On May the First Bilbo and Gandalf came back at last to the Last (or the First) Homely House.
Again it was evening, their ponies were tired, especially the one that carried the baggage; and they all felt in need of rest. As they rode down the steep path, Bilbo heard the elves still singing in the trees; and as soon as their riders came down into the lower glades of the wood they burst into a song.
This is something like it:
«The dragon is withered,
His bones are now crumbled;
His armour is shivered,
His splendour is humbled!
And leaves are yet swinging,
The white water flowing,
And elves are yet singing
Then the elves of the valley came out and greeted them and led them across the water to the house of Elrond. There were many elves that evening who wanted to hear the tale of their adventures. Gandalf was speaking, because Bilbo was sleepy. But sometimes he opened one eye, and listened. And so he learned that Gandalf had been to a great council of the white wizards, masters of good magic; and that they had at last driven the Necromancer from his dark hold in the south of Mirkwood.
«Soon,» Gandalf was saying, «The Forest will be safer. The North will be freed from that horror for many long years, I hope.»
Bilbo woke in a white bed, and the moon was shining through an open window. Below it many elves were singing on the banks of the stream.
«The stars are in blossom, the moon is in flower,
And bright are the windows of Night in her tower.
Dance all you joyful, now dance all together!
Soft is the grass, and let foot be like feather!
The river is silver, the shadows are fleeting;
Merry is May-time, and merry our meeting.
Sing we now softly, and dreams let us weave him!
Wind him in slumber and there let us leave him!»
«Well, Merry People!» said Bilbo looking out. «What time is this?»
«It is drawing towards dawn, and you have slept now since the night’s beginning.»
«I would like to sleep some more,» said he; «A second good night, fair friends!» And with that he went back to bed and slept till late morning.
Soon Bilbo said farewell to Elrond and rode away with Gandalf.
«There is a long road yet,» said Gandalf.
«But it is the last road,» said Bilbo.
At each point on the road Bilbo recalled the events of a year ago. So he quickly noted the place where the pony had fallen in the river, and they had turned aside for their nasty adventure with Tom and Bert and Bill. Not far from the road they found the gold of the trolls, which they had buried, still hidden and untouched. «Take this, Gandalf,» said Bilbo, when they had dug it up. «You can find a use for it.»
«Indeed I can!» said the wizard. «But you may find you have more needs than you expect.»
So they shared the gold and put it in bags on the ponies. After that they went slower, for most of the time they walked.
As all things come to an end, even this story, a day came at last when they were in sight of the country where Bilbo had been born. Finally he could see his own Hill in the distance.
And so they crossed the bridge and passed the mill by the river and came right back to Bilbo’s own door.
«Bless me! What’s going on?» he cried.
There were people of all sorts, respectable and unrespectable, and many were going in and out. He had arrived back in the middle of an auction! There was a large notice in black and red on the gate, stating that on June the Twenty-second the things of the late Bilbo Baggins Esquire would be sold, at ten o’clock sharp. It was now nearly lunch-time and most of the things had already been sold. Bilbo’s cousins were going to occupy his rooms. Bilbo was «Presumed Dead».
The return of Mr Bilbo Baggins created quite a disturbance, both under the Hill and over the Hill, and across the Water. It was quite a long time before Mr Baggins was admitted to be alive again.
In the end to save time Bilbo had to buy back quite a lot of his own furniture. Many of his silver spoons mysteriously disappeared. Personally he suspected his cousins. On their side they never admitted that the returned Baggins was genuine, and they were not on friendly terms with Bilbo ever after. They really had wanted to live in his nice hobbit-hole so very much.
Indeed Bilbo found he had lost more than spoons — he had lost his reputation. It is true that for ever after he remained an elf-friend, and had the honour of dwarves, wizards; but he was no longer quite respectable. I am sorry to say he did not mind. He was quite content. His sword he hung over the mantelpiece. His coat of mail was on a stand in the hall. His gold and silver was largely spent in presents. His magic ring he kept a great secret, for he used it when unpleasant visitors came. He started writing poetry and visiting the elves; and he remained very happy to the end of his days.
One autumn evening some years afterwards Bilbo was sitting in his study writing his memoirs — he thought of calling them «There and Back Again, a Hobbit’s Holiday» — when there was a ring at the door. It was Gandalf and Balin.
«Come in! Come in!» said Bilbo, and soon they were sitting in chairs by the fire. Bilbo asked how things were going in the lands of the Mountain. It seemed they were going very well. Bard had rebuilt the town in Dale and men had gathered to him from the Lake and from South and West, and the entire valley had become rich. And Lake-town was more prosperous than ever; and there was friendship in those parts between elves and dwarves and men.