But as time went on these visions became less frequent, and the Knight’s grief milder; still he might perhaps have spent the rest of his days contentedly, devoting himself to the memory of Undine, and keeping it alive by talking of her, had not the old Fisherman unexpectedly made his appearance, and laid his serious commands upon Bertalda, his daughter, to return home with him. The news of Undine’s disappearance had reached him, and he would no longer suffer Bertalda to remain in the castle alone with its lord. “I do not ask whether my daughter cares for me or not,” said he; “her character is at stake, and where that is the case, nothing else is worth considering.”
This summons from the old man, and the prospect of utter loneliness amid the halls and long galleries of the castle after Bertalda’s departure, revived in Huldbrand’s heart the feeling that had lain dormant, and as it were buried under his mourning for Undine, namely, his love for the fair Bertalda. The Fisherman had many objections to their marriage; Undine had been very dear to the old man and he thought it hardly certain yet that his lost darling was really dead. But, if her corpse were indeed lying stiff and cold in the bed of the Danube, or floating down its stream to the distant ocean, then Bertalda ought to reproach herself for her death, and it ill became her to take the place of her poor victim. However, the Fisherman was very fond of Huldbrand also; the entreaties of his daughter, who was now grown much more gentle and submissive, had their effect, and it seems that he did yield his consent at last; for he remained peaceably at the castle, and an express was sent for Father Heilmann, who in earlier, happier days had blessed Undine’s and Huldbrand’s union, that he might officiate at the Knight’s second marriage.
No sooner had the holy man read the Lord of Ringstetten’s letter than he set forth on his way thither, with far greater speed than the messenger had used to reach him. If his straining haste took away his breath, or he felt his aged limbs ache with fatigue, he would say to himself: “I may be in time to prevent a wicked deed; sink not till thou hast reached the goal, my withered frame!” And so he exerted himself afresh, and pushed on, without flagging or halting, till late one evening he entered the shady court of Ringstetten.