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Fairy Stories and Fables by  James Baldwin
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[109] A VERY long time ago there lived a fair young girl with her father and mother in a beautiful home in the city. She was as happy as she was good, and she had all that heart could wish. But, by and by, a sad day came, and then many sad days. Her mother fell sick and died; and then, some time after, her father married again, for he said that his daughter must have some one to take care of her.

[110] After that everything went wrong. The new mother was very cross and unkind; and she had two daughters of her own who were as cross and unkind as herself. They were harsh and cruel to our fair young girl and made her do all the hard work about the house.

She swept the floors and scrubbed the stairs and washed the dishes and cleaned the grates, while her two sisters sat in the parlor or lay asleep on their soft beds. They slept in fine rooms where there were long looking-glasses in which they could see themselves from head to foot; but she was sent to lie on an old pile of straw in the attic where there was only one chair, and no looking-glass at all.

When her day's work was done, they did not allow her to come into the parlor, but made her sit in the chimney corner in the kitchen among the ashes and cinders. This is why they nicknamed her Cinderella, or the cinder maid. But, for all her shabby clothes, she was handsomer by half than they could ever be.

Now it happened that the King's son gave a ball, and he invited all the fine rich people in the city to come to it. Of course, Cinderella's sisters were to go; and they were very proud and happy, for they thought that perhaps the Prince would dance with them. As for Cinderella, it only meant more work [111] for her; she must help her sisters get their fine dresses ready, and she must iron their laces and ribbons, and starch their linen, and put their ruffles in order. For days and days they talked of nothing but clothes.

"I am going to wear my blue velvet dress, and trim it with point lace," said the elder.

"And I am going to wear my pink satin, with diamonds and pearls," said the younger.

And then they began to quarrel; and they would have fought, I do believe, if Cinderella had not tried to make peace between them.

In the evening, while she was helping them with their hair, the elder said:

"Cinderella, don't you wish you were going to the ball to-night?"

"Ah, you are only laughing at me," she said. "It is not for me to go to so fine a place as that."

"You are right," said her sister. "Folks would think it very funny to see such a creature as you at a ball. The best place for you is among the ashes."

The sisters had laced themselves very tightly, for they wanted to look thin and slender; and they had eaten scarcely anything for two days. It is no wonder, then, that they were more ill-tempered that night than they had been before; and they scolded [112] and fretted and frowned until there was no getting along with them at all. But Cinderella was as sweet and kind as ever, and seemed to take all the more pains to make them look handsome.

At last the coach stopped at the door; they hurried out, and climbed into it; and then they were whirled away to the ball.

As for Cinderella, she sat down by the kitchen fire and cried.

All at once a fairy stood before her and asked her what was the matter.

"I wish I could—I wish I could—" and that was all that Cinderella could say for weeping and sobbing.

"I know," said the fairy. "You want to go to the ball, don't you?"

"Y-yes," cried Cinderella; and then she sobbed harder than ever.

"Well," said the fairy, "I know you are a good girl, and I think we can manage it." Then she said, "Run into the garden and fetch me a pumpkin."

Cinderella did not stop to ask why, but ran out and soon brought in the finest pumpkin that she could find. The fairy scooped out the inside of it, and then struck it with her wand.

What a strange thing happened then! Before you could snap your fingers, the pumpkin was [113] changed into a fine coach gilded all over and lined with red satin.


"Now fetch me the mouse trap from the pantry," said the fairy.

Cinderella did so; there were six fat mice in it. The fairy lifted the trap door, and, as the mice came out one by one, she touched them with her wand. You would have laughed to see how quickly they were changed into fine black horses.

"But what shall we do for a coachman, my Cinderella?" said the fairy.

"Maybe there is a rat in the rat trap," said Cinderella. "We might make a coachman of him."

[114] "You are right," said the fairy; "go and see!"

Cinderella soon brought the rat trap, and in it there were three big rats. The fairy chose the finest one among them and touched him with her wand; and, quick as a flash, he became the fattest, jolliest coachman that you ever saw.

"Now, go into the garden," said the fairy, "and you will find six gray lizards behind the watering pot. Bring them to me."

She had no sooner done so than the fairy touched them with her wand and turned them into six foot-men, who stood in waiting behind the coach as if they had been footmen all their lives.

"Now then, my Cinderella," said the fairy, "now you can go to the ball."

"What! In these clothes?" said Cinderella; and she looked down at her ragged frock and began to sob again.

The fairy laughed, and touched her with her wand. You should have seen what happened then. Her clothes were turned into the finest cloth of gold and silver, all beset with rich jewels; and on her feet were glass slippers, the prettiest that ever were seen.

"Now, my Cinderella," said the fairy, "you must be off at once. But remember that if you stay a moment after midnight, your carriage will be a [115] pumpkin again, and your coachman a rat, and your horses mice, and your footmen lizards, and yourself a ragged little cinder maid."

