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´╗┐Title: Psyche
Author: Couperus, Louis, 1863-1923
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Psyche" ***

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                                 PSYCHE

                                   By

                             LOUIS COUPERUS

                       Translated from the Dutch,
                     with the author's permission,

                                   By

                         B. S. Berrington, B.A.

           With Twelve Illustrations by Dion Clayton Calthrop



                      London: Alston Rivers, Ltd.
                   Brooke Street, Holborn Bars, E.C.
                                  1908



              "Cry no more now and go to sleep, and if you cannot sleep,
               I will tell you a story, a pretty story of flowers and
               gems and birds, of a young prince and a little princess.
               ... For in the world there is nothing more than a story."



PSYCHE

CHAPTER I


Gigantically massive, with three hundred towers, on the summit of a
rocky mountain, rose the king's castle high into the clouds.

But the summit was broad, and flat as a plateau, and the castle spread
far out, for miles and miles, with ramparts and walls and pinnacles.

And everywhere rose up the towers, lost in the clouds, and the castle
was like a city, built upon a lofty rock of basalt.

Round the castle and far away lay the valleys of the kingdom, receding
into the horizon, one after the other, and ever and ever.

Ever changing was the horizon: now pink, then silver; now blue, then
golden; now grey, then white and misty, and gradually fading away,
and never could the last be seen.

In clear weather there loomed behind the horizon always another
horizon. They circled one another endlessly, they were lost in the
dissolving mists, and suddenly their silhouette became more sharply
defined.

Over the lofty towers stretched away at times an expanse of variegated
clouds, but below rushed a torrent, which fell like a cataract into
a fathomless abyss, that made one dizzy to look at.

So it seemed as if the castle rose up to the highest stars and went
down to the central nave of the earth.

Along the battlements, higher than a man, Psyche often wandered,
wandered round the castle from tower to tower, from wall to wall,
with a dreamy smile on her face, then she looked up and stretched out
her hands to the stars, or gazed below at the dashing water, with
all the colours of the rainbow, till her head grew dizzy, and she
drew back and placed her little hands before her eyes. And long she
would sit in the corner of an embrasure, her eyes looking far away,
a smile on her face, her knees drawn up and her arms entwining them,
and her tiny wings spread out against the mossy stone-work, like a
butterfly that sat motionless.

And she gazed at the horizon, and however much she gazed, she always
saw more.

Close by were the green valleys, dotted with grazing sheep, soft
meadows with fat cattle, waving corn-fields, canals covered with ships,
and the cottage roofs of a village. Farther away were lines of woods,
hill-tops, mountain-ridges, or a mass of angular, rough-hewn basalt.

Still farther off, misty towers with minarets and domes, cupolas and
spires, smoking chimneys, and the outline of a broad river. Beyond,
the horizon became milk-white, or like an opal, but not a line more
was there, only tint, the reflection of the last glow of the sun,
as if lakes were mirrored there; islands rose, low, in the air,
aerial paradises, watery streaks of blue sea, oceans of ether and
light quivering nothingness!...

And Psyche gazed and mused.... She was the third princess, the
youngest daughter of the old king, monarch of the Kingdom of the
Past.... She was always very lonely. Her sisters she seldom saw,
her father only for a moment in the evening, before she went to bed;
and when she had the chance she fled from the mumbling old nurse, and
wandered along the battlements and dreamed, with her eyes far away,
gazing at the vast kingdom, beyond which was nothingness....

Oh, how she longed to go farther than the castle, to the meadows,
the woods, the towns--to go to the shining lakes, the opal islands,
the oceans of ether, and then to that far, far-off nothingness, that
quivered so, like a pale, pale light!... Would she ever be able to pass
out of the gates?--Oh, how she longed to wander, to seek, to fly!... To
fly, oh! to fly, to fly as the sparrows, the doves, the eagles!

And she flapped her weak, little wings.

On her tender shoulders there were two wings, like those of a very
large butterfly, transparent membranes, covered with crimson and soft,
yellow dust, streaked with azure and pink, where they were joined to
her back. And on each wing glowed two eyes, like those on a peacock's
tail, but more beautiful in colour and glistening like jewels, fine
sapphires and emeralds on velvet, and the velvet eye set four times
in the glittering texture of the wings.

Her wings she flapped, but with them she could not fly.

That, that was her great grief--that, that made her think, what were
they for, those wings on her shoulders? And she shook them and flapped
them, but could not rise above the ground; her delicate form did not
ascend into the air, her naked foot remained firm on the ground, and
only her thin, fine veil, that trailed a little round her snow-white
limbs, was slightly raised by the gentle fluttering of her wings.



CHAPTER II


To fly! oh, to fly!

She was so fond of birds. How she envied them! She enticed them with
crumbs of bread, with grains of corn, and once she had rescued a dove
from an eagle. The dove she had hidden under her veil, pressed close
to her bosom, and the eagle she had courageously driven off with her
hand, when in his flight he overshadowed her with his broad wings,
calling out to him to go away and leave her dove unhurt.

Oh, to seek! to seek!

For she was so fond of flowers, and gladly in the woods and meadows,
or farther away still, would she have sought for those that were
unknown. But she cultivated them within the walls, on the rocky ground,
and she had made herself a garden; the buds opened when she looked
at them, the stems grew when she stroked them, and when she kissed
a faded flower it became as fresh again as ever.



To wander, oh, to wander!

Then she wandered along the battlements, down the steps, over the
court-yards and the ramparts, but at the gates stood the guards,
rough and bearded and clad in mail, with loud-sounding horns round
their shoulders.

Then she could go no farther and wandered back into the vaults
and crypts, where sacred spiders wove their webs; and then, if she
became frightened, she hurried away, farther, farther, farther, along
endless galleries, between rows of motionless knights in armour,
till she came again to her nurse, who sat ever at her spinning-wheel.

Oh! to glide through the air!

To glide in a steady wind, to the farthest horizon, to the milk-white
and opal region, which she saw in her dreams, to the uttermost parts
of the earth!

To glide to the seas, and the islands, which yonder, so far, far
away and so unsubstantial, changed every moment, as if a breeze
could alter their form, their tint; so unfirm, that no foot could
tread them, but only a winged being like herself, a bird, a fairy,
could gently hover over them, to see all that beautiful landscape,
to enjoy that atmosphere, that dream of Paradise....

Oh! to fly, to seek, to wander, to soar!...

And for hours together she sat dreaming in an embrasure, her eyes
far off, her arms round her knees, and her wings spread out, like a
little butterfly that sat motionless.



CHAPTER III


Emeralda, that was the name of her eldest sister. Surpassingly
beautiful was Emeralda, dazzling fair as no woman in the kingdom, no
princess in other kingdoms. Exceedingly tall she was, and majestic in
stature; erect she walked, stately and proudly; she was very proud,
for after the death of the king she was to reign on the throne of the
Kingdom of the Past. Jealous of all the power which would be hers,
she rejected all the princes who sued for her hand. She never spoke
but to command, and only to her father did she bow. She always wore
heavy brocade, silver or gold, studded with jewels, and long mantles
of rustling silk, fringed with broad ermine; a diadem of the finest
jewels always glittered on her red golden hair and her eyes also were
jewels; two magnificent green emeralds, in which a black carbuncle
was the pupil; and people whispered secretly that her heart was cut
out of one single, gigantic ruby.

Oh, Psyche was so afraid of her!

When Psyche wandered through the castle and suddenly saw
Emeralda coming, preceded by pages, torches, shield-bearers, and
maids-in-waiting, who bore her train, and a score of halberdiers,
then she was struck with fear, and hastily concealed herself behind a
door, a curtain, no matter where, and then Emeralda rustled by with a
great noise of satin and gold and all the trampling of her retinue, and
Psyche's heart beat loudly like a clock, tick! tick! tick! tick! till
she thought she would faint....

Then she shut her eyes so as not to see the cold, proud look of
Emeralda's green emeralds, which pierced through the curtains, and
saw Psyche well enough, though she pretended not to see her. And
when Emeralda was gone, then Psyche fled upstairs, high up on to the
battlements, fetched a deep breath, pressed her hands to her bosom,
and long afterwards her little wings trembled from fear.

Astra, that was the name of the second princess. She wore a living
star upon her head; she was very wise and learned; she knew much more
than all the philosophers and learned men in the kingdom, who came
to her for counsel.

She lived in the highest tower of the castle, and sometimes, along
the bars of her window, she saw clouds pass by, like spirits of
the mist. She never left the tower. She sat, surrounded by rolls of
parchment, gigantic globes, which she turned with a pressure of her
finger; and after hours of contemplation she described, with great
compasses, on a slab of black marble, circle after circle, or reckoned
out long sums, with numbers so great that no one could pronounce them.

Sometimes she sat surrounded by the sages of the land, and the king
himself came and listened to his daughter, as in a low, firm voice
she explained things. But because she possessed all the wisdom of
the earth, she despised all the world, and she had had constructed on
the terrace of her tower a telescope, miles long, through which she
could look to every part of the illimitable firmament. And when the
sages were gone, and she was alone, then she went on to the terrace
and peered through the giant, which she turned to all the points of
the compass. Through the diamond lenses, cut without facets, she saw
new stars, unknown to men, and gave them names.

Through the diamond lenses she saw sun systems, spirals of fire,
shrivel up through the illimitableness of the universe.... But she
kept gazing, for behind those sun systems, she knew, were other
spheres, other heavens, and there farther still, illimitably far,
was the Mystic Rose, which she could never see....

Sometimes, when Psyche wandered round the castle, she knocked
nervously, inquisitively at Astra's door, who graciously allowed her to
enter. When Astra stood before the board and reckoned out long sums,
Psyche looked very earnestly at her sister's star, which glistened
on her head, in her coal-black hair. Or she went on to the terrace
and peeped through the telescope, but she saw nothing but very bright
light, which made her eyes ache....



CHAPTER IV


In the evening, before she went to sleep, Psyche sought the king.

A good hundred years old he was, his beard hung down to his girdle,
and generally he sat reading the historical scrolls of the kingdom,
which his ministers brought him every day.

But in the evening Psyche climbed on to his knees and nestled in
his beard, or sat at his feet in the folds of his tabard, and the
scroll fell to the ground, and crumpled up, and the withered hand of
the mighty monarch stroked the head of his third child, the princess
with the little wings.

"Father, dear," asked Psyche once; "why have I wings, and cannot fly?"

"You need not fly, child; you are much safer with me than if you were
a little bird in the air."

"But why then have I wings?"

"I don't quite know, my child...."

"Why have I wings, and Astra a living star upon her head, and Emeralda
eyes of jewels?"

"Because you are princesses; they are different from other girls."

"And why, dear father," whispered Psyche, secretly, "has Emeralda a
heart of ruby?..."

"No child, that she has not. She has, it is true, eyes of emerald,
because she is a princess--as Astra has a star and you two pretty
wings--but she has a human heart."

"No, father, dear, she has a heart of stone."

"But who says so, my child?"

"The nurse does, father, her own pages, the guards at the gates,
and the wise men who come to Astra."

The king was very sad. He and his daughter looked deep into each
other's eyes, and embraced each other, for the king was sad, on
account of what he saw in the future, and Psyche was frightened:
she always trembled when she thought of Emeralda.

"Little Psyche," said her old father, "will you now promise me
something?"

"Yes, father, dear."

"Will you always stay with me, little Psyche? You are safe here,
are you not? and the world is so great, the world is so wicked. The
world is full of temptation and mystery. Winged horses soar through
the air; gigantic sphinxes lurk in the deserts; devilish fauns roam
through the forests.... In the world, tears are shed, which form
brooks, and in the world people give away their noblest right for the
lowest pleasure.... Stay with me, Psyche, never wander too far away,
for under our castle glows the Nether-world!... And life is like a
princess, a cruel princess with a heart of stone...."

Of precious stone, like Emeralda, thought Psyche to herself. Who rides
in triumph with her victorious chariot over the tenderest and dearest,
and presses them stone-dead into the deepest furrows of the earth....

"Oh, Psyche, little Psyche, promise me always to stay here in this
high and safe castle: always to stay with your father!"

She did not understand him.

His eyes, very large and animated, looked over her into space, with
inexpressible sadness. Then she longed to console him, and threw her
white arms round his neck; she hid herself, as it were, in his beard,
and she whispered playfully:

"I will always stay with you, father dear...."

Then he pressed her to his heart, and thought that he would soon
die....



CHAPTER V


Psyche was often very lonely, but yet she had much: she had the
flowers, the birds; she had the butterflies, which thought that she
was a bigger sister; she had the lizards, with which she played,
and which, like little things of emerald, she held against her veil;
she had the swans in the deep castle moats, which followed her when
she walked on the ramparts; she had the clouds, which came floating
from distant islands and paradises beyond; she had the wind, which
sang her ballads; the rain, which fell down wet upon her and covered
her wings with pearls. She would gladly have played with the pages in
the halls, have laughed with the shield-bearers in the armoury, have
listened to the martial tales of the bearded halberdiers at the gates,
but she was a princess and knew she could not do that, and she always
walked past them with great dignity, maidenly modest in her fine, thin
veil, which left her tender limbs half exposed. That was the noble
Nakedness, which was her privilege as a princess, a privilege given
her at her cradle, together with her wings by the Fairy of Births,
as to Emeralda was given the Jewel and to Astra the Star. For never
might Psyche wear Jewel or Star, and never might Emeralda or Astra go
naked. Each princess had her own privilege, her birthright. Adorable
was Psyche as, unconscious of her maidenly, tender purity, she was seen
with her crimson glittering wings, naked in the folds of her veil,
walking past the armour-bearers and soldiers, who presented their
swords or halberds as the princess, nymph-white, stepped past them.

Psyche was often very lonely, for her nurse was old and mumbled
over her spinning-wheel; playmates Psyche had not, because she was
a princess, and she would not get court-ladies till she was older
and more dignified. But with the birds and the clouds and the wind
Psyche could speak and laugh, and she was seldom dull, although she
sometimes wished she were no longer Princess of Nakedness with the
wings, but one of those very ordinary peasant-girls whom she had
seen milking the cows, or plucking the thick bunches of grapes in
the vineyard at harvest-time, whilst the pressers, handsome brown
lads with sturdy arms, encircled the girls and danced.

But Psyche wandered along the ramparts; she looked at the clouds
and spoke with the wind, and she asked the wind to give flight to
her wings, so that she could fly far off to the opal landscapes that
kept shifting and changing. But the wind rushed away with a flapping
noise of wings that Psyche envied, and her own wings flapped a little,
but in vain.

Psyche looked at the clouds. They floated along so stately in all
kinds of forms--in the forms of sheep, swans, horses--and the form
never remained: the seeming forms, thick-white in the blue ether,
were constantly changing. Now she saw three swans which were drawing
a boat, in which stood three women, who guided the swans; then she
saw the women become a tower, the swans a dragon; and from far,
far away came a knight, sitting on a winged horse. But now slowly
the scene changed into a flock of little silver-fleeced, downy sheep,
which were browsing far off in the sunshine as in a golden meadow. The
knight disappeared, but the horse glided nearer and flew on his wings,
high over the castle, towards the sheep.

Then Psyche dreamed at night of the swans, the tower, the dragon,
the knight, the horse; but the horse she liked best, because it had
strong wings. And next morning she gazed from the battlements to see
if the horse would come again.

But then the sky was either gloomy from the rain or blue from the
absence of clouds, or covered with white peacock's feathers, splendid
plumes, but motionless, far, far away in the air. The wind changed,
when she said: "Away! blow now from the East again! Begone, North
wind, with your dark perils, begone! Begone, West wind, with your
rain-urns! Begone, South wind, with your peacock's feathers! Come
now, wind from the East, with your treasures of luxurious visions,
ye dragons, ye horses, ye girls with swans!..." Then the clouds began
to shift, the winds to blow, and play an opera high up in the air,
and Psyche, enchanted, sat and gazed.

Then after weeks, after she had missed it for weeks, came again the
winged horse.

And she beckoned to it to approach, to descend to her; but it flew past
over the castle. Then she missed it again for many days, and, angry,
she looked at the sky and scolded the wind. But then the horse came
again, and, laughing, she beckoned to it. The horse ascended high,
its wings expanded in the air, and oh, wonder! it beckoned to her
to come up, up to it. She gave a sign that she could not, shook her
little shoulders helplessly, and, trembling, flapped her wings and
spread her arms wide out to say that she could not. And the horse
sped away on the breath of the wind from the East.

Then Psyche wept, and, sad at heart, sat looking at the far, far-off
landscapes which she would never reach.

But weeks afterwards the treasure-bringing wind blew again, and again
appeared the horse in the horizon, and it flew near and beckoned to
Psyche, her heart heavy with hope and fear.... The horse mounted up;
it beckoned to her.... She gave a sign that she could not; and oh! she
feared that it would speed away again, the horse with the strong wings.

No ... no ... the horse descended! Then Psyche uttered a joyful cry,
sprang up, danced with delight and clapped her little hands. From the
lofty, lofty sky the horse came down, gliding on its broad wings. It
came down.

And Psyche, the little, joyful, excited Psyche, saw it coming, coming
down to her. It descended--it approached. Oh, what a beautiful horse
it was! Greater than the greatest horses, and then with wings! Fair it
was, fair as the sun, with a long curly mane and long flowing tail,
like a streamer of sunny gold. The noble head on its arched neck
proudly raised and its eyes shone like fire, and a stream of breath
came from its expanded nostrils, cloud after cloud. Big, powerful,
muscular, its wings were stretched out like silvery quills, as
Psyche had never seen in a bird before. And its golden hoofs struck
the clouds and made them thunder; and sparks of fire shot forth in
the pure, clear daylight. Enraptured Psyche had never seen such a
beautiful horse before, never a bird so beautiful; and breathless,
with her head raised, she waited till it should descend, descend on the
terrace.... At last there it stood before her. Its nostrils steamed,
and its hoofs struck sparks from the basalt rock, and it waved its
mane and switched its tail.

"Splendid, beautiful horse," said Psyche, "who are you?"

"I am the Chimera," answered the horse, and his voice sounded deep
as the clang of a brazen clock.

"Can you really speak?" asked Psyche, astonished. "And fly? Oh,
how happy you must be!!"

"Why have you called me, little princess?" said the Chimera.

"I wanted to see you quite near," replied Psyche. "I only saw you dart
like winged lightning through the air, so soon were you away again;
and I was always sorry when I could not see you any more. Then I
became, oh, so sad!"

"And why did you want to see me quite near, little princess with
the wings?"

"I find you so beautiful. I have never seen anything so beautiful;
I did not know that anything so beautiful existed. What are you? A
horse you are not. Nor a dragon either, nor a man. What are you?"

"I am the Chimera."

"Where do you come from?"

"From far away. From the lands which are beyond the lands, from the
worlds beyond the worlds, from the heavens beyond the heavens."

"Where are you going?"

"Very far. Do you see those distant regions yonder, of silver
and opal? Well, thousands of times so far I am going.... I go from
illimitableness to illimitableness; I come from nothingness and I am
going to nothingness."

"What is nothingness?"

"Everything. Nothingness is as far as your brains can think, my little
princess; and then still farther, and nothingness is more than all
that you see from this high tower...."

"Are you never tired?"

"No, my wings are strong; I can bear all mankind on my back, and I
could carry them away to the stars behind the stars."

"If Astra knew that!"

"Astra knows it. But she does not want me. She reckons out the stars
with figures."

"Why do you fly from one end to the other, O splendid Chimera? What
is your object? What are you for?"

"What is your own object, little Psyche? What are you yourself for? For
what are flowers, men, the stars? Who knows?"

"Astra...."

"No, Astra knows nothing. Her knowledge is founded on a fundamental
error. All her knowledge is like a tower, which will fall down."

"I should like to know much. I should like to know more. I should
like to seek far through the universe. I long for what is most
beautiful.... But I do not know what it is. Perhaps you yourself are
what is most beautiful, Chimera.... But why are you now spreading
out your wings?"

"I must go."

"So soon? Whence? Oh, why are you going so soon, splendid Chimera?"

"I must. I must traverse illimitableness. I have already stayed here
too long."

"Stay a little longer...."

"I cannot. I may not."

"Who compels you, O powerful horse, quick as lightning?..."

"Power."

"What is power?"

"God...."

"Who is God? Oh, tell me more! Tell me more! Don't go away yet! I want
to ask you so much, to hear so much. I am so stupid. I have longed
so for you. Now you have come, and now you want to go away again."

"Do not ask me for wisdom; I have none. Ask the Sphinx for wisdom;
ask me for flight."

"Oh, stay a little longer! Don't flap so with your flaming wings! Who
is the Sphinx? O Chimera, do not give me wisdom, but flight!"

"Not now...."

"When, then?"

