This is a chapter of The Sunset of the Heroes: Last Adventures of the Takers of Troy, by W. M. L. Hutchinson.
When Poseidon in his wrath scattered the Greek fleet far and wide over the deep, the god was not unmindful of the single chieftain who forbore to plunder the holy places of Troy. Teucer, son of Telamon, had fought like a lion all through that night when the Trojans made their last stand on the thresholds of their burning homes, but he alone came empty-handed out of the sack of the city. And on the morrow, when division was made of the great booty and the crowd of captives, the sons of Atreus bade him choose a portion equal to the best, for many bore witness to his valorous doings, amongst whom Odysseus was the loudest in his praise.
But Teucer answered in the bitterness of his heart, “Will all the wealth of Priam’s town ransom Ajax my brother out of Hades’s prison house? Or shall I, that am but the shadow of Ajax, take the meed of valor you denied to his living self? For the oath’s sake that he and I swore to you in Aulis, I have fought your battle to an end: but now Troy is taken — and may the spoil thereof perish with the spoilers!” With that word, he left them and went straightway to his ships where they lay ready for launching, and so hoisted sail for home.
There was much talk of Teucer among the Greeks that day, and, while some took his part, others blamed him for harboring such fierce resentment against the brother kings; but what seemed marvelous to all was that Odysseus should so eagerly extol one who bore him a special grudge. Odysseus, after his wont, kept his own counsel; and though he had testified that he saw Teucer rescue a Greek against heavy odds during the assault, he did not add that the Greek was himself, for the remembrance of what had passed was not without gall to him, and of Teucer’s silence he felt assured.
Now the rescue befell on this wise. Odysseus, while he gave chase to a band of flying Trojans, outstripped his comrades and plunged alone into a darksome alley, where the hunted men turned suddenly at bay. Armed only with their daggers —for they had been surprised before they could get them other weapons— they were yet eight against a single swordsman, and they closed in on him with the fury of despair.
But nimbly Odysseus set his back to a house wall and valiantly laid about him, shouting, “A rescue! A rescue, sons of the Greeks!”
“A rescue! Teucer to the rescue!” came a well-known voice in reply.
Now, if Odysseus had the weasel’s cunning, he lacked not its courage, and with his life at stake he must give rein to his mocking tongue. “Have a care, archer!” cried he as Teucer darted to his side, “here is neither room nor light for target practice, but cut—and-thrust work that may spoil your bow for you.”
“I bear no bow tonight,” answered Teucer fiercely, “but the sword of Ajax,” and so saying he flung himself at the Trojans with uplifted blade. Three went down before his furious onset; two more Odysseus thrust through as they sprang at him; the others fled again, this time unpursued, for Odysseus had turned to gaze curiously on his rescuer, where he stood with bent head, trembling a little, and gripping the sword hilt hard.
“Tell me, Teucer,” he said, softly and suddenly, “why have you saved my life — and why have you now a mind to kill me?”
“One answer serves,” said Teucer, between his teeth; “you were his comrade-in-arms.”
It was spoken with a look that told Odysseus he was never nearer death than now. Master of fence though he was, his soul foreknew a conqueror in this novice; Teucer, perhaps, had scarce handled sword before, but against the deadly purpose in his eyes skill would avail as little as desperation had availed those Trojans, lifeless at his feet.
Odysseus saw the only way and took it. Flinging down his falchion, he pointed to that which Teucer held, and calmly said, “Come, let the sword of Ajax strike one good blow more this night, for I think, ever since you drew it from his heart, you have thirsted to sheathe it in mine.”
“No, by Zeus above us!” exclaimed Teucer, starting back. “That would defile forever the steel his lifeblood reddened. I have a mind to kill you — but with my bare hands and a noose of bowstring, as I would kill a treacherous hound. And yet — live, Odysseus, for, if there be justice with the immortal gods, they have surely worse things than death in store for such as you.” He turned sharply on his heel and was gone.
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“Hound, am I, friend Teucer?” murmured Odysseus, smiling to himself, as he picked up his sword and began to strip the slain men of their rich array. “Now I think you have more of the hound than I. Why else did I play the very trick on you that serves best with a savage watchdog? Threaten him with voice or staff, he flies at your throat; drop your staff, sit down before him, and he will not touch you, snarl as he may.”
But however he plumed himself secretly on disarming Teucer, Odysseus ever after this gave him out for the bravest of the brave, and the most loyal-hearted of all men he had known.
Thus it was that Teucer with all his following set sail a day before the rest of the Greeks, having on board Tecmessa with her infant son, and the captives and spoil taken by Ajax in the war, and nothing besides that came from the land of Troy. For this, as I have said, Poseidon remembered him and wafted his ships on a straight course through the tempest to the harbor of Salamis.