The Nutcracker & The Mouse King: Marie’s Affliction
When Marie woke from her deep sleep, she found herself lying in her bed with the sun shining brightly through ice-covered windows. A man, whom she soon recognized as Surgeon Wendelstern, was sitting next to her. “She is awake!” Marie heard him say softly. Her mother came to her bedside and looked at her with anxious and curious expressions. “Ah, dear mother,” Marie said softly, “are all the hateful mice gone, and is the good Nutcracker safe?”
“Don’t talk such nonsense,” her mother replied. “What do mice have to do with Nutcracker? You’re a naughty child and have caused us a lot of worry. But that’s what always happens when children are disobedient and don’t listen to their parents. You played with your dolls last night until it was very late. You probably fell asleep and a stray mouse might have jumped out and scared you. You broke a window pane with your elbow and cut your arm badly. Neighbor Wendelstern, removed the shard from the wound, saying it almost cut a vein, which would have left you with a stiff arm for life or even caused you to bleed to death. It was lucky that I woke up around midnight and, not finding you in your bed, checked the living room. There you were, unconscious on the floor next to the glass case, with blood flowing from your arm. I almost fainted at the sight. Many of Fritz’s lead soldiers, broken China figurines, gingerbread men and women, and other toys were scattered around, and not far from your left shoe.”
“Oh, mother,” Marie exclaimed, interrupting her, “those were the traces of that terrible battle between the toys and the mice. What scared me was the danger to poor Nutcracker when the mice took him prisoner. Then I threw my shoe at the mice, and after that, I don’t know what happened.”
Surgeon Wendelstern shot Mrs. Stahlbaum a look, who whispered to Marie, “Well, never mind about it, my dear child. The mice are gone, and little Nutcracker stands safe and sound in the glass case.” Doctor Stahlbaum entered the room and spoke with Surgeon Wendelstern for a while. Then he checked Marie’s pulse and she heard him say something about a fever. She had to stay in bed for a few days, but aside from a slight pain in her left arm, she felt well and comfortable.
Marie knew that Nutcracker had survived the battle safely. She thought she sometimes heard his voice clearly, as if in a dream, saying sorrowfully, “Marie, dearest lady, what thanks do I not owe you! But you can do still more for me.” Marie tried to think what it could be, but nothing came to mind. She couldn’t play well with the wound in her arm, and when she tried to read or look at picture books, a strange glare came over her eyes, so she had to stop. The days seemed very long to her and she eagerly waited for the evening when her mother would sit by her bedside and read or tell her a nice story.
One evening, after her mother had finished the interesting story of Prince Fackardin, the door opened and Godfather Drosselmeier entered, saying, “I need to check on the patient.”
As soon as Marie saw Godfather Drosselmeier in his brown coat, the image of that night when Nutcracker lost the battle against the mice came back to her vividly. She cried out involuntarily, “Oh, Godfather Drosselmeier, you have been naughty! I saw you perched on top of the clock, covering it with your wings so it wouldn’t strike loudly and scare away the mice. I heard you call the Mouse King. Why didn’t you come to help us, Nutcracker and me? It’s all your fault, naughty Godfather Drosselmeier, that I have to be here sick in bed.”
Mrs. Stahlbaum, perplexed, said, “What is the matter with you, dear Marie?”
But Godfather Drosselmeier made strange faces and said in a grating, monotonous tone, “Pendulum must whirr—whirr—whirr—this way—that way—clock will strike—tired of ticking—all day—softly whirr—whirr—whirr—strike kling—clang—strike clang—kling—bing and bang and bang and bing—’twill scare away the Mouse-King. Then Owl in swift flight comes in the dead of night. The pendulum must whirr—whirr—Clock will strike kling—clang—this way—that way—tired of ticking all day—bing—bang—and Mouse-King scare away—whirr—whirr—prr—prr.”
Marie stared at Godfather Drosselmeier, who was looking uglier than usual. He moved his right arm backward like a puppet pulled by wires. She would have been afraid of him if her mother had not been present and Fritz had not slipped in, interrupting with loud laughter.
“Ha, ha! Godfather Drosselmeier,” cried Fritz, “entertaining us again! You act like the Harlequin I threw into the storage room long ago.”
But in a concerned tone, Mrs. Stahlbaum said, “Dear Drosselmeier, this is a strange sport—what do you mean by it?”
“Gracious me,” replied Drosselmeier, laughing, “have you forgotten my pretty watchmaker’s song? I sing it to all my patients.”
Drawing his chair near Marie’s bed, he continued, “Do not be angry that I didn’t take out the Mouse-King’s fourteen eyes—I could not. But I do have an agreeable surprise for you.” With these words, Godfather Drosselmeier slowly pulled out a smiling Nutcracker from his pocket, missing teeth securely reattached, and wobbly jaw repaired.
Marie cried joyfully while her mother smiled and said, “You see, Marie, Godfather Drosselmeier means well by your little Nutcracker.”
“But still, you must admit, Marie,” said Drosselmeier, “that Nutcracker’s figure is not the finest, and his face isn’t exactly handsome. If you listen, I’ll explain how he came by his ugliness. Or perhaps you know the story of the Princess Pirlipat, the Lady Mouserings, and the skilled Watchmaker?”
“Look here, Godfather Drosselmeier,” interrupted Fritz. “You fixed Nutcracker’s teeth, you tightened his chin, but where is his sword? Why did you not give him his sword?”
“Fritz,” snapped his godfather, “you are once again interfering and causing problems. I don’t see the point of Nutcracker’s sword. His wounds are healed; he can find a sword on his own.”
“That’s true,” said Fritz, “He is a brave and resourceful fellow and will know how to get one.”
“Tell me then,” Drosselmeier turned back to Marie, “Have you heard the story of Princess Pirlipat?”
“I hope, dear Godfather,” said their mother, “that it is not a scary story, as those you narrate usually are.”
“Of course not, dearest madam,” replied Drosselmeier. “On the contrary, it is my privelege to relate an amusing and happy tale tonight.”
“Begin then, dear Godfather!” cried the children, and Drosselmeier did.