Her sisters, coming to the place where Psyche was left, sought for traces of her. Finding none they wept, lifting up their voices. Zephyrus came; he raised them up; he bore them down from that mountain-top. He bore them to the lawn that was before the house where Psyche had her abode.
She heard their cries; she came out of her wondrous house and she brought them within it. "Enter now," she said, "and relieve your sorrow in the company of Psyche, your sister." She displayed to them all the treasures of that wondrous house; they heard the voices and they saw how the unseen ones ministered to Psyche. Her sisters were filled with wonder; but soon their wonder gave place to envy. "Who is he?" they asked, "your husband and the lord of all these wondrous things?" "A young man," said Psyche. "I would have you look upon him, but for the most part of the day he hunts upon the mountain." Then, lest the secret should slip from her tongue, she loaded her sisters with gold and gems, and, summoning Zephyrus with words that she had heard her husband utter, she commanded him to bear them to the mountain-top.
They returned to their homes, each of them filled with envy of Psyche's fortune. "Look now," they said to each other, "what has come about! We the elder sisters have been given in marriage to men we did not know and who were of little account. And she, our youngest sister, is possessed of such great riches That she is able to give us these golden things and these gems as if they were mere keepsakes. What a hoard of wealth is in her house! You saw, sisters, the crowns, and glittering gems, and gold trodden under foot! If her husband is noble and handsome enough to match that house, then no woman in the world is as lucky or as happy as that Psyche whom we left upon
the mountain-top!" And, saying this, they became more and more filled with envy, and with the malice that comes from envy unchecked.
Then one said to the other, "This husband of hers may be of divine nature, and through his mere fondness for her, he may make her a Goddess. Yes, as a Goddess she ever bore herself! How intolerable it would be if all that was thought about her were realized, and she became as one of the Immortals."
And so, filled with their envy and malice, they returned to that golden house and they said to Psyche, "Thou livest in folly, and knowst nothing of a danger that threatens thee. Thou hast never seen thy husband--that we know. But others have seen him, and they know him for a deadly serpent. Remember the words of the oracle, which declared thee destined for a devouring beast. There are those who have seen that beast at nightfall, coming back from his feeding and entering this house. And now thou art to be a mother! The beast only waits for the babe to be born so that he may devour both the babe and thee. Nothing can be done for thee, perhaps, because thou mayst delight in this rich and secret place, and even in a loathsome love. But at least we, thy sisters, have done our part in bidding thee beware!" So they spoke, and Psyche was carried away by their words, and lost the memory of her husband's commands and her own promises. She cried out in anguish, "It may be that those who say these things tell the truth! For in very truth I have never seen the face of my husband, nor know I at all what form and likeness he has. He frightens me from the sight of him, telling me that some great evil should befall if I looked upon his face. O ye who were reared with me, help, if you can, your sister, in the great peril that faces her now!"
Her sisters, filled with malice, answered, "The way to safety we have well considered, and we will show it to thee. Take a sharp knife and hide it in that part of the couch where thou art wont to lie. Place a lighted lamp behind a curtain. And when thou hearest him breathe in sleep, slip from the couch, and, holding the lamp, look upon him. Have in thy hand the knife. Then it is for thee to put forth all thy strength and strike his serpent's head off. Then thou wilt be delivered from the doom which the vain talk about thy beauty brought upon thee, and thou mayst return to thy father's house."
Saying this, her sisters departed hastily. And Psyche, left alone,
was tossed up and down as on the waves of the sea. The apprehension of a great calamity was upon her: she thought she could avert it by making strong her will for the deed that her sisters had counselled her to carry out. Evening came, and in haste she made ready for the terrible deed. Darkness came; he whom she had known for her bride. groom came to her out of the darkness. In a while she, lying rigidly there, knew by his breath that he was asleep.
She arose, she who before was of no strength at all; she drew forth the knife in the darkness and held it in her right hand. She took up the lighted lamp. And then she saw what lay on the couch. Then indeed she became afraid; her limbs failed under her, and she would have buried the knife in her own bosom. For there lay Love himself, with golden locks, and ruddy cheeks, and white throat. There lay Love with his pinions, yet fresh with dew, spotless upon his shoulders. Smooth he was, and touched with a light that was from Venus, his mother. And at the foot of the couch his bow and arrows were laid.
Then Psyche, with indrawn breath, bent over to kiss his lips. And it chanced that a drop of burning oil from that lamp which she held fell upon his shoulder. At the touch of that burning drop, the God started up. He saw her bending over him; he saw the whole of her faithlessness; putting her hands away he lifted himself from the couch and fled away.
