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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Ice-maiden - XV. CONCLUSION
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The Ice-maiden - XV. CONCLUSION Post by :sammy Category :Long Stories Author :Hans Christian Andersen Date :April 2012 Read :1866

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The Ice-maiden - XV. CONCLUSION

XV. CONCLUSION

It was not yet night, when the three joyous people reached Villeneuve and took their dinner. The miller seated himself in an arm-chair with his pipe and took a little nap. The betrothed went out of the town arm in arm, out on the carriage way, under the bush-grown rocks, to the deep bluish-green lake. Sombre Chillon, with its grey walls and heavy towers, mirrored itself in the clear water; but still nearer lay the little island, with its three acacias, and it looked like a bouquet on the lake.

"How charming it must be there!" said Babette; she felt again the greatest desire to visit it, and this wish could be immediately fulfilled; for a boat lay on the shore and the rope which fastened it, was easy to untie. As no one was visible, from whom they could ask permission, they took the boat without hesitation, for Rudy could row well. The oars skimmed like the fins of a fish, over the pliant water, which is so yielding and still so strong; which is all back to carry, but all mouth to engulph; which smiles--yes, is gentleness itself, and still awakens terror--and is so powerful in destroying. The rapid current soon brought the boat to the island; they stepped on land. There was just room enough for the two to dance.

Rudy swung Babette three times around, and then they seated themselves on the little bench, under the acacias, looked into each other's eyes, held each other by the hand, and everything around them shone in the splendour of the setting sun. The forests of fir-trees on the mountains became of a pinkish lilac aspect, the colour of blooming heath, and where the bare rocks were apparent, they glowed as if they were transparent. The clouds in the sky were radiant with a red glow; the whole lake was like a fresh flaming rose leaf. As the shadows arose to the snow-covered mountains of Savoy, they became dark blue, but the uppermost peak seemed like red lava and pointed out for a moment, the whole range of mountains, whose masses arose glowing from the bosom of the earth.

It seemed to Rudy and Babette, that they had never seen such an alpine glow. The snow-covered Dent-du-Midi, had a lustre like the full moon, when it rises to the horizon.

"So much beauty, so much happiness!" they both said.

"Earth can give me no more," said Rudy, "an evening hour like this is a whole life! How often have I felt as now, and thought that if everything should end suddenly, how happily have I lived! How blessed is this world! The day ended, a new one dawned and I felt that it was still more beautiful! How bountiful is our Lord, Babette!"

"I am so happy!" said she.

"Earth can give me no more!" exclaimed Rudy.

The evening bells resounded from the Savoy and Swiss mountains; the bluish-black Jura arose in golden splendour towards the west.

"God give you that which is most excellent and best, Rudy!" said Babette.

"He will do that," answered Rudy, "to-morrow I shall have it! To-morrow you will be entirely mine! Mine own, little, lovely wife!"

"The boat!" cried Babette at the same moment.

The boat, which was to convey them back, had broken loose and was sailing from the island.

"I will go for it!" said Rudy. He threw off his coat, drew off his boots, sprang in the lake and swam towards the boat.

The clear, bluish-grey water of the ice mountains, was cold and deep. Rudy gave but a single glance and it seemed as though he saw a gold ring, rolling, shining and sporting--he thought on his lost engagement ring--and the ring grew larger, widened into a sparkling circle and within it shone the clear glacier; all about yawned endless deep chasms; the water dropped and sounded like a chime of bells, and shone with bluish-white flames. He saw in a second, what we must say in many long words. Young hunters and young girls, men and women, who had once perished in the glacier, stood there living, with open eyes and smiling mouth; deep below them chimed from buried towns the peal of church bells; under the arches of the churches knelt the congregation; pieces of ice formed the organ pipes, and the mountain stream played the organ. On the clear transparent ground sat the Ice-Maiden; she raised herself towards Rudy, kissed his feet, and the coldness of death ran through his limbs and gave him an electric shock--ice and fire. He could not perceive the difference.

"Mine, mine!" sounded around him and within him.

