HOW ODYSSEUS CAME HOME
 While yet Telemachus sought news of his
father, Odysseus was wellnigh home. On
that misty morning when he found himself
in Ithaca, and did not know it, because the
grey fog made everything seem strange and
unfriendly, Odysseus was very sad as he sat
beside the moaning sea.
Then came Athene, and drove the mist before
her, and Odysseus saw again the land that he
loved, and knew that his wanderings were
past. She told him the tale of the wooers,
and of the unhappiness of Penelope and
Telemachus, and the heart of Odysseus grew hot
'Stand by me!' he said to the goddess. 'If
thou of thy grace wilt help me, I myself will
fight three hundred men.'
'Truly I will stand by thee,' said Athene, and
 many of the greedy wooers shall stain the
earth with their blood.'
She then told Odysseus how the wooers
were to be destroyed, and Odysseus gladly
agreed to her plans. First she made him
hide far in the darkness of the cave, under the
olive-tree, all the gold and bronze ornaments
and beautiful clothes that had been given to
him in the land of Nausicaa.
Then she touched him with her golden wand.
In a moment his yellow hair fell off his head;
his bright eyes were dim; his skin was withered
and wrinkled, and he had a stooping back and
tottering legs like a feeble old man. His
clothes of purple and silver she changed into
torn and filthy old rags, and over his shoulders
she threw the old skin of a stag with the hair
'Go now,' said Athene, 'to where thy faithful
swineherd sits on the hill, watching his swine
as they grub amongst the acorns and drink of
the clear spring. He has always been true
to thee and to thy wife and son. Stay with
him and hear all that he has to tell, and I will
go and fetch home Telemachus.'
 'When thou didst know all, why didst thou
not tell Telemachus?' asked Odysseus. 'Is
he, too, to go wandering over stormy seas, far
from his own land?'
'Telemachus will be a braver man for what
he has gone through,' said Athene. 'No harm
shall come to him, although the wooers in
their black ship wait to slay him.'
Then Athene flew across the sea, and
Odysseus climbed up a rough track through
the woods to where the swineherd had built
himself a hut. The hut was made of stones
and thorn branches, and beside it were sties
for the swine made in the same way. The
wooers had eaten many swine at their daily
feasts, but thousands remained. These the
swineherd tended, with three men and four
fierce dogs to help him.
At an open space on the hill, from whence
he could look down at the woods and the sea,
Odysseus found the swineherd sitting at the
door of his but making himself a pair of
sandals out of a brown oxhide.
When the swineherd's dogs saw a dirty,
bent old man toiling up the hill, they rushed
 at him, barking furiously. Up they leapt on
him and would have torn him to pieces if their
master had not cast away his oxhide, dashed
after them, scolded them and beaten them, and
then driven them off with showers of stones.
'If my dogs had killed thee I should have
been for ever ashamed,' he said to Odysseus,
and without that I have enough sorrow. For
while my noble master may be wandering in
a strange land and lacking food, I have to
feed his fat swine for others to eat.'
So speaking, he led Odysseus to his hut.
He laid some brushwood on the floor, spread
over it the soft, shaggy skin of a wild goat,
and bade Odysseus be seated. Then he went
out to the sties, killed two sucking pigs, and
roasted them daintily. When they were ready
he cut off the choicest bits and gave them
to Odysseus, with a bowl of honey-sweet wine.
While Odysseus ate and drank, the swine-herd
talked to him of the greed and wastefulness
of the wooers, and in silence Odysseus
listened, planning in his heart how he might
'Tell me thy master's name,' he said at
 length. 'I have travelled in many lands.
Perchance I may have seen him, and may give
thee news of him.'
But the swineherd answered—
'Each vagrant who comes straying to the
land of Ithaca goes to my mistress with lying
tales of how he has seen or heard of my
master. She receives them all kindly, and
asks many questions, while tears run down
her cheeks. You, too, old man, would quickly
make up a story if any one would give thee
some new clothes. My master is surely dead,
and wherever I may go I shall never again find
a lord so gentle.'
