Once upon a time, there was a beautiful girl named Cinderella, who lived with her two stepsisters and stepmother. The stepmother didn't like Cinderella and frequently nagged and scolded her. She made Cinderella do all of the housework.

She had to do all the laundry, all the dishes, and all the cleaning and scrubbing and mending and washing. Despite all this hard work, and the ragged dress she was forced to wear, Cinderella remained kind and optimistic.

One day, it was announced that the king had decided to give a ball in honor of his son, the prince. Invitations were sent out to all the young, unmarried girls in the kingdom. Cinderella and her two stepsisters were invited.

Immediately, the stepmother began purchasing fancy gowns for her daughters, hoping the prince would fall in love with one of them.

Cinderella, of course, was put to work altering the gowns, taking up the hems, and letting out the waists (for her stepsisters were a bit plump).

“Oh, Cinderella,” teased the older stepsister, “wouldn't you like to come to the ball?”

Cinderella turned away so her stepsisters wouldn't see the tears in her eyes.

Both stepsisters looked at each other and laughed merrily at the thought of their dirty servant stepsister standing in rags at the ball.

At last the stepsisters were ready, and their carriage pulled up before the front door. Cinderella waved and watched the carriage roll down the street until it was completely out of sight. Then the poor girl burst into tears.

“Why are you crying, child?” said a voice.

Cinderella looked down and saw a tiny, sparkling woman no larger than a teacup standing on the table. “Who are you?” the teary-eyed girl asked.

“I am your Fairy Godmother,” said the little woman. “Why are you so sad?”

But Cinderella was too sad to respond.

“You wish you could go to the ball?” The Fairy Godmother finally asked.

“Yes,” wept Cinderella. “But I am too poor and ugly, everyone would laugh.”

“Nonsense,” laughed the fairy. “You are beautiful and kind and have all you need. I'll just give you a little help.”

“Okay,” Cinderella said.

“First, we'll need a pumpkin,” said the little fairy.

Cinderella brought a pumpkin in from the garden, and the Fairy Godmother gently touched it with her wand. Instantly the pumpkin was transformed into a jeweled coach.

Next, her wand transformed mice into prancing horses to draw the carriage. Some frogs became footmen, and two rats became the coachman and the coach driver.

“Now,” said the Fairy Godmother, “you have your carriage. We must see to your gown.” She touched Cinderella with her wand. Instantly the ragged dress became a stunning white gown of silk, with beads and pearls and diamonds glittering everywhere. On her feet were a pair of glass slippers, the most beautiful shoes Cinderella had ever seen.

“Now, go to the ball,” said the Fairy Godmother. “But be sure to leave before midnight. At the last stroke of midnight, the coach will be a pumpkin again, the horses will become mice, the coachmen rats, and the footmen will be frogs. And,” she added, “your gown will turn back into rags.”

When Cinderella arrived to the ball, the prince hurried to greet her. He gave her his hand and led her into the great hall.

When the two made their entrance, the crowd fell silent. So beautiful a pair was the prince and the strange girl that no one could say a word.

Then, Cinderella and the prince began to waltz.

“What a fine dancer she is,” said the stepmother, not recognizing the young girl.

“Her dress is better than mine,” sulked the older stepsister.

“Her shoes are nicer than mine,” hissed the younger one.

“Quiet, you two,” snarled the stepmother.

The hours passed like minutes. Cinderella danced and talked with the prince. Then the clock sounded the hour of twelve. Terrified that she might be discovered, she had time only to kiss the prince softly on the cheek. She rushed down the steps, hopped into her coach, and was gone.

Cinderella ran away so quickly that she didn't even realize one of her slippers had fallen off. It was picked up by the prince who had turned to follow the girl whose name he hadn't even learned.

Just as they were out of sight of the palace, the coach and horses and coachmen and footmen changed back into a pumpkin and rats and mice and frogs.

Next day, a proclamation was issued that the prince himself would be visiting every house in the town to find the owner of the missing glass slipper.

The prince tried the slipper on all the other princesses and duchesses in the court, but none of their feet could fit into it. He then began going to the houses of everyone in the kingdom.

The two stepsisters knew that he would arrive soon. They fluttered and twittered about until the stepmother shouted for them to calm down.

The doorbell rang. “Open the door for the prince.”

“Welcome,Your Highness,” giggled the first stepsister.

The prince frowned, but he asked the two girls to remove their shoes.

The stepsisters tried to make the shoe fit. They shoved and pried and pushed and squeezed and shoved again, but the slipper would not fit.

At last, Cinderella peeked around the corner. “May I try?” she asked meekly.

“You?” scoffed the stepmother.

“That's just the cleaning girl,” said the older stepsister.

“Let her try,” said the prince.

Cinderella sat down in the chair, and the prince lifted the slipper to her foot. It fit beautifully.

“Are you my Princess?” the prince asked.

“I am,” Cinderella said happily.

“She can't be!” cried the stepmother.

“Impossible!” shouted the two stepsisters.

From her pocket, Cinderella pulled the other glass slipper and put it on.

The prince took Cinderella's hand and led her off to the palace, where they were married in splendor and lived happily ever after.

The stepsisters and stepmother still live together in a rather unkempt home.

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