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Title: Undine
Author: La Motte-Fouqué, Friedrich Heinrich Karl, Freiherr de, 1777-1843
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Undine" ***

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  Undine, thou image fair and blest,
    Since first thy strange mysterious glance,
    Shone on me from some old romance,
    How hast thou sung my heart to rest!

  How hast thou clung to me and smiled,
    And wouldest, whispering in my ear,
    Give vent to all thy miseries drear,
    A little half-spoiled timorous child!

  Yet hath my zither caught the sound,
    And breathed from out its gates of gold,
    Each gentle word thy lips have told,
    Until their fame is spread around.

  And many a heart has loved thee well,
    In spite of every wayward deed,
    And many a one will gladly read,
    The pages which thy history tell.

  I catch the whispered hope expressed,
    That thou should'st once again appear;
    So cast aside each doubt and fear,
    And come, Undine! thou spirit blest!

  Greet every noble in the hall,
    And greet 'fore all, with trusting air,
    The beauteous women gathered there;
    I know that thou art loved by all.

  And if one ask thee after me,
    Say: he's a true and noble knight,
    Fair woman's slave in song and fight
    And in all deeds of chivalry.




There was once, it may be now many hundred years ago, a good old
fisherman, who was sitting one fine evening before his door, mending
his nets. The part of the country in which he lived was extremely
pretty. The greensward, on which his cottage stood, ran far into the
lake, and it seemed as if it was from love for the blue clear waters
that the tongue of land had stretched itself out into them, while
with an equally fond embrace the lake had encircled the green
pasture rich with waving grass and flowers, and the refreshing shade
of trees. The one welcomed the other, and it was just this that made
each so beautiful. There were indeed few human beings, or rather
none at all, to be met with on this pleasant spot, except the
fisherman and his family. For at the back of this little promontory
there lay a very wild forest, which, both from its gloom and
pathless solitude as well as from the wonderful creatures and
illusions with which it was said to abound, was avoided by most
people except in cases of necessity.

The pious old fisherman, however, passed through it many a time
undisturbed, when he was taking the choice fish, which he had caught
at his beautiful home, to a large town situated not far from the
confines of the forest. The principal reason why it was so easy for
him to pass through this forest was because the tone of his thoughts
was almost entirely of a religious character, and besides this,
whenever he set foot upon the evil reputed shades, he was wont to
sing some holy song, with a clear voice and a sincere heart.

While sitting over his nets this evening, unsuspicious of any evil,
a sudden fear came upon him, at the sound of a rustling in the gloom
of the forest, as of a horse and rider, the noise approaching nearer
and nearer to the little promontory. All that he had dreamed, in
many a stormy night, of the mysteries of the forest, now flashed at
once through his mind; foremost of all, the image of a gigantic
snow-white man, who kept unceasingly nodding his head in a
portentous manner. Indeed, when he raised his eyes toward the wood
it seemed to him as if he actually saw the nodding man approaching
through the dense foliage. He soon, however, reassured himself,
reflecting that nothing serious had ever befallen him even in the
forest itself, and that upon this open tongue of land the evil
spirit would be still less daring in the exercise of his power. At
the same time he repeated aloud a text from the Bible with all his
heart, and this so inspired him with courage that he almost smiled
at the illusion he had allowed to possess him. The white nodding man
was suddenly transformed into a brook long familiar to him, which
ran foaming from the forest and discharged itself into the lake. The
noise, however, which he had heard, was caused by a knight
beautifully apparelled, who, emerging from the deep shadows of the
wood, came riding toward the cottage. A scarlet mantle was thrown
over his purple gold-embroidered doublet; a red and violet plume
waved from his golden-colored head-gear; and a beautifully and
richly ornamented sword flashed from his shoulder-belt. The white
steed that bore the knight was more slenderly formed than war-horses
generally are, and he stepped so lightly over the turf that this
green and flowery carpet seemed scarcely to receive the slightest
injury from his tread.

The old fisherman did not, however, feel perfectly secure in his
mind, although he tried to convince himself that no evil was to be
feared from so graceful an apparition; and therefore he politely
took off his hat as the knight approached, and remained quietly with
his nets.

Presently the stranger drew up, and inquired whether he and his
horse could have shelter and care for the night. "As regards your
horse, good sir," replied the fisherman. "I can assign him no better
stable than this shady pasture, and no better provender than the
grass growing on it. Yourself, however, I will gladly welcome to my
small cottage, and give you supper and lodging as good as we have."
The knight was well satisfied with this; he alighted from his horse,
and, with the assistance of the fisherman, he relieved it from
saddle and bridle, and turned it loose upon the flowery green. Then
addressing his host, he said: "Even had I found you less hospitable
and kindly disposed, my worthy old fisherman, you would nevertheless
scarcely have got rid of me to-day, for, as I see, a broad lake lies
before us, and to ride back into that mysterious wood, with the
shades of evening coming on, heaven keep me from it!"

"We will not talk too much of that," said the fisherman, and he led
his guest into the cottage.

There, beside the hearth, from which a scanty fire shed a dim light
through the cleanly-kept room, sat the fisherman's aged wife in a
capacious chair. At the entrance of the noble guest she rose to give
him a kindly welcome, but resumed her seat of honor without offering
it to the stranger. Upon this the fisherman said with a smile: "You
must not take it amiss of her, young sir, that she has not given up
to you the most comfortable seat in the house; it is a custom among
poor people, that it should belong exclusively to the aged."

"Why, husband," said the wife, with a quiet smile, "what can you be
thinking of? Our guest belongs no doubt to Christian men, and how
could it come into the head of the good young blood to drive old
people from their chairs? Take a seat, my young master," she
continued, turning toward the knight; "over there, there is a right
pretty little chair, only you must not move about on it too roughly,
for one of its legs is no longer of the firmest." The knight fetched
the chair carefully, sat down upon it good-humoredly, and it seemed
to him as if he were related to this little household, and had just
returned from abroad.

The three worthy people now began to talk together in the most
friendly and familiar manner. With regard to the forest, about which
the knight made some inquiries, the old man was not inclined to be
communicative; he felt it was not a subject suited to approaching
night, but the aged couple spoke freely of their home and former
life, and listened also gladly when the knight recounted to them his
travels, and told them that he had a castle near the source of the
Danube, and that his name was Sir Huldbrand of Ringstetten. During
the conversation, the stranger had already occasionally heard a
splash against the little low window, as if some one were sprinkling
water against it. Every time the noise occurred, the old man knit
his brow with displeasure; but when at last a whole shower was
dashed against the panes, and bubbled into the room through the
decayed casement, he rose angrily, and called threateningly from the
window: "Undine! will you for once leave off these childish tricks?
and to-day, besides, there is a stranger knight with us in the
cottage." All was silent without, only a suppressed laugh was
audible, and the fisherman said as he returned: "You must pardon it
in her, my honored guest, and perhaps many a naughty trick besides;
but she means no harm by it. It is our foster-child, Undine, and she
will not wean herself from this childishness, although she has
already entered her eighteenth year. But, as I said, at heart she is
thoroughly good."

"You may well talk," replied the old woman, shaking her head; "when
you come home from fishing or from a journey, her frolics may then
be very delightful, but to have her about one the whole day long,
and never to hear a sensible word, and instead of finding her a help
in the housekeeping as she grows older, always to be obliged to be
taking care that her follies do not completely ruin us, that is
quite another thing, and the patience of a saint would be worn out
at last."

"Well, well," said her husband with a smile, "you have your troubles
with Undine, and I have mine with the lake. It often breaks away my
dams, and tears my nets to pieces, but for all that, I have an
affection for it, and so have you for the pretty child, in spite of
all your crosses and vexations. Isn't it so?"

"One can't be very angry with her, certainly," said the old woman,
and she smiled approvingly.

Just then the door flew open, and a beautiful, fair girl glided
laughing into the room, and said "You have only been jesting,
father, for where is your guest?"

At the same moment, however, she perceived the knight, and stood
fixed with astonishment before the handsome youth, Huldbrand was
struck with her charming appearance, and dwelt the more earnestly on
her lovely features, as he imagined it was only her surprise that
gave him this brief enjoyment, and that she would presently turn
from his gaze with increased bashfulness. It was, however, quite
otherwise; for after having looked at him for some time, she drew
near him confidingly, knelt down before him, and said, as she played
with a gold medal which he wore on his breast, suspended from a rich
chain: "Why, you handsome, kind guest, how have you come to our poor
cottage at last? Have you been obliged then to wander through the
world for years, before you could find your way to us? Do you come
out of that wild forest, my beautiful knight?" The old woman's
reproof allowed him no time for reply. She admonished the girl to
stand up and behave herself and to go to her work. Undine, however,
without making any answer drew a little footstool close to
Huldbrand's chair, sat down upon it with her spinning, and said
pleasantly: "I will work here." The old man did as parents are wont
to do with spoiled children. He affected to observe nothing of
Undine's naughtiness and was beginning to talk of something else.
But this the girl would not let him do; she said: "I have asked our
charming guest whence he comes, and he has not yet answered me."

"I come from the forest, you beautiful little vision," returned
Huldbrand; and she went on to say:--

"Then you must tell me how you came there, for it is usually so
feared, and what marvellous adventures you met with in it, for it is
impossible to escape without something of the sort."

Huldbrand felt a slight shudder at this remembrance, and looked
involuntarily toward the window, for it seemed to him as if one of
the strange figures he had encountered in the forest were grinning
in there; but he saw nothing but the deep dark night, which had now
shrouded everything without. Upon this he composed himself and was
on the point of beginning his little history, when the old man
interrupted him by saying: "Not so, sir knight! this is no fit hour
for such things." Undine, however, sprang angrily from her little
stool, and standing straight before the fisherman with her fair arms
fixed in her sides, she exclaimed: "He shall not tell his story,
father? He shall not? but it is my will. He shall! He shall in spite
of you!" and thus saying she stamped her pretty little foot
vehemently on the floor, but she did it all with such a comically
graceful air that Huldbrand now felt his gaze almost more riveted
upon her in her anger than before in her gentleness.

The restrained wrath of the old man, on the contrary, burst forth
violently. He severely reproved Undine's disobedience and unbecoming
behavior to the stranger, and his good old wife joined with him
heartily. Undine quickly retorted: "If you want to chide me, and
won't do what I wish, then sleep alone in your old smoky hut!" and
swift as an arrow she flew from the room, and fled into the dark



Huldbrand and the fisherman sprang from their seats and were on the
point of following the angry girl. Before they reached the cottage
door, however, Undine had long vanished in the shadowy darkness
without, and not even the sound of her light footstep betrayed the
direction of her flight. Huldbrand looked inquiringly at his host;
it almost seemed to him as if the whole sweet apparition, which had
suddenly merged again into the night, were nothing else than one of
that band of the wonderful forms which had, but a short time since,
carried on their pranks with him in the forest. But the old man
murmured between his teeth: "This is not the first time that she has
treated us in this way. Now we have aching hearts and sleepless eyes
the whole night through; for who knows, that she may not some day
come to harm, if she is thus out alone in the dark until daylight."

"Then let us for God's sake follow her," cried Huldbrand, anxiously.

"What would be the good of it?" replied the old man. "It would be a
sin were I to allow you, all alone, to follow the foolish girl in
the solitary night, and my old limbs would not overtake the wild
runaway, even if we knew in what direction she had gone."

"We had better at any rate call after her, and beg her to come
back," said Huldbrand; and he began to call in the most earnest
manner: "Undine! Undine! Pray come back!" The old man shook his
head, saying, that all that shouting would help but little, for the
knight had no idea how self-willed the little truant was. But still
he could not forbear often calling out with him in the dark night:
"Undine! Ah! dear Undine, I beg you to come back--only this once!"

It turned out, however, as the fisherman had said. No Undine was to
be heard or seen, and as the old man would on no account consent
that Huldbrand should go in search of the fugitive, they were at
last both obliged to return to the cottage. Here they found the fire
on the hearth almost gone out, and the old wife, who took Undine's
flight and danger far less to heart than her husband, had already
retired to rest. The old man blew up the fire, laid some dry wood on
it, and by the light of the flame sought out a tankard of wine,
which he placed between himself and his guest. "You, sir knight,"
said he, "are also anxious about that silly girl, and we would both
rather chatter and drink away a part of the night than keep turning
round on our rush mats trying in vain to sleep. Is it not so?"
Huldbrand was well satisfied with the plan; the fisherman obliged
him to take the seat of honor vacated by the good old housewife, and
both drank and talked together in a manner becoming two honest and
trusting men. It is true, as often as the slightest thing moved
before the windows, or even at times when nothing was moving, one of
the two would look up and say: "She is coming!" Then they would be
silent for a moment or two, and as nothing appeared, they would
shake their heads and sigh and go on with their talk.

As, however, neither could think of anything but of Undine, they
knew of nothing better to do than that the old fisherman should tell
the story, and the knight should hear, in what manner Undine had
first come to the cottage. He therefore began as follows:--

"It is now about fifteen years ago that I was one day crossing the
wild forest with my goods, on my way to the city. My wife had stayed
at home, as her wont is, and at this particular time for a very good
reason, for God had given us, in our tolerably advanced age, a
wonderfully beautiful child. It was a little girl; and a question
already arose between us, whether for the sake of the new-comer, we
would not leave our lovely home that we might better bring up this
dear gift of heaven in some more habitable place. Poor people indeed
cannot do in such cases as you may think they ought, sir knight,
but, with God's blessing, every one must do what he can. Well, the
matter was tolerably in my head as I went along. This slip of land
was so dear to me, and I shuddered when, amid the noise and brawls
of the city, I thought to myself, 'In such scenes as these, or in
one not much more quiet, thou wilt also soon make thy abode!' But at
the same time I did not murmur against the good God; on the
contrary, I thanked him in secret for the new-born babe; I should be
telling a lie, too, were I to say, that on my journey through the
wood, going or returning, anything befell me out of the common way,
and at that time I had never seen any of its fearful wonders. The
Lord was ever with me in those mysterious shades."

As he spoke he took his little cap from his bald head, and remained
for a time occupied with prayerful thoughts; he then covered himself
again, and continued:--

"On this side the forest, alas! a sorrow awaited me. My wife came to
meet me with tearful eyes and clad in mourning. 'Oh! Good God!' I
groaned, 'where is our dear child? speak!'--'With him on whom you
have called, dear husband,' she replied; and we now entered the
cottage together weeping silently. I looked around for the little
corpse, and it was then only that I learned how it had all

"My wife had been sitting with the child on the edge of the lake,
and as she was playing with it, free of all fear and full of
happiness, the little one suddenly bent forward, as if attracted by
something very beautiful in the water. My wife saw her laugh, the
dear angel, and stretch out her little hands; but in a moment she
had sprung out of her mother's arms, and had sunk beneath the watery
mirror. I sought long for our little lost one; but it was all in
vain; there was no trace of her to be found."

"The same evening we, childless parents, were sitting silently
together in the cottage; neither of us had any desire to talk, even
had our tears allowed us. We sat gazing into the fire on the hearth.
Presently, we heard something rustling outside the door: it flew
open, and a beautiful little girl three or four years old, richly
dressed, stood on the threshold smiling at us. We were quite dumb
with astonishment, and I knew not at first whether it were a vision
or a reality. But I saw the water dripping from her golden hair and
rich garments, and I perceived that the pretty child had been lying
in the water, and needed help. 'Wife,' said I, 'no one has been able
to save our dear child; yet let us at any rate do for others what
would have made us so blessed.' We undressed the little one, put her
to bed, and gave her something warm; at all this she spoke not a
word, and only fixed her eyes, that reflected the blue of the lake
and of the sky, smilingly upon us. Next morning we quickly perceived
that she had taken no harm from her wetting, and I now inquired
about her parents, and how she had come here. But she gave a
confused and strange account. She must have been born far from here,
not only because for these fifteen years I have not been able to
find out anything of her parentage, but because she then spoke, and
at times still speaks, of such singular things that such as we are
cannot tell but that she may have dropped upon us from the moon. She
talks of golden castles, of crystal domes, and heaven knows what
besides. The story that she told with most distinctness was, that
she was out in a boat with her mother on the great lake, and fell
into the water, and that she only recovered her senses here under
the trees where she felt herself quite happy on the merry shore. We
had still a great misgiving and perplexity weighing on our heart. We
had, indeed, soon decided to keep the child we had found and to
bring her up in the place of our lost darling; but who could tell us
whether she had been baptized or not? She herself could give us no
information on the matter. She generally answered our questions by
saying that she well knew she was created for Gods praise and glory,
and that she was ready to let us do with her whatever would tend to
His honor and glory."

