The Adventures of Odysseus and The Tales of Troy

Page: 86


ll the wooers trooped to the threshold and stood round the ragged men. Antinous thought of something to make the game more merry. 'There are two great puddings in the larder,' he said. 'Let us offer them for a prize to these pugilists. Come, Irus. Come, stranger. A choice of puddings for whichever of you wins the match. Aye, and more than that. Whoever wins shall have leave to eat every day in this hall, and no other beggar shall be let come near the house. Go to it now, ye mighty men.' All the wooers crowded round and clapped the men on to the fight.

Odysseus said, 'Friends, an old man like me cannot fight one who is younger and abler.'

The wooers were not sorry for Irus. They laughed until they were ready to fall backwards. Then Odysseus seized Irus by the feet, and dragged him out of the house, and to the gate of the courtyard. He lifted him up and put him standing against the wall. Placing the staff in the beggar's hands, he said, 6 Sit there, and scare off the dogs and swine, and do not let such a one as you lord it over strangers. A worse thing might have befallen you.'

Then back he went to the hall, with his beggar's bag on his shoulder and his clothes more ragged than ever. Back he went, and when the wooers saw him they burst into peals of laughter and shouted out:

'May Zeus, O stranger, give thee thy dearest wish and thy heart's desire. Thou only shalt be beggar in Ithaka.' They laughed and laughed again when Antinous brought out the great pudding that was the prize. Odysseus took it from him. And another of the wooers pledged him in a golden cup, saying, 'May you come to your own, O beggar, and may happiness be yours in time to come.'

While these things were happening, the wife of Odysseus, the lady Penelope, called to Eurycleia, and said, 'This evening I will go into the hall of our house and speak to my son, Telemachus. Bid my two handmaidens make ready to come with me, for I shrink from going amongst the wooers alone.'

Eurycleia went to tell the handmaidens and Penelope washed off her cheeks the traces of the tears that she had wept that day. Then she sat down to wait for the handmaidens to come to her. As she waited she fell into a deep sleep. And as she slept, the goddess Pallas Athene bathed her face in the Water of Beauty and took all weariness away from her body, and restored all her youthfulness to her. The sound of the handmaidens' voices as they came in awakened her, and Penelope rose up to go into the hall.

Now when she came amongst them with her two handmaidens, one standing each side of her, the wooers were amazed, for they had never seen one so beautiful. The hearts of all were enchanted with love for her, and each prayed that he might have her for his wife.

Penelope did not look on any of the wooers, but she went to her son, Telemachus, and spoke to him.

'Telemachus,' she said, 'I have heard that a stranger has been ill-treated in this house. How, my child, didst thou permit such a thing to happen?'

Telemachus said, 'My lady mother, thou hast no right to be angered at what took place in this hall.'

So they spoke to one another, mother and son. Now one of the wooers, Eurymachus by name, spoke to Penelope, saying:

'Lady, if any more than we beheld thee in the beauty thou hast now, by so many more wouldst thou have wooers to-morrow.'