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Fuller, Fanny / The Ice-Maiden: and Other Tales
book was produced from scanned images of public domain
material from the Google Print project.)

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| Transcriber's Note: |
| |
| Inconsistent hyphenation matches the original document. |
| |
| A number of obvious typographical errors have been corrected |
| in this text. For a complete list, please see the bottom of |
| this document. |
| |

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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1863, by
In the Clerk's office of the District Court of the United States in
and for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.








The Ice-Maiden.



Let us visit Switzerland and look around us in the glorious country of
mountains, where the forest rises out of steep rocky walls; let us
ascend to the dazzling snow-fields, and thence descend to the green
plains, where the rivulets and brooks hasten away, foaming up, as if
they feared not to vanish, as they reached the sea.

The sun beams upon the deep valley, it burns also upon the heavy
masses of snow; so that after the lapse of years, they melt into
shining ice-blocks, and become rolling avalanches and heaped-up

Two of these lie in the broad clefts of the rock, under the
Schreckhorn and Wetterhorn, near the little town of Grindelwald. They
are so remarkable that many strangers come to gaze at them, in the
summer time, from all parts of the world; they come over the high
snow-covered mountains, they come from the deepest valleys, and they
are obliged to ascend during many hours, and as they ascend, the
valley sinks deeper and deeper, as though seen from an air-balloon.

Far around the peaks of the mountains, the clouds often hang like
heavy curtains of smoke; whilst down in the valley, where the many
brown wooden houses lie scattered about, a sun-beam shines, and here
and there brings out a tiny spot, in radiant green, as though it were
transparent. The water roars, froths and foams below, the water hums
and tinkles above, and it looks as if silver ribbons were fluttering
over the cliffs.

On each side of the way, as one ascends, are wooden houses; each house
has a little potato-garden, and that is a necessity, for in the
door-way are many little mouths. There are plenty of children, and
they can consume abundance of food; they rush out of the houses, and
throng about the travellers, come they on foot or in carriage. The
whole horde of children traffic; the little ones offer prettily carved
wooden houses, for sale, similar to those they build on the mountains.
Rain or shine, the children assemble with their wares.

Some twenty years ago, there stood here, several times, a little boy,
who wished to sell his toys, but he always kept aloof from the other
children; he stood with serious countenance and with both hands
tightly clasped around his wooden box, as if he feared it would slip
away from him; but on account of this gravity, and because the boy was
so small, it caused him to be remarked, and often he made the best
bargain, without knowing why. His grandfather lived still higher in
the mountains, and it was he who carved the pretty wooden houses.
There stood in the room, an old cup-board, full of carvings; there
were nut-crackers, knives, spoons, and boxes with delicate foliage,
and leaping chamois; there was everything, which could rejoice a merry
child's eye, but this little fellow, (he was named Rudy) looked at and
desired only the old gun under the rafters. His grandfather had said,
that he should have it some day, but that he must first grow big and
strong enough to use it.

Small as the boy was, he was obliged to take care of the goats, and if
he who can climb with them is a good guardian, well then indeed was
Rudy. Why he climbed even higher than they! He loved to take the
bird's nests from the trees, high in the air, for he was bold and
daring; and he only smiled when he stood by the roaring water-fall, or
when he heard a rolling avalanche.

He never played with the other children; he only met them, when his
grandfather sent him out to sell his carvings, and Rudy took but
little interest in this; he much preferred to wander about the rocks,
or to sit and listen to his grandfather relate about old times and
about the inhabitants of Meiringen, where he came from. He said that
these people had not been there since the beginning of the world; they
had come from the far North, where the race called Swedes, dwelt. To
know this, was indeed great wisdom, and Rudy knew this; but he became
still wiser, through the intercourse which he had with the other
occupants of the house--belonging to the animal race. There was a
large dog, Ajola, an heir-loom from Rudy's father; and a cat, and she
was of great importance to Rudy, for she had taught him to climb.
"Come out on the roof!" said the cat, quite plain and distinctly, for
when one is a child, and can not yet speak, one understands the hens
and ducks, the cats and dogs remarkably well; they speak for us as
intelligibly as father or mother. One needs but to be little, and then
even grandfather's stick can neigh, and become a horse, with head,
legs and tail. With some children, this knowledge slips away later
than with others, and people say of these, that they are very
backward, that they remain children fearfully long.--People say so
many things!

