| Tanglewood Tales|
|by Nathaniel Hawthorne|
|Sequel to A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys by master storyteller Nathaniel Hawthorne. Six more Greek myths retold by the fictional Eustace Bright to his enthusiastic throng of young listeners, namely The Minotaur, The Pygmies, The Dragon's Teeth, Circe's Palace, The Pomegranate Seeds, and The Golden Fleece. Attractively illustrated by Willy Pogany. Ages 9-12 |
 MOTHER CERES was exceedingly fond of her daughter Proserpina,
and seldom let her go alone into the fields. But, just at the
time when my story begins, the good lady was very busy, because
she had the care of the wheat, and the Indian corn, and the rye
and barley, and, in short, of the crops of every kind, all over
the earth; and as the season had thus far been uncommonly
backward, it was necessary to make the harvest ripen more
speedily than usual. So she put on her turban, made of poppies
(a kind of flower which she was always noted for wearing), and
got into her car drawn by a pair of winged dragons, and was
just ready to set off.
"Dear mother," said Proserpina, "I shall be very lonely while
you are away. May I not run down to the shore, and ask some of
the sea-nymphs to come up out of the waves and play with me?"
"Yes, child," answered Mother Ceres. "The sea-nymphs are good
creatures, and will never lead you into any harm. But you must
take care not to stray away from them, nor go wandering about
the fields by yourself. Young girls, without their mothers to
take care of them, are very apt to get into mischief."
The child promised to be as prudent as if she were a grown-up
woman, and, by the time the winged dragons had whirled the car
out of sight, she was already on the shore, calling to the
sea-nymphs to come and play with her. They knew Proserpina's voice,
and were not long in showing their glistening faces and
sea-green hair above the water, at the bottom of which was
their home. They
 brought along with them a great many beautiful
shells; and sitting down on the moist sand, where the surf wave
broke over them, they busied themselves in making a necklace,
which they hung round Proserpina's neck. By way of showing her
gratitude, the child besought them to go with her a little way
into the fields, so that they might gather abundance of
flowers, with which she would make each of her kind playmates a
"Oh no, dear Proserpina," cried the sea-nymphs; "we dare not go
with you upon the dry land. We are apt to grow faint, unless at
every breath we can snuff up the salt breeze of the ocean. And
don't you see how careful we are to let the surf wave break
over us every moment or two, so as to keep ourselves
comfortably moist? If it were not for that, we should look like
bunches of uprooted sea-weed dried in the sun.
"It is a great pity," said Proserpina. "But do you wait for me
here, and I will run and gather my apron full of flowers, and
be back again before the surf wave has broken ten times over
you. I long to make you some wreaths that shall be as lovely as
this necklace of many-colored shells."
"We will wait, then," answered the sea-nymphs. "But while you
are gone, we may as well lie down on a bank of soft sponge,
under the water. The air to-day is a little too dry for our
comfort. But we will pop up our heads every few minutes to see
if you are coming."
The young Proserpina ran quickly to a spot where, only the day
before, she had seen a great many flowers. These, however, were
now a little past their bloom; and wishing to give her friends
the freshest and loveliest blossoms, she strayed farther into
the fields, and found some that made her scream with delight.
Never had she met with such exquisite flowers before,—violets,
so large and fragrant,—roses with so rich and delicate a
blush,—such superb hyacinths and such aromatic pinks,—and many
others, some of which seemed to be of new shapes and colors.
Two or three times, moreover, she could not help thinking that
a tuft of most splendid flowers had suddenly sprouted out of
the earth before her very eyes, as if on purpose to tempt her a
few steps farther. Proserpina's apron was soon filled and
brimming over with delightful blossoms. She was on the point of
turning back in order to rejoin the
sea-  nymphs, and sit with
them on the moist sands, all twining wreaths together. But, a
little farther on, what should she behold? It was a large
shrub, completely covered with the most magnificent flowers in
"The darlings!" cried Proserpina; and then she thought to
herself, "I was looking at that spot only a moment ago. How
strange it is that I did not see the flowers!"
The nearer she approached the shrub, the more attractive it
looked, until she came quite close to it; and then, although
its beauty was richer than words can tell, she hardly knew
whether to like it or not. It bore above a hundred flowers of
the most brilliant hues, and each different from the others,
but all having a kind of resemblance among themselves, which
showed them to be sister blossoms. But there was a deep, glossy
lustre on the leaves of the shrub, and on the petals of the
flowers, that made Proserpina doubt whether they might not be
poisonous. To tell you the truth, foolish as it may seem, she
was half inclined to turn round and run away.
"What a silly child I am!" thought she, taking courage. "It is
really the most beautiful shrub that ever sprang out of the
earth. I will pull it up by the roots, and carry it home, and
plant it in my mother's garden."
Holding up her apron full of flowers with her left hand,
Proserpina seized the large shrub with the other, and pulled
and pulled, but was hardly able to loosen the soil about its
roots. What a deep-rooted plant it was! Again the girl pulled
with all her might, and observed that the earth began to stir
and crack to some distance around the stem. She gave another
pull, but relaxed her hold, fancying that there was a rumbling
sound right beneath her feet. Did the roots extend down into
some enchanted cavern? Then, laughing at herself for so childish
a notion, she made another effort; up came the shrub, and
Proserpina staggered back, holding the stem triumphantly in her
hand, and gazing at the deep hole which its roots had left in
Much to her astonishment, this hole kept spreading wider and
wider, and growing deeper and deeper, until it really seemed to
have no bottom; and all the while, there came a rumbling noise
out of its depths, louder and louder, and nearer and nearer,
and sounding like the tramp of horses' hoofs and the rattling
of wheels. Too much
 frightened to run away, she stood straining
her eyes into this wonderful cavity, and soon saw a team of
four sable horses, snorting smoke out of their nostrils, and
tearing their way out of the earth with a splendid golden
chariot whirling at their heels. They leaped out of the
bottomless hole, chariot and all; and there they were, tossing
their black manes, flourishing their black tails, and
curvetting with every one of their hoofs off the ground at
once, close by the spot where Proserpina stood. In the chariot
sat the figure of a man, richly dressed, with a crown on his
head, all flaming with diamonds. He was of a noble aspect, and
rather handsome, but looked sullen and discontented; and he
kept rubbing his eyes and shading them with his hand, as if he
did not live enough in the sunshine to be very fond of its
As soon as this personage saw the affrighted Proserpina, he
beckoned her to come a little nearer.
"Do not be afraid," said he, with as cheerful a smile as he
knew how to put on. "Come! Will not you like to ride a little
way with me, in my beautiful chariot?"
