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ODYSSEUS finished, and the company in the hall sat silent, like men enchanted. Then King Alcinous spoke and said, ‘Never, as far as we Phæacians are concerned, wilt thou, Odysseus, be driven from thy homeward way. To-morrow we will give thee a ship and an escort, and we will land thee in Ithaka, thine own country.’ The Princes, Captains and Councillors, marvelling that they had met the renowned Odysseus, went each to his own home. When the dawn had come, each carried down to the ship on which Odysseus was to sail, gifts for him.

When the sun was near its setting they all came back to the King’s hall to take farewell of him. The King poured out a great bowl of wine as an offering to the gods. Then
Odysseus rose up and placed in the Queen’s hands a two-handled cup, and he said, ‘Farewell to thee, O Queen! Mayst thou long rejoice in thy house and thy children, and in thy husband, Alcinous, the renowned King.’

He passed over the threshold of the King’s house, and he went down to the ship. He went aboard and lay down on the deck on a sheet and rug that had been spread for him. Straightway the mariners took to their oars, and hoisted their sails, and the ship sped on like a strong sea-bird. Odysseus slept. And lightly the ship sped on, bearing that man who had suffered so much sorrow of heart in passing through wars of men and through troublous seas--the ship sped on, and he slept, and was forgetful of all he had passed through.

When the dawn came the ship was near to the Island of Ithaka. The mariners drove to a harbour near which there was a great cave. They ran the ship ashore and lifted out Odysseus, wrapped in the sheet and the rugs, and still sleeping. They left him on the sandy shore of his own land. Then they took the gifts which the King and Queen, the Princes, Captains and Councillors of the Phæacians had given him, and they set them by an olive tree, a little apart from the road, so that no wandering person might come upon them before Odysseus had awakened. Then they went back to their ship and departed from Ithaka for their own land.

Odysseus awakened on the beach of his own land. A mist lay over all, and he did not know what land he had come to. He thought that the Phæacians had left him forsaken on a strange shore. As he looked around him in his bewilderment he saw one who was like a King’s son approaching.

Now the one who came
near him was not a young man, but the goddess, Pallas Athene, who had made herself look like a young man. Odysseus arose, and questioned her as to the land he had come to. The goddess answered him and said, ‘This is Ithaka, a land good for goats and cattle, a land of woods and wells.’

Even as she spoke she changed from the semblance of a young man and was seen by Odysseus as a woman tall and fair. ‘Dost thou not know me, Pallas Athene, the daughter of Zeus, who has always helped thee?’ the goddess said. ‘I would have been more often by thy side, only I did not want to go openly against my brother, Poseidon, the god of the sea, whose son, Polyphemus, thou didst blind.’

As the goddess spoke the mist that lay on the land scattered and Odysseus saw that he was indeed in Ithaka, his own country--he knew the harbour and the cave, and the hill Neriton all covered with its forest. And knowing them he knelt down on the ground and kissed the earth of his country.

Then the goddess helped him to lay his goods within the cave--the gold and the bronze and the woven raiment that the Phæacians had given him. She made him sit beside her under the olive tree while she told him of the things that were happening in his house.

‘There is trouble in thy halls, Odysseus,’ she said, ‘and it would be well for thee not to make thyself known for a time. Harden thy heart, that thou mayest endure for a while longer ill treatment at the hands of men.’ She told him about the wooers of his wife, who filled his halls all day, and wasted his substance, and who would slay him, lest he should punish them for their insolence. ‘So that the doom of Agamemnon shall not befall thee--thy slaying within thine own halls--I will change thine appearance that no man shall know thee,’ the goddess said.

THEN she made a change in his appearance that would have been evil but that it was to last for a while only. She made his skin wither, and she dimmed his shining eyes. She made his yellow hair grey and scanty. Then she changed his raiment to a beggar’s wrap, torn and stained with smoke. Over his shoulder she cast the hide of a deer, and she put into his hands a beggar’s staff, with a tattered bag and a cord to hang it by. And when she had made this change in his appearance the goddess left Odysseus and went from Ithaka.

It was then that she came to Telemachus in Sparta and counselled him to leave the house of Menelaus and Helen; and it has been told how he went with Peisistratus, the son of Nestor, and came to his own ship. His ship was hailed by a man who was flying from those who would slay him, and this man Telemachus took aboard. The stranger’s name was Theoclymenus, and he was a sooth-sayer and a second-sighted man.

And Telemachus, returning to Ithaka, was in peril of his life. The wooers of his mother had discovered that he had gone from Ithaka in a ship. Two of the wooers, Antinous and Eurymachus, were greatly angered at the daring act of the youth. ‘He has gone to Sparta for help,’ Antinous said, ‘and if he finds that there are those who will help him we will not be able to stand against his pride. He will make us suffer for what we have wasted in his house. But let us too act. I will take a ship with twenty men, and lie in wait for him in a strait between Ithaka and Samos, and put an end to his search for his father.’

Thereupon Antinous took twenty men to a ship, and fixing mast and sails they went over the sea. There is a little isle between Ithaka and Samos--Asteris it is called--and in the harbour of that isle he and his men lay in wait for Telemachus.

Next: Chapter VIII