THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE COLLAR 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
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-dûm Chapter 6 Lothlórien
Chapter 7 The Mirror of Galadriel
Chapter 8 Farewell to Lórien
Chapter 9 The Great River
Chapter 10 The Breaking of the Fellowship
_Chapter 1_ A Long-expected Party
When Mr. Spades of Babylon drive announced that he would shortly be celebrating his 15th birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in The Gardens.
Spades was very rich and very peculiar, and had been the wonder of Babylon 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 House at Babylon Drive was full of tunnels stuffed with treasure. And if that was not enough for fame, there was also his prolonged vigor to marvel at. Time wore on, but it seemed to have little effect on Mr. Spades. At 12 he was much the same as at 7. At 13 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. Spades 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 Byrons), and he had many devoted admirers among the dogs 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 favorite, was young King. When Spades was 13, he adopted King as his heir, and brought him to live at Babylon Drive; and the hopes of the Byrons were finally dashed. Spades and King happened to have the same birthday, September 22nd. 'You had better come and live here, King my lad,' said Spades one day; 'and then we can celebrate our birthday-parties comfortably together.' At that time King was still in his _tweens,_ as the hobbits called the irresponsible threes between childhood and coming of age at 5.
Two more years passed. Each year the Robinson's had given very lively combined birthday- parties at Babylon Drive; but now it was understood that something quite exceptional was being planned for that autumn. Spades was going to be _15, a rather curious number and a very respectable age for a dog (the Old Took himself had only reached 17); and King was going to be _5.) an important number: the date of his 'coming of age'.
Tongues began to wag in the Gardens and Bywater; and rumor of the coming event traveled all over Babylon. The history and character of Mr. Spades 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 Bill, 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 Babylon Drive 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, Fox. Both father and son were on very friendly terms with Spades and King. They lived on the Hill itself, in Number 3 Bagshot Row just below Babylon Drive.
'A very nice well-spoken gentledog is Mr. Spades, as I've always said,' the Gaffer declared. With perfect truth: for Spades was very polite to him, calling him 'Master Bill', 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 neighborhood (including himself).
'But what about this King that lives with him?' asked Old Daryl of Bywater. 'Robinson is his name, but he's more than half a Brandybuck, they say. It beats me why any Robinson of the Gardens should go looking for a wife away there in Buckland, where folks are so queer.'
'And no wonder they're queer,' put in Miles (the Gaffer's next-door neighbor), 'if they live on the wrong side of the Brandywine River, and right agenst the Old Forest. That's a dark bad place, if half the tales be true.'
'You're right, Miles!' 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. King is as nice a young dog as you could wish to meet. Very much like Mr. Spades, and in more than looks. After all his father was a Robinson. A decent respectable hobbit was Mr. Drogo Robinson; there was never much to tell of him, till he was drownded.'
'Drownded?' said several voices. They had heard this and other darker rumors before, of course; but dogs 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. King 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. King only a pup and all. '
'I've heard they went on the water after dinner in the moonlight,' said Old Daryl; '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 Gardens' 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. King 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. Spades 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 Byrons. They thought they were going to get Babylon Drive, 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 Byrons won't never see the inside of Babylon Drive 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_jewels, by what I've heard. '
'Then you've heard more than I can speak to,' answered the Gaffer. I know nothing about _jewels._ Mr. Spades is free with his money, and there seems no lack of it; but I know of no tunnel- making. I saw Mr. Spades when he came back, a matter of nine 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 Babylon Drive 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. Spades 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 Fox will know more about that. He's in and out of Babylon Drive. Crazy about stories of the old days he is, and he listens to all Mr. Spades' tales. Mr. Spades 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 Spades' wealth was now too firmly fixed in the minds of the younger generation of dogs.
'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, Kitsune, and all. You can say what you like, Gaffer, but Babylon Drive'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 orange soda to a friend, if they lived in a hole with golden walls. But they do things proper at Babylon Drive. Our Fox 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 rumor (probably started by the knowledgeable Fox.) was spread about that there were going to be 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 wagon laden with odd-looking packages rolled into the Gardens 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 Babylon Drive. 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 tan fox 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 pups ran after the cart all through the Gardens and right up the hill. It had a cargo of fireworks, as they rightly guessed. At Spades' 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 K and the elf-rune, .