"Come with me, little Rudy, out on the roof!" was about the first
thing that the cat said, that Rudy understood. "It is all imagination
about falling; one does not fall, when one does not fear to do so.
Come, place your one paw so, and your other so! Take care of your
fore-paws! Look sharp with your eyes, and give suppleness to your
limbs! If there be a hole, jump, hold fast, that's the way I do!"

And Rudy did so, and that was the reason that he sat out on the roof
with the cat so often; he sat with her in the tree-tops, yes, he sat
on the edge of the rocks, where the cats could not come. "Higher,
higher!" said the trees and bushes. "See, how we climb! how high we
go, how firm we hold on, even on the outermost peaks of the rocks!"

And Rudy went generally on the mountain before the sun rose, and then
he got his morning drink, the fresh, strengthening mountain air, the
drink, that our Lord only can prepare, and men can read its recipe,
and thus it stands written: "the fresh scent of the herbs of the
mountains and the mint and thyme of the valleys."

All heaviness is imbibed by the hanging clouds, and the wind sends it
out like grape-shot into the fir-woods; the fragrant breeze becomes
perfume, light and fresh and ever fresher--that was Rudy's morning

The blessing bringing daughters of the Sun, the sun-beams, kissed his
cheeks, and Vertigo stood and watched, but dared not approach him; and
the swallows below from grandfather's house, where there were no less
than seven nests, flew up to him and the goats, and they sang: "We and
you! and you and we!" They brought greetings from home, even from the
two hens, the only birds in the room; with whom however Rudy never had

Little as he was, he had traveled, and not a little, for so small a
boy; he was born in the Canton Valais, and had been carried from there
over the mountains. Lately he had visited the Staubbach, which waves
in the air like a silver gauze, before the snow decked, dazzling white
mountain: "the Jungfrau." And he had been in Grindelwald, near the
great glaciers; but that was a sad story. There, his mother had found
her death, and, "little Rudy," so said his grandfather, "had lost his
childish merriment." "When the boy was not a year old, he laughed more
than he cried," so wrote his mother, "but since he was in the
ice-gap, quite another mind has come over him." His grand-father did
not like to speak on the subject, but every one on the mountain knew
all about it.

Rudy's father had been a postilion, and the large dog in the room, had
always followed him on his journeys to the lake of Geneva, over the
Simplon. In the valley of the Rhone, in Canton Valais, still lived
Rudy's family, on his father's side, and his father's brother was a
famous chamois hunter and a well-known guide. Rudy was only a year
old, when he lost his father, and his mother longed to return to her
relations in Berner Oberlande. Her father lived a few hours walk from
Grindelwald; he was a carver in wood, and earned enough by it to live.
In the month of June, carrying her little child, she started
homewards, accompanied by two chamois hunters; intending to cross the
Gemmi on their way to Grindelwald. They already had accomplished the
longer part of their journey, had passed the high ridges, had come to
the snow-plains, they already saw the valley of their home, with its
well-known wooden houses, and had now but to reach the summit of one
of the great glaciers. The snow had freshly fallen and concealed a
cleft,--which did not lead to the deepest abyss, where the water
roared--but still deeper than man could reach. The young woman, who
was holding her child, slipped, sank and was gone; one heard no cry,
no sigh, nought but a little child weeping. More than an hour elapsed,
before her companions could bring poles and ropes, from the nearest
house, in order to afford assistance. After great exertion they drew
from the ice-gap, what appeared to be two lifeless bodies; every
means were employed and they succeeded in calling the child back to
life, but not the mother. So the old grandfather received instead of a
daughter, a daughter's son in his house; the little one, who laughed
more than he wept, but, who now, seemed to have lost this custom. A
change in him, had certainly taken place, in the cleft of the glacier,
in the wonderful cold world; where, according to the belief of the
Swiss peasant, the souls of the damned are incarcerated until the day
of judgment.