And Psyche, as he rose upon the wing, laid hold on him with her hands, striving to stay his flight. But she could not stay it; he went from her and she sank down upon the ground. As she lay there the dawn came, and she saw through the casement her divine lover where he rested upon a cypress-tree that grew near. She could not cry out to him. He spoke to her in great emotion. "Foolish one," he said, "Venus, my mother, would have devoted thee to a love that was all baseness. Unmindful of her command I would not have that doom befall thee. Mine own flesh I pierced with mine arrow, and I took thee for my love. I brought thee here, I made thee my wife, and all only that I might seem a monster beside thee, and that thou shouldst seek to wound the head wherein lay the eyes that were so full of love for thee. I thought I could put thee on thy guard against those who were ready to make snares for thee. Now all is over. I would but punish thee by my flight hence!"
Prostrate upon the earth Psyche watched, as far as sight might reach, the flight of her spouse. When the breadth of space had parted him wholly from her, she ran without. Far she wandered from that golden house where she had dwelt with Love. She came to where a river ran. In her despair she cast herself into it. But as it happened, Pan, the rustic God, was on the river-bank, playing upon a reed. Hard by, his flock of goats browsed at will. The shaggy God took Psyche out of the stream. "I am but a herdsman," he said to her, "a herdsman and rustic. But I am wise by reason of my length of days and my long experience of the world. I guess by thy sorrowful eyes and thy continual sighing that thy trouble comes from love. Then, pretty maiden, listen to me, and seek not death again in the stream or elsewhere. Put aside thy woe, and make thy prayers to Cupid. He is a God who is won by service; give him, therefore, thy service."
Psyche was not able to answer anything. She left the God with his goats and went on her way. And now she was resolved to go through the world in search of Cupid, her spouse. And he, even then, was in his mother's house: he lay there in pain from the wound that the burning drop from Psyche's lamp had given him. Heart-sick was he, too. The white bird that floats over the waves and is his mother's, seeing him come back, went across the sea, and, approaching Venus as she bathed, made known to her that her son lay afflicted with some grievous hurt. Thereupon she issued from the sea, and, returning to her golden house, found Cupid there, wounded and afflicted in his mind. Soon she found out the cause of his suffering and became filled with anger. "Well done!" she cried. "To trample on thy mother's precepts and to spare her enemy the cross that she had designed for her-the cross of an unworthy love! Nay, to have united yourself with her, giving me a daughter-in-law who hates me! But I will make her and thee repent of the love that has been between you, and the savour of your marriage bitter!" And saying this, Venus hastened in anger from her house.
Psyche was wandering hither and thither, seeking her husband, her whole heart set upon soothing his anger by the endearments of a wife, or, if he would not accept her as a wife, by the services
of a handmaiden. One day, seeing a temple on the top of a mountain, she went towards it, hoping to find there some traces of her lord. Within the temple there were ears of wheat in heaps or twisted into chaplets; there were ears of barley also; there were sickles and all the instruments of harvest. And Psyche, saying to herself, "I may not neglect the shrines, nor the holy service of any God or Goddess, but must strive to win by my works the favour of them all." And so saying she put the sickles and the instruments of harvest, the chaplets and the heaps of grain, into their proper places.
And Ceres, the Goddess of the harvest, found her bending over the tasks she had set herself. She knew her for Psyche, the wife of Cupid. "Ah, Psyche," said the Goddess, "Venus, in her anger, is tracking thy footsteps through the world; she is seeking thee to make thee pay the greatest penalty that can be exacted from thee. And here I find thee taking care of the things that are in my care!" Then Psyche fell at the feet of Ceres, and sweeping the floor with her hair, and washing the feet of the Goddess with her tears, she besought her to have mercy on her. "Suffer me to hide myself for a few days amongst the heaps of grain, till my strength, outworn in my long travail, be recovered by a little rest," she cried. But Ceres answered, "Truly thy tears move me, and I fain would help thee. But I dare not incur the ill-will of my kinswoman. Depart from this as quickly as may be." Then Psyche, filled with a new hopelessness, went away from that temple. Soon, as she went through the half-lighted woods in the valley below, she came to where there was another temple. She saw rich offerings and garments of price hung upon the door-posts and to the branches of the trees, and on them, in letters of gold, were wrought the name of the Goddess to whom they were dedicated. So Psyche went within that temple, and with knees bent and hands laid about the altar, she prayed, "O Iuno, sister and spouse of Iuppiter, thou art called the Auspicious! Be auspicious to my desperate for. tune! Willingly dost thou help those in child-birth! Deliver me, therefore--O deliver me from the peril that is upon me!" And as Psyche prayed thus, Iuno, in all the majesty of the spouse of Iuppiter, appeared before her. And the Goddess, being present, answered, "Would that I might incline to thy prayer; but against the will of Venus whom I have ever loved as a daughter, I may not grant what thou dost
ask of me!" Then Psyche went forth from that temple, and filled with more and more dismay, she said to herself, "Whither now shall I take my way? In what solitude can I hide myself from the all-seeing eye of Venus? It is best that I should go before her, and yield myself up to her as to a mistress, and take from her any punishment that even she can inflict upon me." And saying this, Psyche went towards where Venus had her house. And as she went on she said to herself, "Who knows but I may find him whom my soul seeketh after in the abode of his mother?"
