Once upon a time, a young poor girl called Ella became an orphan. Her father did, her real mother was dead for years, and there was nowhere for her to live except with her step-mother, a snobbish, cruel, and ambitious woman. She dressed in all the latest fashions and went to Paris for her hats. But no amount of silk or velvet could make her—or her two ugly duckling daughters any pretty.
Their mother told the ducklings, Bertha and Gertrude, that they were as cute as two flowers — and they believed her.
But how could they help to notice Ella’s golden hair? How could they ignore the glow on her skin, the sweetness of her smile, or the daintiness of her hands and feet?
The jealousy made the two unkind, and they forced Ella to do all the housework. She washed the pots and pans, scrubbed the floors, and swept out the fireplaces. And her step-sisters used to call her ‘Cinderella’ for a taunt.
“Fetch the coal in, Cinderella!”
“Shine my shoes, Cinderella.”
“Dumb! Sloppy! Stupid Cinderella!”
By the end, Cinderella was too tired to do anything but curl up in the chimney-corner and cry herself to sleep.
Then, one morning, a wax-sealed envelope dropped onto the doormat. Inside, were four invitations to a ball (a kind of dance) at the palace.
The Prince was looking for a wife from among the town’s most beautiful girls.
And what a great excitement there was in the house!
Bertha, Gertrude, and their mother, choosing gowns and jewels. They talked of nothing else but the royal party.
“Powder my chestnut wing, Cinderella!”
“Sew-on these sequins, Cinderella!”
“Iron this lace. And. don’t burn it, you stupid Cinderella!”
Cinderella hardly noticed the extra work. She had always longed to see inside of the beautiful palace on the hill and now–it seemed that she would! “What shall I wear?” she asked timidly. The stepmother frowned and hissed, “You?” She taunted, “You don’t suppose you’re going to the ball; do you?”
Bertha laughed, “You miserable little wretch! Whoever would want to see you at the palace?’
“They wouldn’t allow in a dirty rag bundle like you,” sneered Gertrude.
Cinderella protested, “But the invitation…”
“The palace must have sent four by mistake,” said the step-mother, and taking out the fourth precious, gilt-edged card, she tore it up and, dropped the pieces at Cinderella’s feet. “Sweep them up,” she laughed adding, “then comb my hair.”
In due course, the day of the ball arrived. Bertha powdered her round nose until it looked like a marshmallow. Gertrude fluffed out her hair until it looked like candy floss. Their mother climbed into a dress of puce brocade, and they all looking like jokers, squeezed into the best carriage in town.
Once they were gone, poor Cinderella shut the door, she could no longer keep back her tears— they splattered and hissed among the cinders.
All of a sudden, all the candles flickered. Hovering between ceiling and stairs was a white-haired fairy in a dress of shimmering silver, “Why are you crying, child?”
Cinderella put her hands up in the manner of praying, “Oh please don’t be angry with me. I just wanted so much to go to the royal ball!”
“And so you shall, for I am your fairy godmother. But we haven’t much time. Run and fetch four mice from the combines in the cellar and bring them to me in the garden.”
Acting impulsively, Cinderella did as she was told. In the garden, the fairy asked her to find two Lizards, and to pick a pumpkin!
As soon as Cinderella had laid these on the ground, the fairy waved her magic wand three times.
Poof! In the glittering shower of stardust, the little creatures and the pumpkin were transformed into a silver coach resting on golden springs, upholstered with scarlet couch resting on golden springs, upholstered with scarlet velvet, and drawn by four dapple grey horses. Two smart footmen in white wigs opened its doors, inviting Cinderella to climb in.
“But how can I go to the ball ?” cried the girl. Pointing at her dirty dress.
The fairy godmother giggled, “Oh, how silly of me! I quite forgot!” And with the magic wand, she tapped Cinderella on the forehead.
All at once, her rags were changed into a gown of gold and silver lace — and amazingly, on her tiny feet were a pair of delicate glass slippers.
“Wish you a wonderful evening, my child,” laid the fairy, kissing her on the cheek. “But do remember to leave before midnight. When the clock strikes twelve, my magic will break.” Touching her own head with her wand, the fairy godmother disappeared but a moment later she was back again. “Silly me, I forgot this.” In her hand was a gilt-edged card an invitation to the ball.
