Huldbrand promised, and hand in hand they went in search of Bertalda.
She meanwhile had called together some workmen, and as she saw the knight and Undine drawing near, she gave her orders to the men in a loud, discontented voice. 'The stone may now be removed. Hasten, see that it be done immediately!'
But the knight was angry with the maiden for daring thus to give what orders she pleased, and he shouted at once, so that the workmen might hear, 'The stone shall stay where it is! It shall not be removed!'
And the men went away, well pleased that they need not undo what their gentle mistress had ordered to be done.
Huldbrand then reproved Bertalda for her rude behaviour to his wife, but she scarcely heard his words, as she turned away in anger and hastened to her room.
Soon supper was placed on the table, but Huldbrand and Undine waited in vain for Bertalda. At length they sent a servant to call her, but the maid came back only to tell them that she was nowhere to be found. In her room, however, a letter had been left addressed to the knight. Huldbrand opened it hastily and read:—
'Forgive me, Sir Knight, that I have forgotten that I am only a poor fisher-girl. I will go to my father's miserable cottage, where I cannot well commit the same fault again. Fare you well, you and your beautiful wife.'
'You must go without delay to seek her and bring her back,' said Undine.
And Huldbrand did not need to be urged. Already he had ordered his horse to be saddled that he might ride after the maiden.
In vain he asked the servants in what direction Bertalda had gone. No one had seen her. It was only as the knight impatiently mounted his steed, that a page ran up to him crying, 'The lady Bertalda rode toward the Black Valley.'
Without a pause the knight darted off in the direction of the valley. He did not hear his wife's voice crying after him, 'Huldbrand, Huldbrand, go not there, not to the valley, Huldbrand, or, if go you must, take me, I entreat of you.'
Then when Undine saw that her cry was unheard, she ordered her palfrey to be saddled instantly, and mounting it, she rode forth alone to follow the knight into the Black Valley.
THE BLACK VALLEY
The Black Valley was a gloomy place. Fir-trees grew tall and dark on the banks of the stream, casting strange shadows on the sunny waters.
As the knight entered the valley, evening had fallen and the stream rushed, dark and sullen, between the rocks.
Huldbrand glanced anxiously from side to side, but no trace could be found of the maiden whom he sought. He began to fear lest already she were in peril, and thinking thus he urged his horse yet further into the valley.
Peering through the bushes as he rode, he at length caught sight of something white lying on the ground. Had he found Bertalda at last?
He spurred his horse onward toward the white gleam which had caught his eye, but the animal no sooner saw the object which had gladdened his master's eye than it started violently and refused to move. Then the knight dismounted, and tying his now rearing steed to an elm, he pushed his way on foot through the brushwood.
Thunder began to rumble around the mountains, and the evening dew fell cold and damp on the anxious knight.
He could still see the white figure lying on the ground, but as he drew nearer to it a strange dread struck at Huldbrand's heart.
'Was Bertalda asleep,' he wondered, 'or did she lie there unconscious, perchance even dead?'
He was close to her now, bending over her. She never stirred. He rustled the branches, rattled his sword. Still she lay there quiet, motionless. He called her by her name, 'Bertalda!' but no voice answered him. He called again, more loud, 'Bertalda!' but only a sorrowful echo answered his cry.
Then the knight bent nearer yet to the maiden, but darkness hid the face on which he longed to gaze.
Suddenly the whole valley was bright as at mid-day. A vivid flash of lightning showed to Huldbrand the face over which he bent.
It was a terrible face. And a voice, awful as the face, rang out harsh and hollow.
With a cry of terror the knight sprang away from the horrid vision. But was it a vision? Huldbrand knew that it was creeping after him, and he could catch some muttered words. 'Get you gone, get you gone,' he heard, 'there are evil spirits abroad. Get you gone, or I shall seize you and hold you fast,' and the white figure stretched out his bony arms to catch him. Ah! now the knight knew who it was that had given him so cruel a fright. It was none other than Kuehleborn, the malicious water spirit.
Seizing his sword, Huldbrand struck fiercely at the white figure, only however to see it vanish, while a heavy shower of water drenched him from head to foot.
'He may wish to drive me away, but he shall not succeed in doing so,' murmured the knight. 'Bertalda shall not be left to the vengeance of this evil spirit.'
Huldbrand now turned back to go to his horse, but ere he reached the animal, he heard in the distance a sound of weeping. It reached his ears even though the thunder still rolled and the wind still blew. He hastened towards the spot from which the sound seemed to come. There, on the hillside, trying to climb up out of the darkness of the valley, he found Bertalda.
