A Book of Myths

Page: 34

Thereon she told her that she must seek that dark valley where no silver nor golden light ever strikes on the black waters of Cocytus and of the Styx; and where Pluto reigns in gloomy majesty over the restless shades. From Proserpine she was to crave for Aphrodite the gift of a box of magical ointment, the secret of which was known to the Queen of Darkness alone, and which was able to bring to those who used it, beauty more [Pg 65] exquisite than any that the eyes of gods or of men had as yet looked upon.

“I grow weary and careworn,” said Aphrodite, and she looked like a rose that has budded in Paradise as she spoke. “My son was wounded by a faithless slave in whom, most weakly, he put his trust, and in tending to his wound, my beauty has faded.”

And at these scornful words, the heart of Psyche leaped within her.

“In helping his mother, I shall help him!” she thought. And again she thought, “I shall atone.” And so, when day was come, she took her way along the weary road that leads to that dark place from whence no traveller can ever hope to return, and still with gladness in her heart. But, as she went onward, “cold thoughts and dreadful fears” came to her.

“Better were it for me to hasten my journey to the shades,” she thought.

And when she came to an old grey tower, that seemed like an old man that Death has forgotten, she resolved to throw herself down from it, and thus swiftly to find herself at her journey’s end. But as she stood on the top of the tower, her arms outstretched, like a white butterfly that poises its wings for flight, a voice spoke in her ear.

“Oh, foolish one,” it said, “why dost thou strive to stay the hope that is not dead?” And while she held her breath, her great eyes wide open, the voice spoke on, and told her by what means she might speedily reach Hades and there find means to face with courage the King of Darkness himself and his fair wife, Proserpine.

[Pg 66] All that she was bidden to do, Psyche did, and so at last did she come before the throne of Proserpine, and all that Psyche endured, all that she saw, all that through which she came with bleeding heart and yet with unscathed soul, cannot here be written.

To her Proserpine gave the box of precious ointment that Aphrodite described, and gladly she hastened homeward. Good, indeed, it was to her when again she reached the fair light of day. Yet, when she had won there, there came to Psyche a winged thought, that beat against the stern barriers of her mind like a little moth against a window.

“This ointment that I carry with me,” said Psyche to herself, “is an ointment that will bring back to those all faded by time, or worn by suffering, a beauty greater than any beauty that has joyed the Immortals!” And then she thought: