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Proserpine was the daughter of Jupiter and Ceres. Pluto, the God of Hell, became enamoured of her. His addresses were favoured by her father, but opposed by Ceres. Under these circumstances, he surprised her on the plains of Enna, and carried her off in his chariot,” &c. &c.-Vide Lempriere's Classical Dictionary.
I. It was clearly a runaway match-never indeed was such a sublime elopement. The four horses were coal-black, with blood-red manes and tails; and they were shod with rubies. They were harnessed to a basaltic car by a single rein of flame. Waving his double-pronged trident in the air, the God struck the blue breast of Cyane, and the waters instantly parted. In rushed the wild chariot, the pale and insensible Proserpine clinging to the breast of her grim lover.
Through the depths of the hitherto unfathomed lake, the infernal steeds held their breathless course. The car jolted against its bed. “ Save me!” exclaimed the future Queen of Hades, and she clung with renewed energy to the bosom of the dark bridegroom. The earth opened ; they entered the kingdom of the Gnomes. Here Pluto was popular. The lurid populace gave him a loud shout. The chariot whirled along through shadowy cities, and by dim highways, swarming with a busy race of shades.
“ Ye flowery meads of Enna !” exclaimed the terrified Proserpine ; “shall I never view you again? What an execrable climate !"
“Here, however, in-door nature is charming," responded Pluto. “ 'Tis a great nation of manufacturers. You are better, I hope, my Proserpine. The passage of the water is never very agreeable, especially to ladies.”
“ And which is our next stage?" inquired Proserpine.
“ The centre of earth,” replied Pluto. “ Travelling is so much improved, that at this rate we shall reach Hades before night.”
“ Alas !” exclaimed Proserpine, " is not this night?” “ You are not unhappy, my Proserpine ?."
“ Beloved of my heart, I have given up everything for you; I don't repent, but I am thinking of my mother.”
“ Time will pacify the Lady Ceres. What is done cannot be undone. In the winter, when a residence among us is even desirable, I should not be surprised were she to pay us a visit.”
“ Her prejudices are so strong," murmured the bride. Pluto, I hope your family will be kind to me.”
“ Who could be unkind to Proserpine ? Ours is a very domestic circle. I can assure you that everything is so well ordered among us, that I have no recollection of a domestic broil.”'
“ But marriage is such a revolution in a bachelor's establishment,” replied Proserpine, despondingly. “To tell you the truth, too, I am halffrightened at the thought of the Furies. I have heard that their tempers are só very violent."
They mean well; their feelings are strong, but their hearts are in
66 Oh! my
the right place. I fatter myself you will like my nieces, the Parcæ. They are very accomplished, and great favourites among the men.”
My heart misgives me. I wish you had at least paid them the compliment of apprising them of our marriage."
“Cheer up. For myself, I have none but pleasant anticipations. I long to be at home, once more by my own fire-side, and patting my faithful Cerberus."
“ I think I shall like Cerberus—I am fond of dogs." “ I am sure you will. He is the most faithful creature in the world.” “ Is he very fierce ?”
“ Not if he takes a fancy to you; and who can help taking a fancy to Proserpine?” “ Ah! my Pluto, you are in love."
II. “ Is this Hades?" inquired Proserpine.
An avenue of colossal bulls, sculptured in basalt, and breathing living flame, led to gates of brass, adorned with friezes of rubies, representing the wars and discomfiture of the Titans. A crimson cloud concealed the height of the immense portal, and on either side hovered o'er the extending walls of the city; a watch-tower or a battlement occasionally flashing forth, and forcing their forms through the lurid obscurity.
Queen of Hades! welcome to your capital !” exclaimed Pluto. The Monarch rose in his car, and whirled a javelin at the gates. There was an awful clang; and then a still more terrible growl.
