’She was an immortal, Eidothee, a daughter of the Ancient One of the Sea. I craved of her to tell me how we might get away from that place, and she counselled me to take by an ambush her father, the Ancient One of the Sea, who is also called Proteus, “You can make him tell you,” said she, “for he knows all things, what you must do to get away from this island of Pharos. Moreover, he can declare to you what happened to the heroes you have been separated from, and what has taken place in your own hall.”
’Then said I to that kind nymph Eidothee, “Show me how I may take by an ambush your immortal father, the Ancient One of the Sea."’
’Said Eidothee, “My father, Proteus, comes out of the sea when the sun is highest in the heavens. Then would he lie down to sleep in the caves that are along the shore. But before he goes to sleep he counts, as a shepherd counts his flock, the seals that come up out of the ocean and lie round where he lies. If there be one too many, or one less than there should be, he will not go to sleep in the cave. But I will show you how you and certain of your companions may be near without the Ancient One of the Sea being aware of your presence. Take three of your men—the three you trust above all the others—and as soon as it is dawn to-morrow meet me by the edge of the sea."’
’So saying the nymph Eidothee plunged into the sea and I went from that place anxious, but with hope in my heart.
’Now as soon as the dawn had come I walked by the sea-shore and with me came the three that I trusted above all my companions. The daughter of the Ancient One of the Sea, Eidothee, came to us. In her arms she had the skins of seals newly-slain, one for each of us. And at the cave where the seals lay she scooped holes in the sand and bade us lie there, covering ourselves with the skins. Then she spoke to me and said:
’"When my father, the Ancient One of the Sea, comes here to sleep, lay hands upon him and hold him with all the strength you have. He will change himself into many shapes, but do not you let go your hold upon him. When he changes back into the shape he had at first you may let go your holds. Question him then as to how you may leave this place, or question him as to any other matter that may be on your mind, and he will answer you, speaking the truth."’
’We lay down in the holes she had scooped in the sand and she covered each of us with one of the skins she had brought. Then the seals came out of the sea and lay all around us. The smell that came from those beasts of the sea afflicted us, and it was then that our adventure became terrible. We could not have endured it if Eidothee had not helped us in this also. She took ambrosia and set it beneath each man’s nostril, so that what came to us was not the smell of the sea-beasts but a divine savour. Then the nymph went back to the sea.
’We lay there with steadfast hearts amongst the herd of seals until the sun was at its highest in the heavens. The Ancient One of the Sea came out of the ocean depths. He went amongst the seals and counted them, and us four men he reckoned amongst his herd. Then in great contentment he laid himself down to sleep.