NO CINDERELLA

“Madam, have you lost a slipper?” I asked politely. I held toward her
the dainty shoe that might very well have appareled the foot of Venus;
only one can not quite lift the imagination to the point of picturing
Venus rising out of the Cyprian wave in a pair of ball-room slippers.

“I am not yet addressed as madam,” said she, calmly drawing her skirts
about her feet, which were already securely hidden.

“Not yet? Ah, that is very fortunate, indeed. I see I am not too late.”

“Sir!”

But I saw no anger on her face. There was, however, a mixture of
amusement, _hauteur_ (that darling word of the lady novelists!) and
objection. She hadn’t the least idea who I was, and I was not going to
tell her for some time to come. I was a prodigal, with a few new ideas.

“I meant nothing more serious than that you might happen to be
Cinderella,” said I. “What in the world should I do with Cinderella’s
slipper, once she was married to the prince?”

She swayed her fan indolently, but made no effort to rise. I looked upon
this as rather encouraging.

“It would be somewhat embarrassing to ask a married woman if she were
Cinderella,” I proceeded.

“I should not particularize,” she observed; “married or single, it would
be embarrassing.”

She was charming; a Watteau shepherdess in a fashionable ball-gown. She
was all alone in the nook at the farther end of the conservatory; and I
was glad. Her eyes were brown, with a glint of gold around the pupils, a
kaleidoscopic iris, as it were. She possessed one of those adorable
chins that defy the future to double them; smooth and round, such as a
man delights to curve his palm under; and I might search the several
languages I know to describe fitly her red mouth. Her hair was the color
of a fallen maple-leaf, a rich, soft, warm October brown, streaked with
red. Patience! You may laugh, but, for my part, give me a dash of red
above the alabaster brow of a pretty woman. It is a mute language which
speaks of a sparkling intellect; and whenever I seek the exhilaration
that rises from a witty conflict, I find me a woman with a glimmer of
red in her hair.

“Well, sir?” said she, breaking in upon my train of specific adjectives.

“Pardon me! I was thinking how I should describe you were I a successful
novelist, which I declare I am not.”

“You certainly have all the assurance of a writer of books, to speak to
me in this manner.”

“My assurance is based wholly upon the possession of a truant slipper. I
am bold; but the end justifies the means,”–having in mind her foot.

Her shoulders drew together and fell.

“I am searching for the Cinderella who has lost a slipper; and I am
going to call you Cinderella till I have proof that you are not she whom
I seek.”

“It is very kind of you,” she replied, with a hint of sunshine
struggling at the corners of her lips. “Have I ever met you
before?”–puzzling her arched brows.

“Memory does not follow reincarnation,” I answered owlishly; “but I dare
say that I often met you at the Temple of Venus in the old, old days.”

She appeared slightly interested.

“What, may I ask, was your business in the old, old days?”

“I played the cithern.”

“And I?”

“I believe you distributed flowers.”

“Do you know the hostess?”–with solemn eyes.

“Oh, yes; though she hasn’t the slightest recollection of me. But
that’s perfectly natural. At affairs like this the hostess recalls
familiarly to her mind only those who sat at her dinner-table earlier in
the evening. All other invitations are paid obligations.”

“You possess some discernment, at least.”

“Thank you.”

“But I wish I knew precisely what you are about,”–her eyes growing
critical in their examination.

“I am seeking Cinderella,” once more holding out the slipper. Then I
looked at my watch. “It is not yet twelve o’clock.”

“You are, of course, a guest here,”–ruminating, “else you could not
have passed the footman at the door.”

“Mark my attire; or, candidly, do I look like a footman?”

“No-o; I can’t say you do; but in Cinderella, don’t you know, the
footman carried the slipper.”

“Oh, I’m the prince,” I explained easily; “I dismissed the footman at
the door.”

