I sent Poobi to bed. Then I did a thing which I think few have done. I spoke to the gods myself, alone, in such words as came to me, not in a temple, and without a sacrifice. I stretched myself face downward on the floor and called upon them with my whole heart. I took back every word I had said against them. I promised anything they might ask of me, if only they would send me a sign. They gave me none. When I began there was red firelight in the room and rain on the roof; when I rose up again the fire had sunk a little lower, and the rain drummed on as before.
Now, when I knew that I was left utterly to myself, I said, "I must do it . . . whatever I do . . . tomorrow. I must, then, rest tonight." I lay down on the bed. I was in that state when the body is so tired that sleep comes soon, but the mind is in such anguish that it will wake you the moment the body's sated. It woke me a few hours past midnight, with no least possibility of further sleep in me. The fire was out; the rain had stopped. I went to my window and stood looking out into the gusty blackness, twisting my hair in my fists with my knuckles against my temples, and thought.
My mind was much clearer. I now saw that I had, strangely, taken both Bardia's explanation and the Fox's (each while it lasted) for certain truth. Yet one must be false. And I could not find out which, for each was well-rooted in its own soil. If the things believed in Glome were true, then what Bardia said stood; if the Fox's philosophy were true, what the Fox said stood. But I could not find out whether the doctrines of Glome or the wisdom of Greece were right. I was the child of Glome and the pupil of the Fox; I saw that for years my life had been lived in two halves, never fitted together.
I must give up, then, trying to judge between Bardia and my master. And as soon as I said that, I saw (and wondered I had not seen before) that it made no difference. For there was one point on which both agreed. Both thought that some evil or shameful thing had taken Psyche for its own. Murdering thief or spectral Shadow-brute - did it matter which? The one thing neither of them believed was that anything good or fair came to her in the night.
No one but myself had dallied with that thought even for a moment. Why should they? Only my desperate wishes could have made it seem possible. The thing came in darkness and forbade itself to be seen. What lover would shun his bride's eyes unless he had some terrible reason for it?
Even I had thought the opposite only for an instant, while I looked at that likeness of a house across the river.
"It shall not have her," I said. "She shall not lie in those detestable embraces. Tonight must be the last night of that."
Suddenly there rose up before me the memory of Psyche in the mountain valley, brightface, brimming over with joy. My terrible temptation came back; to leave her to that fool-happy dream, whatever came of it, to spare her, not to bring her down from it into misery. Must I be to her an avenging fury, not a gentle mother? And part of my mind now was saying, "Do not meddle. Anything might be true. You are among marvels that you do not understand.
Carefully, carefully. Who knows what ruin you might pull down on her head and yours?"
But with the other part of me I answered that I was indeed her mother and her father, too (all she had of either), that my love must be grave and provident, not slip-shod and indulgent, that there is a time for love to be stern. After all, what was she but a child? If the present case were beyond my understanding, how much more must it be beyond hers?
Children must obey. It had hurt me, long ago, when I made the barber pull out the thorn.
Had I not none the less done well?
I hardened my resolution. I knew now what (which of two things) I must do, and no later than on the day which would soon be breaking - provided only that Bardia were not going on the lion hunt and that I could get him clear of that wife of his. As a man, even in great pain or sorrow, can still be fretted by a fly that buzzes in his face, I was fretted by the thought of this wife, this petted thing, suddenly starting up to delay or to hinder.
I lay down on my bed to wait for morning, calmed and quiet in a way now that I knew what I would do.
It seemed long to me before the palace was stirring, though it stirred early because of the King's hunting. I waited till that noise was well begun. Then I rose and dressed in such clothes as I had worn the day before, and took the same urn. This time I put in it a lamp and a little pitcher of oil and a long band of linen about a span and a half broad, such as bridesmaids wear in Glome, wrapped over and over round them. Mine had lain in my chest ever since the marriage night of Psyche's mother. Then I called up Poobi and had food brought to me, of which I ate some and some I put in the urn under the band. When I knew by the horse-hoofs and horns and shoutings that the King's party was gone, I put on my veil and a cloak and went down. I sent the first slave I met to find whether Bardia were gone to the hunting, and if he were in the palace, to send him to me. I waited for him in the Pillar Room. It was a strange freedom to be in there alone; and indeed, amid all my cares, I could not help perceiving how the house was, as it were, lightened and set at liberty by the absence of the King. I thought, from their looks, that all the family felt it.
Bardia came to me.
"Bardia," said I, "I must go again to the Mountain."
"It's impossible you should go with me, Lady," he said. "I was left out of the hunting (ill-luck for me) for one purpose only; to watch over the house. I must even lie here at nights till the King's back."
This dashed me very much. "Oh, Bardia," said I, "what shall we do? I am in great straits. It's on my sister's business."
Bardia rubbed his forefinger across his upper lip in a way he had when he was graveled.
"And you can't ride," he said. "I wonder now - but no, that's foolishness. There's no horse to be trusted with a rider that can't ride. And a few days hence won't serve? The best would be to give you another man."
"But, Bardia, it must be you. No one else would be able . . . it's a very secret errand."
"I could let Gram off with you for two days and a night."
"Who is Gram?"
"The small dark one. He's a good man."
"But can he hold his tongue?"
"It's more a question if he can ever loosen it. We get hardly ten words from him in as many days. But he's a true man, true to me, above all, for I once had the chance to do him a good turn."
"It will not be like going with you, Bardia."
"It's the best you can do, Lady, unless you can wait."
But I said I could not wait, and Bardia had Gram called. He was a thin-faced man, very black-eyed, and (I thought) looked at me as if he feared me. Bardia told him to get his horse and await me where the little lane meets the road into the city.
As soon as he was gone, I said, "Now, Bardia, get me a dagger."
"A dagger, Lady? And for what?"
"To use as a dagger. Come, Bardia, you know I mean no ill."
He looked strangely at me, but got it. I put it on at my belt where the sword had hung yesterday. "Farewell, Bardia," said I.
" Farewell, Lady? Do you go for longer than a night?"
"I don't know, I don't know," said I. Then, all in haste, and leaving him to wonder, I went out and went on foot by the lane and joined Gram. He set me up on the horse (touching me, unless it was my fantasy, as one who touched a snake or a witch) and we began.
Nothing could be less like that day's journey and the last. I never got more than, "Yes, Lady," or, "No, Lady," out of Gram all day. There was much rain and even between the showers the wind was wet. There was a grey driving sky and the little hills and valleys, which had been so distinct with brightness and shade for Bardia and me the other day, were all sunk into one piece. We had started many hours later, and it was nearer evening than noon when we came down from the saddle into that secret valley. And there at last, as if by some trick of the gods (which perhaps it was), the weather cleared so that it was hard not to think the valley had a sunlight of its own and the blustering rains merely ringed it about as the mountains did.
I brought Gram to the place where Bardia and I had passed the night and told him to await me there, and not to cross the river. "I must go over it myself. It may be I shall recross it to your side by nightfall, or in the night. But I think that whatever time I spend on this side I will spend over yonder, near the ford. Do not come to me there unless I call you."