On the second night of the great party all happened as on the first. Cinderella was made ready by the fairy and, when she reached the big house on the hill, the Prince ran to welcome her. He would dance with no one else as before and, when Cinderella vanished just before the clock struck twelve, he was so unhappy that no one could comfort him.
Now the third and last night of the party had come. The Prince could think of nothing but the pretty maid. “I must know who she is and where she comes from, or I shall never be happy again. I will keep fast hold of her hand to-night. She shall not slip away this time as she has always done before,” said the Prince.
Never had Cinderella been as happy as on that evening, never had she danced as well, never had the lights shone brighter or the music sounded sweeter, never had the Prince been half as gay. Cinderella danced on and on. She forgot the fairy, she forgot her promise, she forgot the hour. The great clock in the hall ticked off the minutes. It was nearly twelve, still Cinderella danced on without a thought. The six gray horses pawed restlessly at the door. Louder and louder grew the music, faster and faster flew the dancers, and the gayest of them all was Cinderella as she whirled by on the arm of the happy Prince. But, hark! What’s that? Above the noise of the dancing, above the music and laughter, a sound is heard. It is the great clock striking the hour of midnight.
Cinderella heard at last, at last she remembered. She snatched her hand from the hand of the Prince. She rushed to the doorway, but she tripped upon the mat and one of her little glass slippers fell off. The Prince ran after her, but he stopped to pick up her slipper, and when he reached the gateway the beautiful lady was nowhere to be seen. All was dark and still, only a ragged beggar-maid, sobbing as if her heart would break, went quickly away into the night. Poor, poor Cinderella! Her wonderful carriage had vanished, her beautiful dress was gone, nothing was left her but one tiny glass slipper. She stooped and taking it from her foot she put it carefully into the pocket of her ragged dress, and walked barefoot all the way home alone in the darkness.
Time passed, the poor Prince could not sleep by night and could not rest by day for he had lost his beautiful lady. He had her little slipper and that was his only comfort. At last he said, “Whoever can wear this slipper shall be my queen and queen of all my people.”