“Cinderella,” she mused. She nestled her feet, and looked thoughtfully
at her delicate hands. I could see she was at that instant recalling the
picture of Cinderella and the ash-heap.

“What was the prince’s name?”

“In this case it is just a prince of good fellows.”

“I should like some witnesses.” She gazed at me curiously, but there was
no distrust in her limpid eye, as clear and moteless as Widow Wadman’s.

“Isn’t it fine,” I cried with a burst of confidence, “to possess the
courage to speak to strangers?”

“It is equally courageous to listen,” was the retort.

“I knew I should like you!”–with enthusiasm.

She stirred uneasily. It might have been that her foot had suddenly
grown chilled. A storm was whirling outside, and the pale, shadowy
flakes of snow brushed the windows.

I approached her, held up the slipper and contemplated it with wrinkled
brow. She watched me covertly. What a slipper! So small and dainty was
it, so light and airy, that had I suddenly withdrawn my hand I verily
believe it would have floated. It was part satin and part skin, and the
light, striking the inner side of it, permeated it with a faint, rosy
glow.

“What a darling thing it is!”–unable to repress my honest admiration.
“Light as one of those snowflakes out yonder in the night. What a proud
arch the instep has! Ah, but it is a high-bred shoe, fit to tread on the
heart of any man. Lovely atom!”

She stirred again. I went on:

“It might really belong to a princess, but only in a fairy-book; for all
the princesses I have ever seen couldn’t put a hand in a shoe like this,
much less a foot. And when I declare to you, upon my honor, that I have
met various princesses in my time, you will appreciate the compliment I
pay to Cinderella.”

The smile on her lips wavered and trembled, like a puff of wind on
placid water, and was gone.

“Leave it,” she said, melting, “and be gone.”

“I couldn’t. It wouldn’t be gallant at all, don’t you know. The prince
himself put the slipper on Cinderella.”

“But this is a modern instance, and a prosaic world. Men are no longer
gallants, but business men or club gossips; and you do not look like a
business man.”

“I never belonged to a club in my life.”

“You do not look quite so unpopular as all that.”

A witty woman! To be pretty and witty at the same time–the gifts of
Minerva and Venus in lavishment!

“Besides, it is all very improper,” she added.

“The shoe?” I cried.

“No; the shoe is proper enough.”

“You admit it, then!”–joyfully.

“I refer to the dialogue between two persons who have not been
introduced.”

“Convention! Formality! Detestable things, always setting Romance at
arm’s length, and making Truth desire to wear fashionable clothes.”

“Nevertheless, this is improper,” she repeated.

“Why, it doesn’t matter at all,” I said negligently. “We both have been
invited to this house to dance; that is to say, our hostess would not
invite any objectionable persons. What you mean to say is,
unconventional. And I hate convention and formality.”

“Are you a poet, then?”–with good-natured derision.

“Oh, no; I have an earning capacity and a pleasant income.”

She really laughed this time; and I vaguely recalled pearls and coral
and murmuring brooks.

“Won’t you please do that again?” I asked eagerly.

But there must have been something in my gaze that frightened Mirth
away, for she frowned.

Faintly came the music from the ball-room. They were playing the waltzes
from _The Queen’s Lace Handkerchief_. The agony of an extemporization
seized me.

“Strauss!” I cried, flourishing the slipper. “The blue Danube, the
moonshine on the water, the tittle-tattle of the leaves, a man and woman
all, all alone! Romance, love, off to the wars!…”

“It is a far cry to Cinderella,” she interrupted.

“Ah, yes. Music moves me so easily.”

“Indeed! It is scarcely noticeable,”–slyly.

“Are you Cinderella, then?”

“I do not say so.”

“Will you dance with me to prove it one way or the other?”

“Certainly not,”–rather indignantly.

“Why not?”

“There are any number of reasons,” she replied.

“Name just one.”

“I do not know you.”

“You ought to,”–with a double meaning which went for nothing.

“My angle of vision obscures that idea.”

