Once there was a gentleman who had had the good fortune to marry his true match, but the bad fortune to lose her far too soon. He was, for a time, inconsolable. Their marriage had been a perfect one, their tempers and understanding as well-matched as the marks on their wrists, and he was convinced he would never find such happiness again. Still, when the heaviest of his sorrow had been cried away, he began to think seriously of marrying again. His beloved wife had left him a young daughter. A girl of such unparalleled goodness and sweetness of temper, which she took from her mother, that she was truly the best creature in the world. For her sake he remarried and he did chose a wife that shared her first name with his wife and with the inscription on his wrist. There, sadly, all comparison to his former companion ended. This lady was the proudest and most haughty woman that was ever seen. She had, by a former husband, two daughters of her own, who were, indeed, exactly like her in all things. These daughters she now added to the gentleman’s household and they were welcomed by his own daughter with all the affectionate wishes of a sister.
Alas, her goodness was but ill-rewarded. No sooner were the ceremonies of the wedding over but the stepmother began to show herself in her true colours. She could not bear the good qualities of this pretty girl, and the less because they made her own daughters appear the more odious. She employed her in the meanest work of the house. She scoured the dishes, tables, etcetera, and cleaned madam's chamber, and those of misses, her daughters. She slept in a sorry garret, on a wretched straw bed, while her sisters slept in fine rooms, with floors all inlaid, on beds of the very newest fashion, and where they had looking glasses so large that they could see themselves at their full length from head to foot.
The poor girl bore it all patiently, and dared not tell her father, who would have scolded her; for his wife governed him entirely. Out of love for his wife or respect for his soulmark, he was quite incapable of thinking ill of any woman who bore that all-important name. So when his daughter had done her work, she used to go to the chimney corner, and sit down there in the cinders and ashes, which caused her to be called Cinderwench. Only the younger sister, who was not so rude and uncivil as the older one, called her Cinderella. However, Cinderella, notwithstanding her coarse apparel, was a hundred times more beautiful than her sisters, although they were always dressed very richly.
It happened that the king's son gave a ball, and invited all persons of fashion to it. He had but just returned from a long journey abroad, from which he had expected to return with a bride. It was well-known among every inhabitant of the kingdom, that the crown prince had been burdened with a most unusual mark. His father the king had sent him abroad in hopes he would find his match there; but now he had returned, unsuccessful, and this ball was nominally to welcome him home, but everybody suspected it was a desperate attempt to now seek the prince’s match closer to home.
Our young misses were also invited, for they cut a very grand figure among those of quality. They were mightily delighted at this invitation, and wonderfully busy in selecting the gowns, petticoats, and hair dressing that would best become them. This was a new difficulty for Cinderella; for it was she who ironed her sister's linen and pleated their ruffles. They talked all day long of nothing but how they should be dressed.
"For my part," said the eldest, "I will wear my red velvet suit with French trimming."
"And I," said the youngest, "shall have my usual petticoat; but then, to make amends for that, I will put on my gold-flowered cloak, and my diamond stomacher, which is far from being the most ordinary one in the world."
Both of them bespoke a new set of matching golden bracelets to wear on both their left and right wrists. This was at that time considered as the most elegant method of covering ones soulmark; making it seem as if the bracelets were worn for finery only and not for modesty. They sent for the best hairdresser they could get to make up their headpieces and adjust their hairdos, and they had their red brushes and patches from Mademoiselle de la Poche.
They also consulted Cinderella in all these matters, for she had excellent ideas, and her advice was always good. Indeed, she even offered her services to fix their hair, which they very willingly accepted. As she was doing this, they said to her, "Cinderella, would you not like to go to the ball?"
"Alas!" said she, "you only jeer me; it is not for such as I am to go to such a place."
"You are quite right," they replied. "It would make the people laugh to see a Cinderwench at a ball."