Then Cinderella stepped into her coach, the coachman cracked his whip, and away she was whirled to the ball.

Somebody had told the King's son that a beautiful Princess whom nobody knew was coming; and so, when the coach stopped at the palace door, there he was, ready to help her out. He led her into the hall, and all the fine people who were there stood aside to let her pass. Nobody could help looking at her. "Ha! how handsome she is! Ha! how handsome she is!" said one to another.

The King himself, old as he was, whispered to the Queen that he had never seen so fair a maiden; and all the ladies were busy looking at her clothes and planning how they would make theirs after the same pattern. Then the music struck up, and the King's son led her out to dance with him; and she danced with so much modesty and grace that everybody thought her more lovely than before.

By and by a fine supper was served, but the young Prince could not eat a mouthful, he was so busy thinking of her. Cinderella went and sat down by her sisters, and was very civil and kind to them; and this made them proud and glad, for [116] they did not know her, and they thought it a grand thing to be noticed by so fine a lady.

While she was talking to them she heard the clock strike a quarter to twelve, and she remembered what the fairy had told her about staying till midnight. So she made haste to bid the King and Queen good night, and then, getting into her coach, she was driven home.

She met the fairy at the door and thanked her for her kindness; and the good fairy told her that she might go the next night to the Queen's ball, to which the Prince had invited her.

A few minutes later, the two sisters came home and found Cinderella sitting in the chimney corner, rubbing her eyes and seeming to be very sleepy.

"Ah, how long you have stayed!" she said.

"Well, if you had been there you would have stayed as long," said one of the sisters. "The prettiest Princess that you ever saw was there; and she talked with us and gave us bonbons."

"Who was she?" asked Cinderella.

"That's just what everybody would like to know," said the elder, whose name was Charlotte.

"Yes, the King's son would give the world to know who she is," said the younger, whose name was Caroline.

[117] "I wish I could see her," said Cinderella. "Oh, dear Miss Charlotte, won't you let me go to-morrow? And, Miss Caroline, won't you lend me your yellow dress to wear?"

"What, lend my yellow dress to a cinder maid!" cried Caroline. "I'm not so foolish as that!" And the two sisters went proudly to their rooms.

The next night came, and the two sisters were at the ball, and so was Cinderella; and everybody thought her more beautiful than before. "Now remember twelve o'clock," were the fairy's last words when she started.

The young Prince was very kind to her, and time flew fast. The dancing was delightful, and the supper was fine, and nobody thought of being tired. But, before she had stayed half as long as she wished, Cinderella heard the clock begin to strike twelve. She rose up and ran from the room like a wild deer. The Prince followed her; but when he reached the street he saw nobody there but a ragged little cinder girl whom he would not have touched for the world.

Cinderella reached home, tired, frightened, and cold, without carriage, coachman, or footman; nothing was left of all her finery but one of her little glass slippers; the other she had dropped in the King's hall as she was running away.

[118] When the two sisters came home, Cinderella asked them if they had had a good time at the ball, and if the pretty Princess had been there.

"Yes," they told her; "but when it struck twelve she ran away without bidding anybody good night; and she dropped one of her little glass slippers in the hall—the prettiest slipper that anybody ever saw. The King's son picked it up and put it into his pocket, as though it was the rarest treasure in the world. But nobody could find out which way the Princess went."

Cinderella climbed up the stairs to her wretched bed in the attic; and the next day she was at work, sweeping and scrubbing, as hard as ever.

And now, what do you think happened next? The King's son sent men with trumpets all through the land to invite every young lady to try the little glass slipper; and he declared that he would marry the one whose foot the slipper would just fit.

Of course, hundreds and hundreds of young ladies tried it; but their feet were ever and ever so much too big. You would have laughed to see the two sisters try it, and to hear their sighs when they had to give it up. Cinderella was very much amused, for she knew all the time that it was her slipper.

"Let me see if it will fit me," she said at last.

"What, you? Bah!" cried Charlotte, laughing.

[119] "Go into the kitchen and clean the grates," said Caroline; and both of them tried to keep her from touching the slipper.

But the man who had been sent with the slipper said that he had orders to let every maiden in the land make the trial. So Cinderella sat down on a three-legged stool, and he put the slipper on her foot, and it fitted her as if it had been made of wax. And then she drew from her pocket the other slipper, and put it on her other foot.

At the same moment, in came the fairy with her wand; and she touched Cinderella, and she was no longer a cinder maid but a beautiful young lady clad in silk and satin.

And now the two sisters found that she was the pretty Princess whom they had seen at the ball; and they threw themselves at her feet to ask pardon for the unkind way in which they had treated her. She lifted them up kindly, and said that she forgave them, and wished them always to love her.

Some time afterwards, the young Prince and Cinderella were married; and they lived together happily for many, many years. As for the two sisters, Cinderella gave them rooms in the palace; and they left off their cross, ugly ways, and by and by became the wives of two rich dukes who were friends of the Prince.

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