Let us visit Switzerland. Let us take a look at that magnificent land of mountains, where the forests creep up the sides of the steep rocky walls; let us climb to the dazzling snow-fields above, and descend again to the green valleys below, where the rivers and streams rush along as if afraid they will be too late to reach the ocean and disappear. The burning rays of the sun shine in the deep dales and also on the heavy masses of snow above, so that the ice blocks which have been piling for years melt and turn to thundering avalanches or heaped-up glaciers.
Two such glaciers lie in the broad ravines under the Schreckhorn and the Wetterhorn, near the little mountain town of Grindelwald. They are strange to look at, and for that reason, in summertime many travelers come here from all parts of the world. They cross the lofty, snow-capped hills, and they come through the deep valleys; then they have to climb for several hours, and as they ascend, the valleys seem to become deeper and deeper, until they look as if they are being viewed from a balloon. Often the clouds hang around the towering peaks like thick curtains of smoke, while down in the valley dotted with brown wooden houses, a ray of the sun may be shining brightly, throwing into sharp relief a brilliant patch of green, until it seems transparent. The water foams and roars, and rushes along below, but up above the water murmurs and tinkles; it looks as if silver ribbons were streaming down over the rocks.
On both sides of the ascending road are wooden houses. Each house has its little potato garden, and this is a real necessity; for within those doors are many hungry mouths – there are many children, and children are often wasteful with food. From all the cottages they swarm out and besiege travelers, whether these be on foot or in carriages. All the children are little merchants; they offer for sale charming toy wooden houses, replicas of those that are built here in the mountains.
Some twenty years ago there often stood here, but always somewhat apart from the other children, a little boy who was also eager to do some business. He would stand there with an earnest, grave expression, holding his chip-box tightly with both hands, as if afraid of losing it; but it was this seriousness, and the fact that he was so small, that caused him to be noticed and called forward, so that he often sold more than all the others – he didn’t exactly know why himself.
His grandfather lived high up on the mountain, where he carved out the neat, pretty little houses. In a room up there he had an old chest full of all sorts of carved things – nutcrackers, knives, forks, boxes with cleverly carved scrollwork, and leaping chamois – everything that would please a child’s eye. But little Rudy, as he was called, gazed with greater interest and longing at the old gun that hung under the beams of the roof. “He shall have it some day,” his grandfather had said, “but not until he’s big and strong enough to use it.”
Small as the boy was, he took care of the goats. If knowing how to climb along with the goats meant that he was a good goatherd, then Rudy certainly was an excellent goatherd; he could even go higher than the goats, for he loved to search for birds’ nests high up in the tops of the trees. He was bold and daring. No one ever saw him smile, except when he stood near the roaring waterfall or heard the rolling of an avalanche.
He never played with the other children; in fact, he never went near them except when his grandfather sent him down to sell the things he had carved. And Rudy didn’t care much for that; he would much rather climb about in the mountains or sit home with his grandfather and hear him tell stories of ancient times and of the people at nearby Meiringen, where he was born. This race, he said, had not always lived there; they were wanderers from other lands; they had come from the far North, where their people still lived, and were called “Swedes.” This was a good deal for Rudy to learn, but he learned still more from other teachers – the animals that lived in the house. There was a big dog, Ajola, which had belonged to Rudy’s father, and there was a tomcat. Rudy had much to thank the tomcat for – the Cat had taught him to climb.
“Come on out on the roof with me!” the Cat had said one day, very distinctly and intelligibly, too. For to a little child who can hardly speak, the language of hens and ducks, cats and dogs, is almost as easily understood as that of fathers and mothers. But you must be very young indeed then; those are the days when Grandpa’s stick neighs and turns into a horse, with head, legs, and tail.
Some children keep these thoughts longer than others, and people say that these are exceedingly backward, and remain children too long. But people say so much!
“Come on out on the roof with me, little Rudy!” was one of the first things the Cat said, and Rudy could understand him.
“It’s all imagination to think you’ll fall; you won’t fall unless you’re afraid! Come on! Put one of your paws here, and another there, and then feel your way with your forepaws. Use your eyes and be very active in your limbs. If there’s a hole, jump over it the way I do.”
And that’s what little Rudy did. Very often he sat on the sloping roof of the house with the Cat, and often in the tops of the trees, and even high up among the towering rocks, where the Cat never went.
“Higher! Higher!” the trees and bushes said. “Can’t you see how we climb – how high we go, and how tightly we hold on, even on the narrowest ledge of rock?”
