Old Greek Folk Stories Told Anew
Josephine Preston Peabody
Part 2 out of 2
But it happened that Love himself was recovered from his wound, and he
had secretly fled from his chamber to seek out and rescue Psyche. He
found her lying by the wayside; he gathered into the casket what
remained of the philter, and awoke his beloved.
"Take comfort," he said, smiling. "Return to our mother and do her
bidding till I come again."
Away he flew; and while Psyche went cheerily homeward, he hastened up
to Olympus, where all the gods sat feasting, and begged them to
intercede for him with his angry mother.
They heard his story and their hearts were touched. Zeus himself coaxed
Venus with kind words till at last she relented, and remembered that
anger hurt her beauty, and smiled once more. All the younger gods were
for welcoming Psyche at once, and Hermes was sent to bring her hither.
The maiden came, a shy newcomer among those bright creatures. She took
the cup that Hebe held out to her, drank the divine ambrosia, and
Light came to her face like moonrise, two radiant wings sprang from her
shoulders; and even as a butterfly bursts from its dull cocoon, so the
human Psyche blossomed into immortality.
Love took her by the hand, and they were never parted any more.
STORIES OF THE TROJAN WAR.
I. THE APPLE OF DISCORD.
There was once a war so great that the sound of it has come ringing
down the centuries from singer to singer, and will never die.
The rivalries of men and gods brought about many calamities, but none
so heavy as this; and it would never have come to pass, they say, if it
had not been for jealousy among the immortals,--all because of a golden
apple! But Destiny has nurtured ominous plants from little seeds; and
this is how one evil grew great enough to overshadow heaven and earth.
The sea-nymph Thetis (whom Zeus himself had once desired for his wife)
was given in marriage to a mortal, Peleus, and there was a great
wedding-feast in heaven. Thither all the immortals were bidden, save
one, Eris, the goddess of Discord, ever an unwelcome guest. But she
came unbidden. While the wedding-guests sat at feast, she broke in upon
their mirth, flung among them a golden apple, and departed with looks
that boded ill. Some one picked up the strange missile and read its
inscription: _For the Fairest_; and at once discussion arose among the
goddesses. They were all eager to claim the prize, but only three
Venus, the very goddess of beauty, said that it was hers by right; but
Juno could not endure to own herself less fair than another, and even
Athena coveted the palm of beauty as well as of wisdom, and would not
give it up! Discord had indeed come to the wedding-feast. Not one of
the gods dared to decide so dangerous a question,--not Zeus himself,
--and the three rivals were forced to choose a judge among mortals.
Now there lived on Mount Ida, near the city of Troy, a certain young
shepherd by the name of Paris. He was as comely as Ganymede
himself,--that Trojan youth whom Zeus, in the shape of an eagle, seized
and bore away to Olympus, to be a cup-bearer to the gods. Paris, too,
was a Trojan of royal birth, but like Oedipus he had been left on the
mountain in his infancy, because the Oracle had foretold that he would
be the death of his kindred and the ruin of his country. Destiny saved
and nurtured him to fulfil that prophecy. He grew up as a shepherd and
tended his flocks on the mountain, but his beauty held the favor of all
the wood-folk there and won the heart of the nymph Oenone.
To him, at last, the three goddesses entrusted the judgment and the
golden apple. Juno first stood before him in all her glory as Queen of
gods and men, and attended by her favorite peacocks as gorgeous to see
as royal fan-bearers.
"Use but the judgment of a prince, Paris," she said, "and I will give
thee wealth and kingly power."
Such majesty and such promises would have moved the heart of any man;
but the eager Paris had at least to hear the claims of the other
rivals. Athena rose before him, a vision welcome as daylight, with her
sea-gray eyes and golden hair beneath a golden helmet.
"Be wise in honoring me, Paris," she said, "and I will give thee wisdom
that shall last forever, great glory among men, and renown in war."
Last of all, Venus shone upon him, beautiful as none can ever hope to
be. If she had come, unnamed, as any country maid, her loveliness would
have dazzled him like sea-foam in the sun; but she was girt with her
magical Cestus, a spell of beauty that no one can resist.
Without a bribe she might have conquered, and she smiled upon his dumb
amazement, saying, "Paris, thou shalt yet have for wife the fairest
woman in the world."
At these words, the happy shepherd fell on his knees and offered her
the golden apple. He took no heed of the slighted goddesses, who
vanished in a cloud that boded storm.
From that hour he sought only the counsel of Venus, and only cared to
find the highway to his new fortunes. From her he learned that he was
the son of King Priam of Troy, and with her assistance he deserted the
nymph Oenone, whom he had married, and went in search of his royal
For it chanced at that time that Priam proclaimed a contest of strength
between his sons and certain other princes, and promised as prize the
most splendid bull that could be found among the herds of Mount Ida.
Thither came the herdsmen to choose, and when they led away the pride
of Paris's heart, he followed to Troy, thinking that he would try his
fortune and perhaps win back his own.
The games took place before Priam and Hecuba and all their children,
including those noble princes Hector and Helenus, and the young
Cassandra, their sister. This poor maiden had a sad story, in spite of
her royalty; for, because she had once disdained Apollo, she was fated
to foresee all things, and ever to have her prophecies disbelieved. On
this fateful day, she alone was oppressed with strange forebodings.
But if he who was to be the ruin of his country had returned, he had
come victoriously. Paris won the contest. At the very moment of his
honor, poor Cassandra saw him with her prophetic eyes; and seeing as
well all the guilt and misery that he was to bring upon them, she broke
into bitter lamentations, and would have warned her kindred against the
evil to come. But the Trojans gave little heed; they were wont to look
upon her visions as spells of madness. Paris had come back to them a
glorious youth and a victor; and when he made known the secret of his
birth, they cast the words of the Oracle to the winds, and received the
shepherd as a long-lost prince.
Thus far all went happily. But Venus, whose promise had not yet been
fulfilled, bade Paris procure a ship and go in search of his destined
bride. The prince said nothing of this quest, but urged his kindred to
let him go; and giving out a rumor that he was to find his father's
lost sister Hesione, he set sail for Greece, and finally landed at
There he was kindly received by Menelaus, the king, and his wife, Fair
This queen had been reared as the daughter of Tyndarus and Queen Leda,
but some say that she was the child of an enchanted swan, and there was
indeed a strange spell about her. All the greatest heroes of Greece had
wooed her before she left her father's palace to be the wife of King
Menelaus; and Tyndarus, fearing for her peace, had bound her many
suitors by an oath. According to this pledge, they were to respect her
choice, and to go to the aid of her husband if ever she should be
stolen away from him. For in all Greece there was nothing so beautiful
as the beauty of Helen. She was the fairest woman in the world.