And so, Cinderella arrived at the ball, when it was well underway. But Cinderella cast a spell, as she walked down the white marble staircase, people stopped dancing, the Orchestra stopped playing, and everyone stared at the newcomer’s extraordinary beauty.
Even the Prince ran to greet her and begged to be the first to dance with her. He stayed for the next dance. too. In fact, for the rest of the evening, he danced with none else.
The women whispered behind their fans, “I think the Prince is in love already.”
“Who is she?”
“She must be some foreign princess.”
Huddled in a corner, Gertrude and Bertha sulked as they could become attracted to no one, “Who is she anyway?”
“It is not fair. The prince ought to dance with someone else now.”
Swinging to the music in the Prince’s arms, Cinderella forgot that she had ever been unhappy. She forgot about her miseries of scrubbing floors, cleaning out the fires, washing her sister’s fine clothes.
She forgot that her gown was made of fairy dust…And she forgot her fairy godmother’s warning! The clock was about to strike midnight.
“I must go!” she cried in alarm. “But it’s still early!” called the prince, as she ran up the marble stairs. The clock chimed for the third time. “I don’t even know your name!” the prince called out, as she ran out of the palace. The clock chimed for the sixth time. “But I love you!” he pleaded as she leaped into the silver coach.
The clock chimed for the ninth time.
Cinderella melted away into the night.
As the clock struck twelve, the Prince dropped his head sadly and glimpsed a single glass slipper lying on the palace steps. Meanwhile weary and barefoot, Cinderella stumbled into the kitchen and fell asleep beside the dying fire. Half-way home her coach had turned back into the pumpkin.
An hour later, her step-sisters woke her with their noisy quarreling as they arrived home.
“It’s all Cinderella’s fault,” whined Bertha. “If she’d ironed my dress properly, the prince would have loved me.”
“Had she tied my corset tighter,’ hissed Gertrude, ‘the prince would have married me.’
“He still might,” snarled their mother.
“That thievish princess has disappeared, hasn’t she?’
But the prince had made up his mind on marrying the owner of the glass slipper.
“It’s so small. Nobody but she could have a foot delicate enough to fit in it,’ he told his mother.
And the next day the Queen issued a royal order: ‘The Prince will marry the girl whom the glass slipper fits.’
You imagine the uproar when the town’s fashionable ladies heard the news!
“He’s mine at last!” cried Bertha. “My feet are so small!’
“They’re as big as pillows!” shrieked Gertrude. get my foot into that slipper even if it’s the last thing I do!’
The mother was silent. She was preening herself in front of the mirror, thinking how well a crown would suit her. There was a knock at the door. It was the Prince’s page, and he carried the glass slipper on a red silken cushion.
Excited Bertha pulled him in through the door, *Let me try! Let me try!”
“Me first!” wailed the frenzied Gertrude.
“Shut up!” boomed their mother, sweeping them aside. “I shall try first!”
Although they pushed and squeezed and scrunched up their toes, none of them could force a foot into the glass slipper.
“Is there anyone else in the house?” asked the page.
“No-one,” said all three.
The servant cast a puzzled look at Cinderella who was standing by the fire.
The mother explained, “Oh, her? She’s nobody —just the housemaid.”
“Every woman in the land must try on the slipper,” said the page, and he knelt in front of the housemaid.
Cinderella’s tiny foot slipped perfectly into the glass shoe. Then, the servant turned, doffed his cap, and bowed low. There, in the open doorway stood the Prince. “I have found her, Your Highness,” announced the page.
It’s not fair!’ screamed Bertha. “It’s all a mistake!” cried Gertrude. “She didn’t even go to the ball!”
Cinderella smiled pas’ them at the Prince, “I’m afraid, My Lord, I admit that my ball gown was borrowed, and! can’t afford a wedding dress. But I do have a pair of shoes now to wear to my wedding.’ And from her tattered bag, she brought out the second slipper and put it on. 3ertha blushed. Gertrude cursed. Their mother squeaked …and then tainted.
Happily, the Prince bought his bride a dazzling wedding dress of milk-white satin and veil as misty as a cloud. And he married her in the great cathedral. Her step-sisters and step-mother bought new dresses for the wedding, and quite forgot there ever was miserable ‘Cinderella’.