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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Ice-maiden - X. THE GOD-MOTHER
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The Ice-maiden - X. THE GOD-MOTHER Post by :simeon Category :Long Stories Author :Hans Christian Andersen Date :April 2012 Read :2994

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The Ice-maiden - X. THE GOD-MOTHER


In Montreux, one of the adjoining towns, which with Clarens, Vernex and Crin forms a garland around the northeast part of the lake of Geneva, dwelt Babette's god-mother, a distinguished English lady, with her daughters and a young relation. Although she had but lately arrived, the miller had already made her his visit and announced Babette's engagement; had spoken of Rudy and the eaglet; of the visit to Interlaken and in short had told the whole story. This had rejoiced her in the highest degree, both for Rudy and Babette's sake, as well as for the miller's; they must all visit her--therefore they came. Babette was to see her god-mother, and the god-mother was to see Babette.

At the end of the lake of Geneva, by the little town of Villeneuve, lay the steam-boat which after half an hour's trip from Vernex, arrived at Montreux. This is one of the coasts which are sung of by the poets. Here sat Byron, by the deep bluish green lake, under the walnut trees and wrote his melodious verses upon the prisoner of the deep sombre castle of Chillon. Here, where Clarens with its weeping willows, mirrored itself in the waters, once wandered Rousseau and dreamt of Heloise. Yonder, where the Rhone glides along under Savoy's snow-topped mountains and not far from its mouth, in the lake lies a little island, indeed it is so small, that from the coast it is taken for a vessel. It is a valley between the rocks, which a lady caused to be dammed up a hundred years ago and to be covered with earth and planted with three acacia-trees, which now shade the whole island. Babette was quite charmed with this little spot; they must and should go there, yes, it must be charming beyond description to be on the island; but the steamer sailed by, and stopped as it should, at Vernex.

The little party wandered between the white, sunlighted walls, which surround the vineyards of the little mountain town of Montreux, through the fig-trees which flourish before every peasant's house and in whose gardens, the laurel and cypress trees are green. Half-way up the hill stood the boarding house where the god-mother resided.

The reception was very cordial. The god-mother was a large amiable person and had a round smiling countenance; as a child she must have had a real Raphael's angel head, but now it was an old angel's head with silvery white hair, well curled. The daughters were tall, slender, refined and much dressed. The young cousin who was with them, was clad in white from head to foot; he had golden hair and immense whiskers; he immediately showed little Babette the greatest attention.

Richly bound books, loose music and drawings lay strewn about the large table; the balcony door stood open and one had a view of the beautiful out-spread lake, which was so shining, so still, that the mountains of Savoy with their little villages, their forest and their snowy peaks mirrored themselves in it.

Rudy, who usually was so full of life, so merry and so daring, did not feel in his element; he moved about over the smooth floor as though he were treading on peas. How wearily the time dragged along, it was just as if one was in a tread mill! If they did go walking, why, that was just as slow; Rudy could take two steps forwards and two steps backwards and still remain in the pace of the others.

When they came to Chillon, (the old sombre castle on the rocky island) they entered in order to see the dungeon and the martyr's stake, as well as the rusty chains on the wall; the stone bed for those condemned to death and the trap-door where the wretched beings impaled on iron goads, were hurled into the breakers. It was a place of execution elevated through Byron's song to the world of poetry. Rudy was sad, he lent over the broad stone sill of the window, gazed into the deep blue water and over to the little solitary island with its three acacias and wished himself there, free from the whole gossiping society. Babette was remarkably merry, she had been indescribably amused. The cousin found her perfect.

"Yes, a perfect jackanapes!" said Rudy; this was the first time, that he had said something, that did not please her. The Englishman had presented her with a little book, as a souvenir of Chillon,--Byron's poem of "The Prisoner of Chillon," in the French language, so that Babette might read it.

"The book may be good," said Rudy, "but the finely combed fellow that gave it to you does not please me!"

"He looked like a meal-bag, without meal in it!" said the miller and laughed at his own wit. Rudy laughed and thought that this was very well said.

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IX. THE ICE-MAIDENThe early spring time had unfolded the green leaves of the walnut and chestnut trees; they were remarkably luxuriant from the bridge of St. Maurice to the banks of the lake of Geneva.The Rhone, which rushes forth from its source, has under the green glacier the palace of the Ice-Maiden. She is carried by it and the sharp wind to the elevated snow-fields she extends herself on her damp cushions in the brilliant sunshine. There she sits and gazes, with far-seeing sight, upon the valley where mortals busily move about like so many ants."Beings endowed with mental powers,