The maiden was too glad to see Huldbrand to remember how but lately he had angered her. She clung to him, calling him her deliverer, her knight, for to her too the valley had been full of horrible forms and strange visions.
Soothing her with kind words, Huldbrand led the maiden toward his horse.
But no sooner did the animal see his master approach with Bertalda on his arm than it began to rear, beating the air madly with its forefeet.
It was not possible to mount Bertalda, and the knight soon gave up the attempt. He drew the horse gently forward by the bridle, while with his other arm he supported the fearful maiden.
But Bertalda, though she was anxious to escape from the dark valley, could walk but slowly, and at each step her strength grew less. For Kuehleborn had played her many pranks ere she had been found. The storm also had bruised her slender form.
At length she slipped from the knight's arm, and falling on the grass, she sighed, 'Leave me, noble knight, leave me to suffer the punishment I deserve.'
'I will never leave you, dear Bertalda,' cried the knight. As he spoke, the steed began to plunge even more furiously than before. It was impossible for Huldbrand to control the animal. All he could do was to force it away a few paces from where the maiden lay, for he feared lest the horse should trample her to death.
He had gone but a few steps when he heard her calling to him, 'Huldbrand, Huldbrand, leave me not alone,' for already all her courage had faded away.
As he hesitated, the knight heard the wheels of a wagon rumble slowly over the rough road that led through the valley. He at once called to the driver to come to his help. A man's voice called back quickly, 'Have but patience, and I will come.'
Soon afterwards Huldbrand saw two white horses appear through the trees. Then a wagon covered with a great white hood was to be seen, and last of all the driver, who was dressed in a white carter's frock.
The driver drew near to the knight and tried to help him to quiet his frightened steed.
'Do you know, Sir Knight, why your good horse shivers thus?' asked the carter, 'for if not I can tell you. A bad water spirit dwells in this valley, and often he would bewitch my horses when first I ventured through it. But now I have learned a little spell. If you wish it, I will whisper it in the ear of your steed, and he will stand steady as my greys.'
'You may try your spell,' said the knight, 'though I fear that it will be of but little use.'
Then the driver of the wagon went quietly up to the panting steed, and said a few words to it. At once the horse stood still, without a trace of the fear which had made it so restless and unmanageable.
Huldbrand had no time to wonder what the wagoner had said to his horse. He was too eager to get Bertalda out of the valley to think of anything else.
'My wagon will take the fair lady safely back to Ringstetten,' said the wagoner. 'She may sit in it in comfort, for it is filled with bags of the softest cotton.'
The knight was glad to accept this offer, and as his horse, though quiet, was tired and weary, Huldbrand himself was easily persuaded that he also should ride in the wagon with Bertalda, while his steed was fastened behind.
'It is well,' said the wagoner, 'that the road is downhill. My trusty greys will step out bravely.'
Thus they started, the driver walking by the side of his wagon.
And Bertalda and the knight did not heed the jolting of the wagon, as they sat side by side on the soft bags of cotton.
Suddenly they were startled by a loud shout from the driver.
'Steady, now, my trusty greys, steady, lest you fall.'
Already the wagon was in the midst of a stream of rushing water, and it seemed as though the horses must be carried off their feet. The wagoner had sprung into the wagon untouched by the swirling waters.
'This is a strange way by which to drive us,' said Huldbrand to the wagoner. 'It seems to go right into the middle of the stream.'
'Nay, now, Sir Knight,' laughed the driver, 'if you look again, you will see that it is the stream which is rushing across our path. See, it has overflowed its banks.'
The knight looked and saw that the whole valley was being rapidly flooded. Then, all at once, he knew that this was Kuehleborn's doing.
'It is Kuehleborn,' he cried aloud, 'Kuehleborn the water spirit, who is doing his utmost to drown us. Do you not know a spell against his power?'
'Yea, by my troth I know a spell,' answered the wagoner, 'but ere I use it, I must tell you who I am.'
'I care not who you may be,' shouted the angry knight. 'See you not that there is no time to lose. The water is rising rapidly.'
'Nevertheless,' answered the man,' you shall hear my name, for I am Kuehleborn!'
He laughed a mocking laugh, and at that moment the wagon seemed to disappear, and Bertalda and the knight were struggling in the flood. Above them rose the wagoner, who was indeed, as he had said, Kuehleborn. Taller and taller he towered above them, until he seemed at last to change into a great white wave.
