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CHAPTER III. NESTOR

At sunrise the ship came to Pylos, where Nestor dwelt. Now it so chanced that the people were offering a great sacrifice upon the shore to Poseidon. Nine companies there were, and in each company five hundred men, and for the five hundred there were nine bulls. And they had tasted of the inner parts and were burning the slices of flesh on the thigh-bones to the god, when Telemachus's company moored the ship and came forth from it to the shore. Athene spake to Telemachus, saying: “Now thou hast no need to be ashamed. Thou hast sailed across the sea to hear tidings of thy father. Go, therefore, to Nestor, and learn what counsel he hath in the deep of his heart.”

But Telemachus answered, “How shall I speak to him, being so untried and young?”

“Nay,” said the goddess; “but thou shalt think of something thyself, and something the gods will put into thy mouth.”

So saying she led the way, and they came to where Nestor sat, with his sons, and a great company round him, making ready the feast. When these saw the strangers, they clasped their hands, and made them sit down on soft fleeces of wool. And Nestor's son Peisistratus [Footnote: Pei-sis'-tra-tus] brought to them food, and wine in a cup of gold. To Athene first he gave the wine, for he judged her to be the elder of the two, saying, “Pray now to the Lord Poseidon, and make thy drink offering, and when thou hast so done, give the cup to thy friend that he may do likewise.”

Then Athene took the cup and prayed to Poseidon, saying: “Grant renown to Nestor and his son, and reward the men of Pylos for this great sacrifice. And grant that we may accomplish that for which we have come hither.”

And the son of Ulysses prayed in like manner.

When they had eaten and drunk their fill, Nestor said: “Strangers, who are ye? Sail ye over the seas for trade, or as pirates that wander at hazard of their lives?”

To him Telemachus made reply, Athene putting courage into his heart: “We come from Ithaca, and our errand concerns ourselves. I seek for tidings of my father, who in old time fought by thy side, and sacked the city of Troy. Of all the others who did battle with the men of Troy, we have heard, whether they have returned, or where they died; but even the death of this man remains untold. Therefore am I come hither to thee; perchance thou mayest be willing to tell me of him, whether thou sawest his death with thine own eyes, or hast heard it from another. Speak me no soft words for pity's sake, but tell me plainly what thou hast seen.”

Nestor made answer: “Thou bringest to my mind all that we endured, warring round Priam's mighty town. There the best of us were slain. Valiant Ajax [Footnote: A'-jax.] lies there, and there Achilles [Footnote: A-chil'-les], and there Patroclus [Footnote: Pa-tro'-clus], and there my own dear son. Who could tell the tale of all that we endured? Truly, no one, not though thou shouldst abide here five years or six to listen. For nine whole years we were busy, devising the ruin of the enemy, which yet Zeus brought not to pass. And always Ulysses passed the rest in craft, thy father Ulysses, if indeed thou art his son, and verily thy speech is like to his; one would not think that a younger man could be so like to an elder. But listen to my tale. When we had sacked the town, I returned across the sea without delay, leaving behind the others, so that I know not of my own knowledge which of the Greeks was saved and which was lost. But wander not thou, my son, far from home, while strangers devour thy substance. Go to Menelaus, for he hath but lately come back from a far country; go and ask him to tell thee all that he knoweth. If thou wilt, go with thy ships, or, if it please thee better, I will send thee with a chariot and horses, and my sons shall be thy guides.”

Then said Athene: “Let us cut up the tongues of the beasts, and mix the wine, and pour offerings to Poseidon and the other gods, and so bethink us of sleep, for it is the time.”

So she spake, and they hearkened to her words. And when they had finished, Athene and Telemachus would have gone back to their ship. But Nestor stayed them, saying: “Now Zeus and all the gods forbid that ye should depart to your ships from my house, as though it were the dwelling of a needy man that hath not rugs and blankets in his house, whereon his guests may sleep! Not so; I have rugs and blankets enough. Never shall the son of my friend Ulysses lay him down on his ship's deck, while I am alive, or my children after me, to entertain strangers in my hall.”

Thereupon said the false Mentor: “This is good, dear father. Let Telemachus abide with thee; but I will go back to the ship, and cheer the company, and tell them all. There I will sleep this night, and to-morrow I go to the Cauconians [Footnote: Cau-co'-ni- ans.], where there is owing to me a debt neither small nor of yesterday. But do thou send this man on his way in thy chariot.”

Then the goddess departed in the semblance of a sea-eagle, and all that saw it were amazed.

Then the old man took Telemachus by the hand, and said: “No coward or weakling art thou like to be, whom the gods attend even now in thy youth. This is none other than Athene, daughter of Zeus, the same that stood by thy father in the land of Troy.”

After this the old man led the company to his house. Here he mixed for them a bowl of wine eleven years old; and they prayed to Athene, and then lay down to sleep. Telemachus slept on a bedstead beneath the gallery, and Peisistratus slept by him.

The next day, as soon as it was morning, Nestor and his sons arose. And the old man said: “Let one man go to the plain for a heifer, and let another go to the ship of Telemachus, and bid all the company come hither, leaving two only behind. And a third shall command the goldsmith to gild the horns of the heifer, and let the handmaids prepare all things for a feast.”

They did as the old man commanded; and after they had offered sacrifice, and had eaten and drunk, old Nester said, “Put now the horses in the chariot, that Telemachus may go his way.”

So they yoked the horses, and the dame that kept the stores put into the chariot food and wine and dainties, such as princes eat. And Peisistratus took the reins, and Telemachus rode with him. And all that day they journeyed; and when the land grew dark they came to the city of Pherae [Footnote: Phe'-rae.], and there they rested; and the next day, travelling again, came to Lacedaemon [Footnote: La-ce-dae'-mon.], to the palace of King Menelaus.