So Gandalf gave a long whistle, and so Thorin and Dori came and stood 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 don’t like dwarves; but if it is true that you are Thorin, and that your companion is respectable, and that you are enemies of goblins… But what are you doing here, by the way?»
«They are on their way to visit the land of their fathers, beyond Mirkwood,» said Gandalf, «and it is just an accident that we are in your lands. We were attacked by the evil goblins — as I was going to tell you.»
«Go on telling, then!» said Beorn, who was never very polite.
«There was a terrible storm; the hobbit and I and several of our companions…»
«Do you call two several?»
«Well, in fact there were more than two.»
«Where are they?»
«You see, we are very much afraid that there are too many of us.»
«Go on, whistle again!» said Beorn.
Gandalf whistled again.
And so in the end all the dwarves arrived.
By the time the wizard had finished his tale, it was evening.
«A very good tale!» said Beorn. «It’s the best I have ever heard. Now let’s have something to eat!»
«Yes, please!» they all said together. «Thank you very much!» Beorn clapped his hands, and in came some snow-white sheep led by a large coal-black ram. One had a white cloth; others had on their broad backs trays with bowls and platters and knives and wooden spoons, which the dogs took and quickly laid on the tables.
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. Beorn told tales of the dark and dangerous forest of Mirkwood.
The dwarves listened and shook their beards, because they knew that soon they had to go into that forest. When the meal was over they began to tell tales of their own, but Beorn looked sleepy and paid little attention to them.
Suddenly Gandalf stood up. «It is time for us to sleep,» he said. Bilbo saw that beds had already been prepared at the side of the hall. For him there was a little mattress of straw and woolen blankets. Soon he fell asleep.
It was full morning when he awoke.
«Get up lazybones,» Bofur said, «or there will be no breakfast left for you.»
Up jumped Bilbo. «Breakfast!» he cried. «Where is breakfast?»
«It is out on the veranda. We can’t find Beorn anywhere, though we found breakfast on the table as soon as we got up.»
They spent one more day at Beorn’s, and the next morning they were all wakened by Beorn himself. They all went to breakfast with him. Beorn was really kind. He said that he had caught a Warg and a goblin in the woods. From these he had got news: the goblin patrols were still hunting with Wargs for the dwarves, and they were really angry.
«Your story was good,» said Beorn, «and now I am sure it is true. So I will think more kindly of dwarves after this. You killed the Great Goblin!» he chuckled to himself.
«What did you do with the goblin and the Warg?» asked Bilbo suddenly.
«I just killed them!» said Beorn.
Now he was their friend, and he promised to help them. He gave ponies for the dwarves and Bilbo, and a horse for Gandalf; a lot of nuts, flour, dried fruits, honey, and cakes. He also gave them bows and arrows. He said that there were streams and springs along the road, so they could get water from them. «But your way through Mirkwood is dark, dangerous and difficult,» he said. «There is one stream in Mirkwood, black and strong, which crosses the path. You should neither drink of it, nor bathe in it; for I have heard that it carries a great sleepiness and forgetfulness. And remember: you mustn’t stray from the path.
«That is all the advice I can give you. At the gate of the forest I must ask you to send back my horse and my ponies. But I wish you all good luck.»
They thanked him, of course. Soon after midday they ate with Beorn for the last time, and after the meal they left his home.
They rode silently all day, and in the evening they made a camp and set a guard, and most of them slept uneasily. Still the next morning was bright again. So they rode for three more days, and they saw only grass and flowers and birds and trees, and occasionally small herds of red deer sitting at noon in the shade.
Soon they could see the forest. Birds began to sing less. There were no more deer. By the afternoon they had reached Mirkwood.
«Well, here is Mirkwood!» said Gandalf. «It’s 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.»
«What about the horse?» said Thorin.
«I am not going to send it back.»
«What about your promise then?»
«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.
«I have, as I told you, some business in the south; and I am already late. Maybe we will meet again before all is over, but maybe not. That depends on your luck and on your courage; and I am sending Mr Baggins with you. So cheer up, Bilbo, and don’t look so gloomy. 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 rate1 until tomorrow morning!»
So they filled their water-skins at a clear spring at the forest-gate, and unpacked the ponies.
Then at last they said good-bye to their ponies. Now Gandalf, too, said good-bye. Bilbo sat on the ground feeling very unhappy.
«Good-bye!» said Gandalf to Thorin. «Don’t stray off the track!»
«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. And, Mr Baggins, you have to look after all these dwarves for me,» he added. Gandalf turned his horse and rode away. But in a moment he said again: «Be good, take care of yourselves — and DON’T LEAVE THE PATH!»
«O good-bye and go away!» grunted the dwarves. Now began the most dangerous part of their journey. The dwarves and Bilbo went into the forest.