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THE ICE MAIDEN

 

I  LITTLE RUDY

 

LET us visit Switzerlandand wander through the glorious land of mountains where the forests cling to the steep walls of rocklet us mount up to the dazzling snowfields and then descend into the green valleys through which rivers and brooks are rushinghurrying on as if they could not reach the sea and disappear there quickly enoughThe sun looks hotly down upon the deep valley and it glares likewise upon the heavy masses of snow so that they harden in the course of centuries into gleaming blocks of ice or form themselves into falling avalanches or become piled up into glaciersTwo such glaciers lie in the broad rocky gorges under the Schreckhorn and the Wetterhorn”, by the little mountain town of Grindelwaldthey are wonderful  to behold and therefore in the summertime many strangers come from all parts of the world to see themThe strangers come across the lofty snowcovered mountains they come through the deep valleys and in this latter case they must climb for several hours and as they climb the valley seems to be descending behind themdeeper and deeperand they look down upon it as out of a balloon Above them the clouds often hang like thick heavy veils of smoke over the mountaintopswhile a sunbeam still penetrates into the valley through which the many brown wooden houses lie scatteredmaking one particular spot stand forth in shining transparent green Down there the water hums and gusheswhile above it purls and ripples and looks like silver bands fluttering down the mountain

On both sides of the road that leads uphillstand wooden housesEach has its potato patchand this is a necessity for there are many little mouths in those cottagesplenty of children are there who can eat up their share right heartilyThey peep forth everywhereand gather round the traveller whether he be on foot or in a carriageAll the children here carry on a tradethe little people offer carved houses for sale models of those that are built here in the mountainsIn rain or in sunshinethere are the children offering their wares

About twenty years ago a little boy might often be seen standing there anxious to carry on his tradebut al-ways standing a short distance away from the rest He would stand there with a very grave face holding his little box with the carved toys so firmly in both hands that it seemed as if he would not let it go on any accountThis appearance of earnestness together with the fact of his being such a little fellowoften attracted the notice of strangersso that he was very frequently beckoned forwardand relieved of a great part of his stock without himself  knowing why this preference was shown him A couple of miles away in the mountains lived his grandfather who carved the pretty little housesand in the old man's room stood a wooden cupboard filled with things of that kindcarved toys in abundance nutcrackers knives and forksboxes adorned with carved leaves and with jumping chamoisall kinds of things that delight children's eyesbut the boy Rudy was his namelooked with greater  longing at an old rifle that hung from the beam under the ceilingfor his grandfather had promised him that it should be his one day when he should have grown tall and strong enough to manage it properly

Young as the boy was he had to keep the goats and if ability to climb with his flock makes a good goatherdthen Rudy was certainly an efficient one for he even climbed a little higher than the goats could mountand loved to take the birds nests from the high treesA bold and courageous child he was but he was never seen to smile save when he stood by the foaming water-fall or heard an avalanche crashing down the mountainside He never played with the other childrenand only  came in contact with them when his grandfather sent him down the mountain to deal in carved toysand this was a business Rudy did not exactly like He preferred clambering about alone among the mountainsor sitting beside his grandfather and hearing the old man tell stories of the old  times or of the people in the neighbouring town of Meiringenhis birthplaceThe old man said that the people who dwelt in that place had not been there from the beginningthey had come into the land from the far north where their ancestors dwelt who were called SwedesAnd Rudy was very proud of knowing thisBut he had others who taught him somethingand these others were companions of his belonging to the animal creation There was a great dog whose name was Ajolaand who had belonged to Rudy's fatherand a Tom Cat was there too this Tom Cat had a special significance for Rudyfor it was Pussy who had taught him to climb

Come with me out on the roof,” the Cat had saidquite distinctly and plainlyto Rudyforyou seechildren who cannot talk yetcan understand the language of fowls and ducks right well and cats and dogs speak to them quite as plainly as Father and Mother can dobut that is only when the children are very little and theneven Grandfather's stick will become a perfect horse to themand can neighandin their eyesis furnished with head and legs and tail With some children this period ends later than with others and of such we are accustomed to say that they are very backward and that they have remained children a long timePeople are in the habit of saying many strange things

Come out with me on to the roof,”was perhaps the first thing the Cat had said and that Rudy had understood.“What people say about falling down is all fancyone does not fall down if one is not afraidJust you come and put one of your paws thus and the other thus Feel your way with your forepaws You must have eyes in your head and nimble limbsand if an empty space comes jump over and then hold tight as I do.”

And Rudy did so too consequently he was often found seated on the top of the roof by the cat and afterwards he sat with him in the treetopsand at last was even seen seated on the edge of the cliff whither Puss did not go

Higher up !”said Tree and Bush Don't you see  how we climb How high we reachand how tight we cling even to the narrowest loftiest ridge of rock!”

And Rudy climbed to the very summit of the mountainfrequently reaching the top before the sun touched itand there he drank his morning draught of fresh mountain air the draught that the bountiful Creator above can prepareand the recipe for making which according to the reading of men consists in mingling the fragrant aroma of the mountain herbs with the scent of the wild thyme and  mint of the valleyAll that is heavy is absorbed by the brooding clouds and then the wind drives them alongand rubs them against the treetops and the spirit of fragrance is infused into the air to make it lighter and fresher ever fresherAnd this was Rudy's morning draught

The sunbeams the blessingladen daughters of the sun kissed his cheeksand Giddiness who stood lurking bynever ventured to approach him but the swallowswho had no less than seven nests on his grandfather's roofflew round about him and his goats and sang,“We and ye We and ye!”They brought him a greeting from home even from the two fowls the only birds in the house but with whom Rudy never became at all intimate

Small as he washe had been a travellerand for such a little fellow he had made no mean journeyHe had been born over in the Canton of Wallis and had been carried across the high mountains to his present dwelling Not long ago he had made a pilgrimage on foot to the Staubbachor Dust Fountain”, which flutters through the air like a silver tissue before the snowcovered dazzling white mountain called the Jungfrau or Maiden”.He had also  been in the Grindelwaldat the great glacierbut that was a sad storyHis mother had met her death there and there said Grandfatherlittle Rudy had lost his childlike  cheerfulness When the boy was not a year old his mother had written concerning him that he laughed more than he cried but from the time when he sat in the ice cleftanother spirit came upon him His grandfather seldom talked of it but the people through the whole mountain region knew the story

Rudy's father had been a postilionThe great dog that lay in grandfather's room had always followed him in  his journeys over the Simplon down to the Lake of GenevaIn the valley of the Rhone in the Canton of Wallislived some relatives of Rudy on the father's sideHis uncle was a first-rate chamois hunter and a wellknown guideRudy was only a year old when he lost his fatherand the mother now longed to return with her child to her relatives in the Oberland of BerneHer father lived a few miles from Grindelwald he was a woodcarver and earned enough to live onThus in the month of Junecarrying her childand accompanied by two chamois hunters she set out on her journey home across the  Gemmi towards GrindelwaldThey had already gone the greater part of the wayhad crossed the high ridge as far as the snowfieldand already caught sight of the valley of home with all the wellknown wooden houses and had only one great glacier to cross The snow had fallen freshly and concealed a cleft which did not indeed reach to the deep ground where the water gushedbut was still more than six feet deepThe young motherwith her child in her armsstumbledslipped over the edge and vanished No cry was heard no sighbut they could hear the crying of the little child More than an hour elapsed before ropes and poles could be brought up from the nearest house for the purpose of giving helpand after much exertion what appeared to be two corpses were brought forth from the icy cleftEvery means was triedand the child but not the mother was recalled to lifeand thus the old grandfather had a daughter's son brought into his housean orphan the boy who had laughed more than he criedbut it seemed that a great change had taken place in him and this change must have been wrought in the glacier cleft in the cold wondrous ice world in whichaccording to the Swiss peasants' belief the souls of the wicked are shut up until the last day

The glacier lies stretched outa foaming body of water stiffened into ice and as it were pressed together into green blocksone huge lump piled upon anotherfrom beneath it the rushing stream of melted ice and snow thunders down into the valleyand deep caverns and great  clefts extend belowIt is a wondrous glass palaceand within dwells the Ice Maidenthe Glacier QueenShethe deathdealing the crushing one is partly a child of air partly the mighty ruler of the river thus she is also able to raise herself to the summit of the snow mountainwhere the bold climbers are obliged to hew steps in the ice before they can mount she sails on the slender fir twig down the rushing stream and springs from one block to another with her long snowwhite hair and her blue-green garment fluttering around her and glittering like the water in the deep Swiss lakes

To crush and to hold mine is the power!”she says.“They have stolen a beautiful boy from me a boy whom I have kissed but not kissed to death He is again among men he keeps the goats on the mountains and climbs upward ever higherfar away from the othersbut not from meHe is mineand I will have him!”

And she bade Giddiness do her errand for it was too hot for the Ice Maiden in summer in the green woods where the wild mint grows and Giddiness raised herself and came downand her sisters went with herfor she has many sistersa whole troop of themand the Ice Maiden chose the strongest of the many who hover without and withinThese spirits sit on the staircase railing and upon the railing at the summit of the towerthey run like squirrels along the rocky ridgethey spring over railing and pathand tread the air as a swimmer treads the waterluring their victims forthand hurling them down into the abyssGiddiness and the Ice Maiden both grasp at a man as a polypus grasps at everything that comes near it And now Giddiness was to seize upon Rudy

Yes but to seize him,”said Giddiness,“is more than I can doThe cat that wretched creaturehas taught him her tricksThat child a particular power which thrusts me awayI am not able to seize him this boywhen he hangs by a bough over the abyssHow gladly would I tickle the soles of his feetor thrust him head over heels into the air![But I am not able to do it.]”

We shall manage to do it,”said the Ice Maiden.“Thou or II shall do itI!”

No no!” sounded a voice around herlike the echo of the church bells among the mountainsbut it was a song it was the melting chorus of other spirits of natureof good affectionate spiritsthe Daughters of the SunshineThese hover every evening in a wreath about the summits of the mountains there they spread forth their roseate wingswhich become more and more fiery as the sun sinks and gleam above the high mountains The people call this the Alpine glow”.And thenwhen the sun has setthey retire into the mountain summits into the white snow and slumber there until the sun rises againwhen they appear once moreThey are especially fond of flowersbutterflies and human beingsand among these latter they had chosen Rudy as an especial favourite

You shall not catch himyou shall not have him,”they said

I have caught them larger and stronger than he,”said the Ice Maiden

Then the Daughters of the Sun sang a song of the wanderer whose mantle the storm carried away

The wind took the coveringbut not the manYe can seize him but not hold him ye children of strength He is stronger he is more spiritual than even we areHe will mount higher than the sunour parent He possesses the magic word that binds wind and waterso that they must serve him and obey him You will but loosen the heavy oppressive weight that holds him down and he will rise all the higher.”