That was Kitsune's mark, of course, and the old fox was Kitsune, whose fame in Babylon was due mainly to his skill with fires, smokes, and lights. His real business was far more difficult and dangerous, but the Babylon-folk knew nothing about it. To them he was just one of the 'attractions' at the Party. Hence the excitement of the pups. They knew him by sight, though he only appeared in the gardens 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 fox, helped by Spades' 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 Kitsune. 'You will get plenty when the time comes.' Then he disappeared inside with Spades, and the door was shut. The young pups stared at the door in vain for a while, and then made off, feeling that the day of the party would never come.
Inside Babylon Drive, Spades' and Kitsune 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 Kitsune.
'Yes,' said Spades. 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 Kitsune, shaking his head.
'We shall see,' said Spades.
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 Babylon Drive for every kind of provision, commodity, or luxury that could be obtained in the Gardens or Bywater or anywhere in the neighborhood. 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 the Gardens 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 Babylon Drive: 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 Kitsune's arrival he remained hidden from view.
One morning the dogs woke to find the large field, south of Spades' 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 dog-families of Bagshot Row, adjoining the field, were intensely interested and generally envied. Old Gaffer 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 dogs' mind): an enormous open-air kitchen was erected in the north corner of the field. A drought of cooks, from every inn and eating- house for miles around, arrived to supplement the dwarves and other odd folk that were quartered at Babylon Drive. 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.
Spades Robinson 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. Spades 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. Dogs 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 The Gardens 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 pups 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 magi(k)al. 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 Kitsune: 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 Kitsune 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 dogs, 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 colored 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 honor of Spades, and it startled the dogs exceedingly, as Kitsune 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 Spades. The pain and alarm vanished at once, and the prostrate dogs 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 dogs one Gross, though the word was not considered proper to use of people); and the guests were selected from all the families to which Spades and King were related, with the addition of a few special unrelated friends (such as Kitsune). Many young dogs were included, and present by parental permission; for dogs were easy-going with their pups in the matter of sitting up late, especially when there was a chance of getting them a free meal. Bringing up young pups took a lot of provender.
There were many Robinson's and Boffins, and also many Tooks and Brandybucks; there were various Grubbs (relations of Spades Robinsons' grandmother), and various Chubbs (connections 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 Spades, and some of them had hardly ever been in The Gardens before, as they lived in remote corners of Babylon. The Byrons were not forgotten. Bino was present. he disliked Spades and detested King, but so magnificent was the invitation card, written in golden ink, that they had felt it was impossible to refuse. Besides, their cousin, Spades, 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 Spades' 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 favorite drinks, and nibbling at their favorite dainties, and their fears were forgotten. They were prepared to listen to anything, and to cheer at every full stop.
_My dear People,_ began Spades, 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 collar.
_My dear Robinson's 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 Byrons that I welcome back at last to Babylon Drive. Today is my fifteenth birthday: I am fifteen today!_ 'Hurray! Hurray! Many Happy Returns!' they shouted, and they hammered joyously on the tables. Spades was doing splendidly. This was the sort of stuff they liked: short and obvious.
_I 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 dogs 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 dogs, but they all agreed they were marvelous 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 Spades 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 Spades had not finished. Seizing a horn from a youngster near by, he blew three loud hoots. The noise subsided. _I shall not keep you long,_ he cried. Cheers from all the assembly. _I 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 fifteen years is too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable hobbits._ Tremendous outburst of approval.
_I 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. _I should say: OUR birthday. For it is, of course, also the birthday of my heir and nephew, King. He comes of age and into his inheritance today._ Some perfunctory clapping by the elders; and some loud shouts of 'King! King! Jolly old King,' from the juniors. The Byrons scowled, and wondered what was meant by 'coming into his inheritance'. _Together we score 20.
_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 7 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 Spades 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, fifteen 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 Spades was nowhere to be seen. One hundred and forty-four flabbergasted dogs 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 Robinson, 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 Spades' behavior 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 Robinson is off again. Silly old fool. But why worry? He hasn't taken the vittles with him.' He called loudly to King to send the wine round again.
