THE ICE MAIDEN 805
Rudy mounted the hill by the short out, which was, nevertheless, tolerably long ; but the shooting match had only begun that day, and was to last a week or more ; and they had told him that the miller and Babette would pass the whole time with their friends at Interlaken. Rudy marched across the Gemmi, intending to descend at Grindelwald.
Fresh and merry, he walked on in the strengthening light mountain air. The valley sank deeper and deeper behind him, and his horizon became more and more extended ; here a snowy peak appeared, and there another, and presently the whole gleaming white chain of the Alps could be seen. Rudy knew every peak, and he made straight towards the Schreckhorn, that raised its white-powdered, stony finger up into the blue air.
At last he had crossed the ridge. The grassy pastures sloped down towards the valley of his old home. The air was light and his spirits were light. Mountain and valley bloomed fair with verdure and with flowers, and his heart was filled with the feeling of youth, that recks not of coming age or of death. To live, to conquer, to enjoy, free as a bird !—and light as a bird he felt. And the swallows flew past him, and sang, as they had sang in his childhood, ' We and ye ! we and ye ! ' and all seemed joy and rapid motion.
Below lay the summer-green meadow, studded with brown wooden houses, with the Liitschine rushing and humming among them. He saw the glacier with the grass-green borders and the clouded snow; he looked into the deep crevasses, and beheld the upper and the lower glacier. The church bells sounded across to him, as if they were ringing to welcome him into the valley of home ; and his heart beat stronger, and swelled so, that for a moment Babette entirely disappeared, so large did his heart become, and so full of recollections.
He went along again, up on the mountain where he had stood as a child with other little children, offering carved houses for sale. There among the pine trees stood the house of his grandfather ; but strangers inhabited it now. Children came running along the road towards him to sell their wares, and one of them offered him an Alpine rose,