And often Rudy reached the top of the hill even before the sun; there he took his morning draught of fresh, strengthening mountain air, that drink which only Our Lord can prepare, and which human beings call the early fragrance from the mountain herbs and the wild thyme and mint in the valley. Everything that is heavy in the air is absorbed by the overhanging clouds and carried by the winds over the pine woods, while the essence of fragrance becomes light and fresh air – and this was Rudy’s morning draught.
Sunbeams, daughters of the sun who bring his blessings with them, kissed his cheeks. Dizziness stood nearby watching, but dared not approach him. The swallows from his grandfather’s house below (there were at least seven nests) flew up toward him and the goats, singing, “We and you, and you and we!” They brought greetings from his home, even from the two hens, who were the only birds in the house; however, Rudy had never been very intimate with them.
Young as he was he had traveled, and quite a good deal for such a little fellow. He was born in Canton Valais, and brought from there over the hills. He had recently traveled on foot to the near-by Staubbach, that seems to flutter like a silver veil before the snow-clad, glittering white Jungfrau. And he had been to the great glaciers near Grindelwald, but there was a sad story connected with that trip; his mother had met her death there, and it was there, as his grandfather used to say, that “little Rudy had lost all his childish happiness.” When he was less than a year old he laughed more than he cried, as his mother had written; but from the time he fell into the crevasse his whole nature had changed. His grandfather didn’t talk about this very much, but it was known all over the mountain.
Rudy’s father had been a coach driver, and the big dog that now shared the boy’s home had always gone with him on his journeys over the Simplon down to Lake Geneva. Rudy’s relatives on his father’s side lived in the Rhone valley, in Canton Valais, where his uncle was a celebrated chamois hunter and a famous Alpine guide. Rudy was only a year old when he lost his father, and his mother decided to return with the child to her own family in the Berner Oberland. Her father lived a few hours’ journey from Grindelwald; he was a wood carver, and his trade enabled him to live comfortably.
With her infant in her arms she set out toward home in June, accompanied by two chamois hunters, over the Gemmi toward Grindelwald. They had made the greater part of the journey, had climbed the highest ridges to the snow fields and could already see her native valley with the familiar scattered cottages; they now had only to cross the upper part of one great glacier. They newly fallen snow concealed a crevasse, not deep enough to reach the abyss below where the water rushed along, but deeper than a man’s height.
As she was carrying her child the young woman suddenly slipped, sank down, and instantly disappeared. Not a shriek or groan was heard, only the wailing of a little child. It was over an hour before her two companions could obtain ropes and poles from the nearest house to pull her out; and after tremendous labor they brought from the crevasse what they thought were two dead bodies. Every means of restoring life was tried, and at last they managed to save the child, but not the mother. Thus the old grandfather received in his house, not a daughter, but a daughter’s son, the little one who laughed more than he cried. But a change seemed to have come over him since his terrible experience in the glacier crevasse – that cold, strange ice world, where the Swiss peasant believes the souls of the damned are imprisoned till doomsday.
The glacier lies like a rushing stream, frozen and pressed into blocks of green crystal, one huge mass of ice balanced on another; the swelling stream of ice and snow tears along in the depths beneath, while within it yawn deep hollows, immense crevasses. It is a wondrous palace of crystal, and in its dwells the Ice Maiden, queen of the glaciers. She, the slayer, the crusher, is half the mighty ruler of the rivers, half a child of the air. Thus it is that she can soar to the loftiest haunts of the chamois, to the towering summits of the snow-covered hills, where the boldest mountaineer has to cut footrests for himself in the ice; she sails on a light pine twig over the foaming river below, and leaps lightly from one rock to another, with her long, snow-white hair fluttering about her, and her blue-green robe glistening like the water in the deep Swiss lakes.
“To crush! To hold fast! That is my power!” she says. “And yet a beautiful boy was snatched from me – one whom I had kissed, but not yet kissed to death! He is again among human beings – he tends his goats on the mountain peaks; he is always climbing higher and still higher, far, far from other humans, but never from me! He is mine! I will fetch him!”
So she commanded Dizziness to undertake the mission; it was in the summertime and too hot for the Ice Maiden in the valley where the green mint grew; so Dizziness mounted and dived. Now Dizziness has a flock of sisters – first one came, then three of them – and the Ice Maiden selected the strongest of those who wield their power indoors and out. They perch on the banisters of steep staircases and the guard rails of lofty towers; they run like squirrels along the mountain ridges and, leaping away from them, tread the air as a swimmer treads water, luring a victim onward to the abyss beneath.