Then said Odysseus—
'My friend, I swear to thee that Odysseus shall
return. In this year, as the old moon wanes and
the new is born, he shall return to his home.'
When the other herds returned that evening
they found Odysseus and their master still deep
in talk. At night the swineherd made a feast
of the best that he had, and still they talked,
almost until dawn. The night was black and
stormy, and a drenching rain blotted out the
moon, but the swineherd, leaving Odysseus
 lying in the bed he had made for him, with
his own thick mantle spread over him, went
outside and lay under a rock that sheltered
him from the storm, keeping guard on the
white-tusked boars that slept around him.
And Odysseus knew that he had still at least
one servant who was faithful and true.
While Odysseus dwelt with the swineherd,
Athene sought Telemachus and bade him
hasten home. Speedily Telemachus went back
to his ship and his men. The hawsers were
loosed, the white sail hauled up, and Athene
sent a fresh breeze that made the ship cut
through the water like a white-winged bird.
It was night when they passed the island
where the wooers awaited their coming, and
in the darkness none saw them go by.
By daybreak they reached Ithaca, and
Telemachus, as Athene had bidden him, sent
on the men to the harbour with the ship,
but made them put him ashore on the woody
coast near the swineherd's dwelling.
With his bronze-shod spear in his hand,
Telemachus strode up the rocky path.
Odysseus and the swineherd had kindled a
 fire, and were preparing the morning meal,
when Odysseus heard the noise of footsteps.
He looked out and saw a tall lad with yellow
hair and bright eyes, and a fearless, noble face.
'Surely here is a friend,' he said to the
swine-herd. 'Thy dogs are not barking, but jump
up and fawn on him.'
The swineherd looked, and when he saw his
young master he wept for joy.
'I thought I should never see thee more,
sweet light of my eyes,' he said. 'Come into
my hut, that I may gladden my heart with the
sight of thee.'
He then spread before him the best he had,
and the three men ate together. Although
Odysseus seemed only a poor, ragged, old
beggar, Telemachus treated him with such
gentleness and such courtesy that Odysseus
was proud and glad of his noble son. Soon
Telemachus sent the swineherd to tell Penelope
of his safe return, and while he was gone Athene
entered the hut. She made herself invisible to
Telemachus, but beckoned to Odysseus to go
'The time is come for thee to tell thy son
 who thou art,' she said, and touched him with
her golden wand.
At once Odysseus was again a strong man,
dressed in fine robes, and radiant and beautiful
as the sun.
When he went back into the but Telemachus
thought he was a god.
'No god am I,' said Odysseus; 'I am thy
And Odysseus took his son in his arms
and kissed him, and the tears that he had
kept back until now ran down his cheeks.
Telemachus flung his arms round his father's
neck, and he, too, wept like a little child, so
glad was he that Odysseus had come home.
All day they spoke of the wooers and plotted
how to slay them.
When the swineherd returned, and Athene
had once more changed Odysseus into an old
beggar-man, he told Telemachus that the
wooers had returned, and were so furious
with Telemachus for escaping from them, that
they were going to kill him next day.
At this Telemachus smiled to his father, but
neither said a word.
 Next morning Telemachus took his spear
and said to the swineherd—
'I go to the palace to see my mother. As for
this old beggar-man, lead him to the city, that
he may beg there.'
And Odysseus, still pretending to be a beggar,
'It is better to beg in the town than in the
fields. My garments are very poor and thin,
and this frosty air chills me; but as soon as I
am warmed at the fire and the sun grows hot,
I will gladly set out.'
Down the hill to the city strode Telemachus.
When he came to the palace, his old nurse,
whom he found busy in the hall, wept for joy.
And when Penelope heard his voice, she came
from her room and cast her arms round him
and kissed his face and his eyes, and said,
while tears ran down her cheeks—
'Thou art come, sweet light of my eyes. I
thought I should never see thee more.'
