ON the morning of his fourth day in Ithaka, as he and the swineherd were eating a meal together, Odysseus heard the sound of footsteps approaching the hut. The fierce dogs were outside and he expected to hear them yelping against
When Eumæus saw this young man he let fall the vessels he was carrying, and running to him, kissed his head and his eyes and his hands. While he was kissing and weeping over him, Odysseus heard the swineherd saying:
Telemachus, art thou come back to us? Like a light in the darkness thou hast appeared! I thought that never again should we see thee when I heard that thou hadst taken a ship to Pylos! Come in, dear son, come in, that I may see thee once again in mine house.
Odysseus raised his head and looked at his son. As a lion might look over his cub so he looked over Telemachus. But neither the swineherd nor Telemachus was aware of Odysseus gaze.
I have come to see thee, friend Eumæus, said Telemachus, for before I go into the City I would know whether my mother is still in the house of Odysseus, or whether one of the wooers has at last taken her as a wife to his own house.
Thy mother is still in thy fathers house, Eumæus answered. Then Telemachus came within the courtyard. Odysseus in the guise of the old beggar rose from his seat, but the young man said to him courteously: Be seated, friend. Another seat can be found for me.
Eumæus strewed green brushwood and spread a fleece upon it, and Telemachus seated himself. Next Eumæus fetched a meal for him--oaten cakes and swine flesh and wine. While they were eating, the swineherd said:
We have here a stranger who has wandered through many countries, and who has come to my house as a suppliant. Wilt thou take him for thy man, Telemachus?
Said Telemachus, How can I support any man? I have not the strength of hand to defend mine own house. But for this stranger I will do what I can. I will give him a mantle and doublet, with shoes for his feet and a sword to defend himself, and I will send him on whatever way he wants to go. But, Eumæus, I would not have him go near my fathers house. The wooers grow more insolent each day, and they might mock the stranger if he went amongst them.
Then said Odysseus, speaking for the first time, Young sir, what thou hast said seems strange to me. Dost thou willingly submit to insolence in thine own fathers house? But perhaps it is that the people of the City hate thee and will not help thee against thine enemies. Ah, if I had such youth as I have spirit, or if I were the son of Odysseus, I should go amongst them this very day, and make myself the bane of each man of them. I would rather die in mine own halls than see such shame as is reported--strangers mocked at, and servants injured, and wine and food wasted.
Said Telemachus, The people of the City do not hate me, and they would help me if they could. But the wooers of my mother are powerful men--men to make the City folk afraid. And if I should oppose them I would assuredly be slain in my fathers house, for how could I hope to overcome so many?
What wouldst thou have me do for thee, Telemachus? said the swineherd.
I would have thee go to my mother, friend Eumæus, Telemachus said, and let her know that I am safe-returned from Pylos.
Eumæus at once put sandals upon his feet and took his staff in his hands. He begged Telemachus to rest himself in the hut, and then he left the countryard and went towards the City.
Telemachus lay down on his seat and closed his eyes in weariness. He saw, while thinking that he only dreamt it, a woman come to the gate of the countryard. She was fair and tall and splendid, and the dogs shrank away from her presence with a whine, She touched the beggar with a golden wand. As she did, the marks of age and beggary fell from him and the man stood up as tall and noble looking.
Who art thou? cried Telemachus, starting up. Even a moment ago thou didst look aged and a beggar! Now thou dost look a chief of men! Art thou one of the divine ones?
Odysseus looked upon him and said, My son, do not speak so to me. I am Odysseus, thy father. After much suffering and much wandering I have come to my own country. He kissed his son with tears flowing down his cheeks, and Telemachus threw his arms around his fathers neck, but scarce believing that the father he had searched for was indeed before him.
But no doubt was left as Odysseus talked to him, and told him how he had come to Ithaka in a ship given him by the Phæacians, and how he had brought with him gifts of bronze and raiment that were hidden in the cave, and told him, too, how Pallas Athene had changed his appearance into that of an old beggar.
And when his own story was finished he said, Come, my son, tell me of the wooers who waste the substance of our house--tell me how many they number, and who they are, so that we may prepare a way of dealing with them.
Even though thou art a great warrior, my father, thou and I cannot hope to deal with them. They have come, not from Ithaka alone, but from all the islands around--from Dulichium and Same and Zacynthus. We two cannot deal with such a throng.
Said Odysseus, I shall make a plan to deal with them. Go thou home, and keep company with the wooers. Later in the day the swineherd will lead me into the city, and I shall go into the house in the likeness of an old beggar. And if thou shouldst see any of the wooers ill-treat me, harden thine heart to endure it--even if they drag me by the feet to the door of the house, keep quiet thou. And let no one--not even thy mother, Penelope--nor my father Laertes--know that Odysseus hath returned.
Telemachus said, My father, thou shalt learn soon what spirit is in me and what wisdom I have.
While they talked together the ship that Antinous had taken, when he went to lie in wait for Telemachus, returned. The wooers assembled and debated whether they should kill Telemachus, for now there was danger that he would draw the people to his side, and so make up a force that could drive the wooers out of Ithaka. But they did not agree to kill him then, for there was one amongst them who was against the deed.
Eumæus brought the news to Telemachus and Odysseus of the return of Antinous ship. He came back to the hut in the afternoon. Pallas Athene had again given Odysseus the appearance of an ancient beggar-man and the swineherd saw no change in his guest.