Not unlike water, which after long journeying, has been compressed into
blocks of green glass, the glaciers lie here, so that one huge mass of
ice is heaped on the other. The rushing stream roars below and melts
snow and ice; within, hollow caverns and mighty clefts open, this is a
wonderful palace of ice, and in it dwells the Ice-Maiden, the Queen of
the glaciers. She, the murderess, the destroyer, is half a child of air
and half the powerful ruler of the streams; therefore, she had received
the power, to elevate herself with the speed of the chamois to the
highest pinnacle of the snow-topped mountain; where the most daring
mountaineer had to hew his way, in order to take firm foot-hold. She
sails up the rushing river on a slender fir-branch--springs from one
cliff to another, with her long snow-white hair, fluttering around her,
and with her bluish-green mantle, which resembles the water of the deep
Swiss lakes.

"Crush, hold fast! the power is mine!" cried she. "They have stolen a
lovely boy from me, a boy, whom I had kissed, but not kissed to death.
He is again with men, he tends the goats on the mountains; he climbs
up, up high, beyond the reach of all others, but not beyond mine! He
is mine, I shall have him!"--

And she ordered Vertigo to fulfil her duty; it was too warm for the
Ice-Maiden, in summer-time, in the green spots where the mint thrives.
Vertigo arose; one came, three came, (for Vertigo had many sisters,
very many of them) and the Maiden chose the strongest among those that
rule within doors and without. They sit on the balusters and on the
spires of the steep towers, they tread through the air as the swimmer
glides through the water and entice their prey down the abyss. Vertigo
and the Ice-Maiden seize on men as the polypus clutches at all within
its reach. Vertigo was to gain possession of Rudy. "Yes, just catch
him for me" said Vertigo. "I cannot do it! The cat, the dirty thing,
has taught him her arts! The child of the race of man, possesses a
power, that repulses me; I cannot get at the little boy, when he hangs
by the branches over the abyss. I may tickle him on the soles of his
feet or give him a box on the ear whilst he is swinging in the air, it
is of no avail. I can do nothing!"

"We _can_ do it!" said the Ice-Maiden. "You or I! I! I!"--

"No, no!" sounded back the echo of the church-bells through the
mountain, like a sweet melody; it was like speech, an harmonious
chorus of all the spirits of nature, mild, good, full of love, for it
came from the daughters of the sun-beams, who encamped themselves
every evening in a circle around the pinnacles of the mountains, and
spread out their rose-coloured wings, that grow more and more red as
the sun sinks, and glow over the high Alps; men call it, "the Alpine
glow." When the sun is down, they enter the peaks of the rocks and
sleep on the white snow, until the sun rises, and then they sally
forth. Above all, they love flowers, butterflies, and men, and amongst
them they had chosen little Rudy as their favourite.

"You will not catch him! You shall not have him!" said they. "I have
caught and kept stronger and larger ones!" said the Ice-Maiden.

Then the daughters of the Sun sang a lay of the wanderer, whose cloak
the whirlwind had torn off and carried away. The wind took the
covering, but not the man. "Ye children of strength can seize, but not
hold him; he is stronger, he is more spirit-like, than we; he ascends
higher than the Sun, our mother! He possesses the magic word, that
restrains wind and water, so that they are obliged to obey and serve

So sounded cheerfully the bell-like chorus.

And every morning the sun-beams shone through the tiny window in the
grandfather's house, on the quiet child. The daughters of the
sun-beams kissed him, they wished to thaw him, to warm him and to
carry away with them the icy kiss, which the queenly maiden of the
glaciers had given him, as he lay on his dead mother's lap, in the
deep icy gap, whence he was saved through a miracle.



Rudy was now eight years old. His father's brother, in Rhonethal, the
other side of the mountain, wished to have the boy, for he thought
that with him he would fare and prosper better; his grandfather
perceived this and gave his consent.

Rudy must go. There were others to take leave of him, besides his
grandfather; first there was Ajola, the old dog.

