Chapter 6:
The Illness

Marie awoke from a deathlike sleep to find herself in her own bed. The sun was shining through the window, making the frost on the panes sparkle and shimmer.

Sitting nearby was a stranger - no, Dr. Wendelstern, the surgeon. "She's awake now," he said in a soft voice.

Her mother came over and looked at Marie with frightened, searching eyes.

"Oh Mama, dear, are all the mice gone? Is good Nutcracker safe?"

"Don't talk about nonsense like that, Marie. What do mice have to do with the Nutcracker? You've been a very naughty child and worried us very much. That's what happens when a child is willful and doesn't do as her parents tell her. You played with your dolls until you became sleepy, and it may be that a mouse - which I find unlikely - jumped out and frightened you, and you fell back and pushed your arm through the glass. Dr. Wendelstern, who removed the glass from your arm, says if you'd cut an artery you might have been left with a stiff arm - or bled to death. Thank God I woke up after midnight and noticed you weren't in your bed. I went into the living room and found you passed out in front of the toy cabinet, bleeding heavily. I almost fainted from shock myself, and then I saw Fritz's soldiers, a lot of other dolls, and broken banners, gingerbread men, and not far away, your left shoe."

"Oh, Mama, Mama!" Marie interrupted, "don't you see - that's what was left of the battle between the dolls and the mice. The mice wanted to take the Nutcracker and I got scared, so I threw my shoe at them - and after that, I don't know what happened."

Dr. Wendelstern glanced at Mrs. Stahlbaum, then said to Marie very gently: "There's no need to worry, my dear child. The mice are all gone and Nutcracker is safe in the toy cabinet."

Then the physician (that is, Marie's father) came in and spoke with Dr. Wendelstern for a considerable length of time. He took Marie's pulse, and she heard mention of wound fever. She had to stay in bed and take some medicine for a few days, though aside from the pain in her arm she didn't really feel ill or uncomfortable.

She now knew that Nutcracker had escaped the battle safe and sound. Occasionally, she would hear as if in a dream the Nutcracker's voice, distinct yet weak. "Marie, dear lady, I already owe you so much, but there is more you could do for me!"

Marie tried to think of what it could possibly be, but she could think of nothing.

She could not play with her toys because of the pain in her arm, and the illustrations in the picture books swam before her eyes until she had to give up on them. And so time seemed to draw on forever. She could hardly wait for evening, because then her mother would come and read her all sorts of beautiful stories.

One evening, her mother had just finished the story of Prince Fakardin when the door opened and Godfather Drosselmeier stepped into the room. "Now I must see for myself how the sick and injured Marie is doing," he said.

As soon as Marie saw his yellow coat, the image of the Nutcracker losing the battle against the mice came back into her mind. Automatically she said: "Oh, Godfather Drosselmeier, you were so ugly! I saw you up there on the clock, covering it with your wings so it couldn't strike and scare away the mice. I even heard you call the Mouse King! Why didn't you help the Nutcracker or me, you ugly Godfather Drosselmeier? It's your fault that I'm hurt and sick and stuck in bed, isn't it?"

Marie's mother, shocked, asked, "what is wrong with you, Marie?"

However, Godfather Drosselmeier made an odd face and said in a rasping, monotonous voice:

The pendulum had to purr and pick
It could not strike, nor could it tick
But now the bells sound loud and strong
Dong and ding, ding and dong
Doll girl, don't be afraid
The king of mice has gone away
The owl returns now swift and quick
Pick and peck, peck and pick
Bells ring, dong and ding
Clocks whirr, purr and purr
Pendulums must also purr
Clink and clank, whirr and purr

Marie stared wide-eyed at Godfather Drosselmeier. The judge looked somehow uglier than usual, and his right arm was moving back and forth as if he were manipulating a marionette. Marie would have been very frightened had it not been for her mother's presence, and for the fact that Fritz (who had quietly crept in) suddenly burst out in loud laughter.

"Oh, Godfather Drosselmeier, you're too funny today," Fritz said. "You're just like the jumping jack I threw behind the stove awhile back."

But their mother had a serious expression on her face and said, "Dear Mr. Drosselmeier, what odd entertainment. What is it all about?"

"Heavens!" the judge responded with laughter. "Don't you know about my watchmaker's ditty? I always sing it to patients like Marie." He quickly sat close beside Marie's bed and said, "Don't be angry at me for not putting out all fourteen of the Mouse King's eyes, but I've got something for you that I think will make you really happy." With those words, he reached into his pocket and swiftly pulled out the Nutcracker. His missing teeth had all been set firmly back in and his wobbly jaw was set straight again.

Marie shouted with joy, and her mother said, "See how well Godfather Drosselmeier thinks of Nutcracker?"

"You still have to admit, Marie," Drosselmeier interrupted, "he's quite ugly. I'll tell you how such ugliness came into his family, if you want to listen. Or maybe you already know the story of Princess Pirlipat, the witch Mouserinks, and the clockmaker?"

"Wait a minute," Fritz said suddenly, "you've fixed the Nutcracker's teeth and jaw, but he's got no sword - why's he missing a sword?"

"Oh!" Drosselmeier responded indignantly, "you have to complain about everything, boy! Why should I find him a sword? I've fixed his body; it's up to him to get a sword if he wants one."

"That's true," Fritz said. "If he's any good, he'll know where to find his weapons."

The judge turned again to Marie. "So, Marie, do tell me - do you know the story of Princess Pirlipat?"

"Oh, no," Marie said. "Do tell, dear godfather - do tell!"

"I hope, dear Mr. Drosselmeier, that your story won't be as horrible as the ones you usually tell," her mother said.

"Not at all, dear lady," Drosselmeier replied. "On the contrary, the story which I have the honor of telling is a fairytale."

"Tell us the story, dear godfather!" the children begged, and so he began.

Next Chapter
Previous Chapter

Return to Index