His father shed tears and answered, "Sir, you have indeed come to the country that you have named, but it is fallen into the hands of wicked people. All this wealth of presents has been given to no purpose. If you could have found your friend here alive in the dêmos of Ithaca, he would have entertained you hospitably and would have required your presents amply when you left him - as would have been only right considering what you have already given him. But tell me, and tell me true, how many years is it since you entertained this guest - my unhappy son, as ever was? Alas! He has perished far from his own country; the fishes of the sea have eaten him, or he has fallen a prey to the birds and wild beasts of some continent. Neither his mother, nor I his father, who were his parents, could throw our arms about him and wrap him in his shroud, nor could his excellent and richly dowered wife Penelope bewail her husband as was natural upon his death bed, and close his eyes according to the offices due to the departed. But now, tell me truly for I want to know. Who and whence are you - tell me of your town and parents? Where is the ship lying that has brought you and your men to Ithaca? Or were you a passenger on some other man's ship, and those who brought you here have gone on their way and left you?"
"I will tell you everything," answered Odysseus, "quite truly. I come from Alybas, where I have a fine house. I am son of king Apheidas, who is the son of Polypemon. My own name is Eperitus; a daimôn drove me off my course as I was leaving Sicania, and I have been carried here against my will. As for my ship it is lying over yonder, off the open country outside the town, and this is the fifth year since Odysseus left my country. Poor fellow, yet the omens were good for him when he left me. The birds all flew on our right hands, and both he and I rejoiced to see them as we parted, for we had every hope that we should have another friendly meeting and exchange presents."
A dark cloud of sorrow [akhos] fell upon Laertes as he listened. He filled both hands with the dust from off the ground and poured it over his gray head, groaning heavily as he did so. The heart of Odysseus was touched, and his nostrils quivered as he looked upon his father; then he sprang towards him, flung his arms about him and kissed him, saying, "I am he, father, about whom you are asking - I have returned after having been away for twenty years. But cease your sighing and lamentation - we have no time to lose, for I should tell you that I have been killing the suitors in my house, to punish them for their insolence and crimes."
"If you really are my son Odysseus," replied Laertes, "and have come back again, you must give me such manifest proof [sêma] of your identity as shall convince me."
"First observe this scar," answered Odysseus, "which I got from a boar's tusk when I was hunting on Mount Parnassus. You and my mother had sent me to Autolykos, my mother's father, to receive the presents which when he was over here he had promised to give me. Furthermore I will point out to you the trees in the vineyard which you gave me, and I asked you all about them as I followed you round the garden. We went over them all, and you told me their names and what they all were. You gave me thirteen pear trees, ten apple trees, and forty fig trees; you also said you would give me fifty rows of vines; there was wheat planted between each row, and they yield grapes of every kind when the seasons [hôrai] of Zeus have been laid heavy upon them."
Laertes’ strength failed him when he heard the convincing proofs [sêmata] which his son had given him. He threw his arms about him, and Odysseus had to support him, or he would have gone off into a swoon; but as soon as he came to, and was beginning to recover his senses, he said, "O father Zeus, then you gods are still in Olympus after all, if the suitors have really been punished for their insolence [hubris] and folly. Nevertheless, I am much afraid that I shall have all the townspeople of Ithaca up here directly, and they will be sending messengers everywhere throughout the cities of the Cephallênians."
Odysseus answered, "Take heart and do not trouble yourself about that, but let us go into the house hard by your garden. I have already told Telemakhos, Philoitios, and Eumaios to go on there and get dinner ready as soon as possible."
Thus conversing the two made their way towards the house. When they got there they found Telemakhos with the stockman and the swineherd cutting up meat and mixing wine with water. Then the old Sicel woman took Laertes inside and washed him and anointed him with oil. She put him on a good cloak, and Athena came up to him and gave him a more imposing presence, making him taller and stouter than before. When he came back his son was surprised to see him looking so like an immortal, and said to him, "My dear father, some one of the gods has been making you much taller and better-looking."
Laertes answered, "Would, by Father Zeus, Athena, and Apollo, that I were the man I was when I ruled among the Cephallênians, and took Nericum, that strong fortress on the foreland. If I were still what I then was and had been in our house yesterday with my armor on, I should have been able to stand by you and help you against the suitors. I should have killed a great many of them, and you would have rejoiced to see it."
Thus did they converse; but the others, when they had finished their work and the feast was ready, left off working [ponos], and took each his proper place on the benches and seats. Then they began eating; by and by old Dolios and his sons left their work and came up, for their mother, the Sicel woman who looked after Laertes now that he was growing old, had been to fetch them. When they saw Odysseus and were certain it was he, they stood there lost in astonishment; but Odysseus scolded them good-naturedly and said, "Sit down to your dinner, old man, and never mind about your surprise; we have been wanting to begin for some time and have been waiting for you."
Then Dolios put out both his hands and went up to Odysseus. "Sir," said he, seizing his master's hand and kissing it at the wrist, "we have long been wishing you home: and now heaven has restored you to us after we had given up hoping. All hail, therefore, and may the gods prosper you [olbios]. But tell me, does Penelope already know of your return, or shall we send some one to tell her?"
"Old man," answered Odysseus, "she knows already, so you need not trouble about that." On this he took his seat, and the sons of Dolios gathered round Odysseus to give him greeting and embrace him one after the other; then they took their seats in due order near Dolios their father.
While they were thus busy getting their dinner ready, Rumor went round the town, and noised abroad the terrible fate that had befallen the suitors; as soon, therefore, as the people heard of it they gathered from every quarter, groaning and hooting before the house of Odysseus. They took the dead away, buried every man his own, and put the bodies of those who came from elsewhere on board the fishing vessels, for the fishermen to take each of them to his own place. They then met angrily in the place of assembly, and when they were got together Eupeithes rose to speak. He was overwhelmed with grief [penthos] for the death of his son Antinoos, who had been the first man killed by Odysseus, so he said, weeping bitterly, "My friend, this man has done the Achaeans great wrong. He took many of our best men away with him in his fleet, and he has lost both ships and men; now, moreover, on his return he has been killing all the foremost men among the Cephallênians. Let us be up and doing before he can get away to Pylos or to Elis where the Epeans rule, or we shall be ashamed of ourselves for ever afterwards. It will be an everlasting disgrace to us if we do not avenge the murder of our sons and brothers. For my own part I should have no more pleasure in life, but had rather die at once. Let us be up, then, and after them, before they can cross over to the mainland."
He wept as he spoke and every one pitied him. But Medon and the bard Phemios had now woke up, and came to them from the house of Odysseus. Every one was astonished at seeing them, but they stood in the middle of the assembly, and Medon said, "Hear me, men of Ithaca. Odysseus did not do these things against the will of heaven. I myself saw an immortal god take the form of Mentor and stand beside him. This god appeared, now in front of him encouraging him, and now going furiously about the court and attacking the suitors whereon they fell thick on one another."
On this pale fear laid hold of them, and old Halitherses, son of Mastor, rose to speak, for he was the only man among them who knew both past and future; so he spoke to them plainly and in all honesty, saying,
"Men of Ithaca, it is all your own fault that things have turned out as they have; you would not listen to me, nor yet to Mentor, when we bade you check the folly of your sons who were doing much wrong in the wantonness of their hearts - wasting the substance and dishonoring the wife of a chieftain who they thought would not return. Now, however, let it be as I say, and do as I tell you. Do not go out against Odysseus, or you may find that you have been drawing down evil on your own heads."