"Your father was post-boy and I was post-dog," said Ajola. "We have
travelled up and down; I know dogs and men on the other side of the
mountain. It is not my custom to speak much, but now, that we shall
not have much time to converse with each other, I must talk a little
more than usual. I will relate a story to you; I shall tell you how I
have earned my bread, and how I have eaten it. I do not understand it
and I suppose that you will not either, but it matters not, for I have
discovered that the good things of this earth are not equally divided
between dogs or men. All are not fitted to lie on the lap and sip
milk, I have not been accustomed to it; but I saw a little dog seated
in the coach with us and it occupied a person's place. The woman who
was its mistress, or who belonged to its mistress, had a bottle filled
with milk, out of which she fed it; it got sweet sugar biscuits too,
but it would not even eat them; only snuffed at them, and so the woman
ate them herself. I ran in the mud, by the side of the coach, as
hungry as a dog could be; I chewed my crude thoughts, that was not
right--but this is often done! If I could but have been carried on
some one's knee and have been seated in a coach! But one cannot have
all one desires. I have not been able to do so, neither with barking
nor with yawning."

That was Ajola's speech, and Rudy seized him by the neck and kissed
him on his moist mouth, and then he took the cat in his arms, but she
was angry at it.

"You are getting too strong for me, and I will not use my claws
against you! Just climb over the mountains, I taught you to climb!
Never think that you will fall, then you are secure!"

Then the cat ran away, without letting Rudy see how her grief shone
out of her eye.

The hens ran about the floor; one had lost her tail; a traveller, who
wished to be a hunter, had shot it off, because the creature had taken
the hen for a bird of prey!

"Rudy is going over the mountain!" said one hen. "He is always in a
hurry," said the other, "and I do not care for leave-takings!" and so
they both tripped away.

And the goats, too, said farewell and cried: "Mit, mit, mah!" and that
was so sad.

There were two nimble guides in the neighbourhood, and they were about
to cross the mountains; they were to descend to the other side of the
Gemmi, and Rudy followed them on foot. This was a severe march for
such a little chap, but he had strength and courage, and felt not

The swallows accompanied them a part of the way. They sang: "We and
you! You and us!" The road went over the rapid Lütschine, which
rushes forth from the black clefts of the glacier of Grindelwald, in
many little streams. The fallen timber and the quarry-stones serve as
bridges; they pass the alder-bush and descend the mountain where the
glacier has detached itself from the mountain side; they cross over
the glacier, over the blocks of ice, and go around them. Rudy was
obliged to creep a little, to walk a little, his eyes sparkled with
delight, and he trod as firmly with his iron-shod mountain shoes, as
though he wished to leave his foot-prints where he had stepped. The
black mud which the mountain stream had poured upon the glacier gave
it a calcined appearance, but the bluish-green, glassy ice still shone
through it. They were obliged to go around the little ponds which
were dammed up by blocks of ice; during these wanderings they came too
near a large stone, which lay tottering on the brink of a crevice in
the ice. The stone lost its equilibrium, it fell, rolled and the echo
resounded from the deep hollow paths of the glacier.

Up, ever up; the glacier stretched itself on high--as a river, of
wildly heaped up masses of ice, compressed among the steep cliffs. For
an instant Rudy thought on what they had told him, about his having
laid with his mother, in one of these cold-breathing chasms. Such
thoughts soon vanished; it seemed to him as though it were some other
story--one of the many which had been related to him. Now and then,
when the men thought that the ascent was too difficult for the little
lad, they would reach him their hand, but he was never weary and
stood on the slippery ice as firm as a chamois. Now they reached the
bottom of the rocks, they were soon among the bare stones, which were
void of moss; soon under the low fir-trees and again out on the green
common--ever changing, ever new. Around them arose the snow mountains,
whose names were as familiar to Rudy as they were to every child in
the neighbourhood: "the Jungfrau," "the Mönch," and "the Eiger."

Rudy had never been so high before, had never before trodden on the
vast sea of snow, which lay there with its immoveable waves. The wind
blew single flakes about, as it blows the foam upon the waters of the

Glacier stood by glacier, if one may say so, hand in hand; each one
was an ice-palace for the Ice-Maiden, whose power and will is: "to
catch and to bury." The sun burned warmly, the snow was dazzling, as
if sown with bluish-white, glittering diamond sparks. Countless
insects (butterflies and bees mostly) lay in masses dead on the snow;
they had ventured too high, or the wind had borne them thither, but to
breathe their last in these cold regions. A threatening cloud hung
over the Wetterhorn, like a fine, black tuft of wool. It lowered
itself slowly, heavily, with that which lay concealed within it, and
this was the "Föhn,"[A] powerful in its strength when it broke loose.
The impression of the entire journey, the night quarters above and
then the road beyond, the deep rocky chasms, where the water forced
its way through the blocks of stone with terrible rapidity, engraved
itself indelibly on Rudy's mind.

