He spoke in prayer and then he saw one who had the likeness of the old man Mentor coming towards him. But by the grey, clear, wonderfully-shining eyes he knew that the figure was none other than the goddess Athene.
Telemachus, said she, if you have indeed one drop of your fathers blood in you or one portion of his spirit, if you are as he was--one ready to fulfil both word and work, your voyage shall not be in vain. If you are different from what he was, I have no hope that you will accomplish your desire. But I have seen in you something of the wisdom and the courage of Odysseus. Hear my counsel then, and do as I direct you. Go back to your fathers house and be with the wooers for a time. And get together corn and barley-flour and wine in jars. And while you are doing all this I will gather together a crew for your ship. There are many ships in sea-girt Ithaka and I shall choose the best for you and we will rig her quickly and launch her on the wide deep.
When Telemachus heard her counsel he tarried no more but went back to the house and stood amongst the wooers, and when he had spoken with them he went down into the treasure-vault. It was a spacious room filled with gold and bronze and chests of raiment and casks of wine. The doors of that vault were closed night and day and Eurycleia, the dame who had been the nurse of Telemachus when he was little, guarded the place. She came to him, and he spoke to her:
My nurse, said he, none but yourself must know what I would do now, and you must swear not to speak of it to my lady-mother until twelve days from this. Fill twelve jars with wine for me now, and pour twelve measures of barley-meal into well-sewn skins. Leave them all together for me, and when my mother goes into the upper chamber, I shall have them carried away. Lo, nurse, I go to Pylos and to Sparta to seek tidings from Nestor and Menelaus of Odysseus, my father.
When she heard him say this, the nurse Eurycleia lamented. Ah, wherefore, dear child, she cried, has such a thought risen in your mind? How could you fare over wide seas and through strange lands, you who were never from your home? Stay here where you are well beloved. As for your father, he has long since perished amongst strangers--why should you put yourself in danger to find out that he is no more? Nay, do not go, Telemachus, my fosterling, but stay in your own house and in your own well-beloved country.
Telemachus said: Dear nurse, it has been shown to me that I should go by a goddess. Is not that enough for you and for me? Now make all ready for me as I have asked you, and swear to me that you will say nothing of it to my mother until twelve days from this, or until she shall miss me herself.
Having sworn as he asked her, the nurse Eurycleia drew the wine into jars and put the barley-meal into the well-sewn skins. Telemachus left the vault and went back again into the hall. He sat with the wooers and listened to the minstrel Phemius sing about the going forth of Odysseus to the wars of Troy.
And while these things were happening the goddess Athene went through the town in the likeness of Telemachus. She went to this youth and that youth and told them of the voyage and asked them to make ready and go down to the beach where the boat would be. And then she went to a man called Noëmon, and begged him for a swift ship, and Noëmon gave it her.
When the sun sank and when the ways were darkened Athene dragged the ship to where it should be launched and brought the tackling to it. The youths whom Athene had summoned--they were all of the age of Telemachus--came, and Athene aroused them with talk of the voyage. And when the ship was ready she went to the house of Odysseus. Upon the wooers who were still in the hall she caused sleep to fall. They laid their heads upon the tables and slumbered beside the wine cups. But Athene sent a whisper through the hall and Telemachus heard and he rose up and came to where she stood. Now she had on the likeness of old Mentor, the friend of his father Odysseus.
But some of the youths had come with the one whom they thought was old Mentor. They carried with Telemachus the skins of corn and the casks of wine. They came to the ship, and Telemachus with a cheer climbed into it. Then the youths loosed the ropes and sat down at the benches to pull the oars. And Athene, in the likeness of old Mentor, sat at the helm.
And now they set up the mast of pine and they made it fast with forestays, and they hauled up the sails with ropes of twisted oxhide. And a wind came and filled out the sails, and the youths pulled at the oars, and the ship dashed away. All night long Telemachus and his friends sat at the oars and under the sails, and felt the ship bearing them swiftly onward through the dark water. Phemius, the minstrel, was with them, and, as the night went by, he sang to them of Troy and of the heroes who had waged war against it.