Then Telemachus, looking like a young god,
with his spear in his hand and his two hounds
following at his heels, went to the hall where
the wooers sat. To his friend Mentor he told
 his adventures, but he looked on the wooers
with silence and scorn.
Soon Odysseus and the swineherd followed
him to the city. A beggar's bag, all tattered,
was slung round the shoulders of Odysseus.
In his hand he carried a staff. Men who saw
him, tattered and feeble, mocked at him and
his guide. But Odysseus kept down the anger
in his heart, and they went on to the palace.
Near the doorway, lying in the dirt, thin and
old and rough of coat, lay Argos, the dog
that long ago had been the best and fleetest
that had hunted the hares and deer with
When he heard his master's voice he wagged
his tail and tried to crawl near him. But he
was too feeble to move. He could only look
up with loving, wistful eyes that were almost
blind, and thump his tail gladly. So glad was
he that his faithful heart broke for joy, and
before Odysseus could pat his head or speak
a kind word to him, old Argos rolled over
There were tears in the eyes of Odysseus
as he walked past the body of his friend. He
 sat down on the threshold leaning on his staff,
and when Telemachus sent him bread and
meat from his table he ate hungrily. When
the meal was over he went round the hall
begging from the wooers. Some gave him
scraps of broken meats, others called him
hard names and bade him begone, and one of
them seized a footstool and struck him with it.
But Odysseus still kept down the anger in
his heart, and went back to his seat on the
threshold with his beggar's bag full of the
scraps that had been given to him.
As he sat there, a common beggar, well
known for his greed and impudence, came to
'Get thee hence, old man,' said he to
Odysseus, 'else I shall knock all thy teeth
from thy head.'
More, too, he said, rudely and roughly, and
at last he struck Odysseus.
Then Odysseus could bear no more, and
smote him such a blow on his neck that the
bones were broken, and he fell on the ground
with blood gushing from his mouth. Odysseus
dragged him outside by the heels, and propped
 him, with his staff in his hands, against the
'Sit there,' he said, 'and scare off dogs and
The wooers laughed and enjoyed the sport,
and gave gifts of food to the sturdy old
beggar, as they took Odysseus to be. All
evening they feasted and drank, but when
night fell they went to their own homes.
When they were gone Odysseus and
Telemachus carried all the helmets and swords
and sharp-pointed spears that stood in the
hall away to the armoury and hid them there.
Then Telemachus went to his room to rest,
but Odysseus sat in the hall where the
servants were clearing away the remains of the
feast. While he sat there, Penelope came with
her maids and rested on a chair in front of the
glowing wood fire on which the servants had
piled fresh logs.
She talked kindly and gently to the old
beggar-man, and bade the old nurse bring
water to wash his weary feet.
Now, once long ago, a wild boar that he
hunted had torn the leg of Odysseus with his
 tusk, and as the old nurse washed his feet
she saw the scar. In a moment she knew
her master, and cried out. The brazen bath
fell with a clang on the floor, and the water
'Thou art Odysseus,' she said; 'I did not
know thee, my dear child, until I found the
Penelope must have heard her glad cry, had
not Athene at that moment made her deep in
thoughts of other things. Quickly Odysseus
bade the old nurse be silent, and the old woman
Before Penelope went to rest she said sadly
to Odysseus: 'I feel that the end is drawing
near. Soon I shall be parted from the house
of Odysseus. My husband, who was always
the best and bravest, used to set up the twelve
axes ye see standing here, and between each
axe he shot an arrow. I have told the wooers
that I shall marry whichever one of them can
do the like. Then I shall leave this house,
which must be for ever most dear to me.'
Then answered the old beggar-man:
'Odysseus will be here when they shoot. It
 will be Odysseus who shoots between the
Penelope, longing for his words to be true,
went up to her room and lay crying on her bed
until her pillows were wet. Then Athene sent
sleep upon her eyelids and made her forget all
Odysseus, too, would have tossed all night
wide awake, with a heart full of anger and
revenge, had not Athene gently laid her hands
on his eyes and made him fall asleep.
