Gandalf Visits Bombadil

by Vison

II
In the house of Bombadil………….

Just then the door was flung open and Master Tom came in waving off the rain, leaves dancing about his feet and scudding across the floor. He caught the lady Goldberry in his arms and spun her around, kissing her laughing mouth. “Tom has lived all this day without a sight of thy fair face!” he said. Turning to Gandalf he went on, “For you must know I was out and about along the forest ways even before the Sun rose! And my pretty lady yet abed, not up to make Tom’s breakfast!”

Goldberry, smiling, shook her head, then drew forward another chair. “Then thou shalt sit and see while I prepare thy evening meal. Here are the mead-cups for thee and thy guest, Master. Put up thy feet on the fender and be merry.”

Tom barred the door, then did as she bade after pulling off his yellow boots. A pair of green slippers was warming by the fire and he slid his feet into the soft shoes with a sigh of content. “Just in time have we come in, hear how the wind is rising. Leaves are blown along the path, and into Withywindle, the rain will wash the leaves away before the moon has risen.” As he spoke, the wind smote the wall of the low stone house, the fire flared up, and the candles flickered. Tom laughed. “Now wilt thy horse Shadowfax and Lumpkin too be glad of stone-built stable, and hay that cured in summer’s heat”

Gandalf sighed and looked into the dancing flames. “I, too, am glad of the heat of many summers stored in thy firewood. Yet a chancy thing it must be, to gather firewood yonder.” He gestured to the unseen forest beyond the thick walls.

“Bombadil is master,” Goldberry said. She had laid the table, putting cream-coloured plates upon a green runner, and beside the plates, horn-handled cutlery. She lifted the vase of autumn leaves and set it aside on a bench. “Apple wood, and Sycamore, are piled along the outside wall, and the heartwood of lightning-struck Pines. When it is needful, the master lays his axe to what tree he wants, and the forest must be silent.”

She came to the fireside with the brown Mead jug, and refilled their mugs. “Heat of summer in the wood, sweetness of summer in the Mead. Drink deep, mellon, of the honey-liquor, nectar of the summer’s flowers.”

“Did not a Bee Queen herself make over this art to my lady?” Tom asked, raising his cup and taking a long swallow. “It is of her own brewing, from the hives of her own bees, and they delight in making honey for her! “ He turned to her. “Do they not? Do they not clothe thee in their buzzing swarms, so that it seems that thou art wearing a gown of brown and gold? Ah, Olorin, so she stands there in the meadow, all adorned with bees, hearing their song even through her skin. Tell us, Riverdaughter, what do they say to thee?”

Goldberry laughed. “Whatever they say, that is between me and the bees! Should I betray their secrets, think thee that they would not sting me, and hide their honey from me in some broken tree?” She shook her head. “Thou art master here, to be sure, but even from the master there are secrets kept!” Yet her eyes dwelt on Bombadil’s face with love shining forth, and her hand sought his and held it.

He raised her hand and kissed it. “Keep then thy secrets, lady, as long as the sweet mead pours from that jar.”

Gandalf understood that they sought to put him at his ease, to lighten his mood, with their teasing and byplay. Their kindness warmed him as did the sweet Mead curling through his veins. He drew a long breath and looked around the pleasant room that was alight with beauty and friendship. Outside the November storm raged, the rain lashed the walls and roof, the wind savaged whatever it could grasp, but here in Bombadil’s house was warmth and laughter.

A merry meal they made, of bacon and yellow cheese and new bread spread with butter. Honeycakes followed, rich and delicious. After eating they sat before the fire again, and Gandalf brought forth his pipe.

Bombadil nodded, and pared a sliver of kindling that the wizard might use it to light the pipeweed. They three spoke only of the weather and the year’s turning, until Tom saw that Gandalf nodded in his chair.

Goldberry touched his shoulder. “Come, friend, to the chamber I have prepared for thee.” She led him up the stairs to a low room lit by a bedside candle. White woolen blankets were turned down; smooth linen sheets and soft pillows beckoned the weary wizard. Leaving him with a soft “Goodnight”, Goldberry went out and closed the door.

Utterly weary he disrobed himself until he stood in only his skin on the green rug that was spread upon the plank floor. He ran his hands down his arms and across his chest, and through the hair of his head and beard. He lifted one foot, then the other, and rubbed his knees. He stretched and yawned and climbed into the inviting bed, then leaned out and snuffed the candle. Darkness and sleep swept over him, and he was dreaming before his head had turned once upon the pillow.

Out in the dark stable Shadowfax stood beside Fatty Lumpkin in a stall where was spread sweet, clean straw. Rain pounded on the slate roof and the wind shrieked along the eaves, but the two beasts were warm and safe and dry. Shadowfax lifted his head once, listening. For a time he stood so. Then, content that all was well with his master who was now asleep in the house of Bombadil, Shadowfax took up another wisp of the summer-scented hay…………


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