“If you will stand up….” I hesitatingly suggested.

“I am perfectly comfortable where I am,”–with an oblique glance at the
doorway.

“I am convinced that you are the Cinderella; I can not figure it out
otherwise.”

“Do not figure at all; simply leave the shoe.”

“It is too near twelve o’clock for that. Besides, I wish to demolish the
pumpkin theory. It’s all tommy-rot about changing pumpkins into
chariots, unless you happen to be a successful pie-merchant.”

She bit her lips and tapped her cheek with the fan. (Did I mention the
bloomy cheeks?)

“Perhaps I am only one of Cinderella’s elder sisters.”

“That would be very unfortunate. You will recollect that the elder
sisters cut off their–”

“Good gracious!”

“Cut off their toes in the mad effort to capture the prince,” I
continued.

“But I am not trying to capture any prince, not even a fairy prince;
and I wouldn’t–”

“Cut off your toes?” I suggested.

“Prolong this questionable conversation, only–”

“You can not stop it till you have the shoe,” I said.

“Only,” she went on determinedly, “I am so comfortable here that I do
not care to return to the ball-room just at present.”

“I never expected such a full compliment;” and I made her my most
engaging bow.

“I am afraid you will have to cut off _your_ toes to get into _that_
shoe,”–maliciously.

“I could expect no less than that from you. You keep coming closer to my
ideal every moment.”

She shrugged disdainfully and assumed a bored expression that did not
deceive me in the least.

“Since you are so determined to continue this dialogue, go and fetch
some one you know. An introduction is absolutely necessary.” She seemed
immovable on this point.

“And the moment I turned my back–presto! away would go Cinderella, and
I should be in the dark as much as ever regarding the pumpkins. No, I
thank you. Be good, and confess that you are Cinderella.”

“Sir, this really ceases to be amusing.” Her fan closed with a snap.

“It was serious the moment I entered and saw you,” I replied frankly.

“I ought to be annoyed excessively. You are a total stranger; I declare
that I never saw you before in all my life. It is true that we are
guests in the same house, but that does not give privilege to this
particular annoyance. Here I am, talking to you as if it were distinctly
proper.”

“I can not say that you have put your foot in it yet,”–having recourse
to the slipper again. I was having a fine time.

She smiled in spite of the anger which sparkled in her eyes. Of course,
if she became downright angry I should tell who I was, only it would
spoil everything.

“And you do not know me?” I said dejectedly. “Do you mean to tell me
that you have never dreamed of any Prince Charming?”

“I can not say I have,”–icily.

A flock of young persons came in noisily, but happily they contented
themselves with the bowl of lemon-punch at the other end of the
conservatory.

I sat down in the Roman chair which stood at the side of the
window-seat. I balanced the slipper on the palm of my hand. Funny, isn’t
it, how much a woman will put up with rather than walk about in her
stockings. And I wasn’t even sure that she had lost a slipper! I
wondered, too, where all her dancing partners were.

“You say you do not know me,” I began. “Let me see,”–narrowing my eyes
as one does who attempts to recall a dim and shadowy past. “Didn’t you
wear your hair in two plaits down your back?”

“That is regular; it is still the custom; it proves nothing.”

“Let me recall a rambling old garret where we used to hold shows.”

Her fan opened again, and the tendrils at her temples moved gently.

“Once we played the _Sleeping Beauty_, and you said that I should always
be Prince Charming. How easily we forget!”

She inclined forward a bit. There were signs of reviving interest. She
began to scrutinize me; hitherto she had surveyed and examined me.

“Once–”

“Say ‘Once upon a time’; all fairy stories begin that way.”

“Thank you; I stand corrected. Well, once upon a time you fell down
these same garret stairs; and if you will lift that beautiful lock of
hair from your right temple I shall see a scar. I am sure of your
identity.”

Unconsciously her hand strayed to her temple, and dropped.

