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CHAPTER XXII. THE SLAYING OF THE SUITORS

Then spake Ulysses among the suitors: “This labour has been accomplished. Let me try at yet another mark.”

And he aimed his arrow at Antinous. But the man was just raising a cup to his lips, thinking not of death, for who had thought that any man, though mightiest of mortals, would venture on such a deed, being one among many? Right through the neck passed the arrow-head, and the blood gushed from his nostrils, and he dropped the cup and spurned the table from him.

And all the suitors, when they saw him fall, leapt from their seats; but when they looked, there was neither spear nor shield upon the wall. And they knew not whether it was by chance or of set purpose that the stranger had smitten him. But Ulysses then declared who he was, saying:—

“Dogs, ye thought that I should never come back! Therefore have ye devoured my house, and made suit to my wife while I yet lived, and feared not the gods nor regarded men. Therefore a sudden destruction is come upon you all.”

Then when all the others trembled for fear, Eurymachus said: “If thou be indeed Ulysses of Ithaca, thou hast said well. Foul wrong has been done to thee in the house and in the field. But lo! he who was the mover of it all lieth here, even Antinous. Nor was it so much this marriage that he sought, as to be king of this land, having destroyed thy house. But we will pay thee back for all that we have devoured, even twenty times as much.”

But Ulysses said: “Speak not of paying back. My hands shall not cease from slaying till I have taken vengeance on you all.”

Then said Eurymachus to his comrades: “This man will not stay his hands. He will smite us all with his arrows where he stands. But let us win the door, and raise a cry in the city; soon then will this archer have shot his last.”

And he rushed on, with his two-edged knife in his hand. But as he rushed, Ulysses smote him on the breast with an arrow, and he fell forwards. And when Amphinomus came on, Telemachus slew him with his spear, but drew not the spear from the body, lest some one should smite him unawares.

Then he ran to his father and said, “Shall I fetch arms for us and our helpers?”

“Yea,” said he, “and tarry not, lest my arrows be spent.”

So he fetched from the armoury four shields and four helmets and eight spear. And he and the servants, Eumaeus and Philoetius, armed themselves. Also Ulysses, when his arrows were spent, donned helmet and shield, and took a mighty spear in each hand. But Melanthius, the goatherd, crept up to the armoury and brought down there from twelve helmets and shields, and spears as many. And when Ulysses saw that the suitors were arming themselves, he feared greatly, and said to his son:—

“There is treachery here. It is one of the women, or, it may be, Melanthius, the goatherd.”

And Telemachus said, “This fault is mine, my father, for I left the door of the chamber unfastened.”

And soon Eumaeus spied Melanthius stealing up to the chamber again, and followed him, and Philoetius with him. There they caught him, even as he took a helmet in one hand and a shield in the other, and bound his feet and hands, and fastened him aloft by a rope to the beams of the ceiling.

Then these two went back to the hall, and there also came Athene, having the shape of Mentor. Still, for she would yet further try the courage of Ulysses and his son, she helped them not as yet, but, changing her shape, sat on the roof-beam like unto a swallow.

And then cried Agelaus: “Friends, Mentor is gone, and helps them not. Let us not cast our spears at random, but let six come on together; perchance we may prevail against them.”

Then they cast their spears, but Athene turned them aside, one to the pillar, and another to the door, and another to the wall. But Ulysses and Telemachus and the two herdsmen slew each his man; and yet again they did so, and again. Only Amphimedon [Footnote: Am-phim'-e-don.]wounded Telemachus, and Ctesippus grazed the shoulder of Eumaeus. But Telemachus struck down Amphimedon, and the herdsman of the kine slew Ctesippus, saying: “Take this, for the ox-foot which thou gavest to our guest.” And all the while Athene waved her flaming shield from above and the suitors fell as birds are scattered and torn by eagles.

Then Leiodes, the priest, made supplication to Ulysses, saying: “I never wrought evil in this house, and would have kept others from it, but they would not. Naught have I done save serve at the altar; wherefore, slay me not.”

And Ulysses made reply, “That thou hast served at the altar of these men is enough, and also that thou wouldest wed my wife.”

So he slew him; but Phemius, the minstrel, he spared, for he had sung among the suitors in the hall because he had been compelled, and not of his own will; and also Medon, the herald, bidding them go into the yard without. There they sat, holding by the altar and looking fearfully every way, for they still feared that they should die.

So the slaughtering of the suitors was ended; and now Ulysses bade cleanse the hall and wash the benches and the tables with water, and purify them with sulphur; and when this was done, that Eurycleia, the nurse, should go to Penelope and tell her that her husband was indeed returned.