THE CURSE OF ECHO
N the flowery groves of Helicon Echo was once a fair
nymph who, hand in hand with her sisters, sported along
the green lawns and by the side of the
mountain-streams. Among them all her feet were the
lightest and her laugh the merriest, and in the telling
of tales not one of them could touch her. So if ever
any among them were plotting mischief in their hearts,
they would say to her,
"Echo, thou weaver of words, go thou and sit beside
Hera in her bower, and beguile her with a tale that she
come not forth and find us. See thou make it a long
one, Echo, and we will give thee a garland to twine in
And Echo would laugh a gay laugh, which rang through
"What will you do when she tires of my tales?" she
"When that time comes we shall see," said they.
So with another laugh she would trip away and cast
 herself on the grass at Hera's feet. When Hera looked
upon Echo her stern blow would relax, and she would
smile upon her and stroke her hair.
"What hast thou come for now, thou sprite?" she would
"I had a great longing to talk with thee, great Hera,"
she would answer, "and I have a tale—a wondrous
new tale— to tell thee."
"Thy tales are as many as the risings of the sun, Echo,
and each one of them as long as an old man's beard."
"The day is yet young, mother," she would say, "and the
tales I have told thee before are as mud which is
trampled underfoot by the side of the one I shall tell
"Go to, then," said Hera, "and if it pleases me I will
listen to the end."
So Echo would sit upon the grass at Hera's feet, and
with her eyes fixed upon her face she would tell her
tale. She had the gift of words, and, moreover, she
had seen and heard many strange things which she alone
could tell of. These she would weave into romances,
adding to them as best pleased her, or taking from them
at will; for the best of tale-tellers are those who can
lie, but who mingle in with their lies some grains of
truth which they have picked from their own experience.
And Hera would forget her watchfulness and her
jealousies, and listen entranced, while the magic of
Echo's words made each scene live before her eyes.
Meanwhile the nymphs would sport to their hearts'
content and never fear her anger.
But at last came the black day of reckoning when Hera
 found out the prank which Echo had played upon her so
long, and the fire of her wrath flashed forth like
"The gift whereby thou hast deceived me shall be thine
no more," she cried. "Henceforward thou shalt be dumb
till someone else has spoken, and then, even if thou
wilt, thou shalt not hold thy tongue, but must needs
repeat once more the last words that have been spoken."
"Alas! alas!" cried the nymphs in chorus.
"Alas! alas!" cried Echo after them, and could say no
more, though she longed to speak and beg Hera to
forgive her. So did it come to pass that she lost her
voice, and could only say that which others put in her
mouth, whether she wished it or no.
Now, it chanced one day that the young Narcissus
strayed away from his companions in the hunt, and when
he tried to find them he only wandered further, and
lost his way upon the lonely heights of Helicon. He
was now in the bloom of his youth, nearing manhood, and
fair as a flower in spring, and all who saw him
straightway loved him and longed for him. But, though
his face was smooth and soft as a maiden's, his heart
was hard as steel; and while many loved him and sighed
for him, they could kindle no answering flame in his
breast, but he would spurn them, and treat them with
scorn, and go on his way, nothing caring. When he was
born, the blind seer Teiresias had prophesied
"So long as he sees not himself he shall live and be
And his words came true, for Narcissus cared for
neither man nor woman, but only for his own pleasure;
and because he was so fair that all who saw him loved
 his beauty, he found it easy to get from them what he
would. But he himself knew nought of love, and
therefore but little of grief; for love at the best
brings joy and sorrow hand in hand, and if unreturned,
it brings nought but pain.
Now, when the nymphs saw Narcissus wandering alone
through the woods, they, too, loved him for his beauty,
and they followed him wherever he went. But because he
was a mortal they were shy of him, and would not show
themselves but hid behind the trees and rocks so that
he should not see them; and amongst the others Echo
followed him, too. At last, when he found he had
really wandered astray, he began to shout for one of
"Ho, there! where art thou?" he cried.
"Where art thou?" answered Echo.
When he heard the voice, he stopped and listened, but
he could hear nothing more. Then he called again.
"I am here in the wood—Narcissus."
"In the wood—Narcissus," said she.
"Come hither," he cried.
"Come hither," she answered.
Wondering at the strange voice which answered him, he
looked all about, but could see no one.
"Art thou close at hand?" he asked.
"Close at hand," answered Echo.
