This is another story I’ve been working on sporadically for ages. Most of my stories are quite serious, although I do try to inject a note of humour from time to time. This time around I just decided to go completely overboard and get very, very silly. Some of the jokes are original, others are unashamedly stolen.
Since I first posted the story some people have complained that the jokes are stupid. Well, they’re meant to be. Get over it.
The story has (yet again) taken a stupidly long time to complete, which probably accounts for any variations in tone and voice throughout.
Incidentally, the title is a bilingual pun, since Cinderella in French is Cendrillon, but you knew that, right?
A story? Oh, all right, if you insist. Now, let me think...ah, yes, here’s one you might like.
Once upon a time there was a girl called...um...let me think...yes, that’s it...Cendriller. It’s French for “Ashtray”, you know, and they called her that because she smoked so much.
She was especially fond of Windlass Full Tar SuperKingTM cigarettes. (“For the Fullest Flavour in Town, Turn to WindlassTM!” - as they used to say - because a windlass is something you turn, get it? - in the Dark Ages before tobacco advertising was banned.).
Yes, she was very pretty, which is mandatory for all fairy tale heroines, and her two not-quite-so-pretty stepsisters were jealous of her prettiness, which is mandatory for the not-quite-so-pretty female relatives of all fairy tale heroines.
And so her two not-quite-so-pretty stepsisters made her do all the dirty work around the house, and gave her cast-off clothes to wear which were two sizes too big for her, and anyway they (the clothes, not the stepsisters) always ended up getting torn and stained as she worked.
Because her two not-quite-so-pretty stepsisters made her work all day long, Cendriller never had time to wash her face or comb her hair, and the stress of working so hard made her smoke too much, and because she worked in the house all day she never got enough sun, and so her prettiness ended up getting hidden by all the dirt and pallor and worry lines and ill-fitting, ragged, dirty clothes and nicotine stains.
Often Cendriller would sigh (and cough): “Oh, how I wish I didn’t have to live with my bullying not-quite-so-pretty stepsisters. I wish I didn’t have to spend all day working for them. I wish I didn’t have to wear these rags.” Then, after a longish coughing fit, she would say: “But what I really, really wish for is to live in a beautiful marble hall and spend my days in idleness. But I suppose it’ll never happen.”
One day, while Cendriller was halfway through sweeping the kitchen and smoking her fifth Windlass Full Tar SuperKing of the day, her two not-quite-so-pretty stepsisters came flouncing down the stairs to announce....
What’s that you say?
Oh, right. There’s always one, isn’t there?
Yes, that’s right, tobacco was not discovered until after the discovery of America by Europeans in the late fifteenth century.
And yes, stories such as “Cendriller” are usually set in an idealised version of Medieval Europe, round about the mid-thirteenth century.
What do I mean by “idealised”? Well, generally speaking, that means leaving out any mention of all the bloody wars, grinding poverty, appalling hygiene, poor longevity, back-breaking toil, plague, religious repression and torture. In other words, pretending that the Middle Ages was an era people would actually have wanted to live in, when actually it was the toilet of history. No, worse than that: it was nothing less than the rock festival toilet of history.
Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is, you were reminding me that the story takes place more than two centuries before the discovery of tobacco, and therefore your question was: how could Cendriller have possibly smoked cigarettes?
Oh, yes, there is a perfectly logical explanation. Or maybe several.
Maybe there was an earlier expedition to the New World that brought back supplies of tobacco to Cendriller’s village, but thanks to the events of this story all knowledge of that expedition, and of tobacco itself, was suppressed for more than two hundred years.
Or then again, maybe the story actually takes place thousands of years in the future on another planet, a forgotten colony of Earth that has regressed to a medieval society but hasn’t forgotten about tobacco.
Or maybe I’ll think of some other humorous explanation during the course of the story. In any case....
Who’s telling this blasted story, me or you??????
Thank you. I’m glad we got that sorted out.
Now, where was I?
Oh, yes. One day, while Cendriller was halfway through sweeping the kitchen and smoking her fifth Windlass Full Tar SuperKingTM of the day, her two not-quite-so-pretty stepsisters came flouncing down the stairs to announce that they were going to a ball.
“That’s nice,” muttered Cendriller (between coughs). “But then, you’d know all about balls, wouldn’t you?”
“What a charming sense of humour our dear stepsister has,” purred the older not-quite-so-pretty stepsister, giving Cendriller a cheerful punch in the mouth.
“Yes indeed,” cooed the younger (by two minutes) not-quite-so-pretty stepsister, treating Cendriller to a stepsisterly kick in the rump.
I should perhaps point out here that all the violence in this story is performed by specially trained stunt fictional characters. In any case, everyone knows that the original versions of fairy stories are much more violent than the versions in children’s books.
Oh, yes, I knew you’d bring that up sooner or later. Yes, there’s more sex in them too. Trust you to point that out.
All right, all right, I may get to the sex later. Maybe. We’ll see. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes.
With a cough, Cendriller picked herself up off the halfway-swept floor and glowered at her stepsisters.
“We may ‘know all about balls,’ as you so delicately put it, Cendriller, my dear,” said the older sister, “but at least we don’t smell like the Windlass Full Tar SuperKingsTM factory on overtime.”
“That’s right. We can see right through you, young lady,” said the younger. “Anyway, we have been invited to a Grand New Year’s Ball,” said the younger.
“What New Year is it going to be, by the way?” asked the older.
“Oh... thirteen- or fourteen-something, I think,” muttered the younger. “I never was very good with dates. By which I don’t mean those waxy fruits with big stones that you get from palm trees, I mean dates of the calendar. By which I don’t mean one of those pans with holes for straining water from vegetables - that’s a colander - what I mean is a table of dates, by which I don’t mean those strange waxy fruits....”
“All right, that’s enough,” said the older. “You’re going into a loop, and I don’t want to be here all day. Just tell her about the Ball, will you?”
“Um, yes, all right.”
The younger not-quite-so-pretty stepsister cleared her throat. Unfortunately this set Cendriller off on a fit of reflexive coughing, which mean that the younger stepsister had to shout to make herself heard.
“The...ball... has... been... called... on... behalf... of... Prince... Handsome... to... celebrate... the... New... Year... and... also... to... give... the... Prince... the... opportunity... to... choose... his... Princess... from... amongst... his... honoured... female... guests... and... thereby... prove... that... he’s... not... queer...after... all,... although... the... Prince’s... Chamberlain... is... rumoured... to... be... looking... very... disappointed... right... now....”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that,” said Cendriller, who had only just stopped coughing. “Would you mind repeating it?”
