Chapter 13:
The Capital

Nutcracker clapped his little hands again and the silvery-pink waves of Rose Lake came faster and higher. Marie could see what looked like a chariot made from a giant seashell covered with glittering gems in the distance. As it drew closer she could see that it was pulled by two golden dolphins. When it reached the shore, twelve little Moors with hats and tunics woven from glistening hummingbird feathers jumped off and took Marie, then Nutcracker onto the little sea-chariot and immediately took off again.

The golden dolphins raised their heads out of the water and blew crystalline sprays through their blowholes and sang in in silvery voices:

Who is this who crosses Rose Lake?
A fairy! A bumblebee!
Bim bim little fishes
Sim sim swans
Tweet tweet golden birds
Little fairy, come along
Come along the fragrant rosy waves

But the little Moors who were at the back of the sea-chariot didn't seem to like the dolphin's song very much at all. They shook their palm-leaf parasols so hard that the fronds they were made from rustled loudly. They stamped their feet in a strange rhythm and sang:

The Moorish dance mustn't stop
Swim on, fishes, swim on swans
Roll along, shell-boat, roll along on

"The Moors are amusing enough," Nutcracker said, sounding a little embarrassed, "but they're going to make the whole lake rebellious."

In fact, it wasn't long before a ruckus of voices from the air and the sea could be heard, but Marie wasn't paying attention. Instead, she was looking at the face of a lovely and charming girl in the rose-colored waters who was smiling up at her.

"Oh, look, Mr. Drosselmeier! Look down there! It's Princess Pirlipat and she's smiling at me! Please look, Mr. Drosselmeier!"

Nutcracker sighed sadly and said, "oh, excellent Lady Stahlbaum, that is not Princess Pirlipat, but your own face smiling up at you."

Marie sat up very quickly, closed her eyes, and felt very ashamed. At that same moment the Moors lifted her out of the sea-chariot and carried her to land. She was in a small thicket that was almost more beautiful than Christmas Forest. Everything shone and sparkled, and the fruits that hung from the trees were of the most unusual colors and smelled marvelous.

"We're in Marmalade Grove," Nutcracker said, "but there is the capital!"

And what Marie saw now! I will describe to you children the beauty and splendor of the city which opened into a wide meadow of flowers before Marie's eyes. The walls and towers were resplendent in beautiful colors, and their shape and design was like nothing else seen on Earth. Instead of roofs, the houses were topped with finely-wrought crowns and the towers were adorned with garlands of the most delicate multicolored foliage.

As they passed through the gate (which appeared to be made of macaroons and and candied fruits) silver soldiers saluted with with their rifles and a man in a brocade gown threw his arms around the Nutcracker's neck. "Welcome, excellent prince! Welcome to Confectionery City!"

Marie was not a little surprised when she saw young Drosselmeier recognized as a prince by the distinguished-looking man. Then she noticed the confused and noisy din of the city with its merry and joyous shouting, laughing, playing, and singing, and such was the noise that she was distracted from all other thoughts.

"Nutcracker, what's all this noise about?" she asked.

"Excellent Lady Stahlbaum, this isn't anything special. Confectionery City is a densely populated and merry city; it's always like this. Please come farther inside."

They had hardly taken but a few steps when they came to a huge marketplace. It was a glorious sight - all of the houses were made from sugar filigree, rows of pillars and arches were stacked high, and in the center of it all was an obelisk made of cake. On each side of the latter were four marvelous fountains that bubbled with lemonade, orangeade, and other delicious sweet drinks, and the basin was full of cream so thick you could have eaten it with a spoon.

But prettier than all of this were the people gathered together by the thousands. They laughed, joked, and sang - in short, they were the source of the noise Marie had noticed earlier. There were finely-dressed gentlemen and ladies of all sorts: Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Tyroleans, officers, soldiers, preachers, shepherds, clowns, and as many other kinds of people as there are in the world.

At one corner there was an even greater din and the people were scattering in all directions, for the Grand Mogul who had been carried in on a palanquin accompanied by ninety three grandees of the realm and seven hundred slaves had unexpectedly run into the annual parade conducted by the fishermen's guild, which comprised of five hundred members. Unfortuntely, a Turkish general suddenly had the idea to ride into the marketplace with three thousand Janissaries, and by an extra stroke of bad luck the Procession of the Interrupted Sacrifice came by singing and playing "Let Us Thank The Almighty Sun!" right up to the cake obelisk.