"Later...."

"When is that?"

"Farewell."

"O Chimera, Chimera...!"

The horse had already spread out his wings broad. He was ascending. But
Psyche suddenly threw both her arms round his neck and hung on to
his mane.

"Let me go, little princess!" cried the horse. "I ascend quickly,
and you will fall, to be dashed to pieces on the rock! Loose me!"

And slowly he ascended....

Psyche was afraid; she let go her arms; she became dizzy, fell against
the pinnacle, and bruised one of her wings. That pained her ... but
she heeded it not; the horse was already high in the air, and she
followed his track with her eyes....

"He is gone," thought she. "Will he come again? Or have I seen him
for the first and last time?"

"As a dream he came from far-off regions, and to still farther
regions he has gone.... Oh, how dull the world seems! How dead is
the horizon! And how dizzy I feel.... My wing pains me...."

With her hand she smoothed the wrinkle out of her wing; she stroked
it till it was smooth again, and tears ran down her cheeks.

"Horrid wings! They cannot fly, they cannot follow the strong
Chimera! I'm in such trouble, such trouble!! But ... no.... Is that
trouble? Is that happiness? I know not.... I am very happy...! I am
so sorrowful.... How beautiful he was! how strong, how sleek, how
splendid, how quick, how wise, how noble, how broad his wings! how
broad his wings!! How weak I am compared to him.... A child, a weak
child; a weak, naked child with little wings.... O Chimera, my Chimera,
O Chimera of my desire, come back! Come back!! Come back!! I cannot
live without you; and if you do not come again, Chimera, then I will
not live any longer lonely in this high castle. I will throw myself
into the cataract...."

She stood up, her eyes looking eagerly into the empty air. She
pressed her hands to her bosom, she wept, and her wings trembled as
if from fever.

Then suddenly she saw the king, her father, sitting at the bow-window
of his room. He did not see her, he was reading a scroll. But anxious
lest he should see her trouble, her despair, and longing desire,
she fled, along the battlements, the ramparts, through the passages
and halls of the castle, till she came to the tower, where her nurse
sat at her spinning-wheel, and then she fell down at the feet of the
old woman and sobbed aloud.

"What is it, darling?" asked the old crone, frightened. "Princess,
what is it?"

"I have hurt my wing!" sobbed Psyche.

And she showed the nurse the wrinkle in her wing, which was not yet
quite gone.

Then, with soothing voice and wrinkled hand, the old nurse slowly
stroked the painful wing till it became smooth.



CHAPTER VI


The old king, assisted by pages, sat down slowly on his throne;
his ministers and courtiers gathered round him. Then there was a
great rustling of satin and gold, and in came Emeralda, the Princess
Royal, the Princess of the Jewel, as her title ran: first pages,
life-guards, and then she herself, glittering with splendour, in
her dress of silver-coloured silk; her bosom blazed with emeralds,
a tiara of emeralds adorned her temples; her red-golden tresses,
intertwined with emeralds, fell in three-fold plaits down each side
of her face, from which the eyes of emerald looked proud, soulless,
ice-cold, and arrogant. Court-ladies bore her train. A great retinue of
halberdiers surrounded her jewelled majesty, and as she passed along,
the trembling courtiers bowed lower to her than they did to the king,
because they were in deadly fear of her.

Astra, with dragging step, followed her. She wore a dress of azure
covered with stars, a white mantle full of stars, and her living star
sparkled in her coal-black hair.

The sages of the country surrounded her: grey-haired men in
velvet tabards, with very long silver beards, dim eyes, and wise,
close-pressed lips.

The two princesses sat down on either side of the throne.

And for a moment the middle space of the hall between the waiting
crowd remained empty. But then appeared Psyche, the third daughter,
the Princess of Nakedness with the wings! Shyly she approached, looking
right and left, with the laugh of a child. She was naked: only a golden
veil was tied in a fold round her hips. Her wings were spread out
like a butterfly's. She had no retinue: only her old nurse followed
her; and she was so pretty and charming that people forgot to bow as
she passed along, that the courtiers smiled and whispered, full of
admiration, because she was so beautiful in her pure chastity. Slowly
she walked along, shy and laughing a little; then close to the throne,
where her father saw her approaching hesitatingly, her bare foot got
entangled in her trailing golden veil, and to ascend the steps she
lifted it up, knelt down, and kissed the king's hand.

Then calmly she sat down on a cushion at his feet, and was no longer
shy. She looked round inquisitively and nodded a greeting here and
there, child as she was, till all at once, to the right of the throne,
she met the emerald look of Emeralda, and started and shivered;
a cold thrill shot through her limbs, and she hid herself in the
ermine of her father's mantle to be safe and warm.

Then there was a flourish of trumpets, and at the door of the Hall
heralds announced Prince Eros, the youthful monarch of the Present. He
came in all alone. He was as beautiful as a god, with light-brown
hair and light-brown eyes. He wore a white suit of armour over a
silver shirt of mail, and his whole presence portrayed simplicity
and intelligence.

The courtiers were astonished at his coming without a suite; Emeralda
laughed scornfully aside with one of her court-ladies. She did not
find him a king, that plain youth in his plain dress. But Eros had
now approached and bowed low before the mighty monarch, and the latter
bade him welcome with fatherly condescension.

Then spoke the prince:

"Mighty Majesty of the Past, accept my respectful thanks for your
welcome. Diffident I come to your throne, for I am young in years,
have little wisdom, little power. You reign over an extensive kingdom,
the horizon of which is lost in illimitableness. I reign over a
country that is not larger than a garden. From my humble palace,
that is like a country-house, I can survey all my territory. Your
Majesty possesses lands and deserts, which you do not know. I know
every flower in my beds. And that your Majesty, in spite of my poverty
and insignificance, receives me with much honour and acknowledges me
as sovereign in my kingdom, fills my heart with joy. Will your Majesty
permit me to kneel and pay my homage to you as an obedient vassal?"

Then the old king nodded to Psyche, and the princess rose, because
Eros was about to kneel.

Then said the king: "Amiable Eros, I love you as a son. Tell me,
have you any wish that I can satisfy? If so, then it is granted you."

Then said Eros: "Your Majesty makes my heart rejoice by saying that you
love me as a son. Well, then, my greatest joy would be to marry one
of the noble princesses, who are your Majesty's daughters. But I am
a poor prince, and whilst confessing to your Majesty my bold desire,
I fear that you may think me too arrogant in presuming to cherish a
wish that aims so high...."

"Noble prince," said the king, "you are poor, but of high birth and
divine origin, higher and more divine than we. You are descended from
the god Eros; we from his beloved Psyche. The history of the gods is
to be read in the historical rolls of our kingdom. It would make my
heart rejoice if you found a spouse in one of my princesses. But they
are free in their choice, and you will have to win their love. Permit
me, therefore, first of all to present to you my eldest daughter,
the Princess Royal, Princess of the Jewel: Emeralda...."

Emeralda rose, and bowed with a scornful sneer.

"And," continued the monarch, "in the second place, to my wise Astra,
Princess of the Star...."

Astra rose and bowed, her look far away, as if lost in contemplation.

"And would Emeralda permit me to sue for her love and her hand?" asked
the prince.

"Majesty of the Present," replied Emeralda, "my father says that you
are of more divine origin than we. I, your humble slave, consider
it therefore too great an honour that you should be willing to
raise me to your side upon your throne. And I accept your homage,
but on one condition. That condition is: That you seek for me the
All-Sacred Jewel, Jewel of Mystery, the name of which may not be
uttered, the noble stone of Supremacy. The legends respecting this
jewel are innumerable, inexplicable and contradictory. But the Jewel
exists. Tell me, ye wise men of the land--tell me, Astra, my sister,
does the Jewel exist?"

"It exists!" said Astra.

"It exists!" said all the wise men after her.

"It exists!" repeated Emeralda. "Prince, I dare ask much of you, but I
ask you the greatest thing that our soul and ambition can think of. If
you find me beautiful and love me, then seek, and bring me the Jewel,
and I will be your wife, and together we shall be the most powerful
monarchs in the world."

The prince bowed, and with imperceptible irony said:

"Royal Highness of the Jewel, your words breathe the splendour of
yourself, and I will weigh them in my mind. Your beauty is dazzling,
and to reign with you over the united kingdoms of the Past and the
Present, appears to me indeed a divine happiness...."

"For other kingdoms exist not," added Astra, and the wise men repeated
her words.

"Yes," murmured the king. "There is another kingdom...."

"What kingdom?" asked all.

"The kingdom of the Future," said the king, in a low tone.

Emeralda laughed scornfully. Astra looked compassionately. The wise
men glanced at each other; the courtiers shook their heads.

"The king is getting old," they whispered. "The mind of His Majesty
often wanders," muttered the ministers.

"Our monarch has always had much imagination," said the wise men. "He
is a poet...."

But then spoke the prince.

"And you, wise Astra, Royal Highness of the Star, will you, like
Emeralda, allow me to sue for your hand and heart?"

"Most willingly, Prince Eros!" said Astra, with a far-off look and
in a vague tone. "But I have conditions to make as well as Emeralda,
the Princess Royal. Will you hear them? Then listen. If you see any
chance of lengthening my telescope, of strengthening the lenses, that
I can see through them to the confines of the universe, to the last
sun-system, to the Mystic Rose, to the Godhead Himself, then I will
be your wife, and together we shall be the most powerful beings of the
world, because then we are omniscient. For the universe is limited...."

"The universe is limited!" said the wise men, after her.

"Endless is the universe!" said the king, in a subdued voice.

The people laughed and shook their heads. "The king is getting very
old," was repeated everywhere.

"The king will soon die," prophesied the wise men, in a low tone. "He
speaks like an old man, without reason; he will soon die...."

"Royal Highness of the Star," said the prince, "your words, pregnant
with wisdom, I will also consider. For to be omniscient must indeed
be the greatest power. But your Majesty has a third princess," he
continued, addressing the king. "Where is she?"

"She is here," said the king. "She is the Princess of Nakedness with
the wings. But she is still a child, Prince...."

Psyche blushed and bowed.

The prince looked long at her. Then he said to her, gently: "Your
Highness is called Psyche? You have the name of the ancestress of your
race, as I have the name of the god who begot mine. Is it not true?"

"I believe so," murmured Psyche, embarrassed.

"She is still a child, prince--forgive her!" repeated the king.

"Will your Majesty not permit me to ask for the hand and heart of
your third daughter, the princess?"

"Certainly, prince; but she is still so young.... If she leaves me I
shall be very sad. But if she loves you, then I will give her up to
you, for then she will be happy...."

"Tell me, Psyche, will you be my wife?"

Psyche blushed exceedingly. Her naked limbs blushed, her wings blushed.

"Prince," said she hesitatingly and looked bashfully at her father,
"you do me much honour. But my sisters are more beautiful and wiser
than I. And my father would miss me if I went with you to the kingdom
of the Present."

"But tell me, Psyche, what conditions do you impose upon me?"

Psyche hesitated. She was about to exclaim joyfully: "Catch me the
Chimera, bind him in a meadow to graze, and give me power over him,
that I may mount his back and fly through the air as I like."

But she durst not before the whole court and her father. And so she
only stammered: "None, prince...."

"Could you love me?"

"I don't know, prince...."

Psyche was shy. She kept blushing, and all at once began to tremble
and weep.

And she looked round to the king, fled to his arms, hid her face in
his beard and sobbed.

"Prince Eros," said the king, "forgive her. You see she is a
child. Seek for Emeralda's Jewel, or seek for Astra the Glass which
will bring to view the confines of the universe; but leave me my
youngest child."

Then the prince bowed. An indescribable sadness rose in his soul,
like a sea. And pale he stammered, "I obey your Majesty."

Then the king descended from his throne and embraced the prince. And
whilst the fanfares sounded, he put his arm through the arm of Eros,
took Psyche by the hand, and conducted his guest to the banquet,
the princesses following, surrounded by the whole court.



CHAPTER VII


For days had Psyche watched in vain, and all hope died out of her
heart.

But one windy morning--the thick white clouds were speeding through
the air--she saw the desire of her heart again. Far away appeared a
cloud, but as it drew nearer it became a horse: it was the Chimera.

She beckoned to it, and the Chimera came down.

"What do you want, little Psyche?"

She clasped her hands imploringly. "Take me with you...."

"You will become dizzy...."

"No, no...."

He descended, stamping on the basalt rock; the terrace shook, sparks
flew up, and the steam of his breath shot out in clouds.

"Take me with you," she implored.

"Where do you wish to go?"

"To the islands of opal and silver."

"They are too far away."

"Take me, then, nearer to them; take me with you where you will."

"Are you not afraid?"

"No."

"Will you hold fast to my neck?"

"Yes, oh yes!"

"Come, then...."

She uttered a cry of joy. He bent his knees, and she got up with a
beating, thumping heart. Between his flaming wings, on his broad,
broad back, she sat almost as safe as in a nest of silver feathers.

"Trust not to my wings," he warned her; "I move them at every
stroke. They open and shut, open and shut. Hold fast on to my
neck. Clasp my mane. If you are not frightened and do not become giddy
and sick, you will not fall, however high I go. Do you dare, Psyche?"

"Yes."

She fastened his mane round her waist, as if it were strong rope of
golden flax. She put her arms round his neck.

"I am ready," she said courageously.

He ascended, very slowly, with his broad wings. Under him, under her,
the terrace sank away.

She shut her eyes, she held her breath, and the blood left her
heart. Under her the castle sank away.

"Stop!" she implored. "I am dying...."

"I thought so, Psyche. You are much too weak. You cannot go up
with me...."

She opened her eyes slightly. She sat on his back in the silver
down, where his quills clave to his light-gold loins. And round her,
circles of light revolved, one after the other, and made her dizzy.

"Descend!" she implored. "Oh, descend! I cannot endure it. I have no
breath; I am dying."

He descended.... He stood on the terrace. She slid along his wing to
the ground. She put her hands before her face, and when she opened
her eyes she was alone.

Then she was very, very sad. But next day, he appeared again. And,
more courageous, she wished to mount him again. He let her do as she
desired, and she got on his back. She shut her eyes, but smiled. He
went higher and higher with her, without her saying "Descend." She
travelled for a time high up in the air, she opened her eyes and kept
smiling; she got accustomed to the rarefied air. The third time he
soared away with her; she saw, far below, the royal castle, small
as a toy, towers, ramparts; and then she realised for the first time
that she had left the castle.

She thought of the king.

"Take me back!" she said to the horse commandingly.

He obeyed her. He took her back. But as soon as he was gone, she
longed again for him and the lofty air. And she had but one thought,
the Chimera. She no longer cared for the flowers which she had planted
between the walls, and the flowers withered. She no longer cared for
the swans, and the swans, neglected, followed her in vain, in the
green moats; she forgot to crumble bread for them. And she looked
at the clouds and she gazed at the wind, thinking only of him, the
light-gold horse with the silver wings, because he came on the wind,
on the clouds, which thundered when he struck with his hoofs.

On the day that he did not come, her fair Chimera, she sat pale and
lonely, gazing from the battlements, her eyes far away, her arms round
her knees. In the evening she nestled in the king's beard, in the
folds of his tabard, but she durst not tell him that she had ridden
a wondrous winged horse and flown with him through the air. But on
the days that her beloved horse had come and taken her away with him,
carefully flapping his wings, her face shone with golden happiness in
the apotheosis of her soul, and through the gloomy halls, where sacred
spiders, which were never disturbed, wove their webs, rang Psyche's
high voice, and from the faded gobelin the low vault and the motionless
iron knights strangely re-echoed the words of her joyous song.



CHAPTER VIII


"Psyche, where do you wish to go?"

"To the opal islands, to the seas of light, to the far-off luminous
streaks...."

"Take a deep breath; hold fast on to my neck; twist my mane more
tightly round your hand, then we will begin our journey."

The clouds sent forth a rumbling sound of thunder; the Chimera's
hoofs shot fire; his wings expanded and shut, and his strong feathers
rustled in the air.

Psyche uttered a cry.

She had ascended higher than ever before, and under them sank away
the castle, the meadows, the woods, the cities, and the river; under
them, like a map, lay stretched out province after province, desert
after desert, the whole Kingdom of the Past. How great it was! how
great it was! The frontiers receded from view again and again;
far down below rose up town after town; river after river meandered
along, mountain-ranges rose up one after the other, now only slightly
elevated, then rising arabesquely through the plains. Then there were
great waters like oceans, and Psyche saw nothing but white foaming
sea. But on the other side of it began again the strand, the land,
the wood, the meadows, the mountains, and so on endlessly....

"How much farther away are the opal islands, the streaks of light I
see in the distance, my beloved Chimera?"

"We have already passed them...."

She raised her head, bent over his streaming neck, and gazed about her.

"But I do not see them any longer!" she said, astonished. "I see
wood and meadow, towns and mountains.... Is the world, then, the same
everywhere? Where are the opal islands?"

"Behind us...."

"But I do not see them.... Have we passed them without my seeing
them? O naughty Chimera, you did not tell me!"

"And where are the luminous streaks of the far-off land?"

"We are going through them...."

"I see nothing.... Below, land; around, clouds, as everywhere. But
no lands of light.... And yet there, in the distance, very far
away--what is that, Chimera? I see, as it were, a purple desert on
a sea of golden water, with winding borders of soft mother-of-pearl;
in the desert are oases like pale emerald, palms with silvery waving
tops, azure bananas; and over the purple desert trills ether of light
crimson, with streaks of topaz.... Chimera, Chimera, what is that
country? What is that beautiful country? The golden sea with its foam
forms a pearly fringe along the shore; the palms wave their tops to
a rhythm of aerial music, and the bananas, blue, pink, glow in the
ether till all is light there...! Chimera, is that the rainbow?"

"No...."

"Chimera, is that the land of happiness? Is that the kingdom of
happiness? Chimera, are you king there?"

"Yes, that is my country. And I am king there."

"Are we going thither?"

"Yes."

"Do you remain there, Chimera? Do we remain there together?"

"No...."

"Why not?"

"As soon as I have reached my purple land, I must go farther ... and
then back again."

"O Chimera, I will not go back! I will forget everything--my father,
my country. I will remain there with you!"

"I cannot.... But now pay great attention; we are approaching my
kingdom, little Psyche. Look! now we are going over the sea, now we
are approaching the shore, lined with soft mother-of-pearl."

"The sea is a dirty green, like an ordinary sea; the borders are
sand.... You are deceiving me, Chimera! As soon as we approach,
then you charm away everything that I saw beautiful."

"Now, under us is the purple desert; under us are the oases of pale
emerald."

"You are deceiving me, Chimera! The desert glows in the strong sun,
the oases fade away to nothing, like a meteor.... Chimera!"

"What, Psyche?"

"Where are you going?"

"To the land, as far off as you can see...."

"I care not about it! You always deceive me! You carry me away through
endless space, and everything beautiful that I see disappears from
my view. But yet ... there, behind the horizon, behind the sand of
the desert, is a dazzling scene.... Are those silver grottos on a
sea of light? Does the light there wave like water? Are those groves
of light, cities of light, in a land of light? Tell me, Chimera,
do people of light live there? Is that Paradise?"

"Yes, will you go thither?"

"Yes, oh yes, Chimera. There is happiness, the highest happiness,
and there I will remain with you...!"

"We are now approaching it...."

"Let that land of light now stay, the paradise of glowing sunshine;
do not charm away the land of happiness, O naughty Chimera: go to it
now with me, and descend with me...."

"We are there...."

"Descend...."

He descended.

"Have we not yet reached the ground of light?"

"Look below: can you see nothing...?"

She looked along his wing.

"I see nothing...! It is night.... It is dark.... Chimera!!!"

"What, little Psyche?"

"Where is the land of silver light, the land of the people of
light? Where is it gone?"

"Do you not see it?"

"No...."

"Then it is gone...."

"Whither?"

"Behind us, under us...."

"Why did you not descend sooner?"

"My flight was too quick, and I could not, Psyche...."

"You are deceiving me! You could have done so. You would not.... Now
... now it is night, pitch dark, starless night.... There is an icy
coldness in the air.... O Chimera, take me back...!!"

He turned with a swing of his powerful wings. And as he turned,
the lightning broke forth and darted zigzag through the air, like
smooth-bright electric swords; the black clouds parted asunder with
a violent peal of thunder like the clapping of cymbals, a storm of
wind arose, the rain fell down in torrents...!

"O Chimera, take me back!"

She threw herself on to his neck; she hid her face in his mane,
and through the bursting storm, whilst at every blow of his hoofs it
lightened round them, he winged his way, back with her to her country:
the Kingdom of the Past, inky there, in the inky night....



CHAPTER IX


The old king was dead.

Black flags hung from the three hundred towers, and cast their dark
shadows below.

