O NCE upon a time the wife of a rich man fell sick, and as she knew her end was approaching she called her only daughter to her bedside, and said, "Dear child, when I am gone, continue good and pious, and God will help you in every trouble and always care for you."
Soon after this the mother closed her eyes in death, and the dear little maiden was left to weep for a mother's loving care, but she never forgot her last words, and tried to do all she could to make her papa happy.
Time passed on, till one fine day in the Spring her father brought home another wife, who had two daughters. These two daughters were very fair and beautiful to look upon, but at heart they were evil-minded and malicious, and as soon as they saw the sweet, opened-faced little girl, with such sparkling blue eyes, and dimpled face surrounded by glossy curls, they began to hate her; so they persuaded their mother to banish her from the parlor to the kitchen. Here the poor child had a sad life of it. She was compelled to do the household drudgery, and wait on her beautiful step-sisters, and when work was done her only place was the chimney-corner bench, with no company except the old cat. And although she had once a pretty name, from sitting in the ashes and getting covered with cinders, they called her "Cinderella."
Years went on, and Cinderella bloomed like a wild rose, in spite of all her kitchen work and common dingy clothes.
One day a beautiful sweet-scented note came to the house from the King. He was going to give his son a fine ball, in honor of his twenty first birthday, and all the ladies in the land must come. How poor Cinderella longed to attend this ball! But when she asked to go, the stepmother and daughters laughed at her, and said she would be a beautiful sight at the King's ball, with her smutty face and ugly clothes. She was made to wash and iron, plait and crimp ruffles, and run errands, early and late, that the two daughters might look beautiful; at last when the night came, she helped to paint their faces, lace their satin shoes, and trim them up with flowers and laces. Then she watched the coach roll grandly out of sight, and after that returned to the kitchen and sat down in the cinders with the cat, and sobbed as if her heart would break. The poor old cat tried to comfort her (as she had often tried to do before) by rubbing her sides against poor Cinderella's ashy dress, and purring softly to her, but the poor child was too sad to notice her. The hot tears rolled down her cheeks and dropped into the grimy soot, when right before her, she knew not how or why, stood the oddest little old woman; her face was almost hid by a queer little bonnet that stood up in a queer little peak in the back; her little short, thick body was covered with a long green cloak, and she leaned on a stout cane.
As Cinderella looked up, the good Fairy, for such she proved to be said: "Why do you cry?"
"It is so very lonely here," Cinderella said, and sobbed again.
The good Fairy patted her on the head, and whispered, "Is that all? Wouldn't my dear Cinderella like to go to the ball? Dry up your tears, and run to the garden, quick, and bring me the largest, finest, yellow pumpkin you can find; then from the mouse-trap on the pantry shelf get six slick mice; two fine rats you will find in the stable in the rat-trap; and from the watering-pot, or from under the garden stone, six green lizards must be brought!"
Nimble as a cricket in the grass, Cinderella dried her tears, and ran and did as she was bid. And then the strangest thing of all happened! The good Fairy took her wand, which was hidden under her long cloak, and touched them every one.
The pumpkin changed into a coach, and the mice became six horses with harnesses of gold. One rat was a coachman, with jeweled livery, and the other rat became a herald, to blow a trumpet in advance, and the first blast that he sounded made the horses plunge and prance.
The lizards were made footmen, because they were so gay and spry, and Cinderella's dingy dress became a glistening gold brocade, and the gems that shone upon her fingers nothing could surpass, while on her feet were dainty little slippers made of glass. Then into the coach she quickly sprang.
"Be sure you are home by twelve o'clock," the good Fairy said, and then the footman quickly closed the coach door, and away the coach sped and was soon out of sight, and in a twinkling drew up before the King's palace.
When Cinderella entered the ball-room, all eyes were turned upon her, as so beautiful a creature was never seen before. The Prince was so charmed with her, he claimed her for the dance, took her into supper, and in every way showed his admiration, but Cinderella remembered the good Fairy's warning, and just at half-past eleven left the ball and hastened home.
The Prince inquired of every one who the lovely maiden was, without success, so the next night the King gave another ball, in hopes his son might be able to find out the home of Cinderella.
Again poor Cinderella helped her sisters primp and curl, and again the good Fairy came, and with her wand arrayed her in greater splendor than before. A crowd had gathered around the King's palace, as the lovely coach with its six prancing horses and lively footmen drove up, and as the lovely maiden sprang up the steps her slipper twinkled like stars.
Again the Prince was all attention, and chose only her for waltz or tete-a-tete, and the moments flew quickly; she did not dream of it being so late, until she heard the bell begin to strike, then she remembered what the good Fairy had said, and quickly as a swallow's flight she fled; but alas! in her hurry she dropped one tiny slipper on the steps. When she reached the street she was just in time to see her coach changed into a pumpkin, and her six horses changed to mice, and her beautiful brocade changed into her cinder dress. The Prince had followed her to the door, hoping to see which way she went, but he only saw a poor little dirty girl, all covered with cinders, walking down the street. He found the glass slipper, and made the proclamation that the country should be searched, and any lady who could wear the slipper should come to the palace to live. So everybody tried it, until they came to Cinderella's home. Then such pinching and squeezing as the two sisters did trying to put on the slipper! But, no, it would not go on.
"Have you no other ladies in the house?" the royal heralds asked.
"Oh, nobody but ugly Cinderella in the kitchen!" the sisters replied.
"Well, she must try, as our orders are to miss no one," they said; and from the kitchen Cinderella stepped, and seating herself on a low stool she slipped the slipper on with ease, and from her pocket took its mate. Then the sisters cried, and stormed, and scolded in anger, while the courtier, without thinking, laughed from behind his hat, for here was all the evidence the Prince had asked complete, the two little slippers made of glass an exact fit for the two little feet.
When the courtiers took the news home to the King and Prince, and told them where they had found the little beauty, there was great excitement at the court.
Soon after this, Cinderella was brought to the King's palace, and given lovely clothes, such as only princesses wear, and was ever loved and petted for her goodness.