"My wife and I thought that if she were not baptized, there was no
time for delay, and that if she were, a good thing could not be
repeated too often. And in pursuance of this idea, we reflected upon
a good name for the child, for we now were often at a loss to know
what to call her. We agreed at last that Dorothea would be the most
suitable for her, for I once heard that it meant a gift of God, and
she had surely been sent to us by God as a gift and comfort in our
misery. She, on the other hand, would not hear of this, and told us
that she thought she had been called Undine by her parents, and that
Undine she wished still to be called. Now this appeared to me a
heathenish name, not to be found in any calendar, and I took counsel
therefore of a priest in the city. He also would not hear of the
name of Undine, but at my earnest request he came with me through
the mysterious forest in order to perform the rite of baptism here
in my cottage. The little one stood before us so prettily arrayed
and looked so charming that the priest's heart was at once moved
within him, and she flattered him so prettily, and braved him so
merrily, that at last he could no longer remember the objections he
had had ready against the name of Undine. She was therefore baptized
'Undine,' and during the sacred ceremony she behaved with great
propriety and sweetness, wild and restless as she invariably was at
other times. For my wife was quite right when she said that it has
been hard to put up with her. If I were to tell you"--

The knight interrupted the fisherman to draw his attention to a
noise, as of a rushing flood of waters, which had caught his ear
during the old man's talk, and which now burst against the
cottage-window with redoubled fury. Both sprang to the door. There they
saw, by the light of the now risen moon, the brook which issued from
the wood, widely overflowing its banks, and whirling away stones and
branches of trees in its sweeping course. The storm, as if awakened
by the tumult, burst forth from the mighty clouds which passed
rapidly across the moon; the lake roared under the furious lashing
of the wind; the trees of the little peninsula groaned from root to
topmost bough, and bent, as if reeling, over the surging waters.
"Undine! for Heaven's sake, Undine." cried the two men in alarm. No
answer was returned, and regardless of every other consideration,
they ran out of the cottage, one in this direction, and the other in
that, searching and calling.



The longer Huldbrand sought Undine beneath the shades of night, and
failed to find her, the more anxious and confused did he become.

The idea that Undine had been only a mere apparition of the forest,
again gained ascendancy over him; indeed, amid the howling of the
waves and the tempest, the cracking of the trees, and the complete
transformation of a scene lately so calmly beautiful, he could
almost have considered the whole peninsula with its cottage and its
inhabitants as a mocking illusive vision; but from afar he still
ever heard through the tumult the fisherman's anxious call for
Undine, and the loud praying and singing of his aged wife. At length
he came close to the brink of the swollen stream, and saw in the
moonlight how it had taken its wild course directly in front of the
haunted forest, so as to change the peninsula into an island. "Oh
God!" he thought to himself, "if Undine has ventured a step into
that fearful forest, perhaps in her charming wilfulness, just
because I was not allowed to tell her about it; and now the stream
may be rolling between us, and she may be weeping on the other side
alone, among phantoms and spectres!"

A cry of horror escaped him, and he clambered down some rocks and
overthrown pine-stems, in order to reach the rushing stream and by
wading or swimming to seek the fugitive on the other side. He
remembered all the awful and wonderful things which he had
encountered, even by day, under the now rustling and roaring
branches of the forest. Above all it seemed to him as if a tall man
in white, whom he knew but too well, was grinning and nodding on the
opposite shore; but it was just these monstrous forms which forcibly
impelled him to cross the flood, as the thought seized him that
Undine might be among them in the agonies of death and alone.

He had already grasped the strong branch of a pine, and was standing
supported by it, in the whirling current, against which he could
with difficulty maintain himself; though with a courageous spirit he
advanced deeper into it. Just then a gentle voice exclaimed near
him: "Venture not, venture not, the old man, the stream, is full of
tricks!" He knew the sweet tones; he stood as if entranced beneath
the shadows that duskily shrouded the moon, and his head swam with
the swelling of the waves, which he now saw rapidly rising to his
waist. Still he would not desist.

"If thou art not really there, if thou art only floating about me
like a mist, then may I too cease to live and become a shadow like
thee, dear, dear Undine!" Thus exclaiming aloud, he again stepped
deeper into the stream. "Look round thee, oh! look round thee,
beautiful but infatuated youth!" cried a voice again close beside
him, and looking aside, he saw by the momentarily unveiled moon, a
little island formed by the flood, on which he perceived under the
interweaved branches of the overhanging trees, Undine smiling and
happy, nestling in the flowery grass.

Oh! how much more gladly than before did the young man now use the
aid of his pine-branch!

With a few steps he had crossed the flood which was rushing between
him and the maiden, and he was standing beside her on a little spot
of turf, safely guarded and screened by the good old trees. Undine
had half-raised herself, and now under the green leafy tent she
threw her arms round his neck, and drew him down beside her on her
soft seat.

"You shall tell me your story here, beautiful friend," said she, in
a low whisper; "the cross old people cannot hear us here: and our
roof of leaves is just as good a shelter as their poor cottage."

"It is heaven itself!" said Huldbrand, embracing the beautiful girl
and kissing her fervently.

The old fisherman meanwhile had come to the edge of the stream, and
shouted across to the two young people; "Why, sir knight, I have
received you as one honest-hearted man is wont to receive another,
and now here you are caressing my foster-child in secret, and
letting me run hither and thither through the night in anxious
search of her."

"I have only just found her myself, old father," returned the

"So much the better," said the fisherman; "but now bring her across
to me without delay upon firm ground."

Undine, however, would not hear of this; she declared she would
rather go with the beautiful stranger, into the wild forest itself,
than return to the cottage, where no one did as she wished, and from
which the beautiful knight would himself depart sooner or later.
Then, throwing her arms round Huldbrand, she sang with indescribable

  "A stream ran out of the misty vale
  Its fortunes to obtain,
  the ocean's depths it found a home
  And ne'er returned again."

The old fisherman wept bitterly at her song, but this did not seem
to affect her particularly. She kissed and caressed her new friend,
who at last said to her: "Undine, if the old man's distress does not
touch your heart, it touches mine--let us go back to him."

She opened her large blue eyes in amazement at him, and spoke at
last, slowly and hesitatingly: "If you think so--well, whatever you
think is right to me. But the old man yonder must first promise me
that he will let you, without objection, relate to me what you saw
in the wood, and--well, other things will settle themselves."

"Come, only come," cried the fisherman to her, unable to utter
another word: and at the same time he stretched out his arms far
over the rushing stream toward her, and nodded his head as if to
promise the fulfilment of her request, and as he did this, his white
hair fell strangely over his face, and reminded Huldbrand of the
nodding white man in the forest. Without allowing himself, however,
to grow confused by such an idea the young knight took the beautiful
girl in his arms, and bore her over the narrow passage which the
stream had forced between her little island and the shore.

The old man fell upon Undine's neck and could not satisfy the
exuberance of his joy; his good wife also came up and caressed the
newly-found in the heartiest manner. Not a word of reproach passed
their lips; nor was it thought of, for Undine, forgetting all her
waywardness, almost overwhelmed her foster-parents with affection
and fond expressions.

When at last they had recovered from the excess of their joy, day
had already dawned, and had shed its purple hue over the lake;
stillness had followed the storm, and the little birds were singing
merrily on the wet branches. As Undine now insisted upon hearing the
knight's promised story, the aged couple smilingly and readily
acceded to her desire. Breakfast was brought out under the trees
which screened the cottage from the lake, and they sat down to it
with contented hearts--Undine on the grass at the knight's feet, the
place chosen by herself.

Huldbrand then proceeded with his story.



"It is now about eight days ago since I rode into the free imperial
city, which lies on the other side of the forest. Soon after my
arrival, there was a splendid tournament and running at the ring,
and I spared neither my horse nor my lance. Once when I was pausing
at the lists, to rest after my merry toil, and was handing back my
helmet to one of my squires, my attention was attracted by a female
figure of great beauty, who was standing richly attired on one of
the galleries allotted to spectators."

"I asked my neighbor, and learned from him, that the name of the
fair lady was Bertalda, and that she was the foster-daughter of one
of the powerful dukes living in the country. I remarked that she
also was looking at me, and, as it is wont to be with us young
knights, I had already ridden bravely, and now pursued my course
with renovated confidence and courage. In the dance that evening I
was Bertalda's partner, and I remained so throughout the festival."

A sharp pain in his left hand, which hung down by his side, here
interrupted Huldbrand's narrative, and drew his attention to the
aching part. Undine had fastened her pearly teeth upon one of his
fingers, appearing at the same time very gloomy and angry. Suddenly,
however, she looked up in his eyes with an expression of tender
melancholy, and whispered in a soft voice: "It is your own fault."
Then she hid her face, and the knight, strangely confused and
thoughtful, continued his narrative.

"This Bertalda was a haughty, wayward girl. Even on the second day
she pleased me no longer as she had done on the first, and on the
third day still less. Still I continued about her, because she was
more pleasant to me than to any other knight, and thus it was that I
begged her in jest to give me one of her gloves. 'I will give it you
when you have quite alone explored the ill-famed forest,' said she,
'and can bring me tidings of its wonders.' It was not that her glove
was of such importance to me, but the word had been said, and an
honorable knight would not allow himself to be urged a second time
to such a proof of valor."

"I think she loved you," said Undine, interrupting him.

"It seemed so," replied Huldbrand.

"Well," exclaimed the girl, laughing, "she must be stupid indeed. To
drive away any one dear to her. And moreover, into an ill-omened
wood. The forest and its mysteries might have waited long enough for

"Yesterday morning." continued the knight, smiling kindly at Undine,
"I set out on my enterprise. The stems of the trees caught the red
tints of the morning light which lay brightly on the green turf, the
leaves seemed whispering merrily with each other, and in my heart I
could have laughed at the people who could have expected anything to
terrify them in this pleasant spot. 'I shall soon have trotted
through the forest there and back again,' I said to myself, with a
feeling of easy gayety, and before I had even thought of it I was
deep within the green shades, and could no longer perceive the plain
which lay behind me. Then for the first time it struck me that I
might easily lose my way in the mighty forest, and that this perhaps
was the only danger which the wanderer had to fear. I therefore
paused and looked round in the direction of the sun, which in the
mean while had risen somewhat higher above the horizon. While I was
thus looking up I saw something black in the branches of a lofty
oak. I thought it was a bear and I grasped my sword; but with a
human voice, that sounded harsh and ugly, it called to me from
above: 'If I do not nibble away the branches up here, Sir Malapert,
what shall we have to roast you with at midnight?' And so saying it
grinned and made the branches rustle, so that my horse grew furious
and rushed forward with me before I had time to see what sort of a
devil it really was."

"You must not call it so," said the old fisherman as he crossed
himself; his wife did the same silently. Undine looked at the knight
with sparkling eyes and said: "The best of the story is that they
certainly have not roasted him yet; go on now, you beautiful youth!"

The knight continued his narration: "My horse was so wild that he
almost rushed with me against the stems and branches of trees; he
was dripping with sweat, and yet would not suffer himself to be held
in. At last he went straight in the direction of a rocky precipice;
then it suddenly seemed to me as if a tall white man threw himself
across the path of my wild steed; the horse trembled with fear and
stopped: I recovered my hold of him, and for the first time
perceived that my deliverer was no white man, but a brook of silvery
brightness, rushing down from a hill by my side and crossing and
impeding my horse's course."

"Thanks, dear Brook," exclaimed Undine, clapping her little hands.
The old man, however, shook his head and looked down in deep

"I had scarcely settled myself in the saddle," continued Huldbrand.
"and seized the reins firmly, when a wonderful little man stood at
my side, diminutive, and ugly beyond conception. His complexion was
of a yellowish brown, and his nose not much smaller than the rest of
his entire person. At the same time he kept grinning with stupid
courtesy, exhibiting his huge mouth, and making a thousand scrapes
and bows to me. As this farce was now becoming inconvenient to me, I
thanked him briefly and turned about my still trembling steed,
thinking either to seek another adventure, or in case I met with
none, to find my way back, for during my wild chase the sun had
already passed the meridian; but the little fellow sprang round with
the speed of lightning and stood again before my horse. 'Room!' I
cried, angrily; 'the animal is wild and may easily run over you.'--
'Ay, ay!' snarled the imp, with a grin still more horribly stupid.
'Give me first some drink-money, for I have stopped your horse;
without me you and your horse would be now both lying in the stony
ravine; ugh!'--'Don't make any more faces,' said I, 'and take your
money, even if you are telling lies; for see, it was the good brook
there that saved me, and not you, you miserable wight! And at the
same time I dropped a piece of gold into his grotesque cap, which he
had taken off in his begging. I then trotted on; but he screamed
after me, and suddenly with inconceivable quickness was at my side.
I urged my horse into a gallop; the imp ran too, making at the same
time strange contortions with his body, half-ridiculous, half-horrible,
and holding up the gold-piece, he cried, at every leap,
'False money!, false coin!, false coin!, false money!'--and this he
uttered with such a hollow sound that one would have supposed that
after every scream he would have fallen dead to the ground."

"His horrid red tongue moreover hung far out of his mouth. I
stopped, perplexed, and asked: 'What do you mean by this screaming?
take another piece of gold, take two, but leave me.' He then began
again his hideous burlesque of politeness, and snarled out: 'Not
gold, not gold, my young gentleman. I have too much of that trash
myself, as I will show you at once?'"

"Suddenly it seemed to me as if I could see through the solid soil
as though it were green glass and the smooth earth were as round as
a ball; and within, a multitude of goblins were ranking sport with
silver and gold; head over heels they were rolling about, pelting
each other in jest with the precious metals, and provokingly blowing
the gold-dust in each other's eyes. My hideous companion stood
partly within and partly without; he ordered the others to reach him
up heaps of gold, and showing it to me with a laugh, he then flung
it back again with a ringing noise into the immeasurable abyss."

"He then showed the piece of gold I had given him to the goblins
below, and they laughed themselves half-dead over it and hissed at
me. At last they all pointed at me with their metal-stained fingers,
and more and more wildly, and more and more densely, and more and
more madly, the swarm of spirits came clambering up to me. I was
seized with terror as my horse had been before: I put spurs to him,
and I know not how far I galloped for the second time wildly into
the forest."

"At length, when I again halted, the coolness of evening was around
me. Through the branches of the trees I saw a white foot-path
gleaming, which I fancied must lead from the forest toward the city.
I was anxious to work my way in that direction; but a face perfectly
white and indistinct, with features ever changing, kept peering at
me between the leaves; I tried to avoid it, but wherever I went it
appeared also. Enraged at this, I determined at last to ride at it,
when it gushed forth volumes of foam upon me and my horse, obliging
us half-blinded to make a rapid retreat. Thus it drove us step by
step ever away from the foot-path, leaving the way open to us only
in one direction. When we advanced in this direction, it kept indeed
close behind us, but did not do us the slightest harm."

"Looking around at it occasionally, I perceived that the white face
that had besprinkled us with foam belonged to a form equally white
and of gigantic stature. Many a time I thought that it was a moving
stream, but I could never convince myself on the subject. Wearied
out, the horse and his rider yielded to the impelling power of the
white man, who kept nodding his head, as if he would say, 'Quite
right, quite right!' And thus at last we came out here to the end of
the forest, where I saw the turf, and the lake, and your little
cottage, and where the tall white man disappeared."

"It's well that he's gone," said the old fisherman; and now he began
to talk of the best way by which his guest could return to his
friends in the city. Upon this Undine began to laugh slyly to
herself; Huldbrand observed it, and said: "I thought you were glad
to see me here; why then do you now rejoice when my departure is
talked of?"

"Because you cannot go away," replied Undine. "Just try it once, to
cross that overflowed forest stream with a boat, with your horse, or
alone, as you may fancy. Or rather don't try it, for you would be
dashed to pieces by the stones and trunks of trees which are carried
down by it with the speed of lightning. And as to the lake, I know
it well; father dare not venture out far enough with his boat."

