Her words were lost in a flood of bitter tears, and Undine, equally affected, fell weeping on her neck. It was long before her emotion would let her speak: at length she said, “You shall go to Ringstetten with us; all shall be as we had settled it before; only call me Undine again, and not ‘Lady’ and ‘noble Dame.’ You see, we began by being exchanged in our cradles; our lives have been linked from that hour, and we will try to bind them so closely that no human power shall sever us. Come with us to Ringstetten, and all will be well. We will live like sisters there, trust me for arranging that.” Bertalda looked timidly at Huldbrand. The sight of this beautiful, forsaken maiden affected him; he gave her his hand and encouraged her kindly to trust herself to him and his wife. “As to your parents,” said he, “we will let them know why you do not appear;” and he would have said much more concerning the good old folks, but he observed that Bertalda shuddered at the mention of them, and therefore dropped the subject. He gave her his arm, placed first her and then Undine in the carriage, and rode cheerfully after them; he urged the drivers on so effectually, that they very soon found themselves out of sight of the city, and beyond the reach of sad recollections—and the two ladies could fully enjoy the beautiful country through which the road wound along.
After a few days’ travelling, they arrived, one sunny evening, at the Castle of Ringstetten. Its young lord had much business with his steward and labourers to occupy him, so that Undine was left alone with Bertalda. They took a walk on the high ramparts of the castle, and admired the rich Swabian landscape, which lay far and wide around them. A tall man suddenly came up, with a courteous obeisance; and Bertalda could not help thinking him very like the ominous man of the fountain. The likeness struck her still more, when, upon an impatient and even menacing gesture of Undine’s, he went away with the same hasty step and shake of the head as before.
“Do not be afraid, dear Bertalda,” said Undine, “the ugly man shall not harm you this time.” After which she told her whole history, beginning from her birth, and how they had been exchanged in their earliest childhood. At first her friend looked at her with serious alarm; she thought Undine was possessed by some delirium. But she became convinced it was all true, as she listened to the well-connected narrative, which accounted so well for the strange events of the last months; besides which, there is something in genuine truth which finds an answer in every heart, and can hardly be mistaken. She was bewildered, when she found herself one of the actors in a living fairy tale, and as wild a tale as any she had read. She gazed upon Undine with reverence; but could not help feeling a chill thrown over her affection for her; and that evening at supper time, she wondered at the Knight’s fond love and familiarity toward a being, whom she now looked upon as rather a spirit than a human creature.