THE ICE MAIDEN
sounds like the firing of guns. When I remove one of my castles, it sounds louder than the thunder's roar.'
Out of the valley rose a smoke which moved forward like a fluttering veil : it was the waving steam plume of the engine, which on the lately opened road dragged the train, the curling snake, each of whose joints is a carriage. Away it shot, swift as an arrow.
'They're playing at being masters down yonder, the spirit powers,' said the Ice Maiden, * but the power of the forces of nature is greater than theirs.'
And she laughed and sang till the valley echoed.
* Yonder rolls an avalanche ! ' said the people.
But the Children of the Sun sang louder still of human thought, the powerful agent that places barriers against the sea, and levels mountains, and fills up valleys—of human thought, that is master of the powers of nature. And at this time there marched across the snow-field where the Ice Maiden rules, a company of travellers. The men had bound themselves to one another with ropes, that they might, as it were, form a heavier body here on the slippery surface of ice on the margin of the deep chasms.
' Insects that you are ! ' cried the Ice Maiden. ' You the rulers of the powers of nature !'
And she turned away from the company, and looked contemptuously down into the deep valley, where the long train of carriages was rushing along.
' There they sit, those thoughts ! there they sit, in the power of the forces of nature ! I see them, each and all of them ! One of them sits alone, proud as a King, and yonder they sit in a crowd. Half of them are asleep. And when the steam dragon stops, they alight and go their ways. The thoughts go abroad into the world.'
And she laughed again.
* There rolls another avalanche ! ' said the people in the valley.
' It will not reach us,' said two who sat behind the steam dragon. ' Two hearts that beat like one,' as the song has it. These two were Babette and Rudy ; and the miller was with them too.
1 I go as baggage ! ' he said. ' I am here as a necessary appendage.'