Huldbrand rose, smiling, in order to see whether things were as
Undine had said; the old man accompanied him, and the girl danced
merrily along by their side. They found every thing, indeed, as
Undine had described, and the knight was obliged to submit to remain
on the little tongue of land, that had become an island, till the
flood should subside. As the three were returning to the cottage
after their ramble, the knight whispered in the ear of the little
maiden "Well, how is it, my pretty Undine--are you angry at my

"Ah!" she replied, peevishly, "let me alone. If I had not bitten
you, who knows how much of Bertalda would have appeared in your



After having been much driven to and fro in the world, you have
perhaps, my dear reader, reached at length some spot where all was
well with thee; where the love for home and its calm peace, innate
to all, has again sprung up within thee; where thou hast thought
that this home was rich with all the flowers of childhood and of the
purest, deepest love that rests upon the graves of those that are
gone, and thou hast felt it must be good to dwell here and to build
habitations. Even if thou hast erred in this, and hast had afterward
bitterly to atone for the error, that is nothing to the purpose now,
and thou wouldst not, indeed, voluntarily sadden thyself with the
unpleasant recollection. But recall that inexpressibly sweet
foreboding, that angelic sense of peace, and thou wilt know somewhat
of the knight Huldbrand's feelings during his abode on the little

He often perceived with hearty satisfaction that the forest stream
rolled along every day more wildly, making its bed ever broader and
broader, and prolonging his sojourn on the island to an indefinite
period. Part of the day he rambled about with an old cross-bow,
which he had found in a corner of the cottage and had repaired; and,
watching for the water-fowl, he killed all that he could for the
cottage kitchen. When he brought his booty home, Undine rarely
neglected to upbraid him with having so cruelly deprived the happy
birds of life; indeed she often wept bitterly at the sight he placed
before her. But if he came home another time without having shot
anything she scolded him no less seriously, since now, from his
carelessness and want of skill, they had to be satisfied with living
on fish. He always delighted heartily in her graceful little
scoldings, all the more as she generally strove to compensate for
her ill-humor by the sweetest caresses.

The old people took pleasure in the intimacy of the young pair; they
regarded them as betrothed, or even as already united in marriage,
and living on this isolated spot, as a succor and support to them in
their old age. It was this same sense of seclusion that suggested
the idea also to Huldbrand's mind that he was already Undine's
accepted one. He felt as if there were no world beyond these
surrounding waters, or as if he could never recross them to mingle
with other men; and when at times his grazing horse would neigh as
if inquiringly to remind him of knightly deeds, or when the coat of
arms on his embroidered saddle and horse-gear shone sternly upon
him, or when his beautiful sword would suddenly fall from the nail
on which it was hanging in the cottage, gliding from the scabbard as
it fell, he would quiet the doubts of his mind by saving: "Undine is
no fisherman's daughter; she belongs in all probability to some
illustrious family abroad." There was only one thing to which he had
a strong aversion, and this was, when the old dame reproved Undine
in his presence. The wayward girl, it is true, laughed at it for the
most part, without attempting to conceal her mirth; but it seemed to
him as if his honor were concerned, and yet he could not blame the
old fisherman's wife, for Undine always deserved at least ten times
as many reproofs as she received; so, in his heart he felt the
balance in favor of the old woman, and his whole life flowed onward
in calm enjoyment.

There came, however, an interruption at last. The fisherman and the
knight had been accustomed at their mid-day meal, and also in the
evening when the wind roared without, as it was always wont to do
toward night, to enjoy together a flask of wine. But now the store
which the fisherman had from time to time brought with him from the
town, was exhausted, and the two men were quite out of humor in

Undine laughed at them excessively all day, but they were neither of
them merry enough to join in her jests as usual. Toward evening she
went out of the cottage to avoid, as she said, two such long and
tiresome faces. As twilight advanced, there were again tokens of a
storm, and the water rushed and roared. Full of alarm, the knight
and the fisherman sprang to the door, to bring home the girl,
remembering the anxiety of that night when Huldbrand had first come
to the cottage. Undine, however, met them, clapping her little hands
with delight. "What will you give me," she said, "to provide you
with wine?" or rather, "you need not give me anything," she
continued, "for I am satisfied if you will look merrier and be in
better spirits than you have been throughout this whole wearisome
day. Only come with me; the forest stream has driven ashore a cask,
and I will be condemned to sleep through a whole week if it is not a
wine-cask." The men followed her, and in a sheltered creek on the
shore, they actually found a cask, which inspired them with the hope
that it contained the generous drink for which they were thirsting.

They at once rolled it as quickly as possible toward the cottage,
for the western sky was overcast with heavy storm-clouds, and they
could observe in the twilight the waves of the lake raising their
white, foaming heads, as if looking out for the rain which was
presently to pour down upon them. Undine helped the men as much as
she was able, and when the storm of rain suddenly burst over them,
she said, with a merry threat to the heavy clouds: "Come, come, take
care that you don't wet us; we are still some way from shelter." The
old man reproved her for this, as simple presumption, but she
laughed softly to herself, and no mischief befell any one in
consequence of her levity. Nay, more: contrary to all expectation,
they reached the comfortable hearth with their booty perfectly dry,
and it was not till they had opened the cask, and had proved that it
contained some wonderfully excellent wine, that the rain burst forth
from the dark cloud, and the storm raged among the tops of the
trees, and over the agitated billows of the lake.

Several bottles were soon filled from the great cask, which promised
a supply for many days, and they were sitting drinking and jesting
round the glowing fire, feeling comfortably secured from the raging
storm without. Suddenly the old fisherman became very grave and
said: "Ah, great God! here we are rejoicing over this rich treasure,
and he to whom it once belonged, and of whom the floods have robbed
it, has probably lost this precious life in their waters."

"That he has not," declared Undine, as she smilingly filled the
knight's cup to the brim.

But Huldbrand replied: "By my honor, old father, if I knew where to
find and to rescue him, no knightly errand and no danger would I
shirk. So much, however, I can promise you, that if ever again I
reach more inhabited lands, I will find out the owner of this wine
or his heirs, and requite it twofold, nay, threefold."

This delighted the old man; he nodded approvingly to the knight, and
drained his cup with a better conscience and greater pleasure.

Undine, however, said to Huldbrand: "Do as you will with your gold
and your reimbursement; but you spoke foolishly about the venturing
out in search; I should cry my eyes out, if you were lost in the
attempt, and isn't it true, that you would yourself rather stay with
me and the good wine."

"Yes, indeed," answered Huldbrand, smiling.

"Then," said Undine, "you spoke unwisely. For charity begins at
home, and what do other people concern us?"

The old woman turned away sighing and shaking her head; the
fisherman forgot his wonted affection for the pretty girl and
scolded her.

"It sounds exactly," said he, as he finished his reproof, "as if
Turks and heathens had brought you up; may God forgive both me and
you, you spoiled child."

"Well," replied Undine, "for all that, it is what I feel, let who
will hate brought me up, and all your words can't help that."

"Silence!" exclaimed the fisherman, and Undine, who, in spite of her
pertness, was exceedingly fearful, shrank from him, and moving
tremblingly toward Huldbrand, asked him in a soft tone: "Are you
also angry, dear friend?"

The knight pressed her tender hand and stroked her hair. He could
say nothing, for vexation at the old man's severity toward Undine
closed his lips: and thus the two couples sat opposite to each
other, with angry feelings and embarrassed silence.



A low knocking at the door was heard in the midst of this stillness,
startling all the inmates of the cottage; for there are times when a
little circumstance, happening quite unexpectedly, can unduly alarm
us. But there was here the additional cause of alarm that the
enchanted forest lay so near, and that the little promontory seemed
just now inaccessible to human beings. They looked at each other
doubtingly, as the knocking was repeated accompanied by a deep
groan, and the knight sprang to reach his sword. But the old man
whispered softly: "If it be what I fear, no weapon will help us."

Undine meanwhile approached the door and called out angrily and
boldly: "Spirits of the earth, if you wish to carry on your
mischief, Kuhleborn shall teach you something better."

The terror of the rest was increased by these mysterious words; they
looked fearfully at the girl, and Huldbrand was just regaining
courage enough to ask what she meant, when a voice said without: "I
am no spirit of the earth, but a spirit indeed still within its
earthly body. You within the cottage, if you fear God and will help
me, open to me." At these words, Undine had already opened the door,
and had held a lamp out in the stormy night, by which they perceived
an aged priest standing there, who stepped back in terror at the
unexpected sight of the beautiful maiden. He might well think that
witchcraft and magic were at work when such a lovely form appeared
at such an humble cottage door: he therefore began to pray: "All
good spirits praise the Lord!"

"I am no spectre," said Undine, smiling; "do I then look so ugly?
Besides you may see the holy words do not frighten me. I too know of
God and understand how to praise Him; every one to be sure in his
own way, for so He has created us. Come in, venerable father; you
come among good people."

The holy man entered, bowing and looking round him, with a profound,
yet tender demeanor. But the water was dropping from every fold of
his dark garment, and from his long white beard and from his gray
locks. The fisherman and the knight took him to another apartment
and furnished him with other clothes, while they gave the women his
own wet attire to dry. The aged stranger thanked them humbly and
courteously, but he would on no account accept the knight's splendid
mantle, which was offered to him; but he chose instead an old gray
overcoat belonging to the fisherman. They then returned to the
apartment, and the good old dame immediately vacated her easy-chair
for the reverend father, and would not rest till he had taken
possession of it. "For," said she, "you are old and exhausted, and
you are moreover a man of God." Undine pushed under the stranger's
feet her little stool, on which she had been wont to sit by the side
of Huldbrand, and she showed herself in every way most gentle and
kind in her care of the good old man. Huldbrand whispered some
raillery at it in her ear, but she replied very seriously: "He is a
servant of Him who created us all; holy things are not to be jested
with." The knight and the fisherman then refreshed their reverend
guest with food and wine, and when he had somewhat recovered
himself, he began to relate how he had the day before set out from
his cloister, which lay far beyond the great lake, intending to
travel to the bishop, in order to acquaint him with the distress
into which the monastery and its tributary villages had fallen on
account of the extraordinary floods.

After a long, circuitous route, which these very floods had obliged
him to take, he had been this day compelled, toward evening, to
procure the aid of a couple of good boatmen to cross an arm of the
lake, which had overflowed its banks.

"Scarcely however," continued he, "had our small craft touched the
waves, than that furious tempest burst forth which is now raging
over our heads. It seemed as if the waters had only waited for us,
to commence their wildest whirling dance with our little boat. The
oars were soon torn out of the hands of my men, and were dashed by
the force of the waves further and further beyond our reach. We
ourselves, yielding to the resistless powers of nature, helplessly
drifted over the surging billows of the lake toward your distant
shore, which we already saw looming through the mist and foam.
Presently our boat turned round and round as in a giddy whirlpool; I
know not whether it was upset, or whether I fell overboard. In a
vague terror of inevitable death I drifted on, till a wave cast me
here, under the trees on your island."

"Yes, island!" cried the fisherman; "a short time ago it was only a
point of land; but now, since the forest-stream and the lake have
become well-nigh bewitched, things are quite different with us."

"I remarked something of the sort," said the priest, "as I crept
along the shore in the dark, and hearing nothing but the uproar
around me. I at last perceived that a beaten foot-path disappeared
just in the direction from which the sound proceeded. I now saw the
light in your cottage, and ventured hither, and I cannot
sufficiently thank my heavenly Father that after preserving me from
the waters, He has led me to such good and pious people as you are;
and I feel this all the more, as I do not know whether I shall ever
behold any other beings is this world, except those I now address."

"What do you mean?" asked the fisherman.

"Do you know then how long this commotion of the elements is to
last?" replied the holy man. "And I am old in years. Easily enough
may the stream of my life run itself out before the overflowing of
the forest-stream may subside. And indeed it were not impossible
that more and more of the foaming waters may force their way between
you and yonder forest, until you are so far sundered from the rest
of the world that your little fishing-boat will no longer be
sufficient to carry you across, and the inhabitants of the continent
in the midst of their diversions will have entirely forgotten you in
your old age."

The fisherman's wife started at this, crossed herself and exclaimed.
"God forbid." But her husband looked at her with a smile, and said
"What creatures we are after all! even were it so, things would not
be very different--at least not for you, dear wife--than they now
are. For have you for many years been further than the edge of the
forest? and have you seen any other human beings than Undine and
myself? The knight and this holy man have only come to as lately.
They will remain with us if we do become a forgotten island; so you
would even be a gainer by it after all."

"I don't know," said the old woman; "it is somehow a gloomy thought,
when one imagines that one is irrecoverably separated from other
people, although, were it otherwise, one might neither know nor see

"Then you will remain with us! then you will remain with us!"
whispered Undine, in a low, half-singing tone, as she nestled closer
to Huldbrand's side. But he was absorbed in the deep and strange
visions of his own mind.

The region on the other side of the forest-river seemed to dissolve
into distance during the priest's last words: and the blooming
island upon which he lived grew more green, and smiled more freshly
in his mind's vision. His beloved one glowed as the fairest rose of
this little spot of earth, and even of the whole world, and the
priest was actually there. Added to this, at that moment an angry
glance from the old dame was directed at the beautiful girl,
because even in the presence of the reverend father she leaned so
closely on the knight, and it seemed as if a torrent of reproving
words were on the point of following. Presently, turning to the
priest, Huldbrand broke forth: "Venerable father, you see before you
here a pair pledged to each other: and if this maiden and these good
old people have no objection, you shall unite us this very evening."
The aged couple were extremely surprised. They had, it is true,
hitherto often thought of something of the sort, but they had never
yet expressed it, and when the knight now spoke thus, it came upon
them as something wholly new and unprecedented.

Undine had become suddenly grave, and looked down thoughtfully while
the priest inquired respecting the circumstances of the case, and
asked if the old people gave their consent. After much discussion
together, the matter was settled; the old dame went to arrange the
bridal chamber for the young people, and to look out two consecrated
tapers which she had had in her possession for some time, and which
she thought essential to the nuptial ceremony. The knight in the
mean while examined his gold chain, from which he wished to
disengage two rings, that he might make an exchange of them with his

She, however, observing what he was doing, started up from her
reverie, and exclaimed: "Not so! my parents have not sent me into
the world quite destitute; on the contrary, they must have
anticipated with certainty that such an evening as this would come."
Thus saving, she quickly left the room and reappeared in a moment
with two costly rings, one of which she gave to her bridegroom, and
kept the other for herself. The old fisherman was extremely
astonished at this, and still more so his wife, who just then
entered, for neither had ever seen these jewels in the child's

"My parents," said Undine, "sewed these little things into the
beautiful frock which I had on, when I came to you. They forbid me,
moreover, to mention them to anyone before my wedding evening, so I
secretly took them, and kept them concealed until now."

The priest interrupted all further questionings by lighting the
consecrated tapers, which he placed upon a table, and summoned the
bridal pair to stand opposite to him. He then gave them to each
other with a few short solemn words; the elder couple gave their
blessing to the younger, and the bride, trembling and thoughtful,
leaned upon the knight. Then the priest suddenly said: "You are
strange people after all. Why did you tell me you were the only
people here on the island? and during the whole ceremony, a tall
stately man, in a white mantle, has been looking at me through the
window opposite. He must still be standing before the door, to see
if you will invite him to come into the house."

"God forbid," said the old dame with a start; the fisherman shook
his head in silence, and Huldbrand sprang to the window. It seemed
even to him as if he could still see a white streak, but it soon
completely disappeared in the darkness. He convinced the priest that
he must have been absolutely mistaken, and they all sat down
together round the hearth.



Both before and during the ceremony, Undine had shown herself gentle
and quiet; but it now seemed as if all the wayward humors which
rioted within her, burst forth all the more boldly and unrestrainedly.
She teased her bridegroom and her foster-parents, and even the
holy man whom she had so lately reverenced, with all sorts of
childish tricks; and when the old woman was about to reprove her,
she was quickly silenced by a few grave words from the knight,
speaking of Undine now as his wife. Nevertheless, the knight
himself was equally little pleased with Undine's childish behavior:
but no signs, and no reproachful words were of any avail. It is
true, whenever the bride noticed her husband's dissatisfaction--and
this occurred occasionally--she became more quiet, sat down by his
side, caressed him, whispered something smilingly into his ear, and
smoothed the wrinkles that were gathering on his brow. But
immediately afterward, some wild freak would again lead her to
return to her ridiculous proceedings, and matters would be worse
than before. At length the priest said in a serious and kind tone:
"My fair young maiden, no one indeed can look at you without
delight; but remember so to attune your soul betimes, that it may
ever harmonize with that of your wedded husband."

"Soul!" said Undine, laughing; "that sounds pretty enough, and may
be a very edifying and useful caution for most people. But when one
hasn't a soul at all, I beg you, what is there to attune then? and
that is my case." The priest was silent and deeply wounded, and with
holy displeasure he turned his face from the girl. She, however,
went up to him caressingly, and said: "No! listen to me first,
before you look angry, for your look of anger gives me pain, and you
must not give pain to any creature who has done you no wrong--only
have patience with me, and I will tell you properly what I mean."