My faithful Cerberus !” exclaimed the King. The portals flew open, and revealed the gigantic form of the celebrated watch-dog of Hell. It completely filled their wide expanse. Who but Pluto could have viewed without horror that enormous body covered with shaggy spikes, those frightful paws clothed with claws of steel, that tail like a boa constrictor, those fiery eyes that blazed like the bloodred lamps in a pharos, and those three forky tongues, round each of which were entwined a vigorous family of green
rattlesnakes! “ Ah! Cerby! Cerby!” exclaimed Pluto; " my fond and faithful Cerby!”
Proserpine screamed as the animal gambolled up to the side of the chariot, and held out its paw to its master. Then licking the royal palm with its three tongues at once, it renewed its station with a wag of its tail, that raised such a cloud of dust that for a few minutes nothing was perceptible. “ The monster !” exclaimed Proserpine.
My love !” exclaimed Pluto, with astonishment. “ The hideous brute !"
My dear!” exclaimed Pluto. " He shall never touch me." “ Proserpine!”
“ Don't touch me with that hand. You never shall touch me, if you allow that disgusting animal to lick your hand.”
“I beg to inform you that there are few beings of any kind for whom I have a greater esteem than that faithful and affectionate beast,"
“ Oh! if you like Cerberus better than me, I have no more to say,” exclaimed the bride, bridling up with great indignation.
“My Proserpine is perverse,” replied Pluto; “ her memory has scarcely done me justice.
“ I am sure you said you liked Cerberus better than anything in the world,” continued the Goddess, with a voice trembling with passion.
“ I said no such thing,” rejoined Pluto, somewhat sternly.
“I see how it is,” replied Proserpine with a sob,“ you are tired of me."
“My beloved !”
“ By all the shades of Hell, but this is enough to provoke even immortals. What have I done, said, or thought, to justify such treatment?"
« Oh! me!”
“ Dearest, you must be unwell. This journey has been too much for you."
“ On our very bridal day to be so treated !"
“ Soul of my existence, don't make me mad. I love you,~I adore you, I have no hope, no wish, no thought but you. I swear it, -I swear it by my sceptre and my throne. Speak, speak to your Pluto: tell him all you wish, all you desire. What would you have me do ?"
Shoot that horrid beast.” " Ah! me.”
“What, you will not! I thought how it would be. I am Proserpine, --your beloved, adored Proserpine. You have no wish, no hope, no thought, but for me! I have only to speak, and what I desire will be instantly done! And I do speak, - I tell you my wish,
-I express to you my desire,-and I am instantly refused! And what have I requested ? Is it such a mighty favour? Is it anything unreasonable ? Is there, indeed, in my entreaty anything so vastly out of the way? The death of a dog, a disgusting animal, which has already shaken my nerves to pieces ;—and if ever-(here she hid her face in his breast) —if ever that event should occur, which both must desire, my Pluto, I am sure the very sight of that horrible beast will—I dare not say what it will do."
Pluto looked very puzzled.
“ Indeed, my Proserpine, it is not in my power to grant your request; for Cerberus is immortal, like ourselves."
“ Me! miserable!”
“ Some arrangement, however, may be made to keep him out of your sight and hearing. I can banish him.”
“ Can you, indeed! Oh! banish him, my Pluto! pray banish him! I never shall be happy until Cerberus is banished.”
“ I will do anything you desire; but, I confess to you, I have some misgivings. He is an invaluable watchdog ; and I fear, without his superintendence, the guardians of the gate will scarcely do their duty.”
“Oh! yes: I am sure they will, my Pluto! I will ask them to-I will ask them myself—I will request them, as a very particular and personal favour to myself, to be very careful indeed. And if they do their duty, and I am sure they will, they shall be styled, as a reward, ' Proserpine's Own Guards.'"
“A reward, indeed!” said the enamoured monarch, as, with a sigh, he signed the order for the banishment of Cerberus in the form of his promotion to the office of Master of the royal and imperial blood-hounds.
