Gateway to the Classics: Firelight Stories by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
 
Firelight Stories by  Carolyn Sherwin Bailey

THE NUTCRACKER AND SUGARDOLLY STORIES

How They Came in the First Place

O NCE upon a time there were an old peddler and his wife going to town to market, and the peddler had a bag full of all sorts of nuts, and the woman had a basket of eggs upon her head.

The day was warm and sunny, and because the high road was so hot, they decided to go through the woods a new way. As they went, they came to a beautiful shady path under the trees, a path they had never traveled before. On and on it went, until it ended all at once at a wonderful garden, a garden with a silver fence and a gold lattice gate all set with jewels, and over the gate was written a name in letters, "The Fairy Honeymouth."

The lattice gate was tightly closed, but behind it one could see gay flowers, and hear beautiful birds singing loudly in trees all made of sugar. On either side of the gate stood a great tree, and one tree bore large green nuts, nuts as large as hen's eggs, and the other was a sugar tree, dropping sugar plums down upon the path below.

"We must go inside," said the peddler, dropping his nuts. "We must indeed," said his wife, setting down her eggs. So they both climbed the lattice gate, and dropped down the other side, although the birds in the garden sang loudly to them, "Don't do it, don't do it."

Then the two buried their hands in the white sugar that filled the garden walks and smelled of the flowers that were all made of sugar, and at last the peddler said, "I must have one of those great green nuts. It would sell for more at the market than all the nuts I can gather in a twelvemonth."

"Don't do it. Don't do it," called the birds, but the peddler paid no attention to them. He climbed the tree beside the gate and put one of the great green nuts in his pocket.

"See what I have found," called his wife, who had climbed the sugar tree. There in a nest lay a huge white egg.

"We will put this egg under our hen whose nest is beneath the front stairs. It will hatch into a wonderful fowl which we will sell for much money."

"Don't do it. Don't do it," sang the birds, but the woman took the large egg.

Then the two climbed the gate again and went away from the garden of the Fairy Honeymouth, carrying with them her great white egg, and one of her great green nuts, which, of course, they should never have done.

When they reached home, they put the egg under their hen who had her nest beneath the front stairs, and the peddler laid the great green nut upon the table and got out his hammer, because he had decided to crack it.

Bang, bang, he pounded. The nutshell fell apart, but instead of a kernel inside, there on the table stood a strange little dwarf no bigger than your hand. He wore a wig, and red trousers and a hussar's jacket, with big buttons, quite tidy and complete. He had a huge head, and thin legs, and such a wide mouth that it seemed as if his head would come in two. He stepped out of the nutshell, and yawned, and, jumping into a basket of nuts, he began cracking them as fast as he could with his teeth.

But while this was happening, there came a great cackling from under the front stairs where the hen had her nest. The great white egg had hatched and out of it, upon the floor, hopped the daintiest little girl. She wore little silk skirts, and hose, and dancing shoes. Her hair was all curled in rings, and she picked up her petticoat and began whirling and dancing all around the room. The hen went out to the barnyard in a tiff, because she had hatched no chick, but the peddler and his wife looked in wonder at the little dwarf cracking nuts with his huge mouth, and the little lady in her dancing shoes, flying about the floor. Then they whispered together, and they said:—

"We have no children. We will keep these little ones, and they shall be our children, and we will name them Nutcracker and Sugardolly."

So that is how Nutcracker and Sugardolly came in the first place and lived with the peddler and his wife.


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