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The Hobbit (Page 65)

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“You put your worst cause last and in the chief place,” Thorin answered. “To the treasure of my people no man has a claim, because Smaug who stole it from us also robbed him of life or home. The treasure was not his that his evil deeds should be amended with a share of it. The price of the goods and the assistance that we received of the Lake-men we will fairly pay—in due time. But nothing will we give, not even a loaf’s worth, under threat of force. While an armed host lies before our doors, we look on you as foes and thieves.

“It is in my mind to ask what share of their inheritance you would have paid to our kindred, had you found the hoard unguarded and us slain.”

“A just question,” replied Bard. “But you are not dead, and we are not robbers. Moreover the wealthy may have pity beyond right on the needy that befriended them when they were in want. And still my other claims remain unanswered.”

“I will not parley, as I have said, with armed men at my gate. Nor at all with the people of the Elvenking, whom I remember with small kindness. In this debate they have no place. Begone now ere our arrows fly! And if you would speak with me again, first dismiss the elvish host to the woods where it belongs, and then return, laying down your arms before you approach the threshold.”

“The Elvenking is my friend, and he has succoured the people of the Lake in their need, though they had no claim but friendship on him,” answered Bard. “We will give you time to repent your words. Gather your wisdom ere we return!” Then he departed and went back to the camp.

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Ere many hours were past, the banner-bearers returned, and trumpeters stood forth and blew a blast:

“In the name of Esgaroth and the Forest,” one cried, “we speak unto Thorin Thrain’s son Oakenshield, calling himself the King under the Mountain, and we bid him consider well the claims that have been urged, or be declared our foe. At the least he shall deliver one twelfth portion of the treasure unto Bard, as the dragon-slayer, and as the heir of Girion. From that portion Bard will himself contribute to the aid of Esgaroth; but if Thorin would have the friendship and honour of the lands about, as his sires had of old, then he will give also somewhat of his own for the comfort of the men of the Lake.”

Then Thorin seized a bow of horn and shot an arrow at the speaker. It smote into his shield and stuck there quivering.

“Since such is your answer,” he called in return, “I declare the Mountain besieged. You shall not depart from it, until you call on your side for a truce and a parley. We will bear no weapons against you, but we leave you to your gold. You may eat that, if you will!”

With that the messengers departed swiftly, and the dwarves were left to consider their case. So grim had Thorin become, that even if they had wished, the others would not have dared to find fault with him; but indeed most of them seemed to share his mind—except perhaps old fat Bombur and Fili and Kili. Bilbo, of course, disapproved of the whole turn of affairs. He had by now had more than enough of the Mountain, and being besieged inside it was not at all to his taste.

“The whole place still stinks of dragon,” he grumbled to himself, “and it makes me sick. And cram is beginning simply to stick in my throat.”

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Chapter XVI

A THIEF IN THE NIGHT

Now the days passed slowly and wearily. Many of the dwarves spent their time piling and ordering the treasure; and now Thorin spoke of the Arkenstone of Thrain, and bade them eagerly to look for it in every corner.

“For the Arkenstone of my father,” he said, “is worth more than a river of gold in itself, and to me it is beyond price. That stone of all the treasure I name unto myself, and I will be avenged on anyone who finds it and withholds it.”

Bilbo heard these words and he grew afraid, wondering what would happen, if the stone was found—wrapped in an old bundle of tattered oddments that he used as a pillow. All the same he did not speak of it, for as the weariness of the days grew heavier, the beginnings of a plan had come into his little head.

Things had gone on like this for some time, when the ravens brought news that Dain and more than five hundred dwarves, hurrying from the Iron Hills, were now within about two days’ march of Dale, coming from the North-East.

“But they cannot reach the Mountain unmarked,” said Roäc, “and I fear lest there be battle in the valley. I do not call this counsel good. Though they are a grim folk, they are not likely to overcome the host that besets you; and even if they did so, what will you gain? Winter and snow is hastening behind them. How shall you be fed without the friendship and goodwill of the lands about you? The treasure is likely to be your death, though the dragon is no more!”

But Thorin was not moved. “Winter and snow will bite both men and elves,” he said, “and they may find their dwelling in the waste grievous to bear. With my friends behind them and winter upon them, they will perhaps be in softer mood to parley with.”

That night Bilbo made up his mind. The sky was black and moonless. As soon as it was full dark, he went to a corner of an inner chamber just within the gate and drew from his bundle a rope, and also the Arkenstone wrapped in a rag. Then he climbed to the top of the wall. Only Bombur was there, for it was his turn to watch, and the dwarves kept only one watchman at a time.

“It is mighty cold!” said Bombur. “I wish we could have a fire up here as they have in the camp!”

“It is warm enough inside,” said Bilbo.

“I daresay; but I am bound here till midnight,” grumbled the fat dwarf. “A sorry business altogether. Not that I venture to disagree with Thorin, may his beard grow ever longer; yet he was ever a dwarf with a stiff neck.”

“Not as stiff as my legs,” said Bilbo. “I am tired of stairs and stone passages. I would give a good deal for the feel of grass at my toes.”

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“I would give a good deal for the feel of a strong drink in my throat, and for a soft bed after a good supper!”

“I can’t give you those, while the siege is going on.

But it is long since I watched, and I will take your turn for you, if you like. There is no sleep in me tonight.”

“You are a good fellow, Mr. Baggins, and I will take your offer kindly. If there should be anything to note, rouse me first, mind you! I will lie in the inner chamber to the left, not far away.”

“Off you go!” said Bilbo. “I will wake you at midnight, and you can wake the next watchman.”

As soon as Bombur had gone, Bilbo put on his ring, fastened his rope, slipped down over the wall, and was gone. He had about five hours before him. Bombur would sleep (he could sleep at any time, and ever since the adventure in the forest he was always trying to recapture the beautiful dreams he had then); and all the others were busy with Thorin. It was unlikely that any, even Fili or Kili, would come out on the wall until it was their turn.

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