“Hurry and play the beat, faithful drummer!” Nutcracker yelled. In response, the drummer began to play his drum skillfully. The windows of the glass case shook and buzzed. As the cabinet jostled and clattered, Marie saw the covers of the little boxes where Fritz’s army was quartered pop open. The soldiers jumped out and back down to the lowest shelf, forming a line. Nutcracker ran up and down their lines, yelling words of encouragement to the troops. “Don’t let any of those blasted trumpeters make a sound!” he cried, worried his soldiers wouldn’t hear him. He quickly turned to Harlequin, who looked pale, his chin shaking.
“General,” Nutcracker addressed him, “I know you are brave and experienced; I need someone who can quickly spot the right moment. I trust you to take command of all the cavalry and artillery. You don’t need a horse; you have long legs and can gallop well. I expect you to do your duty.” Harlequin put his long, thin fingers to his mouth and let out a loud, shrill whistle sounding like a hundred joyful trumpets calling the troops to arms.
Another neighing and stamping sound came from the glass case. Fritz’s cuirassiers, dragoons, and new hussars marched out, stopping outside. Regiment after regiment marched past Nutcracker, flags waving and music playing, and lined up in long rows across the parlor floor. In front of them, Fritz’s cannon rolled along, surrounded by the gunners and a generous supply of sugarplum bombs.
Marie watched as the cannon fire hit the mice. The sugarplums fell into their dark, dense group, coating them with white powder and causing chaos. A giant artillery piece perched on top of Mama’s footstool fired caraway seeds at the enemy continuously, causing many casualties and causing most of the damage. The mice continued to move forward and eventually took control of some cannons. Marie could barely see what was happening through the sugar and dust flying around.
As each side fought fiercely, the outcome was uncertain for a long time. The mice kept sending in reinforcements, and the tiny silver shots they skillfully fired even hit the glass case. Clara and Trutchen ran around in despair. “Must I die young?” said Clara. “Did I protect myself so well for this, only to perish here in these walls?” cried Trutchen. The dolls hugged each other and screamed so loudly that you could hear them over the chaos of the battle.
And then, dear reader, you won’t believe how it ended. Chaos erupted, with the Mouse-King and the mice troops a cacophony of shrieks and screeches. Nutcracker’s powerful voice rang above the din as he shouted orders, leading the troops through the battle. Harlequin charged with his cavalry, earning honors. Despite this, the enemy’s artillery pounded Fritz’s soldiers, causing them to retreat. Harlequin ordered them to move to the left and led the movement himself. The other soldiers followed, moving to the left and running away. This left the battery on the footstool vulnerable. Soon, a large group of ugly mice pushed forward with fierce determination, knocking over the footstool, cannons, and gunners. Nutcracker looked a little concerned and ordered the right wing to retreat. You know, my military-minded reader Fritz, that such a movement is almost the same as running away. You share my sadness at the impending catastrophe that will befall Marie’s beloved Nutcracker army.
Focus your attention away from this dire situation and look at the left flank instead, where the general and his troops still have reason to be hopeful. At the peak of the battle, the mice cavalry quietly emerged from under the sofa and attacked the left wing in large numbers, squealing loudly and horribly. They faced strong resistance there! The China figurines, led by two Chinese emperors, moved slowly due to the rugged terrain of the glass ledge and formed a hollow square. These brave and diverse troops, composed of Gardeners, Tyrolese, Bonzes, Friseurs, Merry-Andrews, Cupids, Lions, Tigers, Peacocks, and Apes, fought with calm, courage, and determination. With their Spartan bravery, this group of elite soldiers could have won the victory against the enemy. However, a bold major rushed forward from the enemy’s ranks and bit off the head of one of the Chinese emperors, who, in falling, knocked down two Bonzes and Cupid. The enemy broke through the square through this gap, and the battalion fell apart moments later. Despite valiant efforts to hold their own, Nutcracker’s army was forced to retreat, losing men and territory until Nutcracker was left with a small group huddled close to the glass display case.
“Bring in the reserve! Harlequin, Scaramouch, Drummer—where are you?” Nutcracker cried, hoping for new troops to come out of the glass case. Gingerbread men and women made of sweet thorn, with golden faces, caps, and helmets, emerged. However, they fought so clumsily that they didn’t hit any enemies and knocked the hat off their own general’s head. The enemy cavalry bit off their legs soon after, causing them to fall and take down Nutcracker’s best officers with them.
Nutcracker, surrounded by enemies, was in great danger. He tried to jump over the edge into the glass case but found his legs too short. Clara and Trutchen had both fainted and were unable to offer assistance. Hussars and dragoons cheerfully ran past him into safety, and in desperation, he cried, “A horse—a horse—a kingdom for a horse!” At that moment, two enemy sharpshooters grabbed him by his wooden mantle, and the Mouse-King, screeching from his seven throats, leaped towards him in triumph. Marie could no longer control herself. “Oh, my poor Nutcracker!” she sobbed, and without thinking, she grabbed her left shoe and threw it with all her might into the thickest part of the mice, aiming for their king. They scattered and ran away in an instant, but Marie felt an even sharper pain in her left arm and fainted on the floor.