Straightway the doors of the women’s apartment were flung open, and Eurycleia appeared. She saw Odysseus amongst the bodies of the dead, all stained with blood. She would have cried out in triumph if Odysseus had not restrained her. ‘Rejoice within thine own heart,’ he said, ’but do not cry aloud, for it is an unholy thing to triumph over men lying dead. These men the gods themselves have overcome, because of their own hard and unjust hearts.’
As he spoke the women came out of their chambers, carrying torches in their hands. They fell upon Odysseus and embraced him and clasped and kissed his hands. A longing came over him to weep, for he remembered them from of old—every one of the servants who were there.
Eurycleia, the old nurse, went to the upper chamber where Penelope lay in her bed. She bent over her and called out, ’Awake, Penelope, dear child. Come down and see with thine own eyes what hath happened. The wooers are overthrown. And he whom thou hast ever longed to see hath come back. Odysseus, thy husband, hath returned. He hath slain the proud wooers who have troubled thee for so long.’
But Penelope only looked at the nurse, for she thought that her brain had been turned.
Still Eurycleia kept on saying, ’In very deed Odysseus is here. He is that guest whom all the wooers dishonour in the hall.’
Then hearing Eurycleia say these words, Penelope sprang out of bed and put her arms round the nurse’s neck. ’O tell me—if what thou dost say be true—tell me how this stranger slew the wooers, who were so many.’
‘I did not see the slaying,’ Eurycleia said, ’but I heard the groaning of the men as they were slain. And then I found Odysseus standing amongst many dead men, and it comforted my heart to see him standing there like a lion aroused. Come with me now, lady, that you may both enter into your heart’s delight—you that have suffered so much of affliction. Thy lord hath come alive to his own hearth, and he hath found his wife and his son alive and well.’
‘Ah no!’ said Penelope, ’ah no, Odysseus hath not returned. He who hath slain the wooers is one of the deathless gods, come down to punish them for their injustice and their hardheartedness. Odysseus long ago lost the way of his returning, and he is lying dead in some far-off land.’
‘No, no,’ said Eurycleia. ’I can show thee that it is Odysseus indeed who is in the hall. On his foot is the scar that the tusk of a boar gave him in the old days. I spied it when I was washing his feet last night, and I would have told thee of it, but he clapped a hand across my mouth to stop my speech. Lo, I stake my life that it is Odysseus, and none other who is in the hall below.’
Saying this she took Penelope by the hand and led her from the upper chamber into the hall. Odysseus was standing by a tall pillar. He waited there for his wife to come and speak to him. But Penelope stood still, and gazed long upon him, and made no step towards him.