N OW all this time Nutcracker was lost in the deep, deep woods. He had been most ungrateful, and he had hidden himself in a tree because he wished all the nuts of the forest for his own little self, and he wanted the cock, who had been so very kind to him, to go home again. So the cock did go home, as you know, with the white hen, after eating a great many hazel nuts, and selfish little Nutcracker was left alone with all the forest to wander about in.
For a while in the sunny, pleasant weather, Nutcracker had a good time. He climbed all the trees, and sampled all the different sorts of nuts. Never before had he been able to eat all the nuts he wanted, so he cracked hazel nuts, and walnuts, and butternuts, and filberts, and he made a pile of empty shells as high as a berry bush; but alas, the frosts came!
Nutcracker's jacket and his red trousers were not warm enough for the chill nights and the keen, frosty mornings. He longed for the peddler's kitchen and the warm porcelain stove. He wished to hide himself beneath the cock's wings or creep into the nest of the white hen under the front stairs, but none of these things could Nutcracker do, for he had forgotten the way home.
At the foot of a large oak tree lived a great red squirrel who was chief of all the squirrels in the woods. It was he who divided the forest into parts, and every squirrel had his own trees and his own holes in which to live. The red squirrel walked out often to see that no other squirrel gathered the nuts which belonged to his neighbor, and he had a fine fur great-coat which he wore to keep himself warm.
Now Nutcracker had seen the red squirrel, and had admired his fur coat, and had thrown nut shells at him; and one night Nutcracker went stealthily to the oak tree where the chief squirrel lived and he stole the fur coat while the squirrel was sleeping.
It exactly fitted Nutcracker, and he turned up the collar and danced about quite gayly. But the chief squirrel awoke and missed his coat. In a rage he sent word to all the squirrels of the forest to rise and make war upon Nutcracker, which they did.
They followed Nutcracker wherever he went, and took away his nuts. His sword, that was no bigger than a cambric needle, was of no avail to drive them away.
He was obliged to hide under the dry leaves, and he grew very, very thin. One day, as he sat shivering and so hungry, he heard a sound of feet and a crunching upon the leaves. A great four legged creature nearly stepped upon him, and as he cried out, a boy, whose dog it was that had frightened him, came along, and Nutcracker told him all his troubles.
"You shall go home with me," said the boy. "We have a nut tree in the garden and you shall live in the chimney corner and be my playfellow." So Nutcracker went home with the boy and the dog, and his troubles were over for a while at least.