THE ICE MAIDEN
Eighteen years ago, when Babette was christened, this lady had been residing in Bex, and had given Babette the costly brooch the girl now wore on her neck. Twice the lady had written, and this year Babette had expected to meet her and her two daughters at Interlaken. ' The daughters were old maids, nearly thirty years old,' added Babette ; but then she herself was only eighteen.
The sweet little mouth never rested for a moment; and everything that Babette said, sounded in Rudy's ears like a matter of the utmost importance; and he, on his part, told all he had to tell—how 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 mill, full of thoughts that he could not express, she and her father had been absent—had gone far away, but 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 account, and not for the sake of the marksmen'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 sun sank down behind the high rocky wall. The ' Jungfrau ' stood there in full beauty and splendour, surrounded by the green wreath of the forest-clad hills. Every one 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. * To-morrow I must return home,' he said, after a silence of a few moments.
1 Come and see us at Bex,' whispered 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-pot. The coffee-pot would be useful when he set