Dizziness and the Ice Maiden both reach out for mankind, as the polypus reaches after whatever comes near it. The mission of Dizziness was to seize Rudy.
“Seize him, you say!” said Dizziness. “I can’t do it. That wretched Cat has taught him its skill. That human child has a power within himself that keeps me away. I can’t touch the little fellow when he hangs from branches out over the abyss, or I’d be glad to tickle his feet and send him flying down through the air. I can’t do it!”
“We can seize him!” said the Ice Maiden. “Either you or I! I will! I will!”
“No! No!” A whisper, a song, broke upon the air like the echo of church bells pealing; it was the harmonious tones of a chorus of other spirits of Nature, the mild, soft, and loving daughters of the rays of the sun. Every evening they encircle the mountain peaks and spread their rosy wings, which, as the sun sinks, become redder and redder until the lofty Alps seem blazing. Mountaineers call this the Alpine glow. When the sun has set, they retire into the white snow on the peaks and sleep there until they appear again at sunrise. Greatly do they love flowers and butterflies and mankind, and they had taken a great fancy to little Rudy.
“You shall not catch him! You shall not have him!” they sang.
“I have caught greater and stronger ones than he!” said the Ice Maiden.
Then the daughters of the sun sang of the traveler whose cap was torn from his head by the whirlwind, and carried away in stormy flight. The wind had power to take his cap, but not the man himself. “You can seize him, but you cannot hold him, you children of strength. The human race is stronger and more divine even than we are; they alone can mount higher than our mother the sun. They know the magic words that can compel the wind and waves to obey and serve them. Once the heavy, dragging weight of the body is loosened, it soars upward.”
Thus sounded the glorious bell-like chorus.
And every morning the sun’s rays shone on the sleeping child through the one tiny window of the old man’s house. The daughters of the sun kissed the boy; they tried to thaw, to wipe out the ice kiss given him by the queen of the glaciers when, in his dead mother’s arms, he lay in the deep ice crevasse from which he had only been rescued as if by a miracle.
THE JOURNEY TO THE NEW HOME
Now Rudy was eight years old. His uncle, who lived in the Rhone valley on the other side of the mountain, wanted to take the boy, so that he could have a better education and be taught to take care of himself. The grandfather thought this would be better for the boy, so agreed to part with him.
As the time for Rudy’s departure drew near, there were many others besides Grandfather to take leave of. First there was Ajola, the old dog.
“Your father was the coachman, and I was the coachman’s dog,” said Ajola. “We often traveled back and forth, and I know both dogs and men on the other side of the mountains. I never had the habit of speaking very much, but now that we have so little time to talk to each other, I’ll say a little more than I usually do, and tell you a story that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I can’t understand it, and you can’t either, but that doesn’t matter. I have learned this: the good things of this world aren’t dealt out equally either to dogs or to men; not everyone is born to lie in someone’s lap or to drink milk. I’ve never been accustomed to such luxury. But I’ve often seen a puppy dog traveling inside a post carriage, taking up a human being’s seat, while the lady to whom he belonged, or rather who belonged to him, carried a bottle of milk from which she fed him. She also offered him sweet candy, but he wouldn’t bother to eat it; he just sniffed at it, so she ate it herself. I was running in the mud beside the carriage, about as hungry as a dog could be, but I had only my own bitter thoughts to chew on. Things weren’t quite as they ought to be, but then there is much that is not! I hope you get to ride inside carriages, and ride softly, but you can’t make all that happen by yourself. I never could either by barking or yawning.”
That was Ajola’s lecture, and Rudy threw his arms around the dog’s neck and kissed his wet nose. Then he took the Cat in his arms, but he struggled to be free, and cried, “You’re getting much too strong for me, but I won’t use my claws against you. Climb away over the mountains – I’ve taught you how to climb. Never think about falling, but hold tightly; don’t be afraid, and you’ll be safe enough.”
Then the Cat ran off, for he didn’t want Rudy to see how sorry he was.
The hens were hopping about the floor. One of them had lost its tail, for a traveler, who thought himself a sportsman, had shot it off, mistaking the poor hen for a game bird.
“Rudy is going over the mountains,” said one of the hens.
“He’s in a hurry,” said the other, “and I don’t like farewells.” So they both hopped away.
