The Ice Maiden The conclusion Andersen's fairy tale

It was not yet evening when the three happy people reached Villeneuve, and sat down to dinner. The miller settled himself in a comfortable armchair with his pipe, and had a little nap. They young bridal couple went out of the town arm in arm, along the highway, under the wooded hills by the side of the deep blue green lake. The clear water reflected the gray walls and heavy towers of gloomy-looking Chillon. The little island with its three acacias seemed quite close, looking like a bouquet lying on the lake.

"How lovely it must be over there!" said Babette, who again felt a great desire to go to the island; and her desire could be satisfied at once, for a boat was lying near the bank, and it was easy to undo the rope securing it. There was no one around of whom they could ask permission, so they got into the boat anyway.

Rudy knew how to use the oars. Like the fins of a fish, the oars divided the water, so pliant and yet so powerful, with a back for carrying and a mouth for swallowing - gentle, smiling, calmness itself, yet terrible and mighty in destruction. Foamy wake stretched out behind the boat, and in a few minutes they arrived at the little island, where they landed. There was just room for the two of them to dance.

Rudy whirled Babette around two or three times. Then they sat on the little bench under the drooping acacia, and held each other's hands and looked deep into each other's eyes, while the last rays of the setting sun streamed about them. The pine forests on the mountains took on a purplish-red tint like that of blooming heather, and where the trees stopped and the bare rocks began, they glowed as if the mountain itself were transparent. The clouds in the sky glowed a brilliant crimson; the whole lake was like a fresh, blushing rose petal. As the shades of evening gathered, the snow-capped mountains of Savoy turned a dark blue, but the highest summits still shone like red lava and for a moment reflected their light on the mountains before the vast masses were lost in darkness. It was the Alpine glow, and Rudy and Babette thought they had never before seen so magnificent a sight. The snow-covered Dent du Midi glistened like the disk of the full moon when it rises above the horizon.

"Oh, what beauty! What happiness!" both of them said.

"Earth can give me no more," said Rudy. "An evening like this is like a whole life. How often have I realized my good fortune, as I realize it now, and thought that if everything ended for me at once now I have still had a happy life! What a blessed world this is! One day passes, and a new one, even more beautiful than the other, begins. Our Lord is infinitely good, Babette!"

"I'm so happy!" she said.

"Earth can give me no more," exclaimed Rudy. Then the vesper bells sounded from the Savoy mountains and the mountains of Switzerland. The dark-blue Jura stood up in golden splendor in the west.

"God give you all that is brightest and best!" exclaimed Babette.

"He will," said Rudy. "Tomorrow I shall have that wish. Tomorrow you'll be wholly mine - my own lovely, little wife!"

"The boat!" Babette suddenly cried.

For the boat that was to take them back had broken loose and was drifting away from the island.

"I'll get it!" said Rudy, and he stripped off his coat and boots, plunged into the lake, and swam with vigorous strokes after the boat.

The clear blue-green water from the mountain glacier was icy and deep. Rudy looked down into the depths; he took only a single glance, and yet, he thought he saw a gold ring trembling, glittering, wavering there! He thought of his lost engagement ring, and the ring became larger and spread out into a glittering circle, within which appeared the clear glacier. Endless deep chasms yawned about it, and the dropping water tinkled like the sound of bells and glowed with pale blue flames. In a second he beheld what will take us many long words to describe!

Young hunters and young girls, men and women who had once fallen into the glacier's crevasses, stood there as in life, with open eyes and smiling lips, while far below them arose from buried villages the chimes of church bells. The congregation knelt beneath the church roofs; icicles made the organ pipes, and the mountain torrents furnished the music. And the Ice Maiden sat on the clear, transparent ground. She stretched herself up toward Rudy and kissed his feet, and there shot through his limbs a deadly chill like an electric shock - ice and fire, one could not be distinguished from the other in that brief touch.

"Mine! Mine!" sounded around him and within him. "I kissed you when you were little - kissed you on the mouth! Now I kiss you on your toes and your heels - now you belong to me!"