On the other side of the sea of snow, a forsaken stone hut gave them
protection and shelter for the night; a fire was quickly lighted, for
they found within it charcoal and fir branches; they arranged their
couch as well as possible. The men seated themselves around the fire,
smoked their tobacco and drank the warm spicy drink, which they had
prepared for themselves. Rudy had his share too and they told him of
the mysterious beings of the Alpine country; of the singular fighting
snakes in the deep lakes; of the people of night; of the hordes of
spectres, who carry sleepers through the air, towards the wonderful
floating city of Venice; of the wild shepherd, who drives his black
sheep over the meadow; it is true, they had never been seen, but the
sound of the bells and the unhappy bellowing of the flock, had been

Rudy listened eagerly, but without any fear, for he did not even know
what that was, and whilst he listened he thought he heard the
ghost-like hollow bellowing! Yes, it became more and more distinct,
the men heard it also, they stopped talking, listened and told Rudy he
must not sleep.

It was the Föhn which blew, the powerful storm-wind, which rushes down
the mountains into the valley and with its strength bends the trees,
as if they were mere reeds, and lifts the wooden houses from one side
of the river to the other, as if the move had been made on a

After the lapse of an hour, they told Rudy that the storm had now
blown over and that he might rest; with this license, fatigued by his
march, he at once fell asleep.

They departed early in the morning; the sun showed Rudy new
mountains, new glaciers and snow-fields; they had now reached Canton
Valais and the other side of the mountain ridge which was visible at
Grindelwald, but they were still far from the new home. Other chasms,
precipices, pasture-grounds; forests and paths through the woods,
unfolded themselves to the view; other houses, other human beings--but
what human beings! Deformed creatures, with unmeaning, fat,
yellowish-white faces; with a large, ugly, fleshy lump on their necks;
these were cretins who dragged themselves miserably along and gazed
with their stupid eyes on the strangers who arrived among them. As for
the women, the greatest number of them were frightful!

Were these the inhabitants of the new home?


[A] A humid south wind on the lakes of Switzerland, a fearful storm.



The people in the uncle's house, looked, thank heaven, like those whom
Rudy was accustomed to see. But one cretin was there, a poor silly
lad, one of the many miserable creatures, who on account of their
poverty and need, always make their home among the families of Canton
Valais and remain with each but a couple of months. The wretched
Saperli happened to be there when Rudy arrived.

Rudy's father's brother was still a vigorous hunter and was also a
cooper by trade; his wife, a lively little person, had what is called
a bird's face; her eyes resembled those of an eagle and she had a
long neck entirely covered with down.

Everything was new to Rudy, the dress, manners and customs, yes, even
the language, but that is soon acquired and understood by a child's
ear. Here, they seemed to be better off, than in his grandfather's
house; the dwelling rooms were larger, the walls looked gay with their
chamois horns and highly polished rifles; over the door-way hung the
picture of the blessed Virgin; alpine roses and a burning lamp stood
before it.

His uncle, was as we have said before, one of the most famous chamois
hunters in the neighbourhood and also the most experienced and best

Rudy was to be the pet of the household, although there already was
one, an old deaf and blind dog, whom they could no longer use; but
they remembered his many past services and he was looked upon as a
member of the family and was to pass his old days in peace. Rudy
patted the dog, but he would have nothing to do with strangers; Rudy
did not long remain one, for he soon took firm hold both in house and

"One is not badly off in Canton Valais," said his uncle, "we have the
chamois, they do not die out so soon as the mountain goat! It is a
great deal better here now, than in the old times; they may talk about
their glory as much as they please. The present time is much better,
for a hole has been made in the purse and light and air let into our
quiet valley. When old worn-out customs die away, something new
springs forth!" said he. When uncle became talkative, he told of the
years of his childhood and of his father's active time, when Valais
was still a closed purse, as the people called it, and when it was
filled with sick people and miserable cretins. French soldiers came,
they were the right kind of doctors, they not only shot down the
sickness but the men also.

