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FOR many days Telemachus and his comrade Peisistratus stayed in the house of King Menelaus. On the evening before he deParted Menelaus spoke to him of the famous deeds of his father, Odysseus.

‘Now Achilles was dead,’ said Menelaus, ‘and his glorious armour was offered as a prize for the warrior whom the Greeks thought the most of. Two men strove for the prize--Odysseus and his friend Aias. To Odysseus the armour of Achilles was given, but he was in no way glad of the prize, for his getting it had wounded the proud spirit of great Aias.’

‘It was fitting that Odysseus should have been given Achilles’ armour, for no warrior in the host had done better than he. But Odysseus was to do still greater things for us. He knew that only one man could wield a bow better than Paris,--Paris who had shot with an arrow Achilles, and who after that had slain many of our chiefs. That man was Philoctetes. He had come with Agamemnon’s host to Troy. But Philoctetes had been bitten by a water-snake, and the wound given him was so terrible that none of our warriors could bear to be near him. He was left on the Island of Lemnos and the host lost memory of him. But Odysseus remembered, and he took ship to Lemnos and brought Philoctetes back. With his great bow and with the arrows of Hercules that were his, Philoctetes shot at Paris upon the wall of Troy and slew him with an arrow.’

‘And then Odysseus devised the means by which we took Priam’s city at last. He made us build a great Wooden Horse. We built it and left it upon the plain of Troy and the Trojans wondered at it greatly. And Odysseus had counselled us to bring our ships down to the water and to burn our stores and make it seem in every way that we were going to depart from Troy in weariness. This we did, and the Trojans saw the great host sail away from before their City. But they did not know that a company of the best of our warriors was within the hollow of the Wooden Horse,
nor did they know that we had left a spy behind to make a signal for our return.’

‘The Trojans wondered why the great Wooden Horse had been left behind. And there were some who considered that it had been left there as an offering to the goddess, Pallas Athene, and they thought it should be brought within the city. Others were wiser and would have left the Wooden Horse alone. But those who considered that it should be brought within prevailed; and, as the Horse was too great to bring through the gate, they flung down Part of the wall that they might bring it through. The Wooden Horse was brought within the walls and left upon the streets of the city and the darkness of the night fell.’

‘Now Helen, my wife, came down to where the Wooden Horse was, and she, suspecting there were armed men within, walked around it three times, calling to every captain of the Greeks who might be within in his own wife’s voice. And when the sound of a voice that had not been heard for so many years came to him each of the captains started up to answer. But Odysseus put his hands across the mouth of each and so prevented them from being discovered.’

‘We had left a spy hidden between the beach and the city. Now when the Wooden Horse had been brought within the walls and night had fallen, the spy lighted a great fire that was signal to the ships that had sailed away. They returned with the host before the day broke. Then we who were within the Wooden Horse broke through the boards and came out on the City with our spears and swords in our hands. The guards beside the gates we slew and we made a citadel of the Wooden Horse and fought around it. The warriors from the ships crossed the wall where it was broken down, and we swept through the streets and came to the citadel of the King. Thus we took Priam’s City and all its treasures, and thus I won back my own wife, the lovely Helen.’

‘But after we had taken and sacked King Priam’s City, great troubles came upon us. Some of us sailed away, and some of us remained on the shore at the bidding of King Agamemnon, to make sacrifice to the gods. We separated, and the doom of death came to many of us. Nestor I saw at Lesbos, but none other of our friends have I ever since seen. Agamemnon, my own brother, came to his own land. But ah, it would have been happier for him if he had died on the plain of Troy, and if we had left a great barrow heaped above him! For he was slain in his own house and by one who had married the wife he had left behind. When the Ancient One of the Sea told me of my brother’s doom I sat down upon the sand and wept, and I was minded to live no more nor to see the light of the sun.’

‘And of thy father, Telemachus, I have told thee what I myself know and what was told me of him by the Ancient One of the Sea--how he stays on an Island where the nymph Calypso holds him against his will: but where that Island lies I do not know. Odysseus is there, and he cannot win back to his own country, seeing that he has no ship and no companions to help him to make his way across the sea. But Odysseus was ever master of devices. And also he is favoured greatly by the goddess, Pallas Athene. For these reasons, Telemachus, be hopeful that your father will yet reach his own home and country.’

Next: Chapter XXIII