It was evident that she was preparing herself to explain something
in detail, but suddenly she hesitated, as if seized with an inward
shuddering, and burst out into a flood of tears. They none of them
knew what to make of this ebullition, and filled with various
apprehensions they gazed at her in silence. At length, wiping away
her tears, and looking earnestly at the reverend man, she said:
"There must be something beautiful, but at the same time extremely
awful, about a soul. Tell me, holy sir, were it not better that we
never shared such a gift?" She was silent again as if waiting for an
answer, and her tears had ceased to flow. All in the cottage had
risen from their seats and had stepped back from her with horror.
She, however, seemed to have eyes for no one but the holy man; her
features wore an expression of fearful curiosity, which appeared
terrible to those who saw her. "The soul must be a heavy burden,"
she continued, as no one answered her, "very heavy! for even its
approaching image overshadows me with anxiety and sadness. And, ah!
I was so light-hearted and so merry till now!" And she burst into a
fresh flood of tears, and covered her face with the drapery she
wore. Then the priest went up to her with a solemn air, and spoke to
her, and conjured her by the name of the Most Holy to cast aside the
veil that enveloped her, if any spirit of evil possessed her. But
she sank on her knees before him, repeating all the sacred words he
uttered, praising God, and protesting that she wished well with the
whole world.

Then at last the priest said to the knight: "Sir bridegroom, I will
leave you alone with her whom I have united to you in marriage. So
far as I can discover there is nothing of evil in her, but much
indeed that is mysterious. I commend to you--prudence, love, and
fidelity." So saying, he went out, and the fisherman and his wife
followed him, crossing themselves.

Undine had sunk on her knees: she unveiled her face and said,
looking timidly round on Huldbrand: "Alas! you will surely now not
keep me as your own; and yet I have done no evil, poor child that I
am!" As she said this, she looked so exquisitely graceful and
touching, that her bridegroom forgot all the horror he had felt, and
all the mystery that clung to her, and hastening to her he raised
her in his arms. She smiled through her tears; it was a smile like
the morning-light playing on a little stream.

"You cannot leave me," she whispered, with confident security,
stroking the knight's cheek with her tender hand. Huldbrand tried to
dismiss the fearful thoughts that still lurked in the background of
his mind, persuading him that he was married to a fairy or to some
malicious and mischievous being of the spirit world, only the single
question half unawares escaped his lips: "My little Undine, tell me
this one thing, what was it you said of spirits of the earth and of
Kuhleborn, when the priest knocked at the door?"

"It was nothing but fairy tales!--children's fairy tales!" said
Undine, with all her wonted gayety; "I frightened you at first with
them, and then you frightened me, that's the end of our story and of
our nuptial evening."

"Nay! that it isn't," said the knight, intoxicated with love, and
extinguishing the tapers, he bore his beautiful beloved to the
bridal chamber by the light of the moon which shone brightly through
the windows.



The fresh light of the morning awoke the young married pair.
Wonderful and horrible dreams had disturbed Huldbrand's rest; he had
been haunted by spectres, who, grinning at him by stealth, had tried
to disguise themselves as beautiful women, and from beautiful women
they all at once assumed the faces of dragons, and when he started
up from these hideous visions, the moonlight shone pale and cold
into the room; terrified he looked at Undine, who still lay in
unaltered beauty and grace. Then he would press a light kiss upon
her rosy lips, and would fall asleep again only to be awakened by
new terrors. After he had reflected on all this, now that he was
fully awake, he reproached himself for any doubt that could have led
him into error with regard to his beautiful wife. He begged her to
forgive him for the injustice he had done her, but she only held out
to him her fair hand, sighed deeply, and remained silent. But a
glance of exquisite fervor beamed from her eyes such as he had never
seen before, carrying with it the full assurance that Undine bore
him no ill-will. He then rose cheerfully and left her, to join his
friends in the common apartment.

He found the three sitting round the hearth, with an air of anxiety
about them, as if they dared not venture to speak aloud. The priest
seemed to be praying in his inmost spirit that all evil might be
averted. When, however, they saw the young husband come forth so
cheerfully the careworn expression of their faces vanished.

The old fisherman even began to jest with the knight, so pleasantly,
that the aged wife smiled good-humoredly as she listened to them.
Undine at length made her appearance. All rose to meet her and all
stood still with surprise, for the young wife seemed so strange to
them and yet the same. The priest was the first to advance toward
her with paternal arms affection beaming in his face, and, as he
raised his hand to bless her, the beautiful woman sank reverently on
her knees before him. With a few humble and gracious words she
begged him to forgive her for any foolish things she might have said
the evening before, and entreated him in an agitated tone to pray
for the welfare of her soul. She then rose, kissed her foster-parents,
and thanking them for all the goodness they had shown her,
she exclaimed: "Oh! I now feel in my innermost heart, how much, how
infinitely much, you have done for me, dear, kind people!" She could
not at first desist from her caresses, but scarcely had she
perceived that the old woman was busy in preparing breakfast, than
she went to the hearth, cooked and arranged the meal, and would not
suffer the good old mother to take the least trouble.

She continued thus throughout the whole day, quiet, kind, and
attentive--at once a little matron and a tender, bashful girl. The
three who had known her longest expected every moment to see some
whimsical vagary of her capricious spirit burst forth. But they
waited in vain for it. Undine remained as mild and gentle as an
angel. The holy father could not take his eyes from her, and he said
repeatedly to the bridegroom: "The goodness of heaven, sir, has
intrusted a treasure to you yesterday through me, unworthy as I am;
cherish it as you ought, and it will promote your temporal and
eternal welfare."

Toward evening Undine was hanging on the knight's arm with humble
tenderness, and drew him gently out of the door, where the declining
sun was shining pleasantly on the fresh grass, and upon the tall,
slender stems of the trees. The eyes of the young wife were moist,
as with the dew of sadness and love, and a tender and fearful secret
seemed hovering on her lips, which, however, was only disclosed by
scarcely audible sighs. She led her husband onward and onward in
silence; when he spoke, she only answered him with looks, in which,
it is true, there lay no direct reply to his inquiries, but whole
heaven of love and timid devotion. Thus they reached the edge of the
swollen forest stream, and the knight was astonished to see it
rippling along in gentle waves, without a trace of its former
wildness and swell. "By the morning it will be quite dry," said the
beautiful wife, in a regretful tone, "and you can then travel away
wherever you will, without anything to hinder you."

"Not without you, my little Undine," replied the knight, laughing:
"remember, even if I wished to desert you, the church, and the
spiritual powers, and the emperor, and the empire would interpose
and bring the fugitive back again."

"All depends upon you, all depends upon you," whispered his wife,
half-weeping and half-smiling. "I think, however, nevertheless, that
you will keep me with you: I love you so heartily. Now carry me
across to that little island that lies before us. The matter shall
be decided there. I could easily indeed glide through the rippling
waves, but it is so restful in your arms, and if you were to cast me
off, I shall have sweetly rested in them once more for the last
time." Huldbrand, full as he was of strange fear and emotion, knew
not what to reply. He took her in his arms and carried her across,
remembering now for the first time that this was the same little
island from which he had borne her back to the old fisherman on that
first night. On the further side he put her down on the soft grass,
and was on the point of placing himself lovingly near his beautiful
burden, when she said: "No, there opposite to me! I will read my
sentence in your eyes, before your lips speak; now, listen
attentively to what I will relate to you." And she began:--

"You must know, my loved one, that there are beings in the elements
which almost appear like mortals, and which rarely allow themselves
to become visible to your race. Wonderful salamanders glitter and
sport in the flames; lean and malicious gnomes dwell deep within the
earth; spirits, belonging to the air, wander through the forests,
and a vast family of water-spirits live in the lakes, and streams,
and brooks. In resounding domes of crystal, through which the sky
looks in with its sun and stars, these latter spirits find their
beautiful abode; lofty trees of coral with blue and crimson fruits
gleam in their gardens; they wander over the pure sand of the sea,
and among lovely variegated shells, and amid all exquisite treasures
of the old world, which the present is no longer worthy to enjoy;
all these the floods have covered with their secret veils of silver,
and the noble monuments sparkle below, stately and solemn, and
bedewed by the loving waters which allure from them many a beautiful
moss-flower and entwining cluster of sea-grass. Those, however, who
dwell there are very fair and lovely to behold, and for the most
part are more beautiful than human beings. Many a fisherman has been
so fortunate as to surprise some tender mermaid as she rose above
the waters and sang. He would tell afar of her beauty, and such
wonderful beings have been given the name of Undines. You, however,
are now actually beholding an Undine."

The knight tried to persuade himself that his beautiful wife was
under the spell of one of her strange humors, and that she was
taking pleasure in teasing him with one of her extravagant
inventions. But repeatedly as he said this to himself, he could not
believe it for a moment; a strange shudder passed through him;
unable to utter a word, he stared at the beautiful narrator with an
immovable gaze. Undine shook her head sorrowfully, drew a deep sigh,
and then proceeded as follows:--

"Our condition would be far superior to that of other human
beings--for human beings we call ourselves, being similar to them in form
and culture--but there is one evil peculiar to us. We and our like
in the other elements, vanish into dust and pass away, body and
spirit, so that not a vestige of us remains behind; and when you
mortals hereafter awake to a purer life, we remain with the sand and
the sparks and the wind and the waves. Hence we have also no souls;
the element moves us, and is often obedient to us while we live,
though it scatters us to dust when we die; and we are merry, without
having aught to grieve us--merry as the nightingales and the little
gold-fishes and other pretty children of nature. But all things
aspire to be higher than they are. Thus, my father, who is a
powerful water-prince in the Mediterranean Sea, desired that his
only daughter should become possessed of a soul, even though she
must then endure many of the sufferings of those thus endowed. Such
as we are, however, can only obtain a soul by the closest union of
affection with one of your human race. I am now possessed of a soul,
and my soul thanks you, my inexpressibly beloved one, and it will
ever thank you, if you do not make my whole life miserable. For what
is to become of me, if you avoid and reject me? Still, I would not
retain you by deceit. And if you mean to reject me, do so now, and
return alone to the shore. I will dive into this brook, which is my
uncle; and here in the forest, far removed from other friends, he
passes his strange and solitary life. He is, however, powerful, and
is esteemed and beloved by many great streams; and as he brought me
hither to the fisherman, a light-hearted, laughing child, he will
take me back again to my parents, a loving, suffering, and
soul-endowed woman."

She was about to say still more, but Huldbrand embraced her with the
most heartfelt emotion and love, and bore her back again to the
shore. It was not till he reached it, that he swore amid tears and
kisses, never to forsake his sweet wife, calling himself more happy
than the Greek Pygmalion, whose beautiful statue received life from
Venus and became his loved one. In endearing confidence, Undine
walked back to the cottage, leaning on his arm; feeling now for the
first time, with all her heart, how little she ought to regret the
forsaken crystal palaces of her mysterious father.



When Huldbrand awoke from his sleep on the following morning, and
missed his beautiful wife from his side, he began to indulge again
in the strange thoughts, that his marriage and the charming Undine
herself were but fleeting and deceptive illusions. But at the same
moment she entered the room, sat down beside him, and said: "I have
been out rather early to see if my uncle keeps his word. He has
already led all the waters back again into his own calm channel, and
he now flows through the forest, solitarily and dreamily as before.
His friends in the water and the air have also returned to repose:
all will again go on quietly and regularly, and you can travel
homeward when you will, dry-shod." It seemed to Huldbrand as though
he were in a waking dream, so little could he reconcile himself to
the strange relationship of his wife. Nevertheless he made no
remark on the matter, and the exquisite grace of his bride soon
lulled to rest every uneasy misgiving. When he was afterward
standing before the door with her, and looking over the green
peninsula with its boundary of clear waters, he felt so happy
in this cradle of his love, that he exclaimed: "Why shall we
travel so soon as to-day? We shall scarcely find more pleasant days
in the world yonder than those we have spent in this quiet little
shelter. Let us yet see the sun go down here twice or thrice more."

"As my lord wills," replied Undine, humbly. "It is only that the old
people will, at all events, part from me with pain, and when they
now for the first time perceive the true soul within me, and how I
can now heartily love and honor, their feeble eyes will be dimmed
with plentiful tears. At present they consider my quietness and
gentleness of no better promise than before, like the calmness of
the lake when the air is still; and, as matters now are, they will
soon learn to cherish a flower or a tree as they have cherished me.
Do not, therefore, let me reveal to them this newly-bestowed and
loving heart, just at the moment when they must lose it for this
world; and how could I conceal it, if we remain longer together?"

Huldbrand conceded the point; he went to the aged people and talked
with them over the journey, which he proposed to undertake
immediately. The holy father offered to accompany the young married
pair, and, after a hasty farewell, he and the knight assisted the
beautiful bride to mount her horse, and walked with rapid step by
her side over the dry channel of the forest-stream into the wood
beyond. Undine wept silently but bitterly, and the old people gave
loud expression to their grief. It seemed as if they had a
presentiment of all they were now losing in their foster-child.

The three travellers had reached in silence the densest shades of
the forest. It must have been a fair sight, under that green canopy
of leaves, to see Undine's lovely form, as she sat on her noble and
richly ornamented steed, with the venerable priest in the white garb
of his order on one side of her, and on the other the blooming young
knight in his gay and splendid attire, with his sword at his girdle.
Huldbrand had no eyes but for his beautiful wife Undine, who had
dried her tears, had no eyes but for him, and they soon fell into a
mute, voiceless converse of glance and gesture, from which they were
only roused at length by the low talking of the reverend father with
a fourth traveller, who in the mean while had joined them

He wore a white garment almost resembling the dress of the priests
order, except that his hood hung low over his face, and his whole
attire floated round him in such vast folds that he was obliged
every moment to gather it up, and throw it over his arm, or dispose
of it in some way, and yet it did not in the least seem to impede
his movements. When the young couple first perceived him, he was
just saying "And so, venerable sir. I have now dwelt for many years
here in the forest, and yet no one could call me a hermit, in your
sense of the word. For, as I said, I know nothing of penance, and I
do not think I have any especial need of it. I lose the forest only
for this reason, that its beauty is quite peculiar to itself, and it
amuses me to pass along in my flowing white garments among the eases
and dusky shadows, while now and then a sweet sunbeam shines down
unexpectedly upon me."

"You are a very strange man," replied the priest, "and I should like
to be more closely acquainted with you."

"And to pass from one thing to another, who may you be yourself?"
asked the stranger.

"I am called Father Heilmann," said the holy man; "and I come from
the monastery of 'our Lady' which lies on the other side of the

"Indeed," replied the stranger; "my name is Kuhleborn, and so far as
courtesy is concerned I might claim the title of Lord of Kuhleborn,
or free Lord of Kuhleborn; for I am as free as the birds in the
forest and perhaps a little more so. For example, I have now
something to say to the young lady there." And before they were
aware of his intention, he was at the other side of the priest,
close beside Undine, stretching himself up to whisper something in
her ear.

But she turned from him with alarm, and exclaimed: "I have nothing
more to do with you."

"Ho, ho," laughed the stranger, "what is this immensely grand
marriage you have made, that you don't know your own relations any
longer? Have you forgotten your uncle Kuhleborn, who so faithfully
bore you on his back through this region?"

"I beg you, nevertheless," replied Undine, "not to appear in my
presence again. I am now afraid of you; and suppose my husband
should learn to avoid me when he sees me in such strange company and
with such relations!"

"My little niece," said Kuhleborn, "you must not forget that I am
with you here as a guide; the spirits of earth that haunt this place
might otherwise play some of their stupid pranks with you. Let me
therefore go quietly on with you; the old priest there remembered me
better than you appear to have done, for he assured me just now that
I seemed familiar to him, and that I must have been with him in the
boat, out of which he fell into the water. I was so, truly enough;
for I was the water-spout that carried him out of it and washed him
safely ashore for your wedding."

Undine and the knight turned toward Father Heilmann; but he seemed
walking on, as in a sort of dream, and no longer to be conscious of
all that was passing. Undine then said to Kuhleborn, "I see yonder
the end of the forest. We no longer need your help, and nothing
causes us alarm but yourself. I beg you, therefore, in all love and
good-will, vanish, and let us proceed in peace."

Kuhleborn seemed to become angry at this; his countenance assumed a
frightful expression, and he grinned fiercely at Undine, who
screamed aloud and called upon her husband for assistance. As quick
as lightning, the knight sprang to the other side of the horse, and
aimed his sharp sword at Kuhleborn's head. But the sword cut through
a waterfall, which was rushing down near them from a lofty crag; and
with a splash, which almost sounded like a burst of laughter, it
poured over them and wet them through to the skin.