A dim light fell through the bow-windows into the castle, for the
three hundred flags obscured the sun.

With funeral music, that made the heart feel sad, the procession,
with long flickering torches, followed the king's coffin down the
steps to the deep vaults below.

The priests, in black, prayed in Latin; the court, in black, sang
the litany; and the princesses, in black, sang alternately a long
Latin sentence....

Behind the coffin walked, first, Emeralda; behind her, Astra her
sister; and then little Psyche, wrapped in her black veil. Emeralda
sang with a voice of crystal; Astra, distracted, was too late in
answering; and Psyche's voice trembled when she had to sing alone
the long monotonous sentence....

There, in the deepest vault, they placed the coffin, next to the coffin
of the king's father, and kneeling round it, they prayed. The low Roman
vaults receded in impenetrable darkness. They sang and prayed the whole
live-long day, and Psyche was very tired; and whilst she was kneeling,
her little knees quite stiff, she fell asleep against the coffin of
her father. Her last thought had been to kiss the dear old face for the
last time, but she felt nothing but the goldsmith's work, and the great
round jewels that were in it hurt her head.... Then she fell asleep....

And when the court had prayed, and all went up the steps again, there
above, to do homage to Emeralda, as queen of the Kingdom of the Past,
they all forgot Psyche.

Long, long she slept....

And when she awoke, she did not know at first where she was.

Then by the light of the long torches she espied the coffin.

And through the crystal of the sarcophagus she saw the dead face of
the king, and pressed a kiss upon the glass.

"Dear father!" she whispered, trembling, "why have you gone? I am
now quite alone! Of Emeralda I am afraid, and Astra does not think
of me; she only thinks of the stars. Father, dear, forgive me! I
have deceived you. I have travelled through the air on the back
of the flying horse. But father, dear, the horse is beautiful,
and I love the Chimera! O father dear, I have deceived you, and
now I am alone, and I have nobody who cares for me! You are dead,
father, and embalmed, and shut up in gold and crystal and jewels,
and do not hear your little Psyche. You do not think of your little
daughter. Alone! alone! Awe-inspiring is the castle; three hundred
towers rise high up in the air. I have never been in all the three
hundred, however much I have wandered. O father, father, why have
you left me? Who is there to love me now? who to protect me now in
the world? Father, farewell! I will not stay here; I will go away! I
will leave the castle. Great is the world and wicked, but Emeralda
is powerful and I am afraid of her. If I remain, she will drive me
away with her look and shut me up all my life, and my wings I shall
break against the unbreakable lattice.

"Father, farewell! I will not remain here. I will
flee! Whither? Whither shall I flee? I do not know. O father, dear,
alone your child remains in the great, unsafe world! Alone! alone! O
father, farewell, farewell! and forever!"

She rose, she shivered. The dark vaults receded more and more. By the
light of the long torches she saw the sacred spiders, which wove web
after web; they were never disturbed.

"Sacred spider!" said Psyche to a big fat one, with a cross on its
back, "tell me where I must go."

"You cannot flee," replied the spider, high up in the dark vault, in
the middle of its web. "Everything is as it is; everything becomes as
it was; happens as it happens; all goes to dust. Every day sinks into
the deep vaults of the dark pits under us; under us everything becomes
the Past, and everything comes into the power of Emeralda. As soon as
anything is, it has been, and is in the power of Emeralda. Seek not
to flee--that is vanity; submit to your lot. The best thing is that
you become one of us, a sacred spider, and weave your web. For our
web is sacred; our web is indisturbable; and with all our webs, one
for the other, we serve the princess and protect her treasures--the
treasures of the Past, which behind our weaving go to dust."

"But if they go to dust, of what value are they?"

"Foolish child, dust is everything. The Past is dust; remembrance
is dust. Everything becomes dust; love, jewels--all becomes dust,
and the sacred dust we watch over behind our webs. Become a spider
like us, weave your web, and be wise."

"But I live. I am young, I desire, I love, and I cannot bury myself
in dust.... Oh, tell me whither I must flee!"

The spider laughed scornfully, and moved its eight legs with great
impatience.

"Ask me not about the places of the world--the regions of the
wind. I sit here and spin. I am holy. I watch over the treasure of
the throne. Disturb me no more with your frivolity, and let not your
wings get entangled in the rays of my web, although you are not a moth,
but princess of the Kingdom of the Past...."

Psyche was frightened. The spider reverenced her because she was
a princess, but coveted with his wicked instinct.... And she drew
back. She cast a last look at the dead face of her father, and fled up
the hundred steps. In every corner sat the sacred spiders and moved
their legs. Shuddering, she fled on. Whither? She thought of her
love, the light-gold Chimera, but nowhere could he be with her for
ever. She glided with him through the air, and he brought her back
to the castle. His lot was to fly restlessly through the air. Oh,
were she but a Chimera like him, had she but two strong wings instead
of princesses' wings, she would have gone with him everywhere...!

Whither? Above, from the enthronement-hall, came the sounds of joyful
music. There Emeralda was being crowned. Whither?? She fled to the
terrace.... Oh, if Emeralda missed her, how angry she would be! She
would think that Psyche refused to do her homage. She could never
return. Farewell, flowers, swans, doves!

The three hundred flags obscured the light. She would never be able to
see the Chimera coming. Oh, if he came and she did not see him, and
did not beckon to him, and he flew past! He was her only safety! If
needs be, she would wait for days together on the battlements. But
if Emeralda sent to search for her! Oh, if she did, then there was
the cataract; then she would throw herself headlong down, for ever,
for ever, into the rushing water with its rainbow colours!

A wind arose. That was the wind that brought her beloved. The flags
flapped and impeded her view. And although she saw nothing, she
beckoned as in despair, and called out:

"Chimera, Chimera!"



CHAPTER X


It lightened. It thundered. Suddenly between the black flags the
horse descended.

"What is it, little Psyche?"

"Take me with you."

"Where?"

"Where you like. Take me somewhere. My father is dead. Emeralda
reigns. I dare not stay here any longer."

"Get up...."

She got up. He flew away with her. He flew with her the whole day. The
sun set; the stars glistened in the dark firmament; and he flew
back. Again they approached the castle. The day began to dawn.

"Fly past!" she entreated.

He flew on. Under her she could just see the castle, small as a toy;
the three hundred towers, where green flags now fluttered because
Emeralda reigned. He flew on.

"Chimera!" she cried. "I love you; you are the most beautiful, most
glorious creature that I have ever beheld. Safe I lie upon your back,
tied to your mane, my arms round your neck. But I am tired. I am
dizzy. I am cold. Put me down somewhere.... Can you not rest with
me in a beautiful valley, amongst flowers, near a brook? Are you
not thirsty? Are you not tired, and never dizzy and cold? Will you
not graze and lie in a meadow? Do you never, never rest? Chimera,
I love you so! But why this restless flying from East to West, from
West to East?"

"I must do it, little Psyche."

"Chimera, descend somewhere. Stay somewhere with me. I am tired,
I am cold. I want to go to sleep on a bed of moss, under the shade
of trees; sleep there with me."

"I cannot. My lot is to fly through the air, apparently without an
object, but yet with an object; and what that is, I do not know."

"But what then does the Power want? You fly through the air; the spider
spins its web; Emeralda reigns over dust; everything is as it is. Oh,
life is comfortless! Chimera, I can hold out no longer! I love you
with all my soul, but if you do not descend, then I will loose the
knots of your mane, I will let go my arms that are so tired, and then
I shall fall down into nothingness...."

"Hold out a little longer. Yonder is the purple desert...."

"Oh, that is beautiful!" she exclaimed. "But you fly past it, always
past it...!"

"Do you want to rest, Psyche?"

"Oh, yes...."

"Then I will descend.... Hold out a little longer." She held him tight,
and looked about. He plied his wings with a rapidity that made her
dizzy; they blew a wind round Psyche....

In the air there loomed the purple sands on the golden sea, with a
pearly border of foam; the azure bananas, which waved their tops in
the light-pink ether....

Psyche held her breath.... "Would he descend there...?"

Yes, indeed, he was descending ... he was descending. The purple,
she thought, grew pale as soon as he descended; the sea was no longer
golden, the foliage no longer blue.... But yet, yet it was beautiful,
a dream-conceit, an enchanted land, and he was descending. With his
broad wings he glided down. Now he stood still, snorting his breath
in a cloud of steam. She glided gently down his back on to the sand,
and laughed, and gave a sigh of relief!

"Rest now, here, Psyche!" said he dejectedly, and the quiver in his
bronze-sounding voice startled her; she laughed no more.

"Rest now. Look! here are dates, and there is a spring. The soft
violet night is rapidly spreading over the sky and cooling the too warm
air. A few pale stars are already glistening. Now quench your thirst;
now refresh yourself and rest.... This is a pleasant oasis. Now sleep,
little Psyche. To-morrow will soon be here.... Farewell!"

She looked at him with wondering eyes. She threw herself on his broad,
powerful, heaving breast, and round his arched neck she threw her
trembling arms.

"What...? What do you say, Chimera?" she asked, pale with fear. "What
are you going to do? What do you mean? Surely you will rest here with
me in the soft violet night and amongst the blue flowers? With me you
will refresh yourself with dates and water? You will let me sleep in
the shadow of your wings, and watch over me during the dreadful night?"

"No, little Psyche. I am going farther and farther, and then I will
return. Then after weeks ... after months, perhaps, you will see me
again in the air...."

"You will forsake me? Here in the desert?"

"Take courage, little Psyche: you are now too tired to fly farther
with me through the air. You would slip from my back and fall into
nothingness. Here is a pleasant oasis; here are dates and a murmuring
stream...."

She uttered a cry; her sobs choked her. She uttered a second, which
frightened the hyenas far away in the desert and made them prick up
their ears. She uttered a third, which rent the night-air, and the
stars quivered from sympathy.

"Alone!" she cried, and wrung her hands. "Alone! O Chimera, you will
leave me alone with dates and brook! and I thought ... and still hoped,
that you would stay with me, king in your country of the rainbow!

"Alone! you will leave me alone in a sandy desert, in nothing but sand,
sand in the night, with a single tree and a handful of water! Alone! O
Chimera, you cannot do that...! For I love you; I adore you with all
my soul, and shall die of grief and tears, Chimera, if you fly away
from me! I love you; I worship your golden eyes, your voice of bronze,
your steaming breath, your panting flanks, your mane, to which I bound
myself, your flaming wings, which carried me far, farther and farther
... to this place...! O Chimera, lay down your smoking limbs in the
shadow of the night; lay your noble head in my arms and my bosom, and
together we will rest, and to-morrow fly away farther, united forever!"

"I cannot, O little Psyche. I too love you, sweet burden which lay
between my wings--little butterfly with weak wings, that lent strength
to my flight; but now...."

"But now--O Chimera, but now...?"

"But now I must go, continue my lonely journey to and fro, without
knowing why.... Farewell, little Psyche, hope in life, hope in the
morrow...."

He spread his wings, his limbs quivered, he ascended into the air.

She wrung her arms, her hands. She sobbed, she sobbed....

"Have pity!!" she implored. "Pity, pity! What have I done? Why do you
punish me so? My God, what have I done? I have trusted, hoped, given
my soul in happiness.... Is happiness then punished? Is it not good
to hope, to trust, and to love? Ought I then to have mistrusted and
hated? What do I ask? He no longer hears me! What do I care for the
problems of life! Him I love, and in me is nothing but my love and
despair, and round me is the desert and the night, and now ... now
I must die!"

She sobbed, and her tears flowed. She was alone. Around her loomed
the night, around her stretched the sands as far as the perceptible
horizon. And above her glistened the stars.

And she wept. Her grief was too great for her little soul. She wept.

"Alone!" she sobbed. "Alone...! I will not quench my thirst, I will
not refresh myself, nor will I sleep. I am tired, but I will go on...."

On she went, and wept. In the night she walked on through the sand,
and she wept. She wept from fear and despair. And she wept so, her
tears flowed so many down her cheeks that they fell, her tears, like
drops, great and warm, deep into the sand. Her tears flowed down into
the sand. And she wept, she kept weeping, and as she went along ... her
tears did not stop. Then in the sand, her tears so warm and so great,
formed little lakes. And as she went and kept going on and weeping,
the little lakes flowed into one another, and behind her flowed a
stream of tears. Meandering after her flowed her tears. And on she
went in the night and wept.... After her, meandered faithfully the
stream of her tears.... And she thought of her lost happiness.... He
had forsaken her.... Why...? She had loved him so, still loved him
so.... Oh, she would always love him so--always, always!

And in her love she did not scold him. For she loved him and scolded
not. She longed for no revenge, for she loved him....

"That was fate," she thought, weeping. "He could not do anything
else. He was obliged...."

She wept. And oh! she was so tired, so tired of the wide sky, so tired
of the wide sand! Then she thought she could go no farther, and should
fall into the stream of her tears.... But before her a lofty shadow
fell with gloomy darkness on the violet night. She looked up, and
had to strain her neck to see to the top of the shadow. The shadow
was round above, and then tapered off behind.... But she wept so,
that she did not see.... Then with her hand she wiped away the tears
from her eyes, and gazed.... The shadow was awful, like that of an
awfully great beast. And she kept wiping away her tears, which formed
a pool around her, and gazed....

Then she saw. She saw, squatting in the sand, a terribly great beast
like a lion, immovable. The beast was as great as a castle, high as a
tower; its head reached to the stars. But its head was the head of a
woman, slender, enveloped in a basalt veil, which fell down, right and
left, along her shoulders. And the woman's head stood on the breast
of a woman, two breasts of a gigantic woman, of basalt. But the body,
that squatted down in the sand, was a lion, and the forepaws protruded
like walls.

The night shone. The sultry night shone with diamonds over the
horizonless desert. And in the starlight night the beast, terrible,
rested there, half-woman, half-lion, squatting in the sand, its
paws extended and its breasts and woman's head protruding, gigantic,
reaching to the stars. Her basalt eyes stared straight before her. Her
mouth was shut and so were the basalt lips, which would never speak.

Psyche stood before the beast. Around her was the night; around her was
the sand; above her the diamond, shining stars. Silently shuddering
and full of awe, stood Psyche. Then she thought: "It must be she,
the Sphinx...."

She wept. Her tears flowed; she stood in the stream of her tears,
which, winding along, followed her. And weeping, she lifted up her
voice, small in the night--the voice of a child that speaks in the
illimitable.

"Awful Sphinx," she said, "make me wise. You know the problem of
life. I pray you solve it to me, and let me no longer weep...."

The Sphinx was silent.

"Sphinx," continued Psyche, "open your stony lips. Speak! Tell me the
riddle of life. I was born a princess, naked, with wings; I cannot
fly. The light-gold Chimera, the splendid horse with the silver wings,
came down to me, took me away with him in wanderings through the air,
and I loved him. He has left me--me, a child--alone in the desert,
alone in the night. Tell me why? If I know, I shall--perhaps--weep no
more. Sphinx, I am tired. I am tired of the air, tired of the sand,
tired from crying. And I cannot stop; I keep on crying. If you do
not speak to me, Sphinx, then I will drown you, gigantic as you are,
in my tears. Look at them flowing around me; look at them rippling at
your feet like a sea. Sphinx, they will rise above your head. Sphinx,
speak!"

The Sphinx was silent.

The Sphinx, with stony eyes, looked away into the night of diamond
stars. Her basalt lips remained closed.

And Psyche wept. Then she cast a look at the stars.

"Sacred Stars," she murmured, "I am alone. My father is dead. The
Chimera has gone. The Sphinx is silent. I am alone, and afraid and
tired. Sacred Stars, watch over me. See my tears no longer flow;
for this night they are exhausted.... I can cry no more. I will go
to sleep, here, between the feet of the Sphinx. She speaks not, it
is true; but--perhaps she is not angry, and if she wants to crush me
with her foot, I care not. But yet I will go to sleep between her
powerful feet. In your looks of living diamond, I feel compassion
thrill.... Sacred Stars, I will go to sleep; watch over me...."

She lay down between the feet of the Sphinx, against the breast of
the Sphinx. And she was so little and the Sphinx so great, that she
was like a butterfly sitting near a tower.

Then she fell asleep.

The night was very still. Far, far away in the boundless desert, a mist
drifted horizonlessly along, and lit up the darkness. The stream of
Psyche's tears meandered, like a silver thread, far away from whence
she had come. She herself slept. The Sphinx, with staring eyes and
closed mouth, looked out high into the night. The stars twinkled
and watched.



CHAPTER XI


Without a cloud arose on the horizon the first dawn of day, the round,
rosy-coloured morning glimmer. And in the dawn appeared the horizon,
and bordered the sandy plain.

In the rosy light, gigantic, towered the gloomy Sphinx. Psyche
slept. But through her weary eyelids, the light softly sent its
rays, coral-red, and suddenly she awoke. She opened her eyes, but
did not move.

She remained in her slumbering attitude, but her eyes looked about. She
saw the desert, without an oasis, only the brooklet of tears that
meandered far away from whence she had come. It was like a silver
thread in the rosy light of the dawn, and she followed its windings
with her eye as long as she could. And when she thus looked, she
began to weep again. The tears fell on the feet of the Sphinx, and
Psyche wept, in her slumbering position. There was a mist before her
eyes, and through the mist glimmered the rosy desert and the little
glistening stream.

But now she wiped away her tears, which trickled through her fingers,
for she thought she saw ... and that was so improbable. She wiped
her eyes again, and saw. She thought she saw ... and it was so
improbable.... But yet it was so: she saw. She saw someone coming;
along every winding of the brook, she saw someone approaching.... Who
was it coming there? She knew not.... He came nearer and nearer. Was
she dreaming? No, she was awake. He came, whoever he was. He was
approaching....

She remained sitting in the same attitude. And he came nearer
and nearer, following the briny track, till he stood before the
Sphinx. The Sphinx was so great and Psyche so little, that at first
he did not see her. But because she was so white, with crimson wings,
he saw her, a little thing red and white!

He approached between the feet of the Sphinx till he stood right
before her.

He approached reverentially, because she had wept so much. When he
was quite close, he knelt down and folded his hands.

Through her tears she did not recognise him.

"Who are you?" she asked in a faint voice.

He stood up and approached still closer, and then she recognised
him. He was Prince Eros, the King of the Present.

"I know who you are," said Psyche. "You are Prince Eros, who was to
have married Emeralda, or Astra."

He smiled, and she said:

"Why do you come here in the desert? Are you seeking here for the
Jewel, or the Glass that magnifies?"

He smiled and shook his head.

"No, Psyche," he said gently. "I have never sought for the Jewel nor
for the Glass.

"But first tell me: why are you here and sleeping by the Sphinx?"

She told him. She spoke of her father who was dead, of the light-gold
Chimera, of the purple desert and the sorrowful night. She told him
of her tears.

"I have followed them, O Psyche!" he replied. "I have come ever since
I saw you before your father's throne--a day never to be forgotten!

"I have come here every day. Every day I leave my garden of the
Present, to ask the awful Sphinx for the solution of my problem."

"What problem, Prince Eros?"

"The problem of my grief. For I am grieved about you, Psyche, because
you would not follow me and stayed with your father.... Now I know
why. You loved the Chimera...."

She blushed, and hid her face in her hands.

"Who could see the Chimera and not love him more than me?" said Eros
gently. "Who could love him, and not weep over him?" he whispered
still more gently; but she did not hear him.

Then he spoke louder.

"Every morning, Psyche, I come to ask the Sphinx how long I must
still suffer, and why I must suffer. And still much more, O Psyche,
I ask the Sphinx, that I will not tell you now, because...."

"Because...?"

"Because it would perhaps pain you to hear the question of my heart. So
I came now, O Psyche, and then I espied a brooklet meandering through
the sand. I did not know it; I was thirsty, for I am always thirsty. I
stooped down and scooped up the clear water in my hand. It tasted salt,
Psyche: they were tears."

"My tears ..." she said, and wept.

"Psyche, I drank them. Tell me, do you forgive me for that?"

"Yes...."

"I followed the brook, and now I have found you here."

She was silent; she looked at him. He knelt down by her.

"Psyche," said he gently, "I love you. Because I saw you little and
naked and winged, standing amongst your proud sisters--Psyche, I love
you. I love you so much, that I would weep all your tears for you,
and would give you ... the Chimera."

"You can't do that," she said sadly.

"No, Psyche," answered he, "that cannot, alas! be done. I can only
weep for myself; and the Chimera ... nobody can catch him."

"He flies too fast," she said, "and he is much too strong; but it is
very kind of you, Prince Eros...."

She stretched out her hand, and he kissed it reverentially.

Then he looked at her for a long time.

"Psyche," said he, gently, "will the Sphinx give me an answer to my
question this morning?"

She cast down her eyes.

