spooks or no spooks, they
won't get in The Pony so easy. Don't you worry till the morning. Nob'll say
no word. No black man shall pass my doors, while I can stand on my legs. Me
and my folk'll keep watch tonight; but you had best get some sleep, if you
can.'
     'In any case we must be called at dawn,' said Frodo. 'We must get off
as early as possible. Breakfast at six-thirty, please.'
     'Right! I'll see to the orders,' said the landlord. 'Good night, Mr.
Baggins - Underhill, I should say! Good night - now, bless me! Where's your
Mr. Brandybuck?'
   'I don't know,' said Frodo with sudden anxiety. They had forgotten all
about Merry, and it was getting late. 'I am afraid he is out. He said
something about going for a breath of air.'
   'Well, you do want looking after and no mistake: your party might be on
a holiday!' said Butterbur. 'I must go and bar the doors quick, but I'll see
your friend is let in when he comes. I'd better send Nob to look for him.
Good night to you all!' At last Mr. Butterbur went out, with another
doubtful look at Strider and a shake of his head. His footsteps retreated
down the passage.
   'Well?' said Strider. 'When are you going to open that letter?' Frodo
looked carefully at the seal before he broke it. It seemed certainly to be
Gandalf's. Inside, written in the wizard's strong but graceful script, was
the following message:
   THE PRANCING PONY, BREE. Midyear's Day, Shire Year, 1418.
   Dear Frodo,
   Bad news has reached me here. I must go off at once. You had better
leave Bag End soon, and get out of the Shire before the end of July at
latest. I will return as soon as I can; and I will follow you, if I find
that you are gone. Leave a message for me here, if you pass through Bree.
You can trust the landlord (Butterbur). You may meet a friend of mine on the
Road: a Man, lean, dark, tall, by some called Strider. He knows our business
and will help you. Make for Rivendell. There I hope we may meet again. If I
do not come, Elrond will advise you.
   Yours in haste
   GANDALF.
   PS. Do NOT use It again, not far any reason whatever! Do not travel by
night!
   PPS. Make sure that it is the real Strider. There are many strange men
on the roads. His true name is Aragorn.
   All that is gold does not glitter,
   Not all those who wander are lost;
   The old that is strong does not wither,
   Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
   From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
   A light from the shadows shall spring;
  Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
  The crownless again shall be king.


    PPPS. I hope Butterbur sends this promptly. A worthy man, but his
memory is like a lumber-roam: thing wanted always buried. If he forgets, I
shall roast him.
    Fare Well!
    Frodo read the letter to himself, and then passed it to Pippin and Sam.
'Really old Butterbur has made a mess of things!' he said. 'He deserves
roasting. If I had got this at once, we might all have been safe in
Rivendell by now. But what can have happened to Gandalf? He writes as if he
was going into great danger.'
    'He has been doing that for many years,' said Strider.
    Frodo turned and looked at him thoughtfully, wondering about Gandalf's
second postscript. 'Why didn't you tell me that you were Gandalf's friend at
once?' he asked. 'It would have saved time.'
    'Would it? Would any of you have believed me till now?' said Strider.
'I knew nothing of this letter. For all I knew I had to persuade you to
trust me without proofs, if I was to help you. In any case, I did not intend
to tell you all about myself at once. I had to study you first, and make
sure of you. The Enemy has set traps for me before now. As soon as I had
made up my mind, I was ready to tell you whatever you asked. But I must
admit,' he added with a queer laugh, 'that I hoped you would take to me for
my own sake. A hunted man sometimes wearies of distrust and longs for
friendship. But there, I believe my looks are against me.'
    'They are - at first sight at any rate,' laughed Pippin with sudden
relief after reading Gandalf's letter. 'But handsome is as handsome does, as
we say in the Shire; and I daresay we shall all look much the same after
lying for days in hedges and ditches.'
    'It would take more than a few days, or weeks, or years, of wandering
in the Wild to make you look like Strider,' he answered. 'And you would die
first, unless you are made of sterner stuff than you look to be.'