Now thus did Venus fulfil her promise and the shepherd win his reward
with dishonor. Paris dwelt at the court of Menelaus for a long time,
treated with a royal courtesy which he ill repaid. For at length while
the king was absent on a journey to Crete, his guest won the heart of
Fair Helen, and persuaded her to forsake her husband and sail away to
King Menelaus returned to find the nest empty of the swan. Paris and
the fairest woman in the world were well across the sea.
II. THE ROUSING OF THE HEROES.
When this treachery came to light, all Greece took fire with
indignation. The heroes remembered their pledge, and wrath came upon
them at the wrong done to Menelaus. But they were less angered with
Fair Helen than with Paris, for they felt assured that the queen had
been lured from her country and out of her own senses by some spell of
enchantment. So they took counsel how they might bring back Fair Helen
to her home and husband.
Years had come and gone since that wedding-feast when Eris had flung
the apple of discord, like a firebrand, among the guests. But the spark
of dissension that had smouldered so long burst into flame now, and,
fanned by the enmities of men and the rivalries of the gods, it seemed
like to fire heaven and earth.
A few of the heroes answered the call to arms unwillingly. Time had
reconciled them to the loss of Fair Helen, and they were loath to leave
home and happiness for war, even in her cause.
One of these was Odysseus, king of Ithaca, who had married Penelope,
and was quite content with his kingdom and his little son Telemachus.
Indeed, he was so unwilling to leave them that he feigned madness in
order to escape service, appeared to forget his own kindred, and went
ploughing the seashore and sowing salt in the furrows. But a messenger,
Palamedes, who came with the summons to war, suspected that this sudden
madness might be a stratagem, for the king was far famed as a man of
many devices. He therefore stood by, one day (while Odysseus,
pretending to take no heed of him, went ploughing the sand), and he
laid the baby Telemachus directly in the way of the ploughshare. For
once the wise man's craft deserted him. Odysseus turned the plough
sharply, caught up the little prince, and there his fatherly wits were
manifest! After this he could no longer play madman. He had to take
leave of his beloved wife Penelope and set out to join the heroes,
little dreaming that he was not to return for twenty years. Once
embarked, however, he set himself to work in the common cause of the
heroes, and was soon as ingenious as Palamedes in rousing laggard
There remained one who was destined to be the greatest warrior of all.
This was Achilles, the son of Thetis,--foretold in the day of
Prometheus as a man who should far outstrip his own father in glory and
greatness. Years had passed since the marriage of Thetis to King
Peleus, and their son Achilles was now grown to manhood, a wonder of
strength indeed, and, moreover, invulnerable. For his mother,
forewarned of his death in the Trojan War, had dipped him in the sacred
river Styx when he was a baby, so that he could take no hurt from any
weapon. From head to foot she had plunged him in, only forgetting the
little heel that she held him by, and this alone could be wounded by
any chance. But even with such precautions Thetis was not content.
Fearful at the rumors of war to be, she had her son brought up, in
woman's dress, among the daughters of King Lycomedes of Scyros, that he
might escape the notice of men and cheat his destiny.
To this very palace, however, came Odysseus in the guise of a merchant,
and he spread his wares before the royal household,--jewels and ivory,
fine fabrics, and curiously wrought weapons. The king's daughters chose
girdles and veils and such things as women delight in; but Achilles,
heedless of the like, sought out the weapons, and handled them with
such manly pleasure that his nature stood revealed. So he, too, yielded
to his destiny and set out to join the heroes.
Everywhere men were banded together, building the ships and gathering
supplies. The allied forces of Greece (the Achaeans, as they called
themselves) chose Agamemnon for their commander-in-chief. He was a
mighty man, king of Mycenae and Argos, and the brother of the wronged
Menelaus. Second to Achilles in strength was the giant Ajax; after him
Diomedes, then wise Odysseus, and Nestor, held in great reverence
because of his experienced age and fame. These were the chief heroes.
After two years of busy preparation, they reached the port of Aulis,
whence they were to sail for Troy.
But here delay held them. Agamemnon had chanced to kill a stag which
was sacred to Diana, and the army was visited by pestilence, while a
great calm kept the ships imprisoned. At length the Oracle made known
the reason of this misfortune and demanded for atonement the maiden
Iphigenia, Agamemnon's own daughter. In helpless grief the king
consented to offer her up as a victim, and the maiden was brought ready
for sacrifice. But at the last moment Diana caught her away in a cloud,
leaving a white hind in her place, and carried her to Tauris in
Scythia, there to serve as a priestess in the temple. In the mean time,
her kinsfolk, who were at a loss to understand how she had disappeared,
mourned her as dead. But Diana had accepted their child as an offering,
and healing came to the army, and the winds blew again. So the ships
Meanwhile, in Troy across the sea, the aged Priam and Hecuba gave
shelter to their son Paris and his stolen bride. They were not without
misgivings as to these guests, but they made ready to defend their
kindred and the citadel.
There were many heroes among the Trojans and their allies, brave and
upright men, who little deserved that such reproach should be brought
upon them by the guilt of Prince Paris. There were Aeneas and
Deiphobus, Glaucus and Sarpedon, and Priam's most noble son Hector,
chief of all the forces, and the very bulwark of Troy. These and many
more were bitterly to regret the day that had brought Paris back to his
home. But he had taken refuge with his own people, and the Trojans had
to take up his cause against the hostile fleet that was coming across
Even the gods took sides. Juno and Athena, who had never forgiven the
judgment of Paris, condemned all Troy with, him and favored the Greeks,
as did also Poseidon, god of the sea. But Venus, true to her favorite,
furthered the interests of the Trojans with all her power, and
persuaded the warlike Mars to do likewise. Zeus and Apollo strove to be
impartial, but they were yet to aid now one side, now another,
according to the fortunes of the heroes whom they loved.
Over the sea came the great embassy of ships, sped hither safely by the
god Poseidon; and the heroes made their camp on the plain before Troy.
First of all Odysseus and King Menelaus himself went into the city and
demanded that Fair Helen should be given back to her rightful husband.
This the Trojans refused; and so began the siege of Troy.
III. THE WOODEN HORSE.
Nine years the Greeks laid siege to Troy, and Troy held out against
every device. On both sides the lives of many heroes were spent, and
they were forced to acknowledge each other enemies of great valor.
