This is a chapter of Evergreen Stories by W. M. L. Hutchinson. It includes the following stories: King Midas and His Strange Adventures — Alcestis, the Noble Wife — The Real Helen — Cupid and Psyche — The Vision of Er — Circe, the Island Witch — Bellerophon, the Rider of Pegasus — How Theseus Slew the Minotaur — Odysseus in the Land of Shadows — Heracles and the Poisoned Robe | The Story of Pheidippides — The Story of Solon, Croesus, and Cyrus
Cupid and Psyche has the following chapters: 1. More Beautiful than Venus | 2. The Curse of Beauty | 3. The Enchanted Palace | 4. The Winged Monster | 5. Psyche’s Sisters | 6. A Plan Out of Envy | 7. Psyche’s Audacity | 8. Venus Finds Out about Cupid | 9. Psyche’s Wandering | 10. Psyche Surrenders to Venus | 11. Psyche’s Labors | 12. Descent to Hades | 13. Psyche’s Curiosity | 14. Cupid and Psyche’s Wedding
Soon after this, Psyche’s husband warned her again in the nighttime that a great danger threatened her from her sisters.
“Be on your guard, sweet wife,” said he, “for those treacherous women are busy plotting to lay a snare for you, and their purpose is to persuade you to look on my face, which, if you do, as I have told you already, you will behold it no more forever. So if the evil hags come again, as I doubt not they will, it would be far safer not to see or speak with them. But if you cannot bear that, take heed at least not to answer one word if they question you about your husband.”
Now, sure enough, the wicked sisters presently resolved on a plot and took ship again to carry out their malicious intent. Then Psyche’s husband warned her yet again, and with passionate earnestness.
“Beloved,” he said to her, “now comes the fateful day; now our household enemies are mustered and marching in arms against us — ay, your two sisters have drawn their swords to slay you. Alas, what a fierce assault we must stand this day! Oh, sweet Psyche, have pity on yourself and on me and save us both from this deadly peril; do not, I entreat you, see or speak to these accursed women, who are unworthy to be called your sisters, being full of unnatural enmity and hatred. Do not listen, do not answer them when they come today to the mountain and lure you, like the sirens, with their deluding voices.”
When Psyche had heard these words, she sighed sorrowfully and said: “Dear husband, this long time you have found me faithful and true, and believe me, I always shall be. So pray bid your Zephyrus bring down my sisters as he did before. For I think you ought to let me see them, to make up for not seeing you — which indeed I never will try to do, and nobody shall ever persuade me into such disobedience. No, no; I am content not to see your dear face, while I can feel these soft cheeks, this lovely hair, this beautiful body. I do not mind the darkness that hides you, for you are the light of my soul.”
Then her husband, being as it were bewitched with these words and overborne by the sweet violence of her caresses, wiped away Psyche’s tears with his hair and yielded to her will. And when morning dawned, he departed as his custom was. That same day the wicked sisters landed and went straight to the mountain, without visiting their parents; and in their eagerness, they leaped off the rock immediately. And that would have been the end of them, had not Zephyrus been waiting for them by his lord’s command, and brought them down safely, though much against his will.
This time Psyche did not meet them in the valley; so they ran to the house, and burst into her chamber in most unmannerly fashion, without asking leave. And having found their prey, these harpies embraced her with many fond words, saying they could not rest till they had thanked her for the splendid presents she had given them. Psyche received them lovingly as before; again perfumed baths and a delicious banquet were prepared for them. After that, Psyche called for music; and straightway an invisible harper played upon his harp, while sweet voices sang together and flutes and pipes made up the concert, to the great delight of the evil sisters.
But even this celestial harmony could not charm the envy, hatred, and malice out of their souls. It no sooner ceased, than they set to work on their plot against Psyche, asking who her husband was, and what was his rank and lineage. The poor, simple girl, forgetting what she had told them before, invented a different story; she said that he was a rich merchant of good family, a middle-aged man, and his hair was turning grey. And then, being again much afraid of their questioning, she filled their laps with treasure and called Zephyrus to carry them away.