    Pippin subsided; but Sam was not daunted, and he still eyed Strider
dubiously. 'How do we know you are the Strider that Gandalf speaks about?'
he demanded. 'You never mentioned Gandalf, till this letter came out. You
might be a play-acting spy, for all I can see, trying to get us to go with
you. You might have done in the real Strider and took his clothes. What have
you to say to that?'
    'That you are a stout fellow,' answered Strider; 'but I am afraid my
only answer to you, Sam Gamgee, is this. If I had killed the real Strider, I
could kill you. And I should have killed you already without so much talk.
If I was after the Ring, I could have it - NOW!'
    He stood up, and seemed suddenly to grow taller. In his eyes gleamed a
light, keen and commanding. Throwing back his cloak, he laid his hand on the
hilt of a sword that had hung concealed by his side. They did not dare to
move. Sam sat wide-mouthed staring at him dumbly.
    'But I am the real Strider, fortunately,' he said, looking down at them
with his face softened by a sudden smile. 'I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and
if by life or death I can save you, I will.'
    There was a long silence. At last Frodo spoke with hesitation. 'I
believed that you were a friend before the letter came,' he said, 'or at
least I wished to. You have frightened me several times tonight, but never
in the way that servants of the Enemy would, or so I imagine. I think one of
his spies would - well, seem fairer and feel fouler, if you understand.'
    'I see,' laughed Strider. 'I look foul and feel fair. Is that it? All
that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.'
    'Did the verses apply to you then?' asked Frodo. 'I could not make out
what they were about. But how did you know that they were in Gandalf's
letter, if you have never seen it?'
    'I did not know,' he answered. 'But I am Aragorn, and those verses go
with that name.' He drew out his sword, and they saw that the blade was
indeed broken a foot below the hilt. 'Not much use is it, Sam?' said
Strider. 'But the time is near when it shall be forged anew.'
    Sam said nothing.
    'Well,' said Strider, 'with Sam's permission we will call that settled.
Strider shall be your guide. We shall have a rough road tomorrow. Even if we
are allowed to leave Bree unhindered, we can hardly hope now to leave it
unnoticed. But I shall try to get lost as soon as possible. I know one or
two ways out of Bree-land other than the main road. If once we shake off the
pursuit, I shall make for Weathertop.'
    'Weathertop?' said Sam. 'What's that?'
    'It is a hill, just to the north of the Road, about half way from here
to Rivendell. It commands a wide view all round; and there we shall have a
chance to look about us. Gandalf will make for that point, if he follows us.
After Weathertop our journey will become more difficult, and we shall have
to choose between various dangers.'
    'When did you last see Gandalf?' asked Frodo. 'Do you know where he is,
or what he is doing?'
    Strider looked grave. 'I do not know,' he said. 'I came west with him
in the spring. I have often kept watch on the borders of the Shire in the
last few years, when he was busy elsewhere. He seldom left it unguarded. We
last met on the first of May: at Sam Ford down the Brandywine. He told me
that his business with you had gone well, and that you would be starting for
Rivendell in the last week of September. As I knew he was at your side, I
went away on a journey of my own. And that has proved ill; for plainly some
news reached him, and I was not at hand to help.
    'I am troubled, for the first time since I have known him. We should
have had messages, even if he could not come himself. When I returned, many
days ago, I heard the ill news. The tidings had gone far and wide that
Gandalf was missing and the horsemen had been seen. It was the Elven-folk of
Gildor that told me this; and later they told me that you had left your
home; but there was no news of your leaving Buckland. I have been watching
the East Road anxiously.'
    'Do you think the Black Riders have anything to do with it - with
Gandalf's absence, I mean?' asked Frodo.
    'I do not know of anything else that could have hindered him, except
the Enemy himself,' said Strider. 'But do not give up hope! Gandalf is
greater than you Shire-folk know - as a rule you can only see his jokes and
toys. But this business of ours will be his greatest task.'
