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13. How They Lived At Castle Ringstetten
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."