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Young Folks' Treasury: Myths and Legendary Heroes

Mother Ceres was very fond of her little daughter Proserpina. She did not of ten let her go
alone into the fields for fear she should be lost. But just at the time when my story begins
she was very busy. She had to look after the wheat and the corn, and the apples and the
pears, all over the world, and as the weather had been bad day after day she was afraid
none of them would be ripe when harvest-time came.
So this morning Mother Ceres put on her turban made of scarlet poppies and got into her
car. This car was drawn by a pair of winged dragons which went very fast, and Mother
Ceres was just ready to start, when Proserpina said, "Dear mother, I shall be very lonely
while you are away, may I run down to the sands, and ask some of the sea-children to
come out of the water to play with me?"
"Yes, child, you may," answered Mother Ceres, "but you must take care not to stray away
from them, and you are not to play in the fields by yourself with no one to take care of
Proserpina promised to remember what her mother said, and by the time the dragons with
their big wings had whirled the car out of sight she was already on the shore, calling to
the sea-children to come to play with her.
They knew Proserpina's voice and came at once: pretty children with wavy sea-green hair
and shining faces, and they sat down on the wet sand where the waves could still break
over them, and began to make a necklace for Proserpina of beautiful shells brought from
their home at the bottom of the sea.
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 [pg 31] 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."