I CINDERELLA IN THE KITCHEN
ONCE upon a time there lived a man and his wife and one beautiful daughter. The wife fell sick and died, and some time after the father married again, for he needed some one to take care of his child. The new wife appeared very well before the wedding, but afterward she showed a bad temper. She had two children of her own, and they were proud and unkind like their mother. They could not bear their gentle sister, and they made her do all the hard work.
She washed the dishes, and scrubbed the stairs. She swept the floor in my lady’s chamber, and took care of the rooms of the two pert misses. They slept on soft beds in fine rooms, and had tall looking-glasses, so that they could admire themselves from top to toe. She lay on an old straw sack in the garret.
She bore all this without complaint. She did her work, and then sat in the corner among the ashes and cinders. So her two sisters gave her the name of Cinderella or the cinder-maid. But Cinderella was really much more beautiful than they; and she surely was more sweet and gentle.
Now the king’s son gave a ball, and he invited all the rich and the grand. Cinderella’s two sisters were fine ladies; they were to go to the ball. Perhaps they would even dance with the prince. So they had new gowns made, and they looked over all their finery.
Here was fresh work for poor Cinderella. She must starch their ruffles and iron their linen. All day long they talked of nothing but their fine clothes.
“I shall wear my red velvet dress,” said the elder, “and trim it with my point lace.”
“And I,” said the younger sister, “shall wear a silk gown, but I shall wear over it a gold brocade, and I shall put on my diamonds. You have nothing so fine.”
Then they began to quarrel over their clothes, and Cinderella tried to make peace between them. She helped them about their dresses, and offered to arrange their hair on the night of the ball.
While she was thus busy, the sisters said to her:—
“And pray, Cinderella, would you like to go to the ball?”
“Nay,” said the poor girl; “you are mocking me. It is not for such as I to go to balls.”
“True enough,” they said. “Folks would laugh to see a cinder-maid at a court ball.”
Any one else would have dressed their hair ill to spite them for their rudeness. But Cinderella was good-natured, and only took more pains to make them look well.
The two sisters scarcely ate a morsel for two days before the ball. They wished to look thin and graceful. They lost their tempers over and over, and they spent most of the time before their tall glasses. There they turned and turned to see how they looked behind, and how their long trains hung.
At last the evening came, and off they set in a coach. Cinderella watched them till they were out of sight, and then she sat down by the kitchen fire and began to weep.
All at once her fairy godmother appeared, with her wand.
“What are you crying for, my little maid?”
“I wish—I wish,” began the poor girl, but her voice was choked with tears.
“You wish that you could go to the ball?”
“Well, then, if you will be a good girl, you shall go. Run quick and fetch me a pumpkin from the garden.”
Cinderella flew to the garden and brought back the finest pumpkin she could find. She could not guess what use it would be, but the fairy scooped it hollow, and then touched it with her wand. The pumpkin became at once a splendid gilt coach.
“Now fetch me the mouse-trap from the pantry.”
In the mouse-trap were six sleek mice. The fairy opened the door, and as they ran out she touched each with her wand, and it became a gray horse. But what was she to do for a coachman?
“We might look for a rat in the rat-trap,” said Cinderella.
“That is a good thought. Run and bring the rat-trap, my dear.”
Back came Cinderella with the trap. In it were three large rats. The fairy chose one that had long black whiskers, and she made him the coachman.
“Now go into the garden and bring me six lizards. You will find them behind the water-pot.”
These were no sooner brought than, lo! with a touch of the wand they were turned into six footmen, who jumped up behind the coach, as if they had done nothing else all their days. Then the fairy said:—
“Here is your coach and six, Cinderella; your coachman and your footmen. Now you can go to the ball.”
“What! in these clothes?” and Cinderella looked down at her ragged frock. The fairy laughed, and just touched her with the wand. In a twinkling, her shabby clothes were changed to a dress of gold and silver lace, and on her bare feet were silk stockings and a pair of glass slippers, the prettiest ever seen.
“Now go to the ball, Cinderella; but remember, if you stay one moment after midnight, your coach will instantly become a pumpkin, your horses will be mice, your coachman a rat, and your footmen lizards. And you? You will be once more only a cinder-maid in a ragged frock and with bare feet.”
II CINDERELLA IN THE PALACE
CINDERELLA promised and drove away in high glee. She dashed up to the palace, and her coach was so fine that the king’s son came down the steps of the palace to hand out this unknown princess. He led her to the hall where all the guests were dancing.
The moment she appeared all voices were hushed, the music stopped, and the dancers stood still. Such a beautiful princess had never been seen! Even the king, old as he was, turned to the queen and said:—
“She is the most beautiful being I ever saw—since I first saw you!”