After they had finished giving Cendriller another stepsisterly beating, the two not-quite-so-pretty stepsisters flounced out the door, with one last chorus:
“Don’t burn the house down again!”
And then they were gone.
Cendriller sighed. “Oh, if only,” she cried, carelessly discarding her cigarette before lighting another. “If only, if only, if only, if only.”
Then, after another brief coughing fit, she sighed again. “Oh, if only, if only, if only...”
Suddenly she was interrupted by a strange, ghostly voice that spoke as if from the end of time.
“For crying out loud, gel, stop saying ‘if only’ and make the bloody wish if you’re going to.”
“Who said that?” coughed Cendriller.
“It’s me, ain’t it, your bleedin’ Fairly Goodmother,“ the voice replied. “Now are you gonna stand around moping all day, or are you gonna say, ‘Oh, I wish I had a Fairly Goodmother who would save me from all this drudgery and help me go to the Prince’s ball’?”
“All right,” coughed Cendriller. “If I’m hearing voices I might as well do as they say, just to prove I’m not completely crazy. Now, how did that go again? ‘I wish I had a Fairly Goodmother who would save me from all this drudgery and help me go to the Prince’s ball’.”
There was an ostentatious flash of light followed by a puff of smoke and lots of coughing. Once the smoke had cleared Cendriller saw a large middle-aged woman in a silken dress with tinsel wings and cardboard wand.
“Damn budget cuts,” she muttered. “Can’t even put on a decent entrance nowadays. Now where was I?”
“God knows,” muttered Cendriller.
“I ’eard that,” said her Fairly Goodmother. “Just wait and see what I leave under your Christmas tree next year.”
Then, clearing her throat, she took up a theatrical stance, raised her cardboard wand on high, and intoned: “O Cendriller, know that I am your Fairly Goodmother -”
“I know, you just said that.”
“Don’t break me rhythm, dear. I’m intoning. Where was - oh, yes. I am your Fairly Goodmother, and you shall go to the Prince’s Ball tonight!”
“But how?” coughed Cendriller. “I have nothing to wear save this tattered raiment, and anyway if I go to the Ball I won’t be able to get to the tobacconist’s before it closes.”
“Oh, for cryin’ out loud,” said her F. G., “Can’t you leave off the bloody fags for one night? Come to think of it, you’d better give ’em up altogether. One of these centuries you mortals are gonna figure out just how bad those things are for you, and then the lawyers’ll be busy for decades.”
“Give up?” coughed Cendriller. “They’re the only things that help me get through the day.”
“Look, trust me, gel, the Prince is never gonna kiss anyone whose mouth smells like a fireplace, let alone marry ’em.”
“Marry the Prince? Me? Come on, you’re joking.”
“I never joke about my work, Cendriller,” said F. G. “Now, let’s see what we can do about those lungs of yours.”
She fluttered her tinsel wings a little, executed what would have been a graceful pirouette had she been a hundred or two pounds lighter, and waved her cardboard wand, intoning:
“Access file #32984J and run Instant Detox Program!”
The spell was accompanied by a cheap pyrotechnic effect, but Cendriller didn’t notice because a sudden jolt passed through her body. Once it had passed, she felt as if a great weight had been lifted from her.
“What...what did you just do?” she gasped.
“I just flushed all the tar and nicotine out of your system. Trust me, gel, you’ll feel better for it.”
“What’s that smell?” said Cendriller.
“That’s air, that is. Bet you haven’t smelt that for a while.”
“But if you took all that stuff out of me, where did it all go?”
That, best beloved, was a very good question.
All of the toxins from Cendriller’s body had in fact been blasted by the Fairly Goodmother’s spell into a galaxy far, far away, where over the course of millions of years they evolved into a race of evil life-forms that threatened to eradicate civilisation until they were defeated in what came to be known as the Tar Wars.
But that’s another story, and you’re stuck with this one.
“Right, now let’s get you tarted up a bit,” said F. G.
A few more pirouettes and cheap fireworks and Cendriller’s clothing was spectacularly transformed. She was wearing a gorgeous, pure white silken dress in place of her grubby rags. A gold necklace adorned her throat with matching bracelets at her wrists, and there were ruby and emerald rings upon her fingers. Her hair, no longer greasy and unkempt, had arranged itself into a fashionable bouffant crowned with a diamond tiara.
“Bloody hell, I’m rich,” she yelped.
“Don’t be daft, gel,” said the F. G., “that stuff’s all on loan. It’s all gotta go back at midnight.”
“Midnight? Blimey, that don’t gimme much time,” said Cendriller.
“Oh, yes, that reminds me,” said F. G. “Hold out your hand.”
Cendriller extended her hand. A spark shot from F. G.’s wand and Cendriller yelped.
“Oops. Sorry. That was supposed to be an elocution spell, not electrocution. Let me try again. Now repeat after me: ‘How now, brown cow’.”
“Haa naa, braan caa.”
“All right, let’s try it with the spell,” said F. G., waving her wand. There was another cheap firework.
“Sorry about the kitsch,” said F. G. “Like I said, the Fairly Goodmother Service has had a lot of budget cuts just lately. It’s a wonder we’re able to operate at all under these conditions. All right, now, after me: ‘How now, brown cow’.”
“Hie nie, brine kie.”
“By George, I think she’s got it.”
“Good heavens, is that me? What an absolutely spiffing voice,” said Cendriller.
“Yeah. Unfortunately, that’ll only last until midnight as well, but it’ll help you fit in with the in-crowd.”
“Well, that’s all jolly well,” said Cendriller, “But I think you’ve forgotten something. I’ve no shoes. I can’t turn up at the Palace in my bare feet.”
“Oh, yes, I almost forgot,” said F. G. “I’ve made something special just for you. There’ll be a few more cheap fireworks, I’m afraid, but it’ll be worth it.”
The Fairly Goodmother waved her cardboard wand again. Once the smoke had cleared, she held in her hand a pair of elegant slippers made entirely from shimmering glass.
“Glass slippers?” said Cendriller. “That’s ridiculous. Suppose they were to break? My feet would be cut to ribbons.”
“They won’t break,” said F. G. “There’s a spell on them that makes them completely unbreakable, and while you’re wearing them you will be as graceful as a ballerina. Go on, put ’em on.”
So Cendriller put on the glass slippers and tried walking a few steps in them.
’Blimey - er, I mean, Goodness,” she exclaimed. “It’s just like walking on air.”
“Well, actually, walking on air ain’t as comfortable as people imagine,” said F. G. “Very unstable stuff, air. Makes you feel seasick. And if you ain’t careful you can lose your balance and find yourself walking upside-down....”
She broke off as Cendriller glared at her.