The priest, as if suddenly awaking, exclaimed "I have long been
expecting that, for the stream ran down from the height so close to
us. At first it really seemed to me like a man, and as if it could
speak." As the waterfall came rushing down, it distinctly uttered
these words in Huldbrand's ear:--

  "Rash knight,
  Brave knight,
  Rage, feel I not,
  Chide, will I not.
  But ever guard thy little wife as well,
  Rash knight, brave knight! Protect her well!"

A few footsteps more, and they were upon open ground. The imperial
city lay bright before them, and the evening sun, which gilded its
towers, kindly dried the garments of the drenched wanderers.



The sudden disappearance of the young knight, Huldbrand von
Ringstetten, from the imperial city, had caused great sensation and
solicitude among those who had admired him, both for his skill in
the tournament and the dance, and no less so for his gentle and
agreeable manners. His servants would not quit the place without
their master, although not one of them would have had the courage to
go in quest of him into the shadowy recesses of the forest. They
therefore remained in their quarters, inactively hoping, as men are
wont to do, and keeping alive the remembrance of their lost lord by
their lamentations. When, soon after, the violent storms and floods
were observed, the less doubt was entertained as to the certain
destruction of the handsome stranger; and Bertalda openly mourned
for him and blamed herself for having allured the unfortunate knight
into the forest. Her foster-parents, the duke and duchess, had come
to fetch her away, but Bertalda entreated them to remain with her
until certain intelligence had been obtained of Huldbrand's fate.
She endeavored to prevail upon several young knights, who were
eagerly courting her, to follow the noble adventurer to the forest.
But she would not pledge her hand as a reward of the enterprise,
because she always cherished the hope of belonging to the returning
knight, and no glove, nor riband, nor even kiss, would tempt any one
to expose his life for the sake of bringing back such a dangerous

When Huldbrand now suddenly and unexpectedly appeared, his servants.
and the inhabitants of the city, and almost every one, rejoiced.
Bertalda alone refused to do so; for agreeable as it was to the
others that he should bring with him such a beautiful bride, and
Father Heilmann as a witness of the marriage, Bertalda could feel
nothing but grief and vexation. In the first place, she had really
loved the young knight with all her heart, and in the next, her
sorrow at his absence had proclaimed this far more before the eyes
of all, than was now befitting. She still, however, conducted
herself as a wise maiden, reconciled herself to circumstances, and
lived on the most friendly terms with Undine, who was looked upon
throughout the city as a princess whom Huldbrand had rescued in the
forest from some evil enchantment. When she or her husband were
questioned on the matter, they were wise enough to be silent or
skilfully to evade the inquiries. Father Heilmann's lips were sealed
to idle gossip of any kind, and moreover, immediately after
Huldbrand's arrival, he had returned to his monastery; so that
people were obliged to be satisfied with their own strange
conjectures, and even Bertalda herself knew no more of the truth
than others.

Day by day, Undine felt her affection increase for the fair maiden.
"We must have known each other before," she often used to say to
her, "or else, there must be some mysterious connection between us,
for one does not love another as dearly as I have loved you from the
first moment of our meeting without some cause--some deep and secret
cause." And Bertalda also could not deny the fact that she felt
drawn to Undine with a tender feeling of confidence, however much
she might consider that she had cause for the bitterest lamentation
at this successful rival. Biassed by this mutual affection, they
both persuaded--the one her foster-parents, the other her husband--to
postpone the day of departure from time to time; indeed, it was
even proposed that Bertalda should accompany Undine for a time to
castle Ringstetten, near the source of the Danube.

They were talking over this plan one beautiful evening, as they were
walking by starlight in the large square of the Imperial city, under
the tall trees that enclose it. The young married pair had incited
Bertalda to join them in their evening walk, and all three were
strolling up and down under the dark-blue sky, often interrupting
their familiar talk to admire the magnificent fountain in the middle
of the square, as its waters rushed and bubbled forth with wonderful
beauty. It had a soothing happy influence upon them; between the
shadows of the trees there stole glimmerings of light from the
adjacent houses; a low murmur of children at play, and of others
enjoying their walk, floated around them; they were so alone, and
yet in the midst of the bright and living world; whatever had
appeared difficult by day, now became smooth as of itself; and the
three friends could no longer understand why the slightest
hesitation had existed with regard to Bertalda's visit to
Ringstetten. Presently, just as they were on the point of fixing the
day for their common departure, a tall man approached them from the
middle of the square, bowed respectfully to the company, and said
something in the ear of the young wife. Displeased as she was at the
interruption and its cause, she stepped a little aside with the
stranger, and both began to whisper together, as it seemed, in a
foreign tongue. Huldbrand fancied he knew the strange man, and he
stared so fixedly at him that he neither heard nor answered
Bertalda's astonished inquiries.

All at once Undine, clapping her hands joyfully, and laughing,
quitted the stranger's side, who, shaking his head, retired hastily
and discontentedly, and vanished in the fountain. Huldbrand now felt
certain on the point, but Bertalda asked: "And what did the master
of the fountain want with you, dear Undine?"

The young wife laughed within herself, and replied: "The day after
to-morrow, my dear child, on the anniversary of your name-day, you
shall know it." And nothing more would she disclose. She invited
Bertalda and sent an invitation to her foster-parents, to dine with
them on the appointed day, and soon after they parted.

"Kuhleborn? was it Kuhleborn?" said Huldbrand, with a secret
shudder, to his beautiful bride, when they had taken leave of
Bertalda, and were now going home through the darkening streets.

"Yes, it was he," replied Undine, "and he was going to say all sorts
of nonsensical things to me. But, in the midst, quite contrary to
his intention, he delighted me with a most welcome piece of news. If
you wish to hear it at once, my dear lord and husband, you have but
to command, and I will tell it you without reserve. But if you would
confer a real pleasure on your Undine, you will wait till the day
after to-morrow, and you will then have your share too in the

The knight gladly complied with his wife's desire, which had been
urged so sweetly, and as she fell asleep, she murmured smilingly to
herself: "Dear, dear Bertalda! How she will rejoice and be
astonished at what her master of the fountain told me!"



The company were sitting at dinner; Bertalda, looking like some
goddess of spring with her flowers and jewels, the presents of her
foster-parents and friends, was placed between Undine and Huldbrand.
When the rich repast was ended, and the last course had appeared,
the doors were left open, according to a good old German custom,
that the common people might look on, and take part in the festivity
of the nobles. Servants were carrying round cake and wine among the
spectators. Huldbrand and Bertalda were waiting with secret
impatience for the promised explanation, and sat with their eyes
fixed steadily on Undine. But the beautiful wife still continued
silent, and only kept smiling to herself with secret and hearty
satisfaction. All who knew of the promise she had given could see
that she was every moment on the point of betraying her happy
secret, and that it was with a sort of longing renunciation that she
withheld it, just as children sometimes delay the enjoyment of their
choicest morsels. Bertalda and Huldbrand shared this delightful
feeling, and expected with fearful hope the tidings which were to
fall from the lips of Undine. Several of the company pressed Undine
to sing. The request seemed opportune, and ordering her lute to be
brought, she sang the following words:--

  Bright opening day,
    Wild flowers so gay,
    Tall grasses their thirst that slake,
    On the banks of the billowy lake!

  What glimmers there so shining
    The reedy growth entwining?
    Is it a blossom white as snow
    Fallen from heav'n here below?

  It is an infant, frail and dear!
    With flowerets playing in its dreams
    And grasping morning's golden beams;
    Oh! whence, sweet stranger, art thou here?

  From some far-off and unknown strand,
    The lake has borne thee to this land.

  Nay, grasp not tender little one,
    With thy tiny hand outspread;
    No hand will meet thy touch with love,
    Mute is that flowery bed.

  The flowers can deck themselves so fair
    And breathe forth fragrance blest,
    Yet none can press thee to itself,
    Like that far-off mother's breast.

  So early at the gate of life,
    With smiles of heav'n on thy brow,
    Thou hast the best of treasures lost,
    Poor wand'ring child, nor know'st it now.

  A noble duke comes riding by,
    And near thee checks his courser's speed,
    And full of ardent chivalry
    He bears thee home upon his steed.

  Much, endless much, has been thy gain!
    Thou bloom'st the fairest in the land!
    Yet ah! the priceless joy of all,
    Thou'st left upon an unknown strand.

Undine dropped her lute with a melancholy smile, and the eyes of
Bertalda's foster-parents were filled with tears. "Yes, so it was on
the morning that I found you, my poor sweet orphan," said the duke,
deeply agitated; "the beautiful singer is certainly right; we have
not been able to give you that `priceless joy of all.'"

"But we must also hear how it fared with the poor parents," said
Undine, as she resumed her lute, and sang:--

  Thro' every chamber roams the mother,
    Moves and searches everywhere,
    Seeks, she scarce knows what, with sadness,
    And finds an empty house is there.

  An empty house! Oh, word of sorrow,
    To her who once had been so blest,
    Who led her child about by day
    And cradled it at night to rest.

  The beech is growing green again,
    The sunshine gilds its wonted spot,
    But mother, cease thy searching vain!
    Thy little loved one cometh not.

  And when the breath of eve blows cool,
    And father in his home appears,
    The smile he almost tries to wear
    Is quenched at once by gushing tears.

  Full well he knows that in his home
    He naught can find but wild despair,
    He hears the mother's grieved lament
    And no bright infant greets him there.

"Oh! for God's sake, Undine, where are my parents?" cried the weeping
Bertalda; "you surely know; you have discovered them, you wonderful
being, for otherwise you would not have thus torn me heart. Are they
perhaps already here? Can it be?" Her eye passed quickly over the
brilliant company and lingered on a lady of high rank who was
sitting next her foster-father. Undine, however, turned toward the
door, while her eyes overflowed with the sweetest emotion. "Where
are the poor waiting parents?" she inquired, and, the old fisherman
and his wife advanced hesitatingly from the crowd of spectators.
Their glance rested inquiringly now on Undine, now on the beautiful
girl who was said to be their daughter "It is she," said the
delighted benefactress, in a faltering tone, and the two old people
hung round the neck of their recovered child, weeping and praising

But amazed and indignant, Bertalda tore herself from their embrace.
Such a recognition was too much for this proud mind, at a moment
when she had surely imagined that her former splendor would even be
increased, and when hope was deluding her with a vision of almost
royal honors. It seemed to her as if her rival had devised all this
on purpose signally to humble her before Huldbrand and the whole
world. She reviled Undine, she reviled the old people, and bitter
invectives, such as "deceiver" and "bribed impostors," fell from her
lips. Then the old fisherman's wife said in a low voice to herself:
"Ah me, she is become a wicked girl; and yet I feel in my heart that
she is my child."

The old fisherman, however, had folded his hands, and was praying
silently that this might not be his daughter. Undine, pale as death,
turned with agitation from the parents to Bertalda, and from
Bertalda to the parents; suddenly cast down from that heaven of
happiness of which she had dreamed, and overwhelmed with a fear and
a terror such as she had never known even in imagination. "Have you
a soul? Have you really a soul, Bertalda?" she cried again and again
to her angry friend, as if forcibly to rouse her to consciousness
from some sudden delirium or maddening nightmare. But when Bertalda
only became more and more enraged, when the repulsed parents began
to weep aloud, and the company, in eager dispute, were taking
different sides, she begged in such a dignified and serious manner
to be allowed to speak in this her husband's hall, that all around
were in a moment silenced. She then advanced to the upper end of the
table, where Bertalda has seated herself, and with a modest and yet
proud air, while every eye was fixed upon her, she spoke as

"My friends, you look so angry and disturbed and you have
interrupted my happy feast by your disputings. Ah! I knew nothing of
your foolish habits and your heartless mode of thinking, and I shall
never all my life long become accustomed to them. It is not my fault
that this affair has resulted in evil; believe me, the fault is with
yourselves alone, little as it may appear to you to be so. I have
therefore but little to say to you, but one thing I must say: I have
spoken nothing but truth. I neither can nor will give you proofs
beyond my own assertion, but I will swear to the truth of this. I
received this information from the very person who allured Bertalda
into the water, away from her parents, and who afterward placed her
on the green meadow in the duke's path."

"She is an enchantress!" cried Bertalda, "a witch, who has
intercourse with evil spirits. She acknowledges it herself."

"I do not," said Undine, with a whole heaven innocence and
confidence beaming, in her eyes. "I am no witch; only look at me."

"She is false and boastful," interrupted Bertalda, "and she cannot
prove that I am the child of these low people. My noble parents, I
beg you to take me from this company and out of this city, where
they are only bent on insulting me."

But the aged and honorable duke remained unmoved, and his wife,
said: "We must thoroughly examine how we are to act. God forbid that
we should move a step from this hall until we have done so."

Then the old wife of the fisherman drew near, and making a low
reverence to the duchess, she said: "Noble, god-fearing lady, you
have opened my heart. I must tell you, if this evil-disposed young
lady is my daughter, she has a mark, like a violet, between her
shoulders, and another like it on the instep of her left foot. If
she would only go out of the hall with me!"

"I shall not uncover myself before the peasant woman!" exclaimed
Bertalda, proudly turning her back on her.

"But before me you will." rejoined the duchess, very gravely.
"Follow me into that room, girl, and the good old woman shall come
with us." The three disappeared, and the rest of the company
remained where they were, in silent expectation. After a short time
they returned; Bertalda was pale as death. "Right is right." said
the duchess; "I must therefore declare that our hostess has spoken
perfect, truth. Bertalda is the fisherman's daughter, and that is as
much as it is necessary to inform you here."

The princely pair left with their adopted daughter; and at a sign
from the duke, the fisherman and his wife followed them. The other
guests retired in silence or with secret murmurs, and Undine sank
weeping into Huldbrand's arms.



The lord of Ringstetten would have certainly preferred the events of
this day to have been different; but even as they were, he could
scarcely regret them wholly, as they had exhibited his charming wife
under such a good and sweet and kindly aspect. "If I have given her
a soul," he could not help saying to himself, "I have indeed given
her a better one than my own;" and his only thought now was to speak
soothingly to the weeping Undine, and on the following morning to
quit with her a place which, after this incident, must have become
distasteful to her. It is true that she was not estimated
differently to what she had been. As something mysterious had long
been expected of her, the strange discovery of Bertalda's origin had
caused no great surprise, and every one who had heard the story and
had seen Bertalda's violent behavior, was disgusted with her alone.
Of this, however, the knight and his lady knew nothing as yet; and,
besides, the condemnation or approval of the public was equally
painful to Undine, and thus there was no better course to pursue
than to leave the walls of the old city behind them with all the
speed possible.

With the earliest beams of morning a pretty carriage drove up to the
entrance gate for Undine: the horses which Huldbrand and his squires
were to ride stood near, pawing the ground with impatient eagerness.
The knight was leading his beautiful wife from the door, when a
fisher-girl crossed their way. "We do not need your fish," said
Huldbrand to her, "we are now starting on our journey." Upon this
the fisher-girl began to weep bitterly, and the young couple
perceived for the first time that it was Bertalda. They immediately
returned with her to their apartment, and learned from her that the
duke and duchess were so displeased at her violent and unfeeling
conduct on the preceding way, that they had entirely withdrawn their
protection from her, though not without giving her a rich portion.

The fisherman, too, had been handsomely rewarded, and had the
evening before set out with his wife to return to their secluded

"I would have gone with them," she continued, "but the old
fisherman, who is said to be my father"--

"And he is so indeed, Bertalda," interrupted Undine. "Look here, the
stranger, whom you took for the master of the fountain, told me the
whole story in detail. He wished to dissuade me from taking you with
me to castle Ringstetten, and this led him to disclose the secret."

"Well, then," said Bertalda, "if it must be so, my father said, 'I
will not take you with me until you are changed. Venture to come to
us alone through the haunted forest; that shall be the proof whether
you have any regard for us. But do not come to me as a lady; come
only as a fisher-girl!' So I will do just as he has told me, for I
am forsaken by the whole world, and I will live and die in solitude
as a poor fisher-girl, with my poor parents. I have a terrible dread
though of the forest. Horrible spectres are said to dwell in it, and
I am so fearful. But how can I help it? I only came here to implore
pardon of the noble lady of Ringstetten for my unbecoming behavior
yesterday. I feel sure, sweet lady, you meant to do me a kindness,
but you knew not how you would wound me, and in my agony and
surprise, many a rash and frantic expression passed my lips. Oh
forgive, forgive! I am already so unhappy. Only think yourself what
I was yesterday morning, yesterday at the beginning of your banquet,
and what I am now!"