"Psyche," he went on, "I have drunk your tears; I respect your
grief, too great for your little heart. But may I suffer it with
you? O Psyche, little Psyche, little, in the great desert, now your
father is dead, now the Chimera is away, now you are all alone.... O
Psyche, now come with me! Oh, let me now love you! O Psyche, come now
with me! Psyche, alone in the desert, a little butterfly in a sandy
plain--Psyche, oh, come with me! I will give you a summer-house to
live in, a garden to play in, and all my love to comfort you. Don't
despise them. All that I have will I give! Small is my palace and
small my garden round it, but greater than the desert and the sky
is my great love. O Psyche, come with me now! Then you will suffer
cold and hunger and thirst no more, and the grief that your heart
now suffers, Psyche, ... we will bear together."

He stretched out his arms. She smiled, tired and pale from weeping,
slid from the foot of the Sphinx, and nestled to his heart.

"Eros," she murmured, "I suffer. I pine. I weep. I gave away all that
I had. I have nothing more than my grief. Can grief ... be happiness
in the Present?"

He smiled.

"From grief ... comes happiness," he answered. "From grief will come
happiness, not in the Present, but ... in the Future!"

She looked at him inquiringly.

"What is that?" she asked. "Future...! It is a very sweet word.... I do
not know what it is, but I have heard it before.... Father sometimes
spoke of it with an affected voice.... It seems to be something
far away, far, far away.... From grief will come ... in the Future
... happiness!

"Far behind me lies the Past.... Then I was a child. Now I am a
woman.... A woman.... Now I am, Eros, a woman, a woman, who has wept
and suffered, and asked of the silent Sphinx.... Now I am no longer
a princess, but a woman, a queen ... of the Present....!"

She fell against his shoulder and fainted. He gave a sign, and out
of the air flew a glittering golden chariot, drawn by two panting
griffons. He lifted her into the chariot. He held her tight in his
arm, and pressed her to his heart. With his other hand he guided his
two dragon-winged lions through the glowing air of the desert.



CHAPTER XII


When Psyche opened her eyes, she heard the soft music of two pipes. And
she awoke from her swoon with a smile. She lay still and did not move,
but looked about her. She was reclining upon a soft bed of purple,
on a couch of ivory. She lay in a crystal palace; round the palace
were pillars of crystal and a round crystal gallery. The pillars were
entwined with roses, yellow, white, and pink, and they perfumed the
sunny spring morning. Through the gallery of pillars, through the walls
of crystal, she saw round her a pleasant meadow, like a round valley,
a valley like a garden, through which ran a murmuring brook between
beds of flowers. Quite near appeared the horizon of a low hill-slope,
and the cloudless sky was like a chalice of turquoise.

The pipes changed their music. Psyche raised herself a little higher,
leaning on her arm; she laughed and looked about. In the middle of the
crystal palace was a basin of white marble, full of water, and doves
were hopping about it or drinking. Sitting at the gate of crystal
pillars, Psyche saw two girls; with their fingers they raised the
flutes to their mouth and played. Psyche laughed and listened. Then
she fell back on the bed again, happy, but tired, full of rest and
contentment, and she raised her head and looked up!...

Through a crocus-coloured curtain fell the tempered spring sunshine,
quiet and soft, joyous and still.

Psyche breathed more freely, and a sigh escaped from her heart. She put
her arms under her head; her wings lay stretched out right and left
on either side of her, and when she heard the music of the flutes,
her thoughts drifted away like an aimless dream, like rose-leaves
upon water.

She dreamed and she listened.... She no longer felt tired, and her
eyes, which had shed a brook of tears, felt moist and fresh, cooled
by an invisible hand, with invisible care. Her breathing was regular,
and her soul felt safe.... And she smiled continually....

The pipes ceased playing....

The two girls, seeing that the queen had awaked, rose up and approached
her bed with a basket of red-blushing fruit, which they set down
near her. Then they made a deep reverence, but spoke not, and sat
down again by the pillars and blew their pipes anew; but to another
tune, somewhat louder, like a voice calling, and both in unison. The
pipes sounded jubilant in the morning, and outside, high in the air,
the lark answered joyously....

Psyche smiled, stretched out her hand and took a peach, a pear,
a bunch of blue grapes.... The pipes played merrily together, and
higher and higher and higher soared the lark and sang. Then Psyche
heard the brook babbling gently; the doves answered one another,
and round her the morning sang her welcome.

Then footsteps light approached her softly; the pipes ceased playing;
the girls rose and made a deep reverence. And between the pillars of
crystal appeared Prince Eros, the King of the Present.

The girls withdrew, and Eros approached and knelt before Psyche.

He said nothing, but looked at her.

"Eros," said Psyche, "I thank you.... I have rested; my eyes cease
to burn; my hunger is appeased.... I have heard sweet music, and
everything appeared kind and to love me."

"Everything in my kingdom is glad that the queen has come. Everything
is glad that the queen has awaked."

"The Queen of the Present," murmured Psyche.

Then she put her arm round his neck, and leant her head against his
shoulder. "Eros," said she gently, "I love you.... How shall I express
my love to you! You have walked in the track of my tears, my salt
tears you have drunk; out of the desert, from the breast of the awful
Sphinx, you lifted me in your chariot, drawn by swift griffons.... In
my swoon I felt myself going through the air, not with the speed of
the fair Chimera, whose hoofs struck lightning and made the thunder
roll high in the ether ... but smoothly and evenly on wheels, over
the clouds delicately tinted with the glowing dawn. How long did we
travel...? How long have I slept? Eros, how shall I express my love
to you! My love is deep gratitude, inexpressible, because you rescued
me. My love is heart-felt thankfulness, because you have cared for
and refreshed me. My love is...."

She paused for a moment, and rose from the bed.

"What, Psyche?" said he gently, and stood up.

"My love is deep, submissive respect, O Eros, because you wanted to
weep my tears and give me the wish of my heart, which, had it been
fulfilled, would have caused you the most poignant grief."

She sank upon her knees and took his hand in hers and kissed it
long. He lifted her up and pressed her to his breast.

"My gentle Psyche!" said he. "My child and my wife and my tender
princess! Kneel not to me. In love it is sweet to give and to
suffer. Love gives, and love suffers...."

"I have only suffered, but not given," said Psyche, in a low tone.

"To suffer is to give most. To give to one we love the suffering of his
suffering soul, is the greatest gift that can be given, my child and
my princess! Try, with the remembrance sacred to Suffering and Love,
endured and loved, to be happy in the Present. Oh, let the Past be
a remembrance, a sacred remembrance, a golden remembrance; but now
look to the Present. Oh, let the Present comfort you--the Present,
little, humble, and poor. Look! this is all. This cupola is my palace,
this garden is my kingdom; these flowers and these birds, they are all
my treasures--roses and doves and the singing lark. More I have not;
but I have still my love--my love, great as the heaven and wide as the
universe. But he who lives in love so great, needs no greater palace
and no greater kingdom to rule over. For the treasures of Emeralda I
would not exchange my kingdom and my love.... Psyche, my queen, yet
I have ornaments for you. The Princess of Nakedness with the wings
may never wear jewels of precious stones, and jewels I have not. But
pearls, Psyche, I have pearls which Emeralda despises. Pearls, Psyche,
I found in your tears of yesterday. See! I strung them together,
they were a crown for you. Pearls may adorn you, tears may adorn
you, my child of suffering, my wife of love, queen of my soul and of
my kingdom...."

Then he took a little crown of twelve great pearls and put it on her
head. Then he hung a necklace of pearls round her neck. And as she
stood before him naked, so immaculately delicate in her princessly
nakedness, he threw around her loins a light, thin veil, richly
adorned with pearls, and which she fastened in a knot. Then he gave
her a mirror, and she beheld herself very beautiful, crowned like a
queen, and smiled with contentment.

"Am I a queen?" she said softly. "Am I happy? Eros, do you love me? Is
this the happiness of the Present? Eros, do I love you out of gratitude
and respect, my husband and my king...?"

He led her gently away, through the porticos, down the crystal
steps. Cupids hovered about them, the lark sang high in the heavens,
the roses perfumed the air, the brook murmured gently. The spring
rejoiced to welcome them, and behind the shrubs the pipes played
a duet. The hill-slope of the horizon was peaceful, and above, the
heaven, arched like a turquoise chalice.

Everything sang, everything was fragrant; in the grass buzzed thousands
of insects; about the flowers fluttered butterflies; and where Psyche,
on her husband's arm, walked along the flower-beds, all the flowers
bowed to her in homage--the white slender lilies, the violets with
laughing eyes, tall flowers and short flowers, on long and short
stems--and all gave forth their fragrance.

Eros pointed around.

"This is the Present, Psyche," said he, and pressed her to his heart.

"And this is happiness, that is as a lily and a violet ..." she
whispered, with her lips to his.



CHAPTER XIII


The pleasant days followed each other like a row of laughing
houris.... Eros and Psyche tended the flowers, which did not fade when
Psyche stroked the stems or gently kissed the calyces. They wandered
along the brook, and, if the days were warm, sought coolness under
the crocus-coloured awning, in the crystal palace, where the doves
cooed round the basin. The flutes played, or Eros himself took a lyre
and sang, at Psyche's feet, the stories of days gone by.

It was one of the pleasures of the flower-laughing Present.

Between the shrubs, where May strewed fragrant snow-blossom, naked,
chubby cupids with tender wings played or romped, hovering like little
clouds in the air.

The sweet nights followed the pleasant days; the diamond stars, the
same which Psyche had entreated to watch over her in the desert,
glittered in the heavens. Under the roses, close to one another,
slumbered the fair-winged children, tired out with play, their little
mouths open and their chubby legs all folds. The air was heavy with
the breath of lilac and jasmine; it was spring, it was the Present,
it was night...!

And while Psyche lay with her head against Eros' shoulder and he wound
his arm round her waist, while Psyche looked up at the stars, sacred
in the violet night, the nightingale broke out into melody. The bird
sang, and sang alone; everything was still. The bird sang, and let
her notes fall in the air like drops of sprinkled sound, like the
harmonious falling of water from a playing fountain. The bird sang,
and Psyche closed her eyes, and felt on her lips Eros' kiss.

The days followed the nights. It was always the sweet pleasure of
flowers and birds, of spring and love, cupids and roses, music and
dance. The flowers were more beautiful, and did not fade; the fruits
were sweeter and of richer colour; the spring air was lighter, and
life was happier than a golden day. It was day which lasted days and
nights; it was the Present.

If Psyche were alone she longed for Eros, and when she saw him again
she spread out her arms, and they loved each other. If Psyche were
alone, she wandered about in the rosy spring morning; the flowers
bowed down to her; the brook flowed cool over her feet; she played
with the winged cherubs, who flew about her head like butterflies; she
sat down in the moss full of violets; she bade the children take off
her crown, loosen the plaits of her long hair, untie the knots of the
drapery round her loins, and she lay down on the bank of the brook;
her hand played with the clear cold water, and, naked in the shade
of flowery shrubs, she fell asleep and the cupids round her. Then
the step of the king awoke her; the children awoke; they dressed her,
and she went to meet her husband, and received him with open arms. It
was the sweet delight of the Present.

One day she was sleeping naked under the shrubs, the boys round about
her; on the moss lay her crown and her veil, and the brooklet flowed
on, gently murmuring. The day was very still, heavy with warmth. A
storm was brewing, but the sky was still blue. In the far-off distance,
where the horizon was like waves of the sea, clouds pregnant with
storm curled up gloomily like ostrich feathers. And once there was
lightning, but no thunder.

Then above the ridge of the hill something dark appeared to rise
against the stormy clouds. It was round like a head, like a black
head. From the black head leered two eyes, black as jet, and nothing
more appeared. Long leered the eyes; then from the palace a voice
cried.

"Psyche, Psyche!"

Psyche awoke, and the cupids with her. Eros approached and led her
away. The air grew dark, and the next moment the summer storm burst
forth, dark sky, lightning, rain, and thunder rapidly rolling on. It
lasted only for a time; then the sky became blue again, the flowers
recovered their breath and raised their drooping heads, shaking with
fresh rain.



CHAPTER XIV


Next day, when Psyche was sleeping again by the brook, the dark head
with the leering eyes of jet appeared again on the horizon. For a long
time the eyes leered, full of lust. Then the head rose up higher like
a dark sun, behind the hill-slope in the sky.

It was a face tanned by the sun, with coal-black hair; round the
temples a wreath of vine leaves, and from the wreath protruded two
horns like those of a young goat.

The eyes looked lustful and young, as though they were jet and
gold. The lips laughed in the curly beard, and the sharp teeth were
dazzling white; the pointed ears stood up.

Then the dark face became perfectly visible in the light; the shoulders
rose brown and naked, and two brown hands with long fingers lifted to
the lips a pipe of short and long reeds. The pipe played a fanfare,
a march of very quick notes. Then it stopped, and the gold-jet eyes
leered. Psyche moved in her sleep. Then the pipe sounded again,
and Psyche opened her eyes. Astonished, she listened to the notes
of the pipe, as they rose and fell so as she had never heard before,
lively and wanton, quick and playful. She sat up, leant on her arm,
and looked....

She started. There, on the horizon, like a dark sun, she saw the brown
face and the lips in the curly beard blowing the reeds, short and
long. Psyche started and looked on trembling. Then the pipe stopped
again, and roguishly the head nodded to her. Psyche was frightened; she
woke the boys. She fled away. From the palace Eros came to meet her.

At first she meant to speak, but he kissed her; and why, she did
not know, but she spoke not. Then she made up her mind to tell Eros
that night, but in her husband's arms she lacked the courage to
speak. She did not tell him. The next morning she resolved not to
repose again in the moss by the brook. But that afternoon she played
with the cupids, and tired, fell asleep in the same place. The pipe
awoke her; on the horizon, the brown face stood out against the sun,
and roguishly nodded to her.

Psyche, indignant, looked up.

The head rose, the shoulders rose, and the whole form then rose up:
a sunburnt youth, with the legs of a goat, rough-haired and cloven
hoofs. There he stood, his dark shadow reflected in the golden rays
of the setting sun. He blew his reeds; he piped lustily and merrily,
roguishly and joyously and as well as he could, to please Psyche. She
listened--about her the boys were sleeping--and she smiled. He saw
her smile and smiled too. Then proudly she pointed with her finger
for him to go. He went, but the next day he was there again. Then she
saw him every day. He stood in the sun, which was going down, and blew
his reeds, laughed and nodded to her roguishly. Sometimes Psyche bade
him be gone; sometimes she pretended not to see who was playing there;
sometimes she listened graciously. When she heard the king call:

"Psyche! Psyche!" she woke the cupids, who dressed her in a moment,
and went to meet her husband. She kissed him, and wished to tell him
that every day a young man with goats' legs stood on the hill and
played upon his pipe. But because she had kept silence so long, she
was silent again, and could not open her lips. It made her sad, and
Eros saw her sadness, and often asked her what it was that disturbed
the equanimity of her soul. She said "Nothing," and embraced him
and declared that she was happy. But when the lark warbled and the
nightingale's sweet notes were heard, when Eros sang to the lyre and
the brook murmured gently, Psyche always heard, between the pleasant
sounds, the impudent tunes of the reeds, short and long. She tried not
to hear, but she always heard them. They sounded saucily and merrily,
like the sounds of a little bird in a wood calling something to her
from afar; she heard, but did not yet understand what.

One day, when he stood in the same place blowing lustily with
puffed-out cheeks, Psyche, indignant, rose with her lips closely
pressed together. She put her veil on and wound it tightly round
her loins, without waking the boys. Then, with a firm step and
innocently, she crossed a little slope, and came into a valley, a
valley of grass; there the brook flowed away between multitudes of
irises and narcissi. The goat, leering and laughing, tripped nimbly
down the hill on his hoofs to meet her.

"Who are you?" said Psyche haughtily.

"I am the Satyr," said he deferentially. "And now will you just see
me dance?"

He piped a waltz, and danced for her to the measure of his tripping
music. He turned out his feet, spun round and round, and underneath,
on his back, she saw his tiny tail wagging. She laughed, and found
him amusing, with his tail, and feet, and horns. Then he turned a
somersault, and finished his dance with a bow.

"You may not come here," said Psyche severely. "This is the Kingdom
of the Present, and I am the queen, and my husband is Eros, the
king of this kingdom. You dance indeed nicely, and you play rather
pretty tunes, but you may not come here. We have here the lark and
the nightingale, and my husband sings to the lyre."

"That is classical music," said the Satyr.

"I don't know what you mean by classical music. But you may not come
here and pipe, and disturb me in my afternoon slumber. If my husband
knew it, he would be very angry, and have you torn to pieces by two
raging griffons."

"I am not afraid of that," said the Satyr. "Why, I tame panthers,
and they are much more dangerous."

"I had pity on you," continued Psyche severely, raising her head in
queenly dignity, "and have not yet said anything to the king. But if
you come again to-morrow, I will tell him."

"No, you won't!" said the Satyr saucily.

"You are an ill-mannered boy!" said Psyche, angry and offended. "You
must not speak so to a princess. I ought not to condescend to speak
to you. I can see very well that you don't know how people behave
at court, and that you come from the wood. And you are ugly, too,
with your hairy feet and your tail."

The Satyr looked at her astonished.

"I think you very pretty!" he whispered admiringly. "Oh, I think you
so pretty! You have such pretty eyes, and such golden hair, and such
a white skin! Only, I don't like your wings. The nymphs haven't any."

"You may not speak to me like that!" said Psyche vexed. "I am the
queen. How dare you? Go away now, else I will call the wild beasts
here."

"Well, don't be angry!" said the Satyr in a low, imploring
tone. "That is my way of speaking. We all speak like that in the
wood. The Bacchantes, too, are not particular what they say. We are
unacquainted with your court language. And we don't know anything of
classical music. But we are always very merry and sociable together;
but you must come once...."

"Are you going?" said Psyche imperiously, and red with passion,
and with her finger she pointed to him to be gone. He crouched down
suddenly in the reeds of the brook among the irises and narcissi,
and she saw him stealing away through the high grass. When she turned
round she beheld the cupids; they were bringing her her crown.

"The king is looking for you, Psyche!" they cried out in the distance,
and like a cloud they hovered round her.

She went back with them and threw herself into the arms of her husband.

"Don't roam so far away, my little Psyche!" said Eros. "In the wood
behind the hills are wild beasts...."

Night came on; Eros sang, the nightingale filled the air with her
sweet notes.

"Classical music!" thought Psyche.



CHAPTER XV


Psyche had a secret. Why did she not tell it? She did not know. She
could not, after having once kept silent. She knew that she was not
doing right by being silent, and yet she did not speak. But she was
very sad about it, and felt dissatisfied. Then she wanted to speak with
Eros; but because she had said nothing at first, she was afraid. And
then she said to herself: "The Satyr does nothing wrong by standing
there and piping a little, and it is not worth while thinking much
about it...."

And yet she did think about it, and in her ears she always heard his
saucy voice, his coarse words, countrified and funny.

Then she laughed about it all.

"But what does he do--what is he? a Satyr? What is a Satyr? What are
Bacchantes? And what are nymphs? Panthers, too, I have never seen. I
should like to see them. What is their life there in the wood? There
are many lives in the world, and most of them are a secret. I only
know the courtiers of the Kingdom of the Past.... Here there are the
two girls that play on the pipe and the winged children. I should
like to see all that there is in the world, and experience all that
is in life. There must be strange things, which I never see.... The
Chimera was glorious, and deep in my soul I always long for him; but
in other respects everything is the same.... No wonders take place
in this garden.... Eros is a young prince; then there are the doves,
the griffons, the cupids.... That is all so commonplace.... Oh,
to seek, to wander! The world is so great! the universe is awful,
although it has limits. My father said it had no limits.... Oh, if it
had no limits...! Oh, to seek, to wander, to soar in the air!... I
shall never see the Chimera again. Never shall I soar in the air
again.... He conjured up visions for me, and then let them pass
away.... Oh, to soar through the air! When shall I see him again,
and when shall I soar again...? Eros I love--he is my husband; but he
has no wings. The Chimera had powerful wings of silver feathers. He
has left me for ever...."

So, alone with her thought, she wandered in the garden. The cupids she
drove away, and, crying, they hid themselves among the roses. When
the Satyr appeared, she went to meet him in the valley, where the
irises were blooming.

"So, you are there again!"

"Yes! won't you just see me dance again?"

He danced and frisked his tail.

"I have already told you more than once that you may not come here,"
said Psyche severely.

He winked roguishly; he knew very well that his presence was not
disagreeable to her.

"You are so beautiful!" he said, in his most flattering tone; "much
more beautiful than any of the nymphs."

"And the Bacchantes, then?" said Psyche.

