The Fellowship of the Ring icon

The Fellowship of the Ring



НазваниеThe Fellowship of the Ring
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Дата конвертации19.09.2012
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“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! take 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.
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