Chapter 14:

Poof! Marie felt herself falling from an immense height. What a jolt!

Suddenly she opened her eyes and found herself laying in her little bed, and it was broad daylight. Her mother stood over her and said, "how can you sleep so long? Breakfast is ready!"

You have probably realized, honored listeners, that Marie, exhausted from her adventures, had fallen asleep at last in the hall of Marzipan Castle and the Moors, pages, or even the princesses themselves had carried her home and put her to bed. "Oh, Mama - Mama! Young Drosselmeier took me and showed me the most beautiful things last night!" Then Marie told her mother everything she saw, just as I have told you, and her mother looked at her in amazement.

"You've had a long, beautiful dream, dear Marie, but now you must put it from your mind."

But Marie insisted that it wasn't a dream and that it had really happened. So her mother took her to the glass-fronted cabinet and showed her the Nutcracker, sitting on the second shelf as usual. "How, silly girl, can you believe that a wooden doll can be alive and move?" she asked.

"But Mama, I know very well that Nutcracker is young Mr. Drosselmeier from Nuremberg, Godfather Drosselmeier's nephew."

Both of her parents broke out into peals of laughter.

"Oh!" Marie exclaimed, nearly in tears, "now you're laughing at my nutcracker, Papa! And he spoke so well of you! When we arrived at Marzipan Castle and he introduced me to the princesses - his sisters - he called you a respectable doctor!"

But they only laughed harder, and Louise and Fritz started to laugh too. Marie quickly went to her bedroom and retrieved the seven crowns of the Mouse King, which she presented to her mother. "Look, Mama, these are the crowns of the Mouse King, which Nutcracker gave me last night as a token of his victory."

Her mother marveled over the tiny crowns, which were made of an unknown but brilliant metal and seemed impossible for human hands to have forged. Even her father was completely fascinated by them, and they both asked in ernest where she had gotten them. She could only repeat what she had said before, and when her father scolded her harshly and even called her a little liar, she began to cry violently and said to herself, "oh, poor me, poor me - what am I to say?"

At that moment the door opened and the judge stepped through and shouted, "what's happening? Why is my godchild Marie crying? What's going on?"

The doctor informed him of all that had happened while he showed him the little crowns. However, the judge had hardly listened to a word of it when he laughed and said, "what a silly fuss! These are the crowns I wore for years on my watch chain. I gave them to Marie for her second birthday. Have you forgotten?"

Neither one of them could remember such a thing. When Marie saw that they were no longer angry, she ran up to Godfather Drosslemeier and said, "you know everything, Godfather Drosselmeier. Tell them that Nutcracker is your nephew, young Drosselmeier from Nuremberg!"

But Godfather Drosselmeier frowned and muttered, "ridiculous foolish nonsense."

Then the doctor took Marie aside and said very seriously, "listen, Marie, forget all these tall tales and foolishness. If you ever insist that the nutcracker is Drosselmeier's nephew again, I will throw not only the Nutcracker, but all of your dolls - Madam Clarette included - out the window."

Of course Marie could no longer speak of it, but her mind was filled with it nonetheless. You can well imagine that if you'd seen anything so marvelous yourself, you wouldn't be able to forget it, either.

Even Fritz would ignore Marie if she ever began to tell him of the fantastic realm that had delighted her so. It's even rumored he would occasionally muttered "silly goose!" between his teeth, but given his usual good demeanor I find this doubtful. This much is certain, however - he no longer believed what Marie had told him earlier and made a formal apology to his hussars with a public parade, replaced their lost field insignias with taller, fancier goose feathers, and allowed them to play the Hussar's March once more. However, you and I know just how pathetic those hussars were when those nasty little balls left stains on their red jackets!

Although Marie couldn't talk about her adventure, the images of that marvelous fairyland and its lovely sounds played over and over in her mind. Instead of playing with her toys, Marie would often sit still and silent as she remembered it all. The others would scold her and call her a 'little dreamer.'

It happened one day that as the judge was repairing one of the family clocks, Marie sat next to the glass-fronted cabinet remembering her adventures. She looked up at the Nutcracker and suddenly found herself saying, "dear Mr. Drosselmeier, if you really were alive, I wouldn't be like Princess Pirlipat and hate you because you stopped being handsome for my sake!"

At that moment the judge cried, "foolish nonsense!"

But there was suddenly a bang so loud that Marie fainted from her chair. When she awoke, her mother was looking over her. "How can a big girl like you fall off your chair?" she asked. "Anyway, the judge's nephew from Nuremberg has just arrived, so behave yourself."

Marie looked up. The judge had put on his spun-glass wig and yellow coat and was smiling happily. He held the hand of a small, yet handsome young man with a face as white as milk and red as blood. He wore a beautiful red coat trimmed with gold, shoes and stockings of white silk, a powdered wig, and a splendid braid down his back. In one hand he carried a most delightful bouquet of flowers and under his other arm he carried his hat, which was woven from silk. The small sword at his side was encrusted with flashing jewels.

The young man was polite and well-mannered. He gave Marie all sorts of toys and replaced the marzipan and sugar dolls the Mouse King had chewed up. To Fritz he gave a beautiful sabre.

At the table he cracked nuts for everyone; even the hardest could not resist him. With his right hand he put the nut in his mouth and with his left hand he gave a tug on his pigtail, and - crack! - the shell broke into pieces.

Marie had blushed a fiery red when she first saw the young man, and after dinner she blushed even redder when he invited her to come into the living room to the glass-fronted cabinet.

"Just behave when you play, children," the judge said. "Now that all the clocks are telling the right time I've nothing against it."

Hardly were they alone when young Drosselmeier knelt down on one knee and spoke thus: "my most excellent lady Stahlbaum, you see at your feet the happy Drosselemeier, whose life you saved right here. When you said that you would not hate me like the cruel Princess Pirlipat for whose sake I became ugly, I immediately ceased to be a hideous nutcracker and and received my former and not-unpleasant form again. Oh noble young lady, please make me happy by giving me your worthy hand and sharing my kingdom and crown. If you do, you shall reign with me in Marzipan Castle, for there I am king!"

Marie took him up by the hand and said, "dear Mr. Drosselmeier, you are a gentle and good man, and also since you rule a country with such wonderful people I accept you as my bridegroom."

With that, they were engaged. In a year (so they say) he came to take her to his kingdom in a golden carriage drawn by silver horses. When they were married in due time, there were twenty-two thousand of the most brilliant dancers dressed in pearls and diamonds to entertain at the wedding, and to this day Marie should still be the queen of a country in which shimmering Christmas forests and glazed marzipan castles - in short, the most marvelous things you can imagine - can be seen if you only look.

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