One day, when Huldbrand had just ridden out, Undine sent for her servants and desired them to fetch a large stone and carefully to stop up the mouth of the magnificent fountain, which played in the centre of the court. The men objected, that they must then always go down the valley to a great distance for water. Undine smiled mournfully. “It grieves me to add to your burdens, my good friends,” said she, “I had rather go and fill my pitcher myself; but this fountain must be sealed up. Trust me, nothing else will do, and it is our only way of escaping a much worse evil.”
The servants rejoiced at any opportunity of pleasing their gentle mistress; not a word more was said, and they lifted the huge stone. They had raised it, and were about to let it down on the mouth of the spring, when Bertalda ran up, calling out to them to stop: the water of this fountain was the best for her complexion, and she never would consent to its being stopped. But Undine, instead of yielding as usual, kept firmly, though gently, to her resolution; she said that it behooved her, as mistress of the house, to order all such matters as appeared best to her, and none but her lord and husband should call her to account. “Look, oh look!” cried Bertalda, eagerly and angrily, “how the poor bright water curls and writhes, because you would deprive it of every gleam of sunshine, and of the cheerful faces of men, whose mirror it was created to be!” In truth, the spring did writhe and bubble up wonderfully, just as if someone were trying to force his way through; but Undine pressed them the more to dispatch the work. Nor was there much need to repeat her commands. The household people were too glad at once to obey their gentle lady, and to mortify the pride of Bertalda, in spite of whose threats and wrath, the stone was soon firmly fastened down on the mouth of the spring. Undine bent over it thoughtfully, and wrote on its surface with her delicate fingers. Something very hard and sharp must have been hidden in her hand; for when she walked away, and the others came up, they found all manner of strange characters on the stone, none of which were there before.
When the Knight came home that evening, Bertalda received him with tears and complaints of Undine. He looked sternly at his poor wife, who mournfully cast down her eyes, saying, however, with firmness, “My lord and husband would not chide the meanest of his vassals, without giving him a hearing, much less his wedded wife.”—“Speak, then; what was your reason for this strange proceeding?” said the Knight with a frown. “I would rather tell it you quite alone!” sighed Undine. “You can say it just as well in Bertalda’s presence,” replied he. “Yes, if thou requirest it,” said Undine, “but require it not.” She looked so humble, and so submissive in her touching beauty, that the Knight’s heart was melted, as by a sunbeam from happier days. He took her affectionately by the hand, and led her to his own room, where she spoke to him as follows.