« Have you a beloved one? » asked Rudy; for to have a beloved one was everything to him.
« I have none! » said she, and laughed; but it was as though she was not speaking the truth. « Do not let us take a by-way, » continued she, « we must go more to the left, that way is shorter! »
« I know the road well, » said she, « my thoughts are with me; yours are beneath in the valley; here on high, one must think on the Ice-Maiden, for they say she is not well disposed to mankind! »
« I do not fear her, » said Rudy, « she was forced to let me go when I was a child, so I suppose I can slip away from her now that I am older! »
The darkness increased, the rain fell, the snow came; it shone and dazzled. « Give me your hand, I will help you to ascend! » said the girl, and touched him with icy-cold fingers.
« You help me, » said Rudy, « I do not yet need a woman’s help in climbing! » He strode quickly on, away from her; the snow-shower formed a curtain around him, the wind whistled by him and he heard the young girl laugh and sing; it sounded so oddly! Yes, that was certainly a spirit in the service of the Ice-Maiden. Rudy had heard of them, when he had passed a night on high; when he had crossed the mountain, as a little boy.