Her voice became stifled with a passionate flood of tears, and
Undine, also weeping bitterly, fell on her neck. It was some time
before the deeply agitated Undine could utter a word; at length she

"You can go with us to Ringstetten; everything shall remain as it
was arranged before; only do not speak to me again as 'noble lady.'
You see, we were exchanged for each other as children; our faces
even then sprang as it were from the same stem, and we will now so
strengthen this kindred destiny that no human power shall be able to
separate it. Only, first of all, come with us to Ringstetten. We
will discuss there how we shall share all things as sisters."

Bertalda looked timidly toward Huldbrand. He pitied the beautiful
girl in her distress, and offering her his hand he begged her
tenderly to intrust herself with him and his wife. "We will send a
message to your parents," he continued, "to tell them why you are
not come;" and he would have added more with regard to the worthy
fisherman and his wife, but he saw that Bertalda shrunk with pain
from the mention of their name, and he therefore refrained from
saying more.

He then assisted her first into the carriage, Undine followed her;
and he mounted his horse and trotted merrily by the side of them,
urging the driver at the same time to hasten his speed, so that very
soon they were beyond the confines of the imperial city and all its
sad remembrances; and now the ladies began to enjoy the beautiful
country through which their road lay.

After a journey of some days, they arrived one exquisite evening, at
castle Ringstetten. The young knight had much to hear from his
overseers and vassals, so that Undine and Bertalda were left alone.

They both repaired to the ramparts of the fortress, and were
delighted with the beautiful landscape which spread far and wide
through fertile Swabia.

Presently a tall man approached them, greeting them respectfully,
and Bertalda fancied she saw a resemblance to the master of the
fountain in the imperial city. Still more unmistakable grew the
likeness, when Undine angrily and almost threateningly waved him
off, and he retreated with hasty steps and shaking head, as he had
done before, and disappeared into a neighboring copse. Undine,
however, said:

"Don't be afraid, dear Bertalda, this time the hateful master of the
fountain shall do you no harm." And then she told her the whole
story in detail, and who she was herself, and how Bertalda had been
taken away from the fisherman and his wife, and Undine had gone to
them. The girl was at first terrified with this relation; she
imagined her friend must be seized with sudden madness, but she
became more convinced that all was true, for Undine's story was so
connected, and fitted so well with former occurrences, and still
more she had that inward feeling with which truth never fails to
make itself known to us. It seemed strange to her that she was now
herself living, as it were, in the midst of one of those fairy tales
to which she had formerly only listened.

She gazed upon Undine with reverence, but she could not resist a
sense of dread that seemed to come between her and her friend, and
at their evening repast she could not but wonder how the knight
could behave so lovingly and kindly toward a being who appeared to
her, since the discovery she had just made, more of a phantom than a
human being.



The writer of this story, both because it moves his own heart, and
because he wishes it to move that of others, begs you, dear reader,
to pardon him, if he now briefly passes over a considerable space of
time, only cursorily mentioning the events that marked it. He knows
well that he might portray skilfully, step by step, how Huldbrand's
heart began to turn from Undine to Bertalda; how Bertalda more and
more responded with ardent affection to the young knight, and how
they both looked upon the poor wife as a mysterious being rather to
be feared than pitied; how Undine wept, and how her tears stung the
knight's heart with remorse without awakening his former love, so
that though he at times was kind and endearing to her, a cold
shudder would soon draw him from her, and he would turn to his
fellow-mortal, Bertalda. All this the writer knows might be fully
detailed, and perhaps ought to have been so; but such a task would
have been too painful, for similar things have been known to him by
sad experience, and he shrinks from their shadow even in
remembrance. You know probably a like feeling, dear reader, for such
is the lot of mortal man. Happy are you if you have received rather
than inflicted the pain, for in such things it is more blessed to
receive than to give. If it be so, such recollections will only
bring a feeling of sorrow to your mind, and perhaps a tear will
trickle down your cheek over the faded flowers that once caused you
such delight. But let that be enough. We will not pierce our hearts
with a thousand separate things, but only briefly state, as I have
just said, how matters were.

Poor Undine was very sad, and the other two were not to be called
happy. Bertalda especially thought that she could trace the effect
of jealousy on the part of the injured wife whenever her wishes were
in any way thwarted by her. She had therefore habituated herself to
an imperious demeanor, to which Undine yielded in sorrowful
submission, and the now blinded Huldbrand usually encouraged this
arrogant behavior in the strongest manner. But the circumstance that
most of all disturbed the inmates of the castle, was a variety of
wonderful apparitions which met Huldbrand and Bertalda in the
vaulted galleries of the castle, and which had never been heard of
before as haunting the locality. The tall white man, in whom
Huldbrand recognized only too plainly Uncle Kuhleborn, and Bertalda
the spectral master of the fountain, often passed before them with a
threatening aspect, and especially before Bertalda; so much so, that
she had already several times been made ill with terror, and had
frequently thought of quitting the castle. But still she stayed
there, partly because Huldbrand was so dear to her, and she relied
on her innocence, no words of love having ever passed between them,
and partly also because she knew not whither to direct her steps.
The old fisherman, on receiving the message from the lord of
Ringstetten that Bertalda was his guest, had written a few lines in
an almost illegible hand, but as good as his advanced age and long
dis-would admit of.

"I have now become," he wrote, "a poor old widower, for my dear and
faithful wife is dead. However lonely I now sit in my cottage,
Bertalda is better with you than with me. Only let her do nothing to
harm my beloved Undine! She will have my curse if it be so." The
last words of this letter, Bertalda flung to the winds, but she
carefully retained the part respecting her absence from her
father--just as we are all wont to do in similar circumstances.

One day, when Huldbrand had just ridden out, Undine summoned
together the domestics of the family, and ordered them to bring a
large stone, and carefully to cover with it the magnificent fountain
which stood in the middle of the castle-yard. The servants objected
that it would oblige them to bring water from the valley below.
Undine smiled sadly. "I am sorry, my people," she replied, "to
increase your work. I would rather myself fetch up the pitchers, but
this fountain must be closed. Believe me that it cannot be
otherwise, and that it is only by so doing that we can avoid a
greater evil."

The whole household were glad to be able to please their gentle
mistress; they made no further inquiry, but seized the enormous
stone. They were just raising it in their hands, and were already
poising it over the fountain, when Bertalda came running up, and
called out to them to stop, as it was from this fountain that the
water was brought which was so good for her complexion, and she
would never consent to its being closed. Undine, however, although
gentle as usual, was more than usually firm. She told Bertalda that
it was her due, as mistress of the house, to arrange her household
as she thought best, and that, in this, she was accountable to no
one but her lord and husband. "See, oh, pray see," exclaimed
Bertalda, in an angry, yet uneasy tone, "how the poor beautiful
water is curling and writhing at being shut out from the bright
sunshine and from the cheerful sight of the human face, for whose
mirror it was created!"

The water in the fountain was indeed wonderfully agitated and
hissing; it seemed as if something within were struggling to free
itself, but Undine only the more earnestly urged the fulfilment of
her orders. The earnestness was scarcely needed. The servants of the
castle were as happy in obeying their gentle mistress as in opposing
Bertalda's haughty defiance; and in spite of all the rude scolding
and threatening of the latter the stone was soon firmly lying over
the opening of the fountain. Undine leaned thoughtfully over it, and
wrote with her beautiful fingers on its surface. She must, however,
have had something very sharp and cutting in her hand, for when she
turned away, and the servants drew near to examine the stone, they
perceived various strange characters upon it, which none of them had
seen there before.

Bertalda received the knight, on his return home in the evening,
with tears and complaints of Undine's conduct. He cast a serious
look at his poor wife, and she looked down as if distressed. Yet she
said with great composure: "My lord and husband does not reprove
even a bondslave without a hearing, how much less then, his wedded

"Speak," said the knight with a gloomy countenance, "what induced
you to act so strangely?"

"I should like to tell you when we are quite alone," sighed Undine.

"You can tell me just as well in Bertalda's presence," was the

"Yes, if you command me," said Undine; "but command it not. Oh pray,
pray command it not!"

She looked so humble, so sweet, and obedient, that the knight's
heart felt a passing gleam from better times. He kindly placed her
arm within his own, and led her to his apartment, when she began to
speak as follows:--

"You already know, my beloved lord, something of my evil uncle,
Kuhleborn, and you have frequently been displeased at meeting him in
the galleries of this castle. He has several times frightened
Bertalda into illness. This is because he is devoid of soul, a mere
elemental mirror of the outward world, without the power of
reflecting the world within. He sees, too, sometimes, that you are
dissatisfied with me; that I, in my childishness, am weeping at
this, and that Bertalda perhaps is at the very same moment laughing.
Hence he imagines various discrepancies in our home life, and in
many ways mixes unbidden with our circle. What is the good of
reproving him? What is the use of sending him angrily away? He does
not believe a word I say. His poor nature has no idea that the joys
and sorrows of love have so sweet a resemblance, and are so closely
linked that no power can separate them. Amid tears a smile shines
forth, and a smile allures tears from their secret chambers."

She looked up at Huldbrand, smiling and weeping; and he again
experienced within his heart all the charm of his old love. She felt
this, and pressing him more tenderly to her, she continued amid
tears of joy:--

"As the disturber of our peace was not to be dismissed with words, I
have been obliged to shut the door upon him. And the only door by
which he obtains access to us is that fountain. He is cut off by the
adjacent valleys from the other water-spirits in the neighborhood,
and his kingdom only commences further off on the Danube, into which
some of his good friends direct their course. For this reason I had
the stone placed over the opening of the fountain, and I inscribed
characters upon it which cripple all my uncle's power, so that he
can now neither intrude upon you, nor upon me, nor upon Bertalda.
Human beings, it is true, can raise the stone again with ordinary
effort, in spite of the characters inscribed on it. The inscription
does not hinder them. If you wish, therefore, follow Bertalda's
desire, but, truly! she knows not what she asks. The rude Kuhleborn
has set his mark especially upon her; and if much came to pass which
he has predicted to me, and which might, indeed, happen without your
meaning any evil, ah! dear one, even you would then be exposed to

Huldbrand felt deeply the generosity of his sweet wife, in her
eagerness to shut up her formidable protector, while she had even
been chided for it by Bertalda. He pressed her in his arms with the
utmost affection, and said with emotion: "The stone shall remain,
and all shall remain, now and ever, as you wish to have it, my sweet

She caressed him with humble delight, as she heard the expressions
of love so long withheld, and then at length she said: "My dearest
husband, you are so gentle and kind to-day, may I venture to ask a
favor of you? See now, it is just the same with you as it is with
summer. In the height of its glory, summer puts on the flaming and
thundering crown of mighty storms, and assumes the air of a king
over the earth. You, too, sometimes, let your fury rise, and your
eyes flash and your voice is angry, and this becomes you well,
though I, in my folly, may sometimes weep at it. But never, I pray
you, behave thus toward me on the water, or even when we are near
it. You see, my relatives would then acquire a right over me. They
would unrelentingly tear me from you in their rage; because they
would imagine that one of their race was injured, and I should be
compelled all my life to dwell below in the crystal palaces, and
should never dare to ascend to you again; or they would send me up
to you--and that, oh God, would be infinitely worse. No, no, my
beloved husband, do not let it come to that, if your poor Undine is
dear to you."

He promised solemnly to do as she desired, and they both returned
from the apartment, full of happiness and affection. At that moment
Bertalda appeared with some workmen, to whom she had already given
orders, and said in a sullen tone, which she had assumed of late: "I
suppose the secret conference is at an end, and now the stone may be
removed. Go out, workmen, and attend to it."

But the knight, angry at her impertinence, desired in short and very
decisive words that the stone should be left: he reproved Bertalda,
too, for her violence toward his wife. Whereupon the workmen
withdrew, smiling with secret satisfaction: while Bertalda, pale
with rage, hurried away to her room.

The hour for the evening repast arrived, and Bertalda they waited for
in vain. They sent after her, but the domestic found her apartments
empty, and only brought back with him a sealed letter addressed to
the knight. He opened it with alarm, and read: "I feel with shame
that I am only a poor fisher-girl. I will expiate my fault in having
forgotten this for a moment by going to the miserable cottage of my
parents. Farewell to you and your beautiful wife."

Undine was heartily distressed. She earnestly entreated Huldbrand to
hasten after their friend and bring her back again. Alas! she had no
need to urge him. His affection for Bertalda burst forth again with
vehemence. He hurried round the castle, inquiring if any one had
seen which way the fugitive had gone. He could learn nothing of her,
and he was already on his horse in the castle-yard, resolved at a
venture to take the road by which he had brought Bertalda hither.
Just then a page appeared, who assured him that he had met the lady
on the path to the Black Valley. Like an arrow the knight sprang
through the gateway in the direction indicated, without hearing
Undine's voice of agony, as she called to him from the window:--

"To the Black Valley! Oh, not there! Huldbrand, don't go there! or,
for heaven's sake, take me with you!" But when she perceived that
all her calling was in vain, she ordered her white palfrey to be
immediately saddled, and rode after the knight, without allowing any
servant to accompany her.



The Black Valley lies deep within the mountains. What it is now
called we do not know. At that time the people of the country gave
it this appellation on account of the deep obscurity in which the
low land lay, owing to the shadows of the lofty trees, and
especially firs, that grew there. Even the brook which bubbled
between the rocks wore the same dark hue, and dashed along with none
of that gladness with which streams are wont to flow that have the
blue sky immediately above them. Now, in the growing twilight of
evening, it looked wild and gloomy between the heights. The knight
trotted anxiously along the edge of the brook, fearful at one moment
that by delay he might allow the fugitive to advance too far, and at
the next that by too great rapidity he might overlook her in case
she were concealing herself from him. Meanwhile he had already
penetrated tolerably far into the valley, and might soon hope to
overtake the maiden, if he were on the right track. The fear that
this might not be the case made his heart beat with anxiety. Where
would the tender Bertalda tarry through the stormy night, which was
so fearful in the valley, should he fail to find her? At length he
saw something white gleaming through the branches on the slope of
the mountain. He thought he recognized Bertalda's dress, and he
turned his course in that direction. But his horse refused to go
forward; it reared impatiently; and its master, unwilling to lose a
moment, and seeing moreover that the copse was impassable on
horseback, dismounted; and, fastening his snorting steed to an
elm-tree, he worked his way cautiously through the bushes. The branches
sprinkled his forehead and cheeks with the cold drops of the evening
dew; a distant roll of thunder was heard murmuring from the other
side of the mountains; everything looked so strange that he began to
feel a dread of the white figure, which now lay only a short
distance from him on the ground. Still he could plainly see that it
was a female, either asleep or in a swoon, and that she was attired
in long white garments, such as Bertalda had worn on that day. He
stepped close up to her, made a rustling with the branches, and let
his sword clatter, but she moved not. "Bertalda!" he exclaimed, at
first in a low voice, and then louder and louder--still she heard
not. At last, when he uttered the dear name with a more powerful
effort, a hollow echo from the mountain-caverns of the valley
indistinctly reverberated "Bertalda!" but still the sleeper woke
not. He bent down over her; the gloom of the valley and the
obscurity of approaching night would not allow him to distinguish
her features.

Just as he was stooping closer over her, with a feeling of painful
doubt, a flash of lightning shot across the valley, and he saw
before him a frightfully distorted countenance, and a hollow voice
exclaimed: "Give me a kiss, you enamoured swain!"

Huldbrand sprang up with a cry of horror, and the hideous figure
rose with him. "Go home!" it murmured; "wizards are on the watch. Go
home! or I will have you!" and it stretched out its long white arms
toward him.

"Malicious Kuhleborn!" cried the knight, recovering himself, "What
do you concern me, you goblin? There, take your kiss!" And he
furiously hurled his sword at the figure. But it vanished like
vapor, and a gush of water which wetted him through left the knight
no doubt as to the foe with whom he had been engaged.

"He wishes to frighten me back from Bertalda," said he aloud to
himself; "he thinks to terrify me with his foolish tricks, and to
make me give up the poor distressed girl to him, so that he can
wreak his vengeance on her. But he shall not do that, weak spirit of
the elements as he is. No powerless phantom can understand what a
human heart can do when its best energies are aroused." He felt the
truth of his words, and that the very expression of them had
inspired his heart with fresh courage. It seemed too as if fortune
were on his side, for he had not reached his fastened horse, when he
distinctly heard Bertalda's plaintive voice not far distant, and
could catch her weeping accents through the ever-increasing tumult
of the thunder and tempest. He hurried swiftly in the direction of
the sound, and found the trembling girl just attempting to climb the
steep, in order to escape in any way from the dreadful gloom of the
valley. He stepped, however, lovingly in her path, and bold and
proud as her resolve had before been, she now felt only too keenly
the delight, that the friend whom she so passionately loved should
rescue her from this frightful solitude, and that the joyous life in
the castle should be again open to her. She followed almost
unresisting, but so exhausted with fatigue that the knight was glad
to have brought her to his horse, which he now hastily unfastened,
in order to lift the fair fugitive upon it; and then, cautiously
holding the reins, he hoped to proceed through the uncertain shades
of the valley.

