Once upon a time, there was a man, a widower, who took for his second wife a very proud woman.
This wife, a widow, had two daughters as proud as herself. Her husband had one daughter, who was gentle and good, as her own mother had been.
The new wife hated her young stepdaughter because her gentle ways and the sweetness of her temper, which was shown in her beautiful face, made the ill manners and frowning faces of her own daughters appear as disagreeable and ugly as they really were. So she set her to do all the meanest work of the house. The young girl swept, baked, and washed for the whole household. She wore only shabby clothes and slept in a bare garret.
Now it happened that the king's son made up his mind to give a ball, and to invite to it all the people of fashion in that countryside. There was to be dancing for two evenings, and the supper and entertainment were to be of a very splendid kind.
Cinderella's stepsisters were invited, and very proud and happy they were, as they talked of the smart dresses they would wear and the grand folk they would meet at the palace.
When the great day came, Cinderella was busy from morning till evening, helping her stepsisters to get ready for the ball. She laced their gowns, dressed their hair, arranged their feathers and jewels, and even put on their slippers.
As she did so, they teased her to amuse themselves.
At last the sisters were ready and, with their mother, they drove away to the palace.
When they were gone, Cinderella, left alone, sat down among the cinders and began to cry.
When Cinderella looked up, she saw standing before her an old lady in a red cloak and pointed hat, leaning upon a stick. Cinderella was so much startled that she left off crying. This was Cinderella's godmother, who was a fairy.
"I can guess what you wish," said the fairy godmother. "You wish to go to the ball at the palace."
"Yes, indeed I do, dear godmother," cried Cinderella.
"Run into the garden," said the godmother, "and fetch me the largest pumpkin you can find."
Away went Cinderella, and very soon she ran back again, hugging a big green-and-yellow pumpkin.
The fairy godmother scooped out the inside of the pumpkin, leaving nothing but the rind. Then she touched it with her stick, which was really a fairy wand, and at once the pumpkin became a fine coach, shining all over with gold and lined with green.
"Now fetch the mousetrap," said she.
Cinderella obeyed quickly. In the mousetrap were six mice. The fairy godmother opened the trap, and as each mouse ran out, she touched it with her wand, and it became a sleek and prancing horse.
"There are your coach and horses," said she. "Now for the coachman. Bring me the rattrap."
Cinderella brought the rattrap. There were three rats in it. The fairy godmother chose the finest of the three and touched it with her wand. At once the rat became a tall and handsomely dressed coachman. "Behind the watering pot are six green lizards," said the fairy godmother. "Bring them here.
Cinderella brought the six lizards, and at a touch of the wand, each one was turned into a smart footman in a green uniform. The coachman mounted the box, and the footman climbed to the back of the coach. "Now your carriage is ready," said the fairy godmother.
"But how can I go to the ball like this?" said Cinderella, looking down at her shabby frock.
"You shall soon be more beautiful than your coach," replied her godmother, tapping Cinderella lightly with her wand. Then Cinderella's old clothes were turned into robes of silk and velvet, glittering with jewels. And the fairy godmother gave her a little pair of shining glass slippers, the prettiest that ever were seen.
"Remember," said her godmother, "you must leave the ball before the clock strikes twelve. If you do not, your coach will again become a pumpkin, your horses will become mice, your coachman will turn into a rat, and your footmen into lizards, while you will find yourself once more in shabby clothes."
As she entered the ball, the musicians ceased playing and the dancers stopped dancing, while all gazed in surprise at the lovely unknown princess.
All the evening, the prince kept at Cinderella's side, dancing with her and serving her with dainty dishes at suppertime. Indeed, his mind was so taken up with her that he forgot to eat a morsel himself. While Cinderella was talking to her stepsisters, who did not know it was Cinderella, the clock chimed a quarter before twelve. Cinderella rose, and after curtsying to the company, left the palace and drove home in her coach. Then she thanked her godmother for the kindness which had given her so much happiness, and asked leave to go to the ball again on the next evening, when the prince had specially begged her to come. At this moment there was a knock at the door. The fairy godmother and the beautiful clothes vanished as suddenly as they had appeared, and Cinderella drew back the bolt and let her stepmother and stepsisters in.
As she helped them off with their gowns, Cinderella's stepsisters couldn't stop talking of the beautiful princess who had been at the ball.
On the next evening, the stepsisters again went to the palace. And Cinderella went, too, in her coach, even more beautifully dressed than before. The prince again kept close beside her and said so many kind things to her that Cinderella in her happiness, forgot how quickly the hours flew past.
She thought it not yet eleven when the clock struck twelve. Then she started in fright and fled from the ballroom as swiftly as a deer. The prince ran after her, but he did not catch her. All he could find of her was a little glass slipper lying upon the staircase.