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CHAPTER XVI. THE RETURN OF TELEMACHUS

Now all this time Telemachus tarried in Sparta with King Menelaus, and the son of Nestor was with him. To him, therefore, Athene went. Nestor's son she found overcome with slumber, but Telemachus could not sleep for thoughts of his father. And Athene stood near him, and spake:—

“It is not well, Telemachus, that thou shouldest tarry longer away from thy home, for there are some who spoil and devour thy substance. Come, therefore, rouse thy host Menelaus, and pray him that he send thee on thy way. For thy mother's father and her brethren urge her to take Eurymachus [Footnote: Eu-rym'-a-chus.] for her husband, seeing that he hath far surpassed all the other suitors in his gifts. Hearken also to another matter. The bravest of the suitors lie in wait for thee in the strait that is between Ithaca and Samos, desirous to slay thee before thou shalt come again to thy home. Keep thy ship, therefore, far from the place, and sail both by night and by day, and one of the gods shall send thee a fair breeze. Also, when thou comest to the land of Ithaca, send thy ship and thy company to the city, but seek thyself the swineherd Eumaeus, for he hath been ever true to thee. Rest there the night, and bid him go to the city on the day following, and carry tidings to thy mother of thy safe return.”

Then Telemachus woke the son of Nestor, touching him with his heel, and saying: “Awake, son of Nestor, bring up thy horses, and yoke them to the chariot, that we may go upon our way.”

But Peisistratus made answer: “We may not drive through the darkness, how eager soever we be to depart. Soon will it be dawn. Tarry thou till Menelaus shall bring his gifts and set them on the car, and send thee on thy way, for a guest should take thought of the host that showeth him kindness.”

And when the morning was come, and Menelaus was risen from his bed, Telemachus spake to him, saying, “Menelaus, send me now with all speed to my own country, for I am greatly desirous to go there.”

To him Menelaus made answer: “I will not keep thee long, seeing that thou desirest to return. But stay till I bring my gifts and set them in the chariot. Let me also bid the women prepare the meal in my hall, for it is both honour to me and a profit to you that ye should eat well before ye set forth on a far journey. But if thou wilt go further through the land, then let me go with thee; to many cities will we go, and none will send us empty away.”

But Telemachus said: “Not so, Menelaus; rather would I go back straightway to mine own land, for I left none to watch over my goods. It were ill done were I to perish seeking my father, or to lose some precious possession out of my house.”

Then Menelaus bade his wife and the maids prepare the meal, and his squire he bade kindle a fire and roast flesh; and he himself went to his treasury, and Helen and his son with him. He himself took therefrom a double cup, and bade his son bear a mixing-bowl of silver; as for Helen, she took from her chests a robe that she had wrought with her own hands. The fairest it was of all, and shone as shines a star, and it lay beneath all the rest.

Then said Menelaus: “Take this mixing-bowl; it is wrought of silver, but the lips are finished with gold; the god Hephaestus [Footnote: He-phaes'-tus.] wrought it with his own hands, and the King of the Sidonians [Footnote: Si-do'-ni-ans.] gave it me. This cup also I give thee.”

And beautiful Helen came, holding the robe in her hands, and spake, saying: “Take, dear child, this memorial of Helen's handiwork; keep it against thy marriage day, for thy bride to wear. Meanwhile, let thy mother have charge of it. And now mayest thou return with joy to thy native country and thy home!”

Then they sat down to eat and drink; and when they had finished, then did Telemachus and Nestor's son yoke the horses and climb into the chariot.

But Menelaus came forth bringing wine in a cup of gold, that they might pour out an offering to the gods before they departed. And he stood before the horses, and spake, saying:—

“Farewell, gallant youths, and salute Nestor for me; verily, he was as a father to me, when we were waging war against Troy.”

To him Telemachus made answer: “That will we do; and may the gods grant that I find my father at home and tell him what grace I have found in thy sight!”

But even as he spake there flew forth at his right hand an eagle, carrying a goose in his claws, that he had snatched from the yard, and men and women followed it with loud shouting. Across the horses it flew, still going to the right; and they were glad when they saw it.

Then said Nestor's son: “Think, Menelaus! Did Zeus send this sign to us or thee?”

But while Menelaus pondered the matter, Helen spake, saying: “Hear me while I say what the gods have put in my heart. Even as this eagle came down from the hill where he was bred, and snatched away the goose from the house, so shall Ulysses come back to his home after many wanderings, and take vengeance; yea, even now he is there, plotting evil for the suitors.”

Then they departed and sped across the plain. But when they came the next day to Pylos, Telemachus said to Peisistratus: “Son of Nestor, wilt thou be as a friend to me, and do my bidding? Leave me at my ship; take me not past, lest the old man, thy father, keep me out of his kindness against my will, for, indeed, I am desirous to go home.”

And Nestor's son did so. He turned his horses towards the shore and the ship. And coming there, he took out the gifts, and laid them in the hinder part of the ship. This done, he called Telemachus and said: “Climb now into thy ship, and depart, ere I can reach my home. Well I know that my father will come down, and bid thee return with him to his house; nor, indeed, if he find thee here, will he go back without thee, so wilful is he of heart.”

And Telemachus bade his companions climb on the ship; and they did so.

So they departed; and Athene sent a wind that blew from behind, and they sped on their way.

Meanwhile Ulysses sat with the swineherd and his men, and supped. And Ulysses, willing to try the man's temper, said: “In the morning I would fain go to the city, to the house of Ulysses, for I would not be burdensome to thee. Perchance the suitors might give me a meal. Well could I serve them. No man can light a fire, or cleave wood, or carve flesh, or pour out wine, better than I.”

“Nay,” said the swineherd, “thou hadst best not go among the suitors, so proud and lawless are they. They that serve them are not such as thou. They are young, and fair, and gaily clad, and their heads are anointed with oil. Abide here; thou art not burdensome to us; and when the son of Ulysses shall come, he will give thee, may be, a mantle and a tunic.”

Ulysses answered: “Now may Zeus bless thee for thy kindness, for thou makest me to cease from my wanderings. Surely, nothing is more grievous to a man than to wander; but hunger compels him. Tell me now about the mother of Ulysses and about his father. Are they yet alive?”

Then said the swineherd: “I will tell thee all. Laertes, the father of Ulysses, yet lives; yet doth he daily pray to die, for he sorroweth for his son, who is far away from his home, and for his wife, who is dead. Verily, it was her death that brought him to old age before his time. And it was of grief for her son that she died. Much kindness did I receive at her hands, while she yet lived; but now I lack it. As for my lady Penelope, a great trouble hath fallen upon her house, even a plague of evil-minded men.”