The Return of the King (Page 77)
‘How do I feel?’ he cried. ‘Well, I don’t know how to say it. I feel, I feel’ – he waved his arms in the air – ‘I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!’ He stopped and he turned towards his master. ‘But how’s Mr. Frodo?’ he said. ‘Isn’t it a shame about his poor hand? But I hope he’s all right otherwise. He’s had a cruel time.’
‘Yes, I am all right otherwise,’ said Frodo, sitting up and laughing in his turn. ‘I fell asleep again waiting for you, Sam, you sleepy-head. I was awake early this morning, and now it must be nearly noon.’
‘Noon?’ said Sam, trying to calculate. ‘Noon of what day?’
‘The fourteenth of the New Year,’ said Gandalf; ‘or if you like, the eighth day of April in the Shire-reckoning. * But in Gondor the New Year will always now begin upon the twenty-fifth of March when Sauron fell, and when you were brought out of the fire to the King. He has tended you, and now he awaits you. You shall eat and drink with him. When you are ready I will lead you to him.’
‘The King?’ said Sam. ‘What king, and who is he?’
‘The King of Gondor and Lord of the Western Lands,’ said Gandalf; ‘and he has taken back all his ancient realm. He will ride soon to his crowning, but he waits for you.’
‘What shall we wear?’ said Sam; for all he could see was the old and tattered clothes that they had journeyed in, lying folded on the ground beside their beds.
‘The clothes that you wore on your way to Mordor,’ said Gandalf. ‘Even the orc-rags that you bore in the black land, Frodo, shall be preserved. No silks and linens, nor any armour or heraldry could be more honourable. But later I will find some other clothes, perhaps.’
Then he held out his hands to them, and they saw that one shone with light. ‘What have you got there?’ Frodo cried. ‘Can it be——?’
‘Yes, I have brought your two treasures. They were found on Sam when you were rescued, the Lady Galadriel’s gifts: your glass, Frodo, and your box, Sam. You will be glad to have these safe again.’
When they were washed and clad, and had eaten a light meal, the Hobbits followed Gandalf. They stepped out of the beech-grove in which they had lain, and passed on to a long green lawn, glowing in sunshine, bordered by stately dark-leaved trees laden with scarlet blossom. Behind them they could hear the sound of falling water, and a stream ran down before them between flowering banks, until it came to a greenwood at the lawn’s foot and passed then on under an archway of trees, through which they saw the shimmer of water far away.
As they came to the opening in the wood, they were surprised to see knights in bright mail and tall guards in silver and black standing there, who greeted them with honour and bowed before them. And then one blew a long trumpet, and they went on through the aisle of trees beside the singing stream. So they came to a wide green land, and beyond it was a broad river in a silver haze, out of which rose a long wooded isle, and many ships lay by its shores. But on the field where they now stood a great host was drawn up, in ranks and companies glittering in the sun. And as the Hobbits approached swords were unsheathed, and spears were shaken, and horns and trumpets sang, and men cried with many voices and in many tongues:
‘Long live the Halflings! Praise them with great praise!
Cuio i Pheriain anann! Aglar’ni Pheriannath!
Praise them with great praise, Frodo and Samwise!
Daur a Berhael, Conin en Annûn! Eglerio!
A laita te, laita te! Andave laituvalmet!
Cormacolindor, a laita tárienna!
Praise them! The Ring-bearers, praise them with great praise!’
And so the red blood blushing in their faces and their eyes shining with wonder, Frodo and Sam went forward and saw that amidst the clamorous host were set three high-seats built of green turves. Behind the seat upon the right floated, white on green, a great horse running free; upon the left was a banner, silver upon blue, a ship swan-prowed faring on the sea; but behind the highest throne in the midst of all a great standard was spread in the breeze, and there a white tree flowered upon a sable field beneath a shining crown and seven glittering stars. On the throne sat a mail-clad man, a great sword was laid across his knees, but he wore no helm. As they drew near he rose. And then they knew him, changed as he was, so high and glad of face, kingly, lord of Men, dark-haired with eyes of grey.
Frodo ran to meet him, and Sam followed close behind. ‘Well, if this isn’t the crown of all!’ he said. ‘Strider, or I’m still asleep!’
‘Yes, Sam, Strider,’ said Aragorn. ‘It is a long way, is it not, from Bree, where you did not like the look of me? A long way for us all, but yours has been the darkest road.’
And then to Sam’s surprise and utter confusion he bowed his knee before them; and taking them by the hand, Frodo upon his right and Sam upon his left, he led them to the throne, and setting them upon it, he turned to the men and captains who stood by and spoke, so that his voice rang over all the host, crying:
‘Praise them with great praise!’
And when the glad shout had swelled up and died away again, to Sam’s final and complete satisfaction and pure joy, a minstrel of Gondor stood forth, and knelt, and begged leave to sing. And behold! he said:
‘Lo! lords and knights and men of valour unashamed, kings and princes, and fair people of Gondor, and Riders of Rohan, and ye sons of Elrond, and Dúnedain of the North, and Elf and Dwarf, and greathearts of the Shire, and all free folk of the West, now listen to my lay. For I will sing to you of Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom.’
And when Sam heard that he laughed aloud for sheer delight, and he stood up and cried: ‘O great glory and splendour! And all my wishes have come true!’ And then he wept.
And all the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all men were hushed. And he sang to them, now in the elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.
And at the last, as the Sun fell from the noon and the shadows of the trees lengthened, he ended. ‘Praise them with great praise!’ he said and knelt. And then Aragorn stood up, and all the host arose, and they passed to pavilions made ready, to eat and drink and make merry while the day lasted.