Chapter 5:
The Battle

"Strike the battle march, loyal vassal drummer!" Nutcracker shouted. The drummer beat his drum so furiously that the glass in the cabinet shook and reverberated the sound. A rattle and clatter came from within the cabinet, and Marie saw that the lids of the boxes where Fritz's army was quartered had popped open. The soldiers were jumping out of their boxes and forming regiments on the bottom shelf.

Nutcracker was running back and forth shouting words to inspire his troops. "I see that dog of a trumpeter isn't moving himself!" he cried furiously. Then he quickly turned to Pantaloon, who had become quite pale and whose long chin trembled. To Pantaloon he said, "General, I know how courageous and experienced you are. We need a quick eye and a quicker mind, so I'm trusting the cavalry and artillery to you. You don't need a horse - your legs are so long you can gallop quite well on them. Now, do your job."

Pantaloon immediately put his long, spindly fingers into his mouth and trumpeted so loud that it may as well have been a hundred trumpets. From within the cabinet, there came a nickering and stamping. Marie looked inside and saw Fritz's dragoons and cuirassiers, and especially his new hussars dropping down to the floor. With flags flying and music playing, regiment after regiment marched marched across the floor and lined themselves up into neat, wide rows.

With clanks and clinks, Fritz's cannons were brought to the front. Boom! Boom! Boom! they went. They fired tiny balls of sugar - no bigger than peas - that exploded and covered the mice in powdered sugar upon impact. Although it didn't really hurt, it was very demoralizing.

Meanwhile, an artillery battery up on Mama's footstool was doing a considerable amount of damage - they were firing volleys of peppernuts, which took down many of the mice.

Yet the mice continued to advance, even overtaking some of the cannons. And there was now so much noise, smoke, and dust that Marie could barely make out what was going on. But one thing she could tell for sure was that both sides were fighting as hard as they could. Sometimes it seemed that the toys would win, and other times it looked like the mice would take the victory.

Yet the numbers of mice were increasing rather than decreasing, and the small silver pills they shot with great skill had already begun to strike the glass-fronted cabinet. Madame Clarette and Madame Trudie anxiously paced inside and wrung their hands.

"Am I to die in the flower of my youth? I, the most beautiful of dolls?" Clarette asked.

"Was I so well-preserved, just to die here in my own home?" Trudie asked.

Then they fell into each other's arms and cried so loudly that they could be heard above the commotion outside.

And what a commotion it was! You can hardly begin to imagine the noise! Cannons boomed and clanked, tiny muskets fired, the Mouse King and his mice squeaked, and the Nutcracker shouted orders from amidst the cannons.

Pantaloon, to his credit, had lead some brilliant cavalry charges, but the mouse artillery had pelted Fritz's hussars with foul-smelling balls that left stains on their red jackets. Because of this, they lost the will to advance.

Pantaloon ordered them to turn left. Caught up in the excitement of giving orders, he himself also turned left - and so did his cuirassiers and dragoons. And so they all marched left and went home.

This left the battery on the footstool unprotected, and it wasn't long before a swarm of very ugly mice came and knocked the whole thing over - stool, guns, and gunners alike.

Nutcracker looked very worried and ordered the right wing to retreat. Those of you who have lead any battles yourself will know that retreating is no different than running away, and I'm quite sure that you feel just as sorry as I do that things turned out so badly for the army of Marie's beloved Nutcracker.

But let us turn from this now and look at the left wing of Nutcracker's army, where everything is still going well and there is hope for the soldiers and their general.

During the worst of the battle, cavalry mice waiting quietly under the bureau threw themselves upon the left wing of the Nutcracker's army with horrible squeaks and squeals - but what resistance they found!

Slowly, because of the difficult terrain (that is, the edge of the cabinet), the standard-bearers under the command of two Chinese emperors had moved over and formed a square. These brave, colorful, and splendid troops consisted of gardeners, Tyroleans, Tunguses, barbars, harlequins, lions, tigers, monkeys, apes, all of whom fought with composure, courage, and determination.

With Spartan bravery, this elite battalion would have snatched the victory from the hands of the enemy had not a bold captain of the mouse cavalry daringly bitten off the head of one of the Chinese emperors, who in turn killed two Tunguses and a monkey as he fell. This formed a gap that the enemy could penetrate, and soon the whole battalion had been gnawed through.

But the enemy gained little advantage from this unfortunate turn of events, because every mouse who viciously bit into the middle of his valiant opponent got a printed piece of paper lodged in his throat and he immediately choked to death.

Despite this small gain, things were looking bad for the Nutcracker's army. Once they had begun to fall back, they found themselves falling back further and further and losing more people until all that remained was a small group backed against the cabinet.

"Bring up the reserves!" Nutcracker ordered. "Pantaloon, Scaramouche, Drummer, where are you?" He was hoping for fresh troops from the glass-fronted cabinet.

Some brown men and women with golden faces, hats, and helmets appeared, but they were so awkward with their swords that they were no help at all. The only thing they managed to knock down was General Nutcracker's hat. The enemy chasseurs had soon bitten off their legs, and when they fell they crushed and killed several more of the Nutcracker's men.

The enemy drew closer still, and there was no escape. Nutcracker would have jumped up to the cabinet's ledge, but his legs were too short. Madame Clarette and Madame Trudie could not help him, for they both laid in a faint. Hussars and dragoons sprang past him into the cabinet. In desperation he called out, "a horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!"

But that that moment, two enemy marksmen took hold of Nutcracker's wooden cloak and held him fast. Squeaking in triumph from seven throats, the Mouse King sprang forward to take his kill.

Marie could no longer keep what little composure she had, and without really knowing why she removed her left shoe and threw it as hard as she could into the thickest patch of mice she could see - right at their king. At that moment, everything faded from Marie's vision. She felt a stabbing pain in her arm, and fell fainting to the floor.

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