Anyone but Cinderella would have fixed their hair awry, but she was very good, and dressed them perfectly well. They were so excited that they hadn't eaten a thing for almost two days. Then they broke more than a dozen laces trying to have themselves laced up tightly enough to give them a fine slender shape. They were continually in front of their looking glass, for they were determined to be the most beautiful ladies at the ball. This was not from any hope that either of them would marry the prince, whatever their mother might have silently schemed. The two sisters knew each other’s marks very well and were just as pleased with them being quite different to each other, as with the fact that neither of them could in any way refer to the prince. But both their wrists bore names not uncommon among the nobility and they were both of them convinced that if they were to find their matches, they must find them at this ball, were everyone of rank and fortune would be at once collected.
At last the happy day came. They went to court, and Cinderella followed them with her eyes as long as she could. When she lost sight of them, she started to cry.
Her godmother, who saw her all in tears, asked her what was the matter.
"I wish I could. I wish I could." She was not able to speak the rest, being interrupted by her tears and sobbing.
This godmother of hers, who was a fairy, said to her, "You wish that you could go to the ball; is it not so?"
"Yes," cried Cinderella, with a great sigh.
"Well," said her godmother, "be but a good girl, and I will contrive that you shall go." Then she took her into her chamber, and said to her, "Run into the garden, and bring me a pumpkin."
Cinderella went immediately to gather the finest she could get, and brought it to her godmother, not being able to imagine how this pumpkin could help her go to the ball. Her godmother scooped out all the inside of it, leaving nothing but the rind. Having done this, she struck the pumpkin with her wand, and it was instantly turned into a fine coach, gilded all over with gold.
She then went to look into her mousetrap, where she found six mice, all alive, and ordered Cinderella to lift up a little the trapdoor. She gave each mouse, as it went out, a little tap with her wand, and the mouse was that moment turned into a fine horse, which altogether made a very fine set of six horses of a beautiful mouse coloured dapple grey.
Being at a loss for a coachman, Cinderella said, "I will go and see if there is not a rat in the rat trap that we can turn into a coachman."
"You are right," replied her godmother, "Go and look."
Cinderella brought the trap to her, and in it there were three huge rats. The fairy chose the one which had the largest beard, touched him with her wand, and turned him into a fat, jolly coachman, who had the smartest whiskers that eyes ever beheld.
After that, she said to her, "Go again into the garden, and you will find six lizards behind the watering pot. Bring them to me."
She had no sooner done so but her godmother turned them into six footmen, who skipped up immediately behind the coach, with their liveries all bedaubed with gold and silver, and clung as close behind each other as if they had done nothing else their whole lives. The fairy then said to Cinderella, "Well, you see here an equipage fit to go to the ball with; are you not pleased with it?"
"Oh, yes," she cried; "but must I go in these nasty rags?"
Her godmother then touched her with her wand, and, at the same instant, her clothes turned into cloth of gold and silver, all beset with jewels. Now there was only one thing left to do, for Cinderella’s left wrist was covered only by a plain handkerchief, tied round it with a double knot. Her godmother bid her to take it off and handed her a pair of fine, crystal bracelets, the prettiest Cinderella had ever seen. They shimmered on her wrists, catching every spark of light and though the left one covered her soulmark completely the clear crystal could make one think that, if one looked close enough, the letters might be legible. It was so bold a choice only a woman sure of her virtue and unpretending in her wishes could possibly wear it.
Being thus decked out, she got up into her coach; but her godmother, above all things, commanded her not to stay past midnight, telling her, at the same time, that if she stayed one moment longer, the coach would be a pumpkin again, her horses mice, her coachman a rat, her footmen lizards, and that her clothes would become just as they were before.
She promised her godmother to leave the ball before midnight; and then drove away, scarcely able to contain herself for joy. The king's son, who was told that a great princess, whom nobody knew, had arrived, ran out to receive her. This made all the courtiers whisper that the prince surely must have a foreign name on his wrist, for who could this unknown lady be but the daughter of some far off king?