KING PLUTO AND PROSERPINA
But Proserpina was so alarmed, that she wished for nothing but
to get out of his reach. And no wonder. The stranger did not
look remarkably good-natured, in spite of his smile; and as for
his voice, its tones were deep and stern, and sounded as much
like the rumbling of an earthquake under ground as anything
else. As is always the case with children in trouble,
Proserpina's first thought was to call for her mother.
"Mother, Mother Ceres!" cried she all in a tremble. "Come
quickly and save me."
But her voice was too faint for her mother to hear. Indeed, it
is most probable that Ceres was then a thousand miles off,
making the corn grow in some far-distant country. Nor could it
have availed her poor daughter, even had she been within
hearing; for no sooner did Proserpina begin to cry out, than
the stranger leaped to the ground, caught the child in his
arms, and again mounting the chariot, shook the reins, and
shouted to the four black horses to set off. They immediately
broke into so swift a gallop, that it seemed rather like flying
through the air than running along the earth. In a moment,
Proserpina lost sight of the pleasant vale of Enna, in which
she had always dwelt. Another instant, and even the summit of
 Mount Ætna had become so blue in the distance, that she could
scarcely distinguish it from the smoke that gushed out of its
crater. But still the poor child screamed, and scattered her
apron full of flowers along the way, and left a long cry
trailing behind the chariot; and many mothers, to whose ears it
came, ran quickly to see if any mischief had befallen their
children. But Mother Ceres was a great way off, and could not
hear the cry.
As they rode on, the stranger did his best to soothe her.
"Why should you be so frightened, my pretty child?" said he,
trying to soften his rough voice. "I promise not to do you any
harm. What! You have been gathering flowers? Wait till we come
to my palace, and I will give you a garden full of prettier
flowers than those, all made of pearls, and diamonds, and
rubies. Can you guess who I am? They call my name Pluto, and I
am the king of diamonds and all other precious stones. Every
atom of the gold and silver that lies under the earth belongs
to me, to say nothing of the copper and iron, and of the
coal-mines, which supply me with abundance of fuel. Do you see this
splendid crown upon my head? You may have it for a plaything.
Oh, we shall be very good friends, and you will find me more
agreeable than you expect, when once we get out of this
"Let me go home!" cried Proserpina,—"let me go home!"
"My home is better than your mother's," answered King Pluto.
"It is a palace, all made of gold, with crystal windows; and
because there is little or no sunshine thereabouts, the
apartments are illuminated with diamond lamps. You never saw
anything half so magnificent as my throne. If you like, you may
sit down on it, and be my little queen, and I will sit on the
"I don't care for golden palaces and thrones," sobbed
Proserpina. "Oh, my mother, my mother! Carry me back to my
But King Pluto, as he called himself, only shouted to his
steeds to go faster.
"Pray do not be foolish, Proserpina," said he, in rather a
sullen tone. "I offer you my palace and my crown, and all the
riches that are under the earth; and you treat me as if I were
doing you an injury. The one thing which my palace needs is a
merry little maid, to run up stairs and down, and cheer up the
rooms with her smile. And this is what you must do for King
 "Never!" answered Proserpina, looking as miserable as she
could. "I shall never smile again till you set me down at my
But she might just as well have talked to the wind that
whistled past them; for Pluto urged on his horses, and went
faster than ever. Proserpina continued to cry out, and screamed
so long and so loudly that her poor little voice was almost
screamed away; and when it was nothing but a whisper, she
happened to cast her eyes over a great, broad field of waving
grain—and whom do you think she saw? Who, but Mother Ceres,
making the corn grow, and too busy to notice the golden chariot
as it went rattling along. The child mustered all her strength,
and gave one more scream, but was out of sight before Ceres had
time to turn her head.
King Pluto had taken a road which now began to grow excessively
gloomy. It was bordered on each side with rocks and precipices,
between which the rumbling of the chariot-wheels was
reverberated with a noise like rolling thunder. The trees and
bushes that grew in the crevices of the rocks had very dismal
foliage; and by and by, although it was hardly noon, the air
became obscured with a gray twilight. The black horses had
rushed along so swiftly, that they were already beyond the
limits of the sunshine. But the duskier it grew, the more did
Pluto's visage assume an air of satisfaction. After all, he was
not an ill-looking person, especially when he left off twisting
his features into a smile that did not belong to them.
Proserpina peeped at his face through the gathering dusk, and
hoped that he might not be so very wicked as she at first
"Ah, this twilight is truly refreshing," said King Pluto,
"after being so tormented with that ugly and impertinent glare
of the sun. How much more agreeable is lamplight or torchlight,
more particularly when reflected from diamonds! It will be a
magnificent sight, when we get to my palace."
"Is it much farther?" asked Proserpina. "And will you carry me
back when I have seen it?"
"We will talk of that by and by," answered Pluto. "We are just
entering my dominions. Do you see that tall gateway before us?
When we pass those gates, we are at home. And there lies my
faithful mastiff at the threshold. Cerberus! Cerberus! Come
hither, my good dog!"
 So saying, Pluto pulled at the reins, and stopped the chariot
right between the tall, massive pillars of the gateway. The
mastiff of which he had spoken got up from the threshold, and
stood on his hinder legs, so as to put his fore paws on the
chariot-wheel. But, my stars, what a strange dog it was! Why,
he was a big, rough, ugly-looking monster, with three separate
heads, and each of them fiercer than the two others; but, fierce
as they were, King Pluto patted them all. He seemed as fond of
his three-headed dog as if it had been a sweet little spaniel,
with silken ears and curly hair. Cerberus, on the other hand,
was evidently rejoiced to see his master, and expressed his
attachment, as other dogs do, by wagging his tail at a great
rate. Proserpina's eyes being drawn to it by its brisk motion,
she saw that this tail was neither more nor less than a live
dragon, with fiery eyes, and fangs that had a very poisonous
aspect. And while the three-headed Cerberus was fawning so
lovingly on King Pluto, there was the dragon tail wagging
against its will, and looking as cross and ill-natured as you
can imagine, on its own separate account.
"Will the dog bite me?" asked Proserpina, shrinking closer to
Pluto. "What an ugly creature he is!"
"Oh, never fear," answered her companion. "He never harms
people, unless they try to enter my dominions without being
sent for, or to get away when I wish to keep them here. Down,
Cerberus! Now, my pretty Proserpina, we will drive on."
On went the chariot, and King Pluto seemed greatly pleased to
find himself once more in his own kingdom. He drew Proserpina's
attention to the rich veins of gold that were to be seen among
the rocks, and pointed to several places where one stroke of a
pick-axe would loosen a bushel of diamonds. All along the road,
indeed, there were sparkling gems, which would have been of
inestimable value above ground, but which here were reckoned of
the meaner sort and hardly worth a beggar's stooping for.
