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3. How They Found Undine Again
The longer Huldbrand sought Undine beneath the shades of night, and failed to find her,
the more anxious and confused did he become.
The idea that Undine had been only a mere apparition of the forest, again gained
ascendancy over him; indeed, amid the howling of the waves and the tempest, the
cracking of the trees, and the complete transformation of a scene lately so calmly
beautiful, he could almost have considered the whole peninsula with its cottage and its
inhabitants as a mocking illusive vision; but from afar he still ever heard through the
tumult the fisherman's anxious call for Undine, and the loud praying and singing of his
aged wife. At length he came close to the brink of the swollen stream. and saw in the
moonlight how it had taken its wild course directly in front of the haunted forest, so as to
change the peninsula into an island. "Oh God!" he thought to himself, "if Undine has
ventured a step into that fearful forest, perhaps in her charming wilfulness, just because I
was not allowed to tell her about it; and now the stream may be rolling between us, and
she may be weeping on the other side alone, among phantoms and spectres!"
A cry of horror escaped him, and he clambered down some rocks and overthrown pine-
stems, in order to reach the rushing stream and by wading or swimming to seek the
fugitive on the other side. He remembered all the awful and wonderful things which he
had encountered, even by day, under the now rustling and roaring branches of the forest.
Above all it seemed to him as if a tall man in white, whom he knew but too well, was
grinning and nodding on the opposite shore; but it was just these monstrous forms which
forcibly impelled him to cross the flood, as the thought seized him that Undine might be
among them in the agonies of death and alone.
He had already grasped the strong branch of a pine, and was standing supported by it, in
the whirling current, against which he could with difficulty maintain himself; though with
a courageous spirit he advanced deeper into it. Just then a gentle voice exclaimed near
him: "Venture not, venture not, the old man, the stream, is full of tricks!" He knew the
sweet tones; he stood as if entranced beneath the shadows that duskily shrouded the
moon, and his head swam with the swelling of the waves, which he now saw rapidly
rising to his waist. Still he would not desist.
"If thou art not really there, if thou art only floating about me like a mist, then may I too
cease to live and become a shadow like thee, dear, dear Undine!" Thus exclaiming aloud,
he again stepped deeper into the stream. "Look round thee, oh! look round thee, beautiful
but infatuated youth!" cried a voice again close beside him, and looking aside, he saw by
the momentarily unveiled moon, a little island formed by the flood, on which he
perceived under the interweaved branches of the overhanging trees, Undine smiling and
happy, nestling in the flowery grass.