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AND while he rested the goddess, Pallas Athene, went to the City of the Phaeacians, to whose land Odysseus had now come.

She came to the Palace of the King, and, passing through all the doors, came to the chamber where the King’s daughter, Nausicaa slept. She entered into Nausicaa’s dream, appearing to her in it as one of her girl-comrades. And in the dream she spoke to the Princess:

‘Nausicaa,’ she said, ‘the garments of your household are all uncared for, and the time is near when, more than ever, you have need to have much and beautiful raiment. Your marriage day will be soon. You will have to have many garments ready by that time--garments to bring with you to your husband’s house, and garments to give to those who will attend you at your wedding. There is much to be done, Nausicaa. Be ready at the break of day, and take your maidens with you, and bring the garments of your household to the river to be washed. I will be your mate in the toil. Beg your father to give you a wagon with mules to carry all the garments that we have need to wash.’

So in her dream Pallas Athene spoke to the Princess in the likeness of her girl-friend. Having put the task of washing into her mind, the goddess left the Palace of the King and the country of the Phaeacians.

Nausicaa, when she rose, thought upon her dream, and she went through the Palace and found her father. He was going to the assembly of the Phaeacians. She came to him, but she was shy about speaking of that which had been in her dream--her marriage day--since her parents had not spoken to her about such a thing. Saying that she was going to the river to wash the garments of the household, she asked for a wagon and for mules. ‘So many garments have I lying soiled,’ she said. ‘Yea, and thou too, my father, should have fresh raiment when you go forth to the assembly of the Phaeacians. And in our house are the two unwedded youths, my brothers, who are always eager for new washed garments wherein to go to dances.’

Her father smiled on her and said, ‘The mules and wagon thou mayst have, Nausicaa, and the servants shall get them ready for thee now.’

He called to the servants and bade them get ready the mules and the wagon. Then Nausicaa gathered her maids together and they brought the soiled garments of the household to the wagon. And her mother, so that Nausicaa and her maids might eat while they were from home, put in a basket filled with dainties and a skin of wine. Also she gave them a jar of olive-oil so that they might rub themselves with oil when bathing in the river.

Young Nausicaa herself drove the wagon. She mounted it and took the whip in her hands and started the mules, and they went through fields and by farms and came to the river-bank.

The girls brought the garments to the stream, and leaving them in the shallow parts trod them with their bare feet. The wagon was unharnessed and the mules were left to graze along the river side. Now when they had washed the garments they took them to the sea-shore and left them on the clean pebbles to dry in the sun. Then Nausicaa and her companions went into the river and bathed and sported in the water.

When they had bathed they sat down and ate the meal that had been put on the wagon for them. The garments were not yet dried and Nausicaa called on her companions to play. Straightway they took a ball and threw it from one to the other, each singing a song that went with the game. And as they played on the meadow they made a lovely company, and the Princess Nausicaa was the tallest and fairest and noblest of them all.

Before they left the river side to load the wagon they played a last game. The Princess threw the ball, and the girl whose turn it was to catch missed it. The ball went into the river and was carried down the stream. At that they all raised a cry. It was this cry that woke up Odysseus who, covered over with leaves, was then sleeping in the shelter of the two olive trees.

He crept out from under the thicket, covering his nakedness with leafy boughs that he broke off the trees. And when he saw the girls in the meadow he wanted to go to them to beg for their help. But when they looked on him they were terribly frightened and they ran this way and that way and hid themselves. Only Nausicaa stood still, for Pallas Athene had taken fear from her mind.

Odysseus stood a little way from her and spoke to her in a beseeching voice. ‘I supplicate thee, lady, to help me in my bitter need. I would kneel to thee and clasp thy knees only I fear thine anger. Have pity upon me. Yesterday was the twentieth day that I was upon the sea, driven hither and thither by the waves and the winds.’

AND still Nausicaa stood, and Odysseus looking upon her was filled with reverence for her, so noble she seemed. ‘I know not as I look upon thee,’ he said, ‘whether thou art a goddess or a mortal maiden. If thou art a mortal maiden, happy must thy father be and thy mother and thy brothers. Surely they must be proud and glad to see thee in the dance, for thou art the very flower of maidens. And happy above all will he be who will lead thee to his home as his bride. Never have my eyes beheld one who had such beauty and such nobleness. I think thou art like to the young palm-tree I once saw springing up by the altar of Apollo in Delos--a tree that many marvelled to look at. O lady, after many and sore trials, to thee, first of all the people, have I come. I know that thou wilt be gracious to me. Show me the way to the town. Give me an old garment to cast about me. And may the gods grant thee thy wish and heart’s desire--a noble husband who will cherish thee.’

She spoke to him as a Princess should, seeing that in spite of the evil plight he was in, he was a man of worth. ‘Stranger,’ she said, ‘since thou hast come to our land, thou shalt not lack for raiment nor aught else that is given to a suppliant. I will show thee the way to the town also.’

He asked what land he was in. ‘This, stranger,’ she said, ‘is the land of the Phaeacians, and Alcinous is King over them. And I am the King’s daughter, Nausicaa.’

Then she called to her companions. ‘Do not hide yourselves,’ she said. ‘This is not an enemy, but a helpless and an unfriended man. We must befriend him, for it is well said that the stranger and the beggar are from God.’

The girls came back and they brought Odysseus to a sheltered place and they made him sit down and laid a garment beside him. One brought the jar of olive oil that he might clean himself when he bathed in the river. And Odysseus was very glad to get this oil for his back and shoulders were all crusted over with flakes of brine. He went into the river and bathed and rubbed himself with the oil. Then he put on the garment that had been brought him. So well he looked that when he came towards them again the Princess said to the maids:

‘Look now on the man who a while ago seemed so terrifying! He is most handsome and stately. Would that we might see more of him. Now, my maidens, bring the stranger meat and drink.’

They came to him and they served him with meat and drink and he ate and drank eagerly, for it was long since he had tasted food. And while he ate, Nausicaa and her companions went down to the seashore and gathered the garments that were now dried, singing songs the while. They harnessed the mules and folded the garments and left them on the wagon.

When they were ready to go Nausicaa went to Odysseus and said to him, ‘Stranger, if thou wouldst make thy way into the city come with us now, so that we may guide thee. But first listen to what I would say. While we are going through the fields and by the farms walk thou behind, keeping near the wagon. But when we enter the ways of the City, go no further with us. People might speak unkindly of me if they saw me with a stranger such as thou. They might say, "Who does Nausicaa bring to her father’s house? Someone she would like to make her husband, most likely." So that we may not meet with such rudeness I would have thee come alone to my father’s house. Listen now and I will tell thee how thou mayst do this.’

‘There is a grove kept for the goddess Pallas Athene within a man’s shout of the city. In that grove is a spring, and when we come near I would have thee go and rest thyself by it. Then when thou dost think we have come to my father’s house, enter the City and ask thy way to the palace of the King. When thou hast come to it, pass quickly through the court and through the great chamber and come to where my mother sits weaving yarn by the light of the fire. My father will be sitting near, drinking his wine in the evening. Pass by his seat and come to my mother, and clasp your hands about her knees and ask for her aid. If she become friendly to thee thou wilt be helped by our people and wilt be given the means of returning to thine own land.’

So Nausicaa bade him. Then she touched the mules with the whip and the wagon went on. Odysseus walked with the maids behind. As the sun set they came to the grove that was outside the City--the grove of Pallas Athene. Odysseus went into it and sat by the spring. And while he was in her grove he prayed to the goddess, ‘Hear me, Pallas Athene, and grant that I may come before the King of this land as one well worthy of his pity and his help.’

Next: Chapter III