With horror-stricken eyes the maiden and the knight saw the wave swoop down upon the noble steed, which had been vainly struggling in the water. Then slowly once more the wave reared itself higher and higher yet above the heads of the two who watched and waited until they too should be for ever buried beneath the waters.
But ere the great white wave rolled down upon them, they were saved. Through the tumult of the waters a sweet voice floated to Bertalda and the knight. Then, as the moon broke through the clouds, they saw Undine on a hill looking down into the valley.
She rebuked the waters, she even threatened the vast wave that towered above Bertalda and the knight, until muttering gloomily it vanished from their sight.
As the waters ran more quietly through the valley, Undine flew to them swiftly as a bird and drew them up out of reach of the water. Bidding them rest a while, for they were weary, she went a little way off to fetch her white palfrey. Then, telling the knight to place Bertalda on the saddle, she led them safely back to the castle.
HULDBRAND FORGETS HIS PROMISE
Undine was full of joy when she had saved Bertalda and Huldbrand from the dangers of the Black Valley, and brought them back safely to Castle Ringstetten. Her joy grew daily greater as her husband became kind and gentle to her as he had used to be when they dwelt together in the cottage by the lake. Indeed the knight had grown ashamed of his careless words and ways. He would never again speak harshly to Undine or leave her side to spend long hours with Bertalda; so he thought to himself. For when she had hastened to save him and the maiden from the doom which had all but overtaken them, he had seen once more, in a flash, the soul of his beautiful young wife. It shone before him now, fair and spotless in its beauty.
Bertalda, too, had been touched by the goodness of her friend. She no longer wished to mock her gentle words, and though her heart was cold, she grew more humble.
Thus trouble and care passed away from Ringstetten, and spectres no longer haunted the dark corners of the castle.
Winter came, cold and chill, but it had no power to freeze the hearts of Undine and the knight.
Spring came, and the trees grew green, and the sky shone more blue, and the little birds began to use their wings. Soon the swallows and the storks came home from their long winter journeys. And those in the castle, as they thought of the fair countries these had seen, began themselves to wish to travel.
One beautiful evening Huldbrand with his wife and Bertalda walked along the banks of the river Danube. The knight, who had ofttimes sailed down the river, told them tales of the wonderful countries through which it flowed, and of the beautiful town of Vienna, which rose so proudly on its banks.
'Ah!' said Bertalda, 'how I wish we might sail to this city of which you tell.'
And Undine, ever anxious to give pleasure to her friend, said, 'Yes, let us visit Vienna while the spring is still fair.' Huldbrand also was pleased at the thought of the journey, only once he bent toward Undine and whispered, 'Kuehleborn, will we not be in his power if we sail down the river?'
His beautiful wife only laughed. She was too happy now to fear her uncle's power.
They therefore got ready for the journey with much merriment and many hopes.
When at length the three travellers, with their attendants, set out on their voyage, it seemed as though all would be as joyful as they had wished. As they sailed on, the river grew more broad, more green the grasses too in the rich meadow-lands.
But erelong a shadow crept across their joy. The river, indeed, flowed smooth as before, the country smiled only more graciously upon the travellers, but Kuehleborn had already begun to show that on this part of the river he could use his power.
Undine, it is true, reproved her uncle before he had done more than play a few tricks upon them. Yet though he would cease his pranks when she spoke, it was but a few moments before he was as troublesome as ever.
Soon the crew began to crowd together, whispering fearfully and glancing timidly at the knight and his fair ladies. Kuehleborn was making them afraid.
Huldbrand saw their strange glances and he began to grow angry. He even muttered crossly, 'This is Undine's mad uncle come to disturb us. I would her strange kindred would leave us alone.'
Thinking thus, the knight looked with displeasure at his poor wife. She knew but too well what his glance meant, and worn out with sorrow and with her constant watch over Kuehleborn, she at length fell fast asleep.
But no sooner were her eyes closed than her uncle again began his tiresome tricks.
It seemed to the sailors, and indeed to all on board, that they were bewitched, for look which way each one would, there before him, peering out of the water, was the head of a very ugly man.
Each man turned, in his terror, to point out to his fellow the hideous head. But on every face the same horror was already painted. Then when each tried to tell the other what each one had seen, they ended by crying out together, 'See, here is the face! nay, look, it is here!'
Undine awoke as the terrified crew broke into loud screams, and as she opened her eyes the ugly faces vanished.