“Whoever you are, you seem acquainted with certain youthful adventures.
But some one might have told you these things, thinking to annoy me.”
Then the light in her eyes grew dim with the struggle of retrospection,
the effort to pierce the veil of absent years, and to place me among the
useless, forgotten things of youth, or rather childhood. “No, I can not
place you. Please tell me who you are, if I have ever known you.”

“Not just now. Mystery arouses a woman’s curiosity, and I frankly
confess that I wish to arouse yours. You are nearly, if not quite,
twenty-four.”

“One does not win a woman’s interest by telling her her age.”

“But I add that you do not look it.”

“That is better. Now, let me see the slipper,” holding out her hand.

“To no one but Cinderella. I’d be a nice prince, wouldn’t I, to
surrender the slipper without finding Cinderella!”

“In these days no woman would permit you to put on her slipper, unless
you were her husband or her brother.”

“No? Then I have a much perverted idea of society.”

“And,”–passing over my remark, “she would rather sit in a corner all
the evening.”

“But think of the fun you are missing!”

“To be frank with you, I am not missing very much fun. I was at a dance
last night, and the novelty begins to pall.”

“At least, then, you will admit that I have proved a diversion.”

“It will cost me nothing to admit that; but I think you are rude not to
tell me right away who you are.”

She looked out of the blurred windows. Her profile was beautiful to
contemplate, and perhaps she knew it.

“Why don’t you seek a footman,” she asked, after a pause, “and have him
announce that you have found a slipper?”

“Have you no more regard for romance than that?”

“You said that I was twenty-four years old. I have less regard for
romance than for propriety.”

“There you go again, battening down the hatches of convention! I am
becoming discouraged.”

“Is it possible? I have long since been.”

She had always been a match for me.

Enter upon the scene (as they say in the play-books) a flurried partner,
rather young and tender to be thrown in company with twenty-four years
of sparkling femininity. Well, that was his affair; I didn’t propose to
warn him.

“Oh, here you are!” he cried, brightening. “I’ve been looking for you
everywhere,”–making believe that something was the matter with his
gloves.

“Do you know this gentleman?” she asked, pointing to me with her fan.

I felt a nervous tremor. I wondered if she had been waiting for a moment
like this.

The young fellow held out his hand; his smile was pleasant and
inquiring.

“Wait a moment,” she interrupted wickedly. “I am not introducing you. I
am simply asking you if you know him.”

Wasn’t this a capital revenge?

“I … I can’t say that I ever saw the gentleman before,” he stammered,
mightily bewildered. Then all at once his face grew red with anger. He
even balled his fists. “Has he dared–”

“No, no! I only wished to know if you knew him. Since you do not there
is nothing more to be done about it.”

“But if he has insulted–”

“Sh! That’s not a nice word to hear in a conservatory,” she warned.

“But I do not understand.”

“It is not necessary. If you do not take me instantly to the ball-room
you will lose the best part of the dance.”

She rose, and then I saw two little blue slippers peeping out from under
the silken skirts.

“You might have told me,” I said reproachfully. “And now I do not
believe any other Cinderella will do. Young man,” said I, holding out
the slipper for his inspection, “I was just paying this lady the very
great compliment of thinking that this might be her shoe.”

“And it isn’t,” she returned. “Now, in honor to yourself, what is my
name?”

“You are Nancy Marsden.”

“And you?”

“Your humble servant,”–bending.

“I shall soon find out.”

“It is quite possible.”

And then, with a hand on her escort’s arm, she laughed, and walked (or
should I say glided? It seems a sacrilege to say that so enchanting a
creature walked) out of the conservatory, leaving me gazing ruefully and
mournfully at the little white slipper in my hand.

Now, where in the world was Cinderella?

