But Gollum did not 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.»
«Certainly, but first I must go and get some things to help me,» answered Gollum.
«Well, hurry up!» said Bilbo.
He thought that Gollum was not going to come back. But he was wrong. Gollum wanted to come back. He was angry now and hungry. And he was a wicked creature, and already he had a plan. In his hiding-place Gollum kept one very beautiful thing. He had a gold ring. He wanted it because it was a magic ring, and if you put that ring on your finger, you were invisible. Gollum hid it in a hole in the rock on his island. And sometimes he put it on, when he was very, very hungry, and tired of fish. Then he moved silently along dark passages looking for stray goblins to catch and eat them.
«I will be quite safe,» Gollum whispered to himself. «He won’t see me, and his little sword will be useless.» That was Gollum’s plan.
Bilbo waited a little; for he had no idea how to find his way out alone. Suddenly he heard a scream. Gollum was cursing in the darkness. He was on his island, trying to find his ring.
«What’s the matter?» Bilbo called. «What have you lost?»
«You mustn’t ask me,» shrieked Gollum. «Not your business, no! It’s lost!»
«Well, so am I,» cried Bilbo, «Come and let me out, and then look for your thing!»
Suddenly out of the gloom came a loud hiss. «What have you got in your pockets? Tell me now.»
«But I asked you first. What have you lost? Tell me that!» said Bilbo.
«What have you got in your pockets?» hissed Gollum again. Suspicion grew in Gollum’s mind, so he was in his boat again, paddling quickly back to the shore. He was in rage and Bilbo’s sword couldn’t stop him now. When the hobbit saw Gollum, he realized that Gollum was going to kill him. So he turned and ran back up the dark passage down which he had come, keeping close to the wall and feeling it with his left hand. «What have you got in your pockets?» he heard the hiss loud behind him.
«What have I got?» he said to himself and put his left hand in his pocket. The ring felt very cold as it quietly slipped on to his forefinger.
The hiss was close behind him. He turned now and saw Gollum’s eyes like small green lamps. Suddenly Bilbo fell down on the floor with his little sword under him.
In a moment Gollum was on him. But before Bilbo could do anything, Gollum passed by, taking no notice of him. Why? Bilbo slowly got up; he didn’t know where to go. Perhaps if he followed Gollum, he could finally escape. So Bilbo decided to walk after Gollum quietly.
«Curse it! Curse it! Curse it!» hissed Gollum. «Curse the Baggins! What has he got in his pockets? Oh I guess he’s found my ring.» Bilbo was listening carefully.
Suddenly Gollum sat down and began to weep. Bilbo stopped. After a while Gollum began to talk to himself.
«The Baggins has got my ring; if he puts it on his finger, he will be invisible. But he doesn’t know that. He is going to the back door now. Anyway, the goblins will catch him then. He can’t get out that way.»
And then Gollum got up and walked quickly. Bilbo hurried after him. Now he knew that the ring made him invisible! Soon they came to places where side-passages opened, this way and that. Gollum began at once to count them.
«Seven right, yes. Six left, yes!» he whispered. «This is it. This is the way to the back-door. Here’s the passage!» He looked in, and stopped. «But I can’t go in. Goblins are there. I smell them. I must wait here, wait a bit and see.»
So Gollum had brought Bilbo to the way out after all, but Bilbo could not get in! There was Gollum sitting right in the opening.
Bilbo was desperate. He must get away. He trembled. And then quite suddenly he leaped straight over Gollum’s head.
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 terrible scream:
«Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! I hate you, I hate you for ever!» Gollum did not dare go further. He had lost.
Then there was a silence. Bilbo carefully walked.
Soon the passage went up, and after a while the passage turned a corner, and dipped down again, and there he saw a pale light. Then Bilbo began to run. He turned the last corner and came suddenly right into an open space, near a big stone door.
Bilbo blinked, and then suddenly he saw goblins with swords sitting in front of the door. They saw him sooner than he saw them. Yes, they saw him. The ring was not on his finger! With cries of delight the goblins rushed upon him. In despair Bilbo put his hands into his pockets and found the ring! It slipped on his finger. Suddenly the goblins stopped. They could not see him. «Where is it?» they cried.
Goblins cursed and ran; they fell over one another and got very angry.
Bilbo was terribly frightened. «I must get to the door, I must get to the door!» he said to himself. He tried to squeeze through the crack. He squeezed and squeezed, and he got stuck! It was awful. Suddenly one of the goblins shouted: «There is a shadow by the door. Something is outside!»
Bilbo’s heart jumped into his mouth. He tried hard to get out. Buttons burst off in all directions and he was through, and leapt down the steps like a goat.
Of course they came down after him. But they don’t like the sun. They could not find Bilbo with the ring on, so soon they went back to guard the door. Bilbo had escaped.