Not far from the gateway, they came to a bridge, which seemed
to be built of iron. Pluto stopped the chariot, and bade
Proserpina look at the stream which was gliding so lazily
beneath it. Never in her life had she beheld so torpid, so
black, so muddy-looking a stream: its waters reflected no
images of anything that was on the banks, and it moved as
sluggishly as if it had quite
forgot-  ten which way it ought to
flow, and had rather stagnate than flow either one way or the
"This is the River Lethe," observed King Pluto. "Is it not a
very pleasant stream?"
"I think it a very dismal one," answered Proserpina.
"It suits my taste, however," answered Pluto, who was apt to be
sullen when anybody disagreed with him. "At all events, its
water has one very excellent quality; for a single draught of it
makes people forget every care and sorrow that has hitherto
tormented them. Only sip a little of it, my dear Proserpina,
and you will instantly cease to grieve for your mother, and
will have nothing in your memory that can prevent your being
perfectly happy in my palace. I will send for some, in a golden
goblet, the moment we arrive."
"Oh, no, no, no!" cried Proserpina, weeping afresh. "I had a
thousand times rather be miserable with remembering my mother,
than be happy in forgetting her. That dear, dear mother! I
never, never will forget her."
"We shall see," said King Pluto. "You do not know what fine
times we will have in my palace. Here we are just at the
portal. These pillars are solid gold, I assure you."
He alighted from the chariot, and taking Proserpina in his
arms, carried her up a lofty flight of steps into the great
hall of the palace. It was splendidly illuminated by means of
large precious stones, of various hues, which seemed to burn
like so many lamps, and glowed with a hundred-fold radiance all
through the vast apartment. And yet there was a kind of gloom
in the midst of this enchanted light; nor was there a single
object in the hall that was really agreeable to behold, except
the little Proserpina herself, a lovely child, with one earthly
flower which she had not let fall from her hand. It is my
opinion that even King Pluto had never been happy in his
palace, and that this was the true reason why he had stolen
away Proserpina, in order that he might have something to love,
instead of cheating his heart any longer with this tiresome
magnificence. And, though he pretended to dislike the sunshine
of the upper world, yet the effect of the child's presence,
bedimmed as she was by her tears, was as if a faint and watery
sunbeam had somehow or other found its way into the enchanted
 Pluto now summoned his domestics, and bade them lose no time in
preparing a most sumptuous banquet, and above all things, not
to fail of setting a golden beaker of the water of Lethe by
"I will neither drink that nor anything else," said Proserpina.
"Nor will I taste a morsel of food, even if you keep me forever
in your palace."
"I should be sorry for that," replied King Pluto, patting her
cheek; for he really wished to be kind, if he had only known
how. "You are a spoiled child, I perceive, my little
Proserpina; but when you see the nice things which my cook will
make for you, your appetite will quickly come again."
Then, sending for the head cook, he gave strict orders that all
sorts of delicacies, such as young people are usually fond of,
should be set before Proserpina. He had a secret motive in
this; for, you are to understand, it is a fixed law, that, when
persons are carried off to the land of magic, if they once
taste any food there, they can never get back to their friends.
Now, if King Pluto had been cunning enough to offer Proserpina
some fruit, or bread and milk (which was the simple fare to
which the child had always been accustomed), it is very
probable that she would soon have been tempted to eat it. But
he left the matter entirely to his cook, who, like all other
cooks, considered nothing fit to eat unless it were rich
pastry, or highly seasoned meat, or spiced sweet cakes—things
which Proserpina's mother had never given her, and the smell of
which quite took away her appetite, instead of sharpening it.
But my story must now clamber out of King Pluto's dominions,
and see what Mother Ceres has been about, since she was bereft
of her daughter. We had a glimpse of her, as you remember, half
hidden among the waving grain, while the four black steeds were
swiftly whirling along the chariot, in which her beloved
Proserpina was so unwillingly borne away. You recollect, too,
the loud scream which Proserpina gave, just when the chariot
was out of sight.
Of all the child's outcries, this last shriek was the only one
that reached the ears of Mother Ceres. She had mistaken the
rumbling of the chariot-wheels for a peal of thunder, and
imagined that a shower was coming up, and that it would assist
her in making the corn grow. But at the sound of Proserpina's
shriek, she started, and
 looked about in every direction, not
knowing whence it came, but feeling almost certain that it was
her daughter's voice. It seemed so unaccountable, however, that
the girl should have strayed over so many lands and seas (which
she herself could not have traversed without the aid of her
winged dragons), that the good Ceres tried to believe that it
must be the child of some other parent, and not her own darling
Proserpina, who had uttered this lamentable cry. Nevertheless,
it troubled her with a vast many tender fears such as are
ready to bestir themselves in every mother's heart, when she
finds it necessary to go away from her dear children without
leaving them under the care of some maiden aunt, or other such
faithful guardian. So she quickly left the field in which she
had been so busy; and, as her work was not half done, the grain
looked, next day, as if it needed both sun and rain, and as if
it were blighted in the ear, and had something the matter with
The pair of dragons must have had very nimble wings; for, in
less than an hour, Mother Ceres had alighted at the door of her
home, and found it empty. Knowing, however, that the child was
fond of sporting on the sea-shore, she hastened thither as fast
as she could, and there beheld the wet faces of the poor
sea-nymphs peeping over a wave. All this while, the good creatures
had been waiting on the bank of sponge, and once, every
half-minute or so, had popped up their four heads above water, to
see if their playmate were yet coming back. When they saw
Mother Ceres, they sat down on the crest of the surf wave, and
let it toss them ashore at her feet.
"Where is Proserpina?" cried Ceres. "Where is my child? Tell
me, you naughty sea-nymphs, have you enticed her under the
"O, no, good Mother Ceres," said the innocent sea-nymphs,
tossing back their green ringlets, and looking her in the face.
"We never should dream of such a thing. Proserpina has been at
play with us, it is true; but she left us a long while ago,
meaning only to run a little way upon the dry land, and gather
some flowers for a wreath. This was early in the day, and we
have seen nothing of her since."
Ceres scarcely waited to hear what the nymphs had to say,
before she hurried off to make inquiries all through the
 But nobody told her anything that could enable
the poor mother to guess what had become of Proserpina. A
fisherman, it is true, had noticed her little footprints in the
sand, as he went homeward along the beach with a basket of
fish; a rustic had seen the child stooping to gather flowers;
several persons had heard either the rattling of chariot-wheels,
or the rumbling of distant thunder; and one old woman,
while plucking vervain and catnip, had heard a scream, but
supposed it to be some childish nonsense, and therefore did not
take the trouble to look up. The stupid people! It took them
such a tedious while to tell the nothing that they knew, that
it was dark night before Mother Ceres found out that she must
seek her daughter elsewhere. So she lighted a torch, and set
forth, resolving never to come back until Proserpina was
In her haste and trouble of mind, she quite forgot her car and
the winged dragons; or, it may be, she thought that she could
follow up the search more thoroughly on foot. At all events,
this was the way in which she began her sorrowful journey,
holding her torch before her, and looking carefully at every
object along the path. And as it happened, she had not gone far
before she found one of the magnificent flowers which grew on
the shrub that Proserpina had pulled up.
