The pealing of the church bells came to his ears, as if they were welcoming him to his old home.
"Oh, what beauty! What happiness!" both of them said.
"Earth can give me no more," said Rudy. "An evening like this is like a whole life. How often have I realized my good fortune, as I realize it now, and thought that if everything ended for me at once now I have still had a happy life! What a blessed world this is! One day passes, and a new one, even more beautiful than the other, begins. Our Lord is infinitely good, Babette!"
"I'm so happy!" she said.
"Earth can give me no more," exclaimed Rudy. Then the vesper bells sounded from the Savoy mountains and the mountains of Switzerland. The dark-blue Jura stood up in golden splendor in the west.
"God give you all that is brightest and best!" exclaimed Babette.
"He will," said Rudy. "Tomorrow I shall have that wish. Tomorrow you'll be wholly mine – my own lovely, little wife!"
"The boat!" Babette suddenly cried.
For the boat that was to take them back had broken loose and was drifting away from the island.
"I'll get it!" said Rudy, and he stripped off his coat and boots, plunged into the lake, and swam with vigorous strokes after the boat.
The clear blue-green water from the mountain glacier was icy and deep. Rudy looked down into the depths; he took only a single glance, and yet, he thought he saw a gold ring trembling, glittering, wavering there! He thought of his lost engagement ring, and the ring became larger and spread out into a glittering circle, within which appeared the clear glacier. Endless deep chasms yawned about it, and the dropping water tinkled like the sound of bells and glowed with pale blue flames. In a second he beheld what will take us many long words to describe!
Young hunters and young girls, men and women who had once fallen into the glacier's crevasses, stood there as in life, with open eyes and smiling lips, while far below them arose from buried villages the chimes of church bells. The congregation knelt beneath the church roofs; icicles made the organ pipes, and the mountain torrents furnished the music. And the Ice Maiden sat on the clear, transparent ground. She stretched herself up toward Rudy and kissed his feet, and there shot through his limbs a deadly chill like an electric shock – ice and fire, one could not be distinguished from the other in that brief touch.
"Mine! Mine!" sounded around him and within him. "I kissed you when you were little – kissed you on the mouth! Now I kiss you on your toes and your heels – now you belong to me!"
And he disappeared in the clear blue water.
All was still. The church bells had ceased their ringing; their last tones had died away with the glow on the red clouds above.
"You are mine!" sounded from the depths below. "You are mine!" resounded from beyond the heights – from infinity itself!
How wonderful to pass from love to love, from earth to heaven!
A thread seemed to break, and sorrowful tones echoed around. The icy kiss of death had conquered what was mortal; the prelude to the drama of life had ended before the play itself had begun. And discord had resolved itself into harmony.
Do you call this a sad story?