And the goats also said their farewells. “Maeh! Maeh!” they bleated; it sounded so sad.
Just at that time there happened to be two experienced guides about to cross the mountains; they planned to descend the other side of the Gemmi, and Rudy would go with them on foot. It was a hard trip for such a little fellow, but he had considerable strength, and was untiring and courageous.
The swallows accompanied him a little way, and sang to him, “We and you, and you and we.”
The travelers’ route led across the foaming Lütschine, which falls in many small rivulets from the dark clefts of the Grindelwald glaciers. Fallen tree trunks made bridges, and pieces of rock served here as steppingstones. Soon they had passed the alder thicket, and began to climb the mountain near where the glaciers had loosened themselves from the cliff. They went around the glacier and over the blocks of ice.
Rudy crept and walked. His eyes sparkled with joy as he firmly placed his iron-tipped mountain shoes; it seemed as if he wished to leave behind him an impression of each footstep. The patches of black earth, tossed onto the glacier by the mountain torrents, gave it a burned look, but still the blue-green, glassy ice shone through. They had to circle the little pools that seemed damned up by detached masses of ice. On this route they approached a huge stone which was balanced on the edge of an ice crevasse. Suddenly the rock lost its balance and toppled into the crevasse; the echo of its thunderous fall resounded faintly from the deep abyss of the glacier, far, far below.
Upward, always upward, they climbed; the glacier stretched up like a solid stream of masses of ice piled in wild confusion, wedged between bare and rugged rocks. For a moment Rudy remembered what had been told him, how he had lain in his mother’s arms, buried in one of these terrible crevasses. But he soon threw off such gloomy thoughts, and considered the tale as only one of the many stories he had heard. Occasionally, when the guides thought the way was too difficult for a such a little boy, they held out their hands to help him; but he didn’t tire, and he crossed the glacier as sure-footedly as a chamois itself.
From time to time they reached rocky ground; they walked between mossless stones, and sometimes between low pine trees or out on the green pastures – always changing, always new. About them towered the lofty, snow- capped peaks, which every child in the country knows by name – the Jungfrau, the Eiger, and the Mönch.
Rudy had never before been up so high, had never before walked on the wide ocean of snow with its frozen billows of ice, from which the wind occasionally swept little clouds of powdery snow as it sweeps the whitecaps from the waves of the sea. Glacier stretched beside glacier, almost as if they were holding hands; and each is a crystal palace of the Ice Maiden, whose joy and in whose power it is to seize and imprison her victims.
The sun shone warmly, and the snow dazzled the eye as if it were covered with the flashing sparks of pale blue diamonds. Countless insects, especially butterflies and bees, lay dead in heaps on the snow; they had winged their way too high, or perhaps the wind had carried them up to the cold regions that to them meant death. Around the Wetterhorn there hung a threatening cloud, like a large mass of very fine dark wool; it sank, bulging with what was concealed within – a foehn, the Alpine south wind that foretells a storm, fearfully violent in its power when it should break loose.
This whole journey – the stops for the nights high up in the mountains, the wild route, the deep crevasses where the water, during countless ages of time, had cut through the solid stone – made an unforgettable impression on little Rudy’s mind.
A deserted stone hut, beyond the snowfields, gave them shelter and comfort for the night. Here they found charcoal and pine branches, and a fire was soon kindled. Sleeping quarters were arranged as well as possible, and the men settled near the blazing fire; they smoked their tobacco and drank some of the warm, spiced beverage they had prepared – and they didn’t forget to give Rudy some.
The talk turned to the mysterious creatures who haunt the high Alps: the huge, strange snakes in the deep lakes – the night riders – the spectral host that carry sleepers through the air to the wonderful, floating city of Venice – the wild herdsman, who drives his black sheep over the green pastures: these had never been seen, although men had heard the sound of their bells and the frightful noise of the phantom herd.
Rudy listened to these superstitious tales with intense interest, but with no fear, for that he had never known; yet while he listened he imagined he could hear the roar of that wild, spectral herd. Yes! It became more and more distinct, until the men heard it too. They stopped their talking and listened to it, and then they told Rudy that he must not fall asleep.
It was a foehn that had risen – that violent tempest which whirls down from the mountains into the valley below, and in its fury snaps large trees like reeds, and tosses the wooden houses from one bank of a river to the other, as easily as we would move chessmen.
After an hour they told Rudy the wind had died down and he might go to sleep safely; and, weary from his long walk, he followed their instructions and slept.
