THE ICE MAIDEN 811
And he went on faster, away from her. The driving snow closed round him like a mantle, tjtie wind whistled, and behind him he heard the girl laughing and singing in a strange way. He felt sure she was a phantom in the service of the Ice Maiden. Rudy had heard tell of such apparitions when he passed the night on the mountains in his boyish days, during his journey from his grandfather's house.
The snow-fall abated, and the cloud was now below him. He looked back, but nobody was to be seen ; but he could hear laughter and whooping that did not seem to proceed from a human voice.
When Rudy at last reached the highest mountain plateau, whence the path led downward into the Rhone valley, he saw in the direction of Chamonix, in a strip of pure blue sky, two bright stars which glittered and twinkled ; and he thought of Babette, of himself, and of his good fortune, and the thought made him quite warm.
The Visit to the Mill
' What magnificent things, you have brought home ! * exclaimed the old aunt; and her strange eagle's eyes flashed, and her thin neck waved to and fro faster than ever in strange contortions. ' You have luck, Rudy! I must kiss you, my darling boy ! '
And Rudy allowed himself to be kissed, but with an expression in his face which told that he submitted to it as a necessary evil, a little domestic infliction.
' How handsome you are, Rudy ! ' said the old woman.
' Don't put nonsense into my head,' replied Rudy, with a laugh ; but still he was pleased to hear her say it.
' I repeat it,' she cried. ' Good luck attends upon you!'
' Perhaps you are right,' he observed ; and he thought of Babette.
Never had he felt such a longing to go down into the deep valley.
' They must have returned,' he said to himself. ' It is