The Ice Maiden The goodmother Andersen's fairy tale

At Montreux, one of the near-by towns which, with Clarens, Bernex, and Crin, encircle the northeast shore of Lake Geneva, lived Babette's godmother, the highborn English lady, with her daughters and a young relative. They had been there only a short while, but the miller had already visited them, announced Babette's engagement, and told them about Rudy and the visit to Interlaken and the young eagle - in short, the whole story. It had pleased them greatly, and they felt very kindly toward Rudy and Babette, and even the miller himself. They insisted upon all three of them coming to Montreux, and that's why they went. Babette wanted to see her godmother, and her godmother wanted to see her.

At the little village of Villeneuve, at the end of Lake Geneva, lay the steamboat which, in a voyage of half an hour, went from there to Bernex, a little below Montreux. That coast has often been celebrated by poets in song and story. There, under the walnut trees, beside the deep, blue-green lake Byron sat, and wrote his melodious verses about the prisoner in the dark, mountain Castle of Chillon. There, where Clarens is reflected amid weeping willows in the clear water, Rousseau wandered, dreaming of his Héloïse. The Rhone River glides beneath the lofty, snow-capped hills of Savoy, and near its mouth here there is a small island, so tiny that from the shore it looks as if it were a ship floating in the water. It is just a patch of rocky ground, which a century before a lady had walled around and covered with earth, where three acacia trees were planted, which now overshadowed the whole island. Babette was enchanted with this little spot; to her it was the loveliest place to be seen on the whole trip. She said they ought to land there - they must land there - it would be so charming under those beautiful trees. But the steamer passed by and did not stop until it reached Vernex.

The little party passed up among the white sunlit walls that surrounded the vineyards before the little mountain town of Montreux, where the peasants' cottages are shaded by fig trees, and laurels and cypresses grow in the gardens. Halfway up the mountain was the hotel where the godmother lived.

The meeting was very cordial. The godmother was a stout, pleasant-looking woman, with a smiling, round face. As a child she must certainly have resembled one of Raphael's cherubs; it was still an angel's head, but older, with silver-white hair. The daughters were tall and slender, well-dressed and elegant looking. The young cousin with them, who had enough golden hair and golden whiskers for three gentlemen, was dressed in white from head to foot, and promptly began to pay devoted attention to little Babette.

Beautifully bound books and music and drawings were on the large table. The balcony door was open, and from the balcony there was a lovely view of the calm lake, so bright and clear that the villages, woods, and snow-peaks of Savoy were reflected in it.

Rudy, who was generally so lively and gay, found himself very ill at ease. He moved about as if he were walking on peas over a slippery floor. How slowly the time passed - it was like being in a treadmill! And now they had to go out for a walk! And that was just as tiresome. Rudy had to take two steps forward and one back to keep abreast of the others. They went down to Chillon, the gloomy old castle on the island, to look at dungeons and instruments of torture, rusty chains hanging from rocky walls, stone benches for those condemned to death, trap doors through which the doomed were hurled down onto iron spikes amid the surge. They called it a pleasure to look at these things! It was a dreadful place of execution, elevated by Byron's verse into the world of poetry - but to Rudy still only a place of execution. He leaned out of one of the great windows and gazed down into the blue-green water, and over to the lonely little island with the three acacias. How he longed to be there, free from the whole chattering party!

But Babette was very happy. She had had a wonderful time, she said later; and the cousin she thought was perfect!

"Yes, perfectly flippant!" said Rudy; and that was the first time he had ever said anything to her that did not please her.

The Englishman had given her a little book as s souvenir of Chillon; it was Byron's poem, The Prisoner of Chillon, translated into French so that she could read it.

"The book may be all right," said Rudy, "but the finely combed fellow who gave it to you didn't make a hit with me."

"He looks like a flour sack without any flour!" said the miller, laughing at his own wit.

Rudy laughed too, and said that he was exactly right.

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