Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

should not breed nutcrackers, and ordered him to be thrust out from the door. The mechanician and the astrologer were banished for ever. These events were certainly not portended in the horoscope which the astrologer formed at Tonbridge Wells; nevertheless he continued his old trade, and predicted that young Mr. Pivot would regain his original appearance, and kill the king of the rats, the son of dame Greymouse, whenever it came to pass that a lady found something loveable in his ugly face.

Here terminates the commissioner's tale. Mary gave it as her opinion that the princess was a very ungrateful young lady. Fred was not quite so hard upon her.

CHAPTER VIII.—The Uncle and Nephew. Mary remained about a week in bed, and then, being nearly well, was allowed to run about the house as usual. The first visit she paid on her convalescence, was to the inmates of the glass cabinet. There she found every thing brilliant and beautiful, above all, her dear Nutcracker, with his jaw mended, smiling so agreeably. The history of godpapa was fresh in her memory, and she had little doubt but that lier Nutcracker was young Mr. Pivot, of Tonbridge Wells, and that godpapa was himself the mechanician.

• My dear Mr. Pivot,' said Mary, “if you are not able to move or speak, yet I know that you can understand me. Depend upon my help

you ever require it, and be assured that I will beg your uncle to use all his skill on your account.'

The Nutcracker moved not, but Mary heard a little voice say in reply to her, · Mary, my sweetest Mary, I am thine.'

Mary fled; a cold sweat broke out on her face; but she felt a secret satisfaction.

On the evening of that day, at tea-time, Mary was sitting on her little stool, down by Godpapa Pivot. In an interval of silence Mary fixed her "beantiful blue eyes steadfastly upon him, and said, 'I know now, dear godpapa, that Nutcracker is your nephew, young Mr. Pivot of Tonbridge Wells ; and you know as well as I do, that he is at war with that wicked king of the rats; now why don't you help him ?'

Then Mary gave a full account of the battle. Her mother and Louisa often interrupted her with bursts of laughter, but Frederick and godpapa were very serious.

“This is a dream,' said her mamma, the dreams of a sick little girl.'

• It is all a fib,' said Frederick; .my hussars could never act so cowardly as to fly from the field of battle!

Godpapa took Mary upon his knee, and said, “You will have plenty to do if you undertake the defence of poor Nutcracker, but you only can save him; so be persevering and faithful.'

On hearing these words, Dr. Smallhorse took god papa's hand, felt his pulse, and said, “My worthy friend, I think your brain is a little disordered; I will prescribe something for you.'

CHAPTER IX.-The Victory. Some short time after, Mary was awoke one fine moonlight night, by a strange noise. •The rats, the rats are come again!' cried she, much

frightened. She wished to wake her mother, but fear prevented her from moving when she perceived the sparkling eyes of the rat-king, who leaped on the top of a little table placed beside her bed.

• Little girl,' said the rat, • I must have your cakes and sweetmeats, or else I will gnaw Nutcracker;' and he disappeared.

The next day Mary felt very poorly, but she said nothing, for fear her mamma and her sister Louisa should laugh at her. Before she went to bed, she placed her sweetmeats and cakes on the ledge of the cabinet. In the morning her father said, at breakfast time, *I don't know where those mice can come from; I do believe they eat up all Mary's dainties last night.' Mary did not regret them; she was very happy that she had saved Nutcracker.

On the following night she heard again the sharp voice of the ratking whispering at her ear, Little girl

, I must have all your puppets made of sugar, or else I will gnaw Nutcracker;' and he disappeared again.

Tears rushed into the eyes of Mary; her sugar figures were so beautiful; she looked at Nutcracker-he wore such a mournful air; she fancied the seven mouths of the rat-king fastening upon his throat. She kissed all the sugar figures, and put them under the cabinet. In the morning they were gone.

On that evening Dr. Smallhorse again spoke of the mice running so much about the house at night. “Our baker,' said Frederick, laughing, ‘has got an excellent sergeant at law; shall we borrow him ? he would kill all the rats, even the son of Dame Greymouse, I know.'

Yes, and break all the glasses and china,' said his father; it would be better to place a trap in Mary's room.'

That night poor Mary had another fatal visit; the rat-king jumped upon her shoulder and squeaked, 'I must have all your picture books, and your dolls, and their dresses, or else I will gnaw to death thy Nutcracker!

Her mother said, next morning, “There is nothing in the trap, but never mind, my love, we will catch them.'

When Mary found herself alone by the cabinet, she cried very much, and said to the Nutcracker, “Dear Mr. Pivot, what can I, a poor little girl, do for you? If I give my picture books, and my dolls, and their clothes, to that wicked rat-king, not to eat you, he will only want something else, and after all will do it. Oh, what shall I do?'

