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The Adventures of Odysseus and The Tales of Troy

Page: 95

As they were doing this, Eumæus, the swineherd, and Philœtius, the cattleherd, passed out of the hall.

Odysseus followed them into the courtyard. He laid a hand on each and said, 'Swineherd and cattleherd, I have a word to say to you. But will you keep it to yourselves, the word I say? And first, what would you do to help Odysseus if he should return? Would you stand on his side, or on the side of the wooers? Answer me now from your hearts.'

Said Philœtius the cattleherd, 'May Zeus fulfil my wish and bring Odysseus back! Then thou shouldst know on whose side I would stand.' And Eumæus said, 'If Odysseus should return I would be on his side, and that with all the strength that is in me.'

When they said this, Odysseus declared himself. Lifting up his hand to heaven he said, 'I am your master, Odysseus. After twenty years I have come back to my own country, and I find that of all my servants, by you two alone is my homecoming desired. If you need see a token that I am indeed Odysseus, look down on my foot. See there the mark that the wild boar left on me in the days of my youth.'

Straightway he drew the rags from, the scar, and the swineherd and the cattleherd saw it and marked it well. Knowing that it was indeed Odysseus who stood before them, they cast their arms around him and kissed him on the head and shoulders. And Odysseus was moved by their tears, and he kissed their heads and their hands.

As they went back to the hall, he told Eumæus to bring the bow to him as he was bearing it through the hall. He told him, too, to order Eurycleia, the faithful nurse, to bar the doors of the women's apartment at the end of the hall, and to bid the women, even if they heard a groaning and a din, not to come into the hall. And he charged the cattleherd Philœtius to bar the gates of the courtyard.

As he went into the hall, one of the wooers, Eurymachus, was striving to bend the bow. As he struggled to do so he groaned aloud:

'Not because I may not marry Penelope do I groan, but because we youths of to-day are shown to be weaklings beside Odysseus, whose bow we can in no way bend.'

Then Antinous, the proudest of the wooers, made answer and said, 'Why should we strive to bend the bow to-day? Nay, lay the bow aside, Eurymachus, and let the wine-bearers pour us out a cupful each. In the morning let us make sacrifice to the Archer-god, and pray that the bow be fitted to some of our hands.'

Then Odysseus came forward and said, 'Sirs, you do well to lay the bow aside for to-day. But will you not put the bow into my hands, that I may try to bend it, and judge for myself whether I have any of the strength that once was mine?'

All the wooers were angry that a seeming beggar should attempt to bend the bow that none of their company were able to bend; Antinous spoke to him sharply and said:

'Thou wretched beggar! Is it not enough that thou art let into this high hall to pick up scraps, but thou must listen to our speech and join in our conversation? If thou shouldst bend that bow we will make short shrift of thee, I promise. We will put thee on a ship and send thee over to King Echetus, who will cut thee to pieces and give thy flesh to his hounds.'

Old Eumæus had taken up the bow. As he went with it to Odysseus some of them shouted to him, 'Where art thou going with the bow, thou crazy fellow? Put it down,' Eumæus was confused by their shouts, and he put down the bow.

Then Telemachus spoke to him and said, 'Eumæus, beware of being the man who served many masters.' Eumæus, hearing these words, took it up again and brought it to Odysseus, and put the bow into his hands.

As Odysseus stood in the doorway of the hall, the bow in his hands, and with the arrows scattered at his feet, Eumæus went to Eurycleia, and told her to bar the door of the women's apartment at the back. Then Philœtius, the cattleherd, went out of the hall and barred the gates leading out of the courtyard.


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