But the horse had become quite unmanageable from the wild apparition
of Kuhleborn. Even the knight would have had difficulty in mounting
the rearing and snorting animal, but to place the trembling Bertalda
on its back was perfectly impossible. They determined, therefore, to
return home on foot. Drawing the horse after him by the bridle, the
knight supported the tottering girl with his other hand. Bertalda
exerted all her strength to pass quickly through the fearful valley,
but weariness weighed her down like lead, and every limb trembled,
partly from the terror she had endured when Kuhleborn had pursued
her, and partly from her continued alarm at the howling of the storm
and the pealing of the thunder through the wooded mountain.

At last she slid from the supporting arm of her protector, and
sinking down on the moss, she exclaimed: "Let me lie here, my noble
lord; I suffer the punishment due to my folly, and I must now perish
here through weariness and dread."

"No, sweet friend, I will never leave you!" cried Huldbrand, vainly
endeavoring to restrain his furious steed; for, worse than before,
it now began to foam and rear with excitement, until at last the
knight was glad to keep the animal at a sufficient distance from the
exhausted maiden lest her fears should be increased. But scarcely
had he withdrawn a few paces with the wild steed, than she began to
call after him in the most pitiful manner, believing that he was
really going to leave her in this horrible wilderness. He was
utterly at a loss what course to take. Gladly would he have given
the excited beast its liberty and have allowed it to rush away into
the night and spend its fury, had he not feared that is this narrow
defile it might come thundering with its iron-shod hoofs over the
very spot where Bertalda lay.

In the midst of this extreme perplexity and distress, he heard with
delight the sound of a vehicle driving slowly down the stony road
behind them. He called out for help; and a man's voice replied,
bidding him have patience, but promising assistance; and soon after,
two gray horses appeared through the bushes, and beside them the
driver in the white smock of a carter; a great white linen cloth was
next visible, covering the goods apparently contained in the wagon.
At a loud shout from their master, the obedient horses halted. The
driver then came toward the knight, and helped him in restraining
his foaming animal.

"I see well," said he, "what ails the beast. When I first travelled
this way, my horses were no better. The fact is, there is an evil
water-spirit haunting the place, and he takes delight in this sort
of mischief. But I have learned a charm; if you will let me whisper
it in your horse's ear, he will stand at once just as quiet as my
gray beasts are doing there."

"Try your luck then, only help us quickly!" exclaimed the impatient
knight. The wagoner then drew down the head of the rearing charger
close to his own, and whispered something in his ear. In a moment
the animal stood still and quiet, and his quick panting and reeking
condition was all that remained of his previous unmanageableness.
Huldbrand had no time to inquire how all this had been effected. He
agreed with the carter that he should take Bertalda on his wagon,
where, as the man assured him, there were a quantity of soft
cotton-bales, upon which she could be conveyed to castle Ringstetten, and
the knight was to accompany them on horseback. But the horse
appeared too much exhausted by its past fury to be able to carry its
master so far, so the carter persuaded Huldbrand to get into the
wagon with Bertalda. The horse could be fastened on behind. "We are
going down hill," said he, "and that will make it light for my gray

The knight accepted the offer and entered the wagon with Bertalda;
the horse followed patiently behind, and the wagoner, steady and
attentive, walked by the side.

In the stillness of the night, as its darkness deepened and the
subsiding tempest sounded more and more remote, encouraged by the
sense of security and their fortunate escape, a confidential
conversation arose between Huldbrand and Bertalda. With flattering
words he reproached her for her daring flight; she excused herself
with humility and emotion, and from every word she said a gleam
shone forth which disclosed distinctly to the lover that the beloved
was his. The knight felt the sense of her words far more than he
regarded their meaning, and it was the sense alone to which he
replied. Presently the wagoner suddenly shouted with loud voice,--

"Up, my grays, up with your feet, keep together! remember who you

The knight leaned out of the wagon and saw that the horses were
stepping into the midst of a foaming stream or were already almost
swimming, while the wheels of the wagon were rushing round and
gleaming like mill-wheels, and the wagoner had got up in front, in
consequence of the increasing waters.

"What sort of a road is this? It goes into the middle of the
stream." cried Huldbrand to his guide.

"Not at all, sir." returned the other, laughing, "it is just the
reverse, the stream goes into the very middle of our road. Look
round and see how everything is covered by the water."

The whole valley indeed was suddenly filled with the surging flood,
that visibly increased. "It is Kuhleborn, the evil water-spirit, who
wishes to drown us!" exclaimed the knight. "Have you no charm,
against him, my friend?"

"I know indeed of one," returned the wagoner, "but I cannot and may
not use it until you know who I am."

"Is this a time for riddles?" cried the knight. "The flood is ever
rising higher, and what does it matter to me to know who you are?"

"It does matter to you, though," said the wagoner, "for I am

So saying, he thrust his distorted face into the wagon with a grin,
but the wagon was a wagon no longer, the horses were not horses--all
was transformed to foam and vanished in the hissing waves, and even
the wagoner himself, rising as a gigantic billow, drew down the
vainly struggling horse beneath the waters, and then swelling higher
and higher, swept over the heads of the floating pair, like some
liquid tower, threatening to bury them irrecoverably.

Just then the soft voice of Undine sounded through the uproar, the
moon emerged from the clouds, and by its light Undine was seen on
the heights above the valley. She rebuked, she threatened the floods
below; the menacing, tower-like wave vanished, muttering and
murmuring, the waters flowed gently away in the moonlight, and like
a white dove, Undine flew down from the height, seized the knight
and Bertalda, and bore them with her to a fresh, green, turfy spot
on the hill, where with choice refreshing restoratives, she
dispelled their terrors and weariness; then she assisted Bertalda to
mount the white palfrey, on which she had herself ridden here, and
thus all three returned back to castle Ringstetten.



After this last adventure, they lived quietly and happily at the
castle. The knight more and more perceived the heavenly goodness of
his wife, which had been so nobly exhibited by her pursuit, and by
her rescue of them in the Black Valley, where Kuhleborn's power
again commenced; Undine herself felt that peace and security, which
is never lacking to a mind so long as it is distinctly conscious of
being on the right path, and besides, in the newly-awakened love and
esteem of her husband, many a gleam of hope and joy shone upon her.
Bertalda, on the other hand, showed herself grateful, humble and
timid, without regarding her conduct as anything meritorious.
Whenever Huldbrand or Undine were about to give her any explanation
regarding the covering of the fountain or the adventure in the Black
Valley, she would earnestly entreat them to spare her the recital,
as she felt too much shame at the recollection of the fountain, and
too much fear at the remembrance of the Black Valley. She learned
therefore nothing further of either; and for what end was such
knowledge necessary? Peace and joy had visibly taken up their abode
at castle Ringstetten. They felt secure on this point, and imagined
that life could now produce nothing but pleasant flowers and fruits.

In this happy condition of things, winter had come and passed away,
and spring, with its fresh green shoots and its blue sky, was
gladdening the joyous inmates of the castle. Spring was in harmony
with them, and they with spring. What wonder then, that its storks
and swallows inspired them also with a desire to travel? One day
when they were taking a pleasant walk to one of the sources of the
Danube, Huldbrand spoke of the magnificence of the noble river, and
how it widened as it flowed through countries fertilized by its
waters, how the charming city of Vienna shone forth on its banks,
and how with every step of its course it increased in power and

"It must be glorious to go down the river as far as Vienna!"
exclaimed Bertalda, but immediately relapsing into her present
modesty and humility, she paused and blushed deeply.

This touched Undine deeply, and with the liveliest desire to give
pleasure to her friend, she said: "What hinders us from starting on
the little voyage?"

Bertalda exhibited the greatest delight, and both she and Undine
began at once to picture the tour of the Danube in the brightest
colors. Huldbrand also gladly agreed to the prospect; only he once
whispered anxiously in Undine's ear,--

"But Kuhleborn becomes possessed of his power again out there!"

"Let him come," she replied with a smile, "I shall be there, and he
ventures upon none of his mischief before me." The last impediment
was thus removed; they prepared for the journey, and soon after set
out upon it with fresh spirits and the brightest hopes.

But wonder not, oh man, if events always turn out different to what
we have intended. That malicious power, lurking for our destruction,
gladly lulls its chosen victim to sleep with sweet songs and golden
delusions; while on the other hand the rescuing messenger from
Heaven often knocks sharply and alarmingly at our door.

During the first few days of their voyage down the Danube they were
extremely happy. Everything grew more and more beautiful as they
sailed further and further down the proudly flowing stream. But in a
region otherwise so pleasant, and in the enjoyment of which they had
promised themselves the purest delight, the ungovernable Kuhleborn
began, undisguisedly, to exhibit his power of interference. This was
indeed manifested in mere teasing tricks, for Undine often rebuked
the agitated waves, or the contrary winds, and then the violence of
the enemy would be immediately humbled; but again the attacks would
be renewed, and again Undine's reproofs would become necessary, so
that the pleasure of the little party was completely destroyed. The
boatmen too were continually whispering to each other in dismay, and
looking with distrust at the three strangers, whose servants even
began more and more to forebode something uncomfortable, and to
watch their superiors with suspicious glances. Huldbrand often said
to himself: "This comes from like not being linked with like, from a
man uniting himself with a mermaid!" Excusing himself as we all love
to do, he would often think indeed as he said this: "I did not
really know that she was a sea-maiden, mine is the misfortune, that
every step I take is disturbed and haunted by the wild caprices of
her race, but mine is not the fault." By thoughts such as these, he
felt himself in some measure strengthened, but on the other hand, he
felt increasing ill-humor, and almost animosity toward Undine. He
would look at her with an expression of anger, the meaning of which
the poor wife understood well. Wearied with this exhibition of
displeasure, and exhausted by the constant effort to frustrate
Kuhleborn's artifices, she sank one evening into a deep slumber,
rocked soothingly by the softly gliding bark.

Scarcely, however, had she closed her eyes than every one in the
vessel imagined he saw, in whatever direction he turned, a most
horrible human head; it rose out of the waves, not like that of a
person swimming, but perfectly perpendicular as if invisibly
supported upright on the watery surface, and floating along in the
same course with the bark. Each wanted to point out to the other the
cause of his alarm, but each found the same expression of horror
depicted on the face of his neighbor, only that his hands and eyes
were directed to a different point where the monster, half-laughing
and half-threatening, rose before him. When, however, they all
wished to make each other understand what each saw, and all were
crying out: "Look there! No, there!" the horrible heads all at one
and the same time appeared to their view, and the whole river around
the vessel swarmed with the most hideous apparitions. The universal
cry raised at the sight awoke Undine. As she opened her eyes, the
wild crowd of distorted visages disappeared. But Huldbrand was
indignant at such unsightly jugglery. He would have burst forth in
uncontrolled imprecations had not Undine said to him with a humble
manner and a softly imploring tone: "For God's sake, my husband, we
are on the water, do not be angry with me now."

The knight was silent, and sat down absorbed in revery. Undine
whispered in his ear: "Would it not be better, my love, if we gave
up this foolish journey, and returned to castle Ringstetten in

But Huldbrand murmured moodily: "So I must be a prisoner in my own
castle, and only be able to breathe so long as the fountain is
closed! I would your mad kindred"--Undine lovingly pressed her fair
hand upon his lips. He paused, pondering in silence over much that
Undine had before said to him.

Bertalda had meanwhile given herself up to a variety of strange
thoughts. She knew a good deal of Undine's origin, and yet not the
whole, and the fearful Kuhleborn especially had remained to her a
terrible but wholly unrevealed mystery. She had indeed never even
heard his name. Musing on these strange things, she unclasped,
scarcely conscious of the act, a gold necklace, which Huldbrand had
lately purchased for her of a travelling trader; half dreamingly she
drew it along the surface of the water, enjoying the light glimmer
it cast upon the evening-tinted stream. Suddenly a huge hand was
stretched out of the Danube, it seized the necklace and vanished
with it beneath the waters. Bertalda screamed aloud, and a scornful
laugh resounded from the depths of the stream. The knight could now
restrain his anger no longer. Starting up, he inveighed against the
river; he cursed all who ventured to interfere with his family and
his life, and challenged them, be they spirits or sirens, to show
themselves before his avenging sword.

Bertalda wept meanwhile for her lost ornament, which was so precious
to her, and her tears added fuel to the flame of the knight's anger,
while Undine held her hand over the side of the vessel, dipping it
into the water, softly murmuring to herself, and only now and then
interrupting her strange mysterious whisper, as she entreated her
husband: "My dearly loved one, do not scold me here; reprove others
if you will, but not me here. You know why!" And indeed, he
restrained the words of anger that were trembling on his tongue.
Presently in her wet hand which she had been holding under the
waves, she brought up a beautiful coral necklace of so much
brilliancy that the eyes of all were dazzled by it.

"Take this," said she, holding it out kindly to Bertalda; "I have
ordered this to be brought for you as a compensation, and don't be
grieved any more, my poor child."

But the knight sprang between them. He tore the beautiful ornament
from Undine's hand, hurled it again into the river, exclaiming in
passionate rage: "Have you then still a connection with them? In the
name of all the witches, remain among them with your presents, and
leave us mortals in peace, you sorceress!"

Poor Undine gazed at him with fixed but tearful eyes, her hand still
stretched out, as when she had offered her beautiful present so
lovingly to Bertalda. She then began to weep more and more
violently, like a dear innocent child bitterly afflicted. At last,
wearied out she said:

"Alas, sweet friend, alas! farewell! They shall do you no harm; only
remain true, so that I may be able to keep them from you. I must,
alas! go away; I must go hence at this early stage of life. Oh woe,
woe! what have you done! Oh woe, woe!"

She vanished over the side of the vessel. Whether she plunged into
the stream, or flowed away with it, they knew not; her disappearance
was like both and neither. Soon, however, she was completely lost
sight of in the Danube; only a few little waves kept whispering, as
if sobbing, round the boat, and they almost seemed to be saying: "Oh
woe, woe! oh remain true! oh woe!"

Huldbrand lay on the deck of the vessel, bathed in hot tears, and a
deep swoon soon cast its veil of forgetfulness over the unhappy man.



Shall we say it is well or ill, that our sorrow is of such short
duration? I mean that deep sorrow which affects the very well-spring
of our life, which becomes so one with the lost objects of our love
that they are no longer lost, and which enshrines their image as a
sacred treasure, until that final goal is reached which they have
reached before us! It is true that many men really maintain these
sacred memories, but their feeling is no longer that of the first
deep grief. Other and new images have thronged between; we learn at
length the transitoriness of all earthly things, even to our grief,
and, therefore. I must say "Alas, that our sorrow should be of such
short duration?"

The lord of Ringstetten experienced this whether for his good, we
shall hear in the sequel to this history. At first he could do
nothing but weep, and that as bitterly as the poor gentle Undine had
wept when he had torn from her hand that brilliant ornament with
which she had wished to set everything to rights. And then he would
stretch out his hand, as she had done, and would weep again, like
her. He cherished the secret hope that he might at length dissolve
in tears; and has not a similar hope passed before the mind of many
a one of us, with painful pleasure, in moments of great affliction?
Bertalda wept also, and they lived a long while quietly together at
Castle Ringstetten, cherishing Undine's memory, and almost wholly
forgetful of their former attachment to each other. And, therefore,
the good Undine often visited Huldbrand in his dreams; caressing him
tenderly and kindly, and then going away, weeping silently, so that
when he awoke he often scarcely knew why his cheeks were so wet;
whether they had been bathed with her tears, or merely with his own?

These dream-visions became, however, less frequent as time passed
on, and the grief of the knight was less acute; still he would
probably have cherished no other wish than thus to think calmly of
Undine and to talk of her, had not the old fisherman appeared one
day unexpectedly at the castle, and sternly insisted on Bertalda's
returning with him as his child. The news of Undine's disappearance
had reached him, and he had determined on no longer allowing
Bertalda to reside at the castle with the widowed knight.

