Demeter was very fond of her daughter, Persephone, so fond that she never let the girl out of her sight. It was harvest time, and the good goddess was very busy taking care of the crops all over the earth. Putting a wreath of poppies on her head, she told her daughter to hurry. But Persephone did not  want to hurry that morning. “Why don’t you go yourself today, Mother?” asked the girl. “I’ll stay here and play in the ocean with the sea nymphs.” 

Demeter shook her head. “I need your help, Persephone,” she said. “We’ll take your pots of paint and you may put new stripes on any flower you choose. Quickly now, the sun will not wait.”

“Please, Mother,” Persephone pleaded. “I’m almost grown. Won’t you let me stay by myself this once?" Demeter sighed. She had been told many times by Zeus, king of the gods, that she protected her daughter too much. And her brother, King Hades thought she should give the girl more freedom.

 “You don’t let her breathe,” he had observed during one of his rare visits. But what would he know about breathing, living as he did down in the dark underworld with the spirits of the dead? And what would he know about raising a daughter when he loved only his jewels?

“You may stay with the nymphs then, Persephone,” said Demeter. “But take care not to go wandering in the fields by yourself.” Persephone promised and, by the time her mother’s chariot had whirled out of sight, she was on the shore, calling the sea nymphs to rise out of the waves. It was not long before they showed their glistening faces and sea-green hair above the water. Sitting on a bank of soft sponge, where the surf broke over them, they made a necklace out of many-colored shells, which they hung around Persephone’s neck.

“Let me run and gather some flowers,” said Persephone, “and I’ll make you a wreath as pretty as this necklace." So Persephone left her friends and ran to the place where, only the day before, she had seen flowers. But they were now a little past full bloom so, not thinking of her promise to her mother, she wandered far into the fields. She filled her apron with violets, roses, hyacinths and pinks and was turning back when she noticed a large bush covered with blood-red berries. Laying down her flowers, Persephone seized the shrub and pulled, but the soil stayed firm. Again, the girl pulled with all her might. This time, the earth stirred. There was a rumbling right beneath her feet. She gave one last grand tug. Up came the bush, which moment by moment seemed to be growing larger! Persephone staggered back, gazing into the deep hole it had left in the ground. It seemed to have no bottom. Again, Persephone heard a rumbling which grew louder and nearer. It sounded like the tramp of hooves and the rattle of wheels. Too frightened to run, Persephone saw a team of four black horses snorting smoke. Tossing their black manes, they leaped out of the pit, pulling a splendid golden chariot. And in the chariot, sat a man in black armor wearing a crown studded with diamonds. He beckoned to Persephone.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said with a smile. “Do you remember me? I’m your uncle Hades. Come! Ride a little way with me…”


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