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The Odyssey for Boys and Girls by  Alfred J. Church


 

 

NAUSICAA

[145] WHILE Ulysses was still asleep, Athené thought how she might make friends for him in this new country to which he had come. So she went to the palace of the king of the country, and to that room of the palace in which the king's daughter slept. This daughter was called Nausicaa, and she was as beautiful a girl as there was in the whole world. And Athené made Nausicaa dream a dream, and the dream was this. She thought that a very dear friend of hers, a girl of the same age, daughter of a famous sailor called Dymas, stood by her bed-side and spoke to her. And what the girl seemed to say in the dream was this:—

"Nausicaa, how is it that your good mother has such a careless child? All your clothes lie unwashed, and this though your wedding day will soon be here, when you [146] must have clean clothing for yourself and for your bridesmaids. The bride who is prepared with these things is well spoken of by everybody. As soon as it is morning, rise from your bed and go and wash the clothes, and I will come with you to help you. But first go to the king, your father, and ask him to give you a waggon and mules to draw it, that you may take the clothes to the washing places near the sea."


[Illustration]

NAUSICAA'S DREAM

When Nausicaa woke in the morning, she remembered her dream, and all the words that her friend had said came back to her. So she went to look for her father and mother. Her mother she found spinning with her maids; the yarn that they were spinning was dyed with a lovely purple, of the colour of the sea. And her mother said that the clothes certainly should be washed. Then Nausicaa went to look for her father. Him she found, just as he was going to hold a council with his chiefs. She said to him: "Father, let me have the waggon with the mules, that I may take the clothes to the river to wash them. You like to have clean robes when you go to the council, and there [147] are my five brothers, too, who like to be nicely dressed for the dance."

But she said nothing about her wedding day, for she was a little shy. But her father knew what she was thinking about, and said:

"Dear child, I don't grudge you the mules, nor the waggon, nor anything else. The men shall get them ready for you."

So he called to his men, and they made the waggon ready, and harnessed the mules. And Nausicaa brought down the clothes that had to be washed from her chamber, and put them in the waggon. And her mother filled a basket with good things for her daughter and her maids to eat, and she gave them a skin bottle of wine, and a flask of olive oil, to be used after they had bathed. So Nausicaa and her maids got into the waggon, and she took the reins in her hands, and touched the mules with her whip. The mules started off at a trot, and did not halt till they reached the places by the river where the clothes were to be washed.

The girls undid the harness from the mules, and let them feed on the sweet clover that grew by the river side. And they took [148] the clothes from the waggon, and put them into trenches that had been dug out for washing places. If they had tried to wash them in the river itself, they would have been carried away by the stream. The trenches were filled with water, but it was quite still. So they laid the clothes in them, and trod on them and washed them till all were quite clean. Then they took them out of the trenches, and laid them to dry on the shingle by the sea. After this they all bathed in the sea, and anointed themselves with the olive oil. Then they sat down to eat and drink by the river side. And when they had had enough, they got up to have a game at ball. As they played, they sang, and Nausicaa led the singing. They were tall and beautiful, all of them, but the princess was taller than all the others.

So when they had ended their play, and had taken up the dry clothes from the shingle where they had been laid, and had folded them up, and put them in the waggon, and were about to harness the mules, this thing happened. Athené put it into the mind of [151] the princess to take up the ball, and throw it for sport to one of the maids, though, as has been said, the play was ended. So wide did she throw it that it fell into the river, and all the maids cried out, fearing that it might be lost. So loudly did they cry, that they woke Ulysses. And he said to himself: "What land is this to which I have come? I wonder whether the people who live in it are savage or kind to strangers? And what was this cry that I heard? It sounded to me like the voice of nymphs." Then he looked out from the place where he was lying, and saw the princess and her maids. They were not far from him, for they had come down to the river to look for the ball. So he broke a bough full of leaves from off a tree which stood by, and twisted it round his middle, and came out of his hiding place, and went towards the maids. They were very much afraid when they saw him, and ran away; and indeed he looked very wild and fierce. But Nausicaa did not run, but stood where she was. Then Ulysses said to himself: "Shall I go up to her and clasp her knees?" (This was what people used to [152] do in those days, when they wanted to ask a great favour.) "But perhaps this will make her angry. Would it not be better to stand where I am, and speak?"

