THE ICE MAIDEN
higher, where nothing but scanty grass grew among the blocks of stone. The chamois were straying quietly along on the snow-field. He hastened his steps till the veil of clouds began to encompass him, and suddenly he found himself in front of a steep wall of rock ; and now the rain began to pour down.
He felt a burning thirst, his head was hot, his limbs were cold. He took his hunting flask, but it was empty— he had not thought of filling it when he rushed out upon the mountains. He had never been ill in his life, but now he had warnings of such a condition, for he was weary, and had an inclination to lie down, a longing to go to sleep, though the rain was pouring all around. He tried to collect his faculties, but all objects danced and trembled strangely before his eyes. Then suddenly he beheld what he had never seen in that spot before—a new low-browed house, that leaned against the rock. At the door stood a young girl, and she almost appeared to him like the schoolmaster's daughter Annette, whom he had once kissed at the dance ; but it was not Annette, though he felt certain he had seen this girl before ; perhaps at Grindel-wald on that evening when he returned from the marksmen's feast at Interlaken.
' Whence do you come ? ' he asked.
' I am at home here. I am keeping my flock,' was the reply.
1 Your flock ! Where does it graze % Here there is only snow and rocks.'
' Much you know about what is here,' retorted the girl, with a laugh. ' Behind us, lower down, is a glorious pasture : my goats graze there. I tend them carefully. Not one of them do I lose, and what is once mine remains mine.'
* You are bold,' said Rudy.
' And you too,' replied the girl.
1 If you have any milk in the house, pray give me some to drink ; I am insufferably thirsty.'
'I've something better than milk/ said the girl, 'and I will give you that. Yesterday some travellers were here with their guide, who forgot a bottle of wine of a kind you have probably never tasted. They will not come back