III. The burning waves of Phlegethon assumed a lighter hue. It was morning. It was the morning after the arrival of Pluto and his unexpected bride. In one of the principal rooms of the palace three beautiful females, clothed in cerulean robes spangled with stars, and their heads adorned with golden crowns, were at work together. One held a distaff, from which the second spun; and the third wielded an enormous pair of adamantine
shears, with which she perpetually severed the labours of her sisters. Tall were they in stature, and beautiful in form. Very fair; an expression of haughty serenity pervaded their majestic countenances. Their three companions, however, though apparently of the same sex, were of a very different character. If women can ever be ugly, certainly these three ladies might put in a valid claim to that epithet. Their complexions were very dark and withered, and their eyes, though bright, were bloodshot. Scantily clothed in black garments, not unstained with gore, their wan and offensive forms were but slightly veiled. Their hands were talons; their feet cloven ; and serpents were wreathed round their brows instead of hair. Their restless and agitated carriage afforded also a not less striking contrast to the highly polished and aristocratic demeanour of their companions. They paced the chamber with hurried and unequal steps, and wild and uncouth gestures; waving, with a reckless ferocity, burning torches and whips of scorpions. It is hardly necessary for me to add that these were the Furies, and that the conversation, which I am about to report, was carried on with the Fates.
A thousand serpents !” shrieked Tisiphone. “I will never believe it."
“ Racks and flames !” squeaked Megæra. “It is impossible.” “ Eternal torture!” moaned Alecto. " 'Tis a lie.”
“ Not Jupiter himself should convince us!” the Furies joined in infernal chorus.
“ 'Tis, nevertheless, true," calmly observed the beautiful Clotho.
“ You will soon have the honour of being presented to her," added the serene Lachesis.
“ And whatever we may feel,” observed the considerate Atropos, “ I think, my dear girls, you
had better restrain yourselves.” “ And what sort of thing is she ?" inquired Tisiphone, with a shriek. “ I have heard that she is very lovely," answered Clotho.
“ Indeed, it is impossible to account for the affair in any other way.”
“ 'Tis neither possible to account for, nor to justify it,” squeaked Megæra.
“ Is there, indeed, a Queen in Hell ?” moaned Alecto.
“ We must remember where she has been brought up, and be considerate,” replied Lachesis.
“ I dare say you three will get on very well with her,” squeaked Megæra. “You always get on well with people.”
"We must remember how very strange things here must appear to her," observed Atropos.
“No one can deny that there are some very disagreeable sights,” said Clotho.
“ There is something in that,” replied Tisiphone, looking in the glass, and arranging her serpents; “ and for my part, poor girl, I almost pity her, when I think she will have to visit the Harpies."
IV, At this moment four little pages entered the room, who, without exception, were the most hideous dwarfs that ever attended upon a monarch. They were clothed only in parti-coloured tunics, and their breasts and legs were quite bare. From the countenance of the first you would have supposed he was in a convulsion; his hands were clenched and his hair stood an end—this was Terror! The protruded veins of the second seemed ready to burst, and his rubicund visage decidedly proved that he had blood in his head—this was Rage! The third was of an ashen colour throughout—this was Paleness! And the fourth, with a countenance, not without traces of beauty, was even more disgusting than his companions from the quantity of horrible flies, centipedes, snails, and other noisome, slimy, and indescribable monstrosities that were crawling all about his body and feeding on his decaying features. The name of this fourth page was Death!
“The King and Queen ! announced the Pages.
Pluto, during the night, had prepared Proserpine for the worst, and had endeavoured to persuade her that his love would ever compensate for all annoyances. She was in excellent spirits and in very good humour; therefore, though she could with difficulty stifle a scream when she recognised the Furies, she received the congratulations of the Parcæ with much cordiality.
“I have the pleasure, Proserpine, of presenting you to my family," said Pluto.
“Who, I am sure, hope to make Hades agreeable to your Majesty," rejoined Clotho. The Furies uttered a suppressed sound between a murmur and a growl.