King was the only one present who had said nothing. For some time he had sat silent beside Spades' 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 dog dearly. Most of the guests went on eating and drinking and discussing Spades' oddities, past and present; but the Byrons had already departed in wrath. King 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 Spades, and slipped out of the pavilion.
As for Spades, even while he was making his speech, he had been fingering the golden collar he wore to any special occasion: his magic collar that he had kept secret for so many years. As he stepped down he snapped it on his neck, and he was never seen by any dog in the gardens again.
He walked briskly back to his house, 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 weather-stained that their original color 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 King. 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 Kitsune came quickly in.
'Hullo!' said Spades. '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 Spades. "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 Spades, '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, Kitsune. 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.'
Kitsune 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, Kitsune, _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. '_
Kitsune laughed. I hope he will. But nobody will read the book, however it ends.'
'Oh, they may, in years to come. King has read some already, as far as it has gone. You'll keep an eye on King, 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 gardens, 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 Kitsune. 'The ring as well? You agreed to that, you remember.'
'Well, er, yes, I suppose so,' stammered Spades.
'Where is it?'
'In an envelope, if you must know,' said spades 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?'
Kitsune looked again very hard at Spades, and there was a gleam in his eyes. 'I think, Spades,' 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 Kitsune. '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. Spades, unless I am quite mistaken.'
Spades 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 Kitsune. 'But there is no need to get angry.'
'If I am it is your fault,' said Spades. '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.'
Kitsune stood up. He spoke sternly. 'You will be a fool if you do. Spades,' 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 Spades obstinately.
'Now, now, my dear hobbit! ' said Kitsune. '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 Spades. '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.
Kitsune'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 Kitsune the Grey uncloaked.' He took a step towards the hobbit, and he seemed to grow tall and menacing; his shadow filled the little room.
Spades 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. Kitsune's eyes remained bent on the dog. Slowly his hands relaxed, and he began to tremble.
'I don't know what has come over you, Spades,' 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,' Kitsune 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 to.' He turned away, and the shadow passed. He seemed to dwindle again to an old grey man, bent and troubled.
Spades 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 Kitsune. 'It is quite made up. Go away and leave it behind. Stop possessing it. Give it to King, and I will look after him.'
Spades 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 Kitsune.
'Very well,' said Spades, 'it goes to King 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 Spades. '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 collar to me,' said Kitsune. 'Put it on the mantelpiece. It will be safe enough there, till King comes. I shall wait for him.'
Spades 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 dog'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. Spades chose his favorite stick from the stand; then he whistled. Three dwarves came out of different rooms where they had been busy.
'Is everything ready?' asked Spades. '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, Kitsune!'
'Good-bye, for the present, Spades. 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 barks 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.
Kitsune remained for a while staring after him into the darkness. 'Goodbye, my dear Spades – until our next meeting!' he said softly and went back indoors.
King came in soon afterwards, and found him sitting in the dark, deep in thought. 'Has he gone?' he asked.
'Yes,' answered Kitsune, 'he has gone at last.'
' I wish – I mean, I hoped until this evening that it was only a joke,' said King. '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 Kitsune. 'Don't be too troubled. He'll be all right – now. He left a packet for you. There it is!'
King 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 Babylon Drive now. And also, I fancy, you'll find a golden collar.'
'The collar!' exclaimed King. 'Has he left me that? I wonder why. Still, it may be useful.'
'It may, and it may not,' said Kitsune. '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 Babylon Drive King felt it his painful duty to say good-bye to the guests. Rumors of strange events had by now spread all over the field, but King 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 dogs. Gardeners came by arrangement, and removed in wheel-barrows those that had inadvertently remained behind.
Night slowly passed. The sun rose. The dogs 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): Robinsons, 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 Babylon Drive, uninvited but not unexpected.
King 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. Spades Robinson has gone away; as far as I know, for good.' Some of the visitors he invited to come inside, as Spades 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 Spades,_ on an umbrella. Adelard had carried off many unlabelled ones.
_For DORA ROBINSON in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Spades,_ on a large waste-paper basket. Dora was Drogo's sister and the eldest surviving female relative of Spades and King; she was 14, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century.
