By Charles Perrault
ONCE upon a time there was a worthy man who married for his second wife the haughtiest, proudest woman that had ever been seen. She had two daughters, who possessed their mother's temper and resembled her in everything. Her husband, on the other hand, had a young daughter who was of an exceptionally sweet and gentle nature. She got this from her mother, who had been the nicest person in the world.
The wedding was no sooner over than the stepmother began to display her bad temper. She could not endure the excellent qualities of this young girl for they made her daughters appear more hateful than ever. She thrust upon her all the meanest tasks about the house. It was she who had to clean the plates and the stairs, and sweep the rooms of the mistress of the house and her daughters. She slept on a wretched mattress in a garret at the top of the house, while the sisters had rooms with parquet flooring, and beds of the most fashionable style, with mirrors in which they could see themselves from top to toe.
The poor girl endured everything patiently, not daring to complain to her father. The latter would have scolded her, because he was ruled entirely by his wife. When she had finished her work, she used to sit amongst the cinders in the corner of the chimney, and it was from this habit that she came to be commonly known as Cinder-clod. The younger of the two sisters, who was not quite as spiteful as the other, called her Cinderella. But her wretched clothes did not stop Cinderella from being a hundred times more beautiful than her sisters, for all their resplendent garments.
It happened that the king's son gave a ball, and he invited all persons of high degree. The two young ladies were invited amongst others, for they cut a considerable figure in the country. Not a little pleased were they, and the question of what clothes and what mode of dressing the hair would become them best took up all their time. And all this meant fresh trouble for Cinderella, for it was she who went over he sisters' linen and ironed their ruffles. They could talk of nothing else but the fashions in clothes.
"For my part," said the elder, "I shall wear my dress of red velvet, with the Honiton lace."
"I have only my everyday petticoat," said the youngest, "but to make up for it I shall wear my cloak with the golden flowers and my necklace of diamonds, which are not so bad."
They sent for a good hairdresser to arrange their double frilled caps, and bought patches at the best shop.
They summoned Cinderella and asked her advice, for she had good taste. Cinderella gave them the best possible suggestions, and even offered to dress their hair, to which they gladly agreed.
While she was thus occupied they said:
"Cinderella, would you not like to go to the ball?"
"Ah, but you fine ladies are laughing at me. It would be no place for me."
"That is very true, people would laugh to see a cinder-clod in the ballroom."
Any one else but Cinderella would have done their hair amiss, but she was good-natured, and she finished them off to perfection. They were so excited in their glee that for nearly tow days they ate nothing. They broke more than a dozen laces through drawing their stays tight in order make their waists look more slender and they were perpetually in front of mirror.
At last the happy day arrived. Away they went, Cinderella watching them as long as she could keep them in sight. When she cold no longer see them she began to cry. Her godmother found her in tears, and asked what was troubling her.
"I should like - I should like -"
She was crying so bitterly that she could not finish the sentence.
Said her godmother who was a fairy:
"You would like to go to the ball, would you not?"
"Ah, yes," said Cinderella sighing.
"Well, well," said her godmother, "promise to be a good girl and I will arrange for you to go."
She took Cinderella into her room and said:
"Go to the garden and bring me a pumpkin."
Cinderella went at once and gathered the finest that she could find. This she brought to her godmother, wondering how a pumpkin could help in taking her to the ball.
Her godmother scooped it out, and when only the rind was left, struck it with her wand. Instantly the pumpkin was changed into a beautiful coach, gilded all over.
Then she went and looked in the mouse-trap, where she found six mice all alive. She told Cinderella to lift he door of the mouse trap a little, and as each mouse came out she gave it a tap with her wand, whereupon it transformed into a fine horse. So that here was a fine team of six dappled mouse-gray horses.
But she was puzzled to know how to provide a coachman.
"I will go and see," said Cinderella, "if there is not a rat in the rat-trap. We could make a coachman of him."
"Quite right," said her godmother, "go and see."
Cinderella brought in the rat-trap, which contained three big rats. The fairy chose one especially on account of his elegant whiskers.
As soon as she had touched him he turned into a fat coachman with the finest moustachios that were ever seen.
"Now go into the garden and bring me six lizards which you will find behind the water-butt."
No sooner had they been brought than the godmother turned them into six lackeys, who at once climbed up behind the coach in their braided liveries, and hung on there as if they had never done anything else in their lives.
Then said the fairy godmother:
"Well, there you have the means of going to the ball. Are you satisfied?"
"Oh, yes, but am I to go like this in my ugly clothes?"
Her godmother merely touched her with her wand, and on the instant her clothes were changed into garments of old and silver cloth, bedecked with jewels. After that her godmother have her a pair of glass slippers, the prettiest in the world.
Thus altered, she entered the coach. Her godmother bade her not to stay beyond midnight what ever happened, warning her that if she remained at the hall a moment longer, her coach would again become a pumpkin, her horses mice, and he lackey lizards, while her old clothes would reappear upon her once more.
She promised her godmother that she would not fail to leave the ball before midnight, and away she went, beside herself with delight.
The king's son, when he was told of the arrival of a great princess whom nobody knew, went forth to receive her. He handed her down from the coach, and led her into the hall where the company was assembled. At once there fell a great silence. The dancers stopped, the violins played no more, so rapt was the attention which everybody bestowed upon the superb beauty of the unknown guest. Everywhere could be heard in confused whispers:
"Oh, how beautiful she is."
The king, old man as he was, could not take his eyes off her, and whispered to the queen that it was many a long day since he had seen anyone so beautiful and charming.