• Dear Mary,' murmured Nutcracker, "give not on my account your picture-books and your dolls, but procure for me a sword, and leave me to use it.'

Where to procure a sword was now the thought of the little girl, and she went to consult Fred about it. Frederick had never ceased to grieve over the accusation which had been made against his hussars. He first asked his sister if what she had asserted was really true, and when she persisted in it, he went to the cabinet, drew out his hussars, made a most moving speech to them, on their conduct, and, finally, deprived them of their colours.

• As for the sabre,' said he to Mary, 'I can provide one. Yesterday I invalided an old colonel of cuirassiers, and he has no further use for his accoutrements.' So the sabre was suspended to Nutcracker's girdle.

That night Mary was not able to sleep; she was so very anxious. At midnight she heard a noise.

* The rat-king! the rat-king!' cried Mary, jumping up in bed, but all was again quiet. Soon she heard a tapping at her door, and a little flute-like voice. Mary knew it to be Nutcracker, who begged her to rise and open the door. When in, he fell on his knee before Mary, and said, Miss Smallhorse, I lay at your feet the vanquished enemy.'

So saying, he presented her with the seven crowns of the rat-king, and begged her to follow him.

CHAPTER X.—The Kingdom of Puppets. • I will go with you, Mr. Pivot,' said Mary, but not very far, nor for a very long time, if you please, as I have not yet had much sleep.'

We will then go the shortest way,' answered the Nutcracker. Mary took hold of his hand, and immediately they stepped out of the door a brilliant light struck her. They appeared to walk on a shining meadow.

*This is Sugar-candy Place,' said Nutcracker, “and we must pass out of one of the gates.'

The gate was at a little distance from them; it appeared built of white marble veined with brown, but when they approached nearer Mary found it was formed of bleached almonds and raisins. In front of this gate twelve pretty monkeys, dressed in red, played the most beautiful Turkish music that ever was heard. They then came to a wonderful forest, from which issued sweet perfumes. Golden and silver fruits hung from the branches of the trees, and the trunks were bound withi ribands; when the zephyrs moved the foliage, sweet and joyful music sounded, whilst thousands of little lights danced about amidst the leaves.

•How beautiful it is!' said Mary.

•We are now, dear Miss Smallhorse, in Christmas Wood, which is in the province of New Year's Gifts,' said Nutcracker.

• I should like to rest a little bit here,' said Mary; 'every thing does look so very beautiful.'

Nutcracker clapped his hands together, and some little shepherds and shepherdesses appeared, so delicate and white that we may be assured they were made of treble-refined sugar. They brought a pretty little gilt chair, and politely invited Mary to sit. Then they executed a very charming ballet, gradually disappearing into the wood.

They continued their walk, and soon reached a brook of orange-flower water, which Nutcracker informed Mary threw itself into Lemonade River. A loud murmur was heard, and they found themselves on the banks of Lemonade, which proudly rolled its waves, of an isabelle colour, between banks covered with brilliant verdure, to the ocean of Milk of Almonds.

They also passed through the Valley of Bonbons; but Nutcracker kept hastening forward, exclaiming, To the capital! to the capital !'

Cuarter XI.-The Capital. Nutcracker clapped his hands together again, and they found themselves on the shores of a rose-coloured sea. Mary saw coming towards No. 97,

D

them a car formed of a single nutshell, ornamented with precious stones, and drawn by two dolphins. Twelve charming little negresses, in bonnets and frocks of dove feathers, jumped upon the land, and bore Mary and Nutcracker through the waves into the car. What a charming voyage had Mary, borne on her shell of mother-of-pearl, upon the rosecoloured waters. The two dolphins, scaled with gold, threw into the air streams of crystal, which fell again, forming rainbows; and little silver voices sang, • Who swims, who swims, on the Sea of Roses ? The fairy, the little fairy! swim, swim, little fishes ! fly, fly, little golden birds ! roll, roll, silver waves ! for here is your queen! But the twelve little negresses did not seem to admire this music, for they whirled their parasols so much about that the date leaves of which they were formed flew away; they also made a great noise and kicking behind the car.

• The negresses do not like travelling by sea,' said Nutcracker. Certainly, strange voices were heard in the air and in the waters, but Mary paid no attention to them; for she was observing, in the rose-coloured waves, the pretty smiling face of a young girl.

• Do look, my dear Mr. Pivot,' said Mary; 'I think I see the princess Pearloprice smiling very graciously on me!'

Nutcracker sighed dolorously, and said, 'Dear Miss Smallhorse, it is not the princess you see; it is your own face which smiles so sweetly in the waves.'

