A Short Rest
One morning they crossed a river at a wide shallow place. The far bank was steep and slippery. When they got to the top of it, leading their ponies, they saw the great mountains very near. It seemed only a day’s easy journey from the feet of the nearest.
«Is that The Mountain?» asked Bilbo. He had never seen a thing that looked so big before.
«Of course not!» said Balin. «That is only the beginning of the Misty Mountains. And it is a long way from them to the Lonely Mountain in the East where Smaug lies on our treasure.»
Now Gandalf led the way. «We must not miss the road,» he said. «We need food and rest. Also it is very necessary to go through the Misty Mountains by the proper path, or else you will get lost in them, and have to come back and start at the beginning again (if you ever get back at all).»
And then he said, «You have come to the very edge of the Wild. Not far away there is a valley where Elrond lives in the Last Homely House. I sent a message, and we are expected.»
Morning passed, afternoon came; but there was no sign of any house. They went on and on. Suddenly Gandalf’s horse stopped. «Here it is at last!» he called, and the others gathered round him and looked over the edge. They saw a valley far below. They could hear the water running at the bottom; and there was a light on the valley-side across the water. The air grew warmer as they got lower. Their spirits rose as they went down and down. Finally they came to an open glade not far above the banks of the stream.
«Hmm! It smells like elves!» thought Bilbo, and he looked up at the stars. They were burning bright and blue. Just then there came a song like laughter in the trees. They were elves of course.
Soon Bilbo saw their silhouettes. He loved elves but he was a little frightened of them, too. Dwarves don’t get on well with them. Even respectable dwarves like Thorin and his friends think them foolish, or get annoyed with them.
«Well, well!» said a voice. «Just look! Bilbo the hobbit on a pony, my dear! Isn’t it fantastic!»
At last one, a tall young fellow, came out from the trees and bowed to Gandalf and to Thorin.
«Welcome to the valley!» he said.
«Thank you!» said Thorin; but Gandalf was already off his horse and among the elves, talking merrily with them.
«You are a little lost,» said the elf. «We will show you the way, but you should go on foot, until you are over the bridge. You can have supper over there,» he said.
The dwarves wanted to have supper as soon as possible, so they went on, leading their ponies, till they came to the river. It was flowing fast and noisily. There was only a narrow bridge of stone without a parapet; and over that they had to go, slow and careful, one by one, each leading his pony. The elves had brought bright lanterns to the shore, and they sang a merry song.
«Thank you, Good People! And good night!» said Gandalf, who came last.
«Good night!» answered elves.
And so at last they all came to the Last Homely House, and found its doors open.
They stayed long in that good house, fourteen days at least, and they didn’t want to leave.
The master of the house was a friend of elves — one of those people whose fathers came into the history before the wars of the evil goblins and the elves and the first men in the North. In those days there were still some people who had both elves and heroes of the North for ancestors, and Elrond the master of the house was their chief. He was noble and good-looking, as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as respected as a king of dwarves, and as kind as summer. His house was perfect.
All of the guests, the ponies as well, grew refreshed and strong in a few days there. Their clothes were mended. Their bags were filled with food. Their plans were improved with the best advice. So the time came to leave, and they went on again with the early sun on midsummer morning.
Elrond knew all about runes of every kind. That day he looked at the swords they had brought from the trolls’ place, and he said: «These were not made by trolls. They are very old swords of the High Elves of the West. They were made in Gondolin for the Goblin-wars. Keep them well!»
«We will do that,» Thorin and Gandalf said.
Then Elrond looked at their map. The moon was shining brightly. He held up the map and the white light shone through it.
«What is this?» he said. «There are moon-letters here, beside the plain runes which say ‘five feet high the door and three may walk abreast.'»
«What are moon-letters?» asked the hobbit full of excitement. He loved maps, and he also liked runes and letters.
«Moon-letters are rune-letters, but you cannot see them,» said Elrond, «not when you look straight at them. They can only be seen when the moon shines behind them. The dwarves invented them and wrote them with silver pens.»
«What do they say?» asked Gandalf and Thorin together.
«Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks,» read Elrond, «and the setting sun with the last light of Durin’s Day will shine upon the key-hole.»
«Durin, Durin!» said Thorin. «He was the father of the fathers of the eldest race of Dwarves, the Longbeards, and my first ancestor: I am his heir.»
«Then what is Durin’s Day?» asked Elrond.
«The first day of the dwarves’ New Year,» said Thorin, «when the last moon of autumn and the sun are in the sky together.»
Then Elrond gave the map back to Thorin; and then they went down to the water to see the elves dance and sing.
The next morning they rode away, with their hearts ready for more adventure. Now they knew the road that they had to follow over the Misty Mountains to the land beyond.