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12. How They Departed From The Imperial City
The lord of Ringstetten would have certainly preferred the events of this day to have been
different; but even as they were, he could scarcely regret them wholly, as they had
exhibited his charming wife under such a good and sweet and kindly aspect. "If I have
given her a soul," he could not help saying to himself, "I have indeed given her a better
one than my own;" and his only thought now was to speak soothingly to the weeping
Undine, and on the following morning to quit with her a place which, after this incident,
must have become distasteful to her. It is true that she was not estimated differently to
what she had been. As something mysterious had long been expected of her, the strange
discovery of Bertalda's origin had caused no great surprise, and every one who had heard
the story and had seen Bertalda's violent behavior, was disgusted with her alone. Of this,
however, the knight and his lady knew nothing as yet; and, besides, the condemnation or
approval of the public was equally painful to Undine, and thus there was no better course
to pursue than to leave the walls of the old city behind them with all the speed possible.
With the earliest beams of morning a pretty carriage drove up to the entrance gate for
Undine: the horses which Huldbrand and his squires were to ride stood near, pawing the
ground with impatient eagerness. The knight was leading his beautiful wife from the
door. when a fisher-girl crossed their way. "We do not need your fish," said Huldbrand to
her, "we are now starting on our journey." Upon this the fisher-girl began to weep
bitterly, and the young couple perceived for the first time that it was Bertalda. They
immediately returned with her to their apartment, and learned from her that the duke and
duchess were so displeased at her violent and unfeeling conduct on the preceding way,
that they had entirely withdrawn their protection from her, though not without giving her
a rich portion.
The fisherman, too, had been handsomely rewarded, and had the evening before set out
with his wife to return to their secluded home.
"I would have gone with them," she continued, "but the old fisherman, who is said to be
my father"--
"And he is so indeed, Bertalda," interrupted Undine. "Look here, the stranger, whom you
took for the master of the fountain, told me the whole story in detail. He wished to
dissuade me from taking you with me to castle Ringstetten, and this led him to disclose
the secret."
"Well, then," said Bertalda, "if it must be so, my father said, 'I will not take you with me
until you are changed. Venture to come to us alone through the haunted forest; that shall
be the proof whether you have any regard for us. But do not come to me as a lady; come
only as a fisher-girl!' So I will do just as he has told me, for I am forsaken be the whole
world, and I will live and die in solitude as a poor fisher-girl, with my poor parents. I