When she came near to the doors of the house of Venus, one of the servants ran out to her, crying, "Hast thou learned at last, wicked maid, that thou hast a mistress?" And seizing Psyche by the hair of her head she dragged her into the presence of the Goddess. And when Venus saw her she laughed, saying, "Thou hast deigned at last to make thy salutations to thy mother-in-law. Now will I see to it that thou makest thyself a dutiful and obedient daughter-in-law."
Saying this she took barley and millet and every kind of grain and seed, and mixed them all together, making a great heap of them. Then she said to Psyche, "Methinks that so plain a maid can only win a lover by the tokens of her industry. Get to work, therefore, and show what thou canst do. Sort this heap of grain, separating the one kind from the other, grain by grain, and see to it that thy task is finished before the evening." Then Venus went from her, and Psyche, appalled by her bidding, was silent and could not put a hand upon the heap. Listlessly she sat beside it and the hours passed. But a little ant came before her; he understood the difficulty of her task and he had pity upon her. He ran hither and thither and summoned the army of the ants. "Have pity," he said to them, "upon the wife of Love, and hasten to help her in her task." Then the host of the insect people gathered together; they sorted the whole heap of grain, separating one kind from the other. And having done this they all departed suddenly.
At nightfall Venus returned; she saw that Psyche's task was finished and she cried out in anger. "The work is not thine; he in whose eyes thou hast found favour surely instructed thee as to how to have it done." She went from Psyche then. But early in the morning she called to her and said, "In the grove yonder, across the torrent, there
are sheep whose fleeces shine with gold. Fetch me straightway shreds of that precious stuff, having gotten it in whatever way thou mayst."
Then Psyche went forth. She stood beside the torrent thinking that she would seek for rest in the depth of it. But from the river-bed the green reed, lowly mother of music, whispered to her and said, "O psyche! Do not pollute these waters by self-destruction! I will tell thee of a way to get the gold shreds of the fleece of yonder fierce flock. Lie down under yonder plane-tree and rest yourself until the coming of evening and the quiet of the river's sound has soothed the flock. Then go amongst the trees that they have been under and gather the shreds of the fleeces from the trees--the leaves hold the golden shreds."
Psyche, instructed by the simple reed, did all that she was told to do. In the quiet of the evening she went into the grove, and she put into her bosom the soft golden stuff that was held by the leaves. Then she returned to where Venus was. The Goddess smiled bitterly upon her, and she said, "Well do I know whence came the instruction that thou hast profited by; but I am not finished with thee yet. Seest thou the utmost peak of yonder mountain? The dark stream which flows down from it waters the Stygian fields, and swells the flood of Cocytus. Bring me now, in this little cruse, a draught from its innermost source." And saying this, Venus put into Psyche's hands a vessel of wrought crystal.
Psyche went up the mountain, but she sought only for a place in which she could bring her life to an end. She came to where there was a rock steep and slippery. From that rock a river poured forth and fell down into an unseen gulf below. And from the rocks on every side serpents came with long necks and unblinking eyes. The very waters found a voice; they said in stifled voices, "What dost thou here?" "Look around thee!" "Destruction is upon thee!" All sense left her, and she stood like one changed into rock.
But the bird of Iuppiter took flight to her. He spread his wings over her and said, "Simple one! Didst thou think that thou couldst steal one drop of that relentless stream, the river that is terrible even to the Gods! But give me the vessel." And the eagle took the cruse, and filled it at the source, and returned to her quickly from amongst the raised heads of the serpents.
Then Psyche, receiving the cruse as the gift of life itself, ran back quickly and brought it to Venus. But the angry Goddess was not yet satisfied. "One task more remains for you to do," she said to Psyche. "Take now this tiny casket, and give it to Proserpine. Tell her that Venus would have of her beauty as much as might suffice for one day's use. Tell her this and take back in the casket what the Queen of Hades will give thee. And be not slow in returning."