Gloriously swelled the chorus that sounded like the ringing of the church bells

And every morning the sunbeams pierced through the one little window into the grandfather's house and shone upon the quiet child The Daughters of the Sunbeams kissed the boy they wanted to thaw and remove the icy kisses which the royal maiden of the glaciers had given him when he lay in the lap of his dead mother in the deep ice cleftfrom whence he had been saved as if  by a miracle

 

THE JOURNEY TO THE NEW HOME

 

Rudy was now eight years oldHis unclewho dwelt beyond the mountains in the Rhone valley wished that the boy should come to him to learn something and  get on in the world the grandfather saw the justice of thisand let the lad go

Accordingly Rudy said goodbye There were others besides his grandfather to whom he had to say farewell and foremost came Ajola the old dog

Your father was the postilion and I was the post dog,”said Ajola;“we went to and fro togetherand I know some dogs from beyond the mountains and some people tooI was never much of a talker but now that we most likely shall not be able to talk much longer togetherI will tell you a little more than usualI will tell you a story that I have kept to myself and ruminated on for a long while I don't understand itand you won't understand it but that does not signify this much at least I have made out that things are not quite equally divided in the world either for dogs or for menNot all are destined to sit on a lady's lap and to drink milk I've not been accustomed to it but I've seen one of those little lap dogsdriving in the coach and taking up a passenger's place in it the ladywho was its mistress or whose master it was had a little bottle of milk with her out of which she gave the dog a drinkand she offered him sweetmeats but he only sniffed at them and would not even accept them and then she ate them up herselfI was running along in the mud beside the carriageas hungry as a dog can bechewing my own thoughtsthat this could not be quite rightbut they say a good many things are going on that are not quite rightShould you like to sit in a lady's lap and ride in a coachI should be glad if you didBut one can't man-age that for oneself I never could manage iteither by barking or howling

These were Ajola's wordsand Rudy embraced him and kissed him heartily on his wet nosethen the lad took  the Cat in his arms but Puss struggledsaying

You're too strong for meand I don't like to use my claws against you Clamber away over the mountainsfor I have taught you how to climbDon't think that you can falland then you will be sure to maintain your hold.”

And so saying the Cat ran awaynot wishing Rudy to see that the tears were in his eyes

The Fowls were strutting about in the roomOne of them had lost its tailA traveller who wanted to be a sportsman had shot the Fowl's tail away looking upon the bird as a bird of prey

Rudy wants to go across the mountains,” said one of the Fowls

He's always in a hurry,” said the other,“and I don't like saying goodbye.”

And with this they both tripped away

To the Goats he also said farewelland they bleatedMeek meek!” which made him feel very sorrowful

Two brave guides from the neighbourhoodwho wanted to go across the mountains to the other side of the Gemmitook him with themand he followed them on footIt was a tough march for such a little fellowbut Rudy was a strong boyand his courage never gave way

The Swallows flew with them for a little distance.“We and ye We and ye!” sang theyThe road led across the foaming Lutschinewhich pours forth in many little streams from the black cleft of the Grindelwald glacier and fallen trunks of trees and blocks of stone serve for a bridgeWhen they had reached the forest oppositethey began to ascend the slope where the glacier had slipped away from the mountainand now they strode across and around ice blocks over the glacierRudy sometimes had alternately to crawl and to walk for some distancehis eyes gleamed with delightand he trod so firmly in his spiked climbingshoes that it seemed as if he wished to leave a trace behind him at every footstepThe black earth which the mountain stream had strewn over the glacier gave the great mass a swarthy lookbut the bluishgreen glassy ice nevertheless peered  throughThey had to make circuits round the numerous  little lakes which had formed among the great blocks of iceand now and then they passed close to a great stone that lay tottering on the edge of a crack in the iceand sometimes the stone would overbalanceand roll crashing  down and a hollow echo sounded forth from the deep dark fissures in the glacier

Thus they continued climbingThe glacier itself extended upwards like a mighty river of piledup ice massesshut in by steep rocksRudy thought for a moment of the tale they had told him how he and his mother had lain in one of these deepcoldbreathing fissures but  soon all such thoughts vanished from himand the tale seemed to him only like many others of the same kind  which he had heardNow and then when the men thought the way too toilsome for the little ladthey would reach him a hand but he did not grow tired and stood on the smooth ice as safely as a chamoisNow they stepped on the face of the rockand strode on among the rugged stones sometimesagain they marched among the pine trees and then over the pasture groundsever seeing new and changing landscapes Around them rose snowclad mountains whose names the Jungfrau”,the M nch”,theEiger”,were known to every childand consequently to Rudy tooRudy had never yet been so highhe had never yet stepped on the outspread sea of snowhere it lay with its motionless snowy billowsfrom which the wind every now and then blew off a flakeas it  blows the foam from the waves of the sea The glaciers stand hereso to speak hand in hand each one is a glass palace for the Ice Maidenwhose might and whose desire it is to catch and to buryThe sun shone warmthe snow was dazzlingly white and seemed strewn with bluish sparkling diamondsNumberless insectsespecially butterflies and beeslay dead upon the snowthey had ventured too highor the wind had carried them up until they perished in the frosty airAbove the Wetterhorn hung like a bundle of fine black wool a threatening cloud;[it bowed downteeming with the weight it bore,] the weight of a whirlwind irresistible when once it bursts forthThe impressions of this whole journeythe night  encampment in these lofty regionsthe further walkthe deep rocky chasmswhere the water has pierced through the blocks of stone by a labourat the thought of whose duration the mind stands stillall this was indelibly impressed upon Rudy's recollection

A deserted stone building beyond the snow sea offered them a shelter for the nightHere they found fuel and pine branchesand soon a fire was kindled and the bed arranged for the night as comfortably as possibleThen the men seated themselves round the firesmoked their pipesand drank the warm refreshing drink they had prepared for themselvesRudy received his share of the supperand then the men began telling stories of the mysterious beings of the Alpine landof the strange gigantic serpents that lay coiled in the deep lakesof the marvellous company of spirits that had been known to carry sleeping men by night through the air to the wonderful floating city Veniceof the wild shepherd who drove his black sheep across the mountain pastures and how though no man had seen him the sound of the bell and the ghostly bleating of the flock had been heard by manyRudy listened attentively but without any feeling of fearfor he knew not what fear meantand while he listened he seemed to hear the hollowunearthly bleating and lowingand it became more and more audibleso that presently the men heard it too and stopped in their talk to listen and told Rudy  he must not go to sleep

It was a F hn”, the mighty whirlwind that hurls itself from the mountains into the valley cracking the trees in its strength as if they were feeble reeds and  carrying the wooden houses from one bank of a river to  the other as we move the figures on a chessboard

After the lapse of about an hourthey told Rudy it  was all over and he might go to sleepand tired out with his long march he went to sleep as at the word of command

Very early next morning they resumed their journey This day the sun shone on new mountains for Rudy on fresh glaciers and new fields of snow they had entered  the Canton of Wallis and had proceeded beyond the ridge which could be seen from the Grindelwald but they were still far from the new homeOther chasms came in view new valleysforests and mountain paths and new houses also came into view and other people But what strangelooking people were these They were deformedand had fat sallow faces and from their necks hung heavyugly lumps of flesh like bags they were crétins dragging themselves languidly alongand looking at the strangers with stupid eyes the women especially were hideous in appearanceWere the people in his new home like these

 

UNCLE

 

Thank HeavenThe people in the house of Rudy's unclewhere the boy was now to livelooked like those he  had been accustomed to see only one of them was a  crétin a poor idiotic ladone of those pitiable creatures  who wander in their loneliness from house to house in the Canton of Wallis staying a couple of months with each  familyPoor Saperli happened to be at Rudy's uncle's when the boy arrived

Uncle was still a stalwart huntsmanand moreover understood the craft of tubmaking his wife was a little lively woman with a face like a bird's She had eyes like an eagle and her neck was covered with a fluffy down

Everything here was new to Rudycostumemanners and habits and even the language but to the latter the child's ear would soon adapt itselfThere was an appearance of wealty herecompared with grandfather's dwellingThe room was larger the walls were ornamented  with chamois horns among which hung polished riflesand over the door was a picture of the Madonnawith fresh Alpine roses and a lamp burning in front of it

As already stateduncle was one of the best chamois hunters in the whole country and one of the most trusted guides In this household Rudy was now to become the pet child There was one pet here already in the person of an old blind and deaf hound who no  longer went out hunting as he had been used to dobut his good qualities of former days had not been forgottenand therefore he was looked upon as one of the family and carefully tendedRudy stroked the dog whohowever was not willing to make acquaintance with a stranger but Rudy did not long remain a stranger in that house

It is not bad living here in the Canton of Wallis,”said Uncle;“and we have chamois here who don't  die out so quickly as the steinbockand it is much better here now than in former daysThey may say what they like in honour of the old times but ours are betterafter allthe bag has been opened and a fresh wind blows through our sequestered valleySomething better always comes up when the old is worn out he continuedAnd when uncle was in a very communicative moodhe would tell of his youthful yearsand of still earlier times the strong times of his father when Wallis was as he expressed it a closed bag full of sick people and miserable crétins.“But the French soldiers came in he said,“and they were the proper doctors for they killed the disease at once and they killed the people who had it too They knew all about fightingdid the French and they could fight in more than one way Their girls could make conquests too,”and then uncle would laugh and nod to his wife who was a Frenchwoman by birth.“The French hammered away at our stones in famous style They hammered the Simplon road through the rockssuch a road that I can now say to a child of three years,‘Go to Italyonly keep to the high road,’ and the child will arrive safely in Italy if it does not stray from the road.”

And then uncle would sing a French song and cry Hurrah for Napoleon Bonaparte!”

