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Carolyn Sherwin Bailey

Cupid and Psyche

T HERE was once a beautiful little earth-child named Psyche, and she was very lonely because she had no one to play with. The goddess Venus, who lived high above the clouds on the mountain called Olympus, saw Psyche, and she sent her own little son, Cupid, down to earth to play with Psyche. So Cupid and Psyche played together in the woods, and for a while they were as happy as the day was long. Psyche knew how to make beautiful wreaths of flowers, and Cupid had wings and could fly away to find the prettiest blossoms to bring back to Psyche. Cupid had a bow and arrows, too, and Psyche loved to watch him shoot high up in the air.

But one day, when they were playing hide and catch, Psyche hid herself where Cupid could not find her. Cupid was sure that he had lost his little playmate. He began to cry, and then naughty Psyche laughed at him.

When Venus saw what Psyche had done, she was very angry. She came down from the clouds and she took Psyche away from the earth, and up, up to the shining palace of the gods, high upon Mount Olympus.

"Wicked Psyche," she said, "to frighten my little son!"

Then she led Psyche away from the palace to the granary of the gods and she showed her great pile of grain heaped in the middle of the granary floor. It reached nearly to the ceiling, and it was made up of all kinds of grain—wheat, and oats, and barley, and rye—all mixed together.

"You must sort all this pile of grain before you can see Cupid again," said Venus.

Poor little Psyche! Her fingers flew, but the pile grew no smaller. The sun began to lower, and still the grain nearly reached the ceiling. Psyche covered her face with her hands and began to cry, but just then something very strange happened. Through the granary door came hurrying a long procession of ants; the large black ants, the small red ants, the winged ants, and the white ants—all come to help poor Psyche.

Straight over to the pile of grain they went, and they began sorting it all out into smaller piles. The black ants took the wheat, the red ants took the oats, the winged ants took the barley, and the white ants took the rye. Psyche wiped her eyes and began sorting, too, and before sunset the grain was all sorted.

As the last kernel was put on the last pile, and the long procession of ants was going home again, Psyche heard a flutter and whirr of wings. In through the granary window flew Cupid, and he put his arms about Psyche, and he kissed her. Then he took from under his quiver of arrows a pair of the most beautiful, velvet butterfly wings and he fastened them to Psyche's shoulders.

Out of the window, and down through the air to the earth again flew Cupid and Psyche—two happy playmates once more. If you watch, you may see them some sunny day—two butterflies—flitting from flower to flower, sipping honey and playing together as happy as the day is long.

— Adapted from the Greek myth
by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey