5. How The Knight Lived On The Little Promontory
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 promontory.
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.