Fairy Tales for Young Readers

BOOK: Fairy Tales for Young Readers
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Fairy Tales


Fairy Tales






Bibliographical Note

Fairy Tales for Young Readers: By the Author of Shakespeare's Stories for
Young Readers
, first published by Dover Publications, Inc., in 2015, is a newly reset, unabridged republication of the work originally published as
The Old Nursery Stories
by Henry Froude and Hodder and Stoughton, London, in 1908. The original illustrations have been omitted from this edition.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Nesbit, E. (Edith), 1858–1924.

[Old nursery stories.]

Fairy tales for young readers : by the author of Shakespeare's stories for young readers / E. Nesbit.

p. cm.

“A newly reset, unabridged republication of the work originally published as The Old Nursery Stories by Henry Froude and Hodder and Stoughton, London, in 1908. The original illustrations have been omitted from this edition.”

Summary: A collection of nine fairy tales retold, including such favorites as Cinderella and Puss in Boots, as well as the less familiar stories of Dick Whittington and His Cat and Hop-o'-my-Thumb.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

eISBN-13: 978-0-486-80066-0

1. Fairy tales. [1. Fairy tales.] I. Title.

PZ8.B612OI5 2015




Manufactured in the United States by Courier Corporation

78940301       2015




Beauty and the Beast

Jack the Giant-Killer

Puss in Boots

Jack and the Beanstalk

Dick Whittington and his Cat

The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood

The White Cat


Fairy Tales



HERE WAS ONCE a gentleman of a fine fortune and studious habits who had a dear wife and one little daughter. And all three were so fond of each other that there were not three happier people in the world. The little daughter grew up very beautiful, very good, and quite clever enough to be the light of her parents' eyes. And when she was fifteen Bad Fortune, which seemed to have forgotten this happy little family, suddenly remembered them. The mother caught a fever and died in three days. The father was heartbroken. He would not leave the house even to walk in the pleasant gardens that lay round it. He would not even open one of his once-loved books, and it was difficult to get him to eat enough to keep the life in him. He would sit, all day long, looking at the chair where his wife had been used to sit with her book or her sewing. His daughter tried in vain to rouse him, and at last she began to be afraid that if he went on like this he would lose his reason.

So she persuaded him to give away his house and furniture to his poor neighbours, and to go a long journey to a distant country, where there would be nothing to remind him of the dear treasure he had lost.

Arrived in the new country, he did indeed seem less wretched. He became once more absorbed in his studies, but he ate and drank what was set before him, and did not refuse to go out for walks, or sometimes to a neighbour's
house to supper. But he was a changed and broken man to the day of his death.

He had a kind and gentle nature, and he imagined that all women were as good as his dear dead wife, so that when a neighbour told him that a certain widow lady was dying of love for him the simple gentleman said, “If this be so I will marry her—only she must be told that my heart is buried in my wife's grave.”

“She will bear with that,” said the match-making neighbour, “and her two girls will be nice company for your daughter.”

So the widow married the gentleman, and that was the beginning of trouble. Because it was not he that she loved, but his fortune—and as for his daughter, she and her girls hated the poor child from the first, though they pretended to be very fond of her until everything was settled as they wished.

Directly after the wedding he said to his new wife:

“My dear, we are now married, which is what you wanted. All that I have is yours, and you are the mistress of my house. Be kind to my poor child, and please arrange everything without bothering me. My books are my constant companions, and you may entertain your friends as much as you like as long as you leave me in peace.”

In this way he handed over his daughter to her stepmother and step-sisters.

Now as soon as these saw that the master of the house never noticed anything that went on in it, and that his daughter was much too fond of her father to worry him with complaints, they decided to put that child in her proper place. They began by forbidding her to appear at table when there was company. Then they said she might as well make herself useful and dust her own and her sisters' rooms. Then she was told to sweep as well as dust. After that the washing of the dishes was put upon her. And soon she was doing the work of a housemaid, a parlour-maid, a kitchen-maid, two general servants, and a boy in buttons, without a penny of wages or a kind word
from month's end to month's end. All her jewels and pretty clothes were taken away—the jewels her father had bought for her, and the clothes sewn and embroidered for her by the loving hands of her dead mother. She used to sit on the kitchen hearth and cry when the servants had gone to bed, to think of the happy times when her mother was alive and her father had not grown stupid and helpless with sorrow. And as she sat crying one day Marigolda, the eldest sister, came rustling into the kitchen in her pink flounced silk, and saw her among the ashes, and laughed and said:

“Don't put the fire out with all those water fountains, you nasty, dirty little Cinderella!”

And after that she was never called anything else. And she was called all day long. It was, “Cinderella, you haven't made my bed,” “Cinderella, black my boots this minute,” “Cinderella, mend my lace collar,” “Cinderella, peel the potatoes,” “Cinderella, clean the kitchen grate,” and a thousand other “Cinderellas,” each with some work tacked on to it, from morning till night.

