804 THE ICE MAIDEN
And Rudy laughed, for he was of good courage, and he strode away towards the mill. He knew what he wanted ; he wanted to have Babette.
The river, with its yellowish bed, foamed along, and the willows and lime trees hung over the hurrying waters ; Rudy strode along the path. But, 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 address. He knocked, but no one heard him, no one opened the door to him. ' Miaou !' said the cat. If Rudy had been still a child, he would have understood her language, and 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 inquiries, and there he heard the news that the miller had gone far away to Interlaken, and Babette with him: a great shooting match was to come off there; it would begin to-morrow, 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 Bex, and now he might go home. He turned about accordingly, and marched over St. Maurice and Sion towards his own valley and the mountains of his home ; but he was not discouraged. When the sun rose next morning his good humour already stood high, for it had never set.
• Babette is at Interlaken, many days' journey from here,' he said to himself. ' It is a long way thither if a man travels along the broad high road, but it is not so far if one takes the short cut across the mountains, and the chamois hunter's path is straight forward. I've been that way already : yonder is my early home, where I lived as a child in grandfather's house, and there 's a shooting match at Interlaken. I'll be there too, and be the best shot; and I'll be with Babette too, when once I have made her acquaintance.'
With a light knapsack containing his Sunday clothes on his back, and his gun and hunting bag across his shoulder,