"Much more beautiful than the Bacchantes!" he answered. "But they
are also very nice. Tell me, wouldn't you like to see them?"

Psyche was very inquisitive, and he noticed it.

"Won't you just see them?" he repeated temptingly.

"Where?" said Psyche.

"Look ... there!" He pointed in the distance with his finger.

On the hill Psyche saw forms madly whirling round in a dance.

"Those are the Bacchantes!" said the Satyr. Psyche laughed.

"How madly they whirl round!" she exclaimed. "Are they always so
merry?"

"Oh, we are always dancing," said the Satyr. "In the wood it is always
pleasure. We play at tag with one another, we drink the juice of the
grapes, and we dance till nightfall."

"Psyche! Psyche!" called a voice.

It was her husband. The Satyr fled through the flags, and Psyche
hastened back.

She threw herself into Eros' arms, who asked her where she had
been. And without answering him, she began to cry and hid her face
in his breast.

"What is it, little Psyche?" asked Eros. "Are you in trouble? Amongst
the roses the boys cry, and by the brook the queen cries. Is there
then sadness in my kingdom? Does not Psyche feel happy?"

She wept and shrugged her shoulders, as if to say that she did not
know. And she hid her face in his breast.

"Tell me, Psyche, what is the matter?"

She would have liked to tell him, but she could not; a stronger power
kept her back.

"Does not Psyche feel happy? Does she long for the Chimera?"

She laid her little hand upon his lips.

"Don't speak about him. I am not worthy of him. I am not worthy of
you, Eros."

He kissed her very gently.

"What does my Psyche think about? May I not leave her any more,
alone by the brook?"

"No, no!" said she hastily, and drew his arms round her.... "No,"
she continued quickly. "Don't leave me alone any more. Always stay
by me. Protect me from myself, O Eros...!"

"Is little Psyche ill?"

She nodded in the affirmative, and laid her burning head upon his
breast; she nestled against him and shut her feverish eyes.

He stayed by her, and all around was still, and the cupids appeared
fluttering in the air. That night she slept in Eros' arms. She awoke
for a moment out of her sleep; far away in the distance through the
crystal of the palace she heard the sound of pipes. She raised her
head and listened. But she would not hear any more, and hid herself
in Eros' arms and fell asleep on his heart.

The next day he stayed by her, and they wandered to the brook. Sadness
hung over the garden, the flowers drooped. In the afternoon Psyche
became uneasy; she heard the pipe, and in the distance caught a
glimpse of vague forms dancing.

"Do you see nothing?" she asked Eros.

"No...."

"Do you hear nothing?" she said again.

"No," he answered. "Poor Psyche is ill. And the flowers are ill too,
because she is. Oh, let Eros cure you...!"

The following night, in the arms of her husband, she heard the pipe. It
played saucy, short, lively tunes. "Come, come, now dance with us;
we are drinking the grapes. Come ... come...!"

She could resist no longer. Trembling, she loosed herself from her
husband's arms, who was asleep. She got up, stole out of the palace,
fled through the garden to the alluring voice.

The flowers in the brook seemed to entreat her: "Oh, go not away! Oh,
go not away!" The nightingale uttered a cry, and she thought it was
an owl.

She hurried on to the valley, where the irises were in blossom. There,
near the brook, in the light of the moon, stood the Satyr, tripping
to the sound of his pipe, and round him, hand in hand, madly danced
the Bacchantes, naked, a panther's skin cast about them, their wild
streaming hair encircled with vine-leaves. They danced like drunken
spectres in the pale moonlight night; they waved their thyrsus, and
pelted each other with grapes, which smashed to juice upon their faces.

"Come, come!" they cried triumphantly.

Psyche was startled by their voices, rough and hoarse. But they opened
their circle, two stretched their hand out to Psyche, and they danced
round with her. The wild dance excited her; she had never known till
then what dancing was, and she danced with sparkling eyes. She waved
a thyrsus, and pressed the grapes to her mouth.... Then suddenly the
Satyr caught hold of her and kissed her passionately, pressing the
grapes to her lips....

"Psyche! Psyche!"

She started and stood still. The Bacchantes, the Satyr, fled.

Psyche hastened back; with her hand she wiped her contaminated,
burning lips.

"... Psyche!"

She ran to meet Eros, but when she saw him, godlike and beautiful as an
image, spotlessly pure in the moonlight, with his noble countenance,
his deep brown eyes full of love, she was so disgusted with herself
that she fell at his feet in a swoon.

He lifted her up and laid her on the bed.

He watched while she slumbered.

The whole night he watched by her....

And it seemed as if she were wandering in her mind....

Her face glowed with fever, and ever and anon she wiped her lips.

Outside in the garden the flowers drooped in sorrow. The lark was
silent, and the little angels sat together with their wings drawn
in. The sky was ash-coloured and gloomy.

That night Psyche slept in Eros' arms, and afar off the pipe allured
her....

She extracted herself from Eros' embrace and got up....

She wanted to kiss him for the last time, but durst not, for fear of
waking him.

"Farewell!" she whispered very gently. "Noble Eros, beloved
husband, farewell! I am unworthy of you. The Satyr's kiss is still
burning on my lips; my mouth is on fire from the juice of the
grapes. Farewell...! And if you can, forgive me!"

She went.

The night was sultry and heavy with thunder; the flowers, exhausted,
hung their heads; the nightingale uttered a cry, and she thought it
was an owl. Bats flitted about with flapping wings.

She walked with a firm step. She followed the brook to where it
flowed into the valley. Yonder ... with the Satyr in their midst,
danced the Bacchantes.

"Hurrah! Hurrah!" they cried out, rough and hoarse, and threw at her
a bunch of grapes.

She hesitated a moment.... She raised her eyes. Through the gloomy
night a single star glistened like a cold, proud eye.

"Sacred star!" said Psyche, "you who watched over me before, and now
leave me for ever ... tell him that I am unworthy of him and beg him
to forgive me!"

The star hid itself in the darkness.

"Come!" cried the Bacchantes.

Psyche took a step forward....

"Brook!" she then cried, "little stream of the land of the Present,
babbling pure and peacefully, in which I never more may cool myself
... oh, tell him that I am unworthy of him and beg him to forgive me!"

The brook went murmuring over the stones, and muttered: "No, no...."

"Come, come!" cried the Bacchantes.

Then Psyche plucked a single violet, white as a maiden's face.

"Sweet violet!" said she, "humble flower, don't be proud. Your queen,
who is forsaking her kingdom, entreats the star and brook in vain. She
is no longer a queen. She is no longer obeyed. Sweet violet, hear
the prayer of Psyche, who, unworthy, is forsaking the Present...."

"Stay, Psyche!" implored the flower in her hand.

"Dear little flower!" said Psyche, "born in the moss, withering when
you are plucked, what do you know of gods and mortals? What do you
know of soul and life and power? Psyche can no longer stay. But beg
Love to forgive her...! Oh, give him my last message!"

She kissed the flower and laid it in the moss.

"Psyche! Psyche! Come!" cried the Bacchantes.

She sprang forward into the midst of the dance.

"Here I am!" she cried wildly. And they dragged her away with them
to the wood.



CHAPTER XVI


When Eros awoke that morning, he found not Psyche by his side. He
got up, thinking that she was in the garden, and went out.

The sky was dull and lowering, a mist hung over the hills. The lark
had not sung, the cupids were not fluttering about.

"Psyche!" cried he, "Psyche!"

No answer was returned. No sigh rustled in the leaves of the trees;
no insect hummed in the grass; the flowers hung down withered on
their limp stems. A deathly chilliness reigned around. A fearful
presentiment took possession of Eros. He walked along the flower-beds,
along the brook.

"Oh! where is Psyche?" he cried. "Oh, tell me, water, flowers, birds,
where is Psyche!!"

No answer was returned. The brook flowed on murkily and noiselessly,
the flowers lay across the path; no bird sang among the leaves. He
wrung his hands and hastened on. Then he came to the spot where Psyche
was wont to rest in the moss by the brook, in the shade of the shrubs.

"Who will tell me where Psyche is?" he exclaimed in despair, and
threw himself on the moss and sobbed.

"Eros!" cried a weak voice.

"Who speaks there?"

"I, a white violet, which Psyche plucked.... Hear me quickly, for
I feel I am dying, and my elfin voice is scarcely audible to your
ear. Listen to me ... I am lying close to you. Take me in your
hand...."

Eros took the flower.

"Psyche has been enticed by the Satyr into the wood. The Bacchantes
have taken her away. This was her last word: that she was unworthy of
you, and went away praying for forgiveness.... She could not remain,
she said; she went...! Eros, forgive her!"

The flower shrivelled up in his hand. Eros rose and tottered; he too
felt that he was dying.

Sad at heart walked Eros, and all along his path the flowers now lay
shrivelled. The brook was dry. The lark lay dead before his feet. The
cupids lay dead in the withered roses.

Eros went into the castle and fell upon the purple bed.

A single dove was expiring at the marble basin.

The strings of the lyre were all broken....

Eros too felt that his life was leaving his body.

He raised his eyes, over which the film of death was stealing, and
looked about the castle; the crystal crumbled off and split from the
top to the bottom.

"Sacred powers!" prayed he, "forgive her as I forgive her, and love
her till the End, as I shall and for ever. Let her find what she seeks;
let her wanderings once come to an end; let her soar through the air,
if she must, till she comes to the purest sphere...." This sphere was
the earth, the sweet Present, the little resting-point on which she
could not wander, and thus felt within her the irresistible desire....

"Sacred powers, let her one day find what her happiness is. Then,
if it is not I.... Let her find...."

His voice failed, his eyes opened as in a vision, and he whispered
and finished his prayer: "... find ... in the Future...!"

That sacred word was his last. He died.

In the Kingdom of the Present, that once had been as a smiling garden,
everything was now dead....



Then ... in the mist, which hung over the ridge of the mountains,
something seemed to be creeping near, something with feet that could
only move slowly. From many sides, over the hill-top, the strange
creeping came nearer.... Gigantic, hairy feet of monstrous spiders
were walking over it; they came nearer and nearer; they were spiders
with big, swollen bodies and feet always in motion....

They were the sacred spiders of Emeralda, Princess of the Past. Eagerly
they ran to the dead garden of the Present....

They surrounded the garden and threw out their filaments to the crystal
roof of the palace. Then they wove over the Present, that lay dead,
one single gigantic web....

And whilst they wove, the dead Present went to dust.



CHAPTER XVII


In the wood, in the autumn sun, Autumn was keeping festival.

The foliage shone resplendent in yellow, bronze, purple, golden-red,
and pink; the sulphur-coloured moss looked like antique velvet. With
gusts of wind, the branches, madly arrogant, shook off their exuberance
of sere and yellow leaves, as if they were strewing the paths with
silver and gold and rustling notes.

Loudly laughing danced the dryads through the whirling leaves.

Out of the foaming stream between moss-covered rocks, rose the white,
naked nymphs.

"Where is she? Where is she?" cried they inquisitively.

"There she comes! there she comes!" shouted the mad dryads, and in
handfuls they cast the leaves into the air, which whirled over the
nymphs and fell down on the water.

The dryads danced past, and the nymphs looked out inquisitively. They
stood, a naked group, in their rocky bath; their arms were
clasped round one another; green was their hair and white as
pearls were their bosoms. The sere and yellow leaves kept whirling
about. Trampling feet were approaching and were heard amongst the
rustling leaves. Merry-makers were drawing near; the golden foliage
quivered like a curtain of thin, fine, gold lace....

"There she comes! there she comes!" exclaimed the nymphs with joy.

The branches cracked, the leaves whirled about, the tender sprays
recoiled from the noisy merry-makers, who were advancing.

Nearer they came with the sound of pipe and cymbal. Drunken Bacchantes
danced before them, waving the thyrsus, hand in hand with fauns and
satyrs; they encircled a triumphal car, drawn by spotted lynxes.

High on the car sat a youth, beardless, with a wreath of vine-leaves
round his forehead, full of laughter and animal spirits, with blue
eyes that showed his love of pleasure. Naked were his godlike limbs,
chubbily formed like the tender flesh of a boy, and his legs were
long and slender, his arms rounded like those of a woman. He was the
prince of the wood, of divine origin: Prince Bacchus was his name.

And next to him on the triumphal car, sat little Psyche enthroned. She
too was naked, with nothing on but her veil, and her wings were
so strikingly beautiful, crimson and soft yellow and with four
peacock's-feather eyes. Round the car, close together as a bunch of
grapes, sported madly a number of wine-gods, tumbling over one another,
grape-drunken children.

In triumph the procession rushed on through the golden wood. The
Bacchantes and satyrs sang and danced; two satyrs drove the lynxes,
which, spiteful as cats, spat at them; the wine-gods entwined the
vine and bore great heavy bunches of grapes.

High up, like a butterfly, which was a goddess, sat Psyche, and
laughed with glistening eyes and glowing cheeks, waving to the nymphs.

"Live! long live Psyche--Psyche with the splendid wings!" shouted
the nymphs.

The wind blew, the leaves whirled about; the procession swept past as
though hurried along by the gale. A little wine-god had fallen and lay
in the yellow leaves, playing with his chubby legs, purple-red from
the juice of grapes; he was crying because he had been left behind;
then he succeeded in getting on to his feet, and tottered after the
procession....

The nymphs laughed loudly at the little wine-god; they dived under
and beneath the rocks.

The wind blew, the yellow leaves whirled about.

And the wood became still and lonely.



CHAPTER XVIII


"Psyche, stay!" said Bacchus entreatingly.

"No, no, let me alone!"

"With you goes all joy from the feast; Psyche, stay!"

"I will not always sing, dance, drink. No, no, let me alone!"

She pushed him away from her; she pushed the satyrs away from her;
she broke the round dance of the Bacchantes, who, drunken, shouted
with drunken eyes and wide-open, screaming mouths.

"Psyche! Psyche!" screamed all.

She laughed loudly and coquettishly, like a spoilt child.

"I will come back to-morrow, when you are sober!" she said with a
mocking laugh. "Your voices are hoarse, your song is out of tune,
your last grapes were sour! I will only have the sweet of your feast,
and the bitter I will leave to you. Spread out your panther skins;
go and sleep off your drunkenness. If your feast has to last till
winter, you need rest--rest for your hoarse throats, rest for your
drunken legs, rest for your heads, muddled with wine.... I will come
back to-morrow, when you are sober!"

She gave a loud, mocking laugh, and rushed into the wood. It was
a moonlight night; in the pale moonbeams she left the wild feast
behind. The jealous Bacchantes danced round Bacchus, and embraced him.

Psyche hastened on. Her temples throbbed, her heart beat, and her
bosom heaved. When she was far enough away, she stopped, pressed both
her hands to her bosom, and gave a deep sigh. More slowly she went
on to the stream. Fresh was the autumn night, but burning were her
naked limbs!

The wood was still, save that in the top-most branches the wind
moaned. Like a silvery ship the moon sailed forth from the luminous,
ethereal sea, and the rushing mountain-stream foamed like snow on the
rocks. With a longing desire for coolness and water, Psyche stepped
down to the flags on the bank; with her hands she put aside the irises,
and made her way through the ferns and plunged her foot into the water.

Then the nymphs dived up.

"Psyche! Psyche!" cried they joyously, "Psyche with the splendid
wings!"

Psyche smiled. She threw herself into the water, and the snow-white
foam dashed up.

"Let me be with you a moment," entreated Psyche. "Let me cool myself
in your stream."

The nymphs pressed round her and carried her on their arms. She lay
down at full length.

"Cool my forehead, cool my cheeks, cool my heart!" she cried
imploringly. "Dear nymphs, oh, cool my soul! Everything burns on me
and in me; fire scorches my lips, fire scorches my brain.... O dear
nymphs, cool me!"

The nymphs sprinkled water on her; Psyche put her arm round the neck
of one of them.

"Your water-drops hiss on my forehead as on burning metal. Your
flakes of foam evaporate on the fire in my breast. And on my soul,
O dear nymphs, you cannot sprinkle your coolness!"

The nymphs filled their stream-urns and poured them over Psyche.

"Pour them all out! Pour them all out!" cried Psyche entreatingly. "But
although my hair is dripping, and my wings and my limbs too,
my lips are scorched, my poor forehead burns, and within me, O
nymphs...! within me, my soul is consumed as in hell-fire...!"

The nymphs took her gently in their arms; they dived with her below,
they came up again; they kept diving up and down.

"Oh, bathe me, bathe me!" cried Psyche imploringly. "Benevolent nymphs,
bathe me! Some coolness still hangs about my body ... but my soul,
oh, my soul you can never cool!" She wept, and the nymphs caught up
her tears in mother-of-pearl shells.

"Are you collecting my tears? Oh, no, they are not worth it. Once
I wept a brook full; once they were drunk, drunk by Love; once they
were pearls, and Love crowned me with them! Now, now they are like
drops of wine, drops of fire, and though they should congeal and
become rubies or topazes, they may never crown me more. Henceforth
my tears I shall always shed ... for Emeralda!"

In the shells the nymphs saw glistening pearls, and they understood
not.... But all their urns they poured out upon Psyche's eyes.

"My eyes are getting cool, O beloved nymphs; many tears I shall never
shed again; never again shall I weep a brook full.... But cool my soul,
extinguish deep within me the burning flames!"

"We cannot, Psyche...."

"No, no, you cannot, O nymphs! Let me lie still, then, still in your
arms. Let me rock quietly to and fro on your white-foaming water, then
let me sleep quietly.... But in my sleep my soul keeps burning; in
my dreams I see it flame up, high up as out of a hole in hell.... Oh!"

She uttered a cry, as of pain.... The nymphs rocked her in their
entwined arms, as in a cradle of lilies, and softly sang a song....

"Nymphs, nymphs....! This is the fire that nothing can extinguish--no,
never.... This is remorse...."

The nymphs understood her not; they rocked her and sang in a low,
soft voice.



CHAPTER XIX


That morning she wandered about in the rosy autumn dawn--a mist between
the trees stripped of leaves. Along the path she trod; on a skin she
found a satyr and a Bacchante lying in a drunken sleep, tight in each
other's arms; a cup lay on the ground, a broken thyrsus, pressed-out
grapes. She hastened on and sought the most lonely spots. The foliage
became scantier, the trees grew farther apart, the wood ended in a
plain and, violet misty, a perspective of very low hills.

Psyche walked on over the plain and climbed the hills.

The autumn wind blew and howled between shrubs and bushes, and sang
the approach of winter. But Psyche felt not the cold, for her naked
limbs glowed: her soul was all on fire.

On the highest hill-top she looked out, her hand above her eyes,
gazing into the violet mist.... Unconscious to herself, she hoped
for something vague and impossible: that she might see Eros, that
he would come to her, that she would fall at his feet, that he would
forgive her tenderly, and take her away with him. Impossible. "What
was impossible? Could not everything be possible? Had he not followed
the track of her tears? had he not found her in the arms of the
Sphinx?" Oh, she hoped, she hoped, she hoped more definitely! Her
remorse-burned soul longed for the balsam of his love in the palace
of crystal, for the sounds of his lyre, for the tender words in the
garden of the Present.

She hoped, she gazed....

In the pale glow of the morning sun, the violet mist cleared up,
and parted like violet curtains....

She gazed: there was the Present....

There Eros would be, mourning for his naughty Psyche!

There he would presently forgive her....

Oh, how she hoped, how she longed!.... She longed; she stretched out
her arms and dared cry in a plaintive voice:

"Eros!"

The wind blew through bush and shrub and sang the approach of
winter. The violet curtains of mist were drawn aside. The sad autumn
morning appeared. There, now visible, lay the Present....

And Psyche gazed, screening her eyes with her hand....

There she saw her happiness of days gone by, destroyed. In a dead,
withered garden, a ruin: crystal pillars crumbling to pieces. And
between the pillars, spiders' webs; all over the garden spiders'
webs, web upon web, and in them spiders with bloated bodies and
lazy-moving feet....

Then she saw that Emeralda was reigning!

Then she felt that Eros was dead!

She had murdered him!

Oh, how her limbs glowed, how her soul burned! Oh, the burning pain
within her, deep within--a pain which no grape-juice could allay,
which no mad dance could deaden and the nymphs could not cool, though
they poured over her all their urns! Oh, that hell in her soul, for
the irretrievable desolation, for the murdered one, past recall! Oh,
that suffering, not for herself, but for him--for another! that
repentance, that burning remorse!....

She fell to the ground and sobbed.

The pale sunbeams faded away, thick grey clouds came sweeping along,
a shower of hail rattled down, flinging handfuls of icy-cold stones....

She felt a touch on her shoulder. She looked up.

It was the Satyr who had allured her with his pipe, there, on that
very spot.

