16. How It Fared Further With Huldbrand
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 whip 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