Wondering the more at seeing no one, he went forward in
the direction of the voice. Echo, when she found he
was coming towards her, fled further, so that when next
he called, her voice sounded far away. But wherever
she was, he still followed after her, and she saw that
 not let her escape; for wherever she hid, if he called,
she had to answer, and so show him her hiding-place.
By now they had come to an open space in the trees,
where the green lawn sloped down to a clear pool in the
hollow. Here by the margin of the water she stood,
with her back to the tall, nodding bulrushes, and as
Narcissus came out from the trees she wrung her hands,
and the salt tears dropped from her eyes; for she loved
him, and longed to speak to him, and yet she could not
say a word. When he saw her he stopped.
"Art thou she who calls me?" he asked.
"Who calls me?" she answered.
"I have told thee, Narcissus," he said.
"Narcissus," she cried, and held out her arms to him.
"Who art thou?" he asked.
"Who art thou?" said she.
"Have I not told thee," he said impatiently,
"Narcissus," she said again, and still held out her
"Tell me," he cried, "who art thou and why dost thou
"Why dost thou call me?" said she.
At this he grew angry.
"Maiden, whoever thou art, thou hast led me a pretty
dance through the woods, and now thou dost nought but
"Thou dost nought but mock me," said she.
At this he grew yet more angry, and began to abuse her,
but every word of abuse that he spoke she hurled back
at him again. At last, tired out with his wanderings
 and with anger, he threw himself on the grass by the
pool, and would not look at her nor speak to her again.
For a time she stood beside him weeping, and longing to
speak to him and explain, but never a word could she
utter. So at last in her misery she left him, and went
and hid herself behind a rock close by. After a while,
when his anger had cooled down somewhat, Narcissus
remembered he was very thirsty, and noticing for the
first time the clear pool beside him, he bent over the
edge of the bank to drink. As he held out his hand to
take the water, he saw looking up towards him a face
which was the fairest face he had ever looked on, and
his heart, which never yet had known what love was, at
last was set on fire by the face in the pool. With a
sigh he held out both his arms towards it, and the
figure also held out two arms to him, and Echo from the
rock answered back his sigh. When he saw the figure
stretching out towards him and heard the sigh, he
thought that his love was returned, and he bent down closer
to the water and whispered, "I love thee."
"I love thee," answered Echo from the rock.
At these words he bent down further, and tried to clasp
the figure in his arms, but as he did so, it vanished
away. The surface of the pool was covered with
ripples, and he found he was clasping empty water to
his breast. So he drew back and waited awhile,
thinking he had been over-hasty. In time, the ripples
died away and the face appeared again as clear as
before, looking up at him longingly from the water.
Once again he bent towards it, and tried to clasp it,
and once again it fled from his embrace. Time after
time he tried, and always the same
 thing happened, and at last he gave up in despair, and
sat looking down into the water, with the teardrops
falling from his eyes; and the figure in the pool
wept, too, and looked up at him with a look of longing
and despair. The longer he looked, the more fiercely
did the flame of love burn in his breast, till at
length he could bear it no more, but determined to
reach the desire of his heart or die. So for the last
time he leaned forward, and when he found that once
again he was clasping the empty water, he threw himself
from the bank into the pool, thinking that in the
depths, at any rate, he would find his love. But he
found naught but death among the weeds and stones of
the pool, and knew not that it was his own face he
loved reflected in the water below him. Thus were the
words of the prophet fulfilled, "So long as he sees not
himself he shall live and be happy."
FOR THE LAST TIME HE LEANED FORWARD.
Echo, peeping out from the rock, saw all that had
happened, and when Narcissus cast himself into the
pool, she rushed forward, all too late, to stop him.
When she found she could not save him, she cast herself
on the grass by the pool and wept, till her flesh and
her bones wasted away with weeping, and naught but her
voice remained and the curse that was on her. So to
this day she lives, a formless voice haunting rocks and
caves and vaulted halls. Herself no man has seen since
the day Narcissus saw her wringing her hands for love
of him beside the nodding bulrushes, and no man ever
shall see again. But her voice we all have heard
repeating our words where we thought that no one was
by; and though now she will say whatever we bid her, if
once the curse were removed, the cry of her soul would
 "Narcissus, Narcissus, my love, come back—come
back to me!"
By the side of the clear brown pool, on the grass that
Echo had watered with her tears, there sprang up a
sweet-scented flower, with a pure white face and a
crown of gold. And to this day in many a land men call
that flower "Narcissus," after the lad who, for love of
his own fair face, was drowned in the waters of
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