“All right,” Cendriller said, “I have the clothes and the voice and the slippers. Now all I need is transport. I assume you don’t intend for me to walk to all the way the Palace, however comfortable the footwear.”
“Don’t worry about that,” said F. G. From her robe she produced a miniature coach and a team of toy horses, which she carried out into the street before waving her magic wand once more.
So it was that Cendriller made an unforgettable arrival at the Palace, in a giant hollowed-out pumpkin drawn by enormous mice.
The following takes place between 11:00PM and Midnight
The F. G. had told her, “Just remember, gel, all you have to do to fit in at the Palace is be’ave like you belong there. Act like a real toff and they’ll treat you like one.”
And so Cendriller, light on her feet in her glass slippers, ascended the steps of the Palace, flounced through its gothic entrance hall and announced herself to the waiting herald as Princess Cendri of Barsetshire.
The herald consulted his scroll. Of course there was no Princess Cendri listed, but Cendriller’s magical charisma convinced him that she must be a legitimate guest.
“I do apologise...a most unfortunate omission,” he gulped. “Naturally, you are most welcome here, Your Highness.”
“Thank you,” she purred. “They tell me the Prince’s Grand Ball has no equal.” With that she flounced into the Grand Ballroom with all the hauteur she had learned from her not-quite-so-pretty stepsisters as the herald announced her nom-de-guerre.
The Ballroom was huge. To Cendriller’s untrained eyes it looked a mile wide, and every foot of floor was occupied by some grand lady or gentleman. In such a mêlée finding the Prince before midnight seemed an impossible task.
A fortyish gentleman with a long handlebar moustache sidled up to Cendriller and introduced himself.
“How d’you do, my dear. Lord Windlass, owner of the Windlass Tobacco Corporation. Don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure.”
Don’t believe you will, either, she thought, but she spoke politely: “Charmed. Princess Cendri of Barsetshire.” she proffered her hand, which Lord Windlass kissed demurely. “So you are the owner of the tobacco factory? I’m told that’s quite a lucrative business.”
“Oh, it’s worth a fortune, my dear, a fortune. Smoking gives the peasants something to take their minds off their dreary, unfulfilled, meaningless lives -”
Cendriller tried not to wince.
“- and the tobacco industry is completely free from controversy. After all, why would anyone want to sue a cigarette company? Of course, the person I’m most grateful to is Sir Walter O’Raleigh, the man who discovered tobacco in the first place. Speaking of which, here’s the very fellow. Sir Walter, like to introduce Princess Cendri.”
The newcomer was somewhat older, but ruggedly handsome from years at sea.
“Delighted, Your Highness,” said Sir Walter.
“Lord Windlass has been telling me about your discovery of tobacco,” said Cendriller.
“Ah, yes. I am extremely proud to have found something that has been such a boon to the health and well-being of mankind,” beamed Sir Walter. “Of course, those long ocean voyages can be physically and mentally exhausting. Why, at one stage we were totally becalmed with nothing to eat but sea biscuit. But we came through it with scarcely any casualties except the fellow we at...er, that is, who didn’t make it, poor chap. We finally fetched up upon the Isle of Howard. Once we’d finished fetching up we explored Howard thoroughly, from its Shore to its End by Way of its Stern. I say, I do hope I’m not boring you, your Highness.”
“Why, not at all, Sir Walter,” yawned Cendriller, wondering how long the old fool was going to keep her from her quest to find the Prince.
“As a matter of fact,” Sir Walter went on, “I have made another discovery on my most recent voyage that I feel will be just as revolutionary.”
So saying, he drew from his jacket pocket a small brown lumpy object. It seemed to be a vegetable of some kind.
“There,” he said, “I found this in the Indies. What do you think of it, eh?”
Cendriller was slightly nonplussed. “Um...well, I’m no expert, of course, but, um...”
Realising that Princess Cendri shouldn’t have any experience with vegetables, she quickly made up a story: “Well, judging by - and since you’re a gentleman I’m sure you won’t tell a soul - an illicit affair I once had with my head gardener, I’d say it looked like a root of some kind.”
“That’s right,” said Sir Walter. “A tuber, they tell me, though I’m dashed as to how you can play it.” And then he winked. “In any case, I’ll not say a word about you and your gardener, dear lady.”
Neither of them noticed a man standing some distance away who was furtively taking notes. The initials on his jacket read “DHL”, so most of the guests assumed he was just a delivery man. But the L actually stood for Lawrence, and within a few years he was to find fame and notoriety as Lawrence of Erotica.
To return to Sir Walter:
“The root is edible,” he told Cendriller. “Once it has been washed and peeled it can be prepared in a variety of ways. Boiled, roasted, baked...a French prisoner I took on my way home even suggested frying them.”
“You took a Frenchman prisoner? I didn’t know we were at war with France.”
“Well, if we’re not at war with them right now we will be again soon, and it never hurts to be ready.”
“Um, quite...so what is this marvellous new root of yours called?” she asked
“Well, I asked the Indians what they called it and they said ‘Oo-oo-oo-oo’.”
“That’s right. Natives of the Indies where we found the roots. Furry little men with long tails. Spent most of their time leaping from tree to tree. Couldn’t get much sense out of ’em, but then what can you expect from primitives? Anyway, that’s what they said when I showed them the roots: ‘Oo-oo-oo-oo’. And then snatched them out of our hands and ate them, which is how we knew they were edible. Not much of a name, I must admit. I certainly couldn’t market them as oo-oo-oo-oos.”
“Oo-oo-oo-oo?” said Cendriller. “Um...how do you spell that?”
“Oh, I just put eight ‘O’s.”
A sudden flash of inspiration came to Cendriller. “That’s it,” she cried. “Why not call them put-eight-os instead?”
“Why, that’s brilliant, dear lady, quite brilliant,” Sir Walter exclaimed.
And so it was that put-eight-os, or taters for short, became part of the staple diet of the country, and Sir Walter was forever after known as Tater O’Raleigh.
All of which is moderately interesting, but strays from the point quite a bit.
Cendriller’s not-quite-so-pretty stepsisters caught sight of the dazzling young princess from across the room.
“Who is that girl?” said the younger. “She’s sweeping all the men off their feet.”
“That reminds me,” said the older. “I hope Cendriller remembers to sweep the floor. Apparently the new girl’s called Princess Cendri.”
“Cendri, eh? There’s something vaguely familiar about that name, but I just can’t put my finger on it.”
“Looks like most of the men in the room would like to put their fingers on it, if you know what I mean.”
Cendriller had spent more than half an hour being shunted between guests like a pinball bouncing between those flashing bumper things.