"Ha!" thought Mother Ceres, examining it by torchlight. "Here
is mischief in this flower! The earth did not produce it by any
help of mine, nor of its own accord. It is the work of
enchantment, and is therefore poisonous; and perhaps it has
poisoned my poor child."
But she put the poisonous flower in her bosom, not knowing
whether she might ever find any other memorial of Proserpina.
All night long, at the door of every cottage and farm-house,
Ceres knocked, and called up the weary laborers to inquire if
they had seen her child; and they stood, gaping and half-asleep,
at the threshold, and answered her pityingly, and
besought her to come in and rest. At the portal of every
palace, too, she made so loud a summons that the menials
hurried to throw open the gate, thinking that it must be some
great king or queen, who would demand a banquet for supper and
a stately chamber to repose in. And when they saw only a sad
and anxious woman, with a torch in her hand and a wreath of
withered poppies on her head, they spoke rudely,
 and sometimes
threatened to set the dogs upon her. But nobody had seen
Proserpina, nor could give Mother Ceres the least hint which
way to seek her. Thus passed the night; and still she continued
her search without sitting down to rest, or stopping to take
food, or even remembering to put out the torch; although first
the rosy dawn, and then the glad light of the morning sun, made
its red flame look thin and pale. But I wonder what sort of
stuff this torch was made of; for it burned dimly through the
day, and, at night, was as bright as ever, and never was
extinguished by the rain or wind, in all the weary days and
nights while Ceres was seeking for Proserpina.
It was not merely of human beings that she asked tidings of her
daughter. In the woods and by the streams, she met creatures of
another nature, who used, in those old times, to haunt the
pleasant and solitary places, and were very sociable with
persons who understood their language and customs, as Mother
Ceres did. Sometimes, for instance, she tapped with her finger
against the knotted trunk of a majestic oak; and immediately
its rude bark would cleave asunder, and forth would step a
beautiful maiden, who was the hamadryad of the oak, dwelling
inside of it, and sharing its long life, and rejoicing when its
green leaves sported with the breeze. But not one of these
leafy damsels had seen Proserpina. Then, going a little
farther, Ceres would, perhaps, come to a fountain, gushing out
of a pebbly hollow in the earth, and would dabble with her hand
in the water. Behold, up through its sandy and pebbly bed,
along with the fountain's gush, a young woman with dripping
hair would arise, and stand gazing at Mother Ceres, half out of
the water, and undulating up and down with its ever-restless
motion. But when the mother asked whether her poor lost child
had stopped to drink out of the fountain, the naiad, with
weeping eyes (for these water-nymphs had tears to spare for
everybody's grief, would answer "No!" in a murmuring voice,
which was just like the murmur of the stream.
Often, likewise, she encountered fauns, who looked like
sunburnt country people, except that they had hairy ears, and
little horns upon their foreheads, and the hinder legs of
goats, on which they gambolled merrily about the woods and
fields. They were a frolicsome kind of creature, but grew as sad
as their cheerful dispositions
 would allow when Ceres inquired
for her daughter, and they had no good news to tell. But
sometimes she same suddenly upon a rude gang of satyrs, who had
faces like monkeys and horses' tails behind them, and who were
generally dancing in a very boisterous manner, with shouts of
noisy laughter. When she stopped to question them, they would
only laugh the louder, and make new merriment out of the lone
woman's distress. How unkind of those ugly satyrs! And once,
while crossing a solitary sheep-pasture, she saw a personage
named Pan, seated at the foot of a tall rock, and making music
on a shepherd's flute. He, too, had horns, and hairy ears, and
goats' feet; but, being acquainted with Mother Ceres, he
answered her question as civilly as he knew how, and invited
her to taste some milk and honey out of a wooden bowl. But
neither could Pan tell her what had become of Proserpina, any
better than the rest of these wild people.
And thus Mother Ceres went wandering about for nine long days
and nights, finding no trace of Proserpina, unless it were now
and then a withered flower; and these she picked up and put in
her bosom, because she fancied that they might have fallen from
her poor child's hand. All day she travelled onward through the
hot sun; and at night, again, the flame of the torch would
redden and gleam along the pathway, and she continued her
search by its light, without ever sitting down to rest.
On the tenth day, she chanced to espy the mouth of a cavern
within which (though it was bright noon everywhere else) there
would have been only a dusky twilight; but it so happened that
a torch was burning there. It flickered, and struggled with the
duskiness, but could not half light up the gloomy cavern with
all its melancholy glimmer. Ceres was resolved to leave no spot
without a search; so she peeped into the entrance of the cave,
and lighted it up a little more, by holding her own torch
before her. In so doing, she caught a glimpse of what seemed to
be a woman, sitting on the brown leaves of the last autumn, a
great heap of which had been swept into the cave by the wind.
This woman (if woman it were) was by no means so beautiful as
many of her sex; for her head, they tell me, was shaped very
much like a dog's, and, by way of ornament, she wore a wreath
of snakes around it. But Mother Ceres, the moment she saw her,
knew that this was an odd kind of
 a person, who put all her
enjoyment in being miserable, and never would have a word to
say to other people, unless they were as melancholy and
wretched as she herself delighted to be.
"I am wretched enough now," thought poor Ceres, "to talk with
this melancholy Hecate, were she ten times sadder than ever she
So she stepped into the cave, and sat down on the
withered leaves by the dog-headed woman's side. In all the
world, since her daughter's loss, she had found no other
"O Hecate," said she, "if ever you lose a daughter, you will
know what sorrow is. Tell me, for pity's sake, have you seen my
poor child Proserpina pass by the mouth of your cavern?"
"No," answered Hecate, in a cracked voice, and sighing betwixt
every word or two,—"no, Mother Ceres, I have seen nothing of
your daughter. But my ears, you must know, are made in such a
way, that all cries of distress and affright, all over the world
are pretty sure to find their way to them; and nine days ago,
as I sat in my cave, making myself very miserable, I heard the
voice of a young girl, shrieking as if in great distress.
Something terrible has happened to the child, you may rest
assured. As well as I could judge, a dragon, or some other
cruel monster, was carrying her away."
"You kill me by saying so," cried Ceres, almost ready to faint.
"Where was the sound, and which way did it seem to go?"
