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pages filled the mixing-bowls with wine and water, and they laid their hands upon the
good things that were before them. As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink
they wanted music and dancing, which are the crowning embellishments of a banquet,
so a servant brought a lyre to Phemius, whom they compelled perforce to sing to them.
As soon as he touched his lyre and began to sing Telemachus spoke low to Minerva,
with his head close to hers that no man might hear.

“I hope, sir,” said he, “that you will not be offended with what I am going to say.
Singing comes cheap to those who do not pay for it, and all this is done at the cost of
one whose bones lie rotting in some wilderness or grinding to powder in the surf. If
these men were to see my father come back to Ithaca they would pray for longer legs
rather than a longer purse, for money would not serve them; but he, alas, has fallen on
an ill fate, and even when people do sometimes say that he is coming, we no longer
heed them; we shall never see him again. And now, sir, tell me and tell me true, who
you are and where you come from. Tell me of your town and parents, what manner of
ship you came in, how your crew brought you to Ithaca, and of what nation they
declared themselves to be-for you cannot have come by land. Tell me also truly, for I
want to know, are you a stranger to this house, or have you been here in my father’s
time? In the old days we had many visitors for my father went about much himself.”
And Minerva answered, “I will tell you truly and particularly all about it. I am Mentes,
son of Anchialus, and I am King of the Taphians. I have come here with my ship and
crew, on a voyage to men of a foreign tongue being bound for Temesa with a cargo of
iron, and I shall bring back copper. As for my ship, it lies over yonder off the open
country away from the town, in the harbour Rheithron under the wooded mountain
Neritum. Our fathers were friends before us, as old Laertes will tell you, if you will go
and ask him. They say, however, that he never comes to town now, and lives by
himself in the country, faring hardly, with an old woman to look after him and get his
dinner for him, when he comes in tired from pottering about his vineyard. They told
me your father was at home again, and that was why I came, but it seems the gods are
still keeping him back, for he is not dead yet not on the mainland. It is more likely he is
on some sea-girt island in mid ocean, or a prisoner among savages who are detaining
him against his will I am no prophet, and know very little about omens, but I speak as
it is borne in upon me from heaven, and assure you that he will not be away much
longer; for he is a man of such resource that even though he were in chains of iron he
would find some means of getting home again. But tell me, and tell me true, can
Ulysses really have such a fine looking fellow for a son? You are indeed wonderfully
like him about the head and eyes, for we were close friends before he set sail for Troy
where the flower of all the Argives went also. Since that time we have never either of us
seen the other.” “My mother,” answered Telemachus, tells me I am son to Ulysses, but
it is a wise child that knows his own father. Would that I were son to one who had
grown old upon his own estates, for, since you ask me, there is no more ill-starred man
under heaven than he who they tell me is my father.” And Minerva said, “There is no
fear of your race dying out yet, while Penelope has such a fine son as you are. But tell
me, and tell me true, what is the meaning of all this feasting, and who are these people?
What is it all about? Have you some banquet, or is there a wedding in the family-for
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