II

I thrust the slipper into the tail of my coat, and strolled over to the
marble bench which partly encircled the fountain. The tinkle of the
falling water made a pleasant sound. Ten years! I had been away ten
years. How quickly youth vanishes down the glimmering track of time!
Here I was at thirty, rather old, too, for that number; and here was
that pretty girl of fourteen grown into womanhood, a womanhood that
would have stirred the pulses of many a man less susceptible than
myself. That she was unmarried somehow made me glad, though why I can
not say, unless it be that vanity survives everything.

I had been violently in love with her; at that time she hadn’t quite
turned six. Then I had lorded it over her tender eighth year, and from
the serene height of twenty I had looked down upon her fourteen in a
fatherly, patronizing fashion. As I recalled her new glory the truth
came upon me that she was like to pay me back with interest for all the
snubs I had given her.

Off to Heidelberg and Bonn and Berlin! Student days! Heigh-ho! Ten years
is a long time. I might still have been an alien, an exile, but for my
uncle’s death and that the lonely aunt wanted a man about. (Not that I
was much of a man to have about.) In all these ten years I had not once
visited my native land, scandalous as it may seem; but I had always
celebrated the Fourth of July in my garden, celebrated it religiously,
too, and followed the general elections.

All these people (or nearly all of them) I had known in my youth; and
now not one of them recognized me. There was a pang in this knowledge.
No one likes to be completely forgotten, save the absconding bank-clerk
and the defeated candidate. I had made no effort to recall myself to
those I met. My hostess thoughtlessly supposed that I should take upon
myself the labor of renewing acquaintance; but I found this rather
impossible. Everything was changed, the people and the city; the one had
added to its height and the other to its girth. So I simply wandered
about the familiar rooms summoning up the pleasant ghosts of bygone
days. Then came the slipper episode–and Nancy!

Home again! No more should the sea call, nor the sky, nor the hills; I
was home again, for ever and for ever, so I hoped.

And then I glanced up from my reverie to behold a woman, fair, fat and
forty-eight, seat herself breathlessly on the far end of the bench. I
recognized her instantly: she had been one of the salient features of my
childhood, only a little farther removed than my mother herself. She
was florid in her October years; twenty years ago she had been plump and
pretty; now she was only pretty plump. But a rollicking soul beamed from
her kindly eyes. So I bethought me of the slipper, dragged it forth,
rose and approached.

“Madam,” said I gravely, “are you Cinderella?”

She balanced her lorgnette and stared, first at the slipper, then at me.

“Young man, don’t be silly. Do I look like a woman who could wear a
little thing like that? Run along with you, and don’t make fun of poor
old women. If there is any Cinderella around here I’m only her
godmother.”

For a moment I stood abashed. Here was one who had outlived vanity, or
at least had discovered its worthlessness.

“Have you no vanity, madam?” I asked solemnly.

“If I have it has ceased to protrude. Go and give the slipper to a
footman, and don’t keep some girl hopping around on one foot.”

I was almost tempted to tell her who I was.

“Madam, there was a time”–I began.

“Oh, yes; thirty years ago I might have claimed the slipper; I might
even have worn it,”–complacently.

“Permit me to conclude: there was a time when you held me on your
knees.”

“What?”

“It is indeed so.”

“Confess, then, that you were properly spanked…. Heavens and earth,
wherever did you come from?” she exclaimed suddenly. “Sit down beside me
instantly!” And she called me by name.

It was the third time I had heard it that night. I had heard it so
infrequently that I liked the sound of it.

“And it is really you?” pushing me off at arm’s length the better to
observe the changes that had taken place. “You grow more like your
father; if you hadn’t that beard you would be the exact picture of your
father when he married your mother. Oh, what a pretty wedding it was!”

“I shall have to take your word for it. I was up and about, however, at
the tin anniversary.”

“I remember. Oh, but what a racket you made among the pans!” She laughed
softly at the recollection.

“I was properly spanked that night,” I admitted.

And straightway we uncovered thirty and twenty years respectively.

“By the way,” said I carelessly, “is Nancy Marsden engaged to be
married?”