Here Rudy for the first time heard them tell of France and Lyons the great town on the Rhone where his uncle had been

Not many years were to elapse before Rudy should become an expert chamois hunter his uncle said he had the stuff for it in him and accordingly taught him to handle a rifleto take aimand shootand in the hunting season he took the lad with him into the mountains and  let him drink the warm blood of the chamoiswhich cures  the huntsman of giddinesshe also taught him to judge of the various times when the avalanches would roll down the mountains at noon or at eveningaccording as the  sunbeams had shone upon the place he taught him to notice the way the chamois sprangthat Rudy might learn to come down firmly on his feetand told him that where the  rocky cleft gave no support for the foot a man must cling  by his elbows hips and legs and that even the neck could be used as a support in case of needThe chamois were clever he said——they posted sentinels but the hunter should be more clever still——keep out of the line of scentand lead them astrayand one day when Rudy was out hunting with uncle the latter hung his coat and hat on the alpenstock and the chamois took the coat for a man

The rocky path was narrowit was properly speaking not a path at all but merely a narrow shelf beside the yawning abyssThe snow that lay here was half thawed the stone crumbled beneath the treadand therefore uncle laid himself down and crept forwardEvery fragment that crumbled away from the rock fell downjumping and rolling from one ledge of rock to another until it was lost to sight in the darkness below About a hundred paces behind his uncle stood Rudy on a firm projecting point of rock and from this station he saw a great vulture circling in the air and hovering over unclewhom it evidently intended to hurl into the abyss with a blow of its wings that it might make a prey of himUncle's whole attention was absorbed by the chamoiswhich was to be seen with its young one on the other side of the cleftRudy kept his eyes on the birdHe knew what  the vulture intended to do and accordingly stood with  his rifle ready to fire when suddenly the chamois leaped upuncle firedand the creature fell pierced by the deadly bullet but the young one sprang away as if it had been accustomed all its life to flee from dangerStartled by the sound of the rifle the great bird soared away in another directionand uncle knew nothing of the danger in which he had stood until Rudy informed  him of it

As they were returning homeward in the best spiritsuncle whistling one of the songs of his youththey suddenly heard a peculiar noise not far from themthey looked aroundand there on the declivity of the mountainthe snowy covering suddenly roseand began to heave up and downlike a piece of linen stretched on a field when the wind passes beneath itThe snow waveswhich had been smooth and hard as marble slabsnow broke to piecesand the roar of waters sounded like rumbling thunderAn avalanche was fallingnot over Rudy and uncle but near where they stood not at all  far from them

Hold fastRudy!” cried uncle,“ hold fast with all your strength

And Rudy clung to the trunk of the nearest treeUncle clambered up above himand the avalanche rolled pastmany feet from them but the concussion of the air the stormy wings of the avalanche broke trees and shrubs all around as if they had been frail reeds and scattered the fragments headlong downRudy lay crouched upon the earth the trunk of the tree to which he clung was split throughand the crown hurled far awayand there among the broken branches lay uncle with his head shattered his hand was still warmbut his face could no longer be recognizedRudy stood by him pale and tremblingit was the first fright of his life——the first time he felt a shudder run through him

Late at night he brought the sorrowful news into his home which was now a house of mourningThe wife could find no wordsno tears for her griefat lastwhen the corpse was brought homeher sorrow found utteranceThe poor crétin crept into his bedand was not  seen during the whole of the next daybut at lasttowards eveninghe stole up to Rudy

Write a letter for me,”he said.“Saperli can't writebut Saperli can carry the letter to the post.”

A letter from you?”asked Rudy.“And to whom?”

To the Lord.”

To whom do you say?”

And the simpleton as they called the crétinlooked at Rudy with a moving glance folded his handsand said solemnly and slowly

To the Saviour Saperli will send Him a letter and beg that Saperli may be dead and not the man in the house here

Rudy pressed his hand and said

The letter would not arriveand it cannot restore him to us.”

But it was very difficult to make poor Saperli believe that this was impossible

Now thou art the prop of this house,”said the widowand Rudy became that

 

BABETTE

 

Who is the best marksman in the Canton of WallisThe chamois knew well enoughand said to each other,“Beware of Rudy.”Who is the handsomest marksman?“Why Rudy,”said the girls but they did not add,“Beware of Rudy Nor did even the grave mothers pronounce such a warning for Rudy nodded at them just as kindly as at the young maidensHow quick and merry he was His checks were brownedhis teeth regular and whiteand his eyes black and shining he was a handsome ladand only twenty years oldThe icy water could  not harm him when he swamhe could turn and twist in the water like a fishand climb better than any man in the mountainshe could cling like a snail to the rocky  ledgefor he had good sinews and muscles of his own and he showed that in his power of jumpingan art he had learned first from the Cat and afterwards from the goatsRudy was the safest guide to whom any man could  trust himselfand might have amassed a fortune in that callinghis uncle had also taught him the craft of tubmakingbut he did not take to that occupationpreferring chamois huntingwhich also brought in money Rudy was what might be called a good matchif he did not look higher than his station And he was such a dancer that the girls dreamed of him and indeed more  than one of them carried the thought of him into her  waking hours

He kissed me once at the dance!” said the  schoolmaster's daughter Annette to her dearest girl-friend but she should not have said that even to her dearest friendA secret of that kind is hard to keepit is like sand in a sieve sure to run outand soon it was known that Rudyhonest lad though he was kissed his partner in the dance and yet he had not kissed the one whom he would have liked best of all to kiss

Yes,”said an old hunter,“he has kissed Annette He has begun with A and will kiss his way through the whole alphabet.”

A kiss at the dance was all that the busy tongues could say against him until now he had certainly kissed Annette but she was not the beloved one of his heart

Down in the valley near Bexamong the great walnut trees by a little brawling mountain streamlived the rich millerThe dwellinghouse was a great building three stories high with little towersroofed with planks and covered with plates of metal that shone in the  sunlight and in the moonlight the principal tower was surmounted by a weathervane a flashing arrow that had pierced an applean emblem of Tell's famous feat The mill looked pleasant and comfortable and could be easily drawn and describedbut the miller's daughter could neither be drawn nor describedsoat leastRudy would have said and yet she was portrayed in his  heart where her eyes gleamed so brightly that they had lighted up a fireThis had burst out quite suddenlyas other fires break forth and the strangest thing of all wasthat the miller's daughterpretty Babette had no idea of the conquest she had madefor she and Rudy had never  exchanged a word together

The miller was richand this wealth of his made Babette very difficult to get at But nothing is so high that it may not be reached if a man will but climband he will not fall if he is not afraid of fallingThat was a lesson Rudy had brought from his first home

Now it happened that on one occasion Rudy had some business to do in BexIt was quite a journey thitherfor in those days the railway had not yet been completedFrom the Rhone glacieralong the foot of the Simplonaway among many changing mountain heights the proud valley of  Wallis extendswith its mighty river the Rhonewhich of-ten overflows its banks and rushes across the fields and high roadscarrying destruction with itBetween the little towns of Sion and St Maurice the valley makes a bend like an elbow and becomes so narrow below StMaurice that it only affords room for the bed of the river and a narrow road An old tower here stands as a sentinel at the boundary of the Canton of Wallis which ends here The tower looks across over the stone bridge at the tollhouse on the opposite side There commences the Canton of Waudand at a little distance is the first town of that Canton BexAt every step the signs of fertility and plenty increase and the traveller seems to be journeying through a garden of walnut trees and chestnuts here and there cypresses appearand blooming pomegranatesand the climate has the southern warmth of Italy

Rudy duly arrived in Bexand concluded his business there then he took a turn in the town but not even a miller's ladmuch less Babettedid he see thereThat was not as it should be

Evening came onthe air was full of the fragrance of the wild thyme and of the blooming lime trees a gleaming  bluish veil seemed to hang over the green mountainsfar  around reigned a silencenot the silence of sleep or of death but a stillness as if all nature held its breathas if  it were waiting to have its picture photographed upon the  blue sky Here and there among the trees on the green meadows stood long polessupporting the telegraph wires that had been drawn through the quiet valley against one of these leaned an objectso motionless that it might have  been taken for the trunk of a treebut it was Rudy who  stood as quiet and motionless as all nature around him He did not sleepnor was he dead by any meansbut just as the records of great events sometimes fly along the telegraphmessages of vital importance to those whom they concernwhile the wire gives no sign by sound or movementof what is passing over itso there was passing through the mind of Rudy a thought which was to be the happiness of his whole life and his one absorbing idea from that momentHis eyes were fixed on one pointan a light that gleamed out among the trees from the chamber of the miller where Babette dweltSo motionless did Rudy stand hereone might have thought he was taking aim at a chamoisa creature which sometimes stands as if carved  out of the rock till suddenly if a stone should roll  downit springs away in a headlong careerAnd something of this kind happened to Rudysuddenly a thought rolled into his mind

Never falter!”he cried.“Pay a visit to the mill say good evening to the miller and good evening to BabetteHe does not fall who is not afraid of falling Babette must see me sooner or laterif I am to be her husband.”

And Rudy laughed for he was of good courageand  he strode away towards the millHe knew what he wanted he wanted to have Babette

The riverwith its yellowish bedfoamed alongand the willows and lime trees hung over the hurrying watersRudy strode along the pathBut as the children's  song has it

Nobody was at home to greet him

Only the house cat came to meet him

The house cat stood on the step and said Miaou”, and arched her back but Rudy paid no attention to this addressHe knockedbut no one heard himno one opened the door to him.“Miaou!”said the catIf Rudy  had been still a child he would have understood her languageand have known that the cat was saying,“There's nobody at home here!” but now he must fain go over to the mill to make inquiriesand there he heard the news that the miller had gone far away to Interlaken and Babette with hima great shooting match was to come off there it would begin tomorrow and last a full week and people from all the German Cantons were to be present  at it

Poor Rudy He might be said to have chosen an unlucky day for his visit to Bexand now he might go homeHe turned about accordingly and marched over StMaurice and Sion towards his own valley and the mountains of his homebut he was not discouragedWhen the sun rose next morniny his good humour already stood highfor it had never set

Babette is at Interlakenmany days journey from here,” he said to himself.“It is a long way thither if a  man travels along the broad high roadbut it is not so far if one takes the short cut across the mountains and the chamois hunter's path is straight forwardI've been that  way alreadyyonder is my early homewhere I lived as a  child in grandfather's house and there's a shooting  match at InterlakenI'll be there tooand be the beat shotand I11 be with Babette too when once I have made her acquaintance.”