"Psyche!" said he, "what are you doing here, so far away from all
of us? Winter is coming, Psyche; listen to the whistling winds, feel
the rattling hail; the last leaves are being blown away. We are going
to the South, and Prince Bacchus is seeking for you.... What are you
doing here, and why are you crouching down and weeping?

"We are having a feast and are fleeing the winter; come!"

"I feel no cold; I am burning.... Let me stay here, and weep,
and die...."

"Why should you die, O Psyche, Psyche, so pretty and so gay--Psyche,
the prettiest and gayest, who can dance the maddest, who can dance
out all the Bacchantes? Come!...."

She laughed through her tears, a laugh like a piercing shriek.

"But Psyche, do you know what it is?" said the Satyr, whispering
confidentially. "Do you know what it is that prevents you from being
happy, and why you are not like all of us? I told you before, Psyche:
it is on account of your wings. Your wings prevent you from putting
a beast's skin round you, and entwining your hair with vine. The
nymphs find your wings pretty, but what do you want with things
that are pretty, yet of no use whatever? If you could only fly with
those wings!"

... "If I could only fly with those wings!" said Psyche, sighing. "No,
I have never been able to fly with them, my poor, weak wings!"

"The nymphs think your wings pretty, but the nymphs are
sentimental. The Bacchantes think them ugly, and laugh at you in
secret. Prince Bacchus does not like wings either; he cannot embrace
you well with those things on your back. Psyche, dear Psyche, listen:
shall I tell you something....? You must let me cut those wings off
with a pair of grape-scissors. For when you have got rid of your wings,
then you can throw a panther's skin round you, and put a vine-wreath
round your hair, and you will be altogether one of us...."

The wind blew, the hail rattled down: winter was coming on.

... "Eros is dead!" murmured Psyche, "Spring is past, the Present is
withered, Emeralda reigns.... 'What are you doing with things that
are pretty, and have no use at all...?'

"If I cannot possibly get cool, if I keep burning deep within me
... it is better, perhaps, to renounce my princess's rights, to go
naked no longer, to have no wings...."

"Tell me, Psyche, may I cut them off?"

"Yes, clip them! Cut them right off, my wings, which are only
pretty!" she cried fiercely. "Cut them off!!"

His eyes glowed jet and gold, his breath came quickly from joy. He
produced his sharp scissors....

And whilst she knelt, he cut off both her wings.

They fell on the ground and shrivelled up.

"Oh, that pains, that pains!... Oh, that pains!" cried Psyche.

"It is a little wound, it will soon heal," said the Satyr soothingly,
but grinning with pleasure.

Then he threw a panther's skin round her, put a wreath of vine-leaves
on her head, and she was like a fair Bacchante still very young and
tender, with her white skin, with her tender eyes of soul-innocence,
in which, deep down, dejection reigned.

"Psyche!" cried he delighted, "Psyche! How pretty you are!"

She uttered her shrill laugh, her laugh of bitter irony. He led
her away down the hills. She looked about: yonder lay the Present,
reduced to dust and spider-webs. She looked about: in the wind,
which was blowing, her wings whirled away, shrivelled up, whirled
away like dry leaves.

She laughed and put her arm round his neck, and they hastened back
to the wood.

The wind blew; the first snowflakes fell.



CHAPTER XX


Slowly followed the seasons--winter, spring, summer, autumn....

Winter, spring, summer, autumn, fell in turn, like dust, into the
caves of Emeralda.

Winter, spring, summer, autumn, were the Present for a moment, and
sank into the Past.

And again it was spring....

In the grassy plains, the shepherds drove out their flocks, and they
sang because the sky was blue, because the world trilled with hope,
in the new and tempered sunshine.

What did the shepherds know of Emeralda? They had never seen her. They
sang, they sang; they filled the air with their song. As a reed,
their song remained quivering and hanging in the air. In the wood
and in the mountains, over the meadows and in the air, Echo sang with
them their song. They sang because the sky was blue....

Emeralda they did not know....

Blue, blue ... blue was the air! Hope quivered in the sunshine,
and love in their hearts....

Into the grassy plains the shepherds drove their flocks, and they
sang because the sky was blue.



On the border of the wood, where endless plains extended, there lived
in a grotto between rocks, a holy hermit who was a hundred years old.

How many seasons had he seen sink into the pits of the Past...!

How many times had he heard the Lenten song of the shepherds! Wrapped
in contemplation, he heard them singing. They sang because the sky was
blue. The lark was soaring because the world trilled with hope.... They
sang because fleecy lambs were sporting again in the meadows. They
sang because they were young and loved the shepherdesses. They sang
of blue sky, of hope, of lambs, and love....

The hermit continued deep in thought....

Every spring it was the same song, and he had never sung with
them. Never had he known the Present, the spring Present of the
shepherds.

The hermit continued deep in thought; he dreamed that Satan was
tempting him, but his pious mind resisted. He dreamed that he had
died in prayer, and his soul, purified, ascended into heaven.

Far off in the grassy plains was heard the bleating of the lambs,
the voices of the shepherds.

The hermit heard a step. He looked up.

He saw a little form, as of a naked girl with no covering but her
hair. And he thought it was really Satan, and he muttered an exorcism;
he knit his brow, he crossed his arms.

The little form approached and knelt down.

"Holy father!" said she, in a low, trembling voice, "don't drive
me away. I am poor and unhappy. I am a sinner, and come to you for
help. I am not shameless, holy father, and I am ashamed that I appear
before you naked. I asked the shepherdesses for something to cover me,
but they laughed at me, drove me away and threw stones at me. Father,
O father, men are merciless, they all drive me away.... I come from
the wood, and the wild beasts are not so cruel as men. In the wood the
beasts spared me. A lion licked the wounds on my feet, and a tigress
let me rest in the lair of her whelps. Holy father, the wild beasts
had pity!"

"Then why don't you remain in the wood, devil, she-devil?"

"Because I must fulfill a duty among men."

"Who lays the task upon you, witch, devil?"

"In my dream, soft voices have spoken to me, the voice of my
father, and of him whom I loved, and they said: 'Go among men, do
penance.'... But naked I cannot go among men, for they throw stones at
me. And therefore, O father, I come to you, and entreat you: give me
something to cover me! I have only my hair to hide me, and under my
hair I am naked. O father, give me something to cover me! O father,
give me your oldest mantle for my penance garb!"

The hermit looked up at her, as she knelt in her fair hair, and he
saw that she was weeping. Her tears were blood-red rubies.

"He who weeps rubies has committed great sin; he who weeps rubies
has a soul crimson with sin!"

The penitent sobbed and bowed her head to the ground.

"Here," said the hermit sternly, but compassionately. "Here is a
mantle. Here is a cord for your loins. And here is a mat to sleep
on. And here is bread, here is the water-pitcher. Eat, drink, cover
yourself, and rest."

"Thanks, holy father. But I am not tired, I am not hungry and
thirsty. I am only naked, and I thank you for your mantle and your
cord."

She put on the mantle as a penance-garb, and whilst, red with shame,
she covered herself, the hermit saw on her shoulder-blades two
blood-red scar-stripes.

"Are you wounded?"

"I was, long ago...."

"Your eyes glow: have you a fever?"

"I do not know men's fever, but my soul is always burning like a cave
in hell."

"Who are you?"

"One heavy burdened with sin."

"What is your name?"

"I have no name now, holy father.... Oh! ask no more.... And let
me go."

"Whither are you going?"

"Far, along the way of thistles, to the royal castle. To the Princess
Emeralda."

"She is proud."

"She is the Princess of the Jewel, and I weep jewels. I shed them
for her. Once there was a time ... that I wept pearls.... O father,
let me go!"

"Go, then.... And do penance."

"Thanks, father.... Oh, give me your blessing!"

The hermit blessed her. She went then as a pilgrim in her
penance-garb. The path was steep and covered with thistles.

In the distance was heard the song of the shepherds.



CHAPTER XXI


The path was steep, and covered with cactus and thistles. It was a
narrow path, hewn out of the rocks, winding up the basalt mountain,
where, high on the top, stood the castle. The castle had three
hundred towers, which rose to the sky; along them swept the clouds. In
the path were many steps hewn out of stone. Heavy masses of cactus
grew on the side of the precipice, and over the leaves, prickly and
round, Psyche saw the grassy valleys of the Kingdom of the Past,
the villages, the towns, the river: a broad silver streak, and there,
behind it, opal-like views, lakes in the sky, and quivering lines of
ether. Higher and higher she went up the steps, up the path, in the
gloomy, chilly shadow, whilst the sun shone over the meadows. She
climbed up, and below she saw the shepherds with their sheep, and
their song, quite faint, came up to her.

In the coppice she broke a strong stick for a staff. A lappet of her
mantle she had drawn over her head as a hood. And with her staff and
her hood, she looked like a pious pilgrim.

The solitary countryman who was coming down the rocky path, did not
throw stones at her, but greeted her reverently.

She kept climbing up.

High in the air lay the castle, gloomy and inaccessible, a town of
towers, a Babel of pinnacles; along it swept the clouds. As an innocent
child, as a naked princess with wings, Psyche had lived there like
a butterfly on a rock, had wandered along the dreadful parapets,
had longed and hoped and dreamed. Oh! her longings of innocence,
her hope to fly through the air to the opal islands, her dreams,
pure as the doves that flew round about her...!

She had wandered through clouds, through desert and wood, from the
North to the South. She had loved the Chimera, had put questions to the
Sphinx; she had been Queen of the Present and the beloved of Bacchus,
and now ... now she came back, wingless, with a soul that burned her
continually, like a scarlet child of hell; now she came back up the
steep path....

Her penance-garb she had borrowed. But the thistles tore her foot,
and pale from pain and suffering, from wounded feet, and ever-smarting
shoulders, and a soul that burned continually, was her face, that
peeped out from under her wide hood.

Up, up, she went, supporting herself with her staff....

Oh, the voice of her father, of Eros, in her dream, when the
grape-dance was over! Then repentance had begun. Then she had fled
through the wood, through the wild beasts. And the lion had licked
her foot, and the tigress had allowed her to rest in the warm lair
of her whelps....

Then she went on, climbing higher and higher....

Would she never get to the top? Would the castle, the Babel of
pinnacles, the town of towers remain ever inaccessibly high in
the clouds?

Her step left blood behind on the rocky stone.

But she did not rest. Rest did not help her.

She preferred to go on, to climb. If she walked, if she climbed,
the sooner would she reach the castle.

Step by step she advanced. Oh, she was no longer afraid of
Emeralda! What could Emeralda do to her to make her afraid? What
greater suffering could her sister inflict upon her than the pain of
remorse, that was ever with her wherever she went!

And on she climbed, and the thistles tore her feet, and the solitary
man who was coming down the rocky path greeted her reverently, when
he saw the blood of her footstep.



CHAPTER XXII


The night was pitch dark, when she stood before the awful gate and
asked admittance.

And the guards let her in because she wore a holy dress. The
halberdiers took her to the hall, where they slept or kept watch,
and invited her to rest.

She sat down on a rude bench, she ate their brown soldier's bread,
she drank a drop of their wine.

Then she offered them a ruby for their hospitality and evening meal.

And while they wondered that a pilgrim possessed such a beautiful
jewel, she said in her strange voice, weak, tired, and yet commanding:

"I have still more topazes and rubies and dark purple carbuncles. Tell
the princess that I have come to do her homage and give her my jewels."

The message was sent to Emeralda, and the queen asked the pilgrim to
come. She sent pages to conduct her to the throne where she sat.

And Psyche understood that Emeralda was afraid of treachery, afraid
of the approach of soul, and therefore was so surrounded by armed men.

She passed between the pages, up the steps, over passages; then iron
gates were opened, and a curtain was drawn aside.

And Psyche stepped into the golden hall of the tower.

There sat Emeralda in the light of a thousand candles, on a throne,
under a canopy, surrounded by a great retinue.

"Holy pilgrim!" said Emeralda, "be welcome! You have come to bring
me jewels?"

A cold shiver ran like a serpent over Psyche's limbs, when she heard
Emeralda's voice. She had not thought that she would be afraid any
more of her proud sister, but now when she saw her and heard her voice,
she almost fainted from fear.

For her look was most terrible.

Emeralda had grown older, but she was still beautiful. Yet her beauty
was horrible. In the hall, lit up with thousands of candles, a hall of
gold and enamel, sat Emeralda like an idol on her throne of agate, in
a niche of jasper. There was nothing more human about her; she was like
a great jewel. She had become petrified, as it were, into a jewel. Her
eyes of sharp emerald looked out from her face, that was ivory white,
like chalcedony; from her crown of beryl there hung down her face six
red plaits of hair, as inflexible as gold-wire, and stiffly interwoven
with emeralds. Her mouth was a split ruby, her teeth glittered like
brilliants. Her voice sounded harsh and creaking, like the noise of
a machine. Her hands and inflexible fingers, stiff with rings, were
opal-white, with blue veins such as run through the opal. Her bosom,
opal, chalcedonic, was enclosed in a bodice of violet amethyst--and
over the bodice she wore a tunic of precious stones. Her dress was no
longer brocade, but composed of jewels. All the arabesque was jewels;
her mantle was jewelled so stiffly that the stuff could not bend,
but hung straight down from her shoulders like a long jewelled clock.

And she was beautiful, but beautiful as a monster, preciously beautiful
as a work of art--made by one, both jeweller and artist, barbarously
beautiful, in the incrustations of her crown, the facets of her eyes,
the lapis lazuli of her stiffly folded under-garments, and all the
gems and cameos which bordered her mantle and dress.

In the light of thousands of candles she glistened, a barbarous
idol, and shot forth rays like a rainbow, representing every colour;
dazzling, fear-inspiring was her look, pitiless and soulless.

Proud she sat and motionless, glistening with lustre, oppressed by
the weight of her splendour; and covetous, her grating voice said
again eagerly:

"Holy pilgrim, welcome! You have come to bring me jewels?"

Psyche gained courage.

"Yes," she said in a firm voice. "Powerful Majesty of the Past,
I come to do you homage and bring you jewels. But I beg that we may
be left alone."

Emeralda hesitated; but when Psyche remained silent, her cupidity
got the better of her fear and she gave a sign. She raised her stiff
hand. And by that single movement she cracked and creaked with grating
jewels, and shot forth rays like the sun, which, like a nimbus,
streamed around her.

Her suite disappeared through side-doors. The shield-bearers
withdrew. Psyche stood alone before her sister. And then Psyche
unfastened the cord round her waist and took off her mantle; her
long hair fell about her, and she was naked. Naked she stood before
Emeralda, and said:

"Emeralda, don't you recognise me? I am Psyche, your sister!"

A cry escaped the princess. She rose up; she creaked; her splendour
and pomp grated, and she glittered so, that Psyche was dazzled.

"Wretched Psyche!" she exclaimed. "Yes, I know you! I have always
hated you, hated as I hate everything that is gentle, as I hate doves,
children, flowers! So you have deceived me, intruder! you bring me
no jewels!"

Psyche knelt down and showed her open hand.

"Emeralda, I offer you the homage which I once refused you. I present
you with topazes, rubies, and dark purple carbuncles. I kneel in
humility before you. I offer you my tears, which have turned into
stone, and I ask you humbly: punish me and give me a penance to
do. Look! I have lost my wings. I may not go naked any longer. I
have committed sin. Emeralda, make me do penance! Inflict on me the
heaviest that you can think of. If I can do it, I will do it. Lay a
heavy task upon my wingless shoulders."

Emeralda looked down at kneeling Psyche. The princess approached
her sister, took the jewels, examined them attentively, held them
up to the light of the candles, and then dropped them into an open
casket. Thoughtfully she continued gazing at Psyche. And she seemed to
Psyche like a gigantic jewel-spider, watching from the midst of her
glittering web the rays of her own splendour. But whatever she were,
princess, sun, spider, or jewel, a woman she was not, a human being she
was not, and through the opal of her bosom gleamed her heart of ruby.

Psyche, kneeling penitent, spoke not, awaiting her fate, and Emeralda
watched her.

Thoughts, mechanical as wheels, rolled through her brain. She thought
as a machine. She was inexorable, because she had no feeling; she
thought inhumanly because she had no soul. Soulless she was and hard
as stone, but she was powerful, the mightiest ruler of the world. She
ruled with a movement, she condemned with a look, she could kill
with a smile; if she spoke a word, it was terrible; if she appeared
in public there was disaster; and if she rode through her kingdom in
a triumphal chariot, then everything was scorched by her lustre and
crushed under her triumph.

At last she spoke, motionless like a spider in her web of glittering
rays, and her voice sounded like an oracle in a screeching incantation.

"Psyche, fled from her father's house, fallen from all princely
dignity, dethroned Princess of the Present, immoral Bacchante,
corrupt and wingless, weeping tears of scarlet sin--listen!

"Psyche, who wandered frivolously to purple streaks of sky, who
longed for the nothingness of azure and of light, who loved a horse,
who forsook her husband, who wandered and sought and asked, in desert
and in wood--wander, seek, and ask!

"Wander, seek, and ask, till you find!

"Wander along the flaming caves, seek in the fire-vomiting mouths of
monsters, ask of the martyred spirits, who roll upon the inky sea.

"Descend to the Nether-world! Seek the Mystic Jewel, the Philosopher's
Stone that gives the highest omnipotence; seek the Mystic Jewel,
the rays of which reach to eternity and penetrate to the Godhead.

"Descend, wander, ask, seek, and find!"

Her voice grew terrible, and, screeching, she stepped nearer, and
with a look at the casket, said pitilessly:

"Or ... weep for it ... suffer for it. I care not how much."

She paused, and then in a voice of horrible hypocrisy, continued:

"And then, if you bring me the Sacred Jewel, the name of which may
not be uttered...." She drew still nearer.

... "Then be blessed, Psyche, and share with me, Emeralda, your sister,
the divine omnipotence!"

Like an oracle sounded her hypocritical voice. She felt in Psyche
an unknown power; she feared for her soul, and wished to gain that
power for herself, to make sure of the two-fold omnipotence of the
world, both soul and body. And in the horrible penance which she laid
upon Psyche, she feigned tender love. Creaking and cracking, she drew
nearer, and in her web of rays shed a sunbeam over her kneeling sister,
and with her stiff opal fingers stroked the bent head with its fair,
long tresses.

An ice-cold shiver ran through Psyche, as if her burning soul were
being frozen.

"I obey," she murmured.

And she rose up, intoxicated from splendour, stiff from icy
coldness. She tottered and shut her eyes. When she opened them,
she was in a gloomy ante-chamber, clad in her coarse mantle; and the
shield-bearers approached with torches.

"Conduct me to Astra!" she commanded.

There was something strange in her voice which made them obey,
the voice of a princess, the soft voice of command, which appealed
strangely to the men, as if they had heard it when they were pages.

They conducted Psyche through halls, over passages, up steps, to
another tower. They opened low doors, and, through silent vaults,
guided the strange pilgrim, rich in rubies.

"Who comes there?" asked a voice, tired, weak, and faint.

Then the men left Psyche alone, and she was with Astra, and she saw her
sister in the twilight on the terrace, sitting before her telescope,
surrounded by globes and rolls of heavy parchment spread out. And
Psyche saw Astra, looking very old, with thin grey hair, which
hung down her wax-white face, from which two dull eyes stared out;
her white dress hung down limp on her sunken shoulders, her withered
breast, and attenuated limbs. Bitter dejection was in her dull eyes;
her thin hand hung down powerless, tired, and incapable of work,
and her voice, faint and weak, said:

"Who comes there?"

"I, Psyche, your little sister, come back, O Astra, as a penitent...!"

"As a penitent?"

"Yes, I fled, committed sin, and now I will do penance...."

Astra mused.

"It is true," she murmured. "I remember, little Psyche. Come
nearer. Take my hand, I cannot see you."

"The night is dark, Astra: there are few stars in the sky, and the
torches are not yet lit...."

"No? Is it dark about me? That does not matter, Psyche, for I cannot
see, I am blind...."

Psyche gave a cry.

"Astra! Poor sister, are you blind? Oh! you who could see so well! are
you blind?"

"Yes, I have gazed myself blind!! I have turned my telescope from
left to right, to all the points of the universe. I thought to become
the centre, the kernel of science, the focus of brilliant knowledge;
now I am blind, now I see nothing more, now I know nothing more. The
colossal numbers have become confused in my brain since the living
Star on my head faded. Do you still see its faint splendour between
my grey hair? Ah! now I have your hand.

"What is that, child? What round things are falling over my fingers?"

"My tears, Astra, poor Astra!"