"It passed very swiftly along," said Hecate, "and, at the same
time, there was a heavy rumbling of wheels towards the
eastward. I can tell you nothing more, except that, in my
honest opinion, you will never see your daughter again. The
best advice I can give you is, to take up your abode in this
cavern, where we will be the two most wretched women in the
"Not yet, dark Hecate," replied Ceres. "But do you first come
with your torch, and help me to seek for my lost child. And
when there shall be no more hope of finding her (if that black
day is ordained to come), then, if you will give me room to
fling myself down, either on these withered leaves or on the
naked rock, I will show what it is to be miserable. But, until
I know that she has perished from the face of the earth, I will
not allow myself space even to grieve."
 The dismal Hecate did not much like the idea of going abroad
into the sunny world. But then she reflected that the sorrow of
the disconsolate Ceres would be like a gloomy twilight round
about them both, let the sun shine ever so brightly, and that
therefore she might enjoy her bad spirits quite as well as if
she were to stay in the cave. So she finally consented to go,
and they set out together, both carrying torches, although it
was broad daylight and clear sunshine. The torchlight seemed to
make a gloom; so that the people whom they met along the road,
could not very distinctly see their figures; and, indeed, if
they once caught a glimpse of Hecate, with the wreath of snakes
round her forehead, they generally thought it prudent to run
away, without waiting for a second glance.
As the pair travelled along in this woe-begone manner, a thought
"There is one person," she exclaimed, "who must have seen my
poor child, and can doubtless tell what has become of her. Why
did not I think of him before? It is Phœbus."
"What," said Hecate, "the young man that always sits in the
sunshine? Oh, pray do not think of going near him. He is a gay,
light, frivolous young fellow, and will only smile in your
face. And besides, there is such a glare of the sun about him,
that he will quite blind my poor eyes, which I have almost wept
"You have promised to be my companion," answered Ceres. "Come,
let us make haste, or the sunshine will be gone, and Phœbus
along with it."
Accordingly, they went along in quest of Phœbus, both of them
sighing grievously, and Hecate, to say the truth, making a
great deal worse lamentation than Ceres; for all the pleasure
she had, you know, lay in being miserable, and therefore she
made the most of it. By and by, after a pretty long journey,
they arrived at the sunniest spot in the whole world. There
they beheld a beautiful young man, with long, curling ringlets,
which seemed to be made of golden sunbeams; his garments were
like light summer clouds; and the expression of his face was so
exceedingly vivid, that Hecate held her hands before her eyes,
muttering that he ought to wear a black veil. Phœbus (for this
was the very person whom they were
 seeking) had a lyre in his
hands, and was making its chords tremble with sweet music; at
the same time singing a most exquisite song, which he had
recently composed. For, besides a great many other
accomplishments, this young man was renowned for his admirable
As Ceres and her dismal companion approached him, Phœbus
smiled on them so cheerfully that Hecate's wreath of snakes
gave a spiteful hiss, and Hecate heartily wished herself back
in her cave. But as for Ceres, she was too earnest in her grief
either to know or care whether Phœbus smiled or frowned.
"Phœbus!" exclaimed she, "I am in great trouble, and have come
to you for assistance. Can you tell me what has become of my
dear child Proserpina?"
"Proserpina! Proserpina, did you call her name?" answered
Phœbus, endeavoring to recollect; for there was such a
continual flow of pleasant ideas in his mind, that he was apt
to forget what had happened no longer ago than yesterday. "Ah,
yes, I remember her now. A very lovely child, indeed. I am
happy to tell you, my dear madam, that I did see the little
Proserpina not many days ago. You may make yourself perfectly
easy about her. She is safe, and in excellent hands."
"Oh, where is my dear child?" cried Ceres, clasping her hands,
and flinging herself at his feet.
"Why," said Phœbus,—and as he spoke, he kept touching his lyre
so as to make a thread of music run in and out among his
words,—"as the little damsel was gathering flowers (and she has
really a very exquisite taste for flowers) she was suddenly
snatched up by King Pluto, and carried off to his dominions. I
have never been in that part of the universe; but the royal
palace, I am told, is built in a very noble style of
architecture, and of the most splendid and costly materials.
Gold, diamonds, pearls, and all manner of precious stones will
be your daughter's ordinary playthings. I recommend to you, my
dear lady, to give yourself no uneasiness. Proserpina's sense
of beauty will be duly gratified, and even in spite of the lack
of sunshine, she will lead a very enviable life."
"Hush! say not such a word!" answered Ceres, indignantly. "What
is there to gratify her heart? What are all the splendors you
speak of without affection? I must have her back again. Will
you go with me, Phœbus, to demand my daughter
of this wicked Pluto?"
 "Pray excuse me," replied Phœbus, with an elegant obeisance.
"I certainly wish you success, and regret that my own affairs
are so immediately pressing that I cannot have the pleasure of
attending you. Besides, I am not upon the best of terms with
King Pluto. To tell you the truth, his three-headed mastiff
would never let me pass the gateway; for I should be compelled
to take a sheaf of sunbeams along with me, and those, you know,
are forbidden things in Pluto's kingdom."
"Ah, Phœbus," said Ceres, with bitter meaning in her words,
"you have a harp instead of a heart. Farewell."
"Will not you stay a moment," asked Phœbus, "and hear me turn
the pretty and touching story of Proserpina into extemporary
But Ceres shook her head, and hastened away, along with Hecate.
Phœbus (who, as
 I have told you, was an exquisite poet)
forthwith began to make an ode about the poor mother's grief;
and, if we were to judge of his sensibility by this beautiful
production, he must have been endowed with a very tender heart.
But when a poet gets into the habit of using his heartstrings
to make chords for his lyre, he may thrum upon them as much as
he will, without any great pain to himself. Accordingly, though
Phœbus sang a very sad song, he was as merry all the while as
were the sunbeams amid which he dwelt.
Poor Mother Ceres had now found out what had become of her
daughter, but was not a whit happier than before. Her case, on
the contrary, looked more desperate than ever. As long as
Proserpina was above ground, there might have been hopes of
regaining her. But now that the poor child was shut up within
the iron gates of the king of the mines, at the threshold of
which lay the three-headed Cerberus, there seemed no
possibility of her ever making her escape. The dismal Hecate,
who loved to take the darkest view of things, told Ceres that
she had better come with her to the cavern, and spend the rest
of her life in being miserable. Ceres answered that Hecate was
welcome to go back thither herself, but that, for her part, she
would wander about the earth in quest of the entrance to King
Pluto's dominions. And Hecate took her at her word, and hurried
back to her beloved cave, frightening a great many little
children with a glimpse of her dog's face as she went.
Poor Mother Ceres! It is melancholy to think of her, pursuing
her toilsome way all alone, and holding up that never-dying
torch, the flame of which seemed an emblem of the grief and
hope that burned together in her heart.
