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THE sun rose and Telemachus and his fellow-voyagers drew near to the shore of Pylos and to the steep citadel built by Neleus, the father of Nestor, the famous King. They saw on the shore men in companies making sacrifice to Poseidon, the dark-haired god of the sea. There were nine companies there and each company had nine black oxen for the sacrifice, and the number of men in each company was five hundred. They slew the oxen and they laid Parts to burn on the altars of the god, and the men sat down to feast.

The voyagers brought their ship to the shore and Telemachus sprang from it. But before him went the goddess, grey-eyed Athene, in the likeness of the old man, Mentor. And the goddess told Telemachus that Nestor, the King whom he had come to seek, was on the shore. She bade him now go forward with a good heart and ask Nestor for tidings of his father, Odysseus.

But Telemachus said to her, ‘Mentor, how can I bring myself to speak to one who is so reverenced? How should I greet him? And how can I, a young man, question such a one as Nestor, the old King?’

The goddess, grey-eyed Athene, encouraged him; the right words, she said, would come. So Telemachus went forward with his divine companion. Nestor was seated on the shore with his sons around him. And when they saw the two strangers approach, the sons of Nestor rose up to greet them. One, Peisistratus, took the hand of Telemachus and the hand of the goddess and led them both to where Nestor was.

A golden cup was put into the hand of each and wine was poured into the cups, and Nestor’s son, Peisistratus, asked Telemachus and the goddess to pray that the sacrifice they were making to Poseidon, the god of the sea, would bring good to them and to their people. Then the goddess Athene in the likeness of old Mentor held the cup in her hand and prayed:

‘Hear me, Poseidon, shaker of the earth: First to Nestor and his sons grant renown. Then grant to the people of Pylos recompense for the sacrifice of oxen they have made. Grant, too, that Telemachus and I may return safely when what we have come in our swift ship to seek has been won.’

Telemachus prayed in the words of the goddess and then the sons of Nestor made them both sit on the fleeces that were spread on the shore. And dishes of meat were brought to them and cups of wine, and when they had eaten and drunk, the old King, Nestor, spoke to them.

‘Until they have partaken of food and drink, it is not courteous,’ he said, ‘to ask of strangers who they are and whither they go. But now, my guests, I will ask of you what your land is, and what your quest, and what names you bear.’

Then Telemachus said: ‘Nestor, renowned King, glory of the Greeks, we have come out of Ithaka and we seek tidings of my father, of Odysseus, who, long ago, fought by your side in the war of Troy. With you, men say, he sacked the great City of the Trojans. But no further story about him has been told. And I have come to your knees, O King, to beg you to give me tidings of him--whether he died and you saw his death, or whether you heard of his death from another. And if you should answer me, speak not, I pray you, in pity for me, but tell me all you know or have heard. Ah, if ever my father helped you in the land of the Trojans, by the memory of what help he gave, I pray you speak in truth to me, his son.’

Then said Nestor, the old King, ‘Verily, my son, you bring sorrow to my mind. Ah, where are they who were with me in our war against the mighty City of Troy? Where is Aias and Achilles and Patroklos and my own dear son, Antilochos, who was so noble and so strong? And where in Agamemnon now? He returned to his own land, to be killed in his own hall by a most treacherous foeman. And now you ask me of Odysseus, the man who was dearer to me than any of the others--Odysseus, who was always of the one mind with me! Never did we two speak diversely in the assembly nor in the council.

‘You say to me that you are the son of Odysseus! Surely you are. Amazement comes over me as I look on you and listen to you, for you look as he looked and you speak as he spoke. But I would have you speak further to me and tell me of your home-land and of how things fare in Ithaka.’

THEN he told the old King of the evil deeds worked by the wooers of his mother, and when he had told of them Telemachus cried out, ‘Oh, that the gods would give me such strength that I might take vengeance on them for their many transgressions.’

Then said old Nestor, ‘Who knows but Odysseus will win home and requite the violence of these suitors and the insults they have offered to your house. The goddess Athene might bring this to pass. Well was she inclined to your father, and never did the gods show such favour to a mortal as the grey-eyed goddess showed to Odysseus, your father.’

But Telemachus answered, ‘In no wise can your word be accomplished, King.’

Then Athene, in the likeness of old Mentor, spoke to him and said, ‘What word has crossed your lips, Telemachus? If it should please them, any one of the gods could bring a man home from afar. Only this the gods may not do--avert death from a man who has been doomed to it.’

Telemachus answered her and said, ‘Mentor, no longer let us talk of these things. Nestor, the renowned King, has been very gracious to me, but he has nothing to tell me of my father. I deem now that Odysseus will never return.’

‘Go to Menelaus,’ said Nestor. ‘Go to Menelaus in Sparta. Lately he has come from a far and a strange country and it may be that he has heard of Odysseus in his wanderings. You can go to Sparta in your ship. But if you have a mind to fare by land then will I give you a chariot and horses, and my son will go with you to be a guide for you into Sparta.’

Then Telemachus, with Athene, the grey-eyed goddess in the likeness of old Mentor, would have gone back to their ship, but Nestor the King said, ‘Zeus forbid that you two should go back to the ship to take your rest while there is guestroom in my hall. Come with me to a place where you can lie softly. Never shall it be said that a son of Odysseus, my dear friend, lay on the hard deck of a ship while I am alive and while children of mine are left in my hall. Come with me now.’

Then the goddess Athene in the likeness of old Mentor said, ‘You have spoken as becomes you, renowned King. Telemachus should harken to your word and go with you. But it is meet that the young men who came for the love of him should have an elder with them on the ship to-night. I shall abide with them.’

So speaking, the goddess, grey-eyed Athene, in the likeness of old Mentor went from the shore, and Telemachus went with Nestor and his sons to the high citadel of Neleus. And there he was given a bath, and the maiden Polycaste, the youngest daughter of King Nestor, attended him. She gave him new raiment to wear, a goodly mantle and doublet. He slept in a room with Peisistratus, the youngest of Nestor’s sons.

In the morning they feasted and did sacrifice, and when he had given judgments to the people, the old King Nestor spoke to his sons,--

‘Lo, now, my sons. Yoke for Telemachus the horses to the chariot that he may go on his way to Sparta.’

The sons of Nestor gave heed and they yoked the swift horses to the chariot and the housedame came from the hall and placed within the chariot wine and dainties. Telemachus went into the chariot and Peisistratus sat before him. Then Peisistratus touched the horses with the whip and they sprang forward, and the chariot went swiftly over the plain. Soon they left behind them the steep citadel of Neleus and the land of Pylos. And when the sun sank and the ways were darkened, they came to Pheræ and to the house of Diocles and there they rested for the night.

In the morning as soon as the sun rose they yoked the horses and they mounted the chariot, and for another day they journeyed across the plain. They had gone far and the ways were again darkened around them.

Next: Chapter VIII