Sometimes the chief warriors fought in single combat, while the armies
looked on, and the old men of Troy, with the women, came out to watch
far off from the city walls. King Priam and Queen Hecuba would come,
and Cassandra, sad with foreknowledge of their doom, and Andromache,
the lovely young wife of Hector, with her little son whom the people
called _The City King_. Sometimes Fair Helen came to look across the
plain to the fellow-countrymen whom she had forsaken; and although she
was the cause of all this war, the Trojans half forgave her when she
passed by, because her beauty was like a spell, and warmed hard hearts
as the sunshine mellows apples. So for nine years the Greeks plundered
the neighboring towns, but the city Troy stood fast, and the Grecian
ships waited with folded wings.
The half of that story cannot be told here, but in the tenth year of
the war many things came to pass, and the end drew near. Of this tenth
year alone, there are a score of tales. For the Greeks fell to
quarrelling among themselves over the spoils of war, and the great
Achilles left the camp in anger and refused to fight. Nothing would
induce him to return, till his friend Patroclus was slain by Prince
Hector. At that news, indeed, Achilles rose in great might and returned
to the Greeks; and he went forth clad in armor that had been wrought
for him by Vulcan, at the prayer of Thetis. By the river Scamander,
near to Troy, he met and slew Hector, and afterwards dragged the hero's
body after his chariot across the plain. How the aged Priam went alone
by night to the tent of Achilles to ransom his son's body, and how
Achilles relented, and moreover granted a truce for the funeral honors
of his enemy,--all these things have been so nobly sung that they can
never be fitly spoken.
Hector, the bulwark of Troy, had fallen, and the ruin of the city was
at hand. Achilles himself did not long survive his triumph, and,
ruthless as he was, he ill-deserved the manner of his death. He was
treacherously slain by that Paris who would never have dared to meet
him in the open field. Paris, though he had brought all this disaster
upon Troy, had left the danger to his countrymen. But he lay in wait
for Achilles in a temple sacred to Apollo, and from his hiding-place he
sped a poisoned arrow at the hero. It pierced his ankle where the water
of the Styx had not charmed him against wounds, and of that venom the
great Achilles died. Paris himself died soon after by another poisoned
arrow, but that was no long grief to anybody!
Still Troy held out, and the Greeks, who could not take it by force,
pondered how they might take it by craft. At length, with the aid of
Odysseus, they devised a plan.
A portion of the Grecian host broke up camp and set sail as if they
were homeward bound; but, once out of sight, they anchored their ships
behind a neighboring island. The rest of the army then fell to work
upon a great image of a horse. They built it of wood, fitted and
carved, and with a door so cunningly concealed that none might notice
it. When it was finished, the horse looked like a prodigious idol; but
it was hollow, skilfully pierced here and there, and so spacious that a
band of men could lie hidden within and take no harm. Into this
hiding-place went Odysseus, Menelaus, and the other chiefs, fully
armed, and when the door was shut upon them, the rest of the Grecian
army broke camp and went away.
Meanwhile, in Troy, the people had seen the departure of the ships, and
the news had spread like wildfire. The great enemy had lost
heart,--after ten years of war! Part of the army had gone,--the rest
were going. Already the last of the ships had set sail, and the camp
was deserted. The tents that had whitened the plain were gone like a
frost before the sun. The war was over!
The whole city went wild with joy. Like one who has been a prisoner for
many years, it flung off all restraint, and the people rose as a single
man to test the truth of new liberty. The gates were thrown wide, and
the Trojans--men, women, and children--thronged over the plain and
into the empty camp of the enemy. There stood the Wooden Horse.
No one knew what it could be. Fearful at first, they gathered around
it, as children gather around a live horse; they marvelled at its
wondrous height and girth, and were for moving it into the city as a
trophy of war.
At this, one man interposed,--Laocooen, a priest of Poseidon. "Take
heed, citizens," said he. "Beware of all that comes from the Greeks.
Have you fought them for ten years without learning their devices? This
is some piece of treachery."
But there was another outcry in the crowd, and at that moment certain
of the Trojans dragged forward a wretched man who wore the garments of
a Greek. He seemed the sole remnant of the Grecian army, and as such
they consented to spare his life, if he would tell them the truth.
Sinon, for this was the spy's name, said that he had been left behind
by the malice of Odysseus, and he told them that the Greeks had built
the Wooden Horse as an offering to Athena, and that they had made it so
huge in order to keep it from being moved out of the camp, since it was
destined to bring triumph to its possessors.
At this, the joy of the Trojans was redoubled, and they set their wits
to find out how they might soonest drag the great horse across the
plain and into the city to ensure victory. While they stood talking,
two immense serpents rose out of the sea and made towards the camp.
Some of the people took flight, others were transfixed with terror; but
all, near and far, watched this new omen. Rearing their crests, the
sea-serpents crossed the shore, swift, shining, terrible as a risen
water-flood that descends upon a helpless little town. Straight through
the crowd they swept, and seized the priest Laocooen where he stood,
with his two sons, and wrapped them all round and round in fearful
coils. There was no chance of escape. Father and sons perished
together; and when the monsters had devoured the three men, into the
sea they slipped again, leaving no trace of the horror.
The terrified Trojans saw an omen in this. To their minds, punishment
had come upon Laocooen for his words against the Wooden Horse. Surely,
it was sacred to the gods; he had spoken blasphemy, and had perished
before their eyes. They flung his warning to the winds. They wreathed
the horse with garlands, amid great acclaim; and then, all lending a
hand, they dragged it, little by little, out of the camp and into the
city of Troy. With the close of that victorious day, they gave up every
memory of danger and made merry after ten years of privation.
That very night Sinon the spy opened the hidden door of the Wooden
Horse, and in the darkness, Odysseus, Menelaus, and the other chiefs
who had lain hidden there crept out and gave the signal to the Grecian
army. For, under cover of night, those ships that had been moored
behind the island had sailed back again, and the Greeks were come upon
Not a Trojan was on guard. The whole city was at feast when the enemy
rose in its midst, and the warning of Laocooen was fulfilled.
Priam and his warriors fell by the sword, and their kingdom was
plundered of all its fair possessions, women and children and treasure.
Last of all, the city itself was burned to its very foundations.
Homeward sailed the Greeks, taking as royal captives poor Cassandra and
Andromache and many another Trojan. And home at last went Fair Helen,
the cause of all this sorrow, eager to be forgiven by her husband, King
Menelaus. For she had awakened from the enchantment of Venus, and even
before the death of Paris she had secretly longed for her home and
kindred. Home to Sparta she came with the king after a long and stormy
voyage, and there she lived and died the fairest of women.
