"I know, and understand you,"
replied Odysseus; "you need say no more. Let us be going, but if you
have a stick ready cut, let me have it to walk with, for you say the
road is a very rough one."
As he spoke he threw his shabby
old tattered wallet over his shoulders, by the cord from which it
hung, and Eumaios gave him a stick to his liking. The two then
started, leaving the station in charge of the dogs and herdsmen who
remained behind; the swineherd led the way and his master followed
after, looking like some broken-down old tramp as he leaned upon his
staff, and his clothes were all in rags. When they had got over the
rough steep ground and were nearing the city, they reached the
fountain from which the citizens drew their water. This had been made
by Ithacus, Neritus, and Polyktor. There was a grove of water-loving
poplars planted in a circle all round it, and the clear cold water
came down to it from a rock high up, while above the fountain there
was an altar to the nymphs, at which all wayfarers used to sacrifice.
Here Melanthios son of Dolios overtook them as he was driving down
some goats, the best in his flock, for the suitors’ dinner, and
there were two shepherds with him. When he saw Eumaios and Odysseus
he reviled them with outrageous and unseemly language, which made
Odysseus very angry.
"There you go," cried he, "and a
precious pair you are. See how heaven brings birds of the same
feather to one another. Where, pray, master swineherd, are you taking
this poor miserable object? It would make any one sick to see such a
creature at table. A fellow like this never won a prize for anything
in his life, but will go about rubbing his shoulders against every
man's door post, and begging, not for swords and cauldrons like
a man, but only for a few scraps not worth begging for. If you would
give him to me for a hand on my station, he might do to clean out the
folds, or bring a bit of sweet feed to the kids, and he could fatten
his thighs as much as he pleased on whey; but he has taken to bad
ways and will not go about any kind of work; he will do nothing but
beg victuals all the dêmos over, to feed his insatiable
belly. I say, therefore and it shall surely be - if he goes near
Odysseus’ house he will get his head broken by the stools they
will fling at him, till they turn him out."
On this, as he passed, he gave
Odysseus a kick on the hip out of pure wantonness, but Odysseus stood
firm, and did not budge from the path. For a moment he doubted
whether or not to fly at Melanthios and kill him with his staff, or
fling him to the ground and beat his brains out; he resolved,
however, to endure it and keep himself in check, but the swineherd
looked straight at Melanthios and rebuked him, lifting up his hands
and praying to heaven as he did so.