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«There was a contest, in which a mortal dared to come in competition with Minerva.
That mortal was Arachne, a maiden who had attained such skill in the arts of weaving and embroidery that the nymphs themselves would leave their groves and fountains to come and gaze upon her work.
It was not only beautiful when it was done, but beautiful also in the doing.
To watch her, as she took the wool in its rude state and formed it into rolls, or separated it with her fingers and carded it till it looked as light and soft as a cloud, or twirled the spindle with skilful touch, or wove the web, or, after it was woven, adorned it with her needle, one would have said that Minerva herself had taught her.
But this she denied, and could not bear to be thought a pupil even of a Goddess.
"Let Minerva try her skill with mine," said she; "if beaten I will pay the penalty."
Minerva heard this and was displeased.
She assumed the form of an old woman and went and gave Arachne some friendly advice.
"I have had much experience," said she, "and I hope you will not despise my counsel.
Challenge your fellow-mortals as you will, but do not compete with a Goddess.
On the contrary, I advise you to ask her forgiveness for what you have said, and as she is merciful perhaps she will pardon you."
Arachne stopped her spinning and looked at the old dame with anger in her countenance.
"Keep your counsel," said she, "for your daughters or handmaids; for my part I know what I say, and I stand to it.
I am not afraid of the Goddess; let her try her skill, if she dare venture."
"She comes," said Minerva; and dropping her disguise stood confessed.
The nymphs bent low in homage, and all the bystanders paid reverence.»
Bulfinch's Mythology, The Age of Fable, Chapter XIV, Minerva Niobe
(Source: Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book VI, Pallas et Arachne, lines 1-137)
Drawing by Jean-Jacques-François Le Barbier, 1738-1826
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