| Old Greek Folk Stories Told Anew|
|by Josephine Preston Peabody|
|A child's first book of Greek tales containing many of the shorter myths retold with exceptional literary skill. Relates the stories of Prometheus, who brought to earth the bright-eyed fire treasured by the gods; of Orpheus, best of harpers; of the cunning Daedalus; the ambitious Phaethon; Apollo and Diana, and other gods and heroes of the olden time. Designed to supplement the myths retold by Nathaniel Hawthorne in A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales. Ages 8-10 |
CUPID AND PSYCHE
 ONCE upon a time, through that Destiny that over-rules the
gods, Love himself gave up his immortal heart to a mortal
maiden. And this is how it came to pass.
There was a certain king who had three beautiful daughters.
The two elder married princes of great renown; but Psyche,
the youngest, was so radiantly fair that no suitor seemed
worthy of her. People thronged to see her pass through the
city, and sang hymns in her praise, while strangers took her
for the very goddess of beauty herself.
This angered Venus, and she resolved to cast down her
earthly rival. One day, therefore, she called hither her son
Love (Cupid, some name him), and bade him sharpen his
weapons. He is an archer more to be dreaded than
Apollo, for Apollo's arrows take life, but Love's bring joy
or sorrow for a whole life long.
"Come, Love," said Venus. "There is a mortal maid who robs
me of my honors in yonder city. Avenge your mother.
Wound this precious Psyche, and let her fall in love with
some churlish creature, mean in the eyes of all men."
Cupid made ready his weapons, and flew down to earth
invisibly. At that moment Psyche was asleep in her chamber;
but he touched her heart with his golden arrow of love, and
she opened her eyes so suddenly that he started (forgetting
that he was invisible), and wounded himself
with his own shaft.
 Heedless of the hurt, moved
only by the loveliness of the maiden, he
hastened to pour over
her locks the healing joy that he ever kept by him, undoing
all his work. Back to her dream the princess went,
unshadowed by any thought of love. But Cupid, not so
light of heart, returned to the heavens saying not a
word of what had passed.
Venus waited long; then, seeing that Psyche's heart had
somehow escaped love, she sent a spell upon the maiden. From
that time, lovely as she was, not a suitor came to woo; and
her parents, who desired to see her a queen at least, made a
journey to the Oracle, and asked counsel.
Said the voice: "The princess Psyche shall never wed a
mortal. She shall be given to one who waits for her on
yonder mountain; he overcomes gods and men."
At this terrible sentence the poor parents
were half distraught, and the people gave themselves up to
grief at the fate in store for their beloved princess.
Psyche alone bowed to her destiny. "We have angered Venus
unwittingly," she said, "and all for the sake of me,
heedless maiden that I am! Give me up, therefore, dear
father and mother. If I atone, it may be that the city will
prosper once more."
So she besought them, until, after many unavailing
denials, the parents consented; and with a great company
of people they led Psyche up the mountain,—as an offering to
the monster of whom the Oracle had spoken,—and left her there
Full of courage, yet in a secret agony of grief, she watched
her kindred and her people wind down the mountain-path, too
sad to look back, until they were lost to sight. Then,
indeed, she wept, but a sudden
 breeze drew near, dried her
tears, and caressed her hair, seeming to murmur comfort. In
truth, it was Zephyr, the kindly West Wind, come to befriend
her; and as she took heart, feeling some benignant
presence, he lifted her in his arms, and carried her on
wings as even as a sea-gull's over the crest of the fateful
mountain and into a valley below. There he left her,
resting on a bank of hospitable grass, and there the
princess fell asleep.
When she awoke, it was near sunset. She looked about her for
some sign of the monster's approach; she wondered, then, if
her grievous trial had been but a dream. Near by she saw a
sheltering forest, whose young trees seemed to beckon as one
maid beckons to another; and eager for the protection of the
dryads, she went thither.
The call of running waters drew her farther and farther,
till she came out upon an open place, where there was a wide
pool. A fountain fluttered gladly in the midst of it, and
beyond there stretched a white palace wonderful to see.
