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Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 160

  "Then threw Telemachus
  His arms around his father's neck and wept,
  Desire intense of lamentation seized
  On both; soft murmurs uttering, each indulged
  His grief."

The father and son took counsel together how they should get the better of the suitors and punish them for their outrages. It was arranged that Telemachus should proceed to the palace and mingle with the suitors as formerly; that Ulysses should go also, as a beggar, a character which in the rude old times had different privileges from those we concede to it now. As traveller and story-teller, the beggar was admitted in the halls of chieftains, and often treated like a guest; though sometimes, also, no doubt, with contumely. Ulysses charged his son not to betray, by any display of unusual interest in him, that he knew him to be other than he seemed, and even if he saw him insulted, or beaten, not to interpose otherwise than he might do for any stranger.

At the palace they found the usual scene of feasting and riot going on. The suitors pretended to receive Telemachus with joy at his return, though secretly mortified at the failure of their plots to take his life. The old beggar was permitted to enter, and provided with a portion from the table. A touching incident occurred as Ulysses entered the court-yard of the palace. An old dog lay in the yard almost dead with age, and seeing a stranger enter, raised his head, with ears erect. It was Argus, Ulysses' own dog, that he had in other days often led to the chase.

  "Soon he perceived
  Long-lost Ulysses nigh, down fell his ears
  Clapped close, and with his tail glad signs he gave
  Of gratulation, impotent to rise,
  And to approach his master as of old.
  Ulysses, noting him, wiped off a tear
  Unmarked.
  . . . Then his destiny released
  Old Argus, soon as he had lived to see
  Ulysses in the twentieth year restored."

As Ulysses sat eating his portion in the hall, the suitors soon began to exhibit their insolence to him. When he mildly remonstrated, one of them raised a stool and with it gave him a blow. Telemachus had hard work to restrain his indignation at seeing his father so treated in his own hall, but remembering his father's injunctions, said no more than what became him as master of the house and protector of his guests.

Penelope had protracted her decision in favor of any one of her suitors so long, that there seemed to be no further pretence for delay. The continued absence of her husband seemed to prove that his return was no longer to be expected. Meanwhile her son had grown up, and was able to manage his own affairs. She therefore consented to submit the question of her choice to a trial of skill among the suitors. The test selected was shooting with the bow. Twelve rings were arranged in a line, and he whose arrow was sent through the whole twelve, was to have the queen for his prize. A bow that one of his brother heroes had given to Ulysses in former times, was brought from the armory, and with its quiver full of arrows was laid in the hall. Telemachus had taken care that all other weapons should be removed, under pretence that in the heat of competition, there was danger, in some rash moment, of putting them to an improper use.


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