So much did she suffer, that, though her aspect had been quite
youthful when her troubles began, she grew to look like an
elderly person in a very brief time. She cared not how she was
dressed, nor had she ever thought of flinging away the wreath
of withered poppies, which she put on the very morning of
Proserpina's disappearance. She roamed about in so wild a way,
and with her hair so dishevelled, that people took her for some
distracted creature, and never dreamed that this was Mother
Ceres, who had the oversight of every seed which the husbandman
planted. Nowadays, however, she gave herself no trouble about
seed-time nor harvest, but left the farmers to take care of
their own affairs, and the crops to fade or flourish, as the
case might be.
 There was nothing, now, in which Ceres seemed to
feel an interest, unless when she saw children at play, or
gathering flowers along the wayside. Then, indeed, she would
stand and gaze at them with tears in her eyes. The children,
too, appeared to have a sympathy with her grief, and would
cluster themselves in a little group about her knees, and look
up wistfully in her face; and Ceres, after giving them a kiss
all round, would lead them to their homes, and advise their
mothers never to let them stray out of sight.
"For if they do," said she, "it may happen to you, as it has to
me, that the iron-hearted King Pluto will take a liking to your
darlings, and snatch them up in his chariot, and carry them
One day, during her pilgrimage in quest of the entrance to
Pluto's kingdom, she came to the palace of King Celeus, who
reigned at Eleusis. Ascending a lofty flight of steps, she
entered the portal, and found the royal household in very great
alarm about the queen's baby. The infant, it seems, was sickly
(being troubled with its teeth, I suppose), and would take no
food, and was all the time moaning with pain. The queen—her
name was Metanira—was desirous of funding a nurse; and when
she beheld a woman of matronly aspect coming up the palace
steps, she thought, in her own mind, that here was the very
person whom she needed. So Queen Metanira ran to the door, with
the poor wailing baby in her arms, and besought Ceres to take
charge of it, or, at least, to tell her what would do it good.
"Will you trust the child entirely to me?" asked Ceres.
"Yes, and gladly too," answered the queen, "if you will devote
all your time to him. For I can see that you have been a
"You are right," said Ceres. "I once had a child of my own.
Well; I will be the nurse of this poor, sickly boy. But beware,
I warn you, that you do not interfere with any kind of
treatment which I may judge proper for him. If you do so, the
poor infant must suffer for his mother's folly."
Then she kissed the child, and it seemed to do him good; for he
smiled and nestled closely into her bosom.
So mother Ceres set her torch in a corner (where it kept
burning all the while), and took up her abode in the palace of
King Celeus, as nurse to the little Prince Demophoön. She
treated him as if he were her own child, and allowed neither
the king nor the
 queen to say whether he should be bathed in
warm or cold water, or what he should eat, or how often he
should take the air, or when he should be put to bed. You would
hardly believe me, if I were to tell how quickly the baby
prince got rid of his ailments, and grew fat, and rosy, and
strong, and how he had two rows of ivory teeth in less time
than any other little fellow, before or since. Instead of the
palest, and wretchedest, and puniest imp in the world (as his
own mother confessed him to be, when Ceres first took him in
charge), he was now a strapping baby, crowing, laughing,
kicking up his heels, and rolling from one end of the room to
the other. All the good women of the neighborhood crowded to
the palace, and held up their hands, in unutterable amazement,
at the beauty and wholesomeness of this darling little prince.
Their wonder was the greater because he was never seen to
taste food; not even so much as a cup of milk.
"Pray, nurse," the queen kept saying, "how is it that you make
the child thrive so?"
"I was a mother once," Ceres always replied; "and having nursed
my own child, I know what other children need."
But Queen Metanira, as was very natural, had a great curiosity
to know precisely what the nurse did to her child. One night,
therefore, she hid herself in the chamber where Ceres and the
little prince were accustomed to sleep. There was a fire in the
chimney, and it had now crumbled into great coals and embers,
which lay glowing on the hearth, with a blaze flickering up now
and then, and flinging a warm and ruddy light upon the walls.
Ceres sat before the hearth with the child in her lap, and the
firelight making her shadow dance upon the ceiling overhead.
She undressed the little prince, and bathed him all over with
some fragrant liquid out of a vase. The next thing she did was
to rake back the red embers, and make a hollow place among
them, just where the backlog had been. At last, while the baby
was crowing, and clapping its fat little hands, and laughing in
the nurse's face (just as you may have seen your little brother
or sister do before going into its warm bath), Ceres suddenly
laid him, all naked as he was, in the hollow among the red-hot
embers. She then raked the ashes over him and turned quietly
You may imagine, if you can, how Queen Metanira shrieked,
 thinking nothing less than that her dear child would be burned
to a cinder. She burst forth from her hiding-place, and running
to the hearth, raked open the fire, and snatched up poor little
Prince Demophoön out of his bed of live coals, one of which he
was gripping in each of his fists. He immediately set up a
grievous cry, as babies are apt to do when rudely startled out
of a sound sleep. To the queen's astonishment and joy, she
could perceive no token of the child's being injured by the hot
fire in which he had lain. She now turned to Mother Ceres, and
asked her to explain the mystery.
"Foolish woman," answered Ceres, "did you not promise to
intrust this poor infant entirely to me? You little know the
mischief you have done him. Had you left him to my care, he
would have grown up like a child of celestial birth, endowed
with superhuman strength and intelligence, and would have lived
forever. Do you imagine that earthly children are to become
immortal without being tempered to it in the fiercest heat of
the fire? But you have ruined your own son. For though he will
be a strong man and a hero in his day, yet, on account of your
folly, he will grow old, and finally die, like the sons of
other women. The weak tenderness of his mother has cost the
poor boy an immortality. Farewell."
Saying these words, she kissed the little Prince Demophoön, and
sighed to think what he had lost, and took her departure
without heeding Queen Metanira, who entreated her to remain,
and cover up the child among the hot embers as often as she
pleased. Poor baby! He never slept so warmly again.
While she dwelt in the king's palace, Mother Ceres had been so
continually occupied with taking care of the young prince, that
her heart was a little lightened of its grief for Proserpina.
But now, having nothing else to busy herself about, she became
just as wretched as before. At length, in her despair, she came
to the dreadful resolution that not a stalk of grain, nor a
blade of grass, not a potato, nor a turnip, nor any other
vegetable that was good for man or beast to eat, should be
suffered to grow until her daughter were restored. She even
forbade the flowers to bloom, lest somebody's heart should be
cheered by their beauty.
Now, as not so much as a head of asparagus ever presumed to
poke itself out of the ground, without the especial permission
of Ceres, you may conceive what a terrible calamity had here
 upon the earth. The husbandmen plowed and planted as
usual; but there lay the rich black furrows, all as barren as a
desert of sand. The pastures looked as brown in the sweet month
of June as ever they did in chill November. The rich man's
broad acres and the cottager's small garden-patch were equally
blighted. Every little girl's flower-bed showed nothing but dry
stalks. The old people shook their white heads, and said that
the earth had grown aged like themselves, and was no longer
capable of wearing the warm smile of summer on its face. It was
really piteous to see the poor, starving cattle and sheep, how
they followed behind Ceres, lowing and bleating, as if their
instinct taught them to expect help from her; and everybody
that was acquainted with her power besought her to have mercy
on the human race, and, at all events, to let the grass grow.
