Odyssey for Boys and Girls - Alfred J. Church

How Telemachus Came to Sparta

It happened that on the very day when Telemăchus and Nestor's son came to Sparta, King MenelaŘs had a double wedding in his house. His daughter HermionÚ was married to the son of Achilles, and he had found a wife in one of the noble families of the country for his son, whose name was Megapenthes. So when the two young men drove the chariot up to the door of the palace, the king's steward was a little vexed, and he said to himself: "We have quite enough to do already, and here are two strangers whom we shall have to entertain." So he went to the king and said: "Here are two strangers at the door. Shall we keep them here, or shall we send them on to another house?"

MenelaŘs was very angry, and answered: "What? shall we, who have been guests in so many houses, turn away guests from our door? Not so; unharness their horses, and bid them sit down and eat."

So the steward gave orders to the grooms that they should unharness the horses, and take them to the stables, and give them corn to eat. And to the young men he said: "Will you please to get down from your chariot and come in?" So the two got down, and he led them into the king's hall. A wonderful place it was, as bright as if the sun or the moon was shining in it. And when they had looked about them, the steward took them to the baths, which were of polished marble. And when they had bathed they came back to the hall, and the king himself told them to sit down by him. So they sat down, and first a maid brought silver basins, and poured water into them from a golden jug, that they might wash their hands. After this the old housekeeper came and put a polished table before them, and on the table she set dainty dishes and plates and golden bowls of wine and cups. And the king told a servant to bring a chine of beef, which was his own portion, and bade them eat. When they had had enough, Telemăchus said to his friend: "See the gold and the silver and the amber and the ivory. This must be as fine as the hall of the gods."

This he said with his face close to his friend's ear, but the king heard it, and said: "Nay, my son, nothing upon earth can be compared with the hall of the gods; and, it may be, there are other men who have things as fine as these. Yet fine they are; I have wandered far to get them. But alas! while I was getting them, my own dear brother was wickedly slain in his own home. I would give them all if he were alive again, he and other good friends of mine. Many are gone; but there is none whom I miss more than Ulysses. And no man knows whether he is alive or dead." And when Telemăchus heard his father's name, he held up his cloak before his eyes and wept. MenelaŘs saw him, and knew who he was, for, indeed, as has been said, he was very like his father. Then he thought to himself, "Shall I speak to him about his father, or shall I wait till he speaks himself?"

Just then Helen herself came into the hall, and three maids with her. One set a couch for her to sit on, and another spread a carpet for her feet, and the third had a basket of purple wool for her to spin. And she had a distaff of gold in her hands. When she saw the strangers she said:—

"Who are these, MenelaŘs? Never have I seen any one so like to Ulysses as is this young man. Surely this must be Telemăchus, whom he left a baby in his home when he went to Troy."

And the king said: "It is true, lady. These are the hands and feet of Ulysses; and he has the same look in his eyes, and his hair is of the same colour."

Then all shed tears; Helen and the king and Telemăchus, and also Nestor's son. How could he help it when his friends were so sad? And, besides, he thought how his own dear brother had gone to Troy and had never come back. But he was the first to stop his tears, for he said to the king: "Is it well to weep in this way while we sit at meat? There is a time to mourn for the dead, to weep and to crop close the hair; but there is also a time to rejoice."

"You are right," said the king. "You are the wise son of a wise father. Yes, we will weep no more. As for Telemăchus, he and I have much to say to each other. Let that be to-morrow; but now we will eat and drink."

Then the fair Helen took a certain medicine, and mixed it in the wine that they were about to drink. It was an herb, and it grew in the land of Egypt, and the wife of the king of Egypt had given it her. It was called Painless, and it was a wonderful medicine; for if any one drank the wine in which it was mixed, he could feel no pain or grief—no, not though his father and mother should die, or his son or his brother should be killed before his eyes. So they sat and drank wine and talked together. And one of the matters about which they talked was the wisdom of Ulysses. Then Helen told this story:—

"While the Greeks were besieging the city of Troy, Ulysses disguised himself as a beggar man and came to the gate of the city, and desired to speak with some of the chief men. It could be seen that he had many weals and bruises upon his body, as if he had been cruelly beaten; and, indeed, he had beaten himself. So they brought him to me, knowing that he was a Greek. And when I saw him I knew who he was, and I asked him many questions. Very cunningly did he answer them. But I promised him that I would not make him known. So he sent about the city, and found out many things that the Greeks desired to know. Also he killed some of the Trojans stealthily. Other women in Troy mourned and lamented, but I was glad; for I desired to go again to my home."

Then MenelaŘs said: "You speak truly, lady. Ulysses is indeed the wisest of men. I have travelled over many lands, but never have I seen any one who could be matched with him. Well do I remember how, when I and other chiefs of the Greeks were hidden in the Wooden Horse, you came with one of the princes of Troy and walked round the horse. Some one of the gods who loved the Trojans had put it into your heart to do this. Three times you walked round, and you called to each of us by name, and when you called you imitated the voice of the man's wife. And so well you did it that we could not believe but that our wives were truly calling to us. Then Diomed would have answered, and I too, but Ulysses would not let us speak, for he knew what it really was. Thus he saved the Greeks that day."

Then Telemăchus said: "Yet all his wisdom has not kept him from perishing."

After that they went to their beds and slept.