"The Frenchmen can beat the stones until they surrender! they cut the
Simplon-road out of the rocks--they have hewn out such a road, that I
now can tell a three year old child to go to Italy! Keep to the
highway, and a child may find his way there!" Then the uncle would
sing a French song and cry hurrah for Napoleon Bonaparte.

Rudy now heard for the first time of France, of Lyons--the large city
of the Rhone--for his uncle had been there.

"I wonder if Rudy will become an agile chamois hunter in a few years?
He has every disposition for it!" said his uncle, and instructed him
how to hold a rifle, how to aim and to fire. In the hunting season, he
took him with him in the mountains and made him drink the warm chamois
blood, which prevents the hunter from becoming dizzy. He taught him to
heed the time when the avalanches roll down the different sides of the
mountain--at mid-day or at night-fall--which depended upon the heat of
the rays of the sun. He taught him to notice the chamois, in order to
learn from them how to jump, so as to alight steadily upon the feet.
If there was no resting place in the clefts of the rock for the foot,
he must know how to support himself with the elbow, and be able to
climb by means of the muscles of the thigh and calf, even the neck
must serve when it is necessary. The chamois are cunning, they place
out-guards--but the hunter must be still more cunning and follow the
trail--and he can deceive them by hanging his coat and hat on his
alpine stick, and so make the chamois take the coat for the man.

One day when Rudy was out with his uncle hunting, he tried this sport.

The rocky path was not wide; indeed there was scarcely any, only a
narrow ledge, close to the dizzy abyss. The snow was half-thawed, the
stones crumbled when trodden upon, and his uncle stretched himself out
full length and crept along. Each stone as it broke away, fell,
knocked itself, bounded and then rolled down; it made many leaps from
one rocky wall to another until it found repose in the black deep.
Rudy stood about a hundred steps behind his uncle on the outermost
cliff, and saw a huge golden vulture, hovering over his uncle, and
sailing towards him through the air, as though wishing to cast the
creeping worm into the abyss with one blow of his wing, and to make
carrion of him. His uncle had only eyes for the chamois and its young
kid, on the other side of the cleft. Rudy looked at the bird,
understood what it wanted, and laid his hand on his rifle in order to
shoot it. At that moment the chamois leaped--his uncle fired--the ball
hit the animal, but the kid was gone, as though flight and danger had
been its life's experience. The monstrous bird terrified by the report
of the gun, took flight in another direction, and Rudy's uncle knew
nought of his danger, until Rudy told him of it.

As they now were on their way home in the gayest spirits--his uncle
playing one of his youthful melodies on his flute--they suddenly
heard not far from them a singular sound; they looked sideways, they
gazed aloof and saw high above them the snow covering of the rugged
shelf of the rock, waving like an outspread piece of linen when
agitated by the wind. The icy waves cracked like slabs of marble, they
broke, dissolved in foaming, rushing water and sounded like a muffled
thunder-clap. It was an avalanche rolling down, not over Rudy and his
uncle, but near, only too near to them.

"Hold fast, Rudy," cried he, "firm, with your whole strength!"

And Rudy clasped the trunk of a tree; his uncle climbed into its
branches and held fast, whilst the avalanche rolled many fathoms away
from them. But the air-drift of the blustering storm, which
accompanied it, bowed down the trees and bushes around them like dry
reeds and threw them beyond. Rudy lay cast on the earth; the trunk of
the tree on which he had held was as though sawed off, and its crown
was hurled still farther along. His uncle lay amongst the broken
branches, with his head shattered; his hands were yet warm, but his
face was no longer to be recognized. Rudy stood pale and trembling;
this was the first terror of his life, the first hour of fear that he
had ever known.

Late in the evening, he returned with his message of death to his
home, which was now one of sorrow.

The wife stood without words, without tears, and not until the corpse
was brought home did her sorrow find an outburst. The poor cretin
crept to his bed and was not seen all day, but towards evening he came
to Rudy, and said: "Write a letter for me. Saperli cannot write!
Saperli can take the letter to the post office."

"A letter for you," asked Rudy, "and to whom?"

"To our Lord Christ!"

"What do you mean?"

