Psyche (Couperus)/Chapter 11
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.
Psyche and Eros
[To face p. 76
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?”
“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.