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CHAPTER IV. IN SPARTA

Now it chanced that Menelaus had made a great feast that day, for his daughter, the child of the fair Helen, was married to the son of Achilles, to whom she had been promised at Troy; and his son had also taken a wife. And the two wayfarers stayed their chariot at the door, and the steward spied them, and said to Menelaus:—

“Lo! here are two strangers who are like the children of kings. Shall we keep them here, or send them to another?”

But Menelaus was wroth, and said: “Shall we, who have eaten so often of the bread of hospitality, send these strangers to another? Nay, unyoke their horses and bid them sit down to meat.” So the squires loosed the horses from the yoke, and fastened them in the stall, and gave them grain to eat and led the men into the hall. Much did they marvel at the sight, for there was a gleam as of the sun or moon in the palace of Menelaus. And when they had gazed their fill, they bathed them in the polished baths. After that they sat them down by the side of Menelaus. Then a handmaid bare water in a pitcher of gold, and poured it over a basin of silver that they might wash their hands. Afterwards she drew a polished table to their side, and a dame brought food, and set it by them, laying many dainties on the board, and a carver placed by them platters of flesh, and set near them golden bowls.

Then said Menelaus: “Eat and be glad; afterwards I will ask you who ye are, for ye seem like to the sons of kings.”

And when they had ended the meal, Telemachus, looking round at the hall, said to his companion:—

“See the gold and the amber, and the silver and the ivory. This is like the hall of Zeus.”

This he spake with his face close to his comrade's ear, but Menelaus heard him and said:—

“With the halls of the gods nothing mortal may compare. And among men also there may be the match of these things. Yet I have wandered far, and got many possessions in many lands. But woe is me! Would that I had but the third part of this wealth of mine, and that they who perished at Troy were alive again! And most of all I mourn for the great Ulysses, for whether he be alive or dead no man knows.”

But Telemachus wept to hear mention of his father, holding up his purple cloak before his eyes. This Menelaus saw, and knew who he was, and pondered whether he should wait till he should himself speak of his father, or should rather ask him of his errand. But while he pondered there came in the fair Helen, and three maidens with her, of whom one set a couch for her to sit, and one spread a carpet for her feet, and one bare a basket of purple wool; but she herself had a distaff of gold in her hand. And when she saw the strangers she said:—

“Who are these, Menelaus? Never have I seen such likeness in man or woman as this one bears to Ulysses. Surely 'tis his son Telemachus, whom he left an infant at home when ye went to Troy for my sake!”

Then said Menelaus: “It must indeed be so, lady. For these are the hands and feet of Ulysses, and the look of his eyes and his hair. And but now, when I made mention of his name, he wept, holding his mantle before his face.”

Then said Peisistratus: “King Menelaus, thou speakest truth. This is indeed the son of Ulysses who is come to thee; perchance thou canst help him by word or deed.”

And Menelaus answered: “Then is he the son of a man whom I loved right well. I thought to give him a city in this land, bringing him from Ithaca with all his goods. Then should naught have divided us but death itself. But these things the gods have ordered otherwise.”

At these words they all wept—the fair Helen and Telemachus and Menelaus; nor could Peisistratus refrain himself, for he thought of his dear brother who was slain at Troy.

Then said Menelaus: “Now we will cease from weeping; and to-morrow there is much that Telemachus and I must say one to the other.”

Then the fair Helen put a mighty medicine in the wine whereof they drank—nepenthe [Footnote: ne-pen'-the], men call it. So mighty is it that whoever drinks of it, weeps not that day, though father and mother die, and though men slay brother or son before his eyes.

And after this she said: “It would take long to tell all the wise and valiant deeds of Ulysses. One thing, however, ye shall hear, and it is this: while the Greeks were before Troy he came into the city, having disguised himself as a beggar-man, yea, and he had laid many blows upon himself, so that he seemed to have been shamefully treated. I alone knew who he was, and questioned him, but he answered craftily. And I swore that I would not betray him. So he slew many Trojans with the sword, and learnt many things. And while other women in Troy lamented, I was glad, for my heart was turned again to my home.”

Then Menelaus said: “Thou speakest truly, lady. Many men have I seen, and travelled over many lands, but never have I seen one who might be matched with Ulysses. Well do I remember how, when I and other chiefs of the Greeks sat in the horse of wood, thou didst come. Some god who loved the sons of Troy put the thing into thy heart. Thrice didst thou walk round our hiding-place and call by name to each one of the chiefs, speaking marvellously like his wife. Then would we have risen from our place or answered thee straightway. But Ulysses hindered us, and thus saved all the Greeks.”

But Telemachus said: “Yet all these things have not kept him, for he has perished.”

And after that they slept.