Cinderella did her best. But it is difficult to be in half a dozen places at once—which was the least that her step-relations expected of her. She would not complain to her father. She was determined to bear everything rather than make him unhappy.

She had only the commonest clothes to wear, and even they were ragged, because she had no time to mend them. She ate the least pleasant bits left over from yesterday's dinner, and her bed was a wooden box full of straw in a corner of the kitchen, which she shared with the kitchen cat and the fat old turnspit dog, who were her only friends.

“Oh, well,” sighed poor Cinderella, “I must just go on bearing it, and if I am good something nice will happen to me some day.”

And sure enough something did.

The King of that country had his palace quite near the house where Cinderella lived so uncomfortably. And the
King's son happening to be twenty-one, the King decided to give birthday parties every night until he should have invited all the gentlepeople who lived near. Father and mother and Dressalinda and Marigolda were invited, but the gentleman who arranged the invitations had never heard of Cinderella, who had not a single friend in that strange country to speak a word for her when the cards were being sent out.

Dressalinda and Marigolda were immensely excited when the invitation came, brought by a herald blowing a trumpet and walking very stately, with a train of beefeaters bearing hundreds of large gilded envelopes with crowns on the flaps, in silver waste-paper baskets. And when the girls tore open the envelope and saw the gilded card with the royal arms on it, and their own names, they were wild with delight, because everybody knew that this series of birthday parties was given so that the young prince might see as many girls as possible, and that out of them all he might choose a bride. He was such a very nice young man, to say nothing of his being the Prince and the heir to all the kingdom, that no one imagined that any girl could say anything but “Yes” if he should say, “Will you marry me?”

And no girl could have said it unless she had happened to be in love with some other nice young man.

And now nothing was talked of but the royal ball. Cinderella had to do her dirty kitchen work just as usual, and besides that she had to wash and iron every petticoat and chemisette, every scrap of lace or muslin that her step-sisters had—to mend and iron all their fine dresses, because they had decided to try on every single thing they had, so as to see what suited them best. I should have thought they might have got new dresses and have done with it. But they didn't. Perhaps it was because no money could have bought them the delicate gold and coloured embroidery, the fairy-like lace that Cinderella's mother had wrought and woven for her dear little daughter.

The great day came at last, and father, step-mother, and step-sisters went off in the family coach. The last words Cinderella heard were:

“Now, you lazy little cat, be sure to tidy up our rooms before you dare to go to bed.”

So she sighed as the wheels of the coach rumbled away, and set herself to do as she was told, and tidy up the litter of laces, ribbons, hair-pins, curl-papers, slippers, dressing-gowns, artificial flowers, fans, brooches, necklaces, handkerchiefs, bracelets, veils, tiaras, and all the rest of it. And when that was done she sat down in the quiet kitchen among the grey ashes, and cried and cried and cried.

“Oh, I wish,” she sobbed out at last, “oh, I
wish I could go to the ball!”

“Do you, love? Then you shall!” said a voice quite close to her—such a kind voice too; and it was more than a year since she had heard a voice that was kind.

She started up, and found herself face to face with a fairy. She knew at once that it was a fairy, though the face was gentle enough to have been an angel's, because the wings were fairy-shape, and not angel-shape.

“Oh!” she cried, “who are you?”

“I'm a very old friend of your mother's,” said the fairy, “and now I'm going to be your friend. If you want to go to the King's ball, to the King's ball you shall go, or my name's not Benevola!”

“But I can't go in this dress,” said Cinderella, looking down at her dreadful old clothes.

“Wash away your tears, my love,” said the fairy, “and then we'll see.”

So Cinderella had a good wash in the wooden bowl on the kitchen sink, and came back looking as fresh as a rose after rain.

“Now,” said the fairy, “go at once to the end of the kitchen garden and bring me the biggest pumpkin you can find.”

Cinderella took the stable lantern and went out. She came back with a great orange pumpkin, so big that she could hardly carry it.

“I'll run back for the lantern,” she said.

“Do,” said the fairy, “and at the same time get me the old rat who is asleep inside the bucket that stands by the well.”

Cinderella went. She did not much like picking up the rat, but she did it, and he was quite kind and gentle, and did not try to bite or to run away.

“Now see if there are any mice in the trap in the old summer-house,” said Benevola. There were six, and Cinderella brought them, running about briskly in the trap.

“Now six lizards from the lettuce bed,” said the godmother; and these were caught and brought in in a handkerchief.

Then Benevola, standing there in her beautiful fairy clothes, waved her silver wand over Cinderella and her rags, and instantly her rags changed to a gown that was like white mist and diamond dew and silver moonshine, and on her head was a little crown of stars that shone among her dark hair.

Cinderella looked at herself in the polished lid of the brass preserving pan, and cried, “Can that be me? Oh, how pretty I am!” It was not one of the moments when grammar seems important.

BOOK: Fairy Tales for Young Readers
7.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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