But the kingdom of Troy was fallen. Nothing remained of all its glory
but the glory of its dead heroes and fair women, and the ruins of its
citadel by the river Scamander. There even now, beneath the foundations
of later homes that were built and burned, built and burned, in the
wars of a thousand years after, the ruins of ancient Troy lie hidden,
like mouldered leaves deep under the new grass. And there, to this very
day, men who love the story are delving after the dead city as you
might search for a buried treasure.
THE HOUSE OF AGAMEMNON.
The Greeks had won back Fair Helen, and had burned the city of Troy
behind them, but theirs was no triumphant voyage home. Many were driven
far and wide before they saw their land again, and one who escaped such
hardships came home to find a bitter welcome. This was the chief of all
the hosts, Agamemnon, king of Mycenae and Argos. He it was who had
offered his own daughter Iphigenia to appease the wrath of Diana before
the ships could sail for Troy. An ominous leave-taking was his, and
calamity was there to greet him home again.
He had entrusted the cares of the state to his cousin Aegisthus,
commending also to his protection Queen Clytemnestra with her two
remaining children, Electra and Orestes.
Now Clytemnestra was a sister of Helen of Troy, and a beautiful woman
to see; but her heart was as evil as her face was fair. No sooner had
her husband gone to the wars than she set up Aegisthus in his place, as
if there were no other king of Argos. For years this faithless pair
lived arrogantly in the face of the people, and controlled the affairs
of the kingdom. But as time went by and the child Orestes grew to be a
youth, Aegisthus feared lest the Argives should stand by their own
prince, and drive him away as an usurper. He therefore planned the
death of Orestes, and even won the consent of the queen, who was no
gentle mother! But the princess Electra, suspecting their plot,
secretly hurried her brother away to the court of King Strophius in
Phocis, and so saved his life. She was not, however, to save a second
The ten years of war went by, and the chief, Agamemnon, came home in
triumph, heralded by all the Argives, who were as exultant over the
return of their lawful king as over the fall of Troy. Into the city
came the remnant of his own men, bearing the spoils of war, and, in the
midst of a jubilant multitude, King Agamemnon sharing his chariot with
the captive princess, Cassandra.
Queen Clytemnestra went out to greet him with every show of joy and
triumph. She had a cloth of purple spread before the palace, that her
husband might come with state into his home once more; and before all
beholders she protested that the ten years of his absence had bereaved
her of all happiness.
The unsuspicious king left his chariot and entered the palace; but the
princess Cassandra hesitated and stood by in fear. Poor Cassandra! Her
kindred were slain and the doom of her city was fulfilled, but the
curse of prophecy still followed her. She felt the shadow of coming
evil, and there before the door she recoiled, and cried out that there
was blood in the air. At length, despairing of her fate, she too went
in. Even while the Argives stood about the gates, pitying her madness,
the prophecy came true.
Clytemnestra, like any anxious wife, had led the travel-worn king to a
bath; and there, when he had laid by his arms, she and Aegisthus threw
a net over him, as they would have snared any beast of prey, and slew
him, defenceless. In the same hour Cassandra, too, fell into their
hands, and they put an end to her warnings. So died the chief of the
great army and his royal captive.
The murderers proclaimed themselves king and queen before all the
people, and none dared rebel openly against such terrible authority.
But Aegisthus was still uneasy at the thought that the Prince Orestes
might return some day to avenge his father. Indeed, Electra had sent
from time to time secret messages to Phocis, entreating her brother to
come and take his rightful place, and save her from her cruel mother
and Aegisthus. But there came to Argos one day a rumor that Orestes
himself had died in Phocis, and the poor princess gave up all hope of
peace; while Clytemnestra and Aegisthus made no secret of their relief,
but even offered impious thanks in the temple, as if the gods were of
their mind! They were soon undeceived.
Two young Phocians came to the palace with news of the last days of
Orestes, so they said; and they were admitted to the presence of the
king and queen. They were, in truth, Orestes himself and his friend
Pylades (son of King Strophius), who had ventured safety and all to
avenge Agamemnon. Then and there Orestes killed Aegisthus and
Clytemnestra, and appeared before the Argives as their rightful prince.
But not even so did he find peace. In slaying Clytemnestra, wicked as
she was, he had murdered his own mother, a deed hateful to gods and
men. Day and night he was haunted by the Furies.
These dread sisters never leave Hades save to pursue and torture some
guilty conscience. They wear black raiment, like the wings of a bat;
their hair writhes with serpents fierce as remorse, and in their hands
they carry flaming torches that make all shapes look greater and more
fearful than they are. No sleep can soothe the mind of him they follow.
They come between his eyes and the daylight; at night their torches
drive away all comfortable darkness. Poor Orestes, though he had
punished two murderers, felt that he was no less a murderer himself.
From land to land he wandered in despair that grew to madness, with one
only comrade, the faithful Pylades, who was his very shadow. At length
he took refuge in Athens, under the protection of Athena, and gave
himself up to be tried by the court of the Areopagus. There he was
acquitted; but not all the Furies left him, and at last he besought the
Oracle of Apollo to befriend him.
"Go to Tauris, in Scythia," said the voice, "and bring from thence the
image of Diana which fell from the heavens." So he set out with his
Pylades and sailed to the shore of Scythia.
Now the Taurians were a savage people, who strove to honor Diana, to
their rude minds, by sacrificing all the strangers that fell into their
hands. There was a temple not far from the seaside, and its priestess
was a Grecian maiden, one Iphigenia, who had miraculously appeared
there years before, and was held in especial awe by Thoas, the king of
the country round about. Sorely against her will, she had to hallow the
victims offered at this shrine; and into her presence Orestes and
Pylades were brought by the men who had seized them.
On learning that they were Grecians and Argives (for they withheld
their names), the priestess was moved to the heart. She asked them many
questions concerning the fate of Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, and the
warriors against Troy, which they answered as best they could. At
length she said that she would help one of them to escape, if he would
swear to take a message from her to one in Argos.
"My friend shall bear it home," said Orestes. "As for me, I stay and
endure my fate."
"Nay," said Pylades; "how can I swear? for I might lose this letter by
shipwreck or some other mischance."
"Hear the message, then," said the high-priestess. "And thou wilt keep
it by thee with thy life. To Orestes, son of Agamemnon, say Iphigenia,
his sister, is dead indeed unto her parents, but not to him. Say that
Diana has had charge over her these many years since she was snatched
away at Aulis, and that she waits until her brother shall come to
rescue her from this duty of bloodshed and take her home."
