«It was a serious struggle,» said one, «but I hope they are juicy.»
«Don’t hang them too long,» said another, «kill them.»
Bilbo was horrified, now that he noticed the dwarves hanging in the shadows.
Then one of the spiders went to the dwarves. «There is no time now,» thought Bilbo. So he picked up a stone and threw it at the spider. The stone struck the spider on the head, and it dropped senseless off the tree.
The next stone went through a big web, and took off the spider sitting in the middle of it. After that there was panic in the spider-colony, and they forgot about the dwarves. They could not see Bilbo, but they knew the direction from which the stones were coming. So they ran towards the hobbit. Bilbo, however, soon slipped away to a different place. The idea came to him to lead the spiders further and further away from the dwarves. So he began to dance among the trees and he sang a song to annoy them, and also to let the dwarves hear his voice.
This is what he sang:
«Old fat spider spinning in a tree!
Old fat spider can’t see me!
Stop your spinning and look for me!
You’ll never catch me up your tree!»
As he sang he threw some more stones. Practically all the spiders in the place came after him: some dropped to the ground, others raced along the branches. They were quick and frightfully angry.
Then quieter than a mouse he crawled back. He had precious little time, he knew. He had to rescue the dwarves.
He cut the strings with his sword and rescued Fili, Kili, Bifur, Bofur, Don, Nori and Bombur. But there were still five dwarves hanging at the end of the branch when the spiders began to come back. Bilbo tried to scare away the spiders. But he had taken off his ring when he rescued Fili and he had forgotten to put it on again, so now they all began to hiss:
«Now we see you, you nasty little creature! We will eat you!»
While this was going on, the other dwarves were cutting the threads with their knives. Then the battle began. Some of the dwarves had knives, and some had sticks, and all of them could get at stones; and Bilbo had his sword, Sting.
Many of the spiders were killed. But Bilbo was really tired; only four of the dwarves were able to stand firmly. Already the spiders were beginning to weave their webs all round them again from tree to tree. In the end Bilbo decided to open the secret of his ring to the dwarves. He was sorry about it, but he had to do it.
«I am going to disappear,» he said. «I will draw the spiders off, if I can; and you must keep together and go in the opposite direction. To the left there, that is the way towards the place where we last saw the elf-fires.»
So Bilbo suddenly slipped on his ring, and to the great astonishment of the dwarves he vanished.
Soon they heard the sound of his song behind the trees on the right. That upset the spiders greatly. They went in the direction of the voice. Then the dwarves got together in a knot, and threw stones at the spiders on the left, and ran through the ring and went on.
The dwarves were very tired and weak. Every now and then they had to turn and fight the spiders.
Suddenly Bilbo appeared. «Go on! Go on!» he shouted. «I will fight them!» And he killed many spiders; they had become afraid of Sting, and did not come very near. At last the spiders went back to their dark colony.
The dwarves then had a chance to rest.
They lay for some time, but very soon they began to ask questions. They wanted to know the story of the ring. And then they asked Bilbo where they were, and where their path was, and what they were going to do next? So you can see that they had changed their opinion of Mr Baggins very much, and had begun to have a great respect for him. They really expected Bilbo to think of some wonderful plan for helping them. Bilbo began to feel proud of himself.
All of a sudden Dwalin asked, «Where is Thorin?» It was a terrible shock. Of course there were only thirteen of them, twelve dwarves and the hobbit. Where was Thorin?
Thorin had been caught much faster than they had. Do you remember Bilbo falling asleep, as he stepped into a circle of light? The next time it had been Thorin who stepped forward, and as the lights went out he fell like a stone. Then the Wood-elves had come to him, and bound him, and carried him away. The feasting people were Wood-elves, of course. These are not wicked folk.
In a great cave some miles within the edge of Mirkwood there lived their greatest king. This great cave had many passages and wide halls; but it was lighter than any goblin-dwelling. The king’s cave was his palace, and the strong place of his treasure, and the fortress of his people against their enemies.
It was also the dungeon of his prisoners. So to the cave they dragged Thorin — not too gently, because they did not love dwarves, and thought he was an enemy. In ancient days they had had wars with some of the dwarves, whom they accused of stealing their treasure. The dwarves said that they only took their part, because the elf-king had asked them to shape his raw gold and silver1, and had afterwards refused to give them their pay. The elf-king was really rich but very greedy. His people didn’t work metals or jewels, they didn’t cultivate the earth. All this was well known to every dwarf. So Thorin was angry, when they took their spell off him and he came to his senses.
The king asked Thorin many questions. But Thorin only said that he was starving. «Why did you and your folk three times try to attack my people?» asked the king.
«We did not attack them,» answered Thorin; «we came to beg, because we were starving.»
«Where are your friends now? What are they doing?»
«I don’t know, but I think they are starving in the forest.»
«What were you doing in the forest?»
«We were looking for food and drink, because we were starving.»
«But why did you come into the forest?» asked the king angrily.
At that Thorin shut his mouth and did not say another word. «Very well!» said the king. «Take him away and keep him safe, until he tells the truth.» Then the elves shut him in one of the secret caves with strong wooden doors, and left him. They gave him a lot of food and drink, though. So there poor Thorin lay.