With a light knapsack containing his Sunday clothes on his backand his gun and hunting bag across his shoulderRudy mounted the hill by the short cutwhich was neverthelesstolerably longbut the shooting match  had only begun that day and was to last a week or moreand they had told him that the miller and Babette would pass the whole time with their friends at InterlakenRudy marched across the Gemmiintending to descend at Grindelwald

Fresh and merry he walked on in the strengthening light mountain airThe valley sank deeper and deeper behind him and his horizon became more and more extendedhere a snowy peak appearedand there another and presently the whole gleaming white chain of the Alps could be seenRudy knew every peak and he made straight towards the Schreckhornthat raised its white powderedstony finger up into the blue air

At last he had crossed the ridgeThe grassy pastures sloped down towards the valley of his old homeThe  air was light and his spirits were light Mountain and valley bloomed fair with verdure and with flowersand his  heart was filled with the feeling of youththat reeks not of coming age or of deathTo live to conquerto enjoy free as a bird!—and light as a bird he feltAnd the  swallows flew past himand sang as they had sang in his childhood,“We and yewe and ye!” and all seemed joy  and rapid motion

Below lay the summergreen meadowstudded with  brown wooden houseswith the Lütschine rushing and humming among themHe saw the glacier with the grassgreen borders and the clouded snow he looked into the deep crevasses and beheld the upper and the lower  glacierThe church bells sounded across to himas if they were ringing to welcome him into the valley of homeand his heart beat strongerand swelled sothat for a  moment Babette entirely disappearedso large did his  heart become and so full of recollections

He went along againup on the mountain where he had stood as a child with other little children offering  carved houses for saleThere among the pine trees stood  the house of his grandfatherbut strangers inhabited it nowChildren came running along the road towards him to sell their waresand one of them offered him an Alpine rose which Rudy looked upon as a good omen and thought of Babette Soon he had crossed the bridge where the two branches of the Lütschine join the woods became thicker here and the walnut trees gave a friendly shade Now he saw the waving flagsthe flags with the white cross in a red fieldthe national emblem of the Switzer  and the Dane and Interlaken lay before him

This was certainly a town without equalaccording to Rudy's estimateIt was a little Swiss town in its Sunday dressIt did not look like other placesa heavy mass of stone houses dismal and pretentious no here the wooden houses looked as if they had run down into the  valley trom the hills and placed themselves in a row beside the clear river that ran so gaily bythey were a little out of orderbut nevertheless they formed a kind of streetand the prettiest of all the streets was one that had grown up since Rudy had been here in his boyish daysand it looked to him as if it had been built of all the natty little houses his grandfather had carved and which used to be kept in the cupboard of the old houseA whole row of such houses seemed to have grown up here like strong chestnut trees each of them was called an hotel and had carved work on the windows and doors and a projecting roofprettily and tastefully builtand in front of each was a garden separating it from the broad macadamized roadThe houses only stood on one side of the roadso that they did not hide the fresh green pasturesin which the cows were walking about with bells round their necks like those which sound upon the lofty AlpsThe pasture was surrounded by high mountains which seemed to have stepped aside in the middleso that the sparkling snow-covered mountain the Jungfrau”, the most beautiful of all the Swiss peaks could be plainly seen

What a number of richly dressed ladies and gentlemen from foreign lands what a crowd of people from the various  Cantons Every marksman wore his number displayed in a wreath round his hatThere was music and singingbarrel organs and trumpetsbustle and noiseHouses and bridges were adorned with verses and emblemsflags and banners were wavingthe rifles cracked merrily now and againand in Rudy's ears the sound of the shots was the sweetest musicand in the bustle and tumult he had quite forgotten Babettefor whose sake he had come

And now the marksmen went crowding to shoot at the targetRudy soon took up his station among themand proved to be the most skillful and the most fortunate of alleach time his bullet struck the black spot in the centre of the target

Who may that strangerthat young marksman be?”asked many of the bystanders.“He speaks the French they talk in the Canton of Wallis.”“He can also make himself well understood in our German,”said others

They say he lived as a child in the neighbourhood of Grindelwald,”observed one of the marksmen

And he was full of life this stranger youthHis eyes gleamed and his glance and his arm were sure and that is why he hit the mark so well Fortune gives couragebut Rudy had courage enough of his ownHe had soon assembled a circle of friends round himwho  paid him honourand showed respect for himand Babette was almost forgotten for the momentThen suddenly a heavy hand clapped him on the shoulderand a deep voice addressed him in the French tongue

You're from the Canton of Wallis?”

Rudy turned roundand saw a red good-humoured facebelonging to a portly personThe speaker was the rich miller of Bex and his broad body almost eclipsed the pretty delicate Babette whohoweversoon peeped forth from behind him with her bright dark eyes It pleased the rich miller that a marksman from his Canton should have shot bestand have won respect from all present Well Rudy was certainly a fortunate youth for the person for whose sake he had comebut whom he had forgotten after his arrivalnow came to seek him out

When fellow countrymen meet at a long distance from home they are certain to converse and to make acquaintance with one anotherBy virtue of his good shootingRudy had become the first at the marksmen's meetingjust as the miller was the first at home in Bex on the  strength of his money and his good milland so the two men shook hands a thing they had never done beforeBabette also held out her hand frankly to Rudywho pressed it so warmly and gave her such an earnest look that she blushed crimson to the roots of her hair

The miller talked of the long distance they had comeand of the many huge towns they had seenaccording to his ideathey had made quite a long journey of it having travelled by railwaysteamboatand diligence

I came the shortest way,” observed Rudy.“I walked across the mountainsNo road is so high but a man may get over it

And break his neck,”quoth the miller.“You look just the fellow to break your neck one of these daysso bold as you aretoo.”

Oh a man does not fall unless he is afraid of falling,”observed Rudy

The relatives of the miller in Interlaken at whose house he and Babette were staying invited Rudy to visit themsince he belonged to the same Canton as the rich millerThat was a good offer for RudyFortune was favourable to himas she always is to anyone who seeks to win by his own energy and remembers that Providence provides us with nuts but leaves us to crack them”.

Rudy sat among the miller's relatives like one of the familyA glass was emptied to the health of the best marksman and Babette clinked her glass with the restand Rudy returned thanks for the toast

Towards evening they all took a walk on the pretty road by the prosperous hotels under the old walnut treesand so many people were there and there was so much pushing that Rudy was obliged to offer his arm to BabetteHe declared he was very glad to have met people from  Waudfor Waud and Wallis were good neighbour Cantons He expressed his joy so heartily that Babette could not help giving him a grateful pressure of the handThey Walked on together as if they had been old friendsand she talked and chattered away and Rudy thought how charmingly she pointed out the ridiculous and absurd points in the costumes and manners of the foreign ladiesnot that she did it to make game of themfor they might be very good honourable people as Babette well knewfor was not her own godmother one of these grand English ladies Eighteen years agowhen Babette was christened this lady had been residing in Bex and had given Babette the costly brooch the girl now wore on her neckTwice the lady had writtenand this year Babette had expected to meet her and her two daughters at Interlaken.“The daughters were old maidsnearly thirty years old,” added Babette but then she herself was only eighteen

The sweet little mouth never rested for a momentand everything that Babette said sounded in Rudy's ears like a matter of the utmost importanceand he on his part told  all he had to tellhow often he had been at Bex how well he knew the mill and how often he had seen Babette though she had probably never noticed him and how when he had lately called at the millfull of thoughts that he could not express she and her father had been absenthad gone farawaybut not so far that a man might not climb over the wall that made the way so long

He said all that and a great deal more He said how fond he was of her and that he had come hither on her accountand not for the sake of the marksmens's meeting

Babette was quite still while he said all this it almost seemed to her as if he entrusted her with too great a secret

And as they wandered on the sum sank down behind the high rocky wall TheJungfrau stood there in full beauty and splendoursurrounded by the green wreath og the forestclad hillsEveryone stood still to enjoy the  glorious sight and Rudy and Babette rejoiced in it too

It is nowhere more beautiful than here!” said Babette

Nowhere!” cried Rudy and he looked at Babette.“Tomorrow I must return home,”he saidafter a silence of a few moments

Come and see us at Bex,” whisper Babette;“ it  will please my father.”

 

ON THE WAY HOME

 

Oh what a load Rudy had to carry when he went homeward across the mountains on the following day Yes he had three silver goblets two handsome rifles and a silver coffee-potThe coffeepot would be useful when he set up housekeepingBut that was not all he had to carryhe bore something mightier and weightier or rather it bore himcarrying him homewards across the high mountainsThe weather was roughgreyrainyand heavythe clouds floated down upon the mountain heights  like funereal crapeconcealing the sparkling summits From the woodland valleys the last strokes of the are sounded upward and down the declivities of the mountains rolled trunks of trees which looked like thin sticks  from above but were in reality thick enough to serve as masts for the largest shipsThe Lütschine foamed along  with its monotonous song the wind whistled the clouds sailed onwardThen suddenly a young girl appeared walking beside Rudyhe had not noticed her till now that  she was quite close to him She wantedlike himselfto cross the mountainThe maiden's eyes had a peculiar  poweryou were obliged to look at them and they were strange to behold clear as glass and deep unfathomable

Have you a sweetheart?”asked Rudy for his thoughts all ran on that subject

I have none,”replied the girl with a laughbut she did not seem to be speaking a true word.“Don't let us make a circuit,”she said.“I've must keep more to the left then the way will be shorter.”

Yes and we shall fall into an ice cleft,” said Rudy.“You want to be a guideand you don't know the  way better than that!”

I know the way well,”the girl replied,“and my thoughts are not wanderingYours are down in the valley but up here one ought to think of the Ice Maidenshe does not love the human raceso people say.”

I'm not afraid of her,”cried Rudy.“She was obliged to give me up when I was still a child and I shall not give myself up to her now that I am older.”

And the darkness increasedthe rain fell and the snow came and dazzled and blinded

Reach me your hand,”said the girl to Rudy;“ I will help you to climb.”

And he felt the touch of her finger icy cold upon him

You help me!” cried Rudy.“I don't want a woman's help to show me how to climb.”