All right, perhaps not the best metaphor to use in a fairy tale. The point is, she was beginning to despair of ever meeting the Prince, when suddenly she found herself standing right in front of him.
“Well, hello-o-o-o-o-o-o-o,” he said, looking her up and down. From her shining glass slippers to her diamond tiara and several significant points between, she was every inch a princess (and therefore had great potential as a ruler).
“It is an honour to meet you, Your Royal Highness,” said Cendriller, curtseying before him. “I am Princess -”
“Of course you are,” he said. “Marry me.”
“Yes,” said Cendriller’s mouth, long before her brain heard the question.
“Your Highness, is this wise?” said one of the dignitaries accompanying him.
The Prince sighed. “I’ve told you a thousand times, Chamberlain, I’m not marrying you. Now if you would excuse me, the Princess and I have to go and rehearse for our honeymoon.”
Against the Chamberlain’s protests the Prince took Cendriller’s hand and led her up two flights of stairs to an ornate bedchamber.
“Welcome to my five-poster bed,” he said.
“Five-poster?” she said. “But I can only see four posts. Where’s the fif- ohhh, right. I really fell for that one, didn’t I?”
“I hope so, my dear. I sincerely hope so.”
The Prince spent the next half hour proving to Cendriller that he wasn’t just a pretty face. Other parts of his body were even prettier. And the way he made love to her made her feel like a real Princess. She wanted it to last forever.
But then she heard the Palace’s great clock beginning to strike midnight...
“I’m sorry,” she cried, hastily pulling on her tangled clothing. “I really have to go now.”
“So soon?” said the Prince. “But the night is young, and more to the point, so are we.”
“Sorry, I just remembered an urgent - um - croquet match with the Duchess of Egdon tomorrow. Mustn’t oversleep for that, you know what duchesses are like.”
The preliminary chimes finished and the clock prepared to strike the hour.
She kissed him hastily on the cheek. “It’s-been-fun-you-were-really-good-I-have-to-go-now-bye.”
The clock was on its second chime by the time she left the bedroom. By the time she had run downstairs, barely managing to avoid a fatal stumble, it had struck five times. The eighth chime struck as she entered the ballroom, and by the time she had managed to weave her way past all of the guests to the exit the eleventh chime was sounding. The twelfth chime sounded just as the astonished herald was still trying to identify the white blur that had shot past him and down the steps to the street.
By the time the Prince had caught up, there was no sign of the Princess. There was just a girl in a ragged peasant smock running down the street.
And on the lowest step, something glittered like glass....
Cendriller didn’t stop running until she got home, and it was only then that she realised one of her slippers was missing. But she didn’t have much time to worry about it, because the house was on fire.
As she ran to the pump in the back yard and frantically began filling a bucket, she remembered how just before her Fairly Goodmother had arrived she had cried “Oh, if only,” before carelessly discarding her cigarette and then lighting another and then saying “If only, if only, if only,” again.
Or then again, it might have been a spark from one of the F. G.’s cheap fireworks that had started the blaze. It didn’t matter. If she couldn’t extinguish the blaze she’d get another beating from her not-quite-so-pretty stepsisters.
She had to put the fire out by herself. There was no point ringing a bell and calling for the fire service, because the stepsisters had let their fire insurance lapse. Which meant that if a fire crew was called to their address, they would just let it burn - or worse still, add fuel to the flames.
By the time Cendriller had put out the flames, mopped up all the water and cleared away all the burnt debris it was nearly morning. Fortunately the damage had been mainly to the scullery roof, and the stepsisters’ rooms were untouched. And so, when the stepsisters returned a little after dawn, they were angry but didn’t beat Cendriller too badly. In any case, they were too tired to punish her severely, and soon went to bed.
Next day the stepsisters sent for a builder who brought a hammer, some nails, wood and roof tiles. Then he handed them all to Cendriller and departed. Cendriller sighed and set to work.
The Prince sighed, for the hundredth time that day. “Who is she?” he asked, also for the hundredth time, turning the glass slipper over and over in his hands as if he expected it to answer his question. “Who can she be? Were did she come from? Nobody’s ever heard of a Princess Cendri, and there’s no such county as Barsetshire. And she certainly wasn’t at the Duchess of Egdon’s croquet tournament either. Oh, who is she?”
“She was obviously just some impostor who ran off to avoid being imprisoned for trespassing in the Palace,” said the Chamberlain.
“I love her,” sobbed the Prince.
“Oh, come off it. You don’t even know her. You were only with her for half an hour.”
The Chamberlain’s tone was dismissive, but the Prince was Adam Ant.
Oops, sorry - the Prince was adamant. Adam Ant was Prince Charming, and that’s another story. And you’re still stuck with this one.
“It was long enough to know that I want to be with her for the rest of my life. Haven’t you ever heard of love at first sight, Chamberlain? Is there no romance in your soul?”
The Chamberlain seemed about to speak, but flushed and turned his face away.
“I have known unrequited love,” he said quietly.
“Very well, then. I want you to issue a proclamation throughout the land. I shall call upon all the young women of the kingdom and try the glass slipper upon their feet. Whomever it fits shall be my bride.”
“Um...with respect, Highness, have you flipped? Has your brain turned into an oo-oo-oo-oo?”
“Put-eight-o,” the Prince corrected.
“Whatever they’re calling it now. Darned American fast food. Look, there must be thousands of women whom that slipper will fit. Are you saying you’re just going to marry the first girl who has the same size feet as our bogus Princess?”
“Wrong, Chamberlain,” said the Prince. “This slipper is magic, I’m certain of it. That means it was made for just one girl and will reject everyone else. Issue the proclamation, Chamberlain. I have a Quest to fulfil.”
“God help us,” muttered the Chamberlain.
“What was that?”
The Chamberlain coughed and said, “I said, ‘God will surely help us’, Highness.”
The older not-quite-so-pretty stepsister coughed (Cendriller was back on 40 a day) and said: “Oh, God help us, she’s moping again,”.
“And she’s back on the fags again. Talk about burning a hole in her pocket. Not that her pockets don’t have holes in them already.”
Cendriller tried to ignore them and kept on scrubbing (and puffing).
From the street came the sound of a bell and a voice barking, “Oyez! Oyez!”
“Hello, the news is on,” said the younger stepsister.
“Better go and hear,” said the younger. “You never know, maybe we’ve been invited back to the Palace.”
“Do you really think that’s likely after that little...incident?
“Ixnay on the tincidenway. Yespeciallway niway ontfray foway Endrillerceway.”
“Howay, orgetfay tiway!”
“Omecay...I mean, come on, let’s go listen to the bulletin.”
Oolsfay, thought Cendriller.