But Mother Ceres, though naturally of an affectionate
disposition, was now inexorable.
"Never," said she. "If the earth is ever again to see any
verdure, it must first grow along the path which my daughter
will tread in coming back to me."
Finally, as there seemed to be no other remedy, our old friend
Quicksilver was sent post haste to King Pluto, in hopes that he
might be persuaded to undo the mischief he had done, and to set
everything right again, by giving up Proserpina. Quicksilver
accordingly made the best of his way to the great gate, took a
flying leap right over the three-headed mastiff, and stood at
the door of the palace in an inconceivably short time. The
servants knew him both by his face and garb; for his short
cloak, and his winged cap and shoes, and his snaky staff had
often been seen thereabouts in times gone by. He requested to
be shown immediately into the King's presence; and Pluto, who
heard his voice from the top of the stairs, and who loved to
recreate himself with Quicksilver's merry talk, called out to
him to come up. And while they settle their business together,
we must inquire what Proserpina had been doing ever since we
saw her last.
The child had declared, as you may remember, that she would not
taste a mouthful of food as long as she should be compelled to
remain in King Pluto's palace. How she contrived to maintain
her resolution, and at the same time to keep herself tolerably
plump and rosy, is more than I can explain; but some young
ladies, I am
 given to understand, possess the faculty of living
on air, and Proserpina seems to have possessed it too. At any
rate, it was now six months since she left the outside of the
earth; and not a morsel, so far as the attendants were able to
testify, had yet passed between her teeth. This was the more
creditable to Proserpina, inasmuch as King Pluto had caused her
to be tempted day after day, with all manner of sweetmeats, and
richly preserved fruits, and delicacies of every sort, such as
young people are generally most fond of. But her good mother
had often told her of the hurtfulness of these things; and for
that reason alone, if there had been no other, she would have
resolutely refused to taste them.
All this time, being of a cheerful and active disposition, the
little damsel was not quite so unhappy as you may have
supposed. The immense palace had a thousand rooms, and was full
of beautiful and wonderful objects. There was a never-ceasing
gloom, it is true, which half hid itself among the innumerable
pillars, gliding before the child as she wandered among them,
and treading stealthily behind her in the echo of her
footsteps. Neither was all the dazzle of the precious stones,
which flamed with their own light, worth one gleam of natural
sunshine; nor could the most brilliant of the many-colored
gems, which Proserpina had for playthings, vie with the simple
beauty of the flowers she used to gather. But still, whenever
the girl went, among those gilded halls and chambers, it seemed
as if she carried nature and sunshine along with her, and as if
she scattered dewy blossoms on her right hand and on her left.
After Proserpina came, the palace was no longer the same abode
of stately artifice and dismal magnificence that it had before
been. The inhabitants all felt this, and King Pluto more than
any of them.
"My own little Proserpina," he used to say. "I wish you could
like me a little better. We gloomy and cloudy-natured persons
have often as warm hearts, at bottom, as those of a more
cheerful character. If you would only stay with me of your own
accord, it would make me happier than the possession of a
hundred such palaces as this."
"Ah," said Proserpina, "you should have tried to make me like
you before carrying me off. And the best thing you can now do
is, to let me go again. Then I might remember you sometimes,
 and think that you were as kind as you knew how to be. Perhaps,
too, one day or other, I might come back, and pay you a visit."
"No, no," answered Pluto, with his gloomy smile, "I will not
trust you for that. You are too fond of living in the broad
daylight, and gathering flowers. What an idle and childish
taste that is! Are not these gems, which I have ordered to be
dug for you, and which are richer than any in my crown,—are
they not prettier than a violet?"
"Not half so pretty," said Proserpina, snatching the gems from
Pluto's hand, and flinging them to the other end of the hall.
"Oh my sweet violets, shall I never see you again?"
And then she burst into tears. But young people's tears have
very little saltness or acidity in them, and do not inflame the
eyes so much as those of grown persons; so that it is not to be
wondered at if, a few moments afterwards, Proserpina was
sporting through the hall almost as merrily as she and the four
sea-nymphs had sported along the edge of the surf wave. King
Pluto gazed after her, and wished that he, too, was a child.
And little Proserpina, when she turned about, and beheld this
great king standing in his splendid hall, and looking so grand,
and so melancholy, and so lonesome, was smitten with a kind of
pity. She ran back to him, and, for the first time in all her
life, put her small soft hand in his.
"I love you a little," whispered she, looking up in his face.
"Do you, indeed, my dear child?" cried Pluto, bending his dark
face down to kiss her; but Proserpina shrank away from the
kiss, for though his features were noble, they were very dusky
and grim. "Well, I have not deserved it of you, after keeping
you a prisoner for so many months, and starving you besides.
Are you not terribly hungry? Is there nothing which I can get
you to eat?"
In asking this question, the king of the mines had a very
cunning purpose; for, you will recollect, if Proserpina tasted
a morsel of food in his dominions, she would never afterwards
be at liberty to quit them.
"No, indeed," said Proserpina. "Your head cook is always baking,
and stewing, and roasting, and rolling out paste, and
contriving one dish or another, which he imagines may be to my
liking. But he might just as well save himself the trouble,
poor, fat little man that he is. I have no appetite for
anything in the world,
un-  less it were a slice of bread of my
mother's own baking, or a little fruit out of her garden."
When Pluto heard this, he began to see that he had mistaken the
best method of tempting Proserpina to eat. The cook's made
dishes and artificial dainties were not half so delicious, in
the good child's opinion, as the simple fare to which Mother
Ceres had accustomed her. Wondering that he had never thought
of it before, the king now sent one of his trusty attendants,
with a large basket, to get some of the finest and juiciest
pears, peaches, and plums which could anywhere be found in the
upper world. Unfortunately, however, this was during the time
when Ceres had forbidden any fruits or vegetables to grow; and,
after seeking all over the earth, King Pluto's servant found
only a single pomegranate, and that so dried up as to be not
worth eating. Nevertheless, since there was no better to be
had, he brought this dry, old, withered pomegranate home to the
put it on a magnificent golden salver, and carried it up to
Proserpina. Now it happened, curiously enough, that, just as
the servant was bringing the pomegranate into the back door of
the palace, our friend Quicksilver had gone up the front steps,
on his errand to get Proserpina away from King Pluto.
As soon as Proserpina saw the pomegranate on the golden salver,
she told the servant he had better take it away again.