And he went on faster away from her The driving snow closed round him like a mantle the wind whistledand behind him he heard the girl laughing and singing in a strange way He felt sure she was a phantom in the service of the Ice Maiden Rudy had heard tell of such apparitions when he passed the night on the mountains in his boyish daysduring his journey from his grandfather's house

The snowfall abated and the cloud was now below himHe looked back but nobody was to be seenbut he could hear laughter and whooping that did not seem to proceed from a human voice

When Rudy at last reached the highest mountain plateauwhence the path led downward into the Rhone valleyhe saw in the direction of Chamonixin a strip of pure blue skytwo bright stars which glittered and twinkledand he thought of Babette of himselfand of his  good fortuneand the thought made him quite warm

 

THE VISIT TO THE MILL

 

What magnificent things you have brought home!” exclaimed the old auntand her strange eagle's eyes flashedand her thin neck waved to and fro faster than  ever in strange contortions.“You have luckRudyI must kiss youmy darling boy!”

And Rudy allowed himself to be kissed but expression in his face which told that he submitted to it as a necessary evil a little domestic infliction

How handsome you are Rudy!”said the old woman

Don't put nonsense into my head,”replied Rudywith a laughbut still he was pleased to hear her say it

I repeat it,” she cried.“Good luck attends upon you!”

Perhaps you are right,” he observedand he thought of Babette

Never had he felt such a longing to go down into the deep valley

They must have returned,” he said to himself.“ It  is two days beyond the time when they were to have been  back I must go to Bex.”

Accordingly Rudy journeyed to Bexand the people of the mill were at home He was well received and the people at Interlaken had sent a kind message of remembrance to himBabette did not say much she had grown very silent but her eyes spoke and that was quite  enough for Rudy It seemed as f the miller who was accustomed to lead the conversationand who always expected his hearers to laugh at his ideas and jokes because he was the rich millerit seemed as if he would never tire of hearing Rudy's hunting adventuresand Rudy spoke of the dangers and difficulties the chamois hunters have to encounter on the high mountains how they have to cling how they have to clamber over the frail ledges of snow that are as it were glued to the mountainside by frost and cold and to clamber across the bridges of snow that stretch across rocky chasms And the eyes of the brave Rudy flashed while he told of the hunter's life of the cunning of the chamois and its perilous leaps of the mighty whirlwind and the rushing avalanches He noticed clearly enoughthat with every fresh narrative he enlisted the miller more and more in his favourand the old man felt especially interested in what the young hunter told about the vultures and the royal eagles

Not far off in the Canton of Wallisthere was an eagle's nest built very cleverly under a steep overhanging rock and in the nest was an eaglet which could not be capturedAn Englishman had a few days before offered Rudy a handful of gold pieces if he could procure him the eaglet alive

But there is a limit in all things,”said Rudy:“that eaglet is not to be taken it would be folly to make the attempt.”

And the wine flowed and conversation flowed but the evening appeared far too short for Rudyalthough it was past midnight when he set out to go home after his first visit to the mill

The lights still gleamed for a short time through the windows of the mill among the green trees and the Parlour Cat came forth from the open loophole in the roofand met the Kitchen Cat walking along the rainspout

Do you know the news in the mill?” asked the Parlour Cat.“There's a silent engagement going on in the houseFather knows nothing about itRudy and Babette were treading on each other's paws under the table all  the evening They trod upon me twice but I would not mew for fear of exciting attention.”

I should have mewed,” said the kitchen Cat

What will pass in the kitchen would never do for the parlour,”retorted the other Cat;“but I'm curious to know what the miller will think about it when he hears of the affair.”

Yesindeedwhat would the miller sayThat is what Rudy would have liked to know too and moreover he could not bear to remain long in suspense without knowing it Accordinglya few days afterwardswhen the omnibus rattled across the Rhone bridge between Wallis and WaudRudy sat in the vehicle in good spirits as usualand already basking in the sunny prospect of the consent he hoped to gain that very evening

And when the evening cameand the omnibus was making its way backRudy once more sat in it as a passengerbut in the mill the Parlour Cat had some important news to tell

Do you know it you there out of the kitchenThe miller has been told all about itThere was a fine end to it allRudy came here towards evening and he and Babette had much to whisper and to tell each other standing in the passage outside the miller's roomI was lying at their feet but they had neither eyes nor thoughts for me.‘I shall go to your father without more ado'said Rudy;‘that's the honest way to do it.‘ Shall I go with you?’ asked Babette;‘ it will give you courage.’‘ I've courage enough'replied Rudy;‘ but if you are present he must be kind whether he likes it or not And they went in together Rudy trod upon my tail most horriblyHe's a very awkward fellowthis  RudyI called outbut neither he nor Babette had ears  to hear meThey opened the doorand both went inand I went on before thembut I sprang up on the back of a chair for I could not know where Rudy would kickBut it was the miller who kicked this time and it was a good kick too out at the door and up to the mountain among the chamoisand he may take aim at them now may Rudy and not at our Babette.”

But what did they say?”asked the Kitchen Cat

What did they say Why they said everything that  people are accustomed to say when they come a-wooing.‘I  love her and she loves me and if there's milk enough in the pail for one there's enough for two.’‘But she's  perched too high for you'said the miller.‘She's perched on griston golden grist as you very well knowand you can't reach up to her.’‘Nothing is so high that a man can't reach it if he has the will'said Rudy for he is a  bold fellow.‘But you can't reach the eagletyou said so yourself the other day and Babette is higher than that.’‘I shall take both of them,’exclaimed Rudy.‘I'll give you Babette when you give me the young eaglet alive said the miller and he laughed till the tears ran down his cheeks.‘But now I must thank you for your visit Call again tomorrowand you'll find nobody at home Goodbye to youRudy.’And Babette said goodbye too as pitifully as little kitten that can't see its mother yet.‘Your word is your bond'cried Rudy.‘Don't cry Babette I'll bring you the eaglet!’‘You'll break your neck first I hope'said the miller,‘and then we shall be rid of your dangling here!’That's what I call a capital kick!”

And now Rudy is goneand Babette sits and weepsbut the miller sings German songs that he has learned on his late journeyI don't like to be downhearted about itfor that can do no good!”

We11after all there's some prospect for him still,”observed the Kitchen Cat

 

THE EAGLE'S NEST

 

Down from the rocky path sounded a fresh songmerry and strong indicating courage and good spirits and the singer was Rudywho came to seek his friend Vesinand

You must help meWe will have Ragli with us I want to take the eaglet out of the nest on rock.”

Would you not like to take the black spots out of the moon first?” replied Vesinand.“That would be just as easy You seem to be in a merry mood.”

Certainly I am for I hope to be married soonBut let us speak seriouslyand I will tell you what it is all  about.”

And soon Vesinand and Ragli knew what Rudy  wanted

You are a headstrong fellow,”they said.“It can't  be doneyou will break your neck over it.”

A man does not fall who's not afraid of falling,” Rudy persisted

At midnight they set out with poles ladders and ropestheir way led through forest and thicketover loose rolling stones ever upwardthrough the dark nightThe water rushed beneath them water dripped down from aboveand heavy clouds careered through the airThe hunters reached the steep wall of rockHere it was darker  than everThe opposite sides of the chasm almost touchedand the sky could only be seen through a small cleft above themand around them and beneath them was the great abyss with its foaming watersThe three sat on the rock waiting for the dawn when the eagle should fly forth for the old bird must be shot before they could think of capturing the young oneRudy sat on the  ground as silent as if he were a piece of the stone on which he crouched his rifle he held before him ready cockedhis eyes were fixed on the upper cleft beneath which the eagle's nest lay concealed against the rock And a long time those three hunters had to wait

Now there was a rushing whirring sound above them and a great soaring object darkened the airTwo guns were pointedas the black form of the eagle arose  from the nestA shot rang sharply out for a moment the outstretched wings continued to move and then the bird sank slowly down and it seemed with its outstretched wings to fill up the chasmand threatened to bear down the hunters in its fallThen the eagle sank down into the abyss breaking off twigs of trees and bushes in its descent

And now the hunters began operationsThree of the longest ladders were bound togetherthose would reach high enough;[they were reared on end on the last firm foothold on the margin of the abyss;]but they did not reach far enough and higher upwhere the nest lay concealed under the shelter of the projecting cragthe rock  was as smooth as a wall After a short council the men determined that two ladders should be tied together and let down from above into the cleftand that these should be attached to the three that had been fastened together belowWith great labour the two ladders were dragged up and the rope made fast abovethen the ladders were passed over the margin of the projecting rockso that they hung dangling above the abyssRudy had already taken his place on the lowest stepIt was an icycold morningmisty clouds were rising from the dark chasmRudy sat as a fly sits on a waving wheatstraw which some nestbuilding bird has deposited on the edge of a factory chimneyonly the fly can spread its wings and escape if the wheatstraw gives waywhile Rudy had nothing for it in such a case but to break his neck The wind whistled about himand below in the abyss thundered the waters from the melting glacierthe palace of the Ice Maiden

Now he imparted a swaying motion to the laddersjust as a spider sways itself to and fro when hanging at the end of its threadit wishes to seize upon an objectand when Rudy for the fourth time touched the top of the ladder,[the highest of the three that had been bound together,] he seized it and held it firmlyThen he bound the other two ladders with a strong hand to the first three but they still rattled and swayed as if they had loose hinges

The five long ladders thus bound togetherand standing perpendicularly against the rocky walllooked like a long swaying reedand now came the most dangerous part  of the businessThere was climbing to be done as the cat Climbsbut Rudy had learned to climband it was the Cat who had taught himHe knew nothing of the Spirit of Giddiness who stood treading the air behind himand stretching out long arms towards him like the feelers of a polypusNow he stood upon the highest step of the topmost ladderand perceived that after all it was not high enough to let him look into the nesthe could only reach up into it with his handHe felt about to test the firmness of the thick plaited branches that formed the lower part of the nestand when he had secured a thick steady piece he swuny himself up by it from the ladderand leaned against the branchso that his head and shoulders were above the level of the nestA stifling stench of carrion streamed towards himfor in the nest lay chamoisbirdsand lambsin a putrid stateThe Spirit of Giddinessthat had no power over him blew the poisonous vapour into his face to make him sick and trouble his senses and belowin the black yawning gulf on the rushing waterssat the Ice Maiden herself with her long whitishgreen hair and stared at him with cold deathlike eyes

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Now I shall catch you!” she thought

In a corner of the nest he saw the young one which was not yet fledgedsitting large and stately Rudy fixed his eyes upon itheld himself fast with all the strength of one handwhile with the other he threw the noose over the young eagleIt was caughtcaught alive Its legs were entangled in the tough noose and Rudy threw the cord and the bird across his shoulderso that the creature hung some distane beneath him while he held fast by a rope they had lowered down to assist himtill his feet touched the topmost round of the ladder

Hold fast Don't fancy you're going to falland you won't fall!”It was the old maxim and he followed ithe held fast and climbedwas convinced that he should not falland accordingly he did not fall

And now a whoop resoundedstrong and jubilantand Rudy stood safe and sound on the firm rock with the captured eaglet

 

WHAT NEWS THE PARLOUR CAT HAD TO TELL

 

Here is what you wished for!” said Rudyas he entered the house of the miller at Bex

He set down a great basket on the groundand lifted the cloth that covered itTwo yellow eyes bordered with black stared forth they seemed to shoot forth sparksand gleamed burning and savageas if they would burn and bite all they looked atThe short strong beak was openready to snap and the neck was red and downy

The young eagle!”cried the miller

Babette screamed aloud and started back but she could not turn her eyes from Rudy or from the eagle

You're not to be frightened off,”observed the miller

And you always keep your word,”answered Rudy.“Every man has his own character.”

