At a time not too long ago, there was a pretty young woman named Ella, who was cruelly treated by her stepmother and stepsisters. They forced her to do all the chores around the house. Because she spent all day cleaning, she always looked a right mess. Her stepsisters began to call her Cinderella, since her face and arms were frequently sooty after cleaning and tending to the elegant fireplace.

One day, there was a knock on the door. When Cinderella answered the door, the letter carrier gave her a letter, which announced the upcoming date of the Prince's ball. Cinderella wanted very much to go to the ball, for she always wanted to see the beautiful gowns the ladies wore. You see, Cinderella dreamed to open her own dress shop. The thrifty girl saved her stepsisters' old dresses when they were thrown out after the girls became tired of them. She secretly decided that she would go to the ball, and rushed to her little room to begin making her very own ball gown out of her stepsisters' old dresses.

The night of the ball arrived, and Cinderella pretended to be busy until her stepmother and stepsisters left. She rushed to her room and put on her beautiful, handmade dress. She looked down at her feet, shod in dirty clogs, and decided to borrow a pair of dance shoes from one of her stepsisters.

'If everything goes right,' she thought, 'it will not matter if they find out, for I will no longer need to slave away for them.' Cinderella had a plan. She would go to the ball and show off her dress to the ladies in their fancy dresses. She believed they would love her dress so much that they would all come to her to make theirs too.

When Cinderella arrived at the ball, she found that all the ladies did indeed love her dress.

"Oh my!" said a duchess. "How beautiful! I say, my dear, where did you get that lovely dress?"

"I made it myself," replied Cinderella.

"Unbelievable!" exclaimed another lady. "I should like to have one too! Perhaps you could make me one as well?"

Cinderella smiled. "Of course, my lady. I intend to open up my very own shop."

While all the ladies gave their compliments, the Prince walked by. He was immediately stunned by Cinderella's beauty. He pardoned himself through the crowd to get to her. "Excuse me, fair lady," said the Prince, "I would be honored if you would dance with me."

Although flattered, Cinderella curtsied and replied, "I am most grateful for your offer; however, I must decline. I would like to show the rest of the ladies my dress." She curtsied once more and moved to another group. The Prince stared after her.

Cinderella stayed very late, and by the time she left, she had taken dress orders from nearly all the ladies at the ball.

When she got home, she found her stepmother and stepsisters waiting for her.

"Those are my shoes!" shouted one sister.

"That's the bow from my old dress!" yelled the other.

The stepmother looked down her nose at Cinderella. "Did you go to the ball?"

"Yes," said Cinderella. "I did."

"You have been very disobedient," said her stepmother. "You are no longer allowed to live here."

That was just fine with Cinderella. She took off the shoes and gave them back to her stepsister. As she began to leave for her room to collect her things, the other stepsister cried, "I want my bow back!"

Cinderella turned around and faced her stepsister. "I will not give it back," she said. "You threw it away because you did not want it any more. You only want it because I have made use of it. That is no reason to give it back." She left the three terrible women gaping at her back.

In her room, Cinderella gathered up her few possessions, which included an old sack that was dusty and heavy with coins. It had been hidden under a floorboard, and was the inheritance Cinderella's mother left her after she died. Cinderella had been keeping it so she could buy her own little shop, adding to it every so often when she picked up lost coins in the street when she went shopping.

Cinderella put all of her things into a bag made out of some of her old aprons. She strode proudly past her still-stunned stepmother and stepsisters and out the door.

A few weeks later, business could not have been better for Cinderella – or, as she now called herself again, Ella. All the ladies in the kingdom came to her to have beautiful dresses made.

One day, Ella looked up from her sewing to see the Prince standing in her shop! She stood and curtsied as he bowed.

"Fair Ella," he said, "I have found you again at last. You were the young lady who declined to dance with me at my ball." As you can see, the Prince had never forgotten about Ella and her beauty, and he was still as smitten with her as he was the night of the ball.

"Yes, Your Highness, that was me," said Ella. "Now if you'll please excuse me, I have a lot of sewing to do." She sat down again and resumed her work.

The Prince came to kneel before her. "But my fair maiden, you would not have to work to make a living if you came to live in the palace with me! I wish to wed you, beautiful Ella!"

Ella set down her sewing once more and patted the Prince's hand. "What an honor that would be, Your Grace. But I want nothing more than to work in my little shop. It gives me great happiness, and that is all I need." The Prince nodded, bowed deeply, and returned to the palace.

Every day, Ella made beautiful dresses for the ladies of the kingdom. When she had finally grown too old to thread her needle, she let her apprentice take over the shop. Ella looked back on her time and smiled, satisfied that she had lived a long, happy life.