Chapter 2:
The Gifts

I ask you, the reader, to remember your most wonderful Christmas. Remember the beautiful, colorful presents and the lavishly decorated Christmas tree? You should be able to imagine how the children felt. With sparkling eyes, the children were completely silenced for awhile. Then Marie gave a deep sigh, and said "Oh, how beautiful... oh, how nice."

Fritz made a few exuberant leaps into the air. They must have been very good that year, because they had never been given so many wonderful and magnificent presents before. The big fir tree in the center of the room was covered in golden apples, silver apples, buds, and blossoms. Besides that, there were sugared almonds, colorful candies, and many other delicacies. Each and every branch was adorned, and best of all, hundreds of lights sparkled from within its branches like tiny stars. Its warm and inviting glow beckoned the children to pluck its fruits.

Around the tree were such colorful and lovely gifts to defy description. Marie saw the prettiest dolls and all sorts of neat little items and tools for them. What especially caught her eye was a dress hanging from a rack so it could be seen from all sides. It was made of silk and adorned with colorful ribbons, and after admiring it for a moment, Marie exclaimed "It's so beautiful! Oh, I love it! Surely I'll be allowed to wear it!"

Fritz had already galloped three or four circles around the tree on his toy horse, which he had found bridled next to the table. After dismounting he said it was a wild beast, but that was all right - he'd tame it sure enough. Then he inspected his new squadron of hussars, who were dressed handsomely in red and gold. They carried tiny silver weapons and rode on horses so white that they almost looked like they were made of pure silver.

When the children quieted down they turned to the picture books, which were filled with beautifully-drawn pictures of flowers, children at play, and colorful people. They were so life-like that one could almost believe they might really move or speak.

They had scarcely begun to delve into the books when the silvery bell rang again, and they knew Drosselmeier's gift was ready. They ran to the table, where a silken screen Drosselmeier had been behind all along was lifted up. Sitting upon the table was a green lawn decorated with flowers, and upon that sat a beautiful miniature palace with many golden towers, delicate little mirrors, and windows to see the elegant rooms inside. A bell rang, and the palace's doors opened. Inside, ladies with long dresses and gentlemen with plumed hats walked about the halls. There were so many candles burning in the silver chandeliers in the central hall that the whole room seemed to be on fire. A gentleman in an emerald cloak would presently poke out of a window, wave, and return into the palace again. Likewise, by the door of the castle, a miniature Drosselmeier - no bigger than Papa's thumb - came out to wave at the children before returning inside.

Fritz had been watching the whole scene with his hands on his hips. Presently he said, "Godfather Drosselmeier, let me go into the castle!"

The judge gave him a disparaging look, and for good reason. Fritz was quite foolish to even suggest such a thing, for he was far too big to fit inside the tiny castle - its golden towers weren't even as tall as he was.

After watching the lords, ladies, children, the emerald-cloaked man, and the miniature Drosselmeier moving through their routines for awhile, Fritz said impatiently, "Godfather Drosselmeier, come out of the other door."

"That cannot be done, Fritzkin," the judge responded.

"Then let the man in green come out and walk with the others."

"That cannot be done, either."

"Let the children come down. I want to see them up close."

"It cannot be done," the judge said flatly. "Once it has been put together, it cannot be changed."

"So," Fritz said dramatically, "then nothing can be changed? If that's how it is, then all your pretty little people don't mean much to me. I think my hussars are better, because they can go forward or backward on my command, and they're not locked up in any house."

And so Fritz sprang to the Christmas table, where he let out his squadrons mounted on silvery horses to trot, turn, charge, and fire to his heart's content.

Marie had also quietly slipped away, because she too had begun to find the walking and dancing dolls dull. But unlike Fritz, she was too polite to show it.

"A machine like this isn't meant for simple children," the judge said angrily to their parents. "I'm going to pack it up."

But their mother came over and asked to see the inside of the castle and the intricate clockwork that made the dolls move. So the judge took everything apart and put it back together again, which cheered him right up. He gave the children some beautiful brown men and women with gold faces. They smelled as sweet and pleasant as gingerbread, and both Fritz and Marie enjoyed them very much.

At their mother's request, their sister Louise had put on the new dress she had received, and she looked very beautiful in it. But when Marie was asked to wear hers as well, she said she'd rather simply look at it, which she was gladly permitted to do.

Next Chapter
Previous Chapter

Return to Index

Back to Fiction