This he did, saying: "O queen, I beg you to be kind to me. Maybe you are a goddess. But if you are a woman, then your father is a happy man, and happy your brothers, and happiest of all he who is to be your husband. Never did I see man or woman so fair. You are like a young palm-tree that I once saw springing up by a temple in the island of Delos. Have pity on me, for I have been cast up here by the sea, and have nothing. Give me something to put on—a wrapper of linen, maybe, and show me the way to the city."

Nausicaa said: "You do not look like a bad or foolish man; as for the sad plight in which you are, the gods give good luck to some, and bad luck to others. You shall have clothing and food, and everything that you need. And I will take you to the city, for I am daughter to the king of this country. And the name of the country, if you wish to know it, is the Island of Phaeacia."

[153] Then the princess turned to the maids, and said: "Why do you run away when you see a man? No one comes here to do us harm, for the gods love us and take care of us. And besides, we live in an island, and so are safe. But if some one upon whom trouble has fallen comes here, we ought to help him. Give this man, therefore, food and drink, and let him wash in the river in some place that is out of the wind."

So the maids led him down to the river, and gave him clothes: a tunic to wear next to his skin, and a cloak to put over the tunic. Also they gave him a flask of olive oil, to use after he had his bath. Then they left him to himself, and he bathed in the river, and washed the salt from his skin, and out of his hair, and rubbed the oil on his body, and put on the tunic and the cloak. And Athené made him look taller and fairer than he was, and caused the hair to grow thicker and darker on his head. So he sat down on the sea-shore, and waited. And when the princess saw him, she said: "Surely it is the gods who have brought this man here. When I saw him first, I thought that [154] he was not uncomely, but now he seems more like a god than a man. I should be well contented to have such a man for my husband, and perhaps he may be willing to stay in this country." Then she turned to the maids, and said: "Give the stranger food and drink." So they gave him, and he ate ravenously, for he had had a long fast, for it was now the third day since the raft had been broken by the sea, and all the store of food and drink which Calypso had given him had been lost.

Then Nausicaa told the maids to harness the mules, and she said to Ulysses: "Come stranger, with me, and I will take you to my father's house. But now listen, and do as I shall tell you; as long as we are in the country, follow with the maids, and keep close to the waggon. But when we come to the city, then drop behind. This is how you will know the place. There is a narrow passage leading to the city gate, and on each side of the passage there is a harbour. Then you will see a grove of poplar trees, and a spring in the midst of the grove, with grass round it. Stay there till I shall have [155] had time to reach my father's house. Now the reason why I would have you do so is this. I do not wish the common people to gossip about me. If they were to see you following close after the chariot, one of them might say: 'Who is this tall and handsome stranger that comes with Nausicaa? Will he be her husband? Is he a god come down from heaven, or is he a man from some place over the sea? The princess is too proud, it seems, to marry one of us.' I would not have such words spoken about me. Stay, then, in the grove till you think that I have got to my home. Then come out, and pass through the gate, and ask for the king's palace. Any one, even a child, can tell you the way, for there is not another house in the city like it. And when you have come to it, pass quickly through the hall to the place where my mother sits. It is on one side of the hearth, and my father's is on the other. Do not speak to him, but lay hold of my mother's knees, and beg of her that she will send you safely home."

Then she touched the mules with the whip, and they set off. But the princess was [156] careful not to drive so fast but that Ulysses and the maids could easily keep up with the waggon. And when the sun was about to set, they came to the city, and Ulysses stayed behind the grove, but Nausicaa with the maids went on to the palace. When she came thither, her brothers unyoked the mules from the waggon and carried the linen into the house, and she went to her room, where her maid lit a fire for her and prepared a meal.


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