At these words their amazement knew no bounds. Orestes embraced his
lost sister and told her all his story, and the three, breathless with
eagerness, planned a way of escape.
The king of Tauris had already come to witness the sacrifice. But
Iphigenia took in her hands the sacred image of Diana, and went out to
tell him that the rites must be delayed. One of the strangers, said
she, was guilty of the murder of his mother, the other sharing his
crime; and these unworthy victims must be cleansed with pure sea-water
before they could be offered to Diana. The sacred image had been
desecrated by their touch, and that, too, must be solemnly purged by no
other hands than hers.
To this the king consented. He remained to burn lustral fires in the
temple; the people withdrew to their houses to escape pollution, and
the priestess with her victims reached the seaside in safety.
Once there, with the sacred image which was to bring them good fortune,
they hastened to the Grecian galley and put off from that desolate
shore. So, with his new-found sister and his new hope, Orestes went
over the seas to Argos, to rebuild the honor of the royal house.
THE ADVENTURES OF ODYSSEUS.
I. THE CURSE OF POLYPHEMUS.
Of all the heroes that wandered far and wide before they came to their
homes again after the fall of Troy, none suffered so many hardships as
There was, indeed, one other man whose adventures have been likened to
his, and this was Aeneas, a Trojan hero. He escaped from the burning
city with a band of fugitives, his countrymen; and after years of peril
and wandering he came to found a famous race in Italy. On the way, he
found one hospitable resting-place in Carthage, where Queen Dido
received him with great kindliness; and when he left her she took her
own life, out of very grief.
But there were no other hardships such as beset Odysseus, between the
burning of Troy and his return to Ithaca, west of the land of Greece.
Ten years did he fight against Troy, but it was ten years more before
he came to his home and his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus.
Now all these latter years of wandering fell to his lot because of
Poseidon's anger against him. For Poseidon had favored the Grecian
cause, and might well have sped home this man who had done so much to
win the Grecian victory. But as evil destiny would have it, Odysseus
mortally angered the god of the sea by blinding his son, the Cyclops
Polyphemus. And thus it came to pass.
Odysseus set out from Troy with twelve good ships. He touched first at
Ismarus, where his first misfortune took place, and in a skirmish with
the natives he lost a number of men from each ship's crew. A storm then
drove them to the land of the Lotus-Eaters, a wondrous people, kindly
and content, who spend their lives in a day-dream and care for nothing
else under the sun. No sooner had the sailors eaten of this magical
lotus than they lost all their wish to go home, or to see their wives
and children again. By main force, Odysseus drove them back to the
ships and saved them from the spell.
Thence they came one day to a beautiful strange island, a verdant place
to see, deep with soft grass and well watered with springs. Here they
ran the ships ashore, and took their rest and feasted for a day. But
Odysseus looked across to the mainland, where he saw flocks and herds,
and smoke going up softly from the homes of men; and he resolved to go
across and find out what manner of people lived there. Accordingly,
next morning, he took his own ship's company and they rowed across to
Now, fair as the place was, there dwelt in it a race of giants, the
Cyclopes, great rude creatures, having each but one eye, and that in
the middle of his forehead. One of them was Polyphemus, the son of
Poseidon. He lived by himself as a shepherd, and it was to his cave
that Odysseus came, by some evil chance. It was an enormous grotto, big
enough to house the giant and all his flocks, and it had a great
courtyard without. But Odysseus, knowing nought of all this, chose out
twelve men, and with a wallet of corn and a goatskin full of wine they
left the ship and made a way to the cave, which they had seen from the
Much they wondered who might be the master of this strange house.
Polyphemus was away with his sheep, but many lambs and kids were penned
there, and the cavern was well stored with goodly cheeses and cream and
Without delay, the wearied men kindled a fire and sat down to eat such
things as they found, till a great shadow came dark against the
doorway, and they saw the Cyclops near at hand, returning with his
flocks. In an instant they fled into the darkest corner of the cavern.
Polyphemus drove his flocks into the place and cast off from his
shoulders a load of young trees for firewood. Then he lifted and set in
the entrance of the cave a gigantic boulder of a door-stone. Not until
he had milked the goats and ewes and stirred up the fire did his
terrible one eye light upon the strangers.
"What are ye?" he roared then, "robbers or rovers?" And Odysseus alone
had heart to answer.
"We are Achaeans of the army of Agamemnon," said he. "And by the will
of Zeus we have lost our course, and are come to you as strangers.
Forget not that Zeus has a care for such as we, strangers and
Loud laughed the Cyclops at this. "You are a witless churl to bid me
heed the gods!" said he. "I spare or kill to please myself and none
other. But where is your cockle-shell that brought you hither?"
Then Odysseus answered craftily: "Alas, my ship is gone! Only I and my
men escaped alive from the sea."
But Polyphemus, who had been looking them over with his one eye, seized
two of the mariners and dashed them against the wall and made his
evening meal of them, while their comrades stood by helpless. This
done, he stretched himself through the cavern and slept all night long,
taking no more heed of them than if they had been flies. No sleep came
to the wretched seamen, for, even had they been able to slay him, they
were powerless to move away the boulder from the door. So all night
long Odysseus took thought how they might possibly escape.
At dawn the Cyclops woke, and his awakening was like a thunderstorm.
Again he kindled the fire, again he milked the goats and ewes, and
again he seized two of the king's comrades and served them up for his
terrible repast. Then the savage shepherd drove his flocks out of the
cave, only turning back to set the boulder in the doorway and pen up
Odysseus and his men in their dismal lodging.
But the wise king had pondered well. In the sheepfold he had seen a
mighty club of olive-wood, in size like the mast of a ship. As soon as
the Cyclops was gone, Odysseus bade his men cut off a length of this
club and sharpen it down to a point. This done, they hid it away under
the earth that heaped the floor; and they waited in fear and torment
for their chance of escape.
At sundown, home came the Cyclops. Just as he had done before, he drove
in his flocks, barred the entrance, milked the goats and ewes, and made
his meal of two more hapless men, while their fellows looked on with
burning eyes. Then Odysseus stood forth, holding a bowl of the wine
that he had brought with him; and, curbing his horror of Polyphemus, he
spoke in friendly fashion: "Drink, Cyclops, and prove our wine, such as
it was, for all was lost with our ship save this. And no other man will
ever bring you more, since you are such an ungentle host."
The Cyclops tasted the wine and laughed with delight so that the cave
shook. "Ho, this is a rare drink!" said he. "I never tasted milk so
good, nor whey, nor grape-juice either. Give me the rest, and tell me
your name, that I may thank you for it."
