Proserpina was so delighted when they hung the necklace round her neck that she wanted to give them something in return. “Will you come with me into the fields,” she asked, “and I will gather flowers and make you each a wreath?”
“Oh no, dear Proserpina,” said the sea-children, “we may not go with you on the dry land. We must keep close beside the sea and let the waves wash over us every minute or two. If it were not for the salt water we should soon look like bunches of dried sea-weed instead of sea-children.”
“That is a great pity,” said Proserpina, “but if you wait for me here, I will run to the fields and be back again with my apron full of flowers before the waves have broken over you ten times. I long to make you some wreaths as beautiful as this necklace with all its colored shells.”
“We will wait, then,” said the sea-children: “we will lie under the water and pop up our heads every few minutes to see if you are coming.”
Proserpina ran quickly to a field where only the day before she had seen a great many flowers; but the first she came to seemed rather faded, and forgetting what Mother Ceres had told her, she strayed a little farther into the fields. Never before had she found such beautiful flowers! Large sweet-scented violets, purple and white; deep pink roses; hyacinths with the biggest of blue bells; as well as many others she did not know. They seemed to grow up under her feet, and soon her apron was so full that the flowers were falling out of the corners.
Proserpina was just going to turn back to the sands to make the wreaths for the sea-children, when she cried out with delight. Before her was a bush covered with the most wonderful flowers in the world. “What beauties!” said Proserpina, and then she thought, “How strange! I looked at that spot only a moment ago; why did I not see the flowers?”
They were such lovely ones too. More than a hundred different kinds grew on the one bush: the brightest, gayest flowers Proserpina had ever seen. But there was a shiny look about them and about the leaves which she did not quite like. Somehow it made her wonder if this was a poison plant, and to tell the truth she was half inclined to turn round and run away.
“How silly I am!” she thought, taking courage: “it is really the most beautiful bush I ever saw. I will pull it up by the roots and carry it home to plant in mother’s garden.”
Holding her apron full of flowers with one hand, Proserpina seized the large shrub with the other and pulled and pulled.
What deep roots that bush had! She pulled again with all her might, and the earth round the roots began to stir and crack, so she gave another big pull, and then she let go. She thought there was a rumbling noise right below her feet, and she wondered if the roots went down to some dragon’s cave. Then she tried once again, and up came the bush so quickly that Proserpina nearly fell backwards. There she stood, holding the stem in her hand and looking at the big hole which its roots had left in the earth.