"For," said he, "whether my daughter love me or no, I do not care to
know, but her honor is at stake, and where that is concerned,
nothing else is to be thought of."

This idea of the old fisherman's, and the solitude which threatened
to overwhelm the knight in all the halls and galleries of the
desolate castle, after Bertalda's departure, brought out the
feelings that had slumbered till now and which had been wholly
forgotten in his sorrow for Undine; namely, Huldbrand's affection
for the beautiful Bertalda. The fisherman had many objections to
raise against the proposed marriage. Undine had been very dear to
the old fisherman, and he felt that no one really knew for certain
whether the dear lost one were actually dead. And if her body were
truly lying cold and stiff at the bottom of the Danube, or had
floated away with the current into the ocean, even then Bertalda was
in some measure to blame for her death, and it was unfitting for her
to step into the place of the poor supplanted one. Yet the fisherman
had a strong regard for the knight also; and the entreaties of his
daughter, who had become much more gentle and submissive, and her
tears for Undine, turned the scale, and he must at length have given
his consent, for he remained at the castle without objection, and a
messenger was despatched to Father Heilmann, who had united Undine
and Huldbrand in happy days gone by, to bring him to the castle for
the second nuptials of the knight.

The holy man, however, had scarcely read the letter from the knight
of Ringstetten, than he set out on his journey to the castle, with
far greater expedition than even the messenger had used in going to
him. Whenever his breath failed in his rapid progress, or his aged
limbs ached with weariness, he would say to himself: "Perhaps the
evil may yet be prevented; fail not, my tottering frame, till you
have reached the goal!" And with renewed power he would then press
forward, and go on and on without rest or repose, until late one
evening he entered the shady court-yard of castle Ringstetten.

The betrothed pair were sitting side by side under the trees, and
the old fisherman was near them, absorbed in thought. The moment
they recognized Father Heilmann, they sprang up, and pressed round
him with warm welcome. But he, without making much reply, begged
Huldbrand to go with him into the castle; and when the latter looked
astonished, and hesitated to obey the grave summons, the reverend
father said to him:--

"Why should I make any delay in wishing to speak to you in private,
Herr von Ringstetten? What I have to say concerns Bertalda and the
fisherman as much as yourself, and what a man has to hear, he may
prefer to hear as soon as possible. Are you then so perfectly
certain, Knight Huldbrand, that your first wife is really dead? It
scarcely seems so to me. I will not indeed say anything of the
mysterious condition in which she may be existing, and I know, too,
nothing of it with certainty. But she was a pious and faithful wife,
that is beyond all doubt; and for a fortnight past she has stood at
my bedside at night in my dreams, wringing her tender hands in
anguish and sighing out: 'Oh, prevent him, good father! I am still
living! oh, save his life! save his soul!' I did not understand what
this nightly vision signified; when presently your messenger came,
and I hurried thither, not to unite, but to separate, what ought not
to be joined together. Leave her, Huldbrand! Leave him, Bertalda! He
yet belongs to another; and do you not see grief for his lost wife
still written on his pale cheek? No bridegroom looks thus, and a
voice tells me that if you do not leave him, you will never be

The three listeners felt in their innermost heart that Father
Heilmann spoke the truth, but they would not believe it. Even the
old fisherman was now so infatuated that he thought it could not be
otherwise than they had settled it in their discussions during the
last few days. They therefore all opposed the warnings of the priest
with a wild and gloomy rashness, until at length the holy father
quitted the castle with a sad heart, refusing to accept even for a
single night the shelter offered, or to enjoy the refreshments
brought him. Huldbrand, however, persuaded himself that the priest
was full of whims and fancies, and with dawn of day he sent for a
father from the nearest monastery, who, without hesitation, promised
to perform the ceremony in a few days.



It was between night and dawn of day that the knight was lying on
his couch, half-waking, half-sleeping. Whenever he was on the point
of falling asleep a terror seemed to come upon him and scare his
rest away, for his slumbers were haunted with spectres. If he tried,
however, to rouse himself in good earnest he felt fanned as by the
wings of a swan, and he heard the soft murmuring of waters, until
soothed by the agreeable delusion, he sunk back again into a
half-conscious state. At length he must have fallen sound asleep, for
it seemed to him as if he were lifted up upon the fluttering wings of
the swans and borne by them far over land and sea, while they sang
to him their sweetest music. "The music of the swan! the music of
the swan!" he kept saying to himself; "does it not always portend
death?" But it had yet another meaning. All at once he felt as if he
were hovering over the Mediterranean Sea. A swan was singing
musically in his ear that this was the Mediterranean Sea. And while
he was looking down upon the waters below they became clear as
crystal, so that he could see through them to the bottom. He was
delighted at this, for he could see Undine sitting beneath the
crystal arch. It is true she was weeping bitterly, and looking much
sadder than in the happy days when they had lived together at the
castle of Ringstetten, especially at their commencement, and
afterward also, shortly before they had begun their unhappy Danube
excursion. The knight could not help thinking upon all this very
fully and deeply, but it did not seem as if Undine perceived him.

Meanwhile Kuhleborn had approached her, and was on the point of
reproving her for her weeping. But she drew herself up, and looked
at him with such a noble and commanding air that he almost shrunk
back with fear. "Although I live here beneath the waters," said she,
"I have yet brought down my soul with me; and therefore I may well
weep, although you can not divine what such tears are. They too are
blessed, for everything is blessed to him in whom a true soul

He shook his head incredulously, and said, after some reflection:
"And yet, niece, you are subject to the laws of our element, and if
he marries again and is unfaithful to you, you are in duty bound to
take away his life."

"He is a widower to this very hour," replied Undine, "and his sad
heart still holds me dear."

"He is, however, at the same time betrothed," laughed Kuhleborn,
with scorn; "and let only a few days pass, and the priest will have
given the nuptial blessing, and then you will have to go upon earth
to accomplish the death of him who has taken another to wife."

"That I cannot do," laughed Undine in return; "I have sealed up the
fountain securely against myself and my race."

"But suppose he should leave his castle," said Kuhleborn, "or should
have the fountain opened again! for he thinks little enough of these

"It is just for that reason," said Undine, still smiling amid her
tears, "it is just for that reason, that he is now hovering in
spirit over the Mediterranean Sea, and is dreaming of this
conversation of ours as a warning. I have intentionally arranged it

Kuhleborn, furious with rage, looked up at the knight, threatened,
stamped with his feet, and then swift as an arrow shot under the
waves. It seemed as if he were swelling in his fury to the size of a
whale. Again the swans began to sing, to flap their wings, and to
fly. It seemed to the knight as if he were soaring away over
mountains and streams, and that he at length reached the castle
Ringstetten, and awoke on his couch.

He did, in reality, awake upon his couch, and his squire coming in
at that moment informed him that Father Heilmann was still lingering
in the neighborhood; that he had met him the night before in the
forest, in a hut which he had formed for himself of the branches of
trees, and covered with moss and brushwood. To the question what he
was doing here, since he would not give the nuptial blessing, he had
answered: "There are other blessings besides those at the nuptial
altar, and though I have not gone to the wedding, it may be that I
shall be at another solemn ceremony. We must be ready for all
things. Besides, marrying and mourning are not so unlike, and every
one not wilfully blinded must see that well."

The knight placed various strange constructions upon these words,
and upon his dream, but it is very difficult to break off a thing
which a man has once regarded as certain, and so everything remained
as it had been arranged.



If I were to tell you how the marriage-feast passed at castle
Ringstetten, it would seem to you as if you saw a heap of bright and
pleasant things, but a gloomy veil of mourning spread over them all,
the dark hue of which would make the splendor of the whole look less
like happiness than a mockery of the emptiness of all earthly joys.
It was not that any spectral apparitions disturbed the festive
company, for we know that the castle had been secured from the
mischief of the threatening water-spirits. But the knight and the
fisherman and all the guests felt as if the chief personage were
still lacking at the feast, and that this chief personage could be
none other than the loved and gentle Undine. Whenever a door opened,
the eyes of all were involuntarily turned in that direction, and if
it was nothing but the butler with new dishes, or the cup-bearer
with a flask of still richer wine, they would look down again sadly,
and the flashes of wit and merriment which had passed to and fro,
would be extinguished by sad remembrances. The bride was the most
thoughtless of all, and therefore the most happy; but even to her it
sometimes seemed strange that she should be sitting at the head of
the table, wearing a green wreath and gold-embroidered attire, while
Undine was lying at the bottom of the Danube, a cold and stiff
corpse, or floating away with the current into the mighty ocean.
For, ever since her father had spoken of something of the sort, his
words were ever ringing in her ear, and this day especially they
were not inclined to give place to other thoughts.

The company dispersed early in the evening, not broken up by the
bridegroom himself, but sadly and gloomily by the joyless mood of
the guests and their forebodings of evil. Bertalda retired with her
maidens, and the knight with his attendants; but at this mournful
festival there was no gay, laughing train of bridesmaids and

Bertalda wished to arouse more cheerful thoughts; she ordered a
splendid ornament of jewels which Huldbrand had given her, together
with rich apparel and veils, to be spread out before her, in order
that from these latter she might select the brightest and most
beautiful for her morning attire. Her attendants were delighted at
the opportunity of expressing their good wishes to their young
mistress, not failing at the same time to extol the beauty of the
bride in the most lively terms. They were more and more absorbed in
these considerations, till Bertalda at length, looking in a mirror,
said with a sigh: "Ah, but don't you see plainly how freckled I am
growing here at the side of my neck?"

They looked at her throat, and found the freckles as their fair
mistress had said, but they called them beauty-spots, and mere tiny
blemishes only, tending to enhance the whiteness of her delicate
skin. Bertalda shook her head and asserted that a spot was always a

"And I could remove them," she sighed a last, "only the fountain is
closed from which I used to have that precious and purifying water.
Oh! if I had but a flask of it to-day!"

"Is that all?" said an alert waiting-maid, laughing, as she slipped
from the apartment.

"She will not be mad," exclaimed Bertalda, in a pleased and
surprised tone, "she will not be so mad as to have the stone removed
from the fountain this very evening!" At the same moment they heard
the men crossing the courtyard, and could see from the window how
the officious waiting-woman was leading them straight up to the
fountain, and that they were carrying levers and other instruments
on their shoulders. "It is certainly my will," said Bertalda,
smiling, "if only it does not take too long." And, happy in the
sense that a look from her now was able to effect what had formerly
been so painfully refused her, she watched the progress of the work
in the moonlit castle-court.

The men raised the enormous stone with an effort; now and then
indeed one of their number would sigh, as he remembered that they
were destroying the work of their former beloved mistress. But the
labor was far lighter than they had imagined. It seemed as if a
power within the spring itself were aiding them in raising the

"It is just," said the workmen to each other in astonishment, "as if
the water within had become a springing fountain." And the stone
rose higher and higher, and almost without the assistance of the
workmen, it rolled slowly down upon the pavement with a hollow
sound. But from the opening of the fountain there rose solemnly a
white column of water; at first they imagined it had really become a
springing fountain, till they perceived that the rising form was a
pale female figure veiled in white. She was weeping bitterly,
raising her hands wailingly above her head and wringing them, as she
walked with a slow and serious step to the castle-building. The
servants fled from the spring; the bride, pale and stiff with
horror, stood at the window with her attendants. When the figure had
now come close beneath her room, it looked moaningly up to her, and
Bertalda thought she could recognize beneath the veil the pale
features of Undine. But the sorrowing form passed on, sad,
reluctant, and faltering, as if passing to execution.

Bertalda screamed out that the knight was to be called, but none of
her maids ventured from the spot; and even the bride herself became
mute, as if trembling at her own voice.

While they were still standing fearfully at the window, motionless
as statues, the strange wanderer had reached the castle, had passed
up the well-known stairs, and through the well-known halls, ever in
silent tears. Alas! how differently had she once wandered through

The knight, partly undressed, had already dismissed his attendants,
and in a mood of deep dejection he was standing before a large
mirror; a taper was burning dimly beside him. There was a gentle tap
at his door. Undine used to tap thus when she wanted playfully to
tease him "It is all fancy," said he to himself; "I must seek my
nuptial bed."

"So you must, but it must be a cold one!" he heard a tearful voice
say from without, and then he saw in the mirror his door opening
slowly--slowly--and the white figure entered, carefully closing it
behind her. "They have opened the spring," said she softly, "and now
I am here, and you must die."

He felt in his paralyzed heart that it could not be otherwise, but
covering his eyes with his hands he said: "Do not make me mad with
terror in my hour of death. If you wear a hideous face behind that
veil, do not raise it, but take my life, and let me see you not."

"Alas!" replied the figure, "will you then not look upon me once
more? I am as fair as when you wooed me on the promontory."

"Oh, if it were so!" sighed Huldbrand, "and if I might die in your
fond embrace!"

"Most gladly, my loved one," said she; and throwing her veil back,
her lovely face smiled forth divinely beautiful. Trembling with love
and with the approach of death, she kissed him with a holy kiss; but
not relaxing her hold she pressed him fervently to her, and as if
she would weep away her soul. Tears rushed into the knight's eyes,
and seemed to surge through his heaving breast, till at length his
breathing ceased, and he fell softly back from the beautiful arms of
Undine, upon the pillows of his couch--a corpse.

"I have wept him to death," said she to some servants who met her in
the ante-chamber; and, passing through the affrighted group, she
went slowly out toward the fountain.



Father Heilmann had returned to the castle as soon as the death of
the lord of Ringstetten had been made known in the neighborhood, and
he appeared at the very same moment that the monk who had married
the unfortunate couple was fleeing from the gates overwhelmed with
fear and terror.

"It is well," replied Heilmann, when he was informed of this; "now
my duties begin, and I need no associate."

Upon this he began to console the bride, now a widow, small result
as it produced upon her worldly thoughtless mind. The old fisherman,
on the other hand, although heartily grieved, was far more resigned
to the fate which had befallen his daughter and son-in-law, and
while Bertalda could not refrain from abusing Undine as a murderess
and sorceress, the old man calmly said: "It could not be otherwise
after all; I see nothing in it but the judgment of God, and no one's
heart has been more deeply grieved by Huldbrand's death than that of
her by whom it was inflicted--the poor forsaken Undine!"

At the same time he assisted in arranging the funeral solemnities as
befitted the rank of the deceased.

The knight was to be interred in the village churchyard which was
filled with the graves of his ancestors. And this church had been
endowed with rich privileges and gifts both by these ancestors and
by himself. His shield and helmet lay already on the coffin, to be
lowered with it into the grave, for Sir Huldbrand, of Ringstetten,
had died the last of his race; the mourners began their sorrowful
march, singing requiems under the bright, calm canopy of heaven;
Father Heilmann walked in advance, bearing a high crucifix, and the
inconsolable Bertalda followed, supported by her aged father.
Suddenly, in the midst of the black-robed attendants in the widow's
train, a snow-white figure was seen, closely veiled, and wringing
her hands with fervent sorrow. Those near whom she moved felt a
secret dread, and retreated either backward or to the side,
increasing by their movements the alarm of the others near to whom
the white stranger was now advancing, and thus a confusion in the
funeral-train was well-nigh beginning. Some of the military escort
were so daring as to address the figure, and to attempt to remove it
from the procession; but she seemed to vanish from under their
hands, and yet was immediately seen advancing again amid the dismal
cortege with slow and solemn step. At length, in consequence of the
continued shrinking of the attendants to the right and to the left,
she came close behind Bertalda. The figure now moved so slowly that
the widow did not perceive it, and it walked meekly and humbly
behind her undisturbed.

This lasted till they came to the churchyard, where the procession
formed a circle round the open grave. Then Bertalda saw her unbidden
companion, and starting up half in anger and half in terror, she
commanded her to leave the knight's last resting-place. The veiled
figure, however, gently shook her head in refusal, and raised her
hands as if in humble supplication to Bertalda, deeply agitating her
by the action, and recalling to her with tears how Undine had so
kindly wished to give her that coral necklace on the Danube. Father
Heilmann motioned with his hand and commanded silence, as they were
to pray in mute devotion over the body, which they were now covering
with the earth. Bertalda knelt silently, and all knelt, even the
grave-diggers among the rest, when they had finished their task. But
when they rose again, the white stranger had vanished; on the spot
where she had knelt there gushed out of the turf a little silver
spring, which rippled and murmured away till it had almost entirely
encircled the knight's grave; then it ran further and emptied itself
into a lake which lay by the side of the burial-place. Even to this
day the inhabitants of the village show the spring, and cherish the
belief that it is the poor rejected Undine, who in this manner still
embraces her husband in her loving arms.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Undine" ***

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