_For MILO BURROWS, hoping it will be useful, from S.R.,_ on a gold pen and ink-bottle. Milo never answered letters.
_For ANGELICA'S use, from Uncle Spades,_ on a round convex mirror. She was a young Robinson, 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 BYRON, as a PRESENT,_ on a case of silver spoons. Spades 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. Spade's residence had got rather cluttered up with things in the course of his long life. It was a tendency of dog-houses 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 Spades 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 Spades, 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 got two sacks of potatoes, a new spade, a woolen 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 Spade's father. Rory quite forgave Spades, and voted him a capital fellow after the first bottle.
There was plenty of everything left for King. 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.
King had a very trying time that afternoon. A false rumor 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 Byrons arrived. King had retired for a while and left his friend Sasha Brandybuck to keep an eye on things. When Bino loudly demanded to see King, Sasha bowed politely.
'He is indisposed,' she said. 'He is resting.'
'Hiding, you mean,' said Bino. 'Anyway I want to see him and I mean to see him. Just go and tell him so!'
Sasha 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. King was sitting at a table with a lot of papers in front of him. He looked indisposed – to see Byrons at any rate; and he stood up, fidgeting with something in his pocket. But he spoke quite politely.
Bino was rather offensive. he began by offering him bad bargain-prices (as between friends) for various valuable and unlabelled things. When King replied that only the things specially directed by Spades were being given away, he said the whole affair was very fishy.
'Only one thing is clear to me,' said Bino, 'and that is that you are doing exceedingly well out of it. I insist on seeing the will.'
Bino would have been Bilbo's heir, but for the adoption of King. He read the will carefully and snorted. It was, unfortunately, very clear and correct (according to the legal customs of dogs, which demand among other things seven signatures of witnesses in red ink).
'Foiled again!' he said. 'And after waiting 9 years. Spoons? Fiddlesticks!' He snapped his fingers under King's nose and slumped off. A little later King came out of the study to see how things were going on and found him still about the place, investigating nooks and comers and tapping the floors. He escorted him firmly off the premises, after he had relieved him of several small (but rather valuable) articles that had somehow fallen inside his spoon case. Her face looked as if he was in the throes of thinking out a really crushing parting remark; but all he 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 Robinson – you – you're a Brandybuck!'
'Did you hear that, Sasha? That was an insult, if you like,' said King as he shut the door on him. 'It was a compliment,' said Sasha Brandybuck, 'and so, of course, not true.'
Then they went round the house, and evicted three young pups (two Boffins and a Bolger) who were knocking holes in the walls of one of the cellars. King 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 Spades' 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, king collapsed on a chair in the hall. It's time to close the shop, Sasha,' 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. 'Bino again most likely,' he thought. 'He 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, King, I shall blow your door right down your hole and out through the hill,' he said.
'My dear Kitsune! Half a minute!' cried King, running out of the room to the door. 'Come in! Come in! I thought it was Bino.'
'Then I forgive you. But I saw him some time ago, driving a pony-trap towards Bywater with a face that would have curdled new milk.'
'He had already nearly curdled me. Honestly, I nearly tried on Spades' collar. I longed to disappear.'
'Don't do that!' said Kitsune, sitting down. 'Do be careful of that collar, 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 Spades 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 Kitsune.
'Oh, not what he told the dwarves and put in his book,' said King. '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, King," he said; "but they are not to go any further. It's mine anyway."'
'That's interesting,' said Kitsune. '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 Spades 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 King.
'Neither do I,' answered the wizard. 'I have merely begun to wonder about the collar, 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 King. '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 Gardens 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 Spades 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 King. 'You mean Bino. How abominable! I would give them Babylon Drive and everything else, if I could get Spades back and go off tramping in the country with him. I love the Gardens. But I begin to wish, somehow, that I had gone too. I wonder if I shall ever see him again.'
'So do I,' said Kitsune. 'And I wonder many other things. Good-bye now! Take care of yourself! Look out for me, especially at unlikely times! Good-bye!'
King saw him to the door. He gave a final wave of his hand, and walked off at a surprising pace; but King 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. King did not see him again for a long time.