“Look round then—look round, fair youth!” he heard just behind him, and looking round, he beheld by the returning moonbeams, on a fair island left by the flood, under some thickly interlaced branches, Undine all smiles and loveliness, nestling in the flowery grass. How much more joyfully than before did the young man use his pine staff to cross the waters! A few strides brought him through the flood that had parted them; and he found himself at her side, on the nook of soft grass, securely sheltered under the shade of the old trees. Undine half arose, and twined her arms round his neck in the green arbour, making him sit down by her on the turf. “Here you shall tell me all, my own friend,” said she in a low whisper; “the cross old folks cannot overhear us. And our pretty bower of leaves is well worth their wretched hut.”
“This is heaven!” cried Huldbrand, as he clasped in his arms the beautiful flatterer.
Meantime the old man had reached the banks of the stream, and he called out: “So, Sir Knight, when I had made you welcome, as one honest man should another, here are you making love to my adopted child—to say nothing of your leaving me to seek her, alone and terrified, all night.”
“I have but this moment found her, old man!” cried the Knight in reply.
“Well, I am glad of that,” said the Fisherman; “now then bring her back to me at once.”
But Undine would not hear of it. She had rather she said, go quite away into the wild woods with the handsome stranger, than return to the hut, where she had never had her own way, and which the Knight must sooner or later leave. Embracing Huldbrand, she sang with peculiar charm and grace:
“From misty cave the mountain wave
Leapt out and sought the main!
The Ocean’s foam she made her home,
And ne’er returned again.”
The old man wept bitterly as she sang, but this did not seem to move her. She continued to caress her lover, till at length he said: “Undine, the poor old man’s grief goes to my heart if not to yours. Let us go back to him.”
Astonished, she raised her large blue eyes toward him, and after a pause answered slowly and reluctantly: “To please you, I will: whatever you like pleases me too. But the old man yonder must first promise me that he will let you tell me all you saw in the forest, and the rest we shall see about.”
“Only come back—do come!” cried the Fisherman, and not another word could he say. At the same moment he stretched his arms over the stream toward her, and nodded his head by way of giving her the desired promise; and as his white hair fell over his face, it gave him a strange look, and reminded Huldbrand involuntarily of the nodding white man in the woods. Determined, however, that nothing should stop him, the young Knight took the fair damsel in his arms, and carried her through the short space of foaming flood, which divided the island from the mainland. The old man fell upon Undine’s neck, and rejoiced, and kissed her in the fulness of his heart; his aged wife also came up, and welcomed their recovered child most warmly. All reproaches were forgotten; the more so, as Undine seemed to have left her sauciness behind, and overwhelmed her foster parents with kind words and caresses.