    Pippin yawned. 'I am sorry,' he said, 'but I am dead tired. In spite of
all the danger and worry I must go to bed, or sleep where I sit. Where is
that silly fellow, Merry? It would be the last straw, if we had to go out in
the dark to look for him.'
    At that moment they heard a door slam; then feet came running along the
passage. Merry came in with a rush followed by Nob. He shut the door
hastily, and leaned against it. He was out of breath. They stared at him in
alarm for a moment before he gasped: 'I have seen them, Frodo! I have seen
them! Black Riders!'
    'Black Riders!' cried Frodo. 'Where?'
    'Here. In the village. I stayed indoors for an hour. Then as you did
not come back, I went out for a stroll. I had come back again and was
standing just outside the light of the lamp looking at the stars. Suddenly I
shivered and felt that something horrible was creeping near: there was a son
of deeper shade among the shadows across the road, just beyond the edge of
the lamplight. It slid away at once into the dark without a sound. There was
no horse.'
    'Which way did it go?' asked Strider, suddenly and sharply. Merry
started, noticing the stranger for the first time. 'Go on!' said Frodo.
'This is a friend of Gandalf's. I will explain later.'
    'It seemed to make off up the Road, eastward,' continued Merry. 'I
tried to follow. Of course, it vanished almost at once; but I went round the
corner and on as far as the last house on the Road.'
    Strider looked at Merry with wonder. 'You have a stout heart,' he said;
'but it was foolish.'
    'I don't know,' said Merry. 'Neither brave nor silly, I think. I could
hardly help myself. I seemed to be drawn somehow. Anyway, I went, and
suddenly I heard voices by the hedge. One was muttering; and the other was
whispering, or hissing. I couldn't hear a word that was said. I did not
creep any closer, because I began to tremble all over. Then I felt
terrified, and I turned back, and was just going to bolt home, when
something came behind me and I... I fell over.'
    'I found him, sir,' put in Nob. 'Mr. Butterbur sent me out with a
lantern. I went down to West-gate, and then back up towards South-gate. Just
nigh Bill Ferny's house I thought I could see something in the Road. I
couldn't swear to it, but it looked to me as if two men was stooping over
something, lilting it. I gave a shout, but where I got up to the spot there
was no signs of them, and only Mr. Brandybuck lying by the roadside. He
seemed to be asleep. "I thought I had fallen into deep water," he says to
me, when I shook him. Very queer he was, and as soon as I had roused him, he
got up and ran back here like a hare.'
    'I am afraid that's true,' said Merry, 'though I don't know what I
said. I had an ugly dream, which I can't remember. I went to pieces. I don't
know what came over me.'
    'I do,' said Strider. 'The Black Breath. The Riders must have left
their horses outside, and passed back through the South-gate in secret. They
will know all the news now, for they have visited Bill Ferny; and probably
that Southerner was a spy as well. Something may happen in the night, before
we leave Bree.'
    'What will happen?' said Merry. 'Will they attack the inn?' 'No, I
think not,' said Strider. 'They are not all here yet. And in any case that
is not their way. In dark and loneliness they are strongest; they will not
openly attack a house where there are lights and many people -not until they
are desperate, not while all the long leagues of Eriador still lie before
us. But their power is in terror, and already some in Bree are in their
clutch. They will drive these wretches to some evil work: Ferny, and some of
the strangers, and, maybe, the gatekeeper too. They had words with Harry at
West-gate on Monday. I was watching them. He was white and shaking when
they
left him.'
    'We seem to have enemies all round,' said Frodo. 'What are we to do?'
    'Stay here, and do not go to your rooms! They are sure to have found
out which those are. The hobbit-rooms have windows looking north and close
to the ground. We will all remain together and bar this window and the door.
But first Nob and I will fetch your luggage.'
    While Strider was gone, Frodo gave Merry a rapid account of all that
had happened since supper. Merry was still reading and pondering Gandalf's
letter when Strider and Nob returned.