But why did you not break your neck?” asked the miller

Because I held fast,”replied Rudy;“and I do that stillI hold Babette fast!”

First see that you get her,” said the millerand he laughedBut his laughter was a good sign and Babette knew it

We must have him out of the basket his staring is  enough to drive one madBut how did you contrive to get at him?”

And Rudy had to relate the adventureat which the miller opened his eyes wider and wider

With your courage and good fortune you may gain a living for three wives,” cried the miller at last

Thank you!”said Rudy

Still you have not Babette yet,”continued the millerand he slapped the young huntsman playfully on the shoulder

Do you know the latest news from the mill?”the Parlour Cat inquired of the kitchen Cat Rudy has brought us the eagletand is going to take Babette away in exchangeThey have kissed each otherand let the old man see itThat's as good as a betrothalThe old man didn't kickhe drew in his claws and took his nap and  let the two young ones sit together and purrThey've so much to tell each other that they won't have done till Christmas.”

And they had not done till Christmas The wind tossed up the brown leavesthe snow whirled through the valley and over the high mountainsthe Ice Maiden sat in her proud castle which increases in size during the winter the rocky walls were covered with a coating of iceand icicles thick as pine trunks and heavy as elephants hung downwhere in the summer the mountain stream spread its misty veil garlands of ice of whimsical forms  hung sparking on the snow-powdered fir treesThe Ice Maiden rode on the rushing wind over the deepest valleysThe snowy covering reached almost down to Bexand the  Ice Maiden came thither alsoand saw Rudy sitting in the millthis winter he sat much more indoors than was his customhe sat by BabetteThe wedding was to be next summertheir ears often buzzedtheir friends spoke so much about itIn the mill there was sunshinethe loveliest Alpine rose bloomed therethe cheerful smiling  Babette beautiful as the springthe spring that makes  all the birds sing of summer and of marriage feasts

How those two are always sitting togetherclose together!”said the Parlour Cat.“I've heard enough of their mewing.”

 

THE ICE MAIDEN

 

Spring had unfolded its fresh green garland on the walnut and chestnut trees extending from the bridge at StMaurice to the shore of the Lake of Geneva along the Rhone that rushes along with headlong speed from its source beneath the green glacierthe ice palace where the Ice Maiden dwells and whence she soars on the sharp wind up to the loftiest snow-field there to rest upon her snowy couch there she satand gazed with farseeing glance into the deep valleyswhere the men ran busily to and frolike ants on the stone that glitters in the sun

Ye spirit powersas the Children of the Sun call you,” said the Ice Maiden ye are but worms Let a snowball roll from the mountain and yon and your houses and towns are crushed and swept away!”

And higher she lifted her haughty head and gazed out far and wide with deadly flashing eyes

But from the valley there arose a rumbling soundThey were blasting the rocksHuman work was going onRoads and tunnels for railways were being constructed

They're playing like moles!”she said.“They're digging passages under the earthand thence come these sounds like the firing of gunsWhen I remove one of my castles it sounds louder than the thunder's roar.”

Out of the valley rose a smoke which moved forward like a fluttering veilit was the waving steam plume of the enginewhich on the lately opened road dragged the trainthe curling snake each of whose joints is a carriageAway it shotswift as in arrow

They're playing at being masters down yonderthe spirit powers,”said the Ice Maiden,“but the power of the forces of nature is greater than theirs.”

And she laughed and sang till the valley echoed

Yonder rolls an avalanche!”said the people

But the Children of the Sun sang louder still of HUMAN THOUGHTthe powerful agent that places barriers against the sea and levels mountainsand fills up valleysof human thoughtthat is master of the powers of natureAnd at this time there marched across the snowfield where the Ice Maiden rules a company of travellersThe men had bound themselves to one another with ropesthat they mightas it were form a heavier body here on the slippery surface of ice on the margin of the deep chasms

Insects that you are!”cried the Ice Maiden.“You  the rulers of the powers of nature!”

And she turned away from the companyand looked contemptuously down into the deep valleywhere the long train of carriages was rushing along

There they sit those thoughts There they sit in the power of the forces of natureI see them each and all of themOne of them sits alone proud as a Kingand yonder they sit in a crowdHalf of them are asleep And when the steam dragon stops they alight and go their  waysThe thoughts go abroad into the world.”

And she laughed again

There rolls another avalanch!”said the people in the valley

It will not reach us,” said two who sat behind the steam dragon.“Two hearts that beat like one,” as the song has it These two were Babette and Rudyand the miller was with them too

I go as baggage!” he said.“I am here as a necessary appendage.”

There those two sit,” said the Ice Maiden.“Many a chamois have I crushedmillions of Alpine roses have I broken to pieces not even sparing the rootsI'll wipe them out these thoughtsthese spirit powers.”And she  laughed again

There rolls another avalanche!” said the people in the valley below

 

BABETTE'S GODMOTHER

 

At Montreuxthe first of the towns which with Clarens Vernex and Crin form a garland round the northeastern portion of the Lake of Genevalived Babette's godmothera highborn English ladywith her daughters and a young male relativeThey had only lately arrivedbut the miller had already waited upon them to tell them of Babette's betrothaland the story of Rudy and the eagletand of his visit to Interlakenin short the whole storyAnd the visitors were much pleased to hear it and showed themselves very friendly towards RudyBabetteand the  millerwho were all three urgently invited to come and see them and came accordinglyBabette was to see her god motherand the lady to make acquaintance with Babette

By the little town of Villeneuve at the extremity of the Lake of Geneva lay the steamship which in a halfhour's trip goes from there to Vernex just below MontreuxThe coast here has been sung by poets here under the walnut trees by the deep bluishgreen lake sat Byronand wrote his melodious verses of the prisoner in the gloomy rocky fortress of Chillon Yonderwhere the weeping willows of Clarens are clearly mirrored in the water Rousseau

snowclad mountains of Savoyherenot far from its mouthlies in the lake a little is-landso small that seen from the coast it appears like a ship upon the waters It is a rock which about a century ago a lady caused to be walled round with stone and coated with earth wherein three acacia trees were planted which now overshadow the whole island

Babette was quite delighted with this spotwhich seemed to her the prettiest point of all their journeyand she declared that they must land for it must be charming there But the steamer glided past and was moored aecording to custom at Vernex

The little party wandered from here among the white  sunny walls which surround the vineyards of Montreuxwhere the fig tree casts its shadow over the peasantshutsand laurels and cypresses grow in the gardensHalf-way up the hill was situated the hotel in which the English lady was staying

The reception was very heartyThe English lady was very friendly with a round smiling facein her childhood her head must have been like one of Raphael's angelsbut she had an old angel's head now surrounded by curls of silvery whiteThe daughters were tall slendergoodlookinglady-like girlsThe young cousin whom they had brought with them was dressed in white from head to footHe had yellow hairand enough of yellow whisker to have been shared among three or four gentlemen He immediately showed the very greatest attention to Babette

Richly bound volumes music-booksand drawings lay strewn about upon the large tablethe balcony door stood open and they could look out upon the beautiful farspreading lakewhich lay so shining and still that the mountains of Savoy with their townsforestsand snowy peakswere most accurately reproduced on its surface

Rudywho was generally frankcheerfuland ready felt very uncomfortable here and he moved as if he were walking on peas spread over a smooth surface How long and wearisome the time seemed to him He could have fancied himself on a treadmill And now they even went out to walk togetherthat was just as slow and wearisome as the restRudy might have taken one step backward to every two he made forwardand yet have kept up with the othersThey went down to Chillon the old gloomy castle on the gloomy islandto see the instruments of torture the deadly dungeonsthe rusty chains fastened to the walls the stone benches on which men condemned to death had sat the trapdoor through which the unhappy wretches were hurled  down to be impaled below upon tipped iron stakes in the water

They called it a pleasure to see all thisIt was a place of execution that had been lifted by Byron's song into the domain of poetryRudy only associated the prison feeling with itHe leaned against one of the great stone windowframesand looked out into the deep bluishgreen water and over at the little island with the three acaciasthither he wished himself transportedto be free from the whole chattering companyBut Babette was in unusually good spiritsShe declared she had enjoyed herself immensely and told Rudy she considered the young cousin a complete gentleman

A complete booby!”cried Rudy

And it was the first time he had said anything she did not like The Englishman had given her a little book in remembrance of ChillonIt was Byron's poem,“The Prisoner of Chillon,”translated into French so that Babette could read it

The book may be good,” said Rudy,“but I don't like the combed and curled fellow who gave it you.”

