“It is all an illusion!” said he to himself. “I must to my nuptial bed.”
“You must indeed, but to a cold one!” he heard a voice, choked with sobs, repeat from without; and then he saw in the mirror, that the door of his room was slowly, slowly opened, and the white figure entered, and gently closed it behind her.
“They have opened the spring,” said she in a low tone; “and now I am here, and you must die.”
He felt, in his failing breath, that this must indeed be; but covering his eyes with his hands, he cried: “Do not in my death-hour, do not make me mad with terror. If that veil conceals hideous features, do not lift it! Take my life, but let me not see you.”
“Alas!” replied the pale figure, “will you not then look upon me once more? I am as fair now as when you wooed me on the island!”
“Oh, if it indeed were so,” sighed Huldbrand, “and that I might die by a kiss from you!”
“Most willingly, my own love,” said she. She threw back her veil; heavenly fair shone forth her pure countenance. Trembling with love and the awe of approaching death, the knight leant towards her. She kissed him with a holy kiss; but she relaxed not her hold, pressing him more closely in her arms, and weeping as if she would weep away her soul. Tears rushed into the knight’s eyes, while a thrill both of bliss and agony shot through his heart, until he at last expired, sinking softly back from her fair arms upon the pillow of his couch a corpse.
“I have wept him to death!” said she to some domestics, who met her in the ante-chamber; and passing through the terrified group, she went slowly out, and disappeared in the fountain.
Father Heilmann had returned to the castle as soon as the death of the lord of Ringstetten was made known in the neighbourhood; and he arrived at the very hour when the monk who had married the unfortunate couple was hurrying from the door, overcome with dismay and horror.
When Father Heilmann was informed of this, he replied, “It is all well; and now come the duties of my office, in which I have no need of an assistant.”
He then began to console the bride, now a widow though with little benefit to her worldly and thoughtless spirit.
The old fisherman, on the other hand, though severely afflicted, was far more resigned to the fate of his son-in-law and daughter; and while Bertalda could not refrain from accusing Undine as a murderess and sorceress, the old man calmly said, “After all, it could not happen otherwise. I see nothing in it but the judgment of God; and no one’s heart was more pierced by the death of Huldbrand than she who was obliged to work it, the poor forsaken Undine!”