And he disappeared in the clear blue water.

All was still. The church bells had ceased their ringing; their last tones had died away with the glow on the red clouds above.

"You are mine!" sounded from the depths below. "You are mine!" resounded from beyond the heights - from infinity itself!

How wonderful to pass from love to love, from earth to heaven!

A thread seemed to break, and sorrowful tones echoed around. The icy kiss of death had conquered what was mortal; the prelude to the drama of life had ended before the play itself had begun. And discord had resolved itself into harmony.

Do you call this a sad story?

Poor Babette! For her it was the hour of anguish. The boat drifted farther and farther away. No one on the mainland knew that the bridal couple had crossed over to the little island. Evening came on, the clouds gathered, and darkness settled down. Alone, despairing and crying, she stood there. A storm broke out; lightning flashed over the Jura mountains and over the peaks of Savoy and Switzerland; from all sides came flash after flash, while one peal of thunder followed the other for minutes at a time. One instant the lightning was so vivid that the surroundings were bright as day - every single vine stem was as distinct as at high noon - and in the next instant everything was plunged back into the blackest darkness. The lightning formed circles and zigzagged, then darted into the lake; and the increasing noise of the rolling thunder echoed from the surrounding mountains. On the mainland the boats had been drawn far up the beach, while all living things sought shelter. And now the rain poured down in torrents.

"Where can Rudy and Babette be in this terrible storm?" said the miller.

Babette sat with folded hands, her head in her lap, utterly worn out by grief, tears, and screams for help.

"In the deep water," she said to herself, "far down there as if under a glacier, he lies!"

Then she thought of what Rudy had told her about his mother's death, and of his escape, how he was lifted up out of the cleft of the glacier almost dead. "The Ice Maiden has him again!"

Then there came a flash of lightning as dazzling as the rays of the sun on white snow. Babette jumped up; at that moment the lake rose like a shining glacier; there stood the Ice Maiden, majestic, bluish, pale, glittering, with Rudy's corpse at her feet.

"Mine!" she said, and again everything was darkness and torrential rain.

"Horrible!" groaned Babette. "Ah, why should he die when our day of happiness was so near? Dear God, make me understand; shed light into my heart! I cannot understand the ways of your almighty power and wisdom!"

And God enlightened her heart. A memory - a ray of mercy - her dream of the night before - all rushed vividly through her mind. She remembered the words she had spoken, the wish for the best for herself and Rudy.

"Pity me! Was it the seed of sin in my heart? Was my dream, a glimpse into the future, whose course had to be violently changed to save me from guilt? How miserable I am!"

In the pitch-black night she sat weeping. And now in the deep stillnes around her she seemed to hear the last words he had spoken here, "Earth can give me no more." They had been spoken in the fullest of joy; they echoed in the depths of great sorrow.

A few years have passed since that night. The lake smiles; its shores are smiling; the vines yield luscious grapes; steamboats with waving pennants glide swiftly by; pleasure boats with their two sails unfurled skim like white butterflies over the mirrored water; the railway beyond Chillon is open now, leading far into the valley of the Rhone. At every station strangers get out, studying in their little red guidebooks what sights they should see. They visit Chillon, see the little island with the three acacias, and read in their books about a bridal couple who in 1856 rowed over to it one evening - how not until the next morning could the bride's despairing cries be heard on the mainland.

But the guidebooks tell nothing about Babette's quiet life in her father's house - not at the mill, for strangers live there now - in the pretty house near the railway station, where many an evening she gazes from her window beyond the chestnut trees to the snowy mountains over which Rudy had loved to range. In the evening hours she can see the Alpine glow - up there where the daughters of the sun settle down, and sing again their song about the traveler whose coat the whirlwind snatched off, taking it, but not the man himself.

There is a rosy glow upon the mountain's snow fields; there is a rosy tint in every heart in which lives the thought, "God wills what is best for us!" But it is not always revealed to us as it was revealed to Babette in her dream.