He looked to me like a floursack without any flour,”said the millerand he laughed at his own joke

Rudy laughed too and said that was just his own  opinion

THE COUSIN

 

A few days after these eventswhen Rudy went to pay a visit at the mill he found the young Englishman thereand Babette was just about to offer her visitor some boiled troutwhich she certainly must have decorated with parsley with her own handsso tempting did they look,—a thing that was not at all necessaryWhat did the Englishman want here And what business had Babette to treat him and pet himRudy was jealousand that pleased Babettefor she liked to become acquainted with all the points of his characterthe weak as well as the strongLove was still only a game to herand she playedwith Rudy's whole heartyet he was we must confess her happiness her whole lifeher constant thoughtthe best and most precious possession she had on earth but for all that the  darker his glance became the more did her eyes laughand she would have liked to kiss the fair Englishman with the yellow beardif her doing this would have made Rudy wild and sent him raging awayfor that would show how much he loved her Now this was not right of Babettebut she was only nineteen years old She did not think much and least of all did she think that her conduct might he misinterpreted by the young Englishman into  something very unworthy of the respectable affianced miller's daughter

The mill stood just where the high road from Bex leads down under the snowcovered mountain heightwhich in the language of the country is calledDiablerets”.It was not far from a rushing mountain stream whose waters were whitish-grey like foaming soapsudsit was not this stream that worked the milla smaller stream drove round the great wheelone which fell from the rock some way beyond the main riverand whose power and  fall were increased by a stone dam and by a long wooden troughwhich carried it over the level of the great  streamThis trough was so full that the water poured over its marginthis wooden margin offered a narrow slippery path for those who chose to walk along it that they might get to the mill by the shortest cut and to whomof all peopleshould the idea of reaching the mill by this road occur but to the young EnglishmanDressed in whitelike a miller's man he climbed over at night guided by the light that shone from Babette's chamber windowbut he had not learned how to climb like Rudyand consequently was near upon falling headlong into the stream below but he escaped with a pair of wet coatsleeves and soiled trousersand thus wet and bespattered with mudhe came below Babette's windowHere he climbed into the old elm tree and began to imitate the voice of the owlthe only bird whose cry he could manage Babette heard the noise and looked out of her window through the thin curtainbut when she saw the white form and conjectured who it washer heart beat with fear and with anger alsoShe put out the light in a hurrysaw that all the bolts of the windows were well secured and then let him whoop and tu-whoo to his heart's content

It would be dreadful if Rudy were in the mill just now But Rudy was not in the mill nowhat was worse still he stood just under the elm treePresently there were loud and angry voices and there might be a fight there and even murder Babette opened the window in a  fright and called Rudy by name begging him to go and declaring that she would not allow him to remain

You won't allow me to remain?” he shouted Then it s a planned thing You expect good friendsbetter men than I For shame Babette!”

You are odious!” cried Babette.“I hate you Gogo!”

I have not deserved this,”he said and went away his face burning like fire and his heart burning asfiercely

Babette threw herself on her bed and wept

So dearly as I love you RudyAnd that you should think evil of me !”

Then she broke out in anger and that was good for her for otherwise she would have suffered too much from her grief and now she could sleepcould sleep the strengthening sleep of health and youth

 

EVIL POWERS

 

Rudy quitted Bex and took the way towards his homehe went up the mountain into the fresh cool air where the snow lay on the groundwhere the Ice Maiden ruledThe leafy trees stood far below him and looked like field plantsthe pines and bushes all looked tiny from here the Alpine  roses grew beside the snow that lay in long patches like linen lying to bleach A blue gentian that stood by his path  he crushed with a blow of his riflestock

Higher up still two chamois came in viewRudy's  eyes brightened and his thoughts took a new directionbut he was not near enough to be sure of his aim so he mounted higher where nothing but scanty grass grew among the blooks of stoneThe chamois were straying quietly along on the snow-field He hastened his steps till the evil of clouds  began to encompass himand suddenly he found himself in  front of a steep wall of rockand now the rain began to pour down

He felt a burning thirst his head was hothis limbs were cold He took his hunting flaskbut it was emptyhe had not thought of filling it when he rushed out upon the mountainsHe had never been ill in his life but now he had warnings of such a conditionfor he was wearyand had an inclination to lie downa longing to go to sleepthough the rain was pouring all aroundHe tried to collect his facultiesbut all objects danced and trembled strangely before his eyesThen suddenly he beheld what he had never seen in that spot beforea new low-browed housethat leaned against the rockAt the door stood a young girl and she almost appeared to him like the schoolmaster's daughter Annette whom he had once kiss at the dance but it was not Annette though he felt certain he had seen this girl before perhaps at Grindelwald on that evening when he returned from the marksmen's feast at Interlaken

Whence do you come?” he asked

I am at home hereI am keeping my flock,”was the reply

Your flock Where does it graze Here there is only snow and rocks.”

Much you know about what is here,”retorted the girl with a laugh.“Behind us lower downis a glorious pasturemy goats graze thereI tend them carefullyNot one of them do I lose and what is once mine remains mine.”

You are bold,”said Rudy

And you too,” replied the girl

If you have any milk in the house pray give me some to drink I am insufferably thirsty.”

I've something better than milk,”said the girl,“and give you thatYesterday some travellers were with their guidewho forgot a bottle of wine of a kind you have  probably never tastedThey will not come back to take it away and I do not drink ittherefore you must drink it.”

And the girl brought the wine and poured it into a  wooden cup which she gave to Rudy

That is good wine,”said he.“I've never tasted any so strong or so fiery!”

And his eyes glistened and a glowing lifelike feeling streamed through him as if every care every pressure had melted into air and the fresh bubbling human nature stirred within him

Why this must be Annette!”he cried.“Give me a kiss.”

Then give me the beautiful ring that you wear on your finger.”

My betrothal ring?”

Yesthat very one,”said the girl

And again she poured wine in the cupand she put it to his lipsand he drank The joy of life streamed into his blood the whole world seemed to be his and why should he mourn Everything is made for us to enjoythat it may make us happyThe stream of life is the stream of enjoymentand to be carried along by it is happinessHe looked at the young girlit was Annetteand yet not Annettestill less did it seem like the phantomthe goblin as he called it which had met him at Grindelwald The girl here on the mountain looked fresh as the white snow blooming as an Alpine rose and swiftfooted as a kid but still she looked as much a mortal as Rudy himselfAnd he looked in her wonderfully clear eyesonly for a moment he looked into them andwho shall  describe it?—in that momentwhether it was the life of the spirit or death that filled himhe was borne upwardor else he sank into the deep and deadly ice cleftlower and lower He saw the icy walls gleaming like blue-green glassfathomless abysses yawned aroundand the water dropped tinkling down like shining bells clear as pearls glowing with pale blue flamesThe Ice Maiden kissed hima kiss which sent a shudder from neck to brow a cry of pain escaped from him he tore himself away staggered andit was night before his eyes but soon he opened them againEvil powers had been playing their  sport with him

Vanished was the Alpine girlvanished the sheltering hutthe water poured down the naked rocky walland snow lay all around Rudy trembled with coldhe was wet to the skinand his ring was gonethe betrothal ring which Babette had given himHis rifle lay near  him in the snowhe took it up and tried to fire itbut it missedDamp clouds hovered like masses if snow over the abyss and Giddiness was therelying in wait for the powerless preyand belowin the deep abyss there was a sound as if a block of stone were fallingcrushing in its  descent everything that tried to arrest its progress

But Babette sat in the mill and weptRudy had not  been there for six dayshe who was in the wrongand who ought to come and beg her pardon and whom she love with her whole heart

 

XIII IN THE MILL

 

What a strange thing it is with those people!”said the Parlour Cat to the Kitchen Cat.“They're parted nowBabette and Rudy She's weeping and he I suppose does not think any more about her.”

I don't like that,” said the Kitchen Cat

Nor do I,”observed the Parlour Cat;“but I won't take it to heartBabette may betroth herself to the yellow  beardBut he has not been here either since that night  when he wanted to climb on the roof.”

Evil powers sport with us and in usRudy had experienced thatand had thought much of it What was all that which had happened to him and around him on the  summit of the mountain Were they spirits he had seenor had he had a feverish vision Never until now had he  suffered from fever or any other illnessBut in judging Babettehe had looked into his own heart alsoHe had  traced the wild whirlwindthe hot wind that had raged there Would he be able to confess to Babette every thought he had hadthoughts that might become actions in the hour of temptation He had lost her ringand  through this loss she had won him againWould she be able to confess to him He felt as if his heart would burst when he thought of herWhat a number of recollections arose within himHe saw her as if she were standing bodily before him laughing like a wayward child Many a sweet word she had spoken out of the fullness of her heart now crept into his breast like a sunbeamand soon there  was nothing but sunshine within him when he thought of Babette

Yesshe would be able to confess to him and she should do so Accordingly he went to the milland the confession began with a kissand ended in the fact that Rudy was declared to be the sinnerHis great fault had been that he had doubted Babette's fidelityit was quite wicked of him Such distrustsuch headlong angermight  bring sorrow them bothYescertainly they couldand accordingly Babette read him a short lectureto her  own great contentmentand with charming graceBut in  one point she agreed with Rudythe nephew of her godmother was a booby and she would burn the book he had  given herfor she would not keep the slightest thing that reminded her of him

That's all past and gone,”said the Parlour Cat.“Rudy is here againand they understand one anotherand  that's the greatest happinessthey say.”

I heard from the rats last night,”observed the  Kitchen Cat,“that the greatest happiness was to eat tallow candles and to have plenty of rancid baconNowwhom is  one to believe the rats or the lovers?”

Neither,”said the Parlour Cat;“that's always the safest way.”

The greatest happiness of Rudy and Babettethe fairest day as they called itthe wedding daynow  approached rapidly

But the wedding was not to be celebrated at the  church at Bex and in the millBabette's godmother wished her godchild to be married from her house and the service was to be read in the beautiful little church at Montreux The miller insisted upon having his way in this matterHe  alone knew what were the English lady's intentions with respet to her godchildand declared that the lady intended making such a wedding present that they were bound to show some sense of obligationThe day was fixedOn the evening before itthey were to travel to villeneuveso that they might drive over early to Montreux that the young  English ladies might dress the bride

I suppose there will be a wedding feast here in the  house?”said the Parlour Cat:“if notI wouldn't give a mew for the whole affair.”

Of course there will be a feast here,”replied the Kitchen Cat.“Ducks and pigeons have been killedand a  whole buck is hanging against the wallMy mouth waters  when I think of itTomorrow the journey will begin.”

YestomorrowAnd on this evening Rudy and Babette sat for the last time together in the mill as a betrothed pair

Withoutthe Alps were glowingthe evening bells soundedand the Daughters of the Sunbeams sung,“Let that happen which is best.”