A small crowd had gathered to hear the news, which was being read by a man-sized fox in an appropriately conservative suit.
“Good afternoon,” it announced. “This is Foxes News, bringing you news that’s fairly ballistic. This hour is brought to you by Windlass Full Tar SuperKingTM cigarettes. For the Fullest Flavour in Town, Turn to WindlassTM! Later today we’ll be explaining why the Bassethound Broadcasting Corporation are frothing at the mouth - after they were all bitten by my mad cousin Simon. But the top story tonight concerns the Prince. Has he gone completely nuts? Does he have put-eight-oes in his head? Or is it just a desperate ploy to convince people he’s not queer? Judge for yourself as we tell you what to think.”
“Foxes News is always so bloody opinionated,” said the older not-quite-so-pretty stepsister.
“You’re right,” said the younger. “Let’s change sides.”
They crossed to the other side of the street, where a man-sized camel was vying for public attention.
“This is Camel News Network,” it declared. “Our top story: Prince Handsome today announced his intention to marry, but on a rather unusual condition. He claims he will only wed the girl whose foot fits a magical glass slipper that has somehow come into his possession, and in order to discover the slipper’s true owner he will shortly begin visiting every marriageable girl in the kingdom. We’ll be bringing you further commentary on this story, just as soon as our Palace correspondent has managed to pick his jaw back up off the floor.
“Coming up next it’s sports, followed by tomorrow’s plague forecast, and then we’ll bring you the latest shocking revelations on Foxes News chairman Rupert Werefox’s addiction to fairy dust. That’s all coming up right after this message from Sir Walter’s Put-Eight-O Hut.”
The not-quite-so-pretty stepsisters did not stay to hear the commercial, nor to watch the inevitable fisticuffs between the two newsreaders. They weren’t interested in ratings wars. There was only one thing on their minds as they walked back to the house.
“The Prince is coming here!” they shrieked, jumping up and down with glee.
Then the younger had a thought.
“Suppose he finds the girl the glass slipper fits before he gets here? Then we’ll never get to meet him again. We certainly won’t get any more Palace invitations, not after what you did.”
“What I did?” snapped the older. “I beg your pardon, young lady, but I seem to recall that you were the one who -”
“Oh, really? That was only because you said that -”
“I didn’t mean it the way you told him I did!”
“Well, if you didn’t mean that, what could you have meant?”
By this time they had arrived at their front doorstep.
“All right, shtum. We don’t want Little Miss Chimneystack to know about our little incident, do we?”
“What little incident was that, then?” said Cendriller, who had been sweeping behind the door just as the stepsisters arrived.
“Mind your own business,” they snapped. “Don’t give us that glassy-eyed stare. And don’t drop ash on the doormat.”
“Sorry I spoke,” said Cendriller.
“Well, so are we,” said the older stepsister, who judging by her reaction to her own joke must have considered it the very pinnacle of humour.
“And anyway,” said the younger, “If you want to avoid getting ash on the doormat, you’d better not spill any on yourself, had you? Eh? Because you’re a doormat too.”
“Yes, yes, I figured out the joke the first time,” said Cendriller. “Very appropriate, since you’re always walking all over me and giving me regular beatings.”
“Don’t try to be clever with us, madam,” they told her.
“I can’t help it,” she muttered. Aloud, she asked, “So, what was the bulletin about?”
The stepsisters exchanged furtive glances.
“The Prince is searching for a bride,” they told her.
“Somebody who is chic, witty, erudite, urbane and sophisticated.”
“Someone in short, dear stepsister, like us.”
Don’t make me laugh, thought Cendriller. Someone like Princess Cendri, more like.
And then realisation struck her.
No, wait - he is looking for Princess Cendri! And what if he comes looking for her and she isn’t here? Oh, where is that stupid Fairly Goodmother when I need her?
“Hey, wake up there,” the stepsisters told her. “Daydreaming about the Prince, were you? Well, you can forget it. The only way you’d ever get to see his bedchamber is if you became a Palace cleaner. Which you won’t, because even the cleaners at the Palace are posher than a scullery maid like you.”
Cendriller of course knew better, and so she simply smiled wryly and said, “You are undoubtedly correct, dear stepsisters.”
The stepsisters blinked in surprise. Cendriller liked nothing better than to confuse them with kindness.
Finally one of them muttered, “Don’t try to fool us by agreeing with us. Stop woolgathering and start coal-gathering. And be quick about it.”
Excitement over the news spread through the kingdom like wildfire - as indeed, by an unfortunate coincidence, did wildfire. This meant that the Prince had to alter his schedule somewhat in order to avoid visiting towns that weren’t there any more.
The not-quite-so-pretty stepsisters were in a tizzy, running around in a blind confusion of excitement and anticipation. “Today,” they squealed, “He’s coming here today!”
As usual each of the news agencies had claimed exclusive rights to the story, which resulted in their various representatives fighting for the best pitches, and then, once they had established them, doing their best to shout each other down. Because of this it had taken the stepsisters some time to figure out what they were actually saying, and when realisation had finally dawned on them they had dashed home as if their tails were on fire. Which they weren’t.
But the scullery was.
It was only a small fire and by this time Cendriller was experienced at putting them out, but the older stepsister bellowed at her:
“For heaven’s sake, Miss Ashtray, haven’t there been enough fires in the Kingdom without you starting more of them?”
She had to shout to make herself heard over the commotion outside. “What is that racket out there?” she demanded.
“Oh, it’s the news agencies again,” said the younger. “There’s a fox, a camel, a frothing-at-the-mouth bassethound and a kangaroo all fighting in the street.”
“A kangaroo? Where’s he from?”
“Whatever. They’re just a bunch of stupid ’anchors anyway.”
Shortly a party of Palace Guards arrived, arrested the news criers for brawling and bundled them, protesting about freedom of the press, into a prison wagon. This was basically a cage on wheels, and with the anthropomorphic newsmen inside it resembled nothing so much as a mobile zoo. The people cheered as it passed by and threw rotten vegetables at the furious newsmen.
“I guess that’s the end of the news,” muttered the older stepsister.
“Yes, and you know why they’ve waited until now to clear the street, don’t you? He’ll be here soon, so we’d better go and get ready.”
“Right. And we’ve got to get Miss Nicotine out of the way before he gets here.”
“Before who gets here?” asked Cendriller, who of course had not heard the news of the Prince’s quest.
The older stepsister said, “The coalman,” just as the younger said, “The dustman”.
“The, er, coal-and-dustman,” said the older.
“Um, yes, that’s right,“ said the younger, catching on at a snail’s pace. “It’s a new service. He delivers the coal and takes away the rubbish. So you’d best watch your step when he’s around.”
