The Adventures of Odysseus and The Tales of Troy

Page: 79


n the morning of his fourth day in Ithaka, as he and the swineherd were eating a meal together, Odysseus heard the sound of footsteps approaching the hut. The fierce dogs were outside and he expected to hear them yelping against the stranger's approach. No sound came from them. Then he saw a young man come to the entrance of the courtyard, the swineherd's dogs fawning upon him.

Eumæus strewed green brushwood and spread a fleece upon it, and Telemachus seated himself. Next Eumæus fetched a meal for him—oaten cakes and swine flesh and wine. While they were eating, the swineherd said:

'We have here a stranger who has wandered through many countries, and who has come to my house as a suppliant. Wilt thou take him for thy man, Telemachus?'

Said Telemachus, 'How can I support any man? I have not the strength of hand to defend mine own house. But for this stranger I will do what I can. I will give him a mantle and doublet, with shoes for his feet and a sword to defend himself, and I will send him on whatever way he wants to go. But, Eumæus, I would not have him go near my father's house. The wooers grow more insolent each day, and they might mock the stranger if he went amongst them.'

Then said Odysseus, speaking for the first time, 'Young sir, what thou hast said seems strange to me. Dost thou willingly submit to insolence in thine own father's house? But perhaps it is that the people of the City hate thee and will not help thee against thine enemies. Ah, if I had such youth as I have spirit, or if I were the son of Odysseus, I should go amongst them this very day, and make myself the bane of each man of them. I would rather die in mine own halls than see such shame as is reported—strangers mocked at, and servants injured, and wine and food wasted.'

Said Telemachus, 'The people of the City do not hate me, and they would help me if they could. But the wooers of my mother are powerful men—men to make the City folk afraid. And if I should oppose them I would assuredly be slain in my father's house, for how could I hope to overcome so many?'

'What wouldst thou have me do for thee, Telemachus?' said the swineherd.

'I would have thee go to my mother, friend Eumæus,' Telemachus said, 'and let her know that I am safe-returned from Pylos.'

Eumæus at once put sandals upon his feet and took his staff in his hands. He begged Telemachus to rest himself in the hut, and then he left the courtyard and went towards the City.

Telemachus lay down on his seat and closed his eyes in weariness. He saw, while thinking that he only dreamt it, a woman come to the gate of the courtyard. She was fair and tall and splendid, and the dogs shrank away from her presence with a whine. She touched the beggar with a golden wand. As she did, the marks of age and beggary fell from him and the man stood up as tall and noble looking.

'Who art thou?' cried Telemachus, starting up. 'Even a moment ago thou didst look aged and a beggar! Now thou dost look a chief of men! Art thou one of the divine ones?'