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The Adventures of Odysseus and The Tales of Troy

Page: 19

'We lay down in the holes she had scooped in the sand and she covered each of us with one of the skins she had brought. Then the seals came out of the sea and lay all around us. The smell that came from those beasts of the sea afflicted us, and it was then that our adventure became terrible. We could not have endured it if Eidothëe had not helped us in this also. She took ambrosia and set it beneath each man's nostril, so that what came to us was not the smell of the sea-beasts but a divine savour. Then the nymph went back to the sea.

'We lay there with steadfast hearts amongst the herd of seals until the sun was at its highest in the heavens. The Ancient One of the Sea came out of the ocean depths. He went amongst the seals and counted them, and us four men he reckoned amongst his herd. Then in great contentment he laid himself down to sleep.

'We rushed upon him with a cry and laid hold on him with all the strength of our hands. But we had no sooner grasped him than his shape changed. He became a lion and faced us. Yet we did not let go of our grasp. He became a serpent, yet we still held him. He became a leopard and then a mighty boar; he became a stream of water and then a flowering tree. Yet still we held to him with all our might and our hearts were not daunted by the shapes he changed to before our eyes. Then, seeing that he could not make us loose our hold, the Ancient One of the Sea, who was called Proteus, ceased in his changes and became as we had seen him first.

'"Son of Atreus," said he, speaking to me, "who was it showed you how to lay this ambush for me?"'

'"It is for you who know all things," said I, "to make answer to us. Tell me now why it is that I am held on this island? Which of the gods holds me here and for what reason?"'

'Then the Ancient One of the Sea answered me, speaking truth, "Zeus, the greatest of all the gods holds you here. You neglected to make sacrifice to the gods and for that reason you are held on this island."

'"Then," said I, "what must I do to win back the favor of the gods?"'

'He told me, speaking truth, "Before setting sail for your own land," he said, "you must return to the river Ægyptus that flows out of Africa, and offer sacrifice there to the gods."'

'When he said this my spirit was broken with grief. A long and a grievous way would I have to sail to make that sacrifice, turning back from my own land. Yet the will of the gods would have to be done. Again I was moved to question the Ancient One of the Sea, and to ask him for tidings of the men who were my companions in the wars of Troy.


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