Meanwhile, Undine grew daily more fond of this winning damsel. “We must have known each other before,” she would often say, “or else some secret attraction draws us toward each other; for without some cause, some strange, mysterious cause, I am sure nobody would love another as I have loved you from the moment we met.” Bertalda, on her part, could not deny that she felt strongly inclined to like Undine, notwithstanding the grounds of complaint she thought she had against this happy rival. The affection being mutual, the one persuaded her parents, the other her wedded lord, to defer the day of departure repeatedly; they even went so far as to propose that Bertalda should accompany Undine to the castle of Ringstetten, near the source of the Danube.
They were talking of this one fine evening, as they sauntered by starlight round the market-place, which was surrounded by high trees; the young couple had invited Bertalda to join their evening stroll, and they now paced backward and forward in pleasant talk, with the dark blue sky over their heads, and a beautiful fountain before them in the centre, which, as it bubbled and sprang up into fanciful shapes, often caught their attention, and interrupted the conversation. All around them was serene and pleasant; through the foliage gleamed the light of many a lamp from the surrounding houses; and the ear was soothed by the hum of children at play, and of sauntering groups like themselves; they enjoyed at once the pleasure of solitude, and the social happiness of being near the cheerful haunts of men. Every little difficulty that had occurred to their favourite plan, seemed to vanish upon nearer examination, and the three friends could not imagine that Bertalda’s consent to the journey need be delayed a moment. But as she was on the point of naming a day for joining them and setting out, a very tall man came forward from the middle of the place, bowed to them respectfully, and began whispering in Undine’s ear. She though apparently displeased with the interruption and with the speaker, stepped aside with him, and they began a low discourse together, in what sounded like a foreign language. Huldbrand thought he knew this strange man’s face, and fixed his attention upon him so earnestly, that he neither heard nor answered the astonished Bertalda’s questions. All at once Undine clapped her hands joyfully, and turned her back, laughing, upon the stranger; he shook his head and walked off in an angry, hurried manner, and stepped into the fountain. This confirmed Huldbrand in his guess; while Bertalda inquired, “My dear Undine, what business had that man of the fountain with you?” Her friend smiled archly and replied, “On your birthday, the day after to-morrow, I will tell you, my sweet girl;” and she would say no more. She only pressed Bertalda to come and dine with them on that day, and bring her foster parents; after which they separated.