    'Well Masters,' said Nob, 'I've ruffled up the clothes and put in a
bolster down the middle of each bed. And I made a nice imitation of your
head with a brown woollen mat, Mr. Bag - Underhill, sir,' he added with a
grin.
    Pippin laughed. 'Very life-like!' he said. 'But what will happen when
they have penetrated the disguise?'
    'We shall see,' said Strider. 'Let us hope to hold the fort till
morning.'
    'Good night to you,' said Nob, and went off to take his part in the
watch on the doors.
    Their bags and gear they piled on the parlour-floor. They pushed a low
chair against the door and shut the window. Peering out, Frodo saw that the
night was still clear. The Sickle was swinging bright above the shoulders of
Bree-hill. He then closed and barred the heavy inside shutters and drew the
curtains together. Strider built up the fire and blew out all the candles.
    The hobbits lay down on their blankets with their feet towards the
hearth; but Strider settled himself in the chair against the door. They
talked for a little, for Merry still had several questions to ask.
    'Jumped over the Moon!' chuckled Merry as he rolled himself in his
blanket. 'Very ridiculous of you, Frodo! But I wish I had been there to see.
The worthies of Bree will be discussing it a hundred years hence.'
    'I hope so,' said Strider. Then they all fell silent, and one by one
the hobbits dropped off to sleep.
     Chapter 11. A Knife in the Dark

    As they prepared for sleep in the inn at Bree, darkness lay on
Buckland; a mist strayed in the dells and along the river-bank. The house at
Crickhollow stood silent. Fatty Bolger opened the door cautiously and peered
out. A feeling of fear had been growing on him all day, and he was unable to
rest or go to bed: there was a brooding threat in the breathless night-air.
As he stared out into the gloom, a black shadow moved under the trees; the
gate seemed to open of its own accord and close again without a sound.
Terror seized him. He shrank back, and for a moment he stood trembling in
the hall. Then he shut and locked the door.
    The night deepened. There came the soft sound of horses led with
stealth along the lane. Outside the gate they stopped, and three black
figures entered, like shades of night creeping across the ground. One went
to the door, one to the corner of the house on either side; and there they
stood, as still as the shadows of stones, while night went slowly on. The
house and the quiet trees seemed to be waiting breathlessly.
    There was a faint stir in the leaves, and a cock crowed far away. The
cold hour before dawn was passing. The figure by the door moved. In the dark
without moon or stars a drawn blade gleamed, as if a chill light had been
unsheathed. There was a blow, soft but heavy, and the door shuddered.
    'Open, in the name of Mordor!' said a voice thin and menacing.
    At a second blow the door yielded and fell back, with timbers burst and
lock broken. The black figures passed swiftly in.
    At that moment, among the trees nearby, a horn rang out. It rent the
night like fire on a hill-top.
    AWAKE! FEAR! FIRE! FOES! AWAKE!
    Fatty Bolger had not been idle. As soon as he saw the dark shapes creep
from the garden, he knew that he must run for it, or perish. And run he did,
out of the back door, through the garden, and over the fields. When he
reached the nearest house, more than a mile away, he collapsed on the
doorstep. 'No, no, no!' he was crying. 'No, not me! I haven't got it!' It
was some time before anyone could make out what he was babbling about.
At
last they got the idea that enemies were in Buckland, some strange invasion
from the Old Forest. And then they lost no more time.
    FEAR! FIRE! FOES!
    The Brandybucks were blowing the Horn-call of Buckland, that had not
been sounded for a hundred years, not since the white wolves came in the
Fell Winter, when the Brandywine was frozen over.
    AWAKE! AWAKE!
    Far-away answering horns were heard. The alarm was spreading. The black
figures fled from the house. One of them let fall a hobbit-cloak on the
step, as he ran. In the lane the noise of hoofs broke out, and gathering to
a gallop, went hammering away into the darkness. All about Crickhollow there
was the sound of horns blowing, and voices crying and feet running. But the
Black Riders rode like a gale to the North-gate. Let the little people blow!
