THE ICE MAIDEN 835
1 The boat ! ' exclaimed Babette, suddenly.
The little skiff in which they were to return had broken loose and was drifting away from the island.
' I will bring it back,' said Rudy.
And he threw aside his coat, pulled off his boots, jumped into the lake, and swam with powerful strokes towards the boat.
Cold and deep was the clear blue-green ice water from the glacier of the mountain. Rudy looked down into its depths—one glance—and it seemed to him that he saw a golden ring, rolling, shining, sparkling : he thought of his ring of betrothal—and the ring grew larger, and widened into a sparkling circle into which the gleaming glacier shone : deep abysses yawned around, and the water-drops rang like the chiming of bells, and glittered with white flames. In a moment he beheld all this that it has taken many words to describe. Young hunters and young girls, men and women who had at different times sunk down into the crevasses among the glaciers, stood here living, with smiling mouths, and deep below them sounded the church bells of sunken cities. The congregation knelt beneath the church roof, the organ pipes were formed of great icicles, and beneath all the Ice Maiden sat on the clear transparent ground. She raised herself towards Rudy and kissed his feet ; then a cold death-like numbness poured through his limbs, and an electric shock—ice and fire mingled ! There is no difference to be felt between a sudden touch of these two.
' Mine ! mine ! ' sounded around him and within him. ' I kissed thee when thou wert little, kissed thee on thy mouth. Now I kiss thy feet, and thou art mine altogether !'
And he disappeared beneath the clear blue water.
All was silent; the chime of the church bells ceased, the last echoes died away with the last ruddy tints of the evening clouds.
' Thou art mine ! ' sounded from the depths. * Thou art mine ! ' sounded from the heights, from the regions of the Infinite.
Glorious ! from love to love—to fly from earth to heaven !
A chord broke, a sound of mourning was heard ; the icy