The Ice Maiden Evil powers Andersen's fairy tale

Rudy left Bex, and started homeward, following the mountain path, with its cold fresh air, and where the snow is deep and the Ice Maiden reigns. The trees with their thick foliage were so far below him that they looked like potato tops; the pines and bushes became smaller; the Alpine roses were blanketed with snow, which lay in isolated patches like linen put out to be bleached. A single blue gentian stood in his path, and he crushed it with the butt of his gun. Higher up two chamois became visible, and Rudy's eyes sparkled as his thoughts turned into another course, but he wasn't near enough for a good shot. Still higher he climbed, to where only a few blades of grass grew between the rocks. The chamois passed calmly over the snow fields as Rudy pressed on.

The thick mists enshrouded him, and suddenly he found himself on the brink of a steep rock precipice. Then the rain began to fall in torrents. He felt a burning thirst; his head was hot, and his limbs were cold. He reached for his hunting flask, but found it was empty; he had not given it a thought when he rushed away, up the mountain. He had never been sick in his life, but now he suddenly felt that he was ill. He felt exhausted, and wanted only to lie down and sleep; but the rain was streaming down around him. He tried to pull himself out of it, but every object seemed to dance strangely before his eyes.

Suddenly he became aware of something he had never before seen in that place - a small, newly built hut leaning against the rock; and in the doorway stood a young girl. First he thought she was the schoolmaster's daughter, Annette, whom he had once kissed while dancing with her; but she wasn't Annette. But he was sure he had seen her before, perhaps near Grindelwald the evening he went home from the Interlaken shooting matches.

"How did you get here?" he asked.

"I'm home," she said. "Watching my flocks."

"Your flocks! Where do they find grass? There's nothing here but snow and rocks!"

"You know a lot about it!" she said and laughed. "A little way down behind here is a very nice pasture, where my goats go. I take good care of them, and never lose one. What's mine is mine!"

"You're very brave," said Rudy.

"And so are you," she answered.

"If you have any milk, please give me some; I have a terrible thirst."

"I have something much better than milk," she replied, "and you may have some. Yesterday some travelers came here with guides, and left half a flask of wine behind them, such wine as you have never tasted. They won't come back for it, and I don't drink it, so you may have it."

She brought the wine, poured some into a wooden goblet, and gave it to Rudy.

"That's fine!" he said. "I have never tasted a wine so warming and reviving!" His eyes sparkled with life; a glowing thrill of happiness swept over him, as if every sorrow and vexation had vanished from his mind; a carefree feeling awoke in him.

"But surely you are Annette, the schoolmaster's daughter!" he exclaimed. "Give me a kiss!"

"Yes, but first give me that pretty ring you're wearing on your finger!"

"My engagement ring?"

"Yes, just that ring," said the girl, then refilling the goblet, she held it to his lips, and he drank again. A feeling of joy seemed to flow through his blood. The whole world was his, he seemed to think, so why torture himself! Everything is created for our pleasure and enjoyment. The stream of life is the stream of happiness; let yourself be carried away on it - that is joy. He looked at the young girl. She was Annette, and yet not Annette; but still less was she the magical phantom, as he had called the one he had met near Grindelwald. This girl on the mountain was fresh as newly fallen snow, as blooming as an Alpine rose, as lively as a young lamb; yet still she was formed from Adam's rib, a human being like Rudy himself.

He flung his arms about her and gazed into her marvelously clear eyes. It was only for a second, but how can that second be expressed or described in words? Was it the life of the soul or the life of death that took possessions of his being? Was he carried up high, or did he sink down into the deep and deathly icy crevasse, deeper, always deeper? He beheld the ice walls shining like blue-green glass; bottomless crevasses yawned about him; the waters dripped, sounding like the chimes of bells, and were as clear as a pearl glowing with pale blue flames. Then the Ice Maiden kissed him - a kiss that sent an icy shiver through his whole body. He gave a cry of pain, tore himself away from her, stumbled, and fell; all went dark before his eyes, but he opened them again. The powers of evil had played their game.

The Alpine girl was gone, and the sheltering hut was gone; water streamed down on the bare rocks, and snow lay everywhere. Rudy was shivering with cold, soaked through to the skin, and his ring was gone - the engagement ring Babette had given him. His gun lay on the snow beside him, but when he took it up and tried to fire it as a signal, it missed fire. Damp clouds filled the chasm like thick masses of snow. Dizziness sat there, glaring at her helpless prey, while there rang through the deep crevasse beneath her a sound as if a mass of rock had fallen, and was crushing and carrying away everything that obstructed its course.

Back at the miller's Babette sat and wept. It was six days since Rudy had been there - Rudy, who had been in the wrong, and should ask her pardon, for she loved him with all her heart.

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