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 altogether 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 quite a ways into the valley, and might soon hope to overtake the maiden if he were on the right track, but 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 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; then, 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 woman, 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—but 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, 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.