The men both followed her to a shady creek, and there found a barrel, which did look as if it contained the generous liquor which they longed for. They rolled it toward the hut as fast as they could, for a heavy storm seemed stalking across the sky, and there was light enough left to show them the waves of the lake tossing up their foaming heads, as if looking out for the rain which would soon pour down upon them. Undine lent a hand in the work, and presently, when the shower threatened to break instantly over their heads, she spoke to the big clouds in playful defiance: “You, you there! mind you do not give us a drenching; we are some way from home yet.” The old man admonished her that this was sinful presumption, but she laughed slyly to herself, and no harm came of it. Beyond their hopes, they all three reached the comfortable fireside with their prize, unhurt; and it was not till they had opened the barrel, and found it to contain excellent wine, that the rain broke from the heavy clouds in torrents, and they heard the storm roaring among the trees, and over the lake’s heaving billows.
A few bottles were soon filled from the great barrel, enough to last them several days; and they sat sipping and chatting over the bright fire, secure from the raging tempest. But the old man’s heart presently smote him. “Dear me,” said he, “here are we making merry over the blessing of Providence, while the owner of it has perhaps been carried away by the flood, and lost his life!”—“No, that he has not,” said Undine, smiling; and she filled the Knight’s glass again. He replied, “I give you my word, good father, that if I knew how to find and save him, no danger should deter me; I would not shrink from setting out in this darkness. This much I promise you, if ever I set foot in an inhabited country again, I will make inquiry after him or his heirs, and restore to them twice or three times the value of the wine.” This pleased the old man, he gave an approving nod to the Knight, and drained his glass with a better conscience and a lighter heart. But Undine said to Huldbrand, “Do as you like with your money, you may make what compensation you please; but as to setting out and wandering after him, that was hastily said. I should cry my heart out if we chanced to lose you; and had not you rather stay with me and with the good wine?” “Why, yes!” said Huldbrand, laughing. “Well then,” rejoined Undine, “it was a foolish thing you talked of doing; charity begins at home, you know.” The old woman turned away, shaking her head and sighing; her husband forgot his usual indulgence for the pretty lassie, and reproved her sharply. “One would think,” said he, “you had been reared by Turks and heathens; God forgive you and us, you perverse child.”—“Ay but it is my way of thinking,” pursued Undine, “whoever has reared me, so what is the use of your talking?”—“Peace!” cried the Fisherman; and she, who with all her wildness was sometimes cowed in a moment, clung trembling to Huldbrand, and whispered, “And are you angry with me, dear friend?” The Knight pressed her soft hand, and stroked down her ringlets. Not a word could he say; his distress at the old man’s harshness toward Undine had sealed his lips; and so each couple remained sitting opposite the other, in moody silence and constraint.