 

XIV VISIONS OF THE NIGHT

 

The sun had gone down and the clouds lowered  among the high mountains in the Rhone valleythe wind  blew from the southa wind from Africa was passing over the lofty Alpsa whirlwind that tore the clouds asunder and when it had passed byall was still for a momentthe rent clouds hung in fantastic forms among the forestclad mountains and over the hurrying Rhonethey hung in shapes like those of the sea monsters of the primaeval worldlike the soaring eagles of the airlike the leaping frogs of the marshesthey came down towards the rushing streamsailing upon itand yet suspended in airThe river carried down with it an uprooted pine treeand bubbling eddies rushed on in front of the massthey were Spirits of Giddiness more than one of themthat whirled  along over the foaming streamThe moon lit up the snow on the mountaintopsthe dark woodsand the wonderful white cloudsthe nightly visionsthe spirits of the powers of natureThe dwellers in the mountains saw them  through the window-panes sailing on in troops in front of the Ice Maiden who came out of her glacier palaceand sat on the frail shipthe uprooted pine treeshe was carried by the glacier water down the river into the open sea

The wedding guests are coming!”she saidand she sang the news to the air and to the water

Visions withoutvisions withinBabette was dreaming a wonderful dream

It seemed to her as if she were married to Rudyand had been his wife for many yearsHe was absentchamois huntingbut she was sitting at home in her dwelling and the young Englishmanhe with the yellow beardwas sitting by herHis eyes never so eloquenthis words had such magic powerthat when he stretched out his hand to hershe was forced to follow himThey went away together from her homeOn they went ever downwardsand it  seemed to Babette as though there lay on her heart a weight that grew heavier and heavierand this weight was a sin against Heaven and a sin against RudyAnd suddenly she stood forsakenand her dress was torn by the thornsand her head had turned greyshe looked upwards in her miseryand on the edge of the rock she caught sight of Rudyshe stretched out her arms to himbut did not dare to call or to beseech him to help herandindeedthat would have availed her nothingfor soon she saw that it was not hebut only his hunting coat and his hathanging up on the alpenstock in the fashion adopted by the hunters to deceive the chamoisAnd in her boundless agony Babette moaned out

Oh that I had died on my wedding daythe happiest day of my lifeThat would have been a mercya great happinessThen all would have happened for the bestThe best that could happen to me and to Rudyfor no one  knows what the future will bring!”

And in her Godforsaken despair she threw herself into the abyssand a string seemed to burstand a sorrowful note resounded through the mountains

Babette awokethe dream was past and effaced from her mindbut she knew that she had dreamed something terribleand that it was about the young Englishmanwhom she had not seen whom she had not even thought of for months past Could he be in MontreuxShould she see him at her weddingA light shade passed over her delicate mouth and her eyebrows contracted to a frownbut soon there was a smile on her lips and beams  of gladness shot from her eyesforwithoutthe sun was shining brightlyand it was morningand she was to be married to Rudy

Rudy was already in the sittingroom when she entered it and now they started for VilleneuveThey were both supremely happyand so was the miller likewiseHe laughedand his face beamed with good humourA kind father he was and an honest man

Now we are the masters of the house!”said the Parlour Cat

 

XV CONCLUSION

 

It was not yet evening when the three happy people entered Villeneuvewhere they dinedThereupon the miller sat in the arm-chairsmoked his pipeand took a short napThe betrothed pair went arm in arm out of the townthey walked along the roadunder the greenclad  rocksbeside the deep bluegreen lakethe grey walls and heavy towers of gloomy Chillon were mirrored in the clear floodthe little island of the three acacias lay still nearer to themlooking like a nosegay in the lake

It must be charming there!”said Babette

She felt the greatest desire to go there and this  wish might be immediately fulfilledfor by the shore lay a boatand it was an easy matter to loosen the rope by which it was fastenedNo one was to be seen of whom permission could be askedand so they borrowed the boat without ceremonyfor Rudy was an expert rower

The oars cut like fins into the yielding waterthe water that is so pliant and yet so strongthat has a back to bear burdens and a mouth to devourthat can smile the very picture of mildnessand yet can terrify and crushThe water glistened in the wake of the boatwhich in a few minutes had carried the two over to the islandwhere they stepped ashoreThere was not more room on the spot than two persons would require for a dance

Rudy danced round it twice or thrice with Babettethen they sat down hand in handupon the bench under the drooping acaciaslooked into each other's eyesand everything glowed in the radiance of the setting sunThe pine woods on the mountains were bathed in a lilac tintlike that of the blooming heatherand where the  trees ended and the naked rock was shownit glowed as if the stone had been transparentthe clouds in the sky were like red fire and the whole lake lay like a fresh blushing rose leafGradually the shadows crept up the snowcovered mountains of Savoypainting them blueblack but the highest summit gleamed like red lavaand seemed to give a picture from the early history of the mountains' formationwhen these masses rose glowing from the depths of the earth and had not yet cooledRudy and Babette declared they had never yet beheld such a sunset in the AlpsThe snowcovered Dent du Midi was tipped with a radiance like that of the full moon when she first rises above the horizon

So much beautySo much happiness!” they both exclaimed

This earth has nothing more to give,”said Rudy.“An evening like this seems to comprise a whole life How often have I felt my happiness as I feel it now and have thought,‘If everything were to end this moment how happily I should have livedHow glorious is this world!’And then the day would endand another began and the new day seemed more beautiful to me than the last How immeasurably good is God Babette!”

I am happy from the very depth of my heart!”she  said

This earth can offer me nothing more,”said Rudy

And the evening bells began to sound from the mountains of Savoy and from the Swiss hillsand in the west rose the black Jura rangecrowned with a wreath of gold

May Heaven grant to thee what is happiest and best murmured Babette

It will,”replied Rudy.“Tomorrow I shall have itTomorrow you will be mine entirelyMy own sweet wife!”

The boat!”exclaimed Babettesuddenly

The little skiff in which they were to return had broken loose and was drifting away from the island

I will bring it back,”said Rudy

And he threw aside his coatpolled off his bootsjumped into the lake and swam with powerful strokes towards the boat

Cold and deep was the clear blue-green ice water from the glacier of the mountainRudy looked down into its depthsone glanceand it seemed to him that he  saw a golden ring rollingshiningsparklinghe thought of his ring of betrothaland the ring grew largerand widened into a sparkling circle into which the gleaming glacier shonedeep abysses yawned around and the water-drops rang like the chiming of bellsand glittered with white flamesIn a moment he beheld all this that it has taken men and to describeYoung hunters and young girlsmany words women who had at different times sunk down into the crevasses among the glaciersstood here livingwith smiling mouthsand deep below them sounded the church bells of sunken citiesThe congregation knelt beneath the church roofthe organ pipes were formed of great iciclesand beneath all the Ice Maiden sat on the clear transparent  groundShe raised herself towards Rudy and kissed his feetthen a cold deathlike numbness poured through his limbsand an electric shockice and fire mingled There is no difference to be felt between a sudden touch of these two

Minemine!”sounded around him and within him.“I kissed thee when thou wert littlekissed thee on thy mouth Now I kiss thy feet and thou art mine altogether!”

And he disappeared beneath the clear blue water

All was silent the chime of the church bells ceasedthe last echoes died away with the last ruddy tints of the evening clouds

Thou art mine!”sounded from the depths.“Thou  art mine!”sounded from the heightsfrom the regions of the Infinite

GloriousFrom love to loveto fly from earth to heaven

A chord broke a sound of mourning was heard the icy kiss of Death conquered that which was to pass awaythe prologue ended that the true drama of life ought beginand discord was blended into harmony

Do you call that a sorrowful story

But poor BabetteHer anguish was unspeakableThe  boat drifted farther and farther awayNo one on the mainland knew that the betrothed pair had gone over to the little islandThe sun went down and it became dark She stood alone weepingdespairingA storm came onflash after flash lit up the Jura mountains Switzerland and Savoy flash upon flash on all sidesthe rolling thunderclap mingling with clap for minutes togetherThe gleams of lighting were sometimes bright as the sunshowing every separate vine as at noondayand the next moment all would be shrouded in darknessThe flashes were forkedring-shapedwavythey darted into the lake and glittered on every sidewhile the rolling of the thunder was redoubled by the echoOn the mainlandpeople drew the boats high up on the shoreeverything that had life hastened to get under shelterand now the rain came pouring down

Where can Rudy and Babette be in this tempest?” said the miller

Babette sat with folded hands her head on her kneesspeechless with griefshe no longer moaned or wept

In the deep waters!”was the one thought in her mind.“He is far down in the lakes as if under the glacier.”

And then arose in her the remembrance of what Rudy had told concerning the death of his mother and his own rescuehow he had been borne forthlike a corpsefrom the depths of the glacier

The Ice Maiden has got him again!”

And a flash of lightning glared like sunshine over the  white snowBabette started upThe whole lake was at this moment like a shining glacierand there stood the Ice Maidenmajestic with a bluishwhite light upon herand at her feet lay Rudy's corpse

Mine!”she said

And again there was darkness all aroundand the crash of falling waters

How cruel!”groaned Babette.“Why must he die when the day of our happiness was about to dawnO Lordenlighten my understandingSend Thy light into my heart I understand not Thy waysI grope in darknessamid the  behests of Thy power and Thy wisdom!”

And the light for which she prayed was given to her A gleam of thoughta ray of lighther dream of the past night in its living reality flashed through herShe remembered the wordsthe wish she had utteredconcerning what would be THE BEST for her and for Rudy

Woe is meWas it the germ of sin within my heart Was my dream a vision of a future life whose strings must be snapped asunder that I might be saved Wretched that I am!”

And she sat there in the dark nightlamenting Through the thick darkness Rudy's words seemed to soundthe last words he had spoken on earth,“the earth has nothing more to give me!”They had sounded  in the fullness of joythey echoed now through the depths of distress

And years have flown by since that timeThe lake smiles and its shores smilethe grapevine is covered with swelling branches;[steamboats with waving flags  glide along;]pleasureboats with full sails flit across the mirror of waters like white butterfliesthe railway has been opened past Chillonand leads deep into the valley of the RhoneAt every station strangers alightwith redbound guidebooks in their handsand they read of the sights they have come to see They visit Chillonand in the lake they behold the little island with three acacias and in the book they read about the betrothed  pair whoon an evening of the year 1856sailed across thitherand of the death of the bridegroomand how the despairing cries of the bride were not heard on the shore till the next morning

But the guidebook has nothing to tell concerning the quiet life of Babette in her father's housenot in the millfor other people live there now but in the beautiful house near the station from whose windows she looks on many an evening across over the chestnut  trees towards the snowy mountains on which Rudy once wanderedin the evening she marks the Alpine glowthe Children of the Sun recline on the lofty mountains and renew the song of the wanderer whose clock the whirlwind once tore awaytaking the garment but not the man

There is a rosy gleam on the snow of the mountainsa  rosy gleam in every heart in which dwells the thought God lets that happen which is best for us.” But the cause is not always revealed to us as it was revealed to Babette in her dream

 


 

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