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IX. THE ICE MAIDEN

The walnut and chestnut trees, which extend from the bridge of St.Maurice, by the river Rhone, to the shores of the lake of Geneva, were already covered with the delicate green garlands of early spring, just bursting into bloom, while the Rhone rushed wildly from its source among the green glaciers which form the ice palace of the Ice Maiden. She sometimes allows herself to be carried by the keen wind to the lofty snow-fields, where she stretches herself in the sunshine on the soft snowy-cushions. From thence she throws her far-seeing glance into the deep valley beneath, where human beings are busily moving about like ants on a stone in the sun. "Spirits of strength, as the children of the sun call you," cried the Ice Maiden, "ye are but worms! Let but a snow-ball roll, and you and your houses and your towns are crushed and swept away." And she raised her proud head, and looked around her with eyes that flashed death from their glance. From the valley came a rumbling sound; men were busily at work blasting the rocks to form tunnels, and laying down roads for the railway. "They are playing at work underground, like moles," said she. "They are digging passages beneath the earth, and the noise is like the reports of cannons. I shall throw down my palaces, for the clamor is louder than the roar of thunder." Then there ascended from the valley a thick vapor, which waved itself in the air like a fluttering veil. It rose, as a plume of feathers, from a steam engine, to which, on the lately-opened railway, a string of carriages was linked, carriage to carriage, looking like a winding serpent. The train shot past with the speed of an arrow. "They play at being masters down there, those spirits of strength!" exclaimed the Ice Maiden; "but the powers of nature are still the rulers." And she laughed and sang till her voice sounded through the valley, and people said it was the rolling of an avalanche. But the children of the sun sang in louder strains in praise of the mind of man, which can span the sea as with a yoke, can level mountains, and fill up valleys. It is the power of thought which gives man the mastery over nature.

Just at this moment there came across the snow-field, where the Ice Maiden sat, a party of travellers. They had bound themselves fast to each other, so that they looked like one large body on the slippery plains of ice encircling the deep abyss.

"Worms!" exclaimed the Ice Maiden. "You, the lords of the powers of nature!" And she turned away and looked maliciously at the deep valley where the railway train was rushing by. "There they sit, these thoughts!" she exclaimed. "There they sit in their power over nature's strength. I see them all. One sits proudly apart, like a king; others sit together in a group; yonder, half of them are asleep; and when the steam dragon stops, they will get out and go their way. The thoughts go forth into the world," and she laughed.

"There goes another avalanche," said those in the valley beneath.

"It will not reach us," said two who sat together behind the steam dragon. "Two hearts and one beat," as people say. They were Rudy and Babette, and the miller was with them. "I am like the luggage," said he; "I am here as a necessary appendage."

"There sit those two," said the Ice Maiden. "Many a chamois have I crushed. Millions of Alpine roses have I snapped and broken off; not a root have I spared. I know them all, and their thoughts, those spirits of strength!" and again she laughed.

"There rolls another avalanche," said those in the valley.

 

9.冰姑娘

春天把她的嫩绿的花环在胡桃树上和栗树上陈列出来了。生长在圣·莫利斯桥和日内瓦湖以及伦河沿岸的胡桃树和栗树开得特别茂盛;伦河正从它的源头以疯狂的速度在冰河底下奔流。这冰河就是冰姑娘住的宫殿。她乘着急风从这儿飞向最高的雪地,在温暖的阳光下的雪榻上休息。她坐在这里向下面的深谷凝望。在这些深谷里,人就像被太阳照着的石头上的蚂蚁一样,来来往往忙个不休。

“太阳的孩子们把你们称为智慧的巨人!”冰姑娘说。“你们都不过是虫蚁罢了。只要有一个雪球滚下来,你们和你们的房子以及城市就会被毁灭得干干净净!”

于是她把头昂得更高,用射出死光的眼睛朝自己周围和下面望了一眼。但是山谷里升起一片隆隆的响声。这是人类在工作——在炸毁石头。人类在铺路基和炸山洞,准备建筑铁路。

“他们像鼹鼠似的工作着!”她说。“他们在打地洞,所以我才听见这种好像放枪的声音。当我迁移我的一个宫殿的时候,那声音却比雷轰还大。”

这时有一股浓厚的烟从山谷里升起,像一片飘着的面纱似的在向前移动。它就是火车头上浮动着的烟柱。车头正在一条新建的铁路上拖着一条蜿蜒的蛇——它的每一节是一个车厢。它像一支箭似的在行驶。

“这些‘智慧的巨人’,他们自以为就是主人!”冰姑娘说。

“但是大自然的威力仍然在统治着一切呀!”

于是她大笑起来。她唱着歌;她的歌声在山谷里引起一片回音。

“雪山又在崩颓了!”住在下边的人说。

但是太阳的孩子们以更高的声音歌唱着人的智慧。人的智慧统治着一切,约束着海洋,削平高山,填满深谷。人的智慧使人成为大自然的一切威力的主人。正在这时候,在大自然所统治着的雪地上,有一队旅人走过。他们用绳子把自己联在一起,好使自己在深渊旁边光滑的冰上形成一个更有力量的集体。

“你们这些虫蚁啊!”冰姑娘说。“你们这批所谓大自然的威力的主人!”

于是她把脸从这队人掉开,藐视地望着下边山谷里正在行驶着的火车。

“他们的智慧全摆在这儿!他们全在大自然的威力的掌握中:他们每个人我都看透了!有一个人单独地坐着,骄傲得像一个皇帝!另外有些人挤在一起坐着!还有一半的人在睡觉!这条火龙一停,他们就都下来,各走各的路。于是他们的智慧就分散到世界的各个角落里去了!”

她又大笑了一通。

“又有一座雪山崩颓了!”住在山谷里的人说。

“它不会崩到我们头上来的,”坐在火龙后面的两个人说。

正如俗话所说,这两个人是“心心相印”。他们就是巴贝德和洛狄,磨坊主也跟他们在一起。

“我是当做行李同行的!”他说。“我在这儿是一个不可少的累赘。”

“他们两人都坐在里面!”冰姑娘说。“我不知摧毁了多少羚羊,我不知折断了几百万棵石楠——连它们的根也不留。我要毁掉这些东西:智慧——精神的力量!”

她大笑起来。

“又有一座雪山崩颓了!”住在山谷里的人说。