All the ladies were eager to scrutinize her clothes and the dressing of her hair, being determined to copy them on the morrow, provided they could find materials so fine, and tailors so clever.
The king's son placed her in the seat of honour, and at once begged the privilege of being her partner in a dance. Such was the grace with which she danced that the admiration of all was increased.
A magnificent supper was served, but the young prince could eat nothing, so taken up was he with watching her. She went and sat beside her sisters, and bestowed numberless attentions on them. She made them share with her the oranges and lemons which the king had given her - greatly to their astonishment, for they did not recognize her.
While they were talking, Cinderella heard the clock strike a quarter to twelve. She at once made a profound curtsey to the company, and departed a s quickly as she could.
As soon as she was home again she sought her godmother, and having thanked her, declared that she wished to go upon the morrow once more to the ball, because the king's son had invited her.
While she was busy telling her godmother all that had happened at the ball, her tow sisters knocked at the door. Cinderella let them in.
"What a long time you have been in coming!" she declared, rubbing her eyes and stretching herself as if she had only just awakened. In real truth she had not for a moment wished to sleep since they had left.
"If you had been to the ball," said one of the sisters, "you would not be feeling weary. There came a most beautiful princess, the most beautiful that has ever been seen, and she bestowed numberless attentions upon us, and gave us her oranges and lemons.
Cinderella was overjoyed. She asked them the name of the princess, but they replied that no one knew it, and that the king's son was so distressed that he would give anything in the world to know who she was.
Cinderella smiled, and said that she must have been beautiful indeed.
"Oh, how lucky you are. Could I not manage to see her? Oh, please, Javotte, lend me the yellow dress which you wear everyday."
"Indeed!" said Javotte, "that is a fine idea. Lend my dress to a grubby cinder-clod like you - you must think me mad!"
Cinderella had expected this refusal. She was in no way upset for she would have been greatly embarrassed had her sister been willing to lend her the dress.
The next day the two sisters went to the ball, and so did Cinderella, even more splendidly attired than the first time.
The king's son was always at her elbow, and paid her endless compliments. The young girl enjoyed herself so much that she forgot her godmother's bidding completely, and when the first stroke of midnight fell upon her ears, she thought it was no more than eleven o'clock.
She rose and fled nimbly as a fawn. The prince followed her, but could not catch her. She let fall one of her glass slippers, however, and this the prince picked up with tender care.
When Cinderella reached home she was out of breath, without coach, without lackeys, and in her shabby clothes. Nothing remained of all her splendid clothes save one of the little slippers, the fellow to the one which she had let fall.
Inquiries were made of the palace doorkeepers, as to whether they had seen a princess go out, but they declared they had seen no one leave except a young girl, very ill clad, who looked more like a peasant than a young lady.
When her two sisters returned from the ball, Cinderella asked them if they had again enjoyed themselves, and if the beautiful lady had been there. They told her that she was present, but fled away when midnight sounded, and in such a haste that she had let fall one of her little glass slippers, the prettiest thing in the whole world. They added that the king's son, who picked it up, had done nothing but gaze at it for the rest of the ball, from which it was plain that he was deeply in love with its beautiful owner.
They spoke the truth. A few days later, the king's son caused a proclaimation to be made by trumpeteers, that he would take for wife the owner of the foot which the slipper would fit.
They tried it first on the princesses, then on the duchesses and whole of the Court, but in vain. Presently, they brought it to the home of the two sisters, who did all they could to squeeze a foot into the slipper. This, however, they could not manage.
Cinderella was looking on and recognized her slipper:
"Let me see," she cried, laughingly, "if it will not fit me."
Her sisters burst out laughing, and began to gibe at her, but the equerry who was trying on the slipper looked closely at Cinderella. Observing that she was very beautiful he declared that the claim was a fair one, and that his orders were to try the slipper on every maiden. He bade Cinderella sit down, and on putting the slipper to her little foot he perceived that the latter slid in without trouble, and was molded to its shape like wax.
Great was the astonishment of the two sisters at this, and greater still when Cinderella drew from her pocket the other little slipper. This she likewise drew on.
At that very moment, her godmother appeared on the scene. She gave a tap wit her wand to Cinderella's clothes, and transformed them into a dress even more magnificent than her previous ones.
The two sisters recognized her for the beautiful person whom they had seen at the ball, and threw themselves at her feet, begging pardon for all the ill-treatment she had suffered at their hands.
Cinderella raised them, and declaring as she embraced them that she pardoned with all her heart, bade them to love her well in future.
She was taken to the palace of the young prince in all her new array. He found her more beautiful than ever, and was married to her a few days afterwards.
Cinderella was as good as she was beautiful. She set aside apartments in the palace for her two sisters, and married them the very same day to two gentlemen of high rank about the Court.
Beauty in a maid is an extraordinary treasure;
One never tires of admiring it.
But what we mean by graciousness
Is beyond price and still more precious.
It was this which her godmother gave Cinderella,
Teaching her to become a Queen.
(So the moral of this story goes.)
Lasses, this is a better gift than looks so fair
For winning over a heart successfully.
Graciousness is the true gift of the Fairies. Without it, one can do nothing;
With it, one can do all!
It is surely a great advantage
To have spirit and courage,
Good breeding and common sense,
And other qualities of this sort,
Which are the gifts of Heaven!
You will do well to own these;
But for success, they may well be in vain
If, as a final gift, one has not
The blessing of godfather or godmother.
Brief Biography of Charles Perrault
Compare this Story to other renditions
Cinderella - Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
When the Clock Strikes - Tanith Lee