“Nancy? She never will be, to my idea. She recently turned down a real
duke: a duke that had money and everything.”

“And everything: is that castles?” I inquired.

“Nonsense!”

“Well, between you and me and the gatepost, Miss Nancy will be engaged
within two months.”

“No!”–excitedly.

“It is written.”

“And to whom, pray?”

“It’s the woman’s place to announce an engagement. But I know the man.”

“He is worthy?”

“Oh, as men go.”

Then the water-clock in the fountain struck twelve, and I sprang up.

“Mercy, I’ll never find any Cinderella at this rate. All is lost if she
escapes me.”

I kissed her hand gratefully, and made off.

I immediately ran into a young miss who, judging from her short dresses,
was a guest on sufferance, not having “come out” yet.

“Are you Cinderella?” I asked, with all the gravity I could assume.

“Thank you, sir, but mama will not permit me,” her cheeks growing
furiously red.

I passed on, willing to wager that the little girl had understood me to
ask her to dance with me.

How I searched among the young faces; many I saw that I knew, but my
confounded beard (which I determined to cut the very next morning) hid
me as completely as the fabled invisible cloak. I wondered where Jim
was–Nancy’s brother. I had seen him in Europe, and I knew if he were
anywhere around there would be one to clap me on the back and bid me
welcome home. This prodigal business isn’t what it’s cracked up to
be…. Somehow I felt that within a few days I should be making love
again to Nancy; and I may truthfully add that I dreaded the ordeal while
I courted it.

What if she refused me in the end? I cast out at once this horrific
thought as unworthy a man of my address.

Under the stairway there was a cozy corner. Upon the cushions I saw a
dark-haired girl in red. Now, when they haven’t a dash of red in their
hair I like it in their dress. She was pretty, besides; so I stopped.

“Pardon me, but won’t you tell me if you are Cinderella?”–producing the
slipper.

“I am,”–with an amused smile.

“Then there _is_ a Cinderella, after all?” I cried joyfully. “Where are
the pumpkins?” glancing about.

“I believe that several of them have gone hunting for the slipper.”

I was delighted. Three witty women all in one night, and two of them
charming. It was more than a man had any right to expect.

“You have really and truly lost a slipper?”

“Really and truly; only I am _not_ the Cinderella you are looking for.”
From under her skirt there came into view (immediately to disappear) a
small scarlet slipper.

I was very much taken aback.

“Red?” said I. “Ah, I have it. The wicked fairy has cast a spell over
the slipper and turned it white.”

“That would simplify everything … if we lived in fairy-tale times. Oh,
dear, there are no fairies nowadays, and I wonder how in the world I am
to get home.”

“You have the pumpkins and the mice.”

“Only the pumpkins; it is after twelve, and all the mice have gone
home.”

“Haven’t you an incantation?”

She stretched out her arms dramatically. “Be gone, young man, be gone!”

“Very good,” said I; “but I am impervious to incantations of that
sort.”

“I wonder where the other Cinderella is?”–adroitly. It was quite
evident that she wanted to be rid of me.

If I hadn’t met Nancy–!

“Supposing I try this white slipper on your foot?”

“It is not a supposable matter.”

“Would that I possessed a cobbler’s license!”–sighing.

She laughed. “You wouldn’t be half so nice.”

This was almost the beginning of an enchantment.

“If you will turn your head toward the wall I’ll try on the slipper. I
am curious to learn if there is a girl here who has a smaller foot than
I.”

“Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!”

“‘Tisn’t vanity; it’s curiosity; and maybe my foot is getting cold.”

I took some pillows and piled them on the floor. “How will this do?”

“Since I can not have the slipper I shall not move. Besides, I am
sitting on the unshod foot. Hadn’t you better sit down here beside me
and give an account of yourself and what you have been doing all these
ten years?”

“You know me?” genuinely astonished.

“But you do not know me?”