But Huldbrand had not been frightened. He had been growing more and more angry, and now he would have spoken roughly to his wife, had she not pleaded with loving eyes and soft voice, 'For God's sake, rebuke me not while we are on the water. Bethink you of your promise.'
The knight was silent, for well he remembered how Undine had entreated him never to reprove her while she was near water.
Then she, seeing he was silent, whispered, 'Let us give up this voyage, for now has our joy turned into sadness. Let us go back to the castle where nothing can disturb us.'
Huldbrand, however, was not to be so easily restored to good humour. He answered her crossly, 'Why should I have to stay shut up at home? Even there can I have quiet only so long as the fountain remains sealed. I wish that your foolish kinsfolk—'
He could say no more, for Undine's hand was over his lips, and her voice was beseeching him to be silent.
Meanwhile Bertalda sat quietly in the ship, thinking of all the strange things that had happened. As she sat thus thinking, she unfastened a golden necklace which the knight had given to her, and holding it in her hand over the side of the bark she drew it carelessly through the water. Then dreamily she watched it as it gleamed and glistened in the light of the setting sun.
All at once a huge white hand came up out of the river, seized the necklace, and disappeared with it below the water.
Bertalda shrieked in terror, and a mocking laugh answered her cry.
Then could the anger of the knight no longer be concealed. He sprang up, shouting to the water spirits to claim no kinship with him, but to come and learn from his sword-thrusts how much he hated them.
The maiden meanwhile wept for her lost necklace. But Undine had thrust her hand into the water, and was murmuring strange words to herself, stopping from time to time to say to her husband, 'Chide me not here, Huldbrand, chide me not here, lest you lose me for ever.'
And, indeed, though the knight shook with rage, yet he spoke no word of reproach to his wife.
At length Undine drew out the hand which she had been holding under the water, and in it she held a coral necklace of wondrous beauty.
'Take it and weep no longer,' she said in her gentle voice, and she held the necklace out toward Bertalda. 'I have had it brought to me from the palaces below the sea. Grieve no longer for the one which you have lost.'
But the knight saw in the necklace only another sign of Undine's strange dealings with the water spirits. He sprang between Bertalda and his wife and snatched from Undine's hand the beautiful necklace, flinging it far away into the river. Then in his passion he turned to his wife, and cried, 'Go and abide with your kindred! You are a witch, go, dwell with those who are as you are, and take with you your gifts! Go, trouble us no more!'
Undine looked at Huldbrand. Tears were in her blue eyes, and she wept as a little blameless child might weep.
'Alas, beloved,' she sighed, 'farewell! No harm shall touch you while I have power to shield you from evil. Alas, alas! why have you sent me hence?'
She seemed to glide as she spoke over the edge of the bark, and be drawn down into the river. And the little waves lapped against the boat and seemed to sob as they whispered, 'Alas, alas!'
No sooner had the knight spoken than he knew what he had done. He had lost his wife, his beautiful fair-souled Undine. He lay on the deck stretching out empty arms, shedding bitter tears, until at length his misery made the strong man swoon.
HULDBRAND AND BERTALDA
When he recovered, the knight of Ringstetten went back to his castle with Bertalda. So bitterly did he mourn the loss of his gentle wife, that at length he began to believe that he would never cease to weep for her. Bertalda wept by his side, and for a long time they lived quietly together, thinking and talking of none save the beautiful Undine.
But as the months passed by, Huldbrand began to think a little less and yet a little less of his beautiful lost wife.
Now about this time the old fisherman appeared at the castle. He had come to tell the knight that it was time that his daughter Bertalda should come to live with him in his lonely cottage by the lake.
Then the knight began to think how strange and silent it would be in the castle if Bertalda left him. The more he thought about it the more he disliked the thought of being left alone.
At length he spoke to the fisherman and begged him not to take Bertalda away. 'Let her stay with me and be my wife,' said the knight.
And in time the fisherman yielded to the wishes of the knight, and the wedding-day was fixed.
Then a letter was sent to Father Heilman, begging him to come without delay to the castle that he might perform the wedding-rite between the knight and the lady Bertalda. Now Father Heilman was the very priest who had wedded Huldbrand to Undine in the cottage by the lake.
When the priest had read Huldbrand's letter he hastened at once to the castle.
Huldbrand and Bertalda were sitting side by side under the trees, the fisherman near them, when they saw the priest enter the court.
They all rose eagerly to welcome him, but Father Heilman began to speak without delay.
