Well thou becom’st thy station high,
And bloom’st the fairest in the land;
And yet, alas! the purest joy
Is left on thine own distant strand.
Undine put down her lute with a melancholy smile and the eyes of the Duke and Duchess filled with tears: “So it was when I found you, my poor innocent orphan!” said the Duke with great emotion “as the fair singer said, your best treasure was gone and we have been unable to supply its place.”
“Now let us think of the poor parents,” said Undine and she struck the chords and sang:—
Mother roves from room to room
Seeking rest, she knows not how,
The house is silent as the tomb,
And who is there to bless her now?
Silent house! Oh words of sorrow!
Where is now her darling child?
She who should have cheered the morrow,
And the evening hours beguiled?
The buds are swelling on the tree,
The sun returns when night is o’er;
But, mother, ne’er comes joy to thee,
Thy child shall bless thine eyes no more.
And when the evening breezes blow,
And father seeks his own fireside,
He smiles, forgetful of his woe,
But ah! his tears that smile shall hide.
Father knows that in his home
Deathlike stillness dwells for aye;
The voice of mirth no more shall come,
And mother sighs the livelong day.
“O Undine, for God’s sake, where are my parents?” cried Bertalda, weeping. “Surely you know, you have discovered it, most wonderful woman; else how could you have stirred my inmost heart as you have done? They are perhaps even now in the room—can it be?”—and her eyes glanced over the gay assembly, and fixed upon a reigning Princess who sat next to the Duke. But Undine bent forward to the door, her eyes overflowing with the happiest tears. “Where are they, the poor anxious parents?” said she; and the old Fisherman and his wife came out from the crowd of bystanders. They turned an inquiring eye upon Undine, and then upon the handsome lady whom they were to call daughter. “There she is,” faltered the delighted Undine, and the aged couple caught their long-lost child in their arms, thanking God, and weeping aloud.
Affrighted and enraged, Bertalda shrank from their embrace. It was more than her proud spirit could bear, to be thus degraded; at a moment, too, when she was fully expecting an increase of splendour, and fancy was showering pearls and diadems upon her head. She suspected that her rival had contrived this, on purpose to mortify her before Huldbrand and all the world. She reviled both Undine and the old people; the hateful words, “Treacherous creature! and bribed wretches!” burst from her lips. The old woman said in a half whisper, “Dear me, she has grown up a wicked woman; and yet my heart tells me she is my own child.” The Fisherman has clasped his hands, and was praying silently that this girl might not prove to be theirs indeed. Undine, pale as death, looked from Bertalda to the parents, from the parents to Bertalda, and could not recover the rude shock she had sustained, at being plunged from all her happy dreams into a state of fear and misery, such as she had never known before.