THE ICE MAIDEN 829
Vanished was the Alpine girl, vanished the sheltering hut; the water poured down the naked- rocky wall, and snow lay all around. Rudy trembled with cold : he was wet to the skin, and his ring was gone—the betrothal ring which Babette had given him. His rifle lay near him in the snow : he took it up and tried to fire it, but it missed. Damp clouds hovered like masses of snow over the abyss, and Giddiness was there, lying in wait for the powerless prey ; and below, in the deep abyss, there was a sound as if a block of stone were falling, crushing in its descent everything that tried to arrest its progress.
But Babette sat in the mill and wept. Rudy had not been there for six days—he who was in the wrong, and who ought to come and beg her pardon, and whom she loved with her whole heart.
In the Mill
* What a strange thing it is with those people !' said the Parlour Cat to the Kitchen Cat. ' They're parted now, Babette and Rudy. She 's weeping ; and he, I suppose, does not think any more about her.'
' I don't like that,' said the Kitchen Cat.
1 Nor do I,' observed the Parlour Cat; ' but I won't take it to heart. Babette may betroth herself to the red-beard. But he has not been here either since that night when he wanted to climb on the roof.'
Evil powers sport with us and in us : Rudy had experienced that, and had thought much of it. What was all that which had happened to him and around him on the summit of the mountain ? Were they spirits he had seen, or had he had a feverish vision ? Never until now had he suffered from fever or any other illness. But in judging Babette, he had looked into his own heart also. He had traced the wild whirlwind, the hot wind that had raged there. Would he be able to confess to Babette every thought he had had—thoughts that might become actions in the hour of temptation ? He had lost her ring, and through this loss she had won him again. Would she be