Coaxed by the bright promise of the place, she drew near,
and, seeing no one, entered softly. It was all kinglier than
her father's home, and as she stood in wonder and awe, soft
airs stirred about her. Little by little the silence grew
murmurous like the woods, and one voice, sweeter than the
rest, took words. "All that you see is yours, gentle
high princess," it said. "Fear nothing; only command
us, for we are here to serve you."
SHE CAME OUT UPON AN OPEN PLACE
Full of amazement and delight, Psyche followed the voice
from hall to hall, and through the lordly rooms, beautiful
with everything that could delight a young princess. No
pleasant thing was lacking. There was even a pool,
brightly tiled and fed with running
 waters, where she bathed
her weary limbs; and after she had put on the new and
beautiful raiment that lay ready for her, she sat down to
break her fast, waited upon and sung to by the unseen
Surely he whom the Oracle had called her husband was no
monster, but some beneficent power, invisible like all the
rest. When daylight waned he came, and his voice, the
beautiful voice of a god, inspired her to trust her strange
destiny and to look and long for his return. Often she
begged him to stay with her through the day, that she might
see his face; but this he would not grant.
"Never doubt me, dearest Psyche," said he. "Perhaps you
would fear if you saw me, and love is all I ask. There is a
necessity that keeps me hidden now. Only believe."
So for many days Psyche was content; but when she grew used
to happiness, she thought once more of her parents mourning
her as lost, and of her sisters who shared the lot of
mortals while she lived as a goddess. One night she told her
husband of these regrets, and begged that her sisters at
least might come to see her. He sighed, but did not refuse.
"Zephyr shall bring them hither," said he. And on the
following morning, swift as a bird,
the West Wind came over the crest of the high mountain and
down into the enchanted valley, bearing her two sisters.
They greeted Psyche with joy and amazement, hardly knowing
how they had come hither. But when this fairest of the
sisters led them through her palace and showed them all the
treasures that were hers, envy grew in their hearts and
choked their old love. Even while they sat at feast with
 grew more and more bitter; and hoping to find some
little flaw in her good fortune, they asked a thousand
"Where is your husband?" said they. "And why is he not
here with you?"
"Ah," stammered Psyche. " All the day long—he is
gone, hunting upon the mountains."
"But what does he look like?" they asked; and Psyche
could find no answer.
When they learned that she had never seen him, they laughed
her faith to scorn.
"Poor Psyche," they said. "You are walking
in a dream. Wake, before it is too late. Have you
forgotten what the Oracle decreed,—that you were destined
for a dreadful creature, the fear of gods and men? And
are you deceived
by this show of kindliness? We have come to
warn you. The people told us, as we came over the
mountain, that your husband is a dragon, who feeds you well
for the present, that he may feast the better, some day
soon. What is it that you trust? Good words! But
only take a dagger some night, and when the monster is
asleep go, light a lamp, and look at him. You can put
him to death easily, and all his riches will be yours—and
Psyche heard this wicked plan with horror. Nevertheless,
after her sisters were gone, she brooded over what they had
said, not seeing their evil intent; and she came to find
some wisdom in their words. Little by little, suspicion ate,
like a moth, into her lovely mind; and at nightfall, in
shame and fear, she hid a lamp and a dagger in her chamber.
Towards midnight, when her husband was fast asleep, up she
rose, hardly daring to breathe; and coming softly to his
side, she uncovered the lamp to see some horror.
 But there the youngest of the gods lay sleeping,—most
beautiful, most irresistible of all immortals. His hair
shone golden as the sun, his face was radiant as dear
Springtime, and from his shoulders sprang two rainbow wings.
Poor Psyche was overcome with self-reproach. As she leaned
towards him, filled with worship, her trembling hands held
the lamp ill, and
some burning oil fell upon Love's shoulder and awakened him.
He opened his eyes, to see at once his bride and the dark
suspicion in her heart.
"O doubting Psyche!" he exclaimed with sudden grief,—and
then he flew away, out of the window.
Wild with sorrow, Psyche tried to follow, but she fell to
the ground instead. When she recovered her senses, she
stared about her. She was alone, and the place was
beautiful no longer. Garden and palace had vanished with
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