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Later that day the hobbits held a meeting of their own in Bilbo's room. Merry and Pippin were indignant when they heard that Sam had crept into the Council, and had been chosen as Frodo's companion.
`It's most unfair,' said Pippin. `Instead of throwing him out, and clapping him in chains, Elrond goes and rewards him for his cheek!'
`Rewards!' said Frodo. 'I can't imagine a more severe punishment. You are not thinking what you are saying: condemned to go on this hopeless journey, a reward? Yesterday I dreamed that my task was done, and I could rest here, a long while, perhaps for good.'
'I don't wonder,' said Merry, 'and I wish you could. But we are envying Sam, not you. If you have to go, then it will be a punishment for any of us to be left behind, even in Rivendell. We have come a long way with you and been through some stiff times. We want to go on.'
`That's what I meant,' said Pippin. `We hobbits ought to stick together, and we will. I shall go, unless they chain me up. There must be someone with intelligence in the party.'
'Then you certainly will not be chosen, Peregrin Took!' said Gandalf, looking in through the window, which was near the ground. `But you are all worrying yourselves unnecessarily. Nothing is decided yet.'
`Nothing decided!' cried Pippin. 'Then what were you all doing? You were shut up for hours.'
"Talking,' said Bilbo. `There was a deal of talk, and everyone had an eye-opener. Even old Gandalf. I think Legolas's bit of news about Gollum caught even him on the hop, though he passed it off.'
`You were wrong,' said Gandalf. 'You were inattentive. I had already heard of it from Gwaihir. If you want to know, the only real eye-openers, as you put it, were you and Frodo; and I was the only one that was not surprised.'
`Well, anyway,' said Bilbo, 'nothing was decided beyond choosing poor Frodo and Sam. I was afraid all the time that it might come to that, if I was let off. But if you ask me, Elrond will send out a fair number, when the reports come in. Have they started yet, Gandalf?'
'Yes,' said the wizard. `Some of the scouts have been sent out already. More will go tomorrow. Elrond is sending Elves, and they will get in touch with the Rangers, and maybe with Thranduil's folk in Mirkwood. And Aragorn has gone with Elrond's sons. We shall have to scour the lands all round for many long leagues before any move is made. So cheer up, Frodo! You will probably make quite a long stay here.'
'Ah!' said Sam gloomily. 'We'll just wait long enough for winter to come.'
'That can't be helped,' said Bilbo. 'It's your fault partly, Frodo my lad: insisting on waiting for my birthday. A funny way of honouring it, I can't help thinking. Not the day I should have chosen for letting the S.-B.s into Bag End. But there it is: you can't wait now till spring; and you can't go till the reports come back.
When winter first begins to bite
and stones crack in the frosty night,
when pools are black and trees are bare,
'tis evil in the Wild to fare.
But that I am afraid will be just your luck.'
'I am afraid it will,' said Gandalf. 'We can't start until we have found out about the Riders.'
`I thought they were all destroyed in the flood,' said Merry.
'You cannot destroy Ringwraiths like that,' said Gandalf. `The power of their master is in them, and they stand or fall by him. We hope that they were all unhorsed and unmasked, and so made for a while less dangerous; but we must find out for certain. In the meantime you should try and forget your troubles, Frodo. I do not know if I can do anything to help you; but I will whisper this in your ears. Someone said that intelligence would be needed in the party. He was right. I think I shall come with you.'