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The Authoress of the Odyssey, by Samuel Butler, [1922], at

Book XVI


Ulysses and Eumæus prepared their meal at daybreak. When Telemachus was reaching the hut, Ulysses observed that the dogs did not bark, though he heard footsteps, and 7 enquired whether the visitor was some acquaintance of the

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swineherd's. He had hardly done speaking when Telemachus entered, and was welcomed by Eumæus.

"Is my mother still at the house," said he, "or has she 33 left it with another husband, so that the bed of Ulysses is festooned with cobwebs?"

"She is still there," answered Eumæus, "spending her 36 time in tears both night and day."

Eumæus set refreshments before him and when he had done 49 eating he asked who the stranger might be.

When Telemachus heard that Ulysses was a ship-wrecked 68 suppliant he was much displeased. "I am as yet too young," he said, "to be able to hold my own in the house; what sufficient support, then, can I give this man? Still, as he has come to you I will send him clothes and all necessary food; and let him stay with you; I will not have him go near the suitors, for harm would be sure to come of it."

Ulysses expressed his surprise and indignation about the 90 suitors, whereon Telemachus explained still further, and wound up by telling Eumæus to go at once and inform Penelope of his return. Eumæus asked if he should turn a little out of his way and tell Laertes, but Telemachus said he was not to do so. Penelope would send him word all in due course.

As soon as Eumæus was gone Minerva came to the hut. 157 Ulysses knew her, and so did the dogs, for they went whining away to the other end of the yards, but Telemachus did not see her. She made a sign to Ulysses that he was to come outside, and when he had done so she told him he was to reveal himself to his son—whereon she struck him with her wand, endowed him with a noble presence, and clothed him in goodly raiment.

Then he went back into the hut and told his son who 178 he was; but for a long while Telemachus would not believe. At last, however, when he was convinced, the pair flung their arms about each other's neck, and wept like eagles or vultures who had been robbed of their young. Indeed they would have wept till sundown had it not occurred to Telemachus to ask his father in what ship he had come to Ithaca, and whose crew it was that had brought him.

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225 Ulysses told him about the Phæacians, and how he had hidden the presents they had given him. "I am now come," he said, "by Minerva's advice, to consult with you as to how we shall take vengeance on the suitors. I would therefore learn how many there are of them, and consider whether we two can kill them, or whether we must get help from outside."

240 Telemachus said it was hopeless to think of attacking the suitors without assistance. There were fifty-two from Dulichium, with six followers, twenty-four from Same, twenty from Zacynthus, and twelve from Ithaca.

258 Ulysses explained that he could rely on help from Jove and from Minerva, and thought that this would be enough. "They will not be long in joining us," said he, "when the fight has begun in good earnest. Go, then, tomorrow to the town, and join the suitors; let the swineherd bring me later, disguised as a poor miserable beggar. Never mind how much violence you may see the suitors do me. Look on and say nothing, beyond asking them in a friendly way to leave me alone. Also, find some pretext for removing the armour from the walls. Say it is taking harm with the smoke, and that the sight of armour sometimes sets men fighting, so that it is better away—but 295 leave two swords, shields and spears for you and me to snatch up.

321 As they were thus conversing, the ship that had brought Telemachus from Pylos reached the harbour of Ithaca, and the crew took the presents which Menelaus had given him to the house of Clytius. They sent a man to tell Penelope that Telemachus was at the farm, and had sent the ship on to allay her anxiety. This man and the swineherd met at the house of Ulysses, and the man said, in the presence of the maids, "Madam, your son is returned from Pylos;" but Eumæus stood by her, and told her all that her son had bidden him. Then he went back to his pig farm.

342 The suitors were very angry, and were about sending a ship to fetch those who had been lying in wait for Telemachus, when Amphinomus, a suitor, happened to turn round and saw their ship coming into harbour. So he laughed and said, "We have no need to send, for the men are here." On this they all

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went to meet the ship, and Antinous said that as Telemachus had escaped them in spite of their great vigilance, they must kill him, either at the farm or as he was coming thence. Otherwise he would expose their plot, and they would have the people rise against them. "If," he concluded, "this does not please you, and you would let him live, we cannot eat up his estate any longer, but must go home, urge our suit each from his own house, and let the one among us take Penelope who will give most for her, or whose lot it may happen to be."

Amphinomus, who came from the well-grassed and grain-growing 394 island of Dulichium, then spoke. He was a man of good natural disposition, and his conversation was more pleasing to Penelope than that of any of the other suitors; "I will only consent to kill Telemachus," said he, "if the gods give us their approval. It is a serious thing to kill a man who is of royal race. If they sanction it, I will be with you; otherwise I am for letting it alone."

The rest assented, and they went back to the house. But 406 Medon told Penelope of this new plot, so she went attended by her gentlewomen, stood by one of the bearing-posts that supported the roof of the cloister, and bitterly rebuked Antinous for his ingratitude in forgetting how Ulysses in old days had saved the life of his father Eupeithes.

Eurymachus then made a fair but false speech vowing 434 eternal friendship to Telemachus, and Penelope returned to her own room to mourn her husband till Minerva closed her eyes in slumber.

In the evening Eumæus got back to his hut just as the 452 others had killed a yearling pig and were getting supper ready. Meanwhile Minerva had again disguised Ulysses as an old beggar.

"What news from the town, Eumæus?" said Telemachus. 460 "Have the suitors got back with their ship?"

"I did not ask," answered Eumæus, "for when I had given 464 my message I turned straight home; but I met the messenger from your own crew, who told your mother of your return before I could do so. As I was coming here, and was on the hill of Mercury above the town, I saw a ship with many men

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and much armour coming into port; so I suppose it was the suitors, but I cannot be sure."

476 Telemachus gave his father a look, but so that the swineherd could not see him. Then they all got their supper and went to bed.

Next: Book XVII. Ulysses Maltreated by the Suitors