The prince, however, did not ask her name. He gave her his hand as she alighted from the coach, and led her into the hall, among all the company. There was immediately a profound silence. Everyone stopped dancing, and the violins ceased to play, so entranced was everyone with the singular beauties of the unknown newcomer.
Nothing was then heard but a confused noise of, "How beautiful she is! How beautiful she is!"
The king himself, old as he was, could not help watching her, and telling the queen softly that it was a long time since he had seen so beautiful and lovely a creature.
All the ladies were busied in considering her clothes and headdress, hoping to have some made next day after the same pattern, provided they could find such fine materials and as able hands to make them. And all of them decided that very moment that they would wear nothing but crystal bracelets from then on.
The king's son led her to the most honourable seat, and afterwards took her out to dance with him. She danced so very gracefully that they all more and more admired her. A fine meal was served up, but the young prince ate not a morsel, so intently was he busied in gazing on her. Never before had he met a woman with whom he felt so at ease, so like himself and so capable of being what he wished to be.
She went and sat down by her sisters, showing them a thousand civilities, giving them part of the oranges and citrons which the prince had presented her with, which very much surprised them, for they did not know her. While Cinderella was thus amusing her sisters, she heard the clock strike eleven and three-quarters, whereupon she immediately made a courtesy to the company and hurried away as fast as she could.
Arriving home, she ran to seek out her godmother, and, after having thanked her, she said she could not but heartily wish she might go to the ball the next day as well, because the king's son had invited her.
As she was eagerly telling her godmother everything that had happened at the ball, her two sisters knocked at the door, which Cinderella ran and opened.
"You stayed such a long time!" she cried, gaping, rubbing her eyes and stretching herself as if she had been sleeping; she had not, however, had any manner of inclination to sleep while they were away from home.
"If you had been at the ball," said one of her sisters, "you would not have been tired with it. The finest princess was there, the most beautiful that mortal eyes have ever seen. She showed us a thousand civilities, and gave us oranges and citrons."
Cinderella seemed very indifferent in the matter. Indeed, she asked them the name of that princess; but they told her they did not know it, and that the king's son was very uneasy on her account and would give all the world to know who she was. At this Cinderella, smiling, replied, "She must, then, be very beautiful indeed; how happy you have been! Could not I see her? Ah, dear Charlotte, do lend me your yellow dress which you wear every day."
"Yes, to be sure!" cried Charlotte; "lend my clothes to such a dirty Cinderwench as you are! I should be such a fool."
Cinderella, indeed, well expected such an answer, and was very glad of the refusal; for she would have been sadly put to it, if her sister had lent her what she asked for jestingly.
The next day the two sisters were at the ball, and so was Cinderella, but dressed even more magnificently than before. The king's son was always by her, and never ceased his compliments and kind speeches to her. All this was so far from being tiresome to her, and, indeed, she quite forgot what her godmother had told her. She thought that it was no later than eleven when she counted the clock striking twelve. She jumped up and fled, as nimble as a deer. The prince followed, but could not overtake her. He called out to her, begging her to stop, but Cinderella knew she mustn’t so she did not. Her heart could not bear to hear him call out with such sorrow, though, and she allowed herself at least this parting: a lively flutter off her hand. Had she waved with her right, all might have been well, but she did wave with her left hand. To Cinderella’s horror the crystal bracelet guarding her soulmark suddenly unclasped and flew up into the air, sparkling like a string of stars. Startled beyond belief Cinderella fled, covering her left wrist with her right hand, and leaving the prince to carefully pick up the precious piece of jewellery.
She reached home, but quite out of breath, and in her nasty old clothes, having nothing left of all her finery but one of the crystal bracelets, the mate to the one that she had lost.
The guards at the palace gate were asked if they had not seen a princess go out. They replied that they had seen nobody leave but a young girl, very shabbily dressed, and who had more the air of a poor country wench than a gentlewoman.
When the two sisters returned from the ball Cinderella asked them if they had been well entertained, and if the fine lady had been there.
