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“ I have ordered the chariot,” said Pluto. I propose to take the Queen a ride and show her some of our lions." “She will, I am sure, be delighted,” said Lachesis.
I long to see Ixion,” said Proserpine. “ The wretch !” shrieked Tisiphone.
“I cannot help thinking that he has been very unfairly treated,” said Proserpine.
What !” squeaked Megæra. " The ravisher !" "Ay! it is all very well,” replied Proserpine; “but, for my part, if we knew the truth of that affair
“Is it possible that your Majesty can speak in such a tone of levity of such an offender ?" shrieked Tisiphone.
"Is it possible ?” moaned Alecto.
“ Ah! you have heard only one side of the question ; but for my part, knowing as much of Juno as I do
“The Queen of Heaven!” observed Atropos, with an intimating glance.
“The Queen of Fiddlestick!” said Proserpine, “as great a flirt as ever existed, with all her prudish looks."
The Fates and the Furies exchanged glances of astonishment and horror.
For my part,” continued Proserpine, “I make it a rule to support the weaker side, and nothing will ever persuade me that Ixion is not a victim and a pitiable one."
'Well! men generally have the best of it in these affairs,” said Lachesis, with a forced smile.
“ Juno ought to be ashamed of herself," said Proserpine. “Had I been in her situation, they should have tied me to a wheel first. At any rate they ought to have punished him in Heaven. I have no idea of those people sending every mauvais sujet to Hell.”
“But what shall we do ?”' inquired Pluto, who wished to turn the conversation.
“Shall we turn out a sinner and hunt him for her Majesty's diversion ?” suggested Tisiphone, flanking her serpents.
“Nothing of the kind will ever divert me," said Proserpine; "for I have no hesitation in saying, that I do not at all approve of these eternal punishments, or, indeed, of any punishment whatever.”
“The heretic!" whispered Tisiphone to Megæra. Alecto moaned. “It might be more interesting to her Majesty,” said Atropos, “to witness some of those extraordinary instances of predestined misery with which Hades abounds. Shall we visit Edipus?"
“ Poor fellow !" exclaimed Proserpine. “For myself, I willingly confess that Torture disgusts and Destiny puzzles me.”
The Fates and the Furies all alike started.
“I do not understand this riddle of Destiny,” continued the young Queen. “If you, Parcæ, have predestined that a man should commit a crime, it appears to me very unjust that you should afterwards call upon the Furies to punish him for its commission."
“But man is a free agent,” observed Lachesis, in as mild a tone as she could command.
“Then what becomes of Destiny?" replied Proserpine.
“Destiny is eternal and irresistible," replied Clotho.
“ All is ordained; but man is, nevertheless, master of his own actions."
“I do not understand that,” said Proserpine.
“ It is not meant to be understood,” said Atropos; nevertheless believe it.”
“ I make it a rule only to believe what I understand," replied Proserpine.
“It appears," said Lachesis, with a blended glance of contempt and vengeance," that your Majesty, though a goddess, is an Atheist."
“As for that, anybody may call me just what they please, provided they do nothing else. As long as I am not tied to a wheel or whipped with scorpions
for speaking my mind, I shall be as tolerant of the speech and acts of others, as I expect them to be tolerant of mine. Come, Pluto, I am sure that the chariot must be ready!”
So saying, her Majesty took the arm of her spouse, and with a haughty curtesy, left the apartment.
“ Did you ever!” shrieked Tisiphone, as the door closed.
“She must understand what she believes, must she?” said Lachesis, scarcely less irritated.
“ I never heard such nonsense,” said Clotho. • What next!” said Atropos.
Disgusted with Torture !" exclaimed the Furies. “Puzzled with Destiny!" said the Fates.
V. It was the third morning after the Infernal Marriage; the slumbering Proserpine reposed in the arms of the snoring Pluto. There was a loud knocking at the chamber-door. Pluto jumped up in the middle of a dream.
“My life, what is the matter?” exclaimed Proserpine.
The knocking was repeated and increased. There was also a loud shout of Treason, Murder, and Fire !
“ What is the matter? ” exclaimed the God, jumping out of bed, and seizing his trident. " Who is there ?"
“ Your pages, your faithful pages ! Treason ! treason! For the sake of hell open the door. Murder, fire, treason!"
