|Illustrated by Arthur Rackham|
Once upon a time, "there was a nobleman who was married to a sweet and beautiful lady. They had one child, a little girl named Ella, and they lived in a big house in the country." Ella had a wonderful big nursery room for all of her toys and books, and a glorious garden to romp about it. When the weather was fine, she hunted beetles and worms and gathered flowers. When she wanted company, there was always her mother. The two of them lay in the grass, Ella watching the clouds go by as her mother told her stories. Her life continued in this delightful way, until one day, her mother did not get out of bed. She had taken a fever, and lay shivering beneath the comforter. The doctors came, looking grim and leaving their bitter powders for her mother. "And then, one morning when Ella came downstairs, she found her father sitting in the big arm-chair with his head buried in his hands. He did not say anything to her for a long time, and then he came over and put his hand upon her head and stroked her hair. 'We are all alone now, dear,' he said. And Ella knew, without any more telling, that her mother was dead." The day passed as though she were in a terrible dream, from which she could not wake up. And that night, "a strange thing happened; for as Ella stood there, with the tears which she could not restrain rolling down her cheeks, she thought she saw the figure of an old woman among the bushes on the edge of the lawn." Through the dim light, Ella thought that she looked like she was "dressed in a long black cloak and a queer, pointed hat, and to be leaning on a stick." Then the clouds shifted, and the sky darkened, and the woman could be seen no more. The death of Ella's mother brought another unexpected change: her father announced that she would be sent to boarding school. Ella had always done her lessons at home and begged to continue this pattern, but her father was firm. Besides, he told her gently, it was her mother who had given her the lessons, and she was not there to do it anymore. And so Ella packed her trunk, and her father drove her to the train station, and she went to school. It was not so very bad as she had feared. She spent two years there and learned to dance wonderfully, as well as to embroider, to speak French, and to act with the manners of a young lady. The time until her father returned for her seemed to fly by. And there he was again, at the train station, and the two of them set out for home. But soon her father cleared his throat. He told Ella now that "There has been a change while you have been away. Somebody has come to live with us while you have been away — somebody who will, I hope, take a mother's place to you. A lady has — ahem— done me the honour to accept my hand. That is to say, child, I am married again, and my wife has two daughters who will also live with us for the future. You must try to like them for my sake." He went on to say that the daughters were grown, and that they did not seem to be the type who enjoy playing games. He further admitted that, since they were prone to long sessions of bickering with their mother, he himself spent little time at home anymore. When Ella got home, the first thing she did was run up to her room. And then she stopped in her tracks, because someone else had moved into it. She saw "A queerly shaped, flat table, with a sort of well in it, and in the well were little pots of white powder and some soft stuff that looked like cream, and sticks of red paint. There was also a small porcelain box containing little patches cut out of black plaster, which Ella knew ladies stuck on their cheeks when they were going out visiting or to a ball. Besides these, there was a hare's foot for dabbing powder on," and an assortment of brushes and combs. As Ella soon found out, her room had been taken over by MIss Euphronia, her elder stepsister. The nursery where her toys and books had been, and where she had spent so many delightful hours with her mother, was now occupied by her younger stepsister, Miss Charlotte. This was not the only change in the household. Within a month, Ella had been assigned the lion's share of the household chores and dear old Belinda, the cook, had been let go. Ella's father travelled most of the time. When he was home. he stayed alone in his library. Before she knew it, Euphronia and Charlotte had taken her mother's clothes and sold hers! Ella was left in rags before a year was out. One day, when Euphronia and Charlotte were sniping with each other, and in a particularly nasty mood, Euphronia turned to Ella. She was busy sweeping the cinders out of the fireplace, her stepsister said to her, " I have found a new name for you. In future I shall call you Cinderslut because of your nasty habit of sitting among the cinders. Come, Cinderslut, and hold this skein of wool for me." Now Charlotte, "who was never quite so unkind to her as the other, said,'No,no, sister, let us call her Cinder-Ella, that sounds much better. And Cinderella it was from that time forward." The years passed, and Cinderella was now sixteen years old. It happened one day that an invitation came from the King. The Prince had reached the age of twenty-one, and there was to be a series of balls in his honor. Euphronia and Charlotte were invited; so too should Ella have been. Instead, she was put to work preparing her selfish sisters. "I think I shall wear my red velvet gown with with the English point lace trimmings,' said Eurphronia. 'That is so dignified and stately, and it suits me so admirably." Charlotte announced that she would wear her "purple petticoat and my green cloak that is brocaded in gold. Purple, you know is the royal color, and it is therefore most appropriate for a royal ball." And so these young ladies attired themselves, and Cinderella dressed their hair. At last, the night of the first ball was here, and Ella's stepsisters and stepmother clambered into their carriage, and were off. Cinderella flopped down by the hearth, miserable and feeling left behind. That's when she heard a sound. "Who are you?' asked Cinderella in a quavering voice. 