“There was once an honest gentleman who took for his second wife the proudest lady in the land. She had two equally haughty daugers, while he himself had a most kind and beautiful young girl.
“Sadly, the man became ill and died not long after the wedding. Wasting no time, his wicked wife assigned his good daughter all the chores of the house.
“While her girls rested in lavish chambers hung with mirrors, her stepdaughter was sent to sleep on an old straw mattress in a dirty attic. And when the girl’s daily work was done, she would collapse, exhausted, in the chimney corner among the cinders. ‘Cinderella!’ her wicked stepsisters nicknamed her, but she paid no heed to their scorn.
“One day Cinderella neaded through a nearby wood, whistling on her way home from the town market, when her sweet melody was interrupted by mournful chirping of a bird. Before her she saw an injured bluebird on the ground, and she knelt down, carefully examining its lame wing. But in the next instant Cinderella was startled by a man’s voice calling out. Raising her head, she gasped, for heading toward her was the king’s son, seated on a gallant horse. She could not imagine what a noble would ask of a girl such as her. Nevertheless, she spoke up bravely. ‘Have you lost your way, good sir?’
“The handsome gentleme=an smiled at her. ‘Perhaps, for I wandered away from my horsemen while distracted by the sight of a fair creature.’
‘As was I,’ Cinderella replied, stroking the small animal in her hand, never imagining that he may have been speaking of her. ‘But the poor thing is hurt.’
‘I feared that you were ill whn I saw your huddled figure in the distance,’ the prince continued. ‘But you are well?’
“Suddenly ashamed of her humble appearance, Cinderella thanked the prince for his cocern and hastily gathered her bags. ‘I must be home now, for the bird needs immediate attention,’ she explained, quickly disappearing into the woods.
“It happeed that soon the king’s son hosted a series of balls, and Cinderella’s two stepsisters were invited to attend. They were very proud and happy, ut forever fussed about what they should wear to the gala. Cinderella gave them the best advice she could, and offered to dress them and arrange their hair herself.
“While she was combing out the elder’s hair, the ill-natured girl said, ‘Cinderella, do you not wish you were going to the ball?’
‘Madam,’ she began, for they always made her address them in this way,’ you know that it is not my forture to have any such pleasure.’
‘Yes, people would laugh to see a filthy little cinder girl at a royal ball,’ the sister replied. And despite those hearless words, Cinderella continued to brush her stepsister’s hair until it was perfectly even and smooth. But after a coach had whisked the sisters away to the regal affair, she sat down by the kitchen fire and cried. Tonight it would be her sisters who would see the prince, not Cinderella. She had not said a word about meetingthe prince in the wood, but often thought of it. In her dreams she did not rush off ashamedly, but instead rode with him to his castle, never to return to her cruel home.
“The girl’s sobs quieted when she heard a bird chirping at the window ledge. ‘Why, you loook just like a bird whose wing I nursed not long ago!’ she said with wonder. And before her very eyes the bird, so small and delicate, turned into a fairy godmother.
‘There’s no need to cry, my dear,’ the woman said gently.
‘On!’ Cinderella gasped. ‘I . . . I . . . ‘
‘You wish t go to the ball to see the prince, isn’t it so?’
“Cinderella nodded with astonishment, still unable to speak.
‘Well, since you did a great kindness for me, now I shall do a kindness for you. First, run into the garden and fetch me the larget pumpkin you can find.’
“Cinderella did not understand how a pumpkin could help her, but neither did she understand how a bird could become a fairy godmother, so without questtion she obeyed.
“The fairy drew out her magic wand and struck the pumpkin lightly. It blossomed into a splendid gilt coach lined with rose-pink satin. Cinderella’s eyes sparkled with awe.
‘Now fetch me the mousetrap out of the pantry, my dear.’
“Ever more excited, Cinderella rushed to bring it to her. They fairy lifted up the wire door, and as each mouse ran out she struck it and it changed into a beautiful horse.
“The fairy turned to her astonished godchild. ‘But what shall I do for your coachmen, Cinderella?’
‘I saw two rats in the rat-trap,’ she suggested, ‘and they might welcome a more pleasant fate!’
‘You are right. Go and look for them.’
“When they were found, the fairy made them into most respectable coachmen, with the finest whiskers imaginable. Afterward she took six lizards from behind the well and changed them into six footmen, all in dashing uniforms, who immediately jumped up behind the carriage, as if they had been footmen al their days.
‘Well, Cinderella, now you can go to the ball,’ announced the fairy.
‘And I shall see the prince!’ the girl sang, but wilted when she looked down on her ragged frock. Before Cinderella could say a word, her godmother laughed and then touched her with the wand. Instantly her threadbare jacket became heavy with gold and jewels, and her coarsely woven petticoat lengthened into a gown of sweeping satin. From underneath peeped out her little feet, covered with sil stockings and the prettiest glass slippers in the world.
‘Now, Cinderella, ‘ said the fairy godmother,’ you may go, but remember, if you stay one instant after the last stroke of midnight your carriage will become a pumpkin, your coachmen rats, your horses mice, and your footmen lizards, while you yourself will appear just as humble as your did before.’ Radiant, Cinderella made her promise and climbed into her grand coach, which dashed off into the night.
“At the palace, the prince warmly greeted his guests as they milled about the ballroom. But when Cinderella walked in, he could see no one else. The dazzled crowd stood aside to let her pass, and they whispered to one another, ‘On, how beautiful she is!’ The most fashionable ladies planned to have identical garments made the very next day.
“The prince offered Cinderella his hand and led her out to dance. She moved so gracefully that he admired her ever more. He thought her face familiar, but how could such an extraordinary lady exist inthe kingdom without his knowledge? When he could stand it no longer he asked her if they had been introduced before.
‘Im afraid not, sir,’ she replied and, fearing he might remember the cinder girl in the wood, went off with a deep curtsy to seek out her sisters. She chatted cheerfully with them at supper and they relished the attendtion of so magnificent a lady–for they did not recognize her in her finery.