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10. How They Lived In The City
The sudden disappearance of the young knight, Huldbrand von Ringstetten, from the
imperial city, had caused great sensation and solicitude among those who had admired
him, both for his skill in the tournament and the dance, and no less so for his gentle and
agreeable manners. His servants would not quit the place without their master, although
not one of them would have had the courage to go in quest of him into the shadowy
recesses of the forest. They therefore remained in their quarters, inactively hoping, as
men are wont to do, and keeping alive the remembrance of their lost lord by their
lamentations. When, soon after, the violent storms and floods were observed, the less
doubt was entertained as to the certain destruction of the handsome stranger; and Bertalda
openly mourned for him and blamed herself for having allured the unfortunate knight into
the forest. Her foster-parents, the duke and duchess, had come to fetch her away, but
Bertalda entreated them to remain with her until certain intelligence had been obtained of
Huldbrand's fate. She endeavored to prevail upon several young knights, who were
eagerly courting her, to follow the noble adventurer to the forest. But she would not
pledge her hand as a reward of the enterprise, because she always cherished the hope of
belonging to the returning knight, and no glove, nor riband, nor even kiss, would tempt
any one to expose his life for the sake of bringing back such a dangerous rival.
When Huldbrand now suddenly and unexpectedly appeared, his servants. and the
inhabitants of the city, and almost every one, rejoiced. Bertalda alone refused to do so;
for agreeable as it was to the others that he should bring with him such a beautiful bride,
and Father Heilmann as a witness of the marriage, Bertalda could feel nothing but grief
and vexation. In the first place, she had really loved the young knight with all her heart,
and in the next, her sorrow at his absence had proclaimed this far more before the eyes of
all, than was now befitting. She still, however, conducted herself as a wise maiden,
reconciled herself to circumstances, and lived on the most friendly terms with Undine,
who was looked upon throughout the city as a princess whom Huldbrand had rescued in
the forest from some evil enchantment. When she or her husband were questioned on the
matter, they were wise enough to be silent or skilfully to evade the inquiries. Father
Heilmann's lips were sealed to idle gossip of any kind, and moreover, immediately after
Huldbrand's arrival, he had returned to his monastery; so that people were obliged to be
satisfied with their own strange conjectures, and even Bertalda herself knew no more of
the truth than others.
Day by day, Undine felt her affection increase for the fair maiden. "We must have known
each other before," she often used to say to her. "or else, there must be some mysterious
connection between us, for one does not love another as dearly as I have loved you from
the first moment of our meeting without some cause--some deep and secret cause." And
Bertalda also could not deny the fact that she felt drawn to Undine with a tender feeling
of confidence, however much she might consider that she had cause for the bitterest
lamentation at this successful rival. Biassed by this mutual affection, they both