‘Is there a wedding-feast in the house?’ the stranger asked, ’or do the men of your clan meet here to drink with each other?’
A flush of shame came to the face of Telemachus. ’There is no wedding-feast here,’ he said, ’nor do the men of our clan meet here to drink with each other. Listen to me, my guest. Because you look so wise and because you seem so friendly to my father’s name I will tell you who these men are and why they trouble this house.’
Thereupon, Telemachus told the stranger how his father had not returned from the war of Troy although it was now ten years since the City was taken by those with whom he went. ‘Alas,’ Telemachus said, ’he must have died on his way back to us, and I must think that his bones lie under some nameless strait or channel of the ocean. Would he had died in the fight at Troy! Then the Kings and Princes would have made him a burial-mound worthy of his name and his deeds. His memory would have been reverenced amongst men, and I, his son, would have a name, and would not be imposed upon by such men as you see here—men who are feasting and giving orders in my father’s house and wasting the substance that he gathered.’
‘How come they to be here?’ asked the stranger. Telemachus told him about this also. When seven years had gone by from the fall of Troy and still Odysseus did not return there were those who thought he was dead and would never be seen more in the land of Ithaka. Then many of the young lords of the land wanted Penelope, Telemachus’ mother, to marry one of them. They came to the house to woo her for marriage. But she, mourning for the absence of Odysseus and ever hoping that he would return, would give no answer to them. For three years now they were coming to the house of Odysseus to woo the wife whom he had left behind him. ‘They want to put my lady-mother between two dread difficulties,’ said Telemachus, ’either to promise to wed one of them or to see the substance of our house wasted by them. Here they come and eat the bread of our fields, and slay the beasts of our flocks and herds, and drink the wine that in the old days my father laid up, and weary our servants with their orders.’
When he had told him all this Telemachus raised his head and looked at the stranger: ‘O my guest,’ he said, ’wisdom and power shine out of your eyes. Speak now to me and tell me what I should do to save the house of Odysseus from ruin. And tell me too if you think it possible that my father should still be in life.’
The stranger looked at him with his grey, clear, wonderfully-shining eyes. ‘Art thou verily the son of Odysseus?’ said he.
‘Verily, I am the son of Odysseus,’ said Telemachus.
‘As I look at you,’ said the stranger, ’I mark your head and eyes, and I know they are such a head and such eyes as Odysseus had. Well, being the son of such a man, and of such a woman as the lady Penelope, your spirit surely shall find a way of destroying those wooers who would destroy your house.’