2.XV A MASSACRE

                                           XV

 

It is ended,’ Odysseus said, ‘My test is ended. Now will I have another mark.’ Saying this, he put the bronze-weighted arrow against the string of the bow, and shot at the first of his enemies.

It was at Antinous he pointed the arrow—at Antinous who was even then lifting up a golden cup filled with wine, and who was smiling, with death far from his thoughts. Odysseus aimed at him, and hit him with the arrow in the throat and the point passed out clean through his neck. The wine cup fell from his hands and Antinous fell dead across the table. Then all the suitors cried out, threatening Odysseus for sending an arrow astray. It did not come into their minds that this stranger-beggar had aimed to kill Antinous.

But Odysseus shouted back to them, ‘You dogs, you that said in your hearts that Odysseus would never return to his home, you who wasted my wealth, and troubled my wife, and injured my servants; you who showed no fear of heaven, nor of the just judgments of men; see Odysseus returned, and know what death is waiting for you!’

Then Eurymachus shouted out, ‘Friends, this man will not stop shooting with the bow, until all of us are dead. Now must we battle with him. Draw your swords and hold up the tables in front of you for shields and advance on him.’

But even as he spoke Odysseus, with a terrible cry, shot an arrow at him and it went through his chest. He let the sword fall from his hand, and he too fell dead on the floor.

One of them rushed straight at Odysseus with his sword in hand. But Telemachus was at hand, and he drove his spear through this man’s shoulders. Then Telemachus ran quickly to a room where there were weapons and armour. The swineherd and the cattleherd joined him, and all three put armour on. Odysseus, as long as he had arrows to defend himself, kept shooting at and killing the wooers. When all the arrows were gone, he put the helmet on his head and took up the shield that Telemachus had brought, and the two great spears.

But now Melanthius, the goatherd who was the enemy of Odysseus, got into the room where the arms were kept, and brought out spears and shields and helmets, and gave them to the suitors. Seeing the goatherd go back for more arms, Telemachus and Eumæus rushed into the room, and caught him and bound him with a rope, and dragged him up to the roof beams, and left him hanging there. Then they closed and bolted the door, and stood on guard.

Many of the suitors lay dead on the floor of the hall. One who was called Agelaus told the suitors to throw spears at Odysseus. But not one of the spears they threw struck him, for Odysseus was able to avoid them all.

Then he told Telemachus and Eumæus and Philœtius to throw their spears. When they threw them with Odysseus, each one struck a man, and four of the suitors fell down. And again Odysseus told them to throw their spears, and again they threw them, and killed their men. They drove those who remained from one end of the hall to the other, and killed them all.

Straightaway the doors of the women’s rooms were thrown open, and Eurycleia appeared. She saw Odysseus standing 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 your own heart,’ he said, ‘but do not cry aloud, for it is an unholy thing to celebrate over men lying dead. These men the gods themselves have defeated, because of their own hard and unjust hearts.’

As he spoke the women came out of their rooms, carrying torches in their hands. They fell on Odysseus and embraced him and hugged and kissed his hands. A longing came over him to weep, for he remembered them from long ago—every one of the servants who were there.