Early next morning, they set off again. That day the sun shone for Rudy on new mountains, new glaciers, and new snowfields. They had entered Canton Valais, on the other side of the ridge of mountains visible from Grindelwald; but they still had a long way to go to his new home.
More mountain clefts, pastures, woods, and new paths unfolded themselves; then Rudy saw other houses and other people. But what kind of human beings were these? They were misshapen, with frightful, disgusting, fat, yellowish faces, the hideous flesh of their necks hanging down like bags. They were the cretins- miserable, diseased wretches, who dragged themselves along and stared with stupid, dead eyes at the strangers who crossed their path; the women were even more disgusting than the men. Were these the sort of people who lived in his new home?
When Rudy arrived in his uncle’s house he thanked God to see people such as he was accustomed to. There was only one cretin, a poor imbecile boy, one of those unfortunate beings who, in their poverty, which amounts to utter destitution, always travel about in Canton Valais, visiting different families in turn and staying a month or two in each house. Poor Saperli happened to be living in the house of Rudy’s uncle when the boy arrived.
This uncle was a bold hunter, and a cooper by trade, while his wife was a lively little person, with a face somewhat like a bird’s, eyes like an eagle’s, and a long, skinny, fuzz-covered neck.
Everything was strange and new to Rudy – dress, customs, employment, even the language, though his young ear would soon learn to understand that. A comparison between his grandfather’s little home and his uncle’s domicile greatly favored the latter. The room they lived in was larger; the walls were decorated with chamois heads and brightly polished guns; a painting of the Virgin Mary hung over the door, with fresh Alpine roses and a constantly burning lamp before it.
As you have learned, his uncle was one of the most famous chamois hunters of the canton, and also the most experienced and best guide.
Rudy became the pet of the house, but there was another pet too – a blind, lazy old dog, of not much use any more. But he had been useful once, and his value in former years was remembered, so he now lived as one of the family, with every comfort. Rudy patted him, but the dog didn’t like strangers and still considered Rudy one. But the boy did not long remain so, for soon he won his way into everyone’s heart.
“Things are not so bad here in Canton Valais,” said his uncle. “We have plenty of chamois; they don’t die off as fast as the wild goats. Things are much better now than in the old days, however much we praise the olden times. A hole has been burst in the bag, so now we have a little fresh air in our cramped valley. When you do away with out-of-date things you always get something better,” he said.
When the uncle became really talkative, he would tell the boy about his own and his father’s childhood. “In those days Valais was,” he called it, “just a closed bag full of too many sick people – miserable cretins. But the French soldiers came, and they made excellent doctors – they soon killed the disease, and the patients too. They knew how to strike – yes, to strike in many different ways; even their girls knew how to strike!” Then he winked at his wife, who was French by birth, and laughed. “The French knew how to split solid stones if they wanted to. It was they who cut out of solid rock the road over the Simplon Pass – yes, and made such a road that I could tell a three-year-old child to go to Italy! You just have to keep on the highway, and there you are!” Then the uncle sang a French song, and ended by shouting “hurrah!” for Napoleon Bonaparte.
It was the first time Rudy had ever heard of France or of Lyons, that great city on the Rhone which his uncle had visited.
In a few years Rudy would become an expert chamois hunter, for he showed quite a flair for it, said the uncle. He taught the boy to hold, load, and fire a gun; in the hunting season he took him up into the hills and made him drink warm chamois blood to ward off hunter’s giddiness; he taught him to know the times when, on different slopes of the mountains, avalanches were likely to fall, in the morning or evening, whenever the sun’s rays had the greatest effect. He taught him to observe the movements of the chamois and copy their leaps, so that he might light firmly on his feet. He told him that if there was no footing in the rock crevices, he must support himself by the pressure of his elbows, and the muscles, of his thighs and calves; if necessary even the neck could be used.
The chamois is cunning and places sentinels on guard, so the hunter must be still more cunning, and scent them out. Sometimes he could cheat them by arranging his hat and coat on his alpine staff, so that the chamois would mistake the dummy for the man. The uncle played this trick one day when he was out hunting with Rudy.
It was a narrow mountain path – indeed, scarcely a path at all; it was nothing more than a slight ledge close to the yawning abyss. The snow there was half thawed, and the rock crumbled away under the pressure of a boot; so that uncle lay down at full length and inched his way forward. Every fragment of rock that crumbled off fell, knocking and bouncing from one side of the wall to the other, until it came to rest in the depths far below. Rudy stood on the edge of the last point of solid rock, about a hundred paces behind his uncle, and from there he suddenly saw, wheeling through the air and hovering just above his uncle, an enormous vulture, which, with one stroke of its tremendous wings, could easily have hurled the creeping form into the abyss beneath, and there feed on his carcass.