That last remark was so predictable that Cendriller didn’t even notice it. “That doesn’t make any sense,” she said, with the occasional cough. “I mean, he’d have to load up at the coal merchant’s, deliver the coal, pick up the rubbish sacks, and then take them to the dump. It’s twice the work. Anyway, suppose he mistakenly loaded someone’s coal bunker with someone else’s garbage instead of coal, or, worse still, threw perfectly good coal onto the dump? If I didn’t know better I’d say you were just making it up to cover up the fact that you have another guest arriving that you don’t want me to know about, not that I would ever accuse you of anything so underhanded, my dear stepsisters.”
The stepsisters considered the question very carefully, and then answered with their usual flair:
“How dare you answer back! Go and sweep the yard!”
Muttering under her (slightly wheezy) breath, Cendriller went.
So it was that, Cendriller, distracted by her work and deafened by her own coughing, did not hear the clatter of carriage wheels upon the road outside, nor the regal fanfare that announced the arrival of Prince handsome, still less the Royal Herald declaiming, in a frightfully posh voice:
“KNOW ALL BY THESE PRESENTS:
“Would you mind repeating that?” said the older stepsister.
“Out of the question, I’m afraid,” croaked the Herald, reaching into his pocket for his fifteenth throat lozenge of the day. “Pray silence for His Royal Highness PRINCE HANDSOME!”
The trumpeters blew another fanfare as the Royal Footman opened the door of the ornate carriage. The stepsisters curtsied low as the Prince stepped out of the carriage, accompanied by several black-suited security guards armed with compact crossbows with telescopic sights. The guards frisked the stepsisters briskly then stepped aside.
“Here, is that necessary?” said the younger stepsister.
“Listen, lady, we don’t do it for fun,” said one of the guards, surreptitiously eyeing up his companion.
“All right, gentlemen,” said the Prince. “If we’re quite ready?”
The guards stepped aside. the stepsisters curtsied again and the Prince kissed their hands.
“Haven’t I seen you charming ladies before?” said the Prince.
The stepsisters exchanged guilty looks.
“Oh, I, er, I don’t believe...that is, I’m not quite...” said the older stepsister.
But: “Yes...yes, I’m sure of it,” the Prince insisted. “I’m quite certain I saw you at the New Year’s Ball.”
“Ah...did you? I mean, that is to say, um, goodness, well, there we are...” blurted the younger stepsister.
“Yes,” the Prince went on. “Yes, I’m sure it was you two. I have an excellent memory for faces. Oh, and I say, wasn’t there a little, shall we say, incident involving....”
“Won’t you come inside, Your Highness?” chorused the stepsisters, so rapidly that their voices flanged.
The Prince and his entourage entered the stepsisters’ house, leaving a couple of guards outside on watch.
The small house was a little cramped with the Prince, the Herald and his Footmen inside as well as the stepsisters. Although clearly unimpressed with the house’s appointments, the Prince could not help but remark:
“It’s all...um...quite clean in here, ladies.”
“Indeed, Your Highness,” said the older stepsister.
“We get a girl in to sweep the place,” said the younger.
The older stepsister winced.
“A girl, you say?” said the Prince. “Well, perhaps you ought to tell me her name, just to make sure my staff haven’t accidentally left her off the list. One has to be thorough about these matters, you know.”
“Oh, er, I really don’t think she’d be suitable, Highness,” said the older stepsister.
“She’s a very ugly girl indeed,” blurted the younger. ’Very plain features, you know...freckles, acne, terribly bad cook - but does eat a lot, though, fifteen stone if she’s an ounce...”
“Yes indeed,” interrupted the older, glaring at the younger. “And more to the point, as I’m sure my little sister was just about to tell Your Highness, she has very big feet!”
The younger stepsister caught on at last. “Oh...oh, yes, Your Highness, much too big for any magic slippers. Not like us at all, I mean our feet are quite, you know, dainty and delicate. Well, more or....”
Once again the older stepsister found it necessary to interrupt.
“Come, come, dear sister,” she purred. “I’m sure His Royal Highness has better things to do than be shut up in here all day. Pray continue, Your Highness.”
“Indeed,” said the Prince, clearing his throat. “You have heard the Royal Proclamation, ladies, so I shall now ask you to step forward one by one and try on the magic slipper.”
The Prince gestured to his senior Footman (who else would be carrying a slipper?), who stepped forward bearing the slipper on a red velvet cushion.
The stepsisters looked at the slipper, and then at each other, and held a brief, whispered conversation:
“It’s too small,” whispered the younger.
“I can see it’s too small,” whispered the other.
“What are we going to do?” whispered the younger.
“Don’t panic,” whispered the elder, anticipating Douglas Adams by several centuries. “Look, I heard a story once about just this sort of situation.”
“ ‘Just this sort of situation’? ” said the younger. “Exactly how often does ‘this sort of situation’ crop up, then?!”
“Well, I’m telling you it did, that’s all,” insisted the older. “A couple of German brothers wrote about it. All we have to do is cut off our toes and our feet will fit the slipper.”
“Cut off our toes? What sort of grim brothers would come up with an idea like that? That’s just the kind of crazy plot you’d expect from a pair of Krauts. All them sausages, sauerkraut, lederhosen, Wagner and schnapps must have rotted their Teutonic brains.”
“I’m sorry,” the younger stepsister, who had not heard the editorial disclaimer, went on, “but if that’s your bright idea, you can forget it. I’m not cutting off my toes for anybody, not even if he is a stinking-rich spoiled brat of a Prince.”
There was a deathly silence in the room, and it suddenly dawned on the stepsisters that the last part of their conversation had not been so much whispered as bellowed. The stepsisters rapidly turned the colour of an overcooked lobster and did their best to sink through the floorboards.
The Prince diplomatically chose to pretend that the bellowed conversation had not taken place, and was about to speak when one of the Footmen spoke nervously:
“I, ah, that is...begging the Prince’s pardon, and not wishing to speak out of turn, but...I thought the ladies ought to know that their house seems to be on fire. Um, and incidentally, Your Highness happens to be in it. And, um...not that it matters as much, but, er...so do we.”
The others all followed the Footman’s gaze to where a wisp of thick, black smoke could be seen curling round the edge of the kitchen door in an alarming fashion.
“Oh, it’s all right,” said the younger stepsister. “That’s just our step -”
“- Cleaner,” said the older, ‘accidentally’ fetching the younger a bruising kick to the shin. “Our step-cleaner. We get a boy in to clean the steps. Smokes like a chimney. We’ve told him time and time again it’s bad for our health, but what can you do?”