Mary raised her head quickly and shut her eyes, she was so ashamed. At that instant, which covered her confusion, the twelve negresses carried her again to land, and she found herself in a little wood, which, if possible, was prettier than Christmas Wood.

• We are now in Comfit Wood,' said Nutcracker ; • beyond it is the capital.'

Mary looked forward, and wonderful was the sight she saw. Not only did the walls and towers shine in the most magnificent colours, but the forms of the edifices were without parallel on earth, for the houses had fine crowns at the top. When they passed through the gate, built of barley-sugar, silver soldiers presented arms, and a little man, in a brocaded robe, threw himself on Nutcracker's neck, exclaiming. Oh, my prince, welcome, a thousand times welcome, to Comfit Town! Mary was astonished to find that she had a prince for her guide.

Soon they heard a very great noise, laughter, and shouting; and Mary asked Nutcracker the meaning of the tumult.

• My dear young lady,' replied Nutcracker, it is all as usual. Comfit Town is a very lively and populous place. Come with me, and we shall see more.'

A little further on they arrived at the market-place, and a very fine sight presented itself to them. All the houses were formed of iced sugar, raised gallery upon gallery. In the midst of the market-place was a large cake, in the form of an obelisk, flanked by four fountains, from which poured out lemonade and other delicious liquors; the froth formed in the basins was so thick that it might be cut with a spoon. But the finest sight of all was the little people, who crowded about in thousands, nodding to each other, pushing, laughing, singing, in short making the great noise which Mary had heard at a distance. In this crowd were seen people of all nations; Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Spaniards, Tyrolians, officers, soldiers, priests, shepherds,-in a word, all possible people. At one corner of the market place a great tumult arose, for the people all ran to see the great mogul, who was going by in his palanquin, attended by all his court, and seven hundred slaves. At the same time, at the other corner of the place, entered the lord mayor's show. In the midst of the crowding and noise caused by the meeting of these two grand processions, an alderman got his head knocked off by a brahmin, and the great mogul was pitched out of his palanquin. Terrible was the fray in consequence; they began to beat each other, when suddenly the little man in the brocade robe, who had saluted Nutcracker by the title of 'prince' at the gate of the town, jumped upon the base of the obelisk, and cried out, in a loud and clear voice, . Confectioner! confectioner! confectioner!' Immediately the tumult was stilled, the crowd dispersed, the great mogul remounted his palanquin, the alderman put his head upon his shoulders, and the processions defiled by rapidly.

• What did the cry of " confectioner!” mean?' asked Mary of Nutcracker.

*My dear young lady,' replied Nutcracker, this confectioner is the all-powerful and unknown first cause of these lively little people; one confectioner; or, as some of them more rationally believe, three confec. tioners, father, son, and journeyman, mysteriously intertwisted into one confectioner. His name, pronounced in a loud voice, immediately subdues the greatest tumults. Here people think very little of terrestrial affairs, and are very much opposed to changes of any kind. They meditate, and say, "What is a puppet ? and to what does the existence of a puppet tend?"

They then advanced further into the city, and Mary could not repress a cry of astonishment when they came in sight of a castle, crowned with numerous turrets, all covered with flowers, and spangled with stars.

• We now stand before the castle of Alicum pane,' said Nutcracker. Mary was quite absorbed in contemplation of this grand building, and observing that workmen were employed in repairing one of the towers, she interrogated Nutcracker concerning it.

*Some time since,' said he, this castle was menaced with entire destruction. The giant Dampantime passing this way, bit off one of the towers, and would have continued his meal on the palace, if the government had not bought him off with a quarter of the town, and a large portion of Comfit Wood.'

This discourse of Nutcracker was interrupted by the sound of soft music. The gates of the castle opened, and twelve little pages came out ; ihey were followed by four ladies, who could not but be taken for princesses; they embraced Nutcracker tenderly, exclaiming, “O my prince, my excellent prince! O my brother!'' Nutcracker appeared very much moved; he wiped his eyes frequently, and, at last, taking the hand of Mary, said, in a pathetic tone:

* This is Miss Mary Smallhorse, the daughter of a worthy physician who saved my life; I mean Miss Mary, not the doctor. She threw her shoe at my mortal enemy: she procured me the sabre of an invalided colonel of cuirassiers; to her I owe the death of the king of the rats.'

The ladies threw themselves upon Mary's neck, and loaded her with thanks and compliments. They then conducted her into the castle, where a magnificent repast was served up. In the middle of the feast, the handsomest of Nutcracker's sisters presented to her a cup filled with

D2

« VorigeDoorgaan »