A Book of Myths

Page: 29

“Alas! unhappy one,” they said, “dost think to escape the evil fate the gods meted out for thee? Thy husband is none other than the monster of which the oracle spake! Oh, foolish Psyche! canst not understand [Pg 56] that the monster fears the light? Too great horror would it mean for thee to see the loathsome thing that comes in the blackness of night and speaks to thee words of love.”

White-lipped and trembling, Psyche listened. Drop by drop the poisonous words passed into her soul. She had thought him king of all living things—worthy to rule over gods as well as men. She was so sure that his body was worthy sheath for the heart she knew so well.... She had pictured him beautiful as Eros, son of Aphrodite—young and fair, with crisp, golden locks—a husband to glory in—a lover to adore. And now she knew, with shame and dread, that he who had won her love between the twilight and the dawn was a thing to shame her, a monster to be shunned of men.

“What, then, shall I do?” piteously she asked of her sisters. And the women, pitilessly, and well content, answered:

“Provide thyself with a lamp and a knife sharp enough to slay the man or monster. And when this creature to whom, to thy undying shame, thou belongest, sleeps sound, slip from thy couch and in the rays of the lamp have courage to look upon him in all his horror. Then, when thou hast seen for thyself that what we say is truth, with thy knife swiftly slay him. Thus shalt thou free thyself from the pitiless doom meted out by the gods.”

Shaking with sobs, Psyche made answer:

“I love him so!... I love him so!”

And her sisters turned upon her with furious scorn and well-simulated wrath.

[Pg 57] “Shameless one!” they cried; “and does our father’s daughter confess to a thing so unutterable! Only by slaying the monster canst thou hope to regain thy place amongst the daughters of men.”

They left her when evening fell, carrying with them their royal gifts. And while she awaited the coming of her lord, Psyche, provided with knife and lamp, crouched with her head in her hands, a lily broken by a cruel storm. So glad was Eros to come back to her, to find her safely there—for greatly had he feared the coming of that treacherous pair—that he did not note her silence. Nor did the dark night show him that her eyes in her sad face looked like violets in a snow wreath. He wanted only to hold her safely in his arms, and there she lay, passive and still, until sleep came to lay upon him an omnipotent hand. Then, very gently, she withdrew herself from his embrace, and stole to the place where her lamp was hidden. Her limbs shook under her as she brought it to the couch where he lay asleep; her arm trembled as she held it aloft.