'Sir Knight, I have come with as great haste as my old limbs would carry me to tell you that I do not believe the beautiful Undine is dead. Last night and for many nights before, she was with me in my dreams, wringing her white hands, and crying, "Ah, holy Father, I live, I live. Let not Huldbrand forget me, for should he wed again great danger may, alas, come to him, nor will I have power to shield him. Help me, therefore, holy Father." What the dream meant I knew not until your letter reached me. Now have I come, not to marry you to Bertalda, but to tell you that Undine, your wife, is yet alive.'
The knight himself, as well as Bertalda and the fisherman, believed in their hearts that what the priest said was true, yet would they not own that they believed his words. Even the old fisherman, who so dearly loved his foster-child, thought that as the marriage with Bertalda had been arranged, it were well it should take place without more delay.
They all, therefore, refused to listen to the priest, when he reproached them for their conduct. They even told him, what was not really true, that they did not believe his foolish dreams.
Sadly shaking his head, the priest left the castle. He saw that should he speak again no one would listen to his words. Nor would he linger to taste any of the refreshments that were placed before him. He had failed to make any one believe his dream, and he was too sad to eat.
The following morning the knight sent to the nearest monastery for a priest, who promised to wed him to Bertalda in a few days.
The wedding-day dawned bright and clear, the guests assembled in the castle and wore their gayest garments, yet over everything there brooded a dark cloud. It seemed to the knight, as well as to his guests, that some one was missing from the feast, and the thoughts of all turned to the beautiful Undine.
The bride seemed happier than any one else, yet even she knew a cloud was in her sky.
Slowly the hours of the wedding-day dragged on, but at length the ceremony was over, the feast ended, and the guests ready to depart.
When they had gone, Bertalda, thinking to dispel the gloom which had now fallen upon her spirit, told her maids to spread out before her all her rich jewels and gorgeous robes. She would choose to-night the garments in which she would array herself on the morrow.
Her waiting-maids did as they were told, and when the dresses and jewels were spread out before their new mistress, they began to flatter her and tell her that none was fairer than she.
Bertalda listened with pleasure to their praises. Then looking at herself in the mirror she sighed. 'Alas, but see these little brown spots that have appeared on my neck.'
The maids saw indeed, as their mistress said, that there were freckles on her neck, but still they flattered her, saying that the little spots only made her skin look the whiter.
But Bertalda did not believe their words. She wanted to get rid of the freckles that had only lately appeared on her slender throat.
'Had I but water from the fountain, the spots would vanish in a day,' she cried pettishly.
Then one of Bertalda's maids thought to herself, 'My mistress shall have the water she so much desires,' and laughing gaily to herself, she slipped from the room.
In but a few moments heavy footsteps were heard in the court below. The footsteps tramped backward and forward.
Bertalda, looking from her window, smiled, for she saw that the noisy steps were those of workmen, who were busy removing the stone which had been placed over the fountain. She guessed that this was the doing of one of her maids, but she still smiled contentedly. The freckles would not spoil her beauty for another day. The water from the fountain would make them disappear, and that was all she cared about just then.
At first the workmen tried in vain to remove the stone. Perhaps some of them, remembering that their sweet young mistress Undine had ordered it to be placed there, did not try very hard to lift it from its place. All at once, however, the stone began to move. It almost seemed as though it were being pushed up from beneath. It moved slowly, then seemed to rise up into the air, after which it rolled on to the pavement with a tremendous crash.
Then slowly, slowly there rose out of the mouth of the well a white figure, veiled and weeping. And those who gazed spellbound at the sight saw that the figure which stepped from the fountain was that of a woman. Weeping and wringing her hands, she walked slowly, sorrowfully toward the castle.
The workmen now fled in terror from the court, while Bertalda with her maids still gazed from her window at the pale shadowy figure. As it passed beneath her window it looked upward, sobbing pitifully, and the bride saw under the veil the sweet sad face of the mistress of the castle, Undine.
Bertalda called aloud to her maids to go fetch the knight, her husband, but not one was found with courage to go in search of him.
On and on went the wanderer slowly, as though she would fain turn backward, on and up the stairs she knew so well, through the long quiet passages, and as she walked her tears fell yet more fast.
In a room at the end of the long passages stood the knight. A torch burnt dully by his side. As he stood there thinking of the days that had passed away for ever, he heard steps coming slowly along the passage. He listened, and, as he listened, the slow footsteps halted outside his door.