As for the ladies of the court, they were all busy looking at Cinderella’s clothes. They meant to get some just like them the very next day, if possible.
The prince led Cinderella to the place of highest rank, and asked her hand for the next dance. She danced with so much grace that he admired her more and more. Supper was brought in, but the prince could not keep his eyes off the beautiful stranger. Cinderella went and sat by her sisters, and shared with them the fruit which the prince gave her. They were very proud to have her by them, for they never dreamed who she really was.
Cinderella was talking with them, when she heard the clock strike the quarter hour before twelve. She went at once to the king and queen, and made them a low courtesy and bade them good-night. The queen said there was to be another ball the next night, and she must come to that. The prince led her down the steps to her coach, and she drove home.
At the house the fairy sat waiting for Cinderella. The maiden began to tell all that had happened, and was in the midst of her story, when a knock was heard at the door. It was the sisters coming home from the ball. The fairy disappeared, and Cinderella went to the door, rubbing her eyes, as if she had just waked from a nap. She was once more a poor little cinder-maid.
“How late you are!” she said, as she opened the door.
“If you had been to the ball, you would not have thought it late,” said her sisters. “There came the most beautiful princess that ever was seen. She was very polite to us, and loaded us with oranges and grapes.”
“Who was she?” asked Cinderella.
“Nobody knew her name. The prince would give his eyes to know.”
“Ah! how I should like to see her,” said Cinderella. “Oh, do, my Lady Javotte,”—that was the name of the elder sister,—”lend me the yellow dress that you wear every day, and let me go to the ball and have a peep at the beautiful princess.”
“What! lend my yellow gown to a cinder-maid! I am not so silly as that.”
Cinderella was not sorry to have Javotte say no; she would have been puzzled to know what to do if her sister had really lent her the dress she begged for.
The next night came, and the sisters again went to the court ball. After they had gone, the fairy came as before and made Cinderella ready.
“Now remember,” she said, as the coach drove away, “remember twelve o’clock.”
Cinderella was even more splendid than on the first night, and the king’s son never left her side. He said so many pretty things that Cinderella could think of nothing else. She forgot the fairy’s warning; she forgot her promise. Eleven o’clock came, but she did not notice the striking. The half-hour struck, but the prince grew more charming, and Cinderella could hear nothing but his voice. The last quarter—but still Cinderella sat by the prince.
Then the great clock on the tower struck the first stroke of twelve. Up sprang Cinderella, and fled from the room. The prince started to follow her, but she was too swift for him; in her flight, one of her glass slippers fell from her feet, and he stopped to pick it up.
The last stroke of twelve died away, as Cinderella darted down the steps of the palace. In a twinkling the gay lady was gone; only a shabby cinder-maid was running down the steps. The splendid coach and six, driver and footman,—all were gone; only a pumpkin lay on the ground, and a rat, six mice, and six lizards scampered off.
Cinderella reached home, quite out of breath. She had saved nothing of all her finery but one little glass slipper. The prince had its mate, but he had lost the princess. He asked the soldiers at the palace gate if they had not seen her drive away. No; at that hour only a ragged girl had passed out.
Soon the two sisters came home from the ball, and Cinderella asked them if they had again seen the beautiful lady. Yes; she had been at the ball, but she had left suddenly, and no one knew what had become of her. But the prince would surely find her, for he had one of her glass slippers.
They spoke truly. A few days afterward, the king’s son sent a messenger with a trumpet and the slipper through all the city. The messenger sounded his trumpet and shouted that the prince would marry the lady who could wear the glass slipper. So the slipper was first tried on by all the princesses; then by all the duchesses; next by all the persons belonging to the court; but in vain: not one could wear it.
Then it was carried to all the fine houses, and it came at last to the two sisters. They tried with all their might to force a foot into the fairy slipper, but they could not. Cinderella stood by, and said:—
“Suppose I were to try.” Her two sisters jeered at her, but the messenger looked at Cinderella. He saw that she was very fair, and, besides, he had orders to try the slipper on the foot of every maiden in the kingdom, if need were.
So he bade Cinderella sit down on a three-legged stool in the kitchen. She put out her little foot, and the slipper fitted like wax. The sisters stood in amaze. Then Cinderella put her hand into her pocket and drew forth the other glass slipper, and put it on her other foot.
The moment that Cinderella did this, the fairy, who stood by unseen, touched her with her wand, and the cinder-maid again became the beautiful, gayly dressed lady. The sisters saw that she was the same one whom they had seen at the ball. They thought how ill they had treated her all these years, and they fell at her feet and asked her to forgive them.
Cinderella was as good now as she had been when she was a cinder-maid. She freely forgave her sisters, and took them to the palace with her, for she was now to be the prince’s wife. And when the old king and queen died, the prince and Cinderella became King and Queen.