Poor, pretty little thing she was,
The sweetest-faced of girls,
With eyes as blue as larkspurs,
And a mass of tossing curls;
But her step-mother had for her
Only blows and bitter words,
While she thought her own two ugly crows,
The whitest of all birds.
She was the little household drudge,
And wore a cotton gown,
While the sisters, clad in silk and satin,
Flaunted through the town.
When her work was done, her only place
Was the chimney-corner bench.
For which one called her “Cinderella,”
The other, “Cinder-wench.”
But years went on, and Cinderella
Bloomed like a wild-wood rose,
In spite of all her kitchen-work,
And her common, dingy clothes;
While the two step-sisters, year by year,
Grew scrawnier and plainer;
Two peacocks, with their tails outspread,
Were never any vainer.
One day they got a note, a pink,
Sweet-scented, crested one,
Which was an invitation
To a ball, from the king’s son.
Oh, then poor Cinderella
Had to starch, and iron, and plait,
And run of errands, frill and crimp,
And ruffle, early and late.
And when the ball-night came at last,
She helped to paint their faces,
To lace their satin shoes, and deck
Them up with flowers and laces;
Then watched their coach roll grandly
Out of sight; and, after that,
She sat down by the chimney,
In the cinders, with the cat,
And sobbed as if her heart would break.
Hot tears were on her lashes,
Her little hands got black with soot,
Her feet begrimed with ashes,
When right before her, on the hearth,
She knew not how nor why,
A little odd old woman stood,
And said, “Why do you cry?”
“It is so very lonely here,”
Poor Cinderella said,
And sobbed again. The little odd
Old woman bobbed her head,
And laughed a merry kind of laugh,
And whispered, “Is that all?
Wouldn’t my little Cinderella
Like to go to the ball?”
“Run to the garden, then, and fetch
A pumpkin, large and nice;
Go to the pantry shelf, and from
The mouse-traps get the mice;
Rats you will find in the rat-trap;
And, from the watering-pot,
Or from under the big, flat garden stone,
Six lizards must be got.”
Nimble as crickets in the grass
She ran, till it was done,
And then God-mother stretched her wand
And touched them every one.
The pumpkin changed into a coach,
Which glittered as it rolled,
And the mice became six horses,
With harnesses of gold.
One rat a herald was, to blow
A trumpet in advance,
And the first blast that he sounded
Made the horses plunge and prance;
And the lizards were made footmen,
Because they were so spry;
And the old rat-coachman on the box
Wore jeweled livery.
And then on Cinderella’s dress
The magic wand was laid,
And straight the dingy gown became
A glistening gold brocade.
The gems that shone upon her fingers
Nothing could surpass;
And on her dainty little feet
Were slippers made of glass.
“Be sure you get back here, my dear,
At twelve o’clock at night,”
Godmother said, and in a twinkling
She was out of sight.
When Cinderella reached the ball,
And entered at the door,
So beautiful a lady
None had ever seen before.
The Prince his admiration showed
In every word and glance;
He led her out to supper,
And he chose her for the dance;
But she kept in mind the warning
That her Godmother had given,
And left the ball, with all its charm.
At just half after eleven.
Next night there was another ball;
She helped her sisters twain
To pinch their waists, and curl their hair,
And paint their cheeks again.
Then came the fairy Godmother,
And, with her wand, once more
Arrayed her out in greater splendor
Even than before.
The coach and six, with gay outriders,
Bore her through the street,
And a crowd was gathered round to look,
The lady was so sweet, -
So light of heart, and face, and mien,
As happy children are;
And when her foot stepped down,
Her slipper twinkled like a star.
Again the Prince chose only her
For waltz or tete-a-tete;
So swift the minutes flew she did not
Dream it could be late,
But all at once, remembering
What her Godmother had said,
And hearing twelve begin to strike
Upon the clock, she fled.
Swift as a swallow on the wing
She darted, but, alas!
Dropped from one flying foot the tiny
Slipper made of glass;
But she got away, and well it was
She did, for in a trice
Her coach changed to a pumpkin,
And her horses became mice;
And back into the cinder dress
Was changed the gold brocade!
The prince secured the slipper,
And this proclamation made:
That the country should be searched,
And any lady, far or wide,
Who could get the slipper on her foot,
Should straightway be his bride.
So every lady tried it,
With her “Mys!” and “Ahs!” and “Ohs!”
And Cinderella’s sisters pared
Their heels, and pared their toes, -
But all in vain! Nobody’s foot
Was small enough for it,
Till Cinderella tried it,
And it was a perfect fit.
Then the royal heralds hardly
Knew what it was best to do,
When from out her tattered pocket
Forth she drew the other shoe,
While the eyelids on the larkspur eyes
Dropped down a snowy vail,
And the sisters turned from pale to red,
And then from red to pale,
And in hateful anger cried, and stormed,
And scolded, and all that,
And a courtier, without thinking,
Tittered out behind his hat.
For here was all the evidence
The Prince had asked, complete,
Two little slippers made of glass,
Fitting two little feet.
So the Prince, with all his retinue,
Came there to claim his wife;
And he promised he would love her
With devotion all his life.
At the marriage there was splendid
Music, dancing, wedding cake;
And he kept the slipper as a treasure
Ever, for her sake.
by Clara Doty Bates (1838 - 1895)