They told her, yes, but that she hurried away immediately when it struck twelve, and with so much haste that she dropped one of beautiful crystal bracelets, the prettiest in the world, which the king's son had picked up; that he had done nothing but look at her all the time at the ball, and that most certainly he was very much in love with the beautiful person who owned the crystal bracelet.
What they said was very true; for a few days later, the king's son had it proclaimed, by sound of trumpet, that he would marry her whose wrist this bracelet would just fit. So convinced he was that this lady was his soulmate, that he was willing to marry her at once if she could be found and if she would have him. They began to try it on the princesses, then the duchesses and all the court, but in vain. Not every lady was willing to try the bracelet on, but those that did, did so unsuccessfully. It was brought to the two sisters, whose mother made it very clear that they were not to let their soulmarks stand in the way of the possibility to become the wife of the crown prince. Dutifully they did all they possibly could to force the bracelet to close round their wrist, but they did not succeed.
Cinderella, who saw all this, and knew that it was her bracelet, said to them, laughing, "Let me see if it will not fit me."
Her sisters burst out laughing, and began to banter with her. The gentleman who was sent to try the bracelet looked earnestly at Cinderella, and, finding her very handsome, said that it was only just that she should try as well, and that he had orders to let everyone try.
Cinderella turned around, unbinding the handkerchief from her left wrist and holding out her right hand to receive the bracelet. The gentleman put it in her hand and Cinderella bent forward, with her back to her stepmother and stepsisters. There was a most astonished silence, until they heard the sound of the clasp closing.
Smilingly Cinderella turned around and stretched out her left hand for the gentleman to inspect. On her wrist the crystal bracelet shone, enclosing her slender wrist perfectly. Her two sisters were greatly astonished, but then even more so, when Cinderella pulled out of her pocket the other bracelet, and put it on her other wrist. Then in came her godmother and touched her wand to Cinderella's clothes, making them richer and more magnificent than any of those she had worn before.
And now her two sisters found her to be that fine, beautiful lady whom they had seen at the ball. They threw themselves at her feet to beg pardon for all the ill treatment they had made her undergo. Cinderella took them up, and, as she embraced them, said that she forgave them with all her heart, and wanted them always to love her.
She was taken to the young prince, dressed as she was. His happiness was scarcely to be described and he had her welcomed to the palace with all the dignity of a princess.
"I wish you had not gone through all this trouble," she blushed; "It is too much for a little Cinderella. "
No sooner had she uttered that name or the prince’s face lit up like the sun rising at daybreak. Nothing but their being surrounded by courtiers could have prevented him from baring his wrist for her right then. Cinderella then asked him, blushing like a rose, if there was not a peculiar nickname he had been given as a child, that was not at all like the name he legally bore. The prince immediately answered in the affirmative and upon pronouncing it, read in Cinderella’s face the proof of what he had wished for ever since first laying eyes on her.
It was but a few days later that they were married and bore their left wrists at the altar, to show to each other what they already knew: each other’s nicknames on each other’s wrists. There was no happiness greater than theirs and the whole kingdom joined in the celebration.
Cinderella, who was no less good than beautiful, gave her two sisters lodgings in the palace, and it did not take long at all, for them to be noticed by two great lords of the court, who took an immediate liking to their Christian names.
Moral: The mark on one’s wrist can be a guide to true felicity, but it can also be followed into unhappiness and ruin. All should beware of blindly following it, as well as of disregarding it in the name of ruthless ambition. Yet more important is it to know, that the lines on ones wrists, just as the beauty of ones face, is all merely outward appearance. They must and will be seen, but graciousness, is priceless and of even greater value. Young women, in the winning of a heart, graciousness is more important than a beautiful hairdo. It is a true gift of the fairies. Without it nothing is possible; with it, one can do anything.
Another moral: Without doubt it is a great advantage to have intelligence, courage, good breeding, and common sense. These, and similar talents come only from heaven, and it is good to have them. However, even these may fail to bring you success, without the blessing of a godfather or a godmother.