That night the Company was again summoned to the chamber of Celeborn, and there the Lord and Lady greeted them with fair words. At length Celeborn spoke of their departure.
'Now is the time,' he said, 'when those who wish to continue the Quest must harden their hearts to leave this land. Those who no longer wish to go forward may remain here, for a while. But whether they stay or go, none can be sure of peace. For we are come now to the edge of doom. Here those who wish may await the oncoming of the hour till either the ways of the world lie open again. or we summon them to the last need of Lórien. Then they may return to their own lands, or else go to the long home of those that fall in battle.'
There was a silence. 'They all resolved to go forward,' said Galadriel looking in their eyes.
'As for me,' said Boromir, 'my way home lies onward and not back.'
'That is true,' said Celeborn, 'but is all this Company going with you to Minas Tirith? '
'We have not decided our course,' said Aragorn. 'Beyond Lothlórien I do not know what Gandalf intended to do. Indeed I do not think that even he had any clear purpose.'
'Maybe not,' said Celeborn, 'yet when you leave this land, you can no longer forget the Great River. As some of you know well, it cannot be crossed by travellers with baggage between Lórien and Gondor, save by boat. And are not the bridges of Osgiliath broken down and all the landings held now by the Enemy?
'On which side will you journey? The way to Minas Tirith lies upon this side, upon the west; but the straight road of the Quest lies east of the River, upon the darker shore. Which shore will you now take? '
'If my advice is heeded, it will be the western shore, and the way to Minas Tirith,' answered Boromir. 'But I am not the leader of the Company.' The others said nothing, and Aragorn looked doubtful and troubled.
'I see that you do not yet know what to do,' said Celeborn. 'It is not my part to choose for you; but I will help you as I may. There are some among you who can handle boats: Legolas, whose folk know the swift Forest River; and Boromir of Gondor; and Aragorn the traveller.'
'And one Hobbit! ' cried Merry. 'Not all of us look on boats as wild horses. My people live by the banks of the Brandywine.'
'That is well,' said Celeborn. 'Then I will furnish your Company with boats. They must be small and light, for if you go far by water, there are places where you will be forced to carry them. You will come to the rapids of Sarn Gebir, and maybe at last to the great falls of Rauros where the River thunders down from Nen Hithoel; and there are other perils. Boats may make your journey less toilsome for a while. Yet they will not give you counsel: in the end you must leave them and the River, and turn west-or east.'
Aragorn thanked Celeborn many times. The gift of boats comforted him much, not least because there would now be no need to decide his course for some days. The others, too, looked more hopeful. Whatever perils lay ahead, it seemed better to float down the broad tide of Anduin to meet them than to plod forward with bent backs. Only Sam was doubtful: he at any rate still thought boats as bad as wild horses, or worse, and not all the dangers that he had survived made him think better of them.