“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!”
“Yes, so as to fall down a precipice!” said Rudy; “Do you know no better way, and yet wish to be a guide?”
“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.
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