The uncle had eyes for nothing but the chamois, which had appeared with its young kid on the other side of the crevasse. But Rudy kept watching the bird, with his hand on his gun to fire the instant it became necessary, for he understood its intention. Suddenly the chamois leaped upward; the uncle fired, and the animal was hit by the deadly bullet; but the kid escaped as skillfully as if it had had a lifelong experience of danger and flight. The huge bird, frightened by the report, wheeled off in another direction; and the uncle was saved from a danger of which he knew nothing until Rudy told him about it later.
As they were making their way homeward in high good humor, the uncle humming an air he remembered from his childhood; they heard a strange noise very close to them. They looked all around, and then upward; and there, on the slope of the mountain high above, the heavy snow covering was lifted up and heaving as a stretched linen sheet heaves when the wind creeps under it. Then the great mass cracked like a marble slab, broke, and changed into a foaming cataract, rushing down on them with a rumbling noise like distant thunder. An avalanche was coming, not directly toward Rudy and his uncle, but close to them – much too close!
“Hang on, Rudy!” he cried. “Hang on with all your might!”
Rudy threw his arms around the trunk of a near-by tree, while his uncle climbed higher and clung to the branches of the tree. The avalanche roared past a little distance away, but the gale of wind that swept behind it, the tail of a hurricane, snapped trees and bushes all around them as if they had been dry rushes, and hurled them about in wild confusion. Rudy was flung to the ground, for the trunk of his tree looked as if it had been sawed in two, and the upper part was tossed a great distance. And there, among the shattered branches, Rudy found his poor uncle, with a fractured skull! His hands were still warm, but his face was unrecognizable. Rudy turned pale and trembled, for this was the first real shock of his life, the first terror he had ever experienced.
Late that evening he brought the fatal news to his home – his home, which was now to be the home of grief. The wife stood like a statue, uttering no word, shedding no tear; it was not until the corpse was brought home that her sorrow found utterance. The poor cretin crept into his bed, and was not seen throughout the whole next day. But the following evening he came to Rudy.
“Write a letter for me please!” he said. “Saperli can’t write. Saperli can only take letter to post office.”
“A letter for you?” Rudy asked. “To whom?”
“To our Lord Christ!”
“What do you mean?”
And the half-wit, as he was called, looked at Rudy with a touching expression, clasped his hands, and said solemnly and reverently, “Jesus Christ! Saperli would send Him a letter to pray Him that Saperli lie dead, and not the master of the house here.”
And Rudy pressed his hand. “That letter wouldn’t reach up there. That letter wouldn’t restore him to us.”
He found it very difficult to convince Saperli how impossible his request was.
“Now you must be the support of the house,” said his aunt. And Rudy became just that.
“Who is the best hunter in Canton Valais?” The chamois knew well. “Beware of Rudy!” they might have said to each other. And, “Who is the handsomest hunter?” – “Oh, it’s Rudy!” the girls said. But they didn’t add, “Beware of Rudy!” And their serious mothers didn’t say so either, for he bowed as politely to them as to the young girls.
He was so brave and happy; his cheeks were so brown, his teeth so white, his dark eyes so sparkling! He was a handsome fellow, just twenty years old. The most icy water never seemed too cold for him to go swimming; in fact, he was like a fish in water. He could outclimb anyone else; he could cling as tightly as a snail to the cliffs. There were steel muscles and sinews in him; that was clear whenever he jumped. He had learned how to leap, first from the Cat, and later from the chamois. Rudy was considered the best mountain guide, and he could have made a great deal of money in that vocation. His uncle had also taught him the trade of a cooper, but he had no inclination for that. He was interested in nothing but chamois hunting; that was his greatest pleasure, and it also brought in good money. Everybody said Rudy would be an excellent match, if only he didn’t set his sights too high. He was the kind of graceful dancer that the girls dreamed about; and more than one carried him in her thoughts while she was awake.
“He kissed me while we were dancing!” the schoolmaster’s daughter, Annette, told her dearest friend; but she shouldn’t have told it, even to her dearest friend. Such secrets are seldom kept; they ooze out, like sand from a bag that has holes in it. Consequently, however wel