THE ICE MAIDEN 797
Thank Heaven ! the people in the house of Rudy's uncle, where the boy was now to live, looked like those he had been accustomed to see ; only one of them was a cretin, a poor idiotic lad, one 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 family. Poor Saperli happened to be at Rudy's uncle's when the boy arrived.
Uncle was still a stalwart huntsman, and, moreover, understood the craft of tub-making ; 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 Rudy—costume, manners, and habits, and even the language; but to the latter the child's ear would soon adapt itself. There was an appearance of wealth here, compared with grandfather's dwelling. The room was larger, the walls were ornamented with chamois horns, among which hung polished rifles, and over the door was a picture of the Madonna, with fresh Alpine roses and a lamp burning in front of it.
As already stated, uncle 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 do ; but his good qualities of former days had not been forgotten, and therefore he was looked upon as one of the family and carefully tended. Rudy stroked the dog, who, however, was not willing to make acquaintance with a stranger ; but Rudy did not long remain a stranger in that house.
1 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 steinbock ; and it is much better here now than in former days. They may say what they like in honour of the old times, but ours are better, after all : the bag has been opened, and a fresh wind blows through our sequestered valley. Something better always comes