"THERE is what you asked for," said Rudy, as he entered the miller's house at Bex, and placed on the floor a large basket. He removed the lid as he spoke, and a pair of yellow eyes, encircled by a black ring, stared forth with a wild, fiery glance, that seemed ready to burn and destroy all that came in its way. Its short, strong beak was open, ready to bite, and on its red throat were short feathers, like stubble.
"The young eaglet!" cried the miller.
Babette screamed, and started back, while her eyes wandered from Rudy to the bird in astonishment.
"You are not to be discouraged by difficulties, I see," said the miller.
"And you will keep your word," replied Rudy. "Each has his own characteristic, whether it is honor or courage."
"But how is it you did not break your neck?" asked the miller.
"Because I held fast," answered Rudy; "and I mean to hold fast to Babette."
"You must get her first," said the miller, laughing; and Babette thought this a very good sign.
"We must take the bird out of the basket," said she. "It is getting into a rage; how its eyes glare. How did you manage to conquer it?"
Then Rudy had to describe his adventure, and the miller's eyes opened wide as he listened.
"With your courage and your good fortune you might win three wives," said the miller.
"Oh, thank you," cried Rudy.
"But you have not won Babette yet," said the miller, slapping the young Alpine hunter on the shoulder playfully.
"Have you heard the fresh news at the mill?" asked the parlor-cat of the kitchen-cat. "Rudy has brought us the young eagle, and he is to take Babette in exchange. They kissed each other in the presence of the old man, which is as good as an engagement. He was quite civil about it; drew in his claws, and took his afternoon nap, so that the two were left to sit and wag their tails as much as they pleased. They have so much to talk about that it will not be finished till Christmas." Neither was it finished till Christmas.
The wind whirled the faded, fallen leaves; the snow drifted in the valleys, as well as upon the mountains, and the Ice Maiden sat in the stately palace which, in winter time, she generally occupied. The perpendicular rocks were covered with slippery ice, and where in summer the stream from the rocks had left a watery veil, icicles large and heavy hung from the trees, while the snow-powdered fir-trees were decorated with fantastic garlands of crystal. The Ice Maiden rode on the howling wind across the deep valleys, the country, as far as Bex, was covered with a carpet of snow, so that the Ice Maiden could follow Rudy, and see him, when he visited the mill; and while in the room at the miller's house, where he was accustomed to spend so much of his time with Babette. The wedding was to take place in the following summer, and they heard enough of it, for so many of their friends spoke of the matter.
Then came sunshine to the mill. The beautiful Alpine roses bloomed, and joyous, laughing Babette, was like the early spring, which makes all the birds sing of summer time and bridal days.
"How those two do sit and chatter together," said the parlor-cat; "I have had enough of their mewing."