As to the birds, they hopped about from tree to tree among the fresh, sweet blossoms, and sang for joy that the dreary days were over and the world was green and young again.
Mother Ceres had gone back to her empty cottage, and was sitting very sadly on the doorstep with her burning torch in her hand. She had been looking wearily at the flame for some moments, when all at once it flickered and went out.
“What does this mean?” she thought. “It was a magic torch, and should have gone on burning till Proserpina was found.”
She looked up, and was surprised to see the bare brown fields suddenly turning green, just as you sometimes see them turn golden when the sun comes from behind a dark cloud.
“Does the Earth dare to disobey me?” exclaimed Mother Ceres angrily. “Did I not forbid it to be green until my child should be sent back to me?”
“Then open your arms, mother dear,” cried a well-known voice, “and take me back again.” And Proserpina came running along the pathway and flung herself on her mother’s bosom.
It would be impossible to tell how happy they were; so happy that they cried a little, for people cry when they are very glad as well as when they are unhappy.
After a little while Mother Ceres looked anxiously at Proserpina. “My child,” she said, “did you taste any food while you were in King Pluto’s palace?”
“Dearest mother,” answered Proserpina, “I will tell you the whole truth. Until this morning not a morsel of food had passed my lips. But a servant brought me a pomegranate on a golden-plate, a very dry pomegranate, with no juice inside, nothing but seeds and skin; and I was so hungry, and had not tasted any food for such a long time, that I took just one bite. The moment I tasted it King Pluto and Mercury came into the room. I had not swallowed a morsel, but O mother! I hope it was no harm, six pomegranate seeds remained in my mouth and I swallowed them.”
“O miserable me!” said Mother Ceres. “For each of these six pomegranate seeds you must spend a month every year in King Pluto’s palace. You are only half restored to me; you will be six months with me and then six months with the King of Darkness!”
“Do not be so vexed, mother dear,” said Proserpina. “It was very unkind of King Pluto to carry me off, but then, as he says, it was such a dismal life for him to lead in that great palace all alone: and he says he has been much happier since he had me to run about the big rooms and to play beside him. If only he will let me spend six months every year with you, I think I can bear to spend the other six months beside him. After all, he was as kind as he knew how to be, but I am very glad he cannot keep me the whole year round.”
THE STORY OF ATALANTA
ADAPTED BY ANNA KLINGENSMITH