THE ICE MAIDEN 815
' Would you not like to take the black spots out of the moon first ? ' replied Vesinand. ' That.would be just as easy. You seem to be in a merry mood.'
* Certainly I am, for I hope to be married soon. But let us speak seriously, and I will tell you what it is all about.'
And soon Vesinand and Ragli knew what Rudy wanted.
' You're a headstrong fellow,' they said. ' It can't be done : you will break your neck over it.'
' A man does not fall who 's not afraid of falling,' Rudy persisted.
At midnight they set out with poles, ladders, and ropes ; their way led through forest and thicket, over loose rolling stones, ever upward, upward, through the dark night. The water rushed beneath them, water dripped down from above, and heavy clouds careered through the air. The hunters reached the steep wall of rock. Here it was darker than ever. The opposite sides of the chasm almost touched, and the sky could only be seen through a small cleft above them, and around them and beneath them was the great abyss with its foaming waters. The three sat on the rock waiting for the dawn, when the eagle should fly forth, for the old bird must be shot before they could think of capturing the young one. Rudy sat on the ground, as silent as if he were a piece of the stone on which he crouched ; his rifle he held before him ready cocked ; his eyes were fixed on the upper cleft beneath which the eagle's nest lay concealed against the rock. And a long time those three hunters had to wait!
Now there was a rushing, whirring sound above them, and a great soaring object darkened the air. Two guns were pointed, as the black form of the eagle arose from the nest. A shot rang sharply out, for a moment the outstretched wings continued to move, and then the bird sank slowly down, and it seemed with its outstretched wings to fill up the chasm, and threatened to bear down the hunters in its fall. Then the eagle sank down into the abyss, breaking off twigs of trees and bushes in its descent.
And now the hunters began operations. Three of the longest ladders were bound together—those would reach high enough ; they were reared on end on the last firm