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14. How Bertalda Returned Home With The Knight
The Black Valley lies deep within the mountains. What it is now called we do not know.
At that time the people of the country gave it this appellation on account of the deep
obscurity in which the low land lay, owing to the shadows of the lofty trees, and
especially firs, that grew there. Even the brook which bubbled between the rocks wore
the same dark hue, and dashed along with none of that gladness with which streams are
wont to flow that have the blue sky immediately above them. Now, in the growing
twilight of evening, it looked wild and gloomy between the heights. The knight trotted
anxiously along the edge of the brook, fearful at one moment that by delay he might
allow the fugitive to advance too far, and at the next that by too great rapidity he might
overlook her in case she were concealing herself from him. Meanwhile he had already
penetrated tolerably far into the valley, and might soon hope to overtake the maiden, if he
were on the right track. The fear that this might not be the case made his heart beat with
anxiety. Where would the tender Bertalda tarry through the stormy night, which was so
fearful in the valley, should he fail to find her? At length he saw something white
gleaming through the branches on the slope of the mountain. He thought he recognized
Bertalda's dress, and he turned his course in that direction. But his horse refused to go
forward; it reared impatiently; and its master, unwilling to lose a moment, and seeing
moreover that the copse was impassable on horseback, dismounted; and, fastening his
snorting steed to an elm- tree, he worked his way cautiously through the bushes. The
branches sprinkled his forehead and cheeks with the cold drops of the evening dew; a
distant roll of thunder was heard murmuring from the other side of the mountains;
everything looked so strange that he began to feel a dread of the white figure, which now
lay only a short distance from him on the ground. Still he could plainly see that it was a
female, either asleep or in a swoon, and that she was attired in long white garments, such
as Bertalda had worn on that day. He stepped close up to her, made a rustling with the
branches, and let his sword clatter, but she moved not. "Bertalda!" he exclaimed, at first
in a low voice, and then louder and louder--still she heard not. At last, when he uttered
the dear name with a more powerful effort, a hollow echo from the mountain-caverns of
the valley indistinctly reverberated "Bertalda!" but still the sleeper woke not. He bent
down over her; the gloom of the valley and the obscurity of approaching night would not
allow him to distinguish her features.
Just as he was stooping closer over her, with a feeling of painful doubt, a flash of
lightning shot across the valley, and he saw before him a frightfully distorted
countenance, and a hollow voice exclaimed: "Give me a kiss, you enamoured swain!"
Huldbrand sprang up with a cry of horror, and the hideous figure rose with him. "Go
home!" it murmured; "wizards are on the watch. Go home! or I will have you!" and it
stretched out its long white arms toward him.