The Adventures of Odysseus and The Tales of Troy

Page: 88

Telemachus had not come amongst the wooers, saying, 'That man must not be struck again in this hall. Sirs, if you have finished feasting, and if the time has come for you, go to your own homes, go in peace I pray you.'

All were astonished that Telemachus should speak so boldly. No one answered him back, for one said to the other, 'What he has said is proper. We have nothing to say against it. To misuse a stranger in the house of Odysseus is a shame. Now let us pour out a libation of wine to the gods, and then let each man go to his home.'T

o Telemachus Odysseus said, 'My son, we must now get the weapons out of the hall. Take them down from the walls.' Telemachus and his father took down the helmets and shields and sharp-pointed spears. Then said Odysseus as they carried them out, 'To-morrow, when the wooers miss the weapons and say, "Why have they been taken?" answer them, saying, "The smoke of the fire dulled them, and they no longer looked the weapons that my father left behind him when he went to the wars of Troy. Besides, I am fearful lest some day the company in the hall come to a quarrel, one with the other, and snatch the weapons in anger. Strife has come here already. And iron draws iron, men say."'

Telemachus carried the armour and weapons out of the hall and hid them in the women's apartment. Then when the hall was cleared he went to his own chamber.

It was then that Penelope came back to the hall to speak to the stranger. One of her handmaidens, Melantho by name, was there, and she was speaking angrily to him. Now this Melantho was proud and hard of heart because Antinous often conversed with her. As Penelope came near she was saying:

'Stranger, art thou still here, prying things out and spying on the servants? Be thankful for the supper thou hast gotten and betake thyself out of this.'

Odysseus, looking fiercely at her, said, 'Why shouldst thou speak to me in such a way? If I go in ragged clothes and beg through the land it is because of my necessity. Once I had a house with servants and with much substance, and the stranger who came there was not abused.'

The lady Penelope called to the handmaiden and said, 'Thou, Melantho, didst hear it from mine own lips that I was minded to speak to this stranger and ask him if he had tidings of my lord. Therefore, it does not become thee to revile him.' She spoke to the old nurse who had come with her, and said, 'Eurycleia, bring to the fire a bench, with a fleece upon it, that this stranger may sit and tell me his story.'

Eurycleia brought over the bench, and Odysseus sat down near the fire. Then said the lady Penelope, 'First, stranger, wilt thou tell me who thou art, and what is thy name, and thy race and thy country?'

Said Odysseus, 'Ask me all thou wilt, lady, but inquire not concerning my name, or race, or country, lest thou shouldst fill my heart with more pains than I am able to endure. Verily I am a man of grief. But hast thou no tale to tell me? We know of thee, Penelope, for thy fame goes up to heaven, and no one of mortal men can find fault with thee.'

Then said Penelope, 'What excellence I had of face or form departed from me when my lord Odysseus went from this hall to the wars of Troy. And since he went a host of ills has beset me. Ah, would that he were here to watch over my life! The lords of all the islands around—Dulichium and Same and Zacynthus; and the lords of the land of Ithaka, have come here and are wooing me against my will. They devour the substance of this house and my son is being impoverished.'

'Long ago a god put into my mind a device to keep marriage with any of them away from me. I set up a great web upon my loom and I spoke to the wooers, saying, "Odysseus is assuredly dead, but I crave that you be not eager to speed on this marriage with me. Wait until I finish the web I am weaving. It is a shroud for Odysseus' father, and I make it against the day when death shall come to him. There will be no woman to care for Laertes when I have left his son's house, and I would not have such a hero lie without a shroud, lest the women of our land should blame me for neglect of my husband's father in his last days.'"