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“Well, sister,” began the eldest princess as they went down from the mountain, “what do you say to this manifest lie of Psyche’s? First, she told us her husband was a young man and had flaxen hair, and now she says it is half-grey with age. What kind of young man is that, pray, who turns into an old one in a few months? Either I am much mistaken, or the cursed wench made up these lies about her husband because she has never seen him. Now, if that be so, he is certainly some god, who comes to her invisibly — think of that, sister, Psyche is married to a god! Ay, and when she becomes a mother —as I am sure that she will— her child will be divine. But if I let that happen — oh, I can see my mother glorying over it, but please heaven she never shall — then will I go and hang myself. So now let us go to our parents and make some pretext for visiting them again; we will lodge with them tonight and consult together what is to be done next.”
Till late that night the wicked sisters sat plotting, and in the morning they once more climbed the mountain and were carried down into the valley on the wings of Zephyrus. When these hypocrites had forced tears into their eyes, they called lamentably to Psyche, who came running out to them in great alarm and asked what had befallen. Then said the eldest sister:
“Alas, child, you little know your dreadful plight. You sit at home, happy and careless, but we, in our sisterly love, have been diligently inquiring into your affairs, and now we have made a discovery which we dare not keep from you. Remember how the oracle of Apollo declared that you should be married to a serpent — it was but too true, for we are credibly informed that a huge and venomous serpent, with ravenous, gaping jaws, comes to be with you every night. This we have learned from the country folk and from hunters on the hills, who assure us that they saw him only last night swimming across the river to you. And they are certain he only pampers you with delicate fare to make the better meal of you before long. So now consider, dear Psyche, what you will do. Will you hearken to your sisters — or will you stay with the serpent until he swallows you whole? For we are ready to save you — but if you choose certain death rather than give this secret, shameful luxury and the serpent’s pretended love, at least you must own we have done our duty in warning you.”
Alas for poor silly Psyche! As she listened to this tale, she clean forgot her husband’s warning and her own promise to be on her guard; she turned white with terror, and came near fainting, so that for some minutes she could not utter a word. At last, in a trembling voice, she said:
“Oh, dearest sisters, I thank you with all my heart for your great kindness and I feel sure it is all true what you have been told. For now I must confess that I have never seen my husband — and I know nothing about him — only I hear his voice in the night. And he always goes away before morning, as if he dreaded the daylight — and that does look as if he were a beast. What is more, I dare not try to see him, for he threatens me with some awful misfortune if ever I should attempt it… Oh, oh, pray, dear sisters, if you can think of any way to save me, tell me quickly what to do!”
The wicked sisters saw with glee that their prey had fallen into the trap, but they worked still more upon her fears by dark and dismal hints, until they had made her well-nigh desperate. Then said the eldest:
“There is only one way for you to escape certain death, my poor girl. Tonight, when you go to bed, put a sharp razor under your pillow, and hide a lighted lamp behind some curtain in your room. And when the serpent comes, mind you let him suspect nothing, but dissemble with him until he falls fast asleep — then you must get up very quietly, taking the razor, and fetch out the lamp — and then, with one brave stroke, cut off his venomous head.”
At that, Psyche gave a great shudder.
“Oh, I shall never dare,” she cried; “besides, how am I to get away, afterwards?”
“Leave that to us, child!” said the other sister. “We will be close at hand and provide means to bring you safe home. And once you are free of that monster, you shall be married to some handsome young prince and live happy ever after. But meantime it will not do for us to stay here, so bid your servant Zephyrus carry us up the mountain.”
And taking a hasty farewell of Psyche —for indeed they were in a hurry to be gone, lest some harm might come to them from their treachery— the two wicked sisters departed as they had come. But no sooner were they landed on the hilltop than they ran full speed down to the harbor, and sailed away to their own country.