Psyche (Couperus)/Chapter 16

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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.