THE ICE MAIDEN 837
when the day of our happiness was about to dawn ? 0 Lord, enlighten my understanding ! Send Thy light into my heart! I understand not Thy ways. I grope in darkness, amid the behests of Thy power and Thy wisdom ! '
And the light for which she prayed was given to her. A gleam of thought, a ray of light, her dream of the past night in its living reality, flashed through her. She remembered the words, the wish she had uttered, concerning what would be ' the best ' for her and for Rudy.
1 Woe is me ! Was it the germ of sin within my heart ? Was my dream a vision of a future life, whose strings must be snapped asunder that I might be saved ? Wretched that I am ! '
And she sat there in the dark night, lamenting. Through the thick darkness Rudy's words seemed to sound, the last words he had spoken on earth, ' The earth has nothing more to give me !' They had sounded in the fullness of joy ; they echoed now through the depths of distress.
And years have flown by since that time. The lake smiles and its shores smile ; the grape-vine is covered with swelling branches ; steamboats with waving flags glide along ; pleasure-boats with full sails flit across the mirror of waters like white butterflies ; the railway has been opened past Chillon, and leads deep into the valley of the Rhone. At every station strangers alight, with red-bound guide-books in their hands, and they read of the sights they have come to see. They visit Chillon, and in the lake they behold the little island with three acacias, and in the book they read about the betrothed pair who, on an evening of the year 1856, sailed across thither, and of the death of the bridegroom, and how the despairing cries of the bride were not heard on the shore till the next morning.
But the guide-book has nothing to tell concerning the quiet life of Babette in her father's house—not in the mill, for other people live there now, but in the beautiful house near the station, from whose windows she looks on many an evening across over the chestnut trees towards the snowy mountains on which Rudy once wandered ; in the evening she marks the Alpine glow—the Children of the