THE ICE MAIDEN 803
fertility and plenty increase, and the traveller seems to be journeying through a garden of walnut trees and chestnuts ; here and there cypresses appear, and blooming pomegranates ; and the climate has the southern warmth of Italy.
Rudy duly arrived in Bex, and concluded his business there ; then he took a turn in the town ; but not even a miller's lad, much less Babette, did he see there. That was not as it should be.
Evening came on ; the 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 mountains; far around reigned a silence—not the silence of sleep or of death, but a stillness as if all nature held its breath, as 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 poles, supporting the telegraph wires that had been drawn through the quiet valley ; against one of these leaned an object, so motionless that it might have been taken for the trunk of a tree ; but it was Rudy, who stood as quiet and motionless as all nature around him. He did not sleep, nor was he dead by any means ; but just as the records of great events sometimes fly along the telegraph—messages of vital importance to those whom they concern, while the wire gives no sign, by sound or movement, of what is passing over it—so 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 moment. His eyes were fixed on one point—on a light that gleamed out among the trees from the chamber of the miller where Babette dwelt. So motionless did Rudy stand here, one might have thought he was taking aim at a chamois, a creature which sometimes stands as if carved out of the rock, till suddenly, if a stone should roll down, it springs away in a headlong career. And something of this kind happened to Rudy—suddenly a thought rolled into his mind.
1 Never falter ! ' he cried. * Pay a visit to the mill, say good evening to the miller and good evening to Babette. He does not fall who is not afraid of falling. Babette must see me, sooner or later, if I am to be her husband.'