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Stories of the Ancient Greeks by  Charles D. Shaw

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A FRIENDLY LAND

[119]

I
T was the island of Calypso upon which Ulysses had been cast. She was a sea-nymph, or goddess of the sea. She treated the stranger well, and he remained on the island for some time, but at last he built for himself a raft, took some food on board, and pushed off into the broad sea.


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THE WRECKED ULYSSES

After floating for many days his raft was broken in a storm, but he reached land at the mouth of a gentle river. Near the shore was a wood, where he heaped leaves together and lay down to sleep, very tired but very glad to be safe on dry ground.

The land was called Scheria, and the people living there were happy and peaceful. They had neither swords nor bows. Their chief business and great delight was sailing ships.

That very night, while Ulysses was sleeping under the trees, the king's daughter had a dream. Athene appeared to her and said, "My child, do you remember that your wedding day will soon be here? The family should all be dressed in clean white robes that will shine like silver. Go to-morrow with your maidens, and see that every garment of the household is well and carefully washed, to be ready for the great occasion."

[120] The princess was named Nausicaa. In the morning she asked her father and mother if they did not think it was time to have the family washing done. They said, "Yes," and the king ordered the chariot to be got ready and loaded with clothes. A good supply of food was also put in, and the princess took the driver's seat and handled the reins. The maidens followed on foot and the procession moved toward the river.

When the clothes were washed and spread out to dry, the girls ate their dinner and began to play ball. The ball, rolled into the river; whereupon the maidens screamed, and Ulysses awoke.

He came out of the woods, a wretched object. His hair and beard were long and tangled, his eyes were wild with hunger, his clothes were few and miserable. When the maidens saw him, they ran away frightened. But the king's daughter stood still, for she was of royal blood and not a coward.

Ulysses broke off a leafy branch from a tree, and held it before him to hide his raggedness. He told the princess that he was a shipwrecked stranger and asked her help. She called back her maidens and gave him food and some of her brother's clothes, which had been in the chariot. Then she drove home, telling him to follow at a little distance.

On the way Athene met him, gave him some advice, and hid him in a cloud that he might go unseen through the city. He saw the harbor, the ships, the houses, and the people, yet reached the palace unnoticed. Its doors were gold, its doorposts of silver. Near it was a garden [121] full of delicious fruits and flowers. Everything outside the house was charming, as everything within was peaceful. The king, his family, and the great men, were sitting at supper. The cloud melted away, and they saw Ulysses, standing in the middle of the hall. He went to the queen and knelt before her, and asked her kind help to reach his native country. Then he took a seat by the fire, as beggars did in those days.

The king said to his son, "It would be like a prince to give the stranger your place." The youth rose up, took Ulysses by the hand and led him to a seat, where he ate and drank among the nobles of the land.

After the feast, when the others had gone away to their homes, he told the king and queen his story. They promised him a ship which should take him to his own kingdom.

The next day the chief men agreed with the king that the stranger should be kindly sent home. A ship and its rowers were chosen, and all went to the palace for a farewell feast. Afterwards in the arena, the young men held games, with running, wrestling, and other sports. They invited Ulysses to take part, but he asked to be excused.

One of the young men said, "Why do you trouble the stranger? He is old, his joints are stiff, he is not able to do what we can do!"

Ulysses found a quoit, or weight, much heavier than had yet been thrown, and sent it whirling through the air. It fell far beyond the best throw made by any of the young men.

[122] They went back to the hall, and a blind bard, or minstrel, was led in. He sang about the wooden horse and the fall of Troy. The company was pleased, but it brought back old times to the memory of Ulysses, and his eyes were filled with tears.

The king said, "Noble stranger, you weep! Why does the song make you sorrowful? Did you lose at Troy a father, a brother or a dear friend?"

Ulysses stood up and said, "I was at Troy. The wooden horse was made by my advice. I fought beside the Greek heroes and saw many of them fall. I weep for the days and men that are no more."

He told them all his story. They gave him rich presents and sent him home. When the ship reached the port he was asleep. The sailors did not waken him, but carried him and his chests of presents to the shore; then they sailed away to their own land.


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