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Friedrich de la Motte Fouque
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6. Of A Nuptial Ceremony
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 gate 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