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. For breakfast he had cold mutton and rabbit. And after that he had to get ready for a start. This time he climbed on to an eagle’s back and clung between his wings. And soon fifteen great birds rose off from the mountain’s side. Bilbo shut his eyes.
After a while the eagles began to go down. Below them there were oaks and elms, and wide grass lands, and a river. Right in the path of the stream there was a great rock, almost a hill of stone.
Quickly now to the top of this rock the eagles swooped one by one and set down their passengers. And there the eagles parted with the dwarves, Bilbo and Gandalf.
There was a flat space on the top of the hill of stone and a path with many steps leading down it to the river. The party crossed the river in a shallow place. There was a little cave where they stopped to discuss their plans.
«I always wanted to see you all safe over the mountains,» said the wizard, «and now I have done it. But this is not my adventure. Maybe I will see you again before it is all over, but now I have some other urgent business to do.»
The dwarves groaned and Bilbo wept.
«I am not going to disappear this very moment,» said Gandalf. «I can give you a day or two more. We have no food, and no baggage, and no ponies; and you don’t know where you are. Now I can tell you that. You are still some miles north of the right path. Very few people live in these parts. But there is somebody who lives not far away. That Somebody made the steps on the great rock — he calls it the Carrock. He does not come here often, certainly not in the daytime. We must go and find him; and if all goes well at our meeting, I think I will say good-bye to you.»
Then they began to march through the long green grass and down the lines of the oaks and the tall elms.
«And who is that Somebody?» asked Bilbo as he went along at the wizard’s side.
«The Somebody is a very great person. You must all be very polite when I introduce you. And you must be careful not to annoy him. He can be dreadful when he is angry, though he is kind. Still he gets angry easily.»
The dwarves all gathered round when they heard that.
«If you must know more,» said Gandalf, «his name is Beorn. He is very strong, and 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.
«He lives in an oak-wood and has a great wooden house; and as a man he keeps cattle and horses. They work for him and talk to him. He does not eat them; neither does he hunt or eat wild animals. He keeps hives of great bees, and lives on cream and honey.»
Bilbo and the dwarves asked no more questions. They walked on. It grew very hot. Sometimes they rested under the trees, and then Bilbo felt really hungry.
After a while they came to a high hedge.
«You should wait here,» said the wizard to the dwarves; «and when I call or whistle begin to come after me — but only in pairs, about five minutes between each pair of you. Bombur is the fattest, so he should come alone and last. Come on Mr Baggins! There is a gate somewhere round this way.» And with that he went along the hedge and took the frightened hobbit with him.
They soon came to a wooden gate, high and broad. The wizard and the hobbit opened the heavy gate and went towards the house. Soon they reached a courtyard. In the middle there was lying a great oak-trunk. Near it they saw a huge man with a thick black beard and hair, and great bare arms and legs. He was wearing a tunic of wool down to his knees, and was leaning on a large axe.
«Who are you and what do you want?» he asked gruffly, standing in front of them.
«I am Gandalf,» said the wizard.
«And what’s this little fellow?» he said, looking at the hobbit.
«That is Mr Baggins, a hobbit of good family and fine reputation,» said Gandalf. Bilbo bowed.
«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; he is not a bad fellow, I believe,» said Beorn. «Well, now I know who you are. What do you want?»
«To tell you the truth, we have lost our baggage and nearly lost our way. We have had rather a bad time with goblins in the mountains.»
«Goblins?» said the big man less gruffly. «Why did you go near them?»
«We were coming out of the Lands over West into these countries — it is a long tale.»
«Then come inside and tell me the story,» said the man leading the way to the house.
They sat on wooden benches, and Gandalf began his tale. «I was coming over the mountains with a friend or two…» said the wizard.
«Or two? I can only see one,» said Beorn.
«Well, I did not want to bother you with a lot of us. I will give a call, if I may.»