"I shall not touch it, I assure you," said she. "If I were ever
so hungry, I should never think of eating such a miserable, dry
pomegranate as that."
"It is the only one in the world," said the servant.
He set down the golden salver, with the wizened pomegranate
upon it, and left the room. When he was gone, Proserpina could
not help coming close to the table, and looking at this poor
specimen of dried fruit with a great deal of eagerness; for, to
say the truth, on seeing something that suited her taste, she
felt all the six months' appetite taking possession of her at
once. To be sure, it was a very wretched-looking pomegranate,
and seemed to have no more juice in it than an oyster shell.
But there was no choice of such things in King Pluto's palace.
This was the first fruit she had seen there, and the last she
was ever likely to see; and unless she ate it up immediately,
it would grow drier than it already was, and be wholly unfit to
 "At least, I may smell it," thought Proserpina.
So she took up the pomegranate, and applied it to her nose;
and, somehow or other, being in such close neighborhood to her
mouth, the fruit found its way into that little red cave. Dear
me! what an everlasting pity! Before Proserpina knew what she
was about, her teeth had actually bitten it, of their own
accord. Just as this fatal deed was done, the door of the
apartment opened, and in came King Pluto, followed by
Quicksilver, who had been urging him to let his little prisoner
go. At the first noise of their entrance, Proserpina withdrew
the pomegranate from her mouth. But Quicksilver (whose eyes
were very keen, and his wits the sharpest that ever anybody
had) perceived that the child was a little confused; and seeing
the empty salver, he suspected that she had been taking a sly
nibble of something or other. As for honest Pluto, he never
guessed at the secret.
"My little Proserpina," said the king, sitting down, and
affectionately drawing her between his knees, "here is
Quicksilver, who tells me that a great many misfortunes have
befallen innocent people on account of my detaining you in my
dominions. To confess the truth, I myself had already reflected
that it was an unjustifiable act to take you away from your
good mother. But, then, you must consider, my dear child, that
this vast palace is apt to be gloomy (although the precious
stones certainly shine very bright), and that I am not of the
most cheerful disposition, and that therefore it was a natural
thing enough to seek for the society of some merrier creature
than myself. I hoped you would take my crown for a plaything,
and me—ah, you laugh, naughty Proserpina—me, grim as I am,
for a playmate. It was a silly expectation."
"Not so extremely silly," whispered Proserpina. "You have
really amused me very much, sometimes."
"Thank you," said King Pluto, rather dryly. "But I can see
plainly enough, that you think my palace a dusky prison, and me
the iron-hearted keeper of it. And an iron heart I should
surely have, if I could detain you here any longer, my poor
child, when it is now six months since you tasted food. I give
you your liberty. Go with Quicksilver. Hasten home to your dear
Now, although you may not have supposed it, Proserpina found it
impossible to take leave of poor King Pluto without some
 and a good deal of compunction for not telling him
about the pomegranate. She even shed a tear or two, thinking
how lonely and cheerless the great palace would seem to him,
with all its ugly glare of artificial light, after she
herself,—his one little ray of natural sunshine, whom he had
stolen, to be sure, but only because he valued her so
much,—after she should have departed. I know not how many kind
things she might have said to the disconsolate king of the
mines, had not Quicksilver hurried her way.
"Come along quickly," whispered he in her ear, "or his majesty
may change his royal mind. And take care, above all things,
that you say nothing of what was brought you on the golden
In a very short time, they had passed the great gate-way
(leaving the three-headed Cerberus, barking, and yelping, and
growling, with threefold din, behind them), and emerged upon
the surface of the earth. It was delightful to behold, as
Proserpina hastened along, how the path grew verdant behind and
on either side of her. Wherever she set her blessed foot, there
was at once a dewy flower. The violets gushed up along the
wayside. The grass and the grain began to sprout with tenfold
vigor and luxuriance, to make up for the dreary months that had
been wasted in barrenness. The starved cattle immediately set
to work grazing, after their long fast, and ate enormously all
day, and got up at midnight to eat more.
But I can assure you it was a busy time of year with the
farmers, when they found the summer coming upon them with such
a rush. Nor must I forget to say, that all the birds in the
whole world hopped about upon the newly blossoming trees, and
sang together in a prodigious ecstasy of joy.
Mother Ceres had returned to her deserted home, and was sitting
disconsolately on the doorstep, with her torch burning in her
hand. She had been idly watching the flame for some moments
past, when, all at once, it flickered and went out.
"What does this mean?" thought she. "It was an enchanted torch,
and should have kept burning till my child came back."
Lifting her eyes, she was surprised to see a sudden verdure
flashing over the brown and barren fields, exactly as you may
have observed a golden hue gleaming far and wide across the
landscape, from the just risen sun.
"Does the earth disobey me?" exclaimed Mother Ceres,
indig-  nantly. "Does it presume to be green, when I have bidden
it be barren, until my daughter shall be restored to my arms?"
"Then open your arms, dear mother," cried a well-known voice,
"and take your little daughter into them."
And Proserpina came running, and flung herself upon her
mother's bosom. Their mutual transport is not to be described.
The grief of their separation had caused both of them to shed a
great many tears; and now they shed a great many more, because
their joy could not so well express itself in any other way.
When their hearts had grown a little more quiet, Mother Ceres
looked anxiously at Proserpina.
 "My child," said she, "did you taste any food while you were in
King Pluto's palace?"
"Dearest mother," exclaimed Proserpina, "I will tell you the
whole truth. Until this very morning, not a morsel of food had
passed my lips. But to-day, they brought me a pomegranate (a
very dry one it was, and all shrivelled up, till there was
little left of it but seeds and skin), and having seen no fruit
for so long a time, and being faint with hunger, I was tempted
just to bite it. The instant I tasted it, King Pluto and
Quicksilver came into the room. I had not swallowed a morsel;
but—dear mother, I hope it was no harm—but six of the
pomegranate seeds, I am afraid, remained in my mouth."
"Ah, unfortunate child, and miserable me!" exclaimed Ceres.
"For each of those six pomegranate seeds you must spend one
month of every year in King Pluto's palace. You are but half
restored to your mother. Only six months with me, and six with
that good-for-nothing King of Darkness!"
"Do not speak so harshly of poor King Pluto," said Prosperina,
kissing her mother. "He has some very good qualities; and I
really think I can bear to spend six months in his palace, if
he will only let me spend the other six with you. He certainly
did very wrong to carry me off; but then, as he says, it was
but a dismal sort of life for him, to live in that great gloomy
place, all alone; and it has made a wonderful change in his
spirits to have a little girl to run up stairs and down. There
is some comfort in making him so happy; and so, upon the whole,
dearest mother, let us be thankful that he is not to keep me
the whole year round."
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