'Don't be afraid,' said the woman. ' I have not come to do you any harm. You have seen me before, once upon a time,when you were even more unhappy than you are tonight. Look at me well, and see if you do not remember.' The strange old woman stepped into the the light. She was very, very old; so old that her face was a maze of lines, like a wrinkled apple. She was dressed in a very full red petticoat and a black-laced bodice, and on her head was a queerly shaped hat, with a high pointed crown and a wide rim." When she smiled, it was as though a "ray of sunshine lit up the shadows of [that] gloomy place". And Cinderella remembered seeing this ancient on the night her mother had died. Now the woman explained that she was Cinderella's godmother, and that she knew "all that [Ella] has endured through the malice of [her] stepmother and stepsisters" and that she kept watch over the girl every night, as she slept in the garret. Now Cinderella explained why she had been crying tonight, and her godmother, who was really a fairy, said, "Well, if you will be a good girl and do what I tell you, and don't ask any questions, you shall go. Have you a pumpkin bed in the garden?" Cinderella said that they did, so she went a picked a large one. Then she "brought a knife, with which her godmother cut off the top of the pumpkin and scooped out the pulp until there was nothing left but the rind. This she took outside into the courtyard and touched it with her stick, when the pumpkin immediately changed into a most magnificent coach, all glass above and and gilded panels below!" Next the old woman asked for "a mouse or two", and when Cinderella found six of them in the trap, they were turned into a fine team. Six lizards soon became footmen: Cinderella watched in fascination as their feet stretched forward, they stood upright on their skinny legs, and their tails stretched into gray woolen jackets. But what about Ella's rags? "Bless my soul! I forgot all about the dress!' cried the old woman." In a twinkling the rags became a dress "of white silk, embroidered with butterflies and flowers of a delicate blue. On her feet were a pair of glass shoes, the prettiest that ever were seen." One word of warning did the fairy give the girl: if she was not home by midnight, pumpkin, mice, rat, lizard, dress and shoes would all revert to their true states. The promise was made, and Cinderella stepped into the coach and was transported to the palace. Arriving at the ball in her gilded carriage made quite a stir. All eyes were upon her, even those of the king. "The great hall was lit by a thousand candles set in chandeliers of cut glass that shimmered and sparkled with all the hues of the rainbow." The prince asked her to dance immediately, and she accepted, of course. She spotted her stepmother and sisters, but they did not see her. Because she could see that her sisters had no one to dance with, though they had tried so hard to appear beautiful, Ella asked the prince if he couldn't find them partners. So he knew her as not only a lovely girl, but a kind one as well. All too soon the clock began to strike. Cinderella "rose immediately, and making a deep curtsy of farewell" said a quick goodbye. She only just made it home before her sisters. Quickly, she thanked her godmother, and asked if she might go again the following night. The fairy gave her permission, and returned the followig evening. The second night of the ball, Cinderella found that the prince was anxiously awaiting her arrival. "All the evening, he never left her side, and he whispered a thousand tender things to her as they sat beneath the palms on the terrace." Though he called her "the lady of my heart" and begged to know her name, she would not reveal it. "Suddenly, the was horrified to hear the big clock on the tower strike the first note of twelve." This time she had not even time for a goodbye, she simply ran. She was racing across the palace lawn when she heard the final bell peal. It was midnight, and she was once more among her rags. Again she slipped into the kitchen moments before her sisters. Oh, those two were full of gossip of the evening! How the prince had danced with the mysterious princess, and how that lady had fled, leaving a shoe behind. The prince was in love with her, claimed Euphonia, and soon would undertake a search to discover who she really was. The very next day, the prince directed that every lady should come to court and try on the slipper that the girl had left behind. "First of all came the princesses, and then the duchesses, and the contesses, and so on, to the plain gentlewomen" and finally, even the servants. But the slipper did not fit anyone. Now the prince sent out a proclamation decreeing that every single female, of high born or low born status, must come and try on the shoe. Of course Euphonia and Charlotte were mad with the frenzy of it all. But when the elder "stretched out her long and bony foot", it was clear that she could not insert it into the shoe. And Charlotte tried "again and again, until it was evident that she could never succeed in getting the slipper on, even if she tried for years." So the servant asked their mother if there were not any other young ladies in the house? The young girl who opened the door? Who was she, and why had she not been given a chance? "What, do you mean Cinderslut?" asked the elder girl, and "This is really infamous!" declared the younger. But the servant insisted, and so Cinderella was brought. "Even in her ragged working dress she looked so lovely that the courtier opened his eyes" and at the "very first trial, the slipper glided on to Cinderella's dainty foot with the greatest ease." Now Cinderella "calmly took the other shoe from her pocket and put it on the other foot. These were the pair of them, gleaming and flashing so that her feet seemed shod with light.' And just as her two stepsisters began to mutter and complain of Cinderella's deceitfulness, someone else was suddenly in the room. It was the fairy and "she lifted her stick and touched the girl lightly on her shoulder." Cinderella's "rags dropped away, and she appeared dressed in the beautiful gown of white silk in which she had first gone to the ball. Now the fairy "spoke, and her voice was very stern and hard. 'Proud and cruel girls,' she said,'look upon the sister whom you have despised and have used so spitefully. She is the daughter of the house, but you robbed her of all the joy that should have been hers. Now she shall be the greatest lady in the the land, and you shall creep to her for forgiveness.' And that is just what the stepsisters did, weeping and crying for pardon; but Cinderella, whose kind heart felt pity for their discomfiture, raised them with a kiss." A week later, the prince married Cinderella "with great pomp and ceremony. The rejoicings lasted a full week and all the town made holiday. And Cinderella and the prince lived very happily together for the rest of their lives."
Notes: This is another chapter length Cinderella. The black and white silhouettes are quite striking.
Montessori Connection: Language/Archaic English
1. Read the story and make a list of at least five word which you have never heard before. Example: brocade, illuminated,bodice, shod, hastening.
2. Try to figure out the rood of each word: example, hastening comes from the verb to hasten, and shod is the past tense of the verb "to shoe" as in to have shoes on or put on.
3. Learn more about these words or others from the story.