“ Enter!” said Pluto, as the door was unlocked.
“A moment, my angel !” said Pluto, a single moment. Be not alarmed, my best love, I pray you be not alarmed. Well, imps, why am I disturbed ?"
“Oh!” said Terror. Rage could not speak, but gnashed his teeth, and stamped his feet. “ 0-0-0-h!" repeated Terror.
Speak, cursed imps !" cried the enraged Pluto; and he raised his arm.
“ A man! a man!” cried Terror. " Treason, treason !-a man! a man!"
“ What man ?'' said Pluto, in a rage.
“ A man, a live man has entered Hell !"
“ You don't say so ?” said Proserpine : “ a man, a live man! Let me see him immediately.”.
" Where is he?" said Pluto; 6 what is he doing?”
“He is here, there, and everywhere! asking for your wife, and singing like anything."
Proserpine !” said Pluto, reproachfully; but, to do the God justice, he was more astounded than jealous.
“ I am sure I shall be delighted to see him; it is so long since I have seen a live man,” said Proserpine. “ Who can he be ? A man, and a live man! How delightful! It must be a messenger from my mother.”
“ But how came he here?”
“No time must be lost,” exclaimed Pluto, scrambling on his robe. “ Seize him, and bring him into the Council Chamber. My charming Proserpine, excuse me for a moment."
“ Not at all, I will accompany you.”
“ But, my love, my sweetest, my own, this is business; these are affairs of state. The Council Chamber is not a place for you.”
“ And why not?” said Proserpine; “ I have no idea of ever leaving you for a moment. Why not for me as well as for the Fates and the Furies ? Am I not Queen? I have no idea of such nonsense!"
“My love!” said the deprecating husband.
“ You don't go without me,” said the imperious wife, seizing his robe. “I must,” said Pluto. Then
you shall never return,” said Proserpine. “ Enchantress! be reasonable.”
I never was, and I never will be,” replied the Goddess.
My love, I must go.” “Pluto,” said Proserpine,“ understand me once for all, I will not be contradicted.”
Rage stamped his foot.
“Proserpine, understand me once for all, it is impossible," said the God frowning
My Pluto!” said the Queen. “ Is it my Pluto who speaks thus sternly to me? Is it he who, but an hour ago, a short hour ago, died upon my bosom in transports and stified me with kisses ? Unhappy woman! wretched, miserable Proserpine! Oh! my mother! my kind, my affectionate mother! Have I disobeyed you for this! For this have I deserted you! For this have I broken your beloved heart!” She buried her face in the crimson counterpane, and bedewed its gorgeous embroidery with her fast-flowing tears.
66 Treason!” shouted Terror.
" What am I to do?” cried Pluto. Proserpine, my adored, my beloved, my enchanting Proserpine, compose yourself,—for my sake, compose yourself. I love you! I adore you! You know it! oh! indeed you know it!"
The hysterics increased.
“ Hold your infernal tongue,” said Pluto.
6 What do I care for treason when the Queen is in this state ?”. He knelt by the bed-side, and tried to stop her mouth with kisses, and ever and anon whispered his passion. “My Proserpine, I beseech you be calm. I will do anything you like. Come, come, then, to the Council !"
The hysterics ceased; the Queen clasped him in her arms, and rewarded him with a thousand embraces. Then, jumping up, she bathed her swollen eyes with a beautiful cosmetic that she and her maidens had distilled from the flowers of Enna; and wrapping herself up in her shawl, descended with his Majesty, who was quite as puzzled about the cause of this disturbance as when he was first roused.
VI. Crossing an immense covered bridge, the origin of the Bridge of Sighs at Venice, over the royal gardens, which consisted entirely of cypress, the royal pair, preceded by the pages in waiting, entered the Council Chamber. The council was already assembled. On either side of a throne of sulphur—from which issued the four infernal rivers of Lethe, Phlegethon, Cocytus, and Acheron-were ranged the Eumenides and the Parcæ. Lachesis and her sisters turned up their noses when they observed Proserpine; but the Eumenides could not stifle their fury, in spite of the hints of their more subdued, but not less malignant, companions.
“ What is all this?” inquired Pluto.
