A Book of Myths
Page: 42Then a mighty shout from those who watched rent the air, and Atalanta, half fearful, half ashamed, yet wholly happy, found herself running, vanquished, into the arms of him who was indeed her conqueror. For not only had Milanion won the race, but he had won the heart of the virgin huntress, a heart once as cold and remote as the winter snow on the peak of Mount Olympus.
The hay that so short a time ago was long, lush grass, with fragrant meadow-sweet and gold-eyed marguerites growing amongst it in the green meadow-land by the river, is now dry hay—fragrant still, though dead, and hidden from the sun’s warm rays underneath the dark wooden rafters of the barn. Occasionally a cat on a hunting foray comes into the barn to look for mice, or to nestle cosily down into purring slumber. Now and then a hen comes furtively tip-toeing through the open door and makes for itself a secret nest in which to lay the eggs which it subsequently heralds with such loud clucks of proud rejoicing as to completely undo all its previous precautions. Sometimes children come in, pursuing cat or hen, or merely to tumble each other over amongst the soft hay which they leave in chaotic confusion, and when they have gone away, a little more of the sky can be seen through the little window in the roof, and through the wooden bars of the window lower down. Yet, whatever other living creatures may come or go, by those windows of the barn, and high up on its dark rafters, there is always a living creature working, ceaselessly working. When, through the skylight, the sun-god drives a golden sunbeam, and a long shaft of dancing dust-atoms passes from the window to what was once a [Pg 83] part of the early summer’s glory, the work of the unresting toiler is also to be seen, for the window is hung with shimmering grey tapestries made by Arachne, the spider, and from rafter to rafter her threads are suspended with inimitable skill.
She was a nymph once, they say—the daughter of Idmon the dyer, of Colophon, a city of Lydia. In all Lydia there was none who could weave as wove the beautiful Arachne. To watch her card the wool of the white-fleeced sheep until in her fingers it grew like the soft clouds that hang round the hill tops, was pleasure enough to draw nymphs from the golden river Pactolus and from the vineyards of Tymolus. And when she drove her swift shuttle hither and thither, still it was joy to watch her wondrous skill. Magical was the growth of the web, fine of woof, that her darting fingers span, and yet more magical the exquisite devices that she then wrought upon it. For birds and flowers and butterflies and pictures of all the beautiful things on earth were limned by Arachne, and old tales grew alive again under her creative needle.