Twice and thrice Odysseus poured the wine and the Cyclops drank it off;
then he answered: "Since you ask it, Cyclops, my name is Noman."
"And I will give you this for your wine, Noman," said the Cyclops; "you
shall be eaten last of all!"
As he spoke his head drooped, for his wits were clouded with drink, and
he sank heavily out of his seat and lay prone, stretched along the
floor of the cavern. His great eye shut and he fell asleep.
Odysseus thrust the stake under the ashes till it was glowing hot; and
his fellows stood by him, ready to venture all. Then together they
lifted the club and drove it straight into the eye of Polyphemus and
turned it around and about.
The Cyclops gave a horrible cry, and, thrusting away the brand, he
called on all his fellow-giants near and far. Odysseus and his men hid
in the uttermost corners of the cave, but they heard the resounding
steps of the Cyclopes who were roused, and their shouts as they called,
"What ails thee, Polyphemus? Art thou slain? Who has done thee any
"Noman!" roared the blinded Cyclops; "Noman is here to slay me by
"Then if no man hath hurt thee," they called again, "let us sleep." And
away they went to their homes once more.
But Polyphemus lifted away the boulder from the door and sat there in
the entrance, groaning with pain and stretching forth his hands to feel
if any one were near. Then, while he sat in double darkness, with the
light of his eye gone out, Odysseus bound together the rams of the
flock, three by three, in such wise that every three should save one of
his comrades. For underneath the mid ram of each group a man clung,
grasping his shaggy fleece; and the rams on each side guarded him from
discovery. Odysseus himself chose out the greatest ram and laid hold of
his fleece and clung beneath his shaggy body, face upward.
Now, when dawn came, the rams hastened out to pasture, and Polyphemus
felt of their backs as they huddled along together; but he knew not
that every three held a man bound securely. Last of all came the kingly
ram that was dearest to his rude heart, and he bore the King of Ithaca.
Once free of the cave, Odysseus and his fellows loosed their hold and
took flight, driving the rams in haste to the ship, where, without
delay, they greeted their comrades and went aboard.
But as they pushed from shore, Odysseus could not refrain from hailing
the Cyclops with taunts, and at the sound of that voice Polyphemus came
forth from his cave and hurled a great rock after the ship. It missed
and upheaved the water like an earthquake. Again Odysseus called,
saying: "Cyclops, if any shall ask who blinded thine eye, say that it
was Odysseus, son of Laertes of Ithaca."
Then Polyphemus groaned and cried: "An Oracle foretold it, but I waited
for some man of might who should overcome me by his valor,--not a
weakling! And now"--he lifted his hands and prayed,--"Father Poseidon,
my father, look upon Odysseus, the son of Laertes of Ithaca, and grant
me this revenge,--let him never see Ithaca again! Yet, if he must, may
he come late, without a friend, after long wandering, to find evil
abiding by his hearth!"
So he spoke and hurled another rock after them, but the ship
outstripped it, and sped by to the island where the other good ships
waited for Odysseus. Together they put out from land and hastened on
their homeward voyage.
But Poseidon, who is lord of the sea, had heard the prayer of his son,
and that homeward voyage was to wear through ten years more, with storm
and irksome calms and misadventure.
II. THE WANDERING OF ODYSSEUS.
Now Odysseus and his men sailed on and on till they came to Aeolia,
where dwells the king of the winds, and here they came nigh to good
Aeolus received them kindly, and at their going he secretly gave to
Odysseus a leathern bag in which all contrary winds were tied up
securely, that only the favoring west wind might speed them to Ithaca.
Nine days the ships went gladly before the wind, and on the tenth day
they had sight of Ithaca, lying like a low cloud in the west. Then, so
near his haven, the happy Odysseus gave up to his weariness and fell
asleep, for he had never left the helm. But while he slept his men saw
the leathern bag that he kept by him, and, in the belief that it was
full of treasure, they opened it. Out rushed the ill-winds!
In an instant the sea was covered with white caps; the waves rose
mountain high; the poor ships struggled against the tyranny of the gale
and gave way. Back they were driven,--back, farther and farther; and
when Odysseus woke, Ithaca was gone from sight, as if it had indeed
been only a low cloud in the west!
Straight to the island of Aeolus they were driven once more. But when
the king learned what greed and treachery had wasted his good gift, he
would give them nothing more. "Surely thou must be a man hated of the
gods, Odysseus," he said, "for misfortune bears thee company. Depart
now; I may not help thee."
So, with a heavy heart, Odysseus and his men departed. For many days
they rowed against a dead calm, until at length they came to the land
of the Laestrygonians. And, to cut a piteous tale short, these giants
destroyed all their fleet save one ship,--that of Odysseus himself,
and in this he made escape to the island of Circe. What befell there,
how the greedy seamen were turned into swine and turned back into men,
and how the sorceress came to befriend Odysseus,--all this has been
There in Aeaea the voyagers stayed a year before Circe would let them
go. But at length she bade Odysseus seek the region of Hades, and ask
of the sage Tiresias how he might ever return to Ithaca. How Odysseus
followed this counsel, none may know; but by some mysterious journey,
and with the aid of a spell, he came to the borders of Hades. There he
saw and spoke with many renowned Shades, old and young, even his own
friends who had fallen on the plain of Troy. Achilles he saw, Patroclus
and Ajax and Agamemnon, still grieving over the treachery of his wife.
He saw, too, the phantom of Heracles, who lives with honor among the
gods, and has for his wife Hebe, the daughter of Zeus and Juno. But
though he would have talked with the heroes for a year and more, he
sought out Tiresias.
"The anger of Poseidon follows thee," said the sage. "Wherefore,
Odysseus, thy return is yet far off. But take heed when thou art come
to Thrinacia, where the sacred kine of the Sun have their pastures. Do
them no hurt, and thou shalt yet come home. _But if they be harmed in
any wise_, ruin shall come upon thy men; and even if thou escape, thou
shalt come home to find strange men devouring thy substance and wooing
With this word in his mind, Odysseus departed and came once more to
Aeaea. There he tarried but a little time, till Circe had told him all
the dangers that beset his way. Many a good counsel and crafty warning
did she give him against the Sirens that charm with their singing, and
against the monster Scylla and the whirlpool Charybdis, and the
Clashing Rocks, and the cattle of the Sun. So the king and his men set
out from the island of Aeaea.