“ Both in church and state,” added the Furies. 'Tis a case of treason and blasphemy;" and they waved their torches and shook their whips with delighted anticipation of their use.
“Detail the circumstances,” said Pluto, waving his hand majestically to Lachesis, in whose good sense he had great confidence.
“ A man-a living man-has entered your kingdom, unknown and unnoticed,” said Lachesis. “ By my sceptre, is it true?” said the astonished King.
« Is he seized ?"
“ The extraordinary mortal baffles our efforts,” said Lachesis. bears with him a lyre, the charmed gift of Apollo, and so seducing are his strains, that in vain our guards advance to arrest his course; they immediately begin dancing, and he easily eludes their efforts. The general confusion is indescribable. All business is at a standstill : Ixion rests upon his wheel ; old Sisyphus very coolly sits down on his mountain, and his stone has fallen with a terrible plash into Acheron. In short, unless we are energetic, we are on the eve of a revolution.'
6. His purpose ?” “He seeks yourself, and her Majesty,” added Lachesis, with a sneer. “ Immediately announce that we will receive him.” The unexpected guest was not slow in acknowledging the royal sum
A hasty treaty was drawn up; he was to enter the palace unmolested, on condition that he ceased playing his lyre. The Fates and the Furies exchanged significant glances as his approach was announced.
The man, the live man, who had committed the unprecedented crime of entering Hell without a license, and the previous deposit of his soul as security for the good behaviour of his body, stood before the surprised
and indignant Court of Hades. Tall and graceful in stature, and crowned with laurels, Proserpine was glad to observe that the man, who was evidently famous, was also very good-looking.
• Thy purpose, mortal ?” inquired Pluto, with awful majesty.
Mercy!” answered the stranger in a voice of exquisite melody, and sufficiently embarrassed to render him interesting.
“ What is mercy ?” inquired the Fates and the Furies. “ Speak, stranger, without fear,” said Proserpine. “ Thy name ?”
“ Is Orpheus; but a few days back the too happy husband of the enchanting Eurydice. Alas! dread King, and thou too, beautiful and benignant partner of his throne, I won her by my lyre, and by my lyre I would redeem her. Know, then, that in the very glow of our gratified passion, a serpent crept under the flowers on which we reposed, and by a fatal sting summoned my adored to the shades. Why did it not also summon me? I will not say why should I not have been the victim in her stead; for I feel too keenly that the doom of Eurydice would not have been less forlorn, had she been the wretched being who had been spared to life. O King! they whispered on earth that thou too hadst yielded thy heart to the charms of love. Pluto, they whispered, is no longer stern-Pluto also feels the all-subduing influence of beauty. Dread Monarch, by the self-same passion that rages in our breasts alike, I implore thy mercy. Thou hast risen from the couch of lovethe arm of thy adored has pressed upon thy heart—her honied lips have clung with rapture to thine-still echo in thy ears all the enchanting phrases of her idolatry. Then, by the memory of these by all the higher and ineffable joys to which these lead, King of Hades, spare me, oh! spare me, Eurydice !
Proserpine threw her arms round the neck of her husband, and hiding her face in his breast, wept.
“ Rash mortal, you demand that which is not in the power of Pluto to concede," said Lachesis.
I have heard much of treason since my entrance into Hades,” replied Orpheus, " and this sounds like it.”
“ Mortal !” exclaimed Clotho with contempt.
“ Nor is it in your power to return, Sir," said Tisiphone, shaking her whip. “We have accounts to settle with you," said Megæra.
Spare her, spare her," murmured Proserpine to her lover. “ King of Hades!” said Lachesis, with much dignity, “ I hold a responsible office in your realm, and I claim the constitutional privilege of your attention. I protest against the undue influence of the Queen. She is a power unknown in our constitution, and an irresponsible agent that I will not recognise. Let her go back to the drawing-room, where all will bow to her.”
Hag!” exclaimed Proserpine. “ King of Hades, I too can appeal to you. Have I accepted your crown to be insulted by your subjects ?"
A subject, may it please your Majesty, who has duties as strictly defined by our infernal constitution as those of your royal spouse; duties, too, which, let me tell you, Madam, I and my order are resolved to perform.”
Gods of Olympus !” cried Proserpine. “Is this to be a Queen ?"