832 THE ICE MAIDEN
the frail ship, the uprooted pine tree : she was carried by the glacier water down the river into the open sea.
• The wedding guests are coming ! ' she said ; and she sang the news to the air and to the water.
Visions without, visions within. Babette was dreaming a wonderful dream.
It seemed to her as if she were married to Rudy, and had been his wife for many years. He was absent, chamois hunting, but she was sitting at home in her dwelling, and the young Englishman, he with the yellow beard, was sitting by her. His eyes were so eloquent, his words had such magic power, that when he stretched out his hand to her, she was forced to follow him. They went away together from her home. On they went, ever downwards ; and it seemed to Babette as though there lay on her heart a weight that grew heavier and heavier, and this weight was a sin against Heaven and a sin against Rudy. And suddenly she stood forsaken, and her dress was torn by the thorns, and her head had turned grey : she looked upwards in her misery, and on the edge of the rock she caught sight of Rudy : she stretched out her arms to him, but did not dare to call or to beseech him to help her ; and, indeed, that would have availed her nothing, for soon she saw that it was not he, but only his hunting coat and his hat, hanging up on the alpenstock in the fashion adopted by the hunters to deceive the chamois. And in her boundless agony Babette moaned out,
1 Oh that I had died on my wedding day, the happiest day of my life ! That would have been a mercy, a great happiness ! Then all would have happened for the best ! the best that could happen to me and to Rudy; for no one knows what the future will bring ! '
And in her God-forsaken despair she threw herself into the abyss, and a string seemed to burst, and a sorrowful note resounded through the mountains !
Babette awoke: the dream was past and effaced from her mind, but she knew that she had dreamed something terrible, and that it was about the young Englishman, whom she had not seen, whom she had not even thought of, for months past. Could he be in Montreux ? Should she see him at her wedding ? A light shade passed over