Soft fingers tapped, and then very gently the door was opened, and Huldbrand, standing before a long mirror, saw, without turning, a white-veiled figure enter and close the door.
'The stone has been taken away from the fountain, and I have come to you and you must die,' said a soft voice.
Ah, it was Undine, his beautiful lost Undine, who had come back to him. How he longed to see her face, yet how he feared to have the veil removed lest she should have changed since last he gazed upon her.
'If you are beauteous as in days gone by, if in your eyes I may see your soul tender as of old, draw aside your veil, that as I die I may gaze upon you,' faltered the knight.
Silently Undine threw back her veil, and Huldbrand saw her, fair as on the day he had won her for his bride. As he looked upon her, he knew that he had never loved any one in all the wide world as he loved Undine.
He bent toward the sweet face. Then Undine, kissing the knight, drew him into her arms and wept. And as she wept the tears flowed into his very heart and he also wept. Softly she laid him on his couch, and with her arms around him, Huldbrand died.
Then sorrowfully Undine raised herself from the couch, and sorrowfully she passed from the chamber.
'My tears fell on his heart until, for very sorrow, it broke,' she said, as she glided, a pale veiled figure, through the terrified servants.
And some who dared to follow her saw that she went slowly down toward the fountain.
Now when Father Heilman heard that the knight was dead, he hastened to the castle to comfort Bertalda. The priest, who but the day before had married the maiden to the knight, had already fled from the haunted house.
But Father Heilman found that the haughty spirit of the bride needed no comfort. She was more angry with Undine than sorrowful that she had lost the knight. Indeed, as she thought of the strange way in which Huldbrand had been snatched away from her, she cried aloud, 'Why did Huldbrand bring a water spirit to his home? She is worse than a mermaiden, she is a witch, a sorceress!'
Then the old fisherman, who heard her cruel words, hushed her, saying, 'It was God's will that Huldbrand should die, and Undine alone, forsaken, weeps for his death in great sorrow of soul.'
But if Father Heilman was not needed to comfort Bertalda, his presence was wanted at the burial of the knight.
Not far off there was a little village church to which the lord of Ringstetten and others of his race had given gifts. It was arranged that in the churchyard the knight should be laid to rest.
His shield and helmet were laid on his coffin and would be buried with him, for the knight of Ringstetten had left no son to bear them in the years that were to come.
On the day that had been fixed the mourners walked slowly toward the churchyard, Father Heilman in front carrying a crucifix.
Then slowly a figure clad in snow-white garments, and wringing her hands in great sorrow, came to join the mourners, who all wore black clothes as a sign of their grief. Those who noticed the white-veiled figure drew closer together, terror-stricken. Others, seeing them thus fearful, turned to see the reason of their fear, and soon these too drew aside, for the white-robed figure was in their very midst.
Seeing the confusion among the mourners, some soldiers, trying to be brave, as was their duty, spoke to the white-robed figure and even tried to drive her away. But she glided quickly past them and followed onward, still toward the little church.
The maids who were walking close to Bertalda saw that the white-veiled figure would soon be by their side, and they, lest she should harm them, drew back, so that it was easy for the shadowy form to keep close to the new-made bride.
Softly, noiselessly she moved, so noiselessly that Bertalda neither heard nor saw the phantom figure.
At length the mourners reached the churchyard and gathered around the grave. Then Bertalda, looking up, saw the white-veiled figure standing by her side, and knew that it was Undine.
Fear whispered to Bertalda to leave the veiled figure undisturbed, anger bade Bertalda order that it should at once depart. And anger was going to have its way, for Bertalda opened her lips to speak, but Undine shook her head and held out her hands as though she begged for mercy.
Then Bertalda remembered all the kindness Undine had shown toward her, and especially how lovingly she had held out to her the coral necklace as they were sailing on the Danube, and as she remembered her hard heart melted, and she wept.
At that moment Father Heilman began to pray, and all the mourners knelt around the grave, in which the coffin bearing the shield and helmet of the knight had now been placed.
When the prayer was ended the company arose, but the white-veiled figure was no longer to be seen.
Only on the spot where she had knelt a stream of crystal water gushed out of the earth. Quietly it flowed around the grave of the knight and then onward until it joined the river which ran past the little village church.
And in days to come the villagers would ofttimes point to the crystal stream as they told their children in solemn whispers that it, the little crystal stream, was none other than Undine, poor forsaken Undine, who thus surrounded and protected Huldbrand, her beloved.
* * * * *