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The Cinder-maid

from Europa's Fairy Book





Once upon a time, though it was not in my time or in your time, or in
anybody else's time, there was a great King who had an only son, the
Prince and Heir who was about to come of age. So the King sent round a
herald who should blow his trumpet at every four corners where two
roads met. And when the people came together he would call out, "O
yes, O yes, O yes, know ye that His Grace the King will give on Monday
sennight"--that meant seven nights or a week after--"a Royal Ball to
which all maidens of noble birth are hereby summoned; and be it
furthermore known unto you that at this ball his Highness the Prince
will select unto himself a lady that shall be his bride and our future
Queen. God save the King."

Now there was among the nobles of the King's Court one who had married
twice, and by the first marriage he had but one daughter, and as she
was growing up her father thought that she ought to have some one to
look after her. So he married again, a lady with two daughters, and
his new wife, instead of caring for his daughter, thought only of her
own and favoured them in every way. She would give them beautiful
dresses but none to her step-daughter who had only to wear the
cast-off clothes of the other two. The noble's daughter was set to do
all the drudgery of the house, to attend the kitchen fire, and had
naught to sleep on but the heap of cinders raked out in the scullery;
and that is why they called her Cinder-Maid. And no one took pity on
her and she would go and weep at her mother's grave where she had
planted a hazel tree, under which she sat.

You can imagine how excited they all were when they heard the King's
proclamation called out by the herald. "What shall we wear, mother;
what shall we wear?" cried out the two daughters, and they all began
talking about which dress should suit the one and what dress should
suit the other, but when the father suggested that Cinder-Maid should
also have a dress they all cried out: "What, Cinder-Maid going to the
King's Ball; why, look at her, she would only disgrace us all." And
so her father held his peace.

Now when the night came for the Royal Ball Cinder-Maid had to help the
two sisters to dress in their fine dresses and saw them drive off in
the carriage with her father and their mother. But she went to her own
mother's grave and sat beneath the hazel tree and wept and cried out:

"Tree o'mine, O tree o'me,
With my tears I've watered thee;
Make me a lady fair to see,
Dress me as splendid as can be."

And with that the little bird on the tree called out to her,

"Cinder-Maid, Cinder-Maid, shake the tree,
Open the first nut that you see."

So Cinder-Maid shook the tree and the first nut that fell she took up
and opened, and what do you think she saw?--a beautiful silk dress
blue as the heavens, all embroidered with stars, and two little lovely
shoon made of shining copper. And when she had dressed herself the
hazel tree opened and from it came a coach all made of copper with
four milk-white horses, with coachman and footmen all complete. And as
she drove away the little bird called out to her:

"Be home, be home ere mid-o'night
Or else again you'll be a fright."

When Cinder-Maid entered the ball-room she was the loveliest of all
the ladies and the Prince, who had been dancing with her step-sisters,
would only dance with her. But as it came towards midnight Cinder-Maid
remembered what the little bird had told her and slipped away to her
carriage. And when the Prince missed her he went to the guards at the
Palace door and told them to follow the carriage. But Cinder-Maid when
she saw this, called out:

"Mist behind and light before,
Guide me to my father's door."

And when the Prince's soldiers tried to follow her there came such a
mist that they couldn't see their hands before their faces. So they
couldn't find which way Cinder-Maid went.

When her father and step-mother and two sisters came home after the
ball they could talk of nothing but the lovely lady: "Ah, would not
you have liked to have been there?" said the sisters to Cinder-Maid as
she helped them to take off their fine dresses. "There was a most
lovely lady with a dress like the heavens and shoes of bright copper,
and the Prince would dance with none but her; and when midnight came
she disappeared and the Prince could not find her. He is going to give
a second ball in the hope that she will come again. Perhaps she will
not, and then we will have our chance."

When the time of the second Royal Ball came round the same thing
happened as before; the sisters teased Cinder-Maid saying, "Wouldn't
you like to come with us?" and drove off again as before. And
Cinder-Maid went again to the hazel tree over her mother's grave and
cried:

"Tree o'mine, O tree o'me,
Shiver and shake, dear little tree
Make me a lady fair to see,
Dress me as splendid as can be."

And then the little bird on the tree called out:

"Cinder-Maid, Cinder-Maid, shake the tree,
Open the first nut that you see."

But this time she found a dress all golden brown like the earth
embroidered with flowers, and her shoon were made of silver; and when
the carriage came from the tree, lo and behold, that was made of
silver too, drawn by black horses with trappings all of silver, and
the lace on the coachman's and footmen's liveries was also of silver;
and when Cinder-Maid went to the ball the Prince would dance with none
but her; and when midnight came round she fled as before. But the
Prince, hoping to prevent her running away, had ordered the soldiers
at the foot of the stair-case to pour out honey on the stairs so that
her shoes would stick in it. But Cinder-Maid leaped from stair to
stair and got away just in time, calling out as the soldiers tried to
follow her:

"Mist behind and light before,
Guide me to my father's door."