When all four of these parties met, there was a great pushing, shoving, and squeaking. There was suddenly a great wailing, as a fisherman had knocked a Brahmin's head off and the mogul had nearly been run over by a clown. The noise grew louder and it looked like a riot was going to break out when the man in the brocade robe climbed to the top of the cake obelisk, rang a bell three times, and cried out, "Candyman! Candyman! Candyman!"

Suddenly the din died down, and everyone was busy getting back to their business as best as they could. The processions involved got back on their tracks, the mogul was picked up and dusted off, and the Brahmin's head was put back on his shoulders. The merry din resumed itself and everything went back to normal.

"Who is this 'Candyman' they're talking about, Drosselmeier sir?" Marie asked.

"Excellent Lady Stahlbaum, the Candyman is an unknown but terrifying power which is believed to control the destiny of these people, and is the eventual doom of them all. They are so terrified of it that the mere mention of its name can quell the greatest turmoil, as the Lord Mayor has just demonstrated. When its name is mentioned no-one thinks any more of Earthly matters such as pokes in the ribs or knocks to the head, but stops and asks, 'what is the nature of man, and what is his fate?'"

Marie could not contain a cry of astonishment when she stood before a castle with a hundred towers shining with a rosy-red glow. Now and then rich bouquets of violets, narcissuses, tulips, and matthiolas were hung from the walls. Their dark and vivid colors contrasted against the pinkish-white plaster behind them.

The great expanse of the central dome and the pyramidal roofs of the towers were studded with thousands of twinking stars of gold and and silver.

"Now we're at Marzipan Castle," Nutcracker said.

Marie was completely lost in the sight of the magical castle, and it didn't escape her notice that one of the towers was completely missing its roof, which little men on scaffoldings of cinnamon sticks were working hard to build.

Before she could ask about it, Nutcracker said, "not too long ago this beautiful castle was threatened by devastation, if not utter ruin. The giant Sweettooth came along and bit off the roof of that tower and had even started in on the great dome, but the people offered him a whole district and part of Marmalade Grove instead, which he ate up and continued on his way."

At that moment a soft and pleasant music began to play and the gate opened. Twelve little pageboys walked out holding lighted clove sticks like torches. Each of their heads was a single pearl and their bodies were made of ruby and emerald. They were followed by four ladies almost as tall as Marie's Clarette, and their clothes were so beautiful and brilliantly-colored that she knew at once they were princesses. They tenderly embraced Nutcracker and shouted joyously, "my lord - my prince - my brother!"

Nutcracker seemed very moved by this display of affection and wiped tears from his eyes. He took Marie by the hand and said emotionally, "this is Lady Marie Stahlbaum, the daughter of a very respectable doctor, and the one who saved my life. Had she not thrown her shoe at the right time and later found me a sword, I would be in the grave, bitten to death by the Mouse King. Tell me, does Pirlipat, who was born a princess, compare to Marie's beauty, goodness, and virtue? No, I say! No!"

All of the ladies shouted "no!" and tearfully embraced Marie crying, "oh, noble savior of our brother, noble Lady Stahlbaum!"

The ladies escorted Nutcracker and Marie into the interior of the castle, into a room where the walls were made of pure sparkling crystals of every color. But Marie was most taken by the dear little chairs, tables, dressers, desks, and other furniture standing around made of cedar and Brazil wood and strewn with golden flowers. The princesses had Marie and Nutcracker sit down and immediately announced that they themselves would prepare them a meal.

The princesses fetched bowls and pots of the finest Japanese porcelain, as well as spoons, forks, knives, and graters and other kitchen utensils plated with gold and silver. The brought in the finest fruits and sweets, such as Marie had never seen before, and began to squeeze the fruits, crush the spices, and grate the sugared almonds with their delicate snow-white hands. They were so efficent in their work that Marie could see what expert chefs they all were and that she could expect a splendid meal. It was all so exciting to watch that she secretly wished she could help them.

As if reading her mind, the most beautiful of Nutcracker's sisters handed Marie a golden mortar and said, "sweet friend and rescuer of my brother, please crush this sugar candy."

Marie cheerfully crushed the candy in the mortar, which made a pleasant, almost musical sound. Nutcracker began to tell at length how he had fared badly against the Mouse King's army and how the cowardice of half the troops had lead to their defeat, how the Mouse King had wanted to bite him to pieces, how Marie had been forced to sacrifice many of his subjects in her service, and so on.

As Marie listened to him tell the tale, the sound of the mortar seemed to grow more distant and indistinct, and a silver mist seemed to rise out of the floor and surround the princesses, the Nutcracker, and evern herself. She heard strange singing, buzzing, and humming noises in the distance that seemed to draw closer, and felt herself rising as if on waves higher, higher, higher, and higher...

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