It was of course at that very moment that Cendriller walked into the room, smoking the twenty-third Windlass Full Tar SuperKingTM cigarette of the day, and said, “Hey, stepsisters, what’s going on here? I thought I heard voices....”
Then she trailed off as her eye rolled around the room and fell upon the Prince.
“Oh, my - Your Highn...eee... -” she gasped, before fainting dead away.
“That doesn’t look like any kind of boy to me,” said the Prince. “Quite the opposite, in fact.”
The stepsisters turned red, then green, then purple, then several colours that are no longer permitted today.
“What’s more,” said the Prince, leaning down to look at the unconscious Cendriller’s face, “I should not be surprised to learn that this...this fabulously...unbelievably beau......”
“His Highness appears a little...distracted,” muttered the Herald. But just as he was about to give the Prince a discreet nudge, His Highness blinked, looked around the room and blushed in a demure yet manly fashion.
“Ahem. As I was about to say: it appears that by some unfortunate oversight -” here the Prince flashed an accusing glare at the stepsisters, who now found themselves turning colours forgotten since the dawn of time “- this, ah, rather attractive young woman has been omitted from my list. An omission that must be corrected with all haste just as soon as she regains her senses.”
It was fortunate that colour television had not been invented at that juncture, since the stepsisters now found themselves turning colours which would have fried any self-respecting picture tube.
“Perhaps, Your Highness,” suggested the Herald hopefully, “I should attempt to resuscitate the young woman.”
“That is, I am sure, a very noble offer, good Herald,” said the Prince, “but I fear the pungent odour of your throat lozenges (I can even smell them from over here) might be a little overwhelming for her. Pray allow me.”
The Herald sighed. It was always the same.
And so the Prince knelt down, lifted Cendriller’s torso in his arms and kissed her full on the lips, which tasted like red wine (after somebody had dropped cigarette ash in the glass).
And the moment his lips touched hers (and also the moment that his fingers surreptitiously touched her a little lower down), Cendriller stirred as if from a pleasant dream and woke to the sight of the Prince’s exquisitely beautiful-in-a-manly-kind-of-way face.
“How romantic,” cried the Herald. “The fainting beauty awakened by a handsome prince’s kiss.”
“I think we’re in the wrong story,” whispered one of the stepsisters.
“That is such an old joke,” also whispered the other.
“So what do you expect? It is the Middle Ages, after all.”
“Oh...Your Highness,” cried Cendriller, blushing demurely (with a cough).
“See, she awakes,” cried the Prince. “My quest for a bride is finally over.”
“What does he mean, ‘finally’?” murmured the Herald. “He’s only been at it for a fortnight.”
“Um, with respect, Your Highness,” ventured the Footman, “there is that other little matter to be taken care of first.”
The Prince blinked as if emerging from a trance. “Other little...? Oh...oh, yes. That. Da...rn.”
Composing himself, he faced Cendriller and said, “Dear Lady, in accordance with the terms of my search for a bride, I must ask that you try on the glass slipper. Footman, if you will bring the slipper forth.”
As the Footman moved forward with the slipper on its velvet cushion Cendriller said: “Pray excuse me, Your Highness, while I go and fetch the other one.”
There was a moment of silence while everybody took in her words, followed by an astonished chorus of: “THE OTHER ONE???!!!”
Uncharacteristically, it was the older stepsister who caught on first. “:Are you telling us,” she wailed, “that you’ve been hiding a priceless crystal glass slipper in the house since the night of the Prince’s Ball?”
“But...but how could you possibly have hidden such a priceless magical artifact from us?” moaned the younger.
“Easy,” said Cendriller. “I just put it in the back of the broom cupboard. I knew you’d never look in there.”
“Very well,” said the Prince. “If Miss...ah, forgive me, I believe I have neglected to learn your name....”
“What a charming name. For some reason it seems vaguely familiar. If Miss Cendriller would care to fetch the other slipper, she may try them both on.”
The Footman coughed. “Um...is that strictly necessary, Highness?”
“What do you mean?” the Prince demanded.
“Well, Your Highness, it’s just that if Miss Cendriller actually has the other glass slipper, doesn’t that prove she really is the Princess Cendri without her actually having to try either of them on?”
The Prince thought about it for a long moment.
”Your logic appears unassailable,” he finally admitted. “Still, there is a slight chance that Miss Cendriller might have stolen the other slipper. Though I believe this is unlikely, nonetheless the only way to obtain genuine proof is to carry out the test as planned. My dear, if you would?”
Cendriller hurried to the scullery to fetch the other slipper. Kneeling to reach into the cupboard, she became aware for the first time that she was still in her dirty, ragged dress.
By now her clothing had taken so much abuse that it was almost falling off of her, and she was ashamed to be seen by the Prince and his entourage in such a state. Yet as he had gazed intently upon her he had hardly seemed to notice her clothing at all.
Straightening her hair as best she could, she picked up the slipper and took a good look at it for the first time since she had left the Ball in such haste. When the Fairly Goodmother had first handed the slippers to her they had seemed to glow with a subtle internal luminescence. The slipper she held still glowed, but the glow was more garish and flashed and flickered unevenly.
Oh, well, she thought. I guess the glow was just for show anyway. Another of F. G.’s cheap special effects. I’d better hurry up and get back to His Highness.
And so Cendriller returned to the front room with her slipper, and the Prince and his retainers and the not-so-pretty stepsisters stood around in hushed anticipation as she prepared to put the slippers on. Even the stepsisters seemed caught up in the mood of the occasion; without their cynical expressions, they did not appear quite as unpretty as usual.
“Please forgive the state of my feet, Your Highness,” said Cendriller. Then without further ado (whatever that is) she placed her feet in the flickering glass slippers.
Now, as it happened, the flickering was a sign that the spells upon the slippers had become corrupted. Their magic was only supposed to last for an hour, after all, but the presence of Cendriller’s powerful love for the Prince, and his for her, had rekindled the spell after a fashion.
The original spell had said: “Magical slippers of glass, give this girl the gift of dignity, poise and deportment.”
The slippers were like two poles of a magical battery, and the moment Cendriller put them on her body completed the circuit.
There was a brilliant flash, momentarily blinding everyone in the room.
When at last their eyes began to recover they saw that Cendriller was standing much as she had before, but she did not answer when they spoke to her.
As their vision cleared they realised she had somehow lost her clothing and was standing very still. And when they saw the reason for her silence and stillness they could not believe their eyes.
The corrupted spell said: “Magical slippers, give this girl the gift of glass pose and disrobement.”
Cendriller had been transformed into a beautiful nude statue of pristine (slightly smoked) glass.
Surprisingly, it was her stepsisters who were first to react.
