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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Ice-maiden - VI. THE VISIT TO THE MILL
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The Ice-maiden - VI. THE VISIT TO THE MILL Post by :emedia Category :Long Stories Author :Hans Christian Andersen Date :April 2012 Read :1846

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The Ice-maiden - VI. THE VISIT TO THE MILL


"You bring princely things into the house!" said the old foster-mother, her singular eagle-eyes glistened and she made strange and hasty motions with her lean neck.

"Fortune is with you, Rudy, I must kiss you, my sweet boy!"

Rudy allowed himself to be kissed, but one could read in his countenance, that he but submitted to circumstances and to little household miseries. "How handsome you are, Rudy!" said the old woman.

"Do not put notions into my head!" answered Rudy, and laughed, but still it pleased him.

"I say it once more," said the old woman, "fortune is with you!"

"Yes, I agree with you there!" said he; thought of Babette and longed to be in the deep valley. "They must have returned, two days have passed since they expected to do so. I must go to Bex!"

Rudy went to Bex, and the inhabitants of the mill had returned; he was well received and they brought him greetings from the family at Interlaken. Babette did not talk much, she had grown silent; but her eyes spoke and that was quite enough for Rudy. The miller who generally liked to carry on the conversation--for he was accustomed to have every one laugh at his witty sayings and puns--was he not the rich miller?--seemed now to prefer to listen. Rudy recounted to him his hunting expeditions; described the difficulties, the dangers and the privations of the chamois hunter when on the lofty mountain peak; how often he must climb over the insecure snow-ledges, that the wind had blown on the rocky brink, and how he must pass over slight bridges that the snow-drifts had thrown across the abyss. Rudy looked fearless, his eyes sparkled whilst he spoke of the shrewdness of the chamois, of their daring leaps, of the violence of the Foehn and of the rolling avalanches. He observed that with every description he won more and more favour; but what pleased the miller more than all, was the account of the lamb's vulture and the bold golden eagle.

In Canton Valais, not far from here, there was an eagle's nest, very slyly built under the projecting edge of the rock; a young one was in it, but no one could steal it! An Englishman had offered Rudy a few days before, a whole handful of gold, if he would bring him the young one alive, "but everything has a limit," said he, "the young eagle cannot be taken away, and it would be madness to attempt it!"

The wine and conversation flowed freely; but the evening appeared all too short for Rudy; yet it was past midnight, when he went home from his first visit to the mill.

The light shone a little while longer through the window and between the green trees; the parlour-cat came out of an opening in the roof and the kitchen-cat came along the gutter.

"Do you know the latest news at the mill?" said the parlour-cat, "there has been a silent betrothal in the house! Father does not yet know it, but Rudy and Babette have reached each other their paws under the table, and he trod three times on my fore-paws, but still I did not mew, for that would have awakened attention!"

"I should have done it, nevertheless!" said the kitchen-cat.

"What is suited to the kitchen is not suited to the parlour," said the parlour-cat. "I should like to know what the miller will say, when he hears of the betrothal!"

Yes, what the miller would say! That was what Rudy would have liked to know, for Rudy was not at all patient. When the omnibus rumbled over the bridge of the Rhone, between Valais and Pays de Vaud not many days after, Rudy sat in it and was of good cheer; filled with pleasing thoughts of the "Yes," of the same evening.

When evening came and the omnibus returned, yes, there sat Rudy within, but the parlour-cat, was running about in the mill with great news.

"Listen, you, in the kitchen! The miller knows everything now. This has had an exquisite ending! Rudy came here towards evening; he and Babette had much to whisper and to chatter about, as they stood in the walk, under the miller's chamber. I lay close to their feet but they had neither eyes nor thoughts for me. 'I am going directly to your father,' said Rudy, 'this is an honourable affair!' 'Shall I follow you?' asked Babette, 'it may give you more courage!' 'I have courage enough,' said Rudy, 'but if you are there, he will be forced to look at it in a more favourable light!' They went in. Rudy trod heavily on my tail! Rudy is indescribably awkward; I mewed, but neither he nor Babette had ears to hear it. They opened the door, they entered and I preceded them; I leaped upon the back of a chair, for I did not know but that Rudy would overturn everything! But the miller reversed all, that was a great step! Out of the door, up the mountains, to the chamois! Rudy can aim at them now, but not at our little Babette!"

"But what was said?" asked the kitchen-cat.

"Said? Everything. 'I care for her and she cares for me! When there is milk enough in the jug for one, there is milk enough in the jug for two!' 'But she is placed too high for you,' said the miller, 'she sits on gold dust, so now you know it; you can not reach her!' 'Nothing is too high; he who wills can reach anything!' said Rudy. He is too headstrong on this subject! 'But you cannot reach the eaglet, you said so yourself lately! Babette is still higher!' 'I will have them both!' said Rudy. 'Yes, I will bestow her upon you, if you make me a present of the eaglet alive!' said the miller and laughed until the tears stood in his eyes.

"'Thanks for your visit, Rudy! Come again to-morrow, you will find no one at home. Farewell, Rudy!' Babette said farewell also, as sorrowfully as a kitten, that cannot see its mother. 'A word is a word, a man is a man,' said Rudy, 'do not weep Babette, I shall bring the eaglet!' 'I hope that you will break your neck!' said the miller. That's what I call an overturning! Now Rudy has gone, and Babette sits and weeps; but the miller sings in German, he learned to do so whilst on his journey! I do not intend to trouble myself any longer about it, it does no good!"

"There is still a prospect!" said the kitchen-cat.

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