Then Psyche perceived that she was now being thrust upon death, and that she would have to go, of her own motion, down to Hades and the Shades. Straightway she climbed to the top of a high tower, thinking to herself, "I will cast myself down hence, and so descend more quickly to the Kingdom of the Dead." But the tower spoke to her and said, "Wretched maiden! If the breath quit thy body, then wilt thou indeed go down to Hades, but by no means return to the upper air again. Listen to me. Not far from this place there is a mountain, and in that mountain there is a hole that is a vent for Hades. Through it is a rough way; following it one comes in a straight course to the castle of Orcus. But thou must not go empty-handed. Take in each hand a morsel of barley-bread, soaked in hydromel, and in thy mouth have two pieces of money. When thou art well forward on the way thou wilt overtake a lame ass laden with wood, and a lame driver; he will beg thee to hand to him certain cords to fasten the burden which is falling from the ass: heed him not; pass by him in silence. Thou wilt come to the River of the Dead. Charon, in that leaky bark he hath, will put thee over upon the farther side. Thou shalt deliver to him, for his ferry-charge, one of these two pieces of money. But thou must deliver it in such a way that his hand shall take it from between thy lips. As thou art crossing the stream an old man, rising on the water, will put up his mouldering hands, and pray thee to draw him into the ferry-boat. But beware that thou yield not to unlawful pity.
"When thou art across the stream and upon the level ground, certain grey-haired women, spinning, will cry to thee to lend thy hand to their work. But again beware! Take no part in that spinning! If thou dost thou wilt cast away one of the cakes thou bearest in thine hands. But remember that the loss of either of these cakes will be to thee the loss of the light of day. For a watchdog lies before the
threshold of the lonely house of Proserpine. Close his mouth with one of thy cakes, so he will let thee pass. Then thou shalt enter into the presence of Proserpine herself. Do thou deliver thy message, and taking what the Queen of the Dead shall give thee, return back again, offering to the watchdog the other cake, and to the ferryman the other piece of money that thou hast in thy mouth. After this manner mayst thou return again to the light of day. And I charge thee not to look into, nor open, the casket thou bearest with the treasure of the beauty of the divine features hidden therein."
So the stories of the tower spoke. Psyche gave heed to all that they said. She entered the lonely house of Proserpine. At the feet of the Goddess of the Dead she sat down humbly; she would not rest upon the couch that was there nor take any of the food that was offered her. She delivered her message and she waited. Then Proserpine filled the casket secretly and shut the lid, and handed it to Psyche. She went from the house; she remembered the sop she had to give the watchdog and the fee she had to give the ferryman. She came back into the light of day. Now even as she hasted into the presence of Venus she said to herself, "I have in my hands the divine loveliness. Should I touch myself with a particle of it I should have a beauty indeed that would please him whom I still seek, him whom I still hope to be beside." Saying this, she raised the lid of the casket. Behold! what was within was sleep only, the sleep that was like the sleep of the dead! That sleep overcame Psyche, and she lay upon the ground and moved not.
But now Cupid, being healed of the wound from the burning oil, and longing for Psyche, his beloved, flew from the chamber in his mother's house. He found Psyche lying in slumber. He shook that slumber from her, and awakened her with the point of his arrow. Then he rose upon the air, and he went vehemently upon his way until he came into the highest court of Heaven. There sat Iuppiter, the Father of Gods and men. When Cupid went to him, Iuppiter took his hand in his, and kissed his face and said to him, "At no time, my son, hast thou regarded me with due honour. With those busy arrows of thine thou hast often upset the harmony that it is mine to bring about. But because thou hast grown up between these hands of mine, will accomplish thy desire." He bade Mercury call the Gods together.
[paragraph continues] And the Gods being assembled, Iuppiter said to them, "Ye Gods, it seems good to me that this boy should be confined in the bonds of marriage. And he has chosen and embraced a mortal maiden. Let him have the fruit of his love, and possess her for ever."
Thereupon the Father of the Gods bade Mercury produce Psyche amongst them. She was brought into the highest court of Heaven. The Father of the Gods held out to her his ambrosial cup. "Drink of it," he said, "and live for ever. Cupid shall never depart from thee." Then the Gods sat down to the marriage-feast. On the first couch was the bridegroom with his Psyche at his bosom. Bacchus served wine to the rest of the company, but his own serving-boy served it to Iuppiter. The Seasons crimsoned all things with their roses. Apollo sang to his lyre. Pan prattled on his reeds. Venus danced very sweetly to the soft music. And thus, with all due rites, did Psyche, horn a mortal, become the immortal wife of Love. From Cupid and Psyche was born a daughter whom men call Voluptas.