Chapter 7:
Tale of the Hard Nut

Pirlipat's mother was the wife of the king and therefore the queen, and that made Pirlipat a princess from the very moment she was born. The king was beside himself with joy at the sight of his beautiful little daughter. He whooped and hollered and swiveled around on one leg and cried out again and again: "Oh, joyous day! Have you ever seen anything more beautiful than my Pirlipat?" And the ministers, generals, and staff likewise spun on one leg and cried, "No! Never!"

Anyone who had seen the little princess could not deny that she was probably the most beautiful little girl in the whole world. Her face was like the finest lily-white and rose-red silk ever woven, her lively little eyes were like two sparkling azure stones, and her curly hair was like threads of pure gold. In addition, Princess Pirlipat had come into the world with two rows of pearly-white teeth, which she used for the very first time when she bit the finger of the chancellor who tried to get a better look at her face. The chancellor cried out "oh, jiminy!" Or maybe it was "that hurt!" Opinions to this day are divided on the matter.

But Pirlipat had most certainly bitten the chancellor's finger, and the delighted kingdom knew at once that their princess was spirited, sharp, and clever.

All were cheerful and merry - all except the queen, who looked anxious and fearful for reasons no-one knew. In addition to the two guards standing outside the door of the princess's room, the queen had ordered that six female attendants sit closely around her cradle every night. What seemed completely mad and utterly incomprehensible to everyone, however, was that each attendant had to hold a tomcat on her lap and stroke him so that he never stopped purring.

It's impossible for you dear children to guess why Pirlipat's mother gave these orders, but I know, and I shall tell you.

It had happened some time ago in the royal court that many splendid kings and excellent princes were gathered. It was a marvelous affair - there were jousts, comedies, and dancing. In order to show that he wasn't at all lacking in gold or silver, the king took a sizable sum out of the royal treasury to do something really spectacular.

Having heard from the head chef that the court astronomer had privily told him that now was the proper time for slaughtering the livestock, the king ordered the preparation of a lavish sausage feast. Then he threw himself into his carriage and invited all of the kings and princes to have a "spoonful of soup" so he could enjoy their surprise when they saw what he really had planned for them.

Then he approached his queen and said very kindly, "you do know, sweetie, how I like sausages."

The queen knew what he meant - that she, as she had done in times past, should take up the useful job of sausage-making. The chief treasurer immediately had the golden sausage boiler and silver casserole dishes sent to the kitchen, a roaring fire of sandalwood was set ablaze, and the queen put on her damask apron. It wasn't long before the delicious smell of sausage soup wafted out of the boiler and into the council of state.

The king was seized with such delight that he could not contain himself. "Pardon me, gentlemen!" he shouted, and leapt away to the kitchen where he hugged the queen and stirred the soup with his golden scepter. Feeling much better, he returned to the council.

The crucial moment had come in which the fat had to be cut into cubes and roasted on silver grills. The ladies-in-waiting left the kitchen because the queen wished to perform this task alone out of love and devotion to her royal spouse.

As soon as the fat began to sizzle, a tiny little voice called out: "Give me some of that fat, sister! I'm also a queen, and I deserve to feast, too! Give me some fat!"

The queen knew that it was Lady Mouserinks. Lady Mouserinks had lived for years in the palace and claimed to be related to the royal family and even queen of of a realm called Mouseland. She also claimed to have a large court under the stove.

The queen was a good and charitable woman, so although she didn't recognize Mouserinks as a queen or a sister she was willing to let her enjoy the feast as well. "Come out and you may have some of my fat," she said.

Lady Mouserinks jumped out, hopped up to the stove, and grabbed piece after piece of fat from the queen in her delicate little paws. But then came her cousins, aunts, uncles, and her seven sons, and the latter were such unruly brats that they ran all over the fat and the terrified queen could do nothing to stop them. Fortunately, the head lady-in-waiting came in and chased away the unwanted guests before all of the fat could be gobbled up. The court mathematician was called in, and he calculated how best to distribute what was left of the fat among the sausages.

Trumpets and drums sounded. The kings and princes arrived - some on white horses, some in crystal coaches, and all in their best clothes. The king greeted them cordially, then sat down at the end of the table in kingly dignity with his crown on his head and his scepter in his hand.

During the liver sausage course, the king gradually grew paler and he raised his eyes toward the heavens. A sigh escaped his chest, as if some enormous pain was digging at his insides.

During the blood sausage course, he fell back into his chair sobbing and moaning, with both hands over his face. Hearing the king's wailing and howling, everyone jumped up from the table. The court physician tried in vain to take the unfortunate king's pulse. A deep, nameless misery seemed to be tearing him up.

Finally, after much persuasion and attempts to use the strongest remedies available (feather quills and such), the king stammered in a barely audible voice, "too little fat."

The queen threw herself at his feet in despair and cried, "oh, my poor unfortunate royal husband - oh, what pain you've had to endure - you see the guilty one here at your feet. Punish - punish her hard - Lady Mouserinks and her cousins and uncles and aunts and seven sons have eaten the fat..."

With that, the queen fell back in a faint.

The king jumped up and demanded, "Chief lady-in-waiting, how did this happen?"

The chief lady-in-waiting told him all she knew, and the king decided to take revenge on the Lady Mouserinks and her family. The privy council was summoned, and it was decided that Lady Mouserinks would stand trial and all her property would be confiscated. But the king was worried that Lady Mouserinks and her family would go on eating his fat in the meantime, so the task of solving the problem was given over to the clockmaker and wizard.

The clockmaker, whose name is the same as mine - Christian Elias Drosselmeier - promised to rid the palace of Lady Mouserinks and her family forever. He created many small and very intricate little machines into which a piece of fat was placed and set near the home of Lady Mouserinks.

Lady Mouserinks was too clever to fall for it herself, but despite her warnings all of her cousins, aunts, uncles, and even her seven sons went after the fat. Just as their greedy little paws reached for the fat, a grate slammed shut trapping the lot of them. Then they were promptly taken to the kitchen and executed in disgrace.

Fearing for her life, Lady Mouserinks left the castle with what family she had left. Grief, despair, and rage filled her chest.

All of the royal court cheered - all except the queen, who was worried. She knew what sort of woman Lady Mouserinks was, and that she would not let the deaths of her sons and other family members go unavenged. Indeed, Lady Mouserinks appeared one day when the queen was preparing another one of the king's favorite dishes and said, "My family is dead - take care, my queen, that the Mouse Queen does not bite your little princess to pieces! Take care!"

Then Lady Mouserinks disappeared from sight. The queen was so startled that she dropped the food she was preparing into the fire. For the second time Lady Mouserinks had spoiled one of the king's favorite dishes, which made him very angry.

Well, that's enough for tonight - I'll tell the rest later."

As much as Marie, who had her own thoughts about the story, asked her godfather to tell the rest of it, he refused. He jumped up saying, "too much at once is unhealthy. I'll finish it tomorrow."

Just as the judge was about to leave through the door, Fritz asked, "but tell me, Godfather Drosselmeier - is it really true that you invented the mousetrap?"

"How can you ask such a silly question?" their mother asked him.

But the judge smiled strangely and said quietly to Fritz, "am I not a clever enough clockmaker that I could invent a mousetrap?"

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