And when her sisters got home they told her once more of the beautiful
lady that had come in a silver coach and silver shoon and in a dress
all embroidered with flowers: "Ah, wouldn't you have liked to have
been there?" said they.

Once again the Prince gave a great ball in the hope that his unknown
beauty would come to it. All happened as before; as soon as the
sisters had gone Cinder-Maid went to the hazel tree over her mother's
grave and called out:

"Tree o'mine, O tree o'me
Shiver and quiver, dear little tree;
Make me a lady fair to see,
Dress me as splendid as can be."

And then the little bird appeared and said:

"Cinder-Maid, Cinder-Maid, shake the tree
Open the first nut that you see."

And when she opened the nut in it was a dress of silk green as the sea
with waves upon it, and her shoes this time were made of gold; and
when the coach came out of the tree it was also made of gold, with
gold trappings for the horses and for the retainers. And as she drove
off the little bird from the tree called out:

"Be home, be home ere mid-o'night
Or else again you'll be a fright."

Now this time, when Cinder-Maid came to the ball, she was as desirous
to dance only with the Prince as he with her, and so, when midnight
came round, she had forgotten to leave till the clock began to strike,
one--two--three--four--five--six,--and then she began to run away down
the stairs as the clock struck, eight--nine--ten. But the Prince had
told his soldiers to put tar upon the lower steps of the stairs; and
as the clock struck eleven her shoes stuck in the tar, and when she
jumped to the foot of the stairs one of her golden shoes was left
behind, and just then the clock struck TWELVE, and the golden coach,
with its horses and footmen, disappeared, and the beautiful dress of
Cinder-Maid changed again into her ragged clothes and she had to run
home with only one golden shoe.

You can imagine how excited the sisters were when they came home and
told Cinder-Maid all about it, how that the beautiful lady had come in
a golden coach in a dress like the sea, with golden shoes, and how all
had disappeared at midnight except the golden shoe. "Ah, wouldn't you
have liked to have been there?" said they.

Now when the Prince found out that he could not keep his lady-love nor
trace where she had gone he spoke to his father and showed him the
golden shoe, and told him that he would never marry any one but the
maiden who could wear that shoe. So the King, his father, ordered the
herald to take round the golden shoe upon a velvet cushion and to go
to every four corners where two streets met and sound the trumpet and
call out: "O yes, O yes, O yes, be it known unto you all that
whatsoever lady of noble birth can fit this shoe upon her foot shall
become the bride of his Highness the Prince and our future Queen. God
save the King."



And when the herald came to the house of Cinder-Maid's father the
eldest of her two step-sisters tried on the golden shoe. But it was
much too small for her, as it was for every other lady that had tried
it up to that time; but she went up into her room and with a sharp
knife cut off one of her toes and part of her heel, and then fitted
her foot into the shoe, and when she came down she showed it to the
herald, who sent a message to the Palace saying that the lady had been
found who could wear the golden shoe. Thereupon the Prince jumped at
once upon his horse and rode to the house of Cinder-Maid's father. But
when he saw the step-sister with the golden shoe, "Ah," he said, "but
this is not the lady." "But," she said, "you promised to marry the one
that could wear the golden shoe." And the Prince could say nothing,
but offered to take her on his horse to his father's Palace, for in
those days ladies used to ride on a pillion at the back of the
gentleman riding on horseback. Now as they were riding towards the
Palace her foot began to drip with blood, and the little bird from the
hazel tree that had followed them called out:

"Turn and peep, turn and peep,
There's blood within the shoe;
A bit is cut from off the heel
And a bit from off the toe."

And the Prince looked down and saw the blood streaming from her shoe
and then he knew that this was not his true bride, and he rode back to
the house of Cinder-Maid's father; and then the second sister tried
her chance; but when she found that her foot wouldn't fit the shoe she
did the same as her sister, but all happened as before. The little
bird called out:

"Turn and peep, turn and peep,
There's blood within the shoe;
A bit is cut from off the heel
And a bit from off the toe."

And the Prince took her back to her mother's house, and then he asked,
"Have you no other daughter?" and the sisters cried out, "No, sir."
But the father said, "Yes, I have another daughter." And the sisters
cried out, "Cinder-Maid, Cinder-Maid, she could not wear that shoe."
But the Prince said, "As she is of noble birth she has a right to try
the shoe." So the herald went down to the kitchen and found
Cinder-Maid; and when she saw her golden shoe she took it from him and
put it on her foot, which it fitted exactly; and then she took the
other golden shoe from underneath the cinders where she had hidden it
and put that on too. Then the herald knew that she was the true bride
of his master; and he took her upstairs to where the Prince was; when
he saw her face, he knew that she was the lady of his love. So he
took her behind him upon his horse; and as they rode to the Palace,
the little bird from the hazel tree cried out:

"Some cut their heel, and some cut their toe,
But she sat by the fire who could wear the shoe."

And so they were married and lived happy ever afterwards.





Next: All Change

Previous: Climbing The Mountain



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