“Cendriller, oh Cendriller,” they wept, “What has happened to you, dear stepsister? Can you hear us? Are you still alive? And more importantly...who’s going to do the bloody cleaning now???”
“Alas, alas,” cried the Prince, “my quest has led to tragedy. Thanks to my foolish haste and ignorance of magical artifacts this poor innocent girl has been turned into a statue. And more importantly...who am I going to marry now???”
Now Cendriller’s Fairly Goodmother could probably have restored her to normal had she been available, but the Fairly Goodmother Service’s chronic budget cuts meant she had suddenly found herself called upon to cover for several thousand absent operatives as well as carrying out her own duties. At the moment her backlog of work stood at approximately three thousand years, so there was no use expecting any help from that quarter.
While the Prince and the stepsisters continued to mourn the loss of Cendriller, for all the wrong reasons, a sudden ray of sunlight shone in through the window of the stepsisters’ house and fell upon her glass body.
The room suddenly blazed with light as the statue refracted the sunlight into millions of colours.
“Oh, that’s beautiful,” sighed the older stepsister.
“Yes,” agreed the younger. “Who could have thought that our useless little stepsister could have some value as an ornament?”
Meanwhile the Prince blinked to clear his eyes as the kaleidoscopic colours washed over the stepsisters’ faces. Beforehand he had seen them as rather plain and frumpy, but in the magical rays from the statue they looked stunningly beautiful.
“Ladies,” said the Prince without a second thought, “Marry me.”
“Yes,” they flanged.
“B-but, Your Highness,” stammered the Herald, “you can’t marry both sisters. I, I mean that would be bigamy. The Church clearly states...”
Without looking away from the stepsisters, the Prince said: “Tell the Archbishop that if he allows this marriage I’ll write off his gambling debts. Any questions?”
There were none.
“Marry me, ladies, and we shall dwell in a beautiful palace.”
“I think we’d better hurry up and take him up on his offer,” whispered the younger stepsister.
“I’ve got no objection to marrying the Prince. I don’t even mind sharing him with you. But why do you say ‘we’d better hurry up’?” said the older.
“Because the sunlight shining through the statue has set the corner of the carpet on fire and it’s spreading quite fast.”
“Oh, typical. Even now that she can’t move, she still manages to burn us out of house and home.”
“We accept your kind offer of marriage,” they said. “I’m sure you will make us both very ri- that is, rich in love. By the way, it’s getting a little stuffy in here. Shall we celebrate outside?”
The entire party stepped out into the street. Just as the last member emerged there was a sudden rush of heat and the house collapsed in ashes. All that remained standing was the slightly ash-stained statue of Cendriller.
“Look at her,” said the older stepsister. “Still standing there staring at us with that glazed look in her eyes.”
“I can’t help wondering, though,” said the younger. “What’s it really like for her?”
That was a very good question.
The moment Cendriller put on the slippers and stood up, a sudden jolt of energy lanced through her. It was not exactly painful, but it was quite startling.
And then she felt all of her fears and frustrations fall away from her, together with the ashen remains of her clothing. She could not move, but she could feel light shining right through her.
Slowly she began to realise that she had been turned to glass. Somehow the spell on the glass slippers had gone wrong and changed her into their own substance.
The light shining through her body felt wonderful.
She understood that she was now a statue, and was destined never to move again. Surprisingly she felt no regrets. She was content to be a beautiful object, to be forever gazed upon and admired.
Her stepsisters approached, weeping their crocodile tears. As they embraced her, mourning only the loss of their unpaid servant, she felt nothing but love and sympathy for the silly creatures. The way they treated her wasn’t their fault, they had merely had a bad upbringing, and Cendriller wished there was some way she might teach them true wisdom and compassion.
Then she heard the Prince mourning only the loss of a potential bride, and she felt the same love and sympathy for him. He could scarcely help being vain and shallow, since he too was a product of his upbringing. He too needed only human insight in order to become a whole person.
If only, Cendriller thought, she could somehow use the magic that had transformed her in order to effect a more subtle change in the three of them.
And then the sunlight burst into the room and saturated Cendriller’s glass body.
Cendriller blazed with ecstasy. It reminded her of the Prince’s lovemaking, only far, far better, and in her newfound love for the Prince and her stepsisters she knew exactly what to do for them.
Beams of light shone from Cendriller upon the stepsisters and the Prince, who immediately fell in everlasting love with each other.
Their love would cause them to treat each other better than they had been accustomed to treating people, and soon they would treat everyone they met the same way.
Cendriller was content. Thanks to her, they would live happily ever after.
Give or take a few loose ends.
Deprived of its biggest customer, the Windlass Full Tar SuperKingsTM factory began losing money at an alarming rate. Within a year the Windlass Tobacco Corporation went bankrupt, Lord Windlass was reduced to scrubbing floors for a living and everybody forgot about tobacco completely for centuries. (See? I told you I’d think of an explanation, didn’t I?)
On the other hand, the put-eight-o industry went from strength to strength and soon there was a Put-Eight-O Hut in every major city on the continent. All of which probably goes to show something or other.
The Prince duly married the stepsisters to great rejoicing. Now that their faces were no longer contorted by cynicism and greed they were quite surprisingly beautiful, and very soon they became great benefactors of the people. The Prince too seemed to have been mellowed by love, and between the three of them they gave the kingdom prosperity, security and affordable healthcare packages.
Cendriller had once said, “But what I really, really wish for is to live in a beautiful marble hall and spend my days in idleness. But I suppose it’ll never happen.”
Now, though, she was installed as the centrepiece of a new art gallery in the capital city, funded partly by the Palace and partly by an endowment from Sir Walter O’Raleigh, the put-eight-o billionaire.
Her pedestal stood in a beautiful marble hall, directly beneath a skylight which was surmounted by an ingenious arrangement of lenses and mirrors that concentrated the available light onto her glass body.
Sunlight made her blaze with ever-changing colours; overcast caused her to shine with a milky incandescence; dusk and dawn made her glow like fire; moonlight turned her body to pearl; and starlight caused tiny lights to flicker inside her like fireflies.
The people came day and night to watch her infinite variety of colours, and agreed that she was the most beautiful thing they had ever seen.
But for Cendriller it was infinitely better. Even the tiniest flicker of starlight could feel like an orgasm to her, and there were simply no words to describe the pleasure she derived from sunlight.
And in case you were wondering, no, she wasn’t in danger of falling over and shattering. She was unbreakable, just like the glass slippers had been.
So she lived more happily than anyone could have dreamed of, forever and ever after.
All right, that’s all I have time for today. You just stand here nice and still on your pedestals and I’ll tell you another one tomorrow. Goodnight.