“No; it’s a terrible thing to admit, but I do not recognize you.”

“Don’t you remember Betty Lee?”

“Betty Lee? That homely little girl turned into a goddess? Small wonder
that I didn’t recognize you.”

“My girl friends all say that I haven’t changed a bit in ten years.”

“Envy, malice, jealousy! But it is odd that you should recognize me and
that Nancy Marsden should forget me.”

“I used to detest you; we forget only those we loved.”

Enter one of the pumpkins, a young fellow about twenty. Hang it, I was
always being interrupted by some callow youth!

“Here’s your confounded shoe, Bett. I’ve had a deuce of a time finding
it.” He tossed the slipper cavalierly into her lap.

“Young man,” said I severely, “you will never succeed with the ladies.”

“The lady happens to be my sister,”–haughtily.

“Pardon me!”–contritely. “I should have remembered that sisters don’t
belong.”

The girl laughed and pushed out one of the pillows. Then she gave me the
slipper.

“We’ll not haggle over a cobbler’s license,” she said.

I knelt and put on the slipper. Only one thing marred the completeness
of my happiness: the slipper wasn’t a blue one.

The girl stood up and shook the folds in her dress, then turned coldly
on her brother.

“You are a disgrace to the family, Bob.”

“Oh, fudge! Come on along to supper; it’s ready, and I’m half starved.”

Brothers don’t belong, either.

“I wish you luck with the white slipper,” said Betty, as she turned to
leave. “Call on me soon, and I’ll forgive all the past.”

“That I shall.” But I made up my mind that I should call on Nancy
first. Otherwise it would be dangerous.

I stood alone. It rather hurt to think one girl should remember me and
that the other should absolutely forget. But supper brought me out of my
cogitations. So once again I put away the slipper and looked at my
supper-card. I was destined to sit at table four. I followed the
pilgrims out to worship at the shrine of Lucullus.

Evidently there was no Cinderella; or, true to her condition in life,
she was at this moment seated before her ash-heap, surrounded by
strutting and cooing doves. Well, well, I could put the slipper on the
mantel at home; it would be a pleasant reminder.

I found table four. There were four chairs, none of them occupied; and
as I sat down I wondered if any one I knew would sit down with me.

A heavy hand fell rudely upon my shoulder.

“What do you mean, sir, by entering a gentleman’s house in this
manner?” demanded a stern voice.

I turned, my ears burning hotly.

“You old prodigal! You old man-without-a-country! You pirate!” went on
the voice. “How dared you sneak in in this fashion? Nan, what would you
do with him if you were in my place?” The voice belonged to Nancy
Marsden’s brother.

“I have no desire to put myself in your place,” said the only girl who
_could_ be Cinderella.

“I wouldn’t bother about _his_ slipper, not if he went barefooted all
his life,” said I.

And then, and then, and then! What a bombardment! How pleased I was! I
was inordinately happy, and I didn’t eat a thing till the salad.

“How could you!” said Nancy.

“But you didn’t recognize me,”–with a show of defiance; “and I expected
that you would be the very first.”

“Cut off that horrid beard.”

“To-morrow morning.”

“And never wear it again.”

“Never.”

“Have you found Cinderella?” Nancy asked presently.

“No; but I haven’t given up all hope.”

“Let me see it.”

With some hesitance I placed the slipper in her hand. She looked at it
sharply.

“Good gracious!”

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“Why, this slipper has _never_ been worn at all. It is brand new!” She
was greatly bewildered.

“I know it,” I replied; “I brought it myself.”

Then how she laughed! And when I asked her to do it again she did, even
more heartily than before.

“You will always be the same,”–passing the slipper back to me.

“No, I want to be just a little different from now on,”–inscrutably.

She gave me an indescribable glance.

“Give the slipper to me.”

“To keep?”

“Yes, to keep. Somehow, I rather fancy I should like to try it
on,”–demurely.

So I gave her the slipper.