Thus from Menelaus the youth Telemachus got tiding of his father. When the King ceased to speak they went from the hall with torches in their hands and came to the vestibule where Helen’s handmaids had prepared beds for Telemachus and Peisistratus. And as he lay there under purple blankets and soft coverlets, the son of Odysseus thought upon his father, still in life, but held in that unknown island by the nymph Calypso.
His ship and his fellow-voyagers waited at Pylos but for a while longer Telemachus bided in Sparta, for he would fain hear from Menelaus and from Helen the tale of Troy. Many days he stayed, and on the first day Menelaus told him of Achilles, the greatest of the heroes who had fought against Troy, and on another day the lady Helen told him of Hector, the noblest of all the men who defended King Priam’s City.
‘Achilles,’ said King Menelaus, ’was sprung of a race that was favoured by the immortals. Peleus, the father of Achilles, had for his friend, Cheiron, the wisest of the Centaurs—of those immortals who are half men and half horse. Cheiron it was who gave to Peleus his great spear. And when Peleus desired to wed an immortal, Zeus, the greatest of the gods, prevailed upon the nymph Thetis to marry him, although marriage with a mortal was against her will. To the wedding of Thetis and Peleus all the gods came. And for wedding gifts Zeus gave such armour as no mortal had ever worn before—armour wonderfully bright and wonderfully strong, and he gave also two immortal horses.
’Achilles was the child of Thetis and Peleus—of an immortal woman married to a mortal hero. He grew up most strong and fleet of foot. When he was grown to be a youth he was sent to Cheiron, and his father’s friend instructed him in all the ways of war. He became the greatest of spearmen, and on the mountain with the Centaur he gained in strength and in fleetness of foot.
’Now after he returned to his father’s hall the war against Troy began to be prepared for. Agamemnon, the king, wanted Achilles to join the host. But Thetis, knowing that great disasters would befall those who went to that war, feared for Achilles. She resolved to hide him so that no word from King Agamemnon might reach him. And how did the nymph Thetis hide her son? She sent him to King Lycomedes and prayed the King to hide Achilles amongst his daughters.
’So the youth Achilles was dressed as a maiden and stayed with the daughters of the King. The messengers of Agamemnon searched everywhere for him. Many of them came to the court of King Lycomedes, but not finding one like Achilles amongst the King’s sons they went away.
’Odysseus, by Agamemnon’s order, came to seek Achilles. He knew that the youth was not amongst the King’s sons. He saw the King’s daughters in their father’s orchard, but could not tell if Achilles was amongst them, for all were veiled and dressed alike.