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AND still many dangers had to be faced. The wooers whom Odysseus had slain were the richest and the most powerful of the lords of Ithaka and the Islands; all of them had fathers and brothers who would fain avenge them upon their slayer.

Now before anyone in the City knew that he had returned, Odysseus went forth to the farm that Laertes, his old father, stayed at. As he drew near he saw an old man working in the vineyard, digging round a plant. When he came to him he saw that this old man was not a slave nor a servant, but Laertes, his own father.

When he saw him,
wasted with age and all uncared for, Odysseus stood still, leaning his hand against a pear tree and sorrowing in his heart. Old Laertes kept his head down as he stood digging at the plant, and he did not see Odysseus until he stood before him and said:

‘Old man, thou dost care for this garden well and all things here are flourishing--fig tree, and vine, and olive, and pear. But, if a stranger may say it, thine own self is not cared for well.’

‘Who art thou that dost speak to me like this?’ old Laertes said, lifting his head.

‘I am a stranger in Ithaka,’ said Odysseus. ‘I seek a man whom I once kindly treated--a man whose name was Odysseus. A stranger, he came to me, and he declared that he was of Ithaka, and that one day he would give me entertainment for the entertainment I had given him. I know not if this man be still alive.’

Old Laertes wept before Odysseus. ‘Ah,’ said he, ‘if thou hadst been able to find him here, the gifts you gave him would not have been bestowed in vain. True hospitality thou wouldst have received from Odysseus, my son. But he has perished--far from his country’s soil he has perished, the hapless man, and his mother wept not over him, nor his wife, nor me, his father.’

So he spake and then with his hands he took up the dust of the ground, and he strewed it over his head in his sorrow. The heart of Odysseus was moved with grief. He sprang forward and fell on his father’s neck and he kissed him, saying:

‘Behold I am here, even I, my father. I, Odysseus, have come back to mine own country. Cease thy lamentation until I tell thee of the things that have happened. I have slain the wooers in mine hall, and I have avenged all their injuries and all their wrongful doings. Dost thou not believe this, my father? Then look on what I will show thee. Behold on my foot the mark of the boar’s tusk--there it is from the days of my youth.’

Laertes looked down on the bare foot, and he saw the scar, but still his mind was clouded by doubt. But then Odysseus took him through the garden, and he told him of the fruit trees that Laertes had set for him when he, Odysseus, was a little child, following his father about the garden--thirteen pear trees, and ten apple trees, and forty fig trees.

When Odysseus showed him these Laertes knew that it was his son indeed who stood before him--his son come back after twenty years’ wandering. He cast his arms around his neck, and Odysseus caught him fainting to his breast, and led him into the house.

Within the house were Telemachus, and Eumæus the swineherd and Philœtius the cattle-herd. They all clasped the hand of Laertes and their words raised his spirits. Then he was bathed, and, when he came from the bath, rubbed with olive oil he looked hale and strong. Odysseus said to him, ‘Father, surely one of the gods has made thee goodlier and greater than thou wert a while ago.’

Said the old hero Laertes: ‘Ah, my son, would that I had such might as when, long before thou wert born, I took the Castle of Nericus there upon the Foreland. Would that in such might, and with such mail upon my shoulders, I stood with thee yesterday when thou didst fight with the wooers.’

WHILE they were speaking in this way the rumour of the slaying of the wooers went through the City. Then those who were related to the men slain went into the courtyard of Odysseus’ house, and brought forth the bodies. Those who belonged to Ithaka they buried, and those who belonged to the Islands they put upon ships, and sent them with fisherfolk, each to his own home. Many were wroth with Odysseus for the slaying of a friend. He who was the most wroth was Eupeithes, the father of Antinous.

There was an assembly of the men of the country, and Eupeithes spake in it, and all who were there pitied him. He told how Odysseus had led away the best of the men of Ithaka, and how he had lost them in his ships. And he told them how, when he returned, he slew the noblest of the men of Ithaka and the Islands in his own hall. He called upon them to slay Odysseus saying, ‘If we avenge not ourselves on the slayer of our kin we will be scorned for all time as weak and cowardly men. As for me, life will be no more sweet to me. I would rather die straightway and be with the deParted. Up now, and let us attack Odysseus and his followers before they take ship and escape across the sea.’

Many in that assembly put on their armour and went out with old Eupeithes. And as they went through the town they met with Odysseus and his following as they were coming from the house of Laertes.

Now as the two bands came close to each other--Odysseus with Telemachus and Laertes; with the swineherd and the cattle-herd; with Dolius, Laertes’ servant, and with the six sons of Dolius--and Eupeithes with his friends--a great figure came between. It was the figure of a tall, fair and splendid woman. Odysseus knew her for the goddess Pallas Athene.

‘Hold your hands from fierce fighting, ye men of Ithaka,’ the goddess called out in a terrible voice. ‘Hold your hands.’ Straightway the arms fell from each man’s hands. Then the goddess called them together, and she made them enter into a covenant that all bloodshed and wrong would be forgotten, and that Odysseus would be left to rule Ithaka as a King, in peace.

So ends the story of Odysseus who went with King Agamemnon to the wars of Troy; who made the plan of the Wooden Horse by which Priam’s City was taken at last; who missed the way of his return, and came to the Land of the Lotus-eaters; who came to the Country of the dread Cyclopes, to the Island of Æolus and to the house of Circe, the Enchantress; who heard the song of the Sirens, and came to the Rocks Wandering, and to the terrible Charybdis, and to Scylla, past whom no other man had won scatheless; who landed on the Island where the Cattle of the Sun grazed, and who stayed upon Ogygia, the home of the nymph Calypso; so ends the story of Odysseus, who would have been made deathless and ageless by Calypso if he had not yearned always to come back to his own hearth and his own land. And spite of all his troubles and his toils he was fortunate, for he found a constant wife and dutiful son and a father still alive to weep over him.