“You know that wicked Uncle Kuehleborn, my dearest lord, and have often been provoked at meeting him about the castle. Bertalda, too, has been often terrified by him. No wonder; he is soulless, shallow, and unthinking as a mirror, in whom no feeling can pierce the surface. He has two or three times seen that you were displeased with me, that I in my childishness could not help weeping, and that Bertalda might chance to laugh at the same moment. And upon this he builds all manner of unjust suspicions, and interferes, unasked, in our concerns. What is the use of my reproaching him, or repulsing him with angry words? He believes nothing that I say. A poor cold life is his! How should he know, that the sorrows and the joys of love are so sweetly alike, so closely linked, that it is not in human power to part them. When a tear gushes out, a smile lies beneath; and a smile will draw the tears from their secret cells.”
She smiled through her tears in Huldbrand’s face, and a warm ray of his former love shot through his heart. She perceived this, pressed closer to him, and with a few tears of joy she went on.
“As I found it impossible to get rid of our tormentor by words, I had nothing for it, but to shut the door against him. And his only access to us was that fountain. He has quarrelled with the other fountain spirits in the surrounding valleys, and it is much lower down the Danube, below the junction of some friends with the great river, that his power begins again. Therefore I stopped the mouth of our fountain, and inscribed the stone with characters which cripple the might of my restless uncle; so that he can no longer cross your path, or mine, or Bertalda’s. Men can indeed lift the stone off as easily as ever; the inscription has no power over them. So you are free to comply with Bertalda’s wish; but indeed, she little knows what she asks. Against her the wild Kuehleborn has a most particular spite, and if some of his forebodings were to come true, (as they might, without her intending any harm) O, dearest, even thou wert not free from danger!”
Huldbrand deeply felt the generosity of his noble-minded wife, in so zealously shutting out her formidable protector, even when reviled by Bertalda for so doing. He clasped her fondly in his arms, and said with much emotion, “The stone shall remain; and everything shall be done as thou wishest, now and hereafter, my sweetest Undine.”
Scarce could she trust these words of love, after so dreary an estrangement; she returned his caresses with joyful but timid gratitude, and at length said, “My own dear love, as you are so exceedingly kind to me to-day, may I ask you to promise one thing? Herein you are like the summer: is he not most glorious when he decks his brows with thunders, and frowns upon us from his throne of clouds? So it is when your eyes flash lightning; it becomes you well, although in my weakness I may often shed a tear at it. Only—if you would promise to