The Adventures of Odysseus and The Tales of Troy

Page: 100

'Old man, thou dost care for this garden well and all things here are flourishing—fig tree, and vine, and olive, and pear. But, if a stranger may say it, thine own self is not cared for well.'

'Who art thou that dost speak to me like this?' old Laertes said, lifting his head.

'I am a stranger in Ithaka,' said Odysseus. 'I seek a man whom I once kindly treated—a man whose name was Odysseus. A stranger, he came to me, and he declared that he was of Ithaka, and that one day he would give me entertainment for the entertainment I had given him. I know not if this man be still alive.'

Old Laertes wept before Odysseus. 'Ah,' said he, 'if thou hadst been able to find him here, the gifts you gave him would not have been bestowed in vain. True hospitality thou wouldst have received from Odysseus, my son. But he has perished—far from his country's soil he has perished, the hapless man, and his mother wept not over him, nor his wife, nor me, his father.'

So he spake and then with his hands he took up the dust of the ground, and he strewed it over his head in his sorrow. The heart of Odysseus was moved with grief. He sprang forward and fell on his father's neck and he kissed him, saying:

'Behold I am here, even I, my father. I, Odysseus, have come back to mine own country. Cease thy lamentation until I tell thee of the things that have happened. I have slain the wooers in mine hall, and I have avenged all their injuries and all their wrongful doings. Dost thou not believe this, my father? Then look on what I will show thee. Behold on my foot the mark of the boar's tusk—there it is from the days of my youth.'

Laertes looked down on the bare foot, and he saw the scar, but still his mind was clouded by doubt. But then Odysseus took him through the garden, and he told him of the fruit trees that Laertes had set for him when he, Odysseus, was a little child, following his father about the garden—thirteen pear trees, and ten apple trees, and forty fig trees.

When Odysseus showed him these Laertes knew that it was his son indeed who stood before him—his son come back after twenty years' wandering. He cast his arms around his neck, and Odysseus caught him fainting to his breast, and led him into the house.

Within the house were Telemachus, and Eumæus the swineherd and Philœtius the cattleherd. They all clasped the hand of Laertes and their words raised his spirits. Then he was bathed, and, when he came from the bath, rubbed with olive oil he looked hale and strong, Odysseus said to him, 'Father, surely one of the gods has made thee goodlier and greater than thou wert a while ago.'