And the half-witted creature gave a touching glance at Rudy, folded
his hands and said piously and solemnly: "Jesus Christ! Saperli wishes
to send him a letter, praying him to let Saperli lie dead and not the
man of this house!"

And Rudy pressed his hand, "the letter cannot be sent, the letter will
not give him back to us!"

It was difficult for Rudy to explain the impossibility to him.

"Now you are the stay of the house!" said his foster-mother, and Rudy
became it.



Who is the best shot in Canton Valais? The chamois knew only too well:
"Beware of Rudy!" they could say. Who is the handsomest hunter?--"It
is Rudy." The young girls said this also, but they did not say:
"Beware of Rudy!" No, not even the grave mothers, for he nodded to
them quite as amicably as to the young girls. He was so bold and gay,
his cheeks were brown, his teeth fresh and white and his coal-black
eyes glittered; he was a handsome young fellow and but twenty years
old. The icy water did not sting him when he swam, he could turn
around in it like a fish; he could climb as did no one, and he was as
firm on the rocky walls as a snail--for he had good sinews and muscles
that served him well in leaping--the cat had first taught him this,
and later the chamois. One could not trust one's self to a better
guide than to Rudy. In this way he could collect quite a fortune, but
he had no taste for the trade of a cooper, which his uncle had taught
him; his delight and pleasure was to shoot chamois, and this was
profitable also. Rudy was a good match if one did not look higher than
one's station, and in dancing he was just the kind of dancer that
young girls dream about, and one or the other were always thinking of
him when they were awake.

"He kissed me whilst dancing!" said the schoolmaster's Annette to her
most intimate friend, but she should not have said this, not even to
her dearest friend, but it is difficult to keep such things to one's
self--like sand in a purse with a hole in it, it soon runs out--and
although Rudy was so steady and good it was soon known that he kissed
whilst dancing.

"Watch him," said an old hunter, "he has commenced with A, and he will
kiss the whole alphabet through!"

A kiss, at a dance, was all they could say in their gossipping, but he
had kissed Annette, and she was by no means the flower of his heart.

Down near Bex, between the great walnut trees, close by a rapid little
stream, dwelt the rich miller. The dwelling-house was a large
three-storied building, with little towers covered with wood and
coated with sheets of lead, which shone in the sunshine and in the
moonshine; the largest tower had for a weather-cock a bright arrow
which pierced an apple and which was intended to represent the apple
shot by Tell. The mill looked neat and comfortable, so that it was
really worth describing and drawing, but the miller's daughter could
neither be described nor drawn, at least so said Rudy. Yet she was
imprinted in his heart, and her eyes acted as a fire-brand upon it,
and this had happened suddenly and unexpectedly. The most wonderful
part of all was, that the miller's daughter, the pretty Babette,
thought not of him, for she and Rudy had never even spoken two words
with each other.

The miller was rich, and riches placed her much too high to be
approached; "but no one," said Rudy to himself, "is placed so high as
to be unapproachable; one must climb and one does not fall, when one
does not think of it." _This_ knowledge he had brought from home with

Now it so happened that Rudy had business at Bex and it was quite a
journey there, for the railroad was not completed. The broad valley of
Valais stretches itself from the glaciers of the Rhone, under the foot
of the Simplon-mountain, between many varying mountain-heights, with
its mighty river, the Rhone, which often swells and destroys
everything, overflooding fields and roads. The valley makes a bend,
between the towns of Sion and St. Maurice, like an elbow and becomes
so narrow at Maurice, that there only remains sufficient room for the
river bed and a cart way. Here an old tower stands like a sentry
before the Canton Valais; it ends at this point and overlooks the
bridge, which has a wall towards the custom-house. Now begins the
Canton called Pays de Vaud and the nearest town is Bex, where
everything becomes luxuriant and fruitful--one is in a garden of
walnut and chestnut trees and here and there, cypress and pomegranate
blossoms peep out--it is as warm as the South; one imagines one's self
transplanted into Italy.

Rudy reached Bex, accomplished his business and looked about him, but
he did not see a single miller's boy, not to speak of Babette. It
appeared as though they were not to meet.

It was evening, the air was heavy with the wild thyme and blooming
linden, a glistening veil lay over the forest-clad mountains, there
was a stillness over everything, but not the quiet of sleep. It seemed
as though all nature retained her breath, as if she felt disposed to
allow her image to be imprinted upon the firmament.