"How hard they are and cold! What hard, cold tears, Psyche!... Sit
down here at my feet. Is the night dark? Are the torches not yet
lit? Well, let it be dark, for I see nothing; but I feel you, I feel
your hair; now I stroke your head, round and small. I feel along
your shoulders, Psyche, little child with wings.... But your wings
I do not feel.... Have you none now? Have they been cut off? My star
has faded, and your wings are cut; Emeralda triumphs alone! Her gift
from the fairy has brought her prosperity. Her heart of ruby feels
no pain; she is clad in the majesty of precious jewels. She is hard
and beautiful, hard as a stone, beautiful as a jewel.... Psyche,
creep close to me.... We can do nothing against her, child. My star
is faded, your wings clipt; we have lost our noble rights.... I am
old, but you--are you still young? You feel so young, indestructibly
young.... You have suffered so, asked and wandered.... not appreciated
your happiness, and murdered Eros! Poor child, you a murderess...! You
weep rubies ... you will do penance. You are strong, Psyche, and
always young.... You will do penance after all your sins! Emeralda
has laid penance on you.... To seek the Philosopher's Stone in the
caverns of flaming hell!! O Psyche, the Stone does not exist. The
unutterable name is a legend. The Jewel exists only in the pride of
man. The universe is limited, the Godhead is not limited; no rays from
precious stones can reach the Godhead and rule over God. No looking
through lenses of diamond can penetrate the Godhead. It is all pride
and vanity. Psyche, there is nothing but resignation. Emeralda is
powerful, but more powerful she cannot become....

"In vain will you seek."

"Yet I will seek, Astra, although it be in vain.... And do you also,
sister, lay penance on me.... Let me do penance for Astra, as I do
for Emeralda."

"No, child, I know no penance. There is nothing but resignation. There
is nothing but to wait. Everything else is vanity and pride. But do
penance, little Psyche. Penance is illusion, yet illusion is pleasant:
illusion ennobles. Believe, poor child, in your penance, believe in
your illusion. I have never known it. I have always calculated. The
colossal numbers roll through my dull and hazy brain in endless
series of figures. However you count, you never come to the sum of
the endless.... The stars cannot be counted. The farthest sun is
incomputable, the divine is limitless. Even the nearest frontier
of the Future is beyond computation. There is a sea of unfathomable
light.... O Psyche, I am tired, I am blind, and I shall soon die. In
this place, here I will stay. Psyche, look through the telescope. Is
the night too dark? Do you see anything?"

"The stars give a dim light."

"Look through the telescope. What do you see? Tell me, what do
you see?"

"In the glass, right at the top, I see a dark spot, which emits a
few rays. Is that a black star?"

"No, Psyche, that is a spider. Emeralda has sent a spider. The spider
has crawled to the top, along the smooth diamond; there the spider
weaves his web. And the diamond ... is crumbling to pieces....["]

"Astra...!!"

"Psyche, creep closer to me.... Let me feel your little round head,
your wingless shoulders...."

"Astra, everything is black; clouds are drifting past the stars!"

"Sleep thus in my mantle, sleep thus at my feet. Sleep, my little
child, and cover yourself for the night.... Psyche, your old nurse
is dead. Psyche, now I am your nurse.... Sleep now by blind Astra...."

Feeling for Psyche, she threw her mantle round her. The night was
dark. Astra's powerless hand dropped over Psyche. Psyche fell asleep.



CHAPTER XXIII


It was still dark when Psyche awoke. She looked up at Astra, who sat
sleeping, her grey head on her breast; faintly shone her star. Very
gently, so as not to wake her, Psyche rose, and left the terrace. She
knew the way. She went through the halls and passages, down the steps,
the endless steps. In the corners sat the sacred spiders, and wove....

Psyche went lower down, to the vaults. There burnt the everlasting
lamps. She went among the royal tombs, crystal sarcophagi, and found
her father's coffin. By the lamp, which was always kept burning,
she recognised his embalmed, rigid face. The eyes were closed. He
knew nothing about her: that she had gone away and come back. Death
was between them, and severed them forever.

She kissed the glass, and her tears, round, hard, and red, clattered
on the crystal.

She knelt down and tried to pray. In a corner of the vault a black
spot moved. It was a big spider with a white cross on its body.

"So, you have come back again.... I knew that you would come. We can
escape from nothing. Everything happens as it happens. Everything
is as it is. Everything goes to dust; into the pits of the Past,
into the power of Emeralda.... Now become a spider like us, weave
your web, and be wise...."

Psyche got up.

"No...!" she exclaimed, "I will not become a spider, I will weave no
web. I have sinned, but I will weave no web; I have sinned and will
do penance. The world is awful--desert and wood and space; life is
awful--love and pain, joy and despair, sin and punishment. And if fate
is as it is, it is in vain to weave a web and to heap up treasures of
dust. Spider, were it not more human to love, to live, and even to sin,
than to weave web upon web? Spider, I envy you not your sacredness...!"

The spider puffed itself out maliciously.

"You seem to be still proud of your murder and your immorality and
shamelessness! Your princely name you have dragged through the mire,
your wings you have given up for a panther's skin and a grape-wreath,
and know not yet what repentance is. If you had been wise and become
a spider, you would have served Emeralda, and there would have been
no need to go down to the Under-world!"

But Psyche was no longer afraid. She had come to kiss her father's
coffin; she left her jewelled tears in the treasure, which the spiders
watched over, and ascended the hundreds of steps and came on to the
terrace of the battlements.

There as a child she had wandered and gazed, a child with wings,
and innocent, her soul full of dreams. Now she wandered again along
the ramparts and battlements high as a man; the doves fluttered about
her, the swans looked up at her ... and full of dejection for former
innocence and youth, she wept and wept: no longer a brook, but topazes,
rubies, tears of sin, that, rattling down, frightened the doves and
the swans, which, indignant, thought that she was pelting them with
stones. The doves flew away, and the swans, offended, turned their
backs on her. Then she sat down in an embrasure--no wings now lay
against the stone-work--and she folded her arms round her knees. She
looked towards the horizon; behind it loomed other horizons, first
pink, then silver; blue, then gold; behind the grey, pale and misty,
and then fading away. Then beyond, the horizon became milk-white, like
an opal, and in the reflection of the last rays of the setting sun,
it seemed as if lakes were mirrored there; islands rose in the air,
aerial paradises, watery streaks of blue sea, oceans of ether and
light-quivering nothingness.

And Psyche bowed her head, full of sadness, and sobbed.

The world was not changed, but more beautiful than ever; gloriously
beautiful loomed the ever-changing horizon. Yet Psyche sobbed, full
of sadness. She knew that the horizons were pure delusions, and that
behind them was the desert with the Sphinx. Oh! if she could once more
believe in the aerial paradises, the purple seas, the golden regions
with people of light, who lived under rosy bananas! Alas! had she not
trod a paradise, the sweet Present, the adorable garden of a moment,
so little and so short in duration? It was past, it was past! Oh,
how her soul scorched, how her shoulders pained, how her eyes burned!

She wept and she sobbed, and hid her face in her hands. She did not
notice that the wind was rising, that the horizon quivered, that
clouds were speeding through the air, white colossi like towers and
dragons, riders and horses. She did not see the changes in the sky;
she did not see the going up and down of wings, of flaming wings in
the silver lightning, that flashed from the sky; she did not hear
the warning thunder, nor did she see the clouds emitting sparks. But
suddenly she distinctly heard a voice:

"Psyche! Psyche!"

She looked up. Before her, she saw descending on broad wings a steed
of pure light and flame. And she uttered a cry, that sounded in the
air like an endless shout of gladness:

"Chimera!"

It was he. He descended. The basalt terrace trembled, as though shaken
by an earthquake; under his hoofs the stone shot sparks, and he stood
before her resplendent and beautiful.

"Chimera!" she cried, and folded her hands and sank down before him
on her knees.

She could say nothing else. She was dazzled, and it seemed as though
her soul ascended heavenward in the pure delight of love.

"Psyche!" sounded his voice of bronze, "I have come down, for I love
you. But I may not bear you any more on my back through the delusive
regions of air, because you have committed sin. Psyche, it is your
bounden duty to obey Emeralda's command. Go down to Hell and seek
the Jewel."

"Chimera, adored one, delight of my soul, oh, your splendour fills
my eyes! Your word gives strength to my weakness! I feel it! You
may not bear me away; I am unworthy of your wings. But I adore and
bless you for coming! Chimera, Chimera, your splendour has beamed
once more upon me! your voice has inspired me, and I will do what you
say.... You let the light of hope break in upon me; new strength flows
through my limbs. Chimera, I hope, I hope! I will go down into Hell;
I will seek.... Shall I find? I know not.... But I hope! The horizon
is quivering with hope and ether and the Future!

"Psyche!" sounded his voice again like bronze, "be strong! Take
heart! Descend! Do penance! Seek...! Once more you will see me...."

"Once more!"

"Be strong, take heart, do penance!"

He ascended, whilst Psyche remained kneeling. When he was high
in the air, there came a peal of thunder, as if the heavens would
burst asunder. The sky was dark, but lit up by the lightning. In the
black sky, in the lightning flame, rose fearfully the three hundred
towers. And the thunder-claps rumbled on, one after the other, as if
the Past were perishing in the last day....

With a joyful cry, Psyche hastened along the terraces, the battlements,
ramparts, entered the castle, and went down the steps. Lower and lower
she descended, lower than the vaults; and as she passed them, she
threw a kiss in the direction where the old king lay buried.... She
descended still lower, and yet she heard the thunder pealing above,
and the castle seemed to tremble to its very foundations.

She descended still lower: she descended very deep pits, built like
towers reversed to the central nave of the earth. She descended step
after step, thousands of steps, groping in the darkness. She walked
with unerring foot, that felt for the next step, that detected the
slippery stone; she felt and never hesitated. Another step and then
another; again a pit, pit after pit, all the pits of the Past. Bats
flew up and flapped their wings, spiders she felt crawling over her,
an icy dampness fell like a chill wind upon her shoulders.

Deeper down she went, and deeper. It was pitch dark, and above she
heard nothing more; she heard only the flapping of the gigantic bats,
the droning of the envious spiders. But she defended herself with
her little hand; as she descended, she beat about her, beat the bats
away, seized a vampire, held it tightly by the neck, and strangled
it. Her foot glided over toads, she slipped over snakes, but she got
up again and beat the bats and fought with the vampires. The Chimera
had so inspired her with strength, that she felt strong as a giant,
young and courageous; he had filled her eyes with such light that
she saw him in the darkness.

In the pitchy darkness his flaming wings were distinctly visible. And
on she went descending; thick clouds of dust, the deepest shadows of
Emeralda's transitoriness, rose up, but she kept breathing, never
hesitating, and her foot felt instinctively the next step, and she
struck at the bats and fought with the vampires. When she throttled
them, a human cry was heard, and the echo sounded a thousand times
like the anxious cry of a murder. But she was not afraid. She kept
on descending....

She kept descending. At last she felt no more steps but voidness
under her feet, and she sank ... like a feather, through heavier air;
she sank, she sank deeper and deeper, deeper and deeper.... A black
draught of air, an invisible wind, damp and chill, made her feel
that she had passed all the pits, that she was sinking outside them
in the open air, invisible and black, thick as ink. Then she began
to sink more slowly, and ... her feet touched ground.

Sounds soft and low, like the plaintive strains of a viol, rose up
from afar, like music of the sea, the plaint of a thousand voices
which never became melody.

The far-off sound continued quivering as an accompaniment of wind, of a
black wind which blew, and overpowered the music of the sea. Sometimes
it went a little higher, sometimes a little lower, and always remained
the vague and distant incomprehensible harmony.

From where the wind came, from where the plaintive murmuring arose,
thither would Psyche go. And with her foot she kept feeling, and with
her outstretched hands, and on she went....

Long, long she went in the darkness, till the darkness became less
opaque and lit up with phosphoric flickerings; and she saw:

That she was ascending a path between two inky seas.

Black as ink were the waves.

Then she heard them roaring; then she saw their crests lit up with
a blue phosphorescent glow.

Then she heard the soft, low sounds, the plaintive viols swell,
till they became a dull, continuous soughing.

The black wind rose as with a gigantic sail, and suddenly blew the
hurricane.

In the pitch-dark air, the lightning flashed blue.

And between the two inky seas, Psyche went slowly on, against the
gusts of wind.

Then she uttered a cry, as though she were calling....

The hurricane took her cry for help over the endless sea of
Hell.... And from all sides dived up the gruesome frights--leviathan
monsters. They opened their jaws at Psyche, and the water streamed
out. Their scaly tortuous bodies wound along over the black surface
of the ocean, and on the horizon, lit up with phosphorous blue, their
tails meandered. They came from the horizon, they dived up and down,
and the ocean dived with them. Storm-flood, waterfall--storm-flood,
waterfall.... They spread out their dragon wings, and caught up the
boisterous wind; they shot up waterspouts like towering fountains,
of a blue and yellowish hue. Their round squinting eyes stood out
watchful, like green and yellow signals; they lifted their red-lobed
jaws, abysses of red-slimy desires, bubbling with foamy slaver.

"Monsters of the sea of pain, where shall I find the Jewel for
Emeralda?"

Psyche asked the question in a high, musical key, and her voice rang
out clearly in the hurricane and plaintive moanings of the sea. Her
high soprano sounded above all the roaring of the elements and
plaintive cries; and three times she repeated the question:

"Monsters of the sea of pain, where shall I find the Jewel for
Emeralda?"

The leviathans pressed together along the path that Psyche trod. But
amidst the noise of their tossing and snorting and spouting, she
heard the plaintive sea swelling, the sea of plaintive voices; and
then in the blue phosphorescent glow between the monsters, she saw
the drowned shades heaving to and fro, always writhing in fear, always
drowning in the inky sea; the everlasting wailing of the plaintive sea,
the cry of souls in pain; the gigantic plaintive viol, with strings
ever playing....

"Vanity, vanity!"

Did she hear aright?

It was one single sound, like a note repeated again and again. "Vanity,
vanity!" was the inexorable answer, first vague as a dream, mystic as
a thought, sounding more distinctly as an admonition against worldly
pride. And so distinct did the sound become, that Psyche, brave Psyche,
who feared neither vampire nor monster of the deep ... that courageous
Psyche hesitated and felt all her strength giving way....

"If it were vanity to seek, to ask for the Jewel, how much farther
should she go?"

"Should she go back?"

She looked round.

But she saw what made her soul sink within her.

She saw that behind her step, the seas immediately closed till they
became one single sea of ink; she saw that the only path for her
stretched across the seas, that behind her it immediately sank away.

She could not go back, she must go on.

And she buoyed up her sinking soul; she went on, and in a high soprano
voice repeated again and again her question:

"Spirits in the sea of pain, where shall I find the Jewel for
Emeralda?"

"Vanity, vanity!"

The plaintive viol kept trembling, and the same sound sounded ever,
the unchangeable answer. The hurricane was no longer chill, but warm,
sultry, strangely sultry; more and more sultry blew the everlasting
cyclone.

The sea-monsters kept back; they dived again below; the sea
sank with them, the shades swayed to and fro in storm-flood,
waterfall--storm-flood, waterfall, and many-headed hydras came
sinuously up. The sea no longer shone with phosphorescent glow, but
was quite black, pitch black, black as boiling pitch, without foam
and without light, and kept sending up a discharge of miry, vaporous
matter. In the boiling pitch, the hydras, with their thousand snaky
heads, kept diving up, tortoise-scaled; swayed to and fro, to and fro
the pale faces of the shades, but ever sounded the plaintive viol,
and ever rang forth the same note, the unchangeable answer to Psyche's
shrill question:

"Hydras of the sea of pain, spirits in the sea of pain, where shall
I find the Jewel for Emeralda...??"

"Vanity, vanity...!"

The pitch seethed and hissed and steamed.

It was no longer a sea of water, no longer a sea of pitch;

It was a sea of nothing but flame, pitch-black flame, a sea of
jet-black fire, fire and flame, that waved from the horizon, where a
single streak of pale light appeared. In the black flames burned the
shades, in the black flames wound the hydras in and out; the thick
smoke shot up into the clouds, and the clouds sent it back again....

"Spirits in the pitch-black flames, where shall I find the Jewel
for Emeralda...???"

"Vanity, vanity...!"

The hurricane kept blowing, the plaintive viol kept trembling, and
ever sounded the same note, the unchangeable answer. But scorchingly,
more scorchingly blew the wind, like a tempest from a sun for ever
doomed. The black night now assumed a dark-purple aspect, like purple
steam; the clouds drove a bloody vapour into the heavens.

And on either side of Psyche's path suddenly shot out the flaming
hurricane of the sun, gigantic purple tongues of fire, scarlet and
orange. The lower clouds drove them back, and when Psyche looked round,
she stood in a flaming fire. The flaming hurricane seethed round her;
behind her feet the path was on fire. The air was fire. But Psyche,
whose own soul was on fire, in her own scorching fire of remorse,
felt not the glowing heat, and she saw,

Out of the living scarlet craters, the orange caves, the hellish
chimeras working up their sinuous way like glowing spirals: half
arabesque, half beast; half dragon, half tail; flaming sea-horses. They
spat and fanned the glowing fire, and, riding aloft on the burning
hurricane, the shades swept past Psyche.

"Spirits in the scarlet flames...."

"Vanity, vanity!"

This was the only answer, that sounded afar off in her ears, the
answer of the tortured, angry spirits, which in the strength of their
sin and passion came flying up from the craters.

On she went....

She went on along the path that unfolded before her.

How confidently she went on, how calmly! Why was she not
afraid? Oh! she knew too much to be afraid and not to go
on in confidence. Was the answer not always more distinct and
unchangeable? Psyche's soul breathed freely, and in the fire around her
her own fire seemed to diminish. For when the fire round her became
yellower, sulphur-yellow, pure yellow, the pure golden yellow of the
sun, then she uttered a cry of joy, as though she knew the answer:

"Spirits in the sulphur flames, spirits in the sun's flames...!"

She smiled.... Smiling, she hastened on, with joyful voice, with winged
step; and so rapidly did she flee along the path smoothed out small
for her foot, that behind her the answer could scarcely reach her.

"Vanity, vanity!"

Oh! it was always the plaintive viol, but the too poignant grief
was tempered with melancholy; the plaintive sea became like a sea
of melancholy; the thousands of voices were full of melancholy. And
when the flames became less dense and lighter, when they changed
from sulphur yellow to soft azure, a flaming sea of azure, in the
silent dawning moonlight scenery, high, broad, blue flaming tongues
that shot from the moon--when the hellish hurricane no longer raged,
but gave away to a more benign breeze--then Psyche asked no more in
so shrill a key, but knowing all, her voice murmured dejectedly:

"Spirits in the azure flames, where shall I find the Jewel for
Emeralda?"

The melancholy viol vibrated more gently; the spirits rocking to and
fro in the thin blue fire sang more softly:

"That is vanity, Psyche; that is vanity...."

She uttered her jubilant cry, and hastened on with uplifted arms
through the azure moon-flames. The firmament spread out in higher
circles and formed wider spheres;

The flames became clearer and clearer; more benignly blew the breeze;

And pale, the spirits flitted to and fro: pale shades with melancholy
eyes, singing their song of painful remembrances....

And the spirits looked at Psyche--the spirits smiled benignly on her,
astonished that she was still alive.

They pointed for her to go on farther and farther; they nodded to her,
"On! on!"

And she gave a loud cry of joy and hastened on....

She sped through the flames and shades;

Till the flames were still, and high and white;

High, still, white flames, like sacrificial flames, like altar flames,
high in the sky, the lofty sky, the wide sky; the wide expanse full
of white flame, still, white, ascending, purifying flames, refined
and clear, over the whole wide expanse, the wide refining expanse....

Once more she asked the pale shades, who swarmed about between the
flames, hand in hand, who swayed continually to and fro between
the flames:

"Spirits in the white flames, pure white, in the white flames, where
shall I find the Jewel for Emeralda?"

"Vanity, vanity!" sang the shades softly and quietly, and in the
answer, calm and assuring, of the expectant penitents, vibrated the
great viol with a sound like a soft jubilant trill.

Psyche asked no more. She slackened her speed and began to walk,
her arms raised, her head erect, through the silvery flames. Oh, the
dear, tender flames, the adorable purifying flames! how they cooled,
in their snow-white glow, the burning remorse of her soul!

How freely Psyche breathed, in the innocently white glowing fire! Like
lilies were the tongues of flame, fragrant and soothing as balsam,
cool and fresh as snow ... cold as water, as foam. The white flames
foamed and rippled like a sea, lower and smoother, quieter and more
serene; they rippled like a sea of lilies, like a sea of silver
snow.... They became moisture and water and foaming ocean, the tender
element of gentle compulsion, carrying along as an irresistible dream,
white as paradise, and, as slightly rippling waves of foam, they bore
Psyche away.

On the foaming waves Psyche drifted along, all white in the golden
boat of her fair hair. So gently did they rock her, the foaming,
rippling waves, that Psyche shut her eyes. Sleep was stealing over
her. Her lips smiled with inward peace.