Now very soon they came to the Sirens who sing so sweetly that they
lure to death every man who listens. For straightway he is mad to be
with them where they sing; and alas for the man that would fly without
But when the ship drew near the Sirens' island, Odysseus did as Circe
had taught him. He bade all his shipmates stop up their ears with
moulded wax, so that they could not hear. He alone kept his hearing:
but he had himself lashed to the mast so that he could in no wise move,
and he forbade them to loose him, however he might plead, under the
spell of the Sirens.
As they sailed near, his soul gave way. He heard a wild sweetness
coaxing the air, as a minstrel coaxes the harp; and there, close by,
were the Sirens sitting in a blooming meadow that hid the bones of men.
Beautiful, winning maidens they looked; and they sang, entreating
Odysseus by name to listen and abide and rest. Their voices were
golden-sweet above the sound of wind and wave, like drops of amber
floating on the tide; and for all his wisdom, Odysseus strained at his
bonds and begged his men to let him go free. But they, deaf alike to
the song and the sorcery, rowed harder than ever. At length, song and
island faded in the distance. Odysseus came to his wits once more, and
his men loosed his bonds and set him free.
But they were close upon new dangers. No sooner had they avoided the
Clashing Rocks (by a device of Circe's) than they came to a perilous
strait. On one hand they saw the whirlpool where, beneath a hollow
fig-tree, Charybdis sucks down the sea horribly. And, while they sought
to escape her, on the other hand monstrous Scylla upreared from the
cave, snatched six of their company with her six long necks, and
devoured them even while they called upon Odysseus to save them.
So, with bitter peril, the ship passed by and came to the island of
Thrinacia; and here are goodly pastures for the flocks and herds of the
Sun. Odysseus, who feared lest his men might forget the warning of
Tiresias, was very loath to land. But the sailors were weary and worn
to the verge of mutiny, and they swore, moreover, that they would never
lay hands on the sacred kine. So they landed, thinking to depart next
day. But with the next day came a tempest that blew for a month without
ceasing, so that they were forced to beach the ship and live on the
island with their store of corn and wine. When that was gone they had
to hunt and fish, and it happened that, while Odysseus was absent in
the woods one day, his shipmates broke their oath. "For," said they,
"when we are once more in Ithaca we will make amends to Helios with
sacrifice. But let us rather drown than waste to death with hunger." So
they drove off the best of the cattle of the Sun and slew them. When
the king returned, he found them at their fateful banquet; but it was
too late to save them from the wrath of the gods.
As soon as they were fairly embarked once more, the Sun ceased to
shine. The sea rose high, the thunderbolt of Zeus struck that ship, and
all its company was scattered abroad upon the waters. Not one was left
save Odysseus. He clung to a fragment of his last ship, and so he
drifted, borne here and there, and lashed by wind and wave, until he
was washed up on the strand of the island Ogygia, the home of the nymph
Calypso. He was not to leave this haven for seven years.
Here, after ten years of war and two of wandering, he found a kindly
welcome. The enchanted island was full of wonders, and the nymph
Calypso was more than mortal fair, and would have been glad to marry
the hero; yet he pined for Ithaca. Nothing could win his heart away
from his own country and his own wife Penelope, nothing but Lethe
itself, and that no man may drink till he dies.
So for seven years Calypso strove to make him forget his longing with
ease and pleasant living and soft raiment. Day by day she sang to him
while she broidered her web with gold; and her voice was like a golden
strand that twines in and out of silence, making it beautiful. She even
promised that she would make him immortal, if he would stay and be
content; but he was heartsick for home.
At last his sorrow touched even the heart of Athena in heaven, for she
loved his wisdom and his many devices. So she besought Zeus and all the
other gods until they consented to shield Odysseus from the anger of
Poseidon. Hermes himself bound on his winged sandals and flew down to
Ogygia, where he found Calypso at her spinning. After many words, the
nymph consented to give up her captive, for she was kind of heart, and
all her graces had not availed to make him forget his home. With her
help, Odysseus built a raft and set out upon his lonely voyage,--the
only man remaining out of twelve good ships that had left Troy nigh
unto ten years before.
The sea roughened against him, but (to shorten a tale of great peril)
after many days, sore spent and tempest-tossed, he came to the land of
the Phaeacians, a land dear to the immortal gods, abounding in gifts of
harvest and vintage, in godlike men and lovely women.
Here the shipwrecked king met the princess Nausicaa by the seaside, as
she played ball with her maidens; and she, when she had heard of his
plight, gave him food and raiment, and bade him follow her home. So he
followed her to the palace of King Alcinous and Queen Arete, and abode
with them, kindly refreshed, and honored with feasting and games and
song. But it came to pass, as the minstrel sang before them of the
Trojan War and the Wooden Horse, that Odysseus wept over the story, it
was written so deep in his own heart. Then for the first time he told
them his true name and all his trials.
They would gladly have kept so great a man with them forever, but they
had no heart to keep him longer from his home; so they bade him
farewell and set him upon one of their magical ships, with many gifts
of gold and silver, and sent him on his way.
Wonderful seamen are the Phaeacians. The ocean is to them as air to the
bird,--the best path for a swift journey! Odysseus was glad enough to
trust the way to them, and no sooner had they set out than a sweet
sleep fell upon his eyelids. But the good ship sped like any bee that
knows the way home. In a marvellous short time they came even to the
shore of the kingdom of Ithaca.
While Odysseus was still sleeping, unconscious of his good fortune, the
Phaeacians lifted him from the ship with kindly joy and laid him upon
his own shore; and beside him they set the gifts of gold and silver and
fair work of the loom. So they departed; and thus it was that Odysseus
came to Ithaca after twenty years.
III. THE HOME-COMING.
Now all these twenty years, in the island of Ithaca, Penelope had
watched for her husband's return. At first with high hopes and then in
doubt and sorrow (when news of the great war came by some traveller),
she had waited, eager and constant as a young bride. But now the war
was long past; her young son Telemachus had come to manhood; and as for
Odysseus, she knew not whether he was alive or dead.
For years there had been trouble in Ithaca. It was left a kingdom
without a king, and Penelope was fair and wise. So suitors came from
all the islands round about to beg her hand in marriage, since many
loved the queen and as many more loved her possessions, and desired to
rule over them. Moreover, every one thought or said that King Odysseus
must be dead. Neither Penelope nor her aged father-in-law Laertes could
rid the place of these troublesome suitors. Some were nobles and some
were adventurers, but they all thronged the palace like a pest of
crickets, and devoured the wealth of the kingdom with feasts in honor
of Penelope and themselves and everybody else; and they besought the
queen to choose a husband from their number.