"I kissed you, when you were young, kissed you on your mouth! Now I kiss your feet, you are entirely mine!"

He vanished in the clear blue water.

Everything was still; the church bells stopped ringing; the last tones died away with the splendour of the red clouds.

"You are mine!" sounded in the deep. "You are mine!" sounded from on high, from the infinite.

How happy to fly from love to love, from earth to heaven!

A string broke, a cry of grief was heard, the icy kiss of death conquered; the prelude ended; so that the drama of life might commence, discord melted into harmony.--

Do you call this a sad story?

Poor Babette! For her it was a period of anguish.

The boat drifted farther and farther. No one on shore knew that the lovers were on the island. The evening darkened, the clouds lowered themselves; night came. She stood there, solitary, despairing, moaning. A flash of lightning passed over the Jura mountains, over Switzerland and over Savoy. From all sides flash upon flash of lightning, clap upon clap of thunder, which rolled continuously many minutes. At times the lightning was vivid as sunshine, and you could distinguish the grape vines; then all became black again in the dark night. The lightning formed knots, ties, zigzags, complicated figures; it struck in the lake, so that it lit it up on all sides; whilst the noise of the thunder was made louder by the echo. The boat was drawn on shore; all living objects sought shelter. Now the rain streamed down.

"Where can Rudy and Babette be in this frightful weather!" said the miller.

Babette sat with folded hands, with her head in her lap, mute with sorrow, with screaming and bewailing.

"In the deep water," said she to herself, "he is as far down as the glaciers!"

She remembered what Rudy had related to her of his mother's death, of his preservation, and how he was withdrawn death-like, from the clefts of the glacier. "The Ice-Maiden has him again!"

There was a flash of lightning, as dazzling as the sunlight on the white snow. Babette started up; at this instant, the sea rose like a glittering glacier; there stood the Ice-Maiden majestic, pale, blue, shining, and at her feet lay Rudy's corpse. "Mine!" said she, and then all around was fog and night and streaming water.

"Cruel!" moaned Babette, "why must he die, now that the day of our happiness approached. God! Enlighten my understanding! Enlighten my heart! I do not understand thy ways! Notwithstanding all thy omnipotence and wisdom, I still grope in the darkness."

God enlightened her heart. A thought like a ray of mercy, her last night's dream in all its vividness flashed through her; she remembered the words which she had spoken: "the wish for the best for herself and Rudy."

"Woe is me! Was that the sinful seed in my heart? Did my dream foretell my future life? Is all this misery for my salvation? Me, miserable one!"

Lamenting, sat she in the dark night. In the solemn stillness, sounded Rudy's last words; the last ones he had uttered: "Earth has no more happiness to give me!" She had heard it in the fullness of her joy, she heard it again in all the depths of her sorrow.

* * * * *

A couple of years have passed since then. The lake smiles, the coast smiles; the vine branches are filled with ripe grapes; the steamboats glide along with waving flags and the pleasure boats float over the watery mirror, with their two expanded sails like white butterflies. The railroad to Chillon is opened; it leads into the Rhone valley; strangers alight at every station; they arrive with their red covered guide books and read of remarkable sights which are to be seen. They visit Chillon, they stand upon the little island, with its three acacias--out on the lake--and they read in the book about the betrothed ones, who sailed over one evening in the year 1856;--of the death of the bridegroom, and: "it was not till the next morning, that the despairing shrieks of the bride were heard on the coast!"

The book does not tell, however, of Babette's quiet life with her father; not in the mill, where strangers now dwell, but in the beautiful house, near the railway station. There she looks from the window many an evening and gazes over the chestnut trees, upon the snow mountains, where Rudy once climbed. She sees in the evening hours the alpine glow--the children of the Sun encamp themselves above, and repeat the song of the wanderer, whose mantle the whirlwind tore off, and carried away: "it took the covering but not the man."

There is a rosy hue on the snow of the mountains; there is a rosy hue in every heart, where the thought dwells, that: "God always gives us that which is best for us!" but it is not always revealed to us, as it once happened to Babette in her dream.


(The end)
Hans Christian Andersen's book: Ice-Maiden

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