Sauron would deal with them later. Meanwhile they had another errand: they
knew now that the house was empty and the Ring had gone. They rode down
the
guards at the gate and vanished from the Shire.
    In the early night Frodo woke from deep sleep, suddenly, as if some
sound or presence had disturbed him. He saw that Strider was sitting alert
in his chair: his eyes gleamed in the light of the fire, which had been
tended and was burning brightly; but he made no sign or movement.
    Frodo soon went to sleep again; but his dreams were again troubled with
the noise of wind and of galloping hoofs. The wind seemed to be curling
round the house and shaking it; and far off he heard a horn blowing wildly.
He opened his eyes, and heard a cock crowing lustily in the inn-yard.
Strider had drawn the curtains and pushed back the shutters with a clang.
The first grey light of day was in the room, and a cold air was coming
through the open window.
    As soon as Strider had roused them all, he led the way to their
bedrooms. When they saw them they were glad that they had taken his advice:
the windows had been forced open and were swinging, and the curtains were
flapping; the beds were tossed about, and the bolsters slashed and flung
upon the floor; the brown mat was torn to pieces.
    Strider immediately went to fetch the landlord. Poor Mr. Butterbur
looked sleepy and frightened. He had hardly closed his eyes all night (so he
said), but he had never heard a sound.
    'Never has such a thing happened in my time!' he cried, raising his
hands in horror. 'Guests unable to sleep in their beds, and good bolsters
ruined and all! What are we coming to?'
    'Dark times,' said Strider. 'But for the present you may be left in
peace, when you have got rid of us. We will leave at once. Never mind about
breakfast: a drink and a bite standing will have to do. We shall be packed
in a few minutes.'
    Mr. Butterbur hurried off to see that their ponies were got ready, and
to fetch them a 'bite'. But very soon he came back in dismay. The ponies had
vanished! The stable-doors had all been opened in the night, and they were
gone: not only Merry's ponies, but every other horse and beast in the place.
    Frodo was crushed by the news. How could they hope to reach Rivendell
on foot, pursued by mounted enemies? They might as well set out for the
Moon. Strider sat silent for a while, looking at the hobbits, as if he was
weighing up their strength and courage.
    'Ponies would not help us to escape horsemen,' he said at last,
thoughtfully, as if he guessed what Frodo had in mind. 'We should not go
much slower on foot, not on the roads that I mean to take. I was going to
walk in any case. It is the food and stores that trouble me. We cannot count
on getting anything to eat between here and Rivendell, except what we take
with us; and we ought to take plenty to spare; for we may be delayed, or
forced to go round-about, far out of the direct way. How much are you
prepared to carry on your backs?'
    'As much as we must,' said Pippin with a sinking heart, but trying to
show that he was tougher than he looked (or felt).
    'I can carry enough for two,' said Sam defiantly.
    'Can't anything be done, Mr. Butterbur?' asked Frodo. 'Can't we get a
couple of ponies in the village, or even one just for the baggage? I don't
suppose we could hire them, but we might be able to buy them,' he added,
doubtfully, wondering if he could afford it.
    'I doubt it,' said the landlord unhappily. 'The two or three
riding-ponies that there were in Bree were stabled in my yard, and they're
gone. As for other animals, horses or ponies for draught or what not, there
are very few of them in Bree, and they won't be for sale. But I'll do what I
can. I'll rout out Bob and send him round as soon as may be.'
    'Yes,' said Strider reluctantly, 'you had better do that. I am afraid
we shall have to try to get one pony at least. But so ends all hope of
starting early, and slipping away quietly! We might as well have blown a
horn to announce our departure. That was part of their plan, no doubt.'
    'There is one crumb of comfort,' said Merry, 'and more than a crumb, I
hope: we can have breakfast while we wait - and sit down to it. Let's get
hold of Nob!'
    In the end