| 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 |
THE TRIAL OF PSYCHE
 OVER mountains and valleys Psyche journeyed alone until she
came to the city where her two envious sisters lived with
the princes whom they had married. She stayed with them
only long enough to tell the
story of her unbelief and its penalty. Then she set out
again to search for Love.
As she wandered one day, travel-worn but not hopeless, she
saw a lofty palace on a hill near by, and she turned her
steps thither. The place seemed deserted. Within the hall
she saw no human being,—only heaps of grain, loose ears of
corn half torn from the husk, wheat and barley, alike
scattered in confusion on the floor. Without delay, she set
to work binding the sheaves together and gathering the
scattered ears of corn in seemly wise, as a princess would
wish to see them. While she was in the midst of her
task, a voice startled her, and she looked up to behold
Demeter herself, the goddess of the harvest, smiling upon
her with good will.
"Dear Psyche," said Demeter, "you are worthy of happiness,
and you may find it yet.
But since you have displeased Venus, go to her and ask her
favor. Perhaps your patience will win her pardon."
These motherly words gave Psyche heart, and she reverently
took leave of the goddess and set out for the temple of
Venus. Most humbly she offered up her prayer, but Venus
could not look at her earthly beauty without anger.
 "Vain girl," said she, "perhaps you have come to make amends
for the wound you dealt your husband; you shall do so. Such
clever people can always find work!"
Then she led Psyche into a great chamber heaped high with
mingled grain, beans, and lintels (the food of her doves),
and bade her separate them all and have them ready in seemly
fashion by night. Heracles would have been helpless before
such a vexatious task; and poor Psyche, left alone in this
desert of grain, had not courage to begin. But even as she
sat there, a moving thread of black crawled across the floor
from a crevice in the wall; and bending nearer, she saw
that a great army of ants in columns had come to her aid.
The zealous little creatures worked in swarms, with such
industry over the work they like best, that, when Venus came
at night, she found the task completed.
"Deceitful girl," she cried, shaking the roses
out of her hair with impatience, "this is my son's work,
not yours. But he will soon forget you. Eat this
black bread if you are hungry, and refresh your dull mind
with sleep. To-morrow you will need more wit."
Psyche wondered what new misfortune could be in store for
her. But when morning came, Venus led her to the brink of a
river, and, pointing to the wood across the water, said,
"Go now to yonder grove whore the sheep with the golden
fleece are wont to browse. Bring me a golden lock from every
one of them, or you must go your ways and never come back
This seemed not difficult, and Psyche obediently bade the
goddess farewell, and stepped into the water, ready to wade
across. But as Venus disappeared, the reeds sang louder and
the nymphs of the river, looking
 up sweetly, blew bubbles to
the surface and murmured:
"Nay, nay, have a care, Psyche. This flock
has not the gentle ways of sheep. While the sun burns
aloft, they are themselves as fierce as flame; but when the
shadows are long, they go to rest and sleep, under the trees;
and you may cross the river without fear and pick the
golden fleece off the briers in the pasture."
Thanking the water-creatures, Psyche sat
down to rest near them, and when the time came, she crossed
in safety and followed their counsel. By twilight she
returned to Venus with her arms full of shining fleece.
"No mortal wit did this," said Venus angrily. "But if you
care to prove your readiness, go now, with this little box,
down to Proserpina and ask her to enclose in it some of her
beauty, for I have grown pale in caring for my wounded son."
It needed not the last taunt to sadden Psyche. She knew that
it was not for mortals to go into Hades and return alive;
and feeling that love had forsaken her, she was minded to
accept her doom as soon as might be.
But even as she hastened towards the descent, another
friendly voice detained her. "Stay, Psyche, I know your
grief. Only give ear and you shall learn a safe way through
all these trials." And the voice went on to tell her
how one might avoid all the dangers of Hades and come out
unscathed. (But such a secret could not pass from mouth
to mouth, with the rest of the story.)
"And be sure," added the voice, "when Proserpina has
returned the box, not to open it, however much you may long
to do so."
 Psyche gave heed, and by this device, whatever
it was, she found her way into Hades safely, and made her
errand known to Proserpina, and was soon in the upper world
again, wearied but hopeful.
"Surely Love has not forgotten me," she said. "But humbled
as I am and worn with toil, how shall I ever please him?
Venus can never need all the beauty in this casket; and
since I use it for Love's sake, it must be right to take
some." So saying, she opened the box, heedless as Pandora!
The spells and potions of Hades are not for mortal
maids, and no sooner had she inhaled the strange aroma than
she fell down like one dead, quite overcome.
But it happened that Love himself was recovered from his
wound, and he had secretly fled from his chamber to seek out
and rescue Psyche. He found her lying by the wayside; he
gathered into the casket what remained of the philter, and
awoke his beloved.
"Take comfort," he said, smiling. "Return to our mother and
do her bidding till I come again."
Away he flew; and while Psyche went cheerily homeward, he
hastened up to Olympus, where all the gods sat feasting, and
begged them to intercede for him with his angry mother.
They heard his story and their hearts were
touched. Zeus himself coaxed Venus with kind words
till at last she relented, and remembered that anger hurt
her beauty, and smiled once more. All the younger gods
were for welcoming Psyche at once, and Hermes was sent to
bring her hither. The maiden came, a shy newcomer among those
bright creatures. She took the cup that Hebe held out to
her, drank the divine ambrosia, and became immortal.
Light came to her face like moonrise, two radiant
 wings sprang from her shoulders; and even as a butterfly bursts
from its dull cocoon, so the human Psyche blossomed into
Love took her by the hand, and they were never parted any
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