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There once was a girl called Ella whose mother had died. For a long time she lived alone with her father, but he was very unhappy and lonely, and he eventually decided to remarry. His new wife was also a widow and brought with her to the house her two daughters from her first marriage.
These two daughters took an instant dislike to their new sister. They shouted at Ella and bossed her around, making her do all the work and not treating her like a sister at all. Even when she'd finished her jobs, Ella wasn't invited to join the rest of the family. Instead she had to spend her evenings in the kitchen, getting dusty and dirty from raking the dying cinders in the fire to try and keep warm. The stepsisters used to mock her and call her 'Cinders Ella'. Eventually the name stuck and Ella became known as Cinderella.
But, despite her unhappy life, Cinderella didn't complain. After her mother died, her father's business had struggled and they had become very poor. His new wife had brought a large fortune to their marriage. Cinderella didn't want to make life difficult for her father, or cause him any more unhappiness. So she accepted the insults from her stepsisters and tackled the hard work without protest.
One day the stepsisters and their mother received an invitation to a ball at the palace. They were thrilled and so excited. Everyone knew that the prince had been instructed by his father, the king, to find a wife. Perhaps he would choose one of the ladies at the ball as his bride!
The two sisters immediately began to try to make themselves as beautiful as possible, in the hope of catching the prince's eye. They bought the most expensive dresses, the most elaborate jewellery and had their hair styled in the most exotic way. However, all of their efforts made very little difference as, unlike Cinderella, the stepsisters were not naturally beautiful!
The evening of the ball finally arrived and, as her stepsisters drove off in their carriage, Cinderella sat in the kitchen in her usual place next to the fire, quietly crying to herself.
"What's the matter, Cinderella?" a gentle voice asked.
Cinderella sobbed, "I wish I could go to the ball myself."
"And so you shall," the voice said.
Cinderella looked up, startled and a little bit afraid. A beautiful lady was standing beside her.
"Do not be afraid, sweet Cinderella," the beautiful lady said, "I am your fairy godmother, and I am here to see that your wish comes true."
Cinderella gasped with joy, amazed that someone could be so kind to her. The beautiful fairy godmother smiled again at Cinderella, and then became quiet business-like.
"Now, Cinderella, we have no time to waste if you are going to make it to the ball! Fetch me a pumpkin."
Cinderella looked puzzled, but did as she was told. The fairy godmother touched the pumpkin with her magic wand, and it suddenly turned into a wonderful golden coach.
"Now find me six mice…"
Cinderella fetched them as quickly as possible, and her fairy godmother touched them again with her magic wand, turning them into beautiful horses to pull the coach.
"Now fetch me a rat please…"
Upon Cinderella's return with a large brown rat, the fairy godmother used her magic wand to turn it into a coachman in a golden-braided uniform.
"And six lizards please…"
The fairy godmother turned them into splendidly dressed footmen to run behind the coach.
When the magic had been completed, the fairy godmother turned to Cinderella with a smile. With one final touch of her magic wand, the rags Cinderella had been wearing became a dress so magnificent and beautiful that it took your breath away. In Cinderella's wonderful golden hair sparkled tiny jewels and on her feet glittered a pair of delicate glass slippers. Cinderella threw her arms around the fairy godmother and thanked her over and over again for the wonderful transformation.
"It is unnecessary to thank me, Cinderella," the fairy godmother said, "just make sure that you have a marvelous time at the ball."
"I will," said Cinderella happily, "oh, I will."
"I must give you one word of warning, though," the fairy godmother continued. "You must be home by midnight - for on the final stroke of twelve o'clock, your dress will turn back into rags, your coach to a pumpkin, your horses to mice and everything will be just as before. If you do not leave before the final stroke of midnight, everyone will see your transformation back into poor little Cinderella. Please remember what I say. Now, off you go and enjoy yourself."
That night Cinderella was the belle of the ball. Everyone wondered who she was. They all thought that maybe she was a princess from a faraway land. All of the ladies, including her two stepsisters, admired her beautiful dress and begged her for the name of her dressmaker. The gentlemen all wanted to kiss her hand and dance with her. Eventually the prince asked Cinderella to dance with him and, stunned by her beauty and gentle nature, he fell in love with her at first sight. No one else was able to dance with Cinderella - or the prince - after that. The minutes whirled away and Cinderella had the most wonderful evening of her life.
Suddenly the clock began to strike twelve and Cinderella remembered the words of her fairy godmother. She was terrified that the prince and all the people at the ball would see her become poor, raggedy Cinderella again. So, without even a final goodbye, she picked up her dress and ran as fast as she could out of the palace and away from the ball.
"Come back!" the prince called, but Cinderella carried on running, tripping on the palace steps in her haste to be away and losing one of her delicate glass slippers as she did so. With no time to stop and pick it up, she left it where it lay and continued running home. By the time she reached the street, her dress was rags again. That night, back in her usual place by the fire in the kitchen, Cinderella cried herself to sleep. She knew that life would never be so wonderful again.
But that wasn't true.
As he ran after her, the prince found Cinderella's slipper on the palace steps. He knew that the delicate glass shoe belonged to the woman he wanted to marry. So the next morning, the prince went all around the town from house to house, asking every lady to try the slipper on.
"If I don't find the beautiful stranger who wore it last night, I shall be unhappy forever and will never marry at all," he said.
The slipper did not fit any of the feet offered to the prince. He was beginning to resign himself to a life alone when, at last, he reached Cinderella's house. The two stepsisters were eager to prove to the prince that they were his intended bride! They pushed and pulled and squeezed and tried to make the glass slipper fit. But it was no use, their feet were just too big and too wide.
Broken-hearted, for this was the last house left for him to try, the prince was about to leave when he noticed what he thought was a poor servant girl, dusty and dirty from raking the fire cinders.
"Madam," he said gallantly, but without much hope, "why don't you try the slipper on too?"
"Her? Don't be silly!" the stepsisters cried together. "She didn't go to the ball, she was at home in her rightful place by the kitchen fire!"
But the prince insisted. He could see, underneath the dirt, how beautiful Cinderella was.
The stepsisters held their breath as the prince placed the slipper on Cinderella's foot and, of course, it fitted her perfectly. Spitting with rage and jealousy, the two sisters could only look on as, realizing with joy that he had found his beautiful stranger again, the prince knelt and asked Cinderella to marry him.
And Cinderella happily said yes!
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