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
By obeying the tower’s advice and warnings, Psyche journeyed safely through the Underworld and back again. She passed by the lame ass and his driver; she paid no heed to the old man in the river, and refused to help the old crones with their spinning; she appeased the three-headed dog with one of her honey cakes. When she came to Queen Proserpine’s chamber she would not sit on any royal seat nor taste anything save a morsel of coarse brown bread, but kneeling humbly at Proserpine’s feet she told her errand.
And looking on Pluto’s queen, Psyche did not wonder that Venus herself should be glad to borrow some of her beauty, for she was fairer than the evening star and shone starlike in that place of shadows. And as soon as the ivory box was given back to her —in which Proserpine put something, but what it was she could not see— she went back the way she came and gave the dog her other cake, and paid the grim ferryman with her other halfpenny.
But when Psyche came out of the cavern on Mount Taenarus and stood once more in the glad sunlight, she was taken with a great longing to open the ivory box.
“What a fool I am,” she said to herself, “to be carrying this divine beauty in my hand, and not take just a little bit to put on my face and make it more winsome to my dear lover.”
So saying, she lifted up the lid and peeped into the box — where alas, she saw nothing at all save a grey vapor that came out like a puff of smoke and filled her eyes and nostrils; and Psyche no sooner breathed it than she fell to the ground in a deathlike slumber. For to guard her mystic beauty gift, Proserpine had laid a portion of the Unawakening Sleep that holds the eyelids of the dead in the ivory box.
Now in the meanwhile, Cupid was healed of the grievous wound that the drop of burning oil made in his shoulder, and his clipped wings grew again. And his love for Psyche, that he thought was killed by her treason, rose up alive in his heart so that he could not endure to be parted from her anymore. So, finding the door of his chamber locked, he stole out by the window and flew away in search of his dearest wife, and found her quickly, as gods can.
There she lay, as if dead, on the hillside, with the sleep covering her face like a grey mask. Cupid wiped it off, and put it back in the ivory box, and pricked Psyche ever so gently with the tip of one of his arrows. At that, she awoke, and he said to her, smiling:
“Ah, little scapegrace, so your curiosity has well-nigh been your ruin again! But now go back and tell my mother you have done her errand — and leave me to manage the rest.”
Then Cupid flew away heavenwards without another word, but the sight of him filled Psyche with such joy and comfort that she went blithely back to the house of Venus and presented the ivory box to her with a meek but steadfast countenance.
“I can bear anything now,” she thought, “for I know my dear lord loves me still.”
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But the goddess, taking the box from Psyche’s hand and looking into it, remained silent awhile; then with a lovely smile and in a voice like honey she said, “Well done… my daughter. Fairest among women though you are, this beauty of Proserpine’s will serve to make you still more fair and desirable when I adorn you as my son’s bride. And I must do that quickly, Psyche — for this is your wedding day.”