The Ice Maiden On the way home Andersen's fairy tale

Oh, what a load Rudy had to carry the next day, when he started his return home over the mountains! He had two handsome guns, three silver cups, and a silver coffeepot - this last would be useful when he set up his own home. But these valuable prizes were not the heaviest burden he had to bear; a still weightier load he had to carry - or did it carry him? - across the high mountains.

The weather was dismal, gloomy, and rainy; the clouds hung like a mourning veil over the mountain summits, and shrouded the shining peaks. The last stroke of the axe had resounded from the woods, and down the side of the mountain rolled the great tree trunks. From the vast heights above they looked like matchsticks, but were nevertheless as big as masts of ships. The Lütschine River murmured its monotonous song; the wind whistled, and the clouds sailed swiftly by.

Suddenly there appeared next to Rudy a young girl; he had not noticed her until she was quite near him. She also was planning to cross the mountain. Her eyes had a peculiar power that compelled one to look into them; they were so clear and deep - bottomless.

"Do you have a sweetheart?" asked Rudy, whose thoughts were filled with love.

"I have none," she laughed, but it seemed as if she were not speaking the truth. "Let us not take the long way around; let us keep to the left - it is shorter."

"Yes, and easier to fall into some crevasse," said Rudy. "You ought to know the route better if you're going to be the guide."

"I know the way very well," she said, "and I have my thoughts collected. Your thoughts are down there in the valley; but up here you should think of the Ice Maiden. People say she is not friendly to the human race."

"I'm not a bit afraid of her," said Rudy. "She couldn't keep me when I was a child, and she won't catch me now that I'm a grown-up man."

Now it became very dark. First rain fell, then snow, and its whiteness was quite blinding.

"Give me your hand, and I shall help you climb," said the girl, touching him with her icy fingers.

"You help me?" said Rudy. "I don't yet need a woman's help in climbing!"

Then he walked on away from her quickly. The falling snow thickened about him like a curtain, the wind moaned, and behind him he could hear the girl laughing and singing. It sounded very strange. Surely it must be a specter in the service of the Ice Maiden; Rudy had heard of these things when, as a little boy, he had spent that night on the mountain, during his trip across the mountains.

The snow no longer fell so thickly, and the clouds lay far below him. He looked back, but there was no one to be seen; he could only hear laughing and jeering that did not seem to come from a human being.

When at last he reached the highest part of the mountain, where the path led down into the Rhone valley, he saw in the clear blue heaven, toward Chamonix, two glittering stars. They shone brightly; and he thought of Babette, of himself, and of his good fortune. And these thoughts made him warm.

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