Next day the wooers came to the palace,
and with rough jest and rude word they
'Who harms this man must fight with me,'
said Telemachus, and at that the wooers
shouted with laughter.
But a stranger who sat amongst them cried
out in a voice of fear—
'I see your hands and knees shrouded in
blackness! I see your cheeks wet with tears!
The walls and the pillars drip blood; the porch
is full of shadows, and pale ghosts are hastening
out of the grey mist that fills the palace.'
At this the wooers laughed the more, for
 they thought the man was mad. But, as in a
dream, he had seen truly what was to come to
Weeping, Penelope then brought forth from
the armoury the great bow with which
Odysseus had shot in years that were past.
Her heart was full of love for Odysseus, and
she could not bear to wed another.
Telemachus then threw aside his red cloak
and ranged out the bronze axes.
One by one the wooers tried to move the
great bow and make it drive a swift arrow
before it. One by one they failed.
And when it seemed as if no man there
was strong enough to move it, Odysseus took
it in his hands, and between each axe he shot
an arrow. When the last arrow was shot he
tore off his rags, and in a voice that rang
through the palace he cried to Telemachus:
'Now is it time to prepare supper for the
wooers! Now, at last, is this terrible trial
ended. I go to shoot at another mark!'
With that he shot an arrow at the wooer
who had ever been the most insolent and the
most cruel. It smote him in the throat, his
 blood dripped red on the ground, and he fell
The others gave a great cry of rage, but
Odysseus looked at them with burning eyes,
and with a voice that made them tremble he
'Ye dogs! ye said I should never return,
and, like the traitors ye are, ye have wasted
my goods and insulted my queen. But now
death has come for you, and none shall escape.'
In vain did the cowards, their faces pale
with fear, beg for mercy. Mercy there was
none that day. It was useless for those who
drew their swords and rushed on Odysseus
to try to slay him, for ere their swords could
touch him, his bow had driven sharp arrows
into their hearts.
One of the servants of the palace treacherously
climbed into the armoury and brought
spears and shields and helmets for the wooers.
But even that did not daunt Odysseus and
his son. Telemachus, with his spear, slew
man after man. When his arrows were done
Odysseus also snatched a spear, and they fought
side by side. Beside them fought the swineherd
 and one other man, and they all fought the
more fearlessly because, all the time, Athene
put fresh courage in their hearts.
There were four men to very many others
when that fight began. When it was ended
the floor ran with blood, and Odysseus, like
a lion at bay, stood with the dead bodies of
the wooers piled in heaps around him and
his face and hands stained with blood.
When all lay dead, the old nurse gave a
great cry of joy.
'Rejoice in thy heart, old nurse,' said
Odysseus. 'It is an unholy thing to rejoice
over slain men.'
The nurse hastened to Penelope's room.
'Penelope, dear child!' she cried, 'Odysseus
is come home, and all the wooers lie dead.'
At first Penelope would not believe her.
Too good did it seem to be true. Even when
she came down and saw Odysseus leaning
against a tall pillar in the light of the fire,
she would not believe what her own eyes saw.
'Surely, mother, thy heart is as hard as
stone,' said Telemachus. 'Dost thou not
know my father?'
 But Penelope saw only a ragged beggar-man,
soiled with the blood of the men he had
slain, old and ugly and poor.
Then Athene shed her grace upon Odysseus,
and once more he was tall and strong and
gallant to look upon, with golden hair curling
like hyacinth flowers around his head. And
Penelope ran to him and threw out her
arms, and they held each other close and
wept together like those who have suffered
shipwreck, and have been tossed for long by
angry seas, and yet have won safely home at
And when the sun went down that night on
the little rocky island of Ithaca in the far
seas, the heart of Odysseus was glad, for he
knew that his wanderings were ended.
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