Gandalf Visits Bombadil

by Vison

XXVI
. Gandalf and the Woodland Hobbits


“How it came about that there was such a late flight, I do not know,” Bento said. “Maybe they were lost. But their trouble was our good fortune, and I, for one, am looking forward to roast Goose for my dinner, Mithrandir! Come and join us. Violet has a way with herbs and greens and I warrant you never ate a finer dish even in the King’s house.”

Gandalf nodded his acceptance. He looked skyward. Far off, he saw a hunting Eagle. Then the sky closed in again, and the snow gusted before the wind.

Violet did indeed “have a way” with herbs and greens and a fat Goose and very sincere praise of her cooking came easily to Gandalf. The table was a bit crowded, with Bento and Violet and Harry and Barry and five other children, not counting baby Aster. Baby Aster sat in her own chair and mashed most of her dinner into the tray before her, but the rest of the clan ate heartily and appreciatively.

There was not much table talk. The youngsters ate with silent gusto, Violet scurried back and forth from the hearth to the table, and Bento, while he didn’t eat with the single-minded concentration of his children, nonetheless was too busy eating to talk.

After the roast goose came a wonderful pie made with dried Apples and Blackberries, the fruit a delicious jumble of purple and pink, the crust meltingly tender. Gandalf sighed as he took the last little crumb from the plate to his mouth. “Mistress Violet,” he said, “that pie was the Queen of Pies from the hand of the Queen of Cooks. All Hobbit women are accounted good cooks, you know, but surely you must be the finest!”

Violet blushed rosily, saying, “’Twould be a fine thing if I couldn’t put a decent meal on the table, Mithrandir, for I was taught by my own dear mother, and she was indeed the Queen of Cooks! Just ask Bento here.”

Bento nodded. “My mother-in-law was a wonderful cook, to be sure. But I must say, I agree with Mithrandir here, my love, for in making that pie you surpassed yourself!”

Bento led Gandalf down the narrow hall to the Parlour and Gandalf managed to get to his seat without smacking his head on the low ceiling. The fire snapped and crackled and the shabby room was pleasantly warm, the warmth seeming more welcome because they could hear the wind howling outside. Off in the kitchen the children squabbled and sang, helping their mother tidy up. The outer door opened and closed and in a few moments Harry and Barry came in with armloads of firewood.

“It’s fair wicked out there, Dad,” Harry said. “I could scurce see the woodpile, for the blowing snow.”

“Scarcely, not scurce, my lad,” Bento said. “Come now, you and Barry sit by us here. You are not children any more, my lads, and are not too young to sit with thy elders.”

The boys looked at each other in wonder. “Well, Dad,” Barry said, “I hope you remember that when I next ask you for something. I don’t want to hear, ‘No, no, my lad, for thou art only a boy!’” His eyes sparkled with laughter as he spoke.

Bento reached over and pinched Barry’s chin, but he was grinning. “A bit too free with thy mouth, Barry, as ever! But still, you are good lads, are they not, Mithrandir?”

Gandalf peered at them, his eyebrows bristling. “They are, Master Bento,” he agreed. “They are a credit to you and their mother. It must have pleased you mightily when they were chosen to go seeking your Hobbit kin, surely a great proof that they are both trusty and woodcrafty.”

Bento seemed uneasy. “Well, yes, I was, in a manner of speaking. The thing is, no one else would go, you see! Trillium Silverfoot was dead set against it, and folk don’t like to do aught against her notions.” He set another log on the fire. “Since I stand as son to her, it was a bit easier for me to argue with her, if you follow me. And that brought a few folk around to my way of thinking, but only half-heartedly. So when the lads here were eager to take it on, why it seemed the easiest way. Now Violet….well, she was sick with worry, thinking about these two going off into the forest alone.”

Harry said, “We were scared, too. But we tried not to think of it. And we had the Charm, that Lady Silverfoot gave us.”

“Ah, yes,” Gandalf said, “the amulet. The Charm as you call it. I was most intrigued with that, for such things are of great interest to me.”

“It is kept by Trillium Silverfoot. She had it from her uncle, who was leader of the council before her and he from Arto son of Folco before him. She also wears the Green Stone, as you saw, Mithrandir.

“Yes, that I saw, too. A gift from one of the Eldar, I am told. But no longer a Stone of Power, says the Lady Silverfoot.” Gandalf was thoughtful. “Much that was rare and lovely is passing away from Middle Earth, Master Bento, and the power of such stones and amulets is fading.”

Barry, his expression serious, leaned close to his father. “It’s all changing, Dad, just like you said! Why does it have to be like that?”

Bento stroked his son’s fair hair. “I do not know, my lad. Times change, that’s all I know, and it seems that whether we will or nil, we must change with them. The hard part will ever be to decide in what way we shall change.”

“I wish it wasn’t so,” Harry said, his young voice weighted with sadness. “I’m afeared, Dad. How is a fellow to know how to go on, when everything is different?”

“Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear,” Gandalf said, and it was clear he was speaking the words of someone else, “nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves, and another among Men……”

“Those words be true,” Bento said, but there was a note of awe in his voice. “Elves and Dwarves, though! What tales thou couldst tell, Mithrandir, had thee a mind to!”

So Gandalf did tell tales of Dwarves and Elves, and after a time all the children crept in to sit by his feet and their father’s and Mistress Violet sat in her rocking chair with Baby Aster and she listened too. The evening wore away in merriment, for Gandalf chose his tales with great care, and told only of those adventures that were exciting but not terrifying.

It was very late when he left the cheerful fireside and struggled through the snowy night to the Hall. He closed the door behind him and went to where his bed was set near the fireplace. The fire was low, but he did not put any more wood on it, rather he banked it and climbed into his bed. He lay for some time in the dark, staring unseeing at the ceiling.

These woodland Hobbits! What was to become of them? He knew his friends in the Shire, knew they would welcome these strangers wholeheartedly. But he was saddened by the truth, that the days of Hightree Wintercamp were numbered. Whatever charm or power the Green Stone or the Amulet had had, those powers were fading, nearly finished. He searched the night, but nowhere did he find any answer to his question.

Out in the Forest, deep in the Forest beyond the little land of these Hobbits, the Trees stood unsleeping, singing their uncanny songs to each other. Bombadil could hear and understand those songs, Gandalf knew, but he could not. The forest was not his place, nor was this any more his time. He sighed. He had thought his journey here was over, he had thought his burdens were all put down……………..

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