For a long time she would hear none of this; but they grew so clamorous
in their suit that she had to put them off with craft. For she saw that
there would be danger to her country, and her son, and herself, unless
Odysseus came home some day and turned the suitors out of doors. She
therefore spoke them fair, and gave them some hope of her marriage, to
"Ye princely wooers," she said, "now I believe that the king Odysseus,
my husband, must long since have perished in a strange land; and I have
bethought me once more of marriage. Have patience, therefore, till I
shall have finished the web that I am weaving. For it is a royal shroud
that I must make against the day that Laertes may die (the father of my
lord and husband). This is the way of my people," said she; "and when
the web is done, I will choose another king for Ithaca."
She had set up in the hall a great loom, and day by day she wrought
there at the web, for she was a marvellous spinner, patient as Arachne,
but dear to Athena. All day long she would weave, but every night in
secret she would unravel what she had wrought in the daytime, so that
the web might never be done. For although she believed her dear husband
to be dead, yet her hope would put forth buds again and again, just as
spring, that seems to die each year, will come again. So she ever
looked to see Odysseus coming.
Three years and more she held off the suitors with this wile, and they
never perceived it. For, being men, they knew nothing of women's
handicraft. It was all alike a marvel to them, both the beauty of the
web and this endless toil in the making! As for Penelope, all day long
she wove; but at night she would unravel her work and weep bitterly,
because she had another web to weave and another day to watch, all for
nothing, since Odysseus never came. In the fourth year, though, a
faithless servant betrayed this secret to the wooers, and there came an
end to peace and the web, too!
Matters grew worse and worse. Telemachus set out to find his father,
and the poor queen was left without husband or son. But the suitors
continued to live about the palace like so many princes, and to make
merry on the wealth of Odysseus, while he was being driven from land to
land and wreck to wreck. So it came true, that prophecy that, if the
herds of the Sun were harmed, Odysseus should reach his home alone in
evil plight to find Sorrow in his own household. But in the end he was
to drive her forth.
Now, when Odysseus woke, he did not know his own country. Gone were the
Phaeacians and their ship; only the gifts beside him told him that he
had not dreamed. While he looked about, bewildered, Athena, in the
guise of a young countryman, came to his aid, and told him where he
was. Then, smiling upon his amazement and joy, she shone forth in her
own form, and warned him not to hasten home, since the palace was
filled with the insolent suitors of Penelope, whose heart waited empty
for him as the nest for the bird.
Moreover, Athena changed his shape into that of an aged pilgrim, and
led him to the hut of a certain swineherd, Eumaeus, his old and
faithful servant. This man received the king kindly, taking him for a
travel-worn wayfarer, and told him all the news of the palace, and the
suitors and the poor queen, who was ever ready to hear the idle tales
of any traveller if he had aught to tell of King Odysseus.
Now who should come to the hut at this time but the prince Telemachus,
whom Athena had hastened safely home from his quest! Eumaeus received
his young master with great joy, but the heart of Odysseus was nigh to
bursting, for he had never seen his son since he left him, an infant,
for the Trojan War. When Eumaeus left them together, he made himself
known; and for that moment Athena gave him back his kingly looks, so
that Telemachus saw him with exultation, and they two wept over each
other for joy.
By this time news of her son's return had come to Penelope, and she was
almost happy, not knowing that the suitors were plotting to kill
Telemachus. Home he came, and he hastened to assure his mother that he
had heard good news of Odysseus; though, for the safety of all, he did
not tell her that Odysseus was in Ithaca.
Meanwhile Eumaeus and his aged pilgrim came to the city and the palace
gates. They were talking to a goatherd there, when an old hound that
lay in the dust-heap near by pricked up his ears and stirred his tail
feebly as at a well-known voice. He was the faithful Argus, named after
a monster of many eyes that once served Juno as a watchman. Indeed,
when the creature was slain, Juno had his eyes set in the feathers of
her pet peacocks, and there they glisten to this day. But the end of
this Argus was very different. Once the pride of the king's heart, he
was now so old and infirm that he could barely move; but though his
master had come home in the guise of a strange beggar, he knew the
voice, and he alone, after twenty years. Odysseus, seeing him, could
barely restrain his tears; but the poor old hound, as if he had lived
but to welcome his master home, died that very same day.
Into the palace hall went the swineherd and the pilgrim, among the
suitors who were feasting there. Now how Odysseus begged a portion of
meat and was shamefully insulted by these men, how he saw his own wife
and hid his joy and sorrow, but told her news of himself as any beggar
might,--all these things are better sung than spoken. It is a long
But the end was near. The suitors had demanded the queen's choice, and
once more the constant Penelope tried to put it off. She took from her
safe treasure-chamber the great bow of Odysseus, and she promised that
she would marry that one of the suitors who should send his arrow
through twelve rings ranged in a line. All other weapons were taken
away by the care of Telemachus; there was nothing but the great bow and
quiver. And when all was ready, Penelope went away to her chamber to
But, first of all, no one could string the bow. Suitor after suitor
tried and failed. The sturdy wood stood unbent against the strongest.
Last of all, Odysseus begged leave to try, and was laughed to scorn.
Telemachus, however, as if for courtesy's sake, gave him the bow; and
the strange beggar bent it easily, adjusted the cord, and before any
could stay his hand he sped the arrow from the string. Singing with
triumph, it flew straight through the twelve rings and quivered in the
"Now for another mark!" cried Odysseus in the king's own voice. He
turned upon the most evil-hearted suitor. Another arrow hissed and
struck, and the man fell pierced.
Telemachus sprang to his father's side, Eumaeus stood by him, and the
fighting was short and bitter. One by one they slew those insolent
suitors; for the right was theirs, and Athena stood by them, and the
time was come. Every one of the false-hearted wooers they laid low, and
every corrupt servant in that house; then they made the place clean and
But the old nurse Eurycleia hastened up to Queen Penelope, where she
sat in fear and wonder, crying, "Odysseus is returned! Come and see
with thine own eyes!"
After twenty years of false tales, the poor queen could not believe her
ears. She came down into the hall bewildered, and looked at the
stranger as one walking in a dream. Even when Athena had given him back
his youth and kingly looks, she stood in doubt, so that her own son
reproached her and Odysseus was grieved in spirit.
But when he drew near and called her by her name, entreating her by all
the tokens that she alone knew, her heart woke up and sang like a brook
set free in spring! She knew him then for her husband Odysseus, come
home at last.
Surely that was happiness enough to last them ever after.
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