The waves bore her away, the sea washed her ashore. She awoke from
her slumber, pearl-white she rose from the foam, amidst the joyful
dolphins.

She stepped out of the sea on to the land. She felt quite cool, and
her soul was calm and peaceful, full of reassuring, holy knowledge. But
within her was a great desire.

Smiling, she stretched out her arms. She yearned for the desire of
her heart....

"Not yet ... not yet," was whispered tenderly to her cool and peaceful
soul. "Wait, wait...." sounded the echo.

In the silent joy of her soul, she wept. She lifted her hand to her
eyes; wet were her tears, and in her hand ... lay a pearl...!

Then she looked round. She recognised the sea-shore with its many bays,
the shore of the Kingdom of the Past. There, on the opal-blue horizon,
loomed a town of minarets and pinnacles, of cupolas and obelisks,
surrounded with golden walls.

That was the capital of the kingdom. Thither she would repair.

There, proud and peaceful, still and cool, she would say to Emeralda,
her powerful sister,

That her Jewel was vanity. That the gem did not exist.



CHAPTER XXIV


When Psyche approached the capital, she heard at the gates the excited
cries of festive merry-makers. Outside the gates flocked the noisy
crowd, dressed in all the colours of the rainbow, and bedecked with
flowers, singing and dancing, but not knowing why. Everywhere was
bustle and commotion; on the roadside sat hundreds of hucksters,
and women extolling their wares--glasses with jewels and fruit,
cooling drinks, dresses and flowers. In a shrill key they praised
their wares; they spread out their stuffs with much ado, and offered
the people flowers, and poured them out wine, and held up strings of
glass pearls and cheap necklaces of coins.

Psyche was naked, and she veiled herself in her hair; she spread over
the marks on her shoulders her golden mantle of hair, and as many of
the dancing girls, some half naked and others quite, danced round,
hand in hand, people thought that she was naked, only because she was
so fair--Psyche, so pearl-white in her golden hair. She was not wont
to be ashamed of nakedness, which was once her right, her privilege
as a princess; but now under the eyes of the people she blushed, and
walked with downcast eyes. Then she turned to a saleswoman and asked:

"What is the feast for?"

"Where do you come from? 'What is the feast for!' Don't you know
anything about it?"

"I come from the other side of the sea...."

"'What is the feast for!' It is the great festival: it is the Festival,
the Jubilee-festival, of Emeralda. It is the Triumphal Procession of
the Queen!!"

.... "It is the Triumphal Procession of the Queen!" resounded on all
sides. They danced and sang:

.... "It is the Triumphal Procession of the Queen!"

They were drunk with joy, dizzy from strange joy; but Psyche suddenly
saw that they were deadly pale and frightened, deadly pale under
paint and flowers, and frightened whilst they danced round in a ring.

"I have no dress for the occasion; give me that veil of golden
gauze!" said Psyche to the saleswoman.

"That is very dear!"

"I will pay you for it with this pearl."

.... "With that pearl! Are you a princess, then!"

Psyche then took the veil, and she bound it round her loins, just as
she used to do before.

"I will give you a wreath of fresh roses as well!" said the woman,
pleased, and put the flowers on her head.

She smiled, and it suddenly occurred to her that she was decked out
with those flowers as a victim for the altar; that all the people
who were making merry and dancing were bedecked as victims. She went
on. Through the round gold gate she entered the city; the squares
were seen in the distance, connected with very broad streets; square
palaces of marble and bronze, of jasper and malachite, round cupolas
and finely pointed minarets, glistered in the sun as if conjured up by
magic. They stretched far away, and right behind the blue mountains
rose the royal castle, a Babel of pinnacles and towers innumerable,
almost indiscernible in the distance, with square ramparts and walls,
and lofty summits lost in the rising mist. And along the squares, over
palaces, and on the minarets, hung the thick festoons of flowers,
as though the towns were decked out for an offering. Close up to
the castle, Babel of pinnacles, the festoons of flowers seemed to
reach. And in the squares the dancers threw flowers into the air,
and it seemed as if white roses were raining down from heaven. To the
sound of tabour and cymbals, the people danced madly round, and ever
was heard the same cry:

"It is the Triumphal Procession of the Queen!"

Then Psyche, in the secret depths of her heart, saw clearly and
indubitably what it all meant. As she went along with the dense crowds
of noisy, shouting merry-makers, she saw all the people in the town
trembling with fear, which made the blood congeal in their veins.

Their eyes, through fear, were ready to start out of their sockets;
their teeth chattered; their limbs, bedecked with flowers, trembled;
the sun was shining, but everyone was shivering with cold.

But no one spoke of his trembling, and they danced, madly drunk with
foolish joy, and they kept shouting the same thing:

"It is the Triumphal Procession of the Queen!!!"



CHAPTER XXV


A great commotion was going on in the direction of the castle. In
that direction all eyes were turned, and the dancing girls forgot to
dance. From fear, the crowd stood still, as if petrified, and forgot
to conceal the anxiety of their minds. The palaces seemed to tremble;
the air-atoms quivered audibly. Something dreadful was about to happen.

The royal castle shone with a strange lustre; a sun seemed to send
forth a halo; an ominous aureola appeared in the distance. The fearful
rays of the Sun of Consternation outshone the day, outshone the sun:
from their centre, they penetrated through houses and people.

And everything shone, softened by the glow of piercing sunbeams. The
rays quivered everywhere in the air, and the aureola filled the world.

The cause of consternation came rattling on with the rapidity of
an arrow.

All hearts stood still, all breath was taken away, all dancing was
stopped, all rejoicing ceased.

From the castle, over the triumphal way, a triumphal chariot rattled
along with the speed of an arrow. On the top, a living jewel, stood
Emeralda, and guided the four and twenty steeds. It was her splendour
and her aureola which appeared in the air. It was her rays which
caused the houses to shine with splendour and pierced the people with
flashes. She stood immovable, clad in the strength of precious stones,
in a tunic of sapphire, in a robe of brilliants, with deep flounces
of gems and white cameos; her mantle was like a bell, with folds of
purple carbuncle, lined with enamelled ermine. From her crown of
beryl, from her heart of ruby, the rays shot forth, shone out her
fear-inspiring aureola and streamed over the town and in the air,
eclipsing the sun, which turned pale. Her eyes of emerald, stars
in her opal face, chalcedonic, looked inexorable, and her bosom of
precious stones heaved not. Only her heart of ruby beat regularly,
and then her lustre grew alternately dim and bright....

She stood immovable and guided her horses, her four and twenty foaming
stallions, rearing greys, which drew her triumphal car, like a broad
enamelled shell on innumerable wheels, on cutting wheels so numerous,
that they seemed to run into one another--a turning confusion of
spokes.

The dazzling, fear-inspiring chariot rattled on with the rapidity of
an arrow. And suddenly, awaking from their stupefaction, the people
madly danced again and shouted the same jubilant cry. The tabours
sounded, the white roses rained down, and before the queen the people
prostrated themselves and paved her path with their bodies. The grey
stallions foamed and reared; they came on, they came on, they trampled
over the first bodies--men and women, girls and children, dressed for a
festival and bedecked with flowers.... Over her people rode Emeralda;
the innumerable wheels rattled, a confusion of spokes, revolving,
cutting furrows in flesh and blood, reducing blood and human flesh
to a muddy mass. But farther up they danced, farther up they sang,
before casting themselves down for her Triumph....

Then Emeralda, looking over her triumphal way, saw, with the keen
glance of her black carbuncle pupil, a little form, naked and fair,
who lifted up her small, child's hand.

And fiercer and fiercer gleamed her heart of ruby, for she had
recognised the form.

And the desire flamed up in her: the thirst for more power and to
become like a god.

Emeralda recognised Psyche. And she reined in her twelve pair
of horses, she drove them more slowly, and under the less quickly
revolving wheels she heard the jubilant cry of the dying people. The
blood dropped from the wheels, but the roses rained down and covered
the horrible sight. On the bloody, muddy mass, the roses rained down,
white, from the balconies of the palaces.

Emeralda stopped.

Under her, death was silent.

Around, the town was silent. She alone reigned and shot out her
terrible fan of rays, which scorched the houses and pierced the air.

And before her, at a little distance, stood Psyche, proud, pearl-white,
crowned with roses, in a veil of gold.

And the silent crowd recognised in her the third princess of the
kingdom.

"Psyche!" said Emeralda, and her voice sounded loud through the town
from the focus of her rays, "have you come to bring me the unutterable
Jewel, the Gem of Power, the Bestower of Universal Power, the sacred
Stone of Mysticism? Have you found the Mystery of the Godhead, and,

"--Do you rule with me the Universe and God?"

The town shuddered and quivered. The people were stupefied.

The air-atoms trembled audibly.

Then Psyche's voice sounded clearly, silver-clearly, from the
consciousness of the wisdom and sacred knowledge which she possessed.

"Emeralda, for you I have gone through Hell along the black seas,
oceans of pitch, along the horrible sloughs of flaming hurricanes,
along the craters and caverns scarlet and yellow, along the azure fires
and through the white and lilac glow. Give heed to what I say. Hell
answered 'Vanity!' when I asked for the Jewel; the leviathans roared
'Vanity!'; the chimeras hissed 'Vanity!'; the spirits cried 'Vanity!';
and the whole plaintive viol trilled:

"'Vanity!'

"Do you understand me, Emeralda? Your wish was Vanity, for the mystic
Jewel that bestows godlike power is Vanity, and.... Does not Exist."

Then it was terrible. The queen, a living idol, burned with rage,
blazed with rage; her heart was inflamed with rage.

Around her, decked out for sacrifice, in festive garb, in the
sunshine and her own dazzling splendour, her people trembled with
fear. And cruelty gleamed in her fixed face; her emerald eyes started
so revengefully from their sockets as though blinded by their own
splendour, and she pulled at the numerous reins....

The horses reared, the white roses fell down, the people screamed
with joy and the fear of death, and the triumphal chariot rattled on.

Swift as an arrow it thundered on over the people, who paved the way
in ecstacy, and Psyche saw the maddened horses approaching, snorting,
foaming, panting, trampling, pulling, their eyes round and mad....

For a moment she stood firm, proud, tall, pearl-white in the sacred
knowledge she possessed; then the angry hoofs struck her down, and the
horses trampled her as a flower. Emeralda's chariot rattled over her,
with its many cutting wheels, and whilst she died like a crushed lily,
trampled in her own lily-whiteness, she thought of her old father,
and how she had crept to his breast and hidden her face in his beard,
before she went to sleep at night....

She died.... But while she lay trampled to death in the mud of human
flesh and blood, and the sacrificial roses kept falling down over
her corpse unrecognisable----

She returned to life, hovering through the air, and felt so light
and unencumbered, and was whiter than ever and naked.

And on her tender shoulders she felt two new wings quivering...!

She hovered over her own body into a drifting cloud, a mist of
fragrance, which farther on she lost sight of; and light, white,
and rarefied, she looked wonderingly at her trampled body and
laughed. Strange, clear, and childlike sounded her laugh in the cloud
and vapoury fragrance....



CHAPTER XXVI


The triumphal chariot rattled on madly. Emeralda stretched out her
sceptre, on the top of which glowed a star of destroying rays. When
she stretched out the sceptre and directed the rays, she scorched
monuments, palaces, and parks to a white ash, and, for her cruel
jubilant procession, she cut down everything that came in her way. The
thick white ashes flew up like dust; the jubilant multitude were
scorched; the palaces of jaspar and malachite shrivelled up like
burnt paper; the breath of the horses blew away, like ash, the white
burnt gardens. And right over everything went Emeralda, scorching
as she went. Powerful, foolish, arrogant, and proud she was, and
more unfeeling than ever, spiteful and cruel, hurt in her pride;
and she scorched, and made the way smooth before her. Behind her
lay all the town, and she drove through her kingdom, filling the air
with her rays. She drove through valleys and burnt up the harvest;
she reduced villages to dust; she dried up rivers; and before her,
the mountains split asunder.

Her sceptre made a way for her, and no law of nature resisted her
power. The air was grey with the clouds of ash, which rained down
upon the earth.

She went along as swiftly as an arrow, swiftly as lightning, swiftly
as light, swiftly as thought. She went so swiftly, that in a single
hour she had gone all round her wide kingdom intoxicated with the
pride of annihilation, and she drove her maddened horses through
endless plains of sand.

Desert after desert she consumed; the lions fled before her; she
overtook them in a moment; clouds of sand she sent up into the air....

But then she relaxed her speed. She stopped.

Before her, grey and high through the clouds of sand and falling ash,
there loomed a most dreadful shadow.

The shadow was like a gigantic beast, squatting in the sand,
with a woman's head in a stiff basalt veil. The woman's head had
a woman's breast, two basalt breasts of a gigantic woman. But the
body that squatted in the sand was a lion, and the paws stuck out
like walls. And so great was the shadow, so monstrous the beast,
that even the triumphal chariot of Emeralda appeared small.

"Sphinx!" said Emeralda, "I will know. I am powerful, but there is
power above me. There are spheres above mine, and there are gods
above my divinity. There are laws of nature which my sceptre cannot
alter. Sphinx, tell me the riddle. Reveal to me the place where the
Jewel lies hidden, which gives almighty power over the world and God,
so that I may find it and become the mightiest of all gods. Sphinx,
answer me, I say! Open your stony lips and let your voice once
more be heard, that shall make the world tremble with wonder. For
centuries you have not spoken. Sphinx, speak now! For if you do not
speak, Sphinx, and reveal to me where the Jewel lies hidden, then,
great and terrible as you are, I will scorch you to a white ash and
go over you in triumph. Sphinx, speak!"

The Sphinx was silent. The Sphinx looked with stony eyes at the clouds
of sand and raining ash. Her basalt lips remained shut.

"Sphinx, speak!!" said Emeralda, threateningly and red with rage.

The Sphinx spoke not and looked.

Emeralda stretched out her sceptre and directed the destroying rays.

The rays split on the basalt with crackling sparks like flashes of
forked lightning. Emeralda uttered a cry, hoarse and terrible. She
threw away her broken sceptre. But of her greater power she did not
doubt, and for the last time she threatened.

"Terrible Sphinx, tremble! I am more terrible than you!! Speak,
Sphinx!!"

The Sphinx was silent.

Then Emeralda tugged at the reins.

The maddened horses reared, snorting, foaming, panting, trampling,
pulling, and dashed against the Sphinx.

But the foremost horses were dashed to pieces against the god-like
basalt.

Then Emeralda uttered cry after cry, one hoarse cry after another,
which resounded through the desert. She tugged at the reins; the
horses, despairing of their attack against the immovable, drove
at the Sphinx, and fell back crushed, falling over one another and
trampling one another to death; the triumphal chariot split, and the
splinters of sparkling jewels flew up like cracking fireworks, and
Emeralda fell between the still revolving wheels. And her heart of
ruby broke. All her dazzling splendour suddenly faded. The terrifying
fan-like aureola suddenly grew dim, and the desert was grey and gloomy,
with a gentle rain of thick white ash falling down.

The Sphinx was silent, and looked on....



CHAPTER XXVII


Psyche was alive again, soaring through the air, and felt so light
and ethereal; pearl-whiter she was than ever, and naked.

And on her tender shoulders she felt two new wings fluttering...!

She hovered away over her own dead body into a drifting cloud,
a fragrant mist, which farther on she lost sight of; and light,
white, and ethereal, she looked with wonder at her trampled corpse
and laughed....

Strange, clear, and childlike sounded her laugh in the cloud and
vapoury fragrance....

"Psyche!"

She heard her name, but so dazzled and astonished was she, that
she did not see. Then the wind blew about her; the cloud moved,
the fragrance ascended like incense, and she saw many like herself,
restored to life, hovering in the fragrant cloud, and round her she
distinguished the outlines of well-known faces.

"Psyche!"

She recognised the voice, deep bronze, but yet strange. And the wind
blew about her and she saw a bright light before her, and recognised
the Chimera!

"You promised me: once more!" exclaimed Psyche joyfully.

She threw herself on to his back, she clung to his mane, and he
soared aloft.

"Where am I?" said Psyche. "Who am I? What has happened? And what is
going on around me? Am I dead, or do I live? Chimera, how rarefied
is the air! how high you ascend! Are you going to ascend higher,
higher still? Why is everything so dazzlingly bright about us? Is
that water, or air, or light? What strange element is this? Who are
going up with us--ethereal faces, ethereal forms? And what is the
viol that is playing?

"I heard that once before. Then it sounded plaintively; now it has
a joyous sound!

"Chimera, why is the air so full of joy here...? Look! below us is
the Kingdom of the Past.

"It lies in a little circle, and the castle is a black dot. Chimera,
where are you going so high? We have never been so high
before. Chimera, what are those circles all round us, the splendour
of which makes me giddy? Are those spheres? Do they get wider and
wider? Oh, how wide they get, Chimera, how wide! How high it is here,
how wide, how rarefied and how light is the air! I feel myself also so
light, so ethereal! Am I dead...? Chimera, look! I have two new wings,
and I shine pearl-white all over. Do I not shine like a light? It
is true I have been very sinful. But I was what I had to be! Is it
good to be what we have to be? I do not know, Chimera: I have thought
of neither good nor bad; I was only what I was. But tell me, who am
I now, and what am I? And where are you taking me to, Chimera? You
carry me so quietly, so safely; up and down go your wings, up and
down. The stars are twinkling round us; around us whirl the spheres,
and wider and wider they become...! How light, how ethereal! What is
that I see on the horizon? Or is it not the horizon? Opal islands,
aerial oceans.... O Chimera!!!! I see purple sands wrinkling far, far
away, and round them foams a golden sea.... We saw that once before,
but not as it is now! For then it was delusion, and now...! The
sands are growing more distinct; I see the ripple of the golden
sea.... Chimera! What land is that? Is that the rainbow? Is that the
land of happiness, and are you the king?"

"No, Psyche, I am not a king, and that Land...."

"--And that Land...?"

"Is ... the Kingdom of the Future!"

"The Future! the Future!! O Chimera, where are you taking me to? Will
the Future not prove to be a delusion...?"

"No, here is the Future. Here is the Land. Look at it well
... well...."

"It is wider than the widest sphere, wider than anything I can think
of. Where are the limits?"

"Nowhere."

"How far and how wide is the widest sphere?"

"Immeasurably far, indescribably wide...."

"And what stretches away round the widest sphere?"

"The unutterable, and the All, All! The...."

"The...?"

"I know no names! On earth things are called by names; here not...."

"Chimera...! On the purple strand I see a town of light, palaces of
light, gates of light.... Do beings of light dwell there...? Are these
the fore-spheres of the farthest sphere...? Is that the way through
circles to ... the....? Chimera, I see forms, I see the people of
light!! O Chimera! Chimera!! They are beckoning us, they are waving
to us! I see two of them: a form of majesty, and another, near him,
of love! O Chimera! I know them!! That is my father, and that ... O
joy, O joy! ... that is Eros! Eros! Quicker, Chimera--annihilate
the space which separates us; speed on, ply your wings faster--away,
away! Oh, faster, Chimera! Can you not go faster? You fly too slowly
for me! You fly too slowly!! I can fly faster than you."

She spread out her tender, light, butterfly wings; she rose above
the breathless, winged horse, and ... she flew...!

She glided over the Chimera's head toward the strand, toward the city,
toward the blessed spirits. There she saw her father, there she saw
Eros--Eros, godlike and naked, with shining wings!

Round her the viol of joy played its joyous notes, as if all the
spheres rejoiced together. In the divine light, the faces of the
cherubim began to blossom like winged roses....

She glided swiftly through the air to her father and Eros, and embraced
them. She laughed when she saw the flaming Chimera approaching,
because she could fly faster than he!

"Come!" cried Eros joyfully. And he wanted to take her to the gate,
from whence sunbeams issued like a path of sunny gold: a path along
which enraptured souls were going hand in hand....

But the kingly shade stopped them for a moment, when they, Eros and
Psyche, intoxicated with love, embraced each other....

"Look!" said the shade. "Look down below...."



They saw the Kingdom of the Past, with their glorified minds, lying
visible, deep in the funnel of the spheres. They saw the castle, fallen
to ruins, with a single tower still standing. They saw Astra, old,
grey, and blind, sitting before her telescope, and gazing in vain. They
saw her star flicker up for a moment with a bright and final light.

Then they saw Astra's blind eyes ... see! Astra looked and beheld
the land of light, and the little band of happy, loving, dear ones
in their shining raiment. Then they heard Astra murmur: "There! there
... the Land...! The ... Kingdom ... of ... the ... Future!!!"

And they saw her star extinguish:

She fell back dead....

The viol of gladness trilled.





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