Here and there, there were poles standing on the green fields, between
the trees; they held the telegraph wire, which has been conducted
through this peaceful valley. An object leant against one of these
poles, so immoveable, that one might have taken it for a withered
trunk of a tree; but it was Rudy. He slept not and still less was he
dead; but as the most important events of this earth, as well as
affairs of vital moment for individuals pass over the wires, without
their giving out a tone or a tremulous movement, even so flashed
through Rudy, thoughts--powerful, overwhelming, speaking of the
happiness of his life; his, henceforth, "_constant thought_." His eyes
were fixed upon a point in the trellis-work, and this was a light in
Babette's sitting room. Rudy was so motionless, one might have thought
that he was observing a chamois, in order to shoot it. Now, however,
he was like the chamois--which appears sculptured on the rock, and
suddenly if a stone rolls, springs and flies away--thus stood Rudy,
until a thought struck him.

"Never despair," said he. "I shall make a visit to the mill, and say:
Good evening miller, good evening Babette! One does not fall when one
does not think of it! Babette must see me, if I am to be her husband!"

And Rudy laughed, was of good cheer and went to the mill; he knew what
he wanted, he wanted Babette.

The river, with its yellowish white water rolled on; the willow trees
and the lindens bowed themselves deep in the hastening water; Rudy
went along the path, and as it says in the old child's song:

---- ---- ---- Zu des Müllers Haus,
Aber da war Niemand drinnen
Nur die Katze schaute aus![B]

The house-cat stood on the step, put up her back and said: "Miau!" but
Rudy had no thoughts for her language, he knocked, no one heard, no
one opened. "Miau!" said the cat. If Rudy had been little, he would
have understood the speech of animals and known that the cat told him:
"There is no one at home!" He was obliged to cross over to the mill,
to make inquiries, and here he had news. The master of the house was
away on a journey, far away in the town of Interlaken--_inter lacus_,
"between the lakes"--as the school-master, Annette's father, had
explained, in his wisdom. Far away was the miller and Babette with
him; there was to be a shooting festival, which was to commence on
the following day and to continue for a whole week. The Swiss from all
the German cantons were to meet there.

Poor Rudy, one could well say that he had not taken the happiest time
to visit Bex; now he could return and that was what he did. He took
the road over Sion and St. Maurice, back to his own valley, back to
his own mountain, but he was not down-cast. On the following morning,
when the sun rose, his good humour had returned, in fact it had never
left him.

"Babette is in Interlaken, many a day's journey from here!" said he to
himself, "it is a long road thither, if one goes by the highway, but
not so far if one passes over the rocks and that is the road for a
chamois hunter! I went this road formerly, for there is my home, where
I lived with my grandfather when I was a little child, and they have
a shooting festival in Interlaken! I will be the _first_ one there,
and that will I be with Babette also, as soon as I have made her

With his light knapsack containing his Sunday clothes, with his gun
and his huntsman's pouch, Rudy ascended the mountain. The short road,
was a pretty long one, but the shooting-match had but commenced to-day
and was to last more than a week; the miller and Babette were to
remain the whole time, with their relations in Interlaken. Rudy
crossed the Gemmi, for he wished to go to Grindelwald.

He stepped forwards merry and well, out into the fresh, light mountain
air. The valley sank beneath him, the horizon widened; here and there
a snow-peak, and soon appeared the whole shining white alpine chain.
Rudy knew every snow mountain, onward he strode towards the
Schreckhorn, that elevates its white powdered snow-finger high in the

At last he crossed the ridge of the mountain and the pasture-grounds
and reached the valley of his home; the air was light and his spirits
gay, mountain and valley stood resplendent with verdure and flowers.
His heart was filled with youthful thoughts;--that one can never grow
old, never die; but live, rule and enjoy;--free as a bird, light as a
bird was he. The swallows flew by and sang as in his childhood: "We
and you, and You and we!" All was happiness.

Below lay the velvet-green meadow, with its brown wooden houses, the
Lütschine hummed and roared. He saw the glacier with its green glass
edges and its black crevices in the deep snow, and the under and
upper glacier.

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