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The priest then spoke to the knight: «Sir bridegroom, I leave you alone with her whom I have united to you in marriage. So far as I can discover there is nothing of evil in her, but assuredly much that is wonderful. What I recommend to you is prudence, love, and fidelity.”
Thus speaking, he left the apartment; and the fisherman with his wife followed him, crossing themselves.
Undine had sunk upon her knees. She uncovered her face, and exclaimed, while she looked fearfully round upon Huldbrand, "Alas, you will now refuse to look upon me as your own; and I still have done nothing evil, poor unhappy child that I am!” She spoke these words with a look so infinitely sweet and touching, that her bridegroom forgot both the confession that had shocked and the mystery that had perplexed him; and hastening to her, he raised her in his arms. She smiled through her tears; and that smile was like the morning light playing upon a small stream. “You cannot desert me!” she whispered confidingly, and stroked the knight's cheeks with her little soft hands. He turned away from the frightful thoughts that still lurked in the recesses of his soul, and were persuading him that he had been married to a fairy, or some spiteful and mischievous being of the spirit world. Only the single question, and that almost unawares, escaped from his lips:
«Dearest Undine, tell me this one thing: what was it you meant by (spirits of earth' and 'Kühleborn,' when the priest stood knocking at the door ? »
«Tales! mere tales of children! » answered Undine laughing, now quite restored to her wonted gayety. "I first frightened you with them, and you frightened me. This is the end of my story, and of our nuptial evening.”
“Nay, not so," replied the enamored knight, extinguishing the tapers, and a thousand times kissing his beautiful and beloved bride; while, lighted by the moon that shone brightly through the windows, he bore her into their bridal apartment.
The fresh light of morning woke the young married pair: but Huldbrand lay lost in silent reflection. Whenever, during the night, he had fallen asleep, strange and horrible dreams of spectres had disturbed him; and these shapes, grinning at him by stealth, strove to disguise themselves as beautiful females; and from beautiful females they all at once assumed the appearance of dragons. And when he started up, aroused by the intrusion of these hideous forms, the moonlight shone pale and cold before the windows without. He looked affrighted at Undine, in whose arms he had fallen asleep: and she was reposing in unaltered beauty and sweetness beside him. Then pressing her rosy lips with a light kiss, he again fell into a slumber, only to be awakened by new terrors.
When fully awake he had thought over this connection. He reproached himself for any doubt that could lead him into error in regard to his lovely wife. He also confessed to her his injustice; but she only gave him her fair hand, sighed deeply, and remained silent. Yet a glance of fervent tenderness, an expression of the soul beaming in her eyes, such as he had never witnessed there before, left him in undoubted assurance that Undine bore him no ill-will.
He then rose joyfully, and leaving her, went to the common apartment, where the inmates of the house had already met. The three were sitting round the hearth with an air of anxiety about them, as if they feared trusting themselves to raise their voice above a low, apprehensive undertone. The priest appeared to be praying in his inmost spirit, with a view to avert some fatal calamity. But when they observed the young husband come forth so cheerful, they dispelled the cloud that remained upon their brows: the old fisherman even began to laugh with the knight, till his aged wife herself could not help smiling with great good-humor.
Undine had in the mean time got ready, and now entered the room: all rose to meet her, but remained fixed in perfect admiration — she was so changed, and yet the same. The priest, with paternal affection beaming from his countenance, first went up to her; and as he raised his hand to pronounce a blessing, the beautiful bride sank on her knees before him with religious awe; she begged his pardon in terms both respectful and submissive for any foolish things she might have uttered the evening before, and entreated him with emotion to pray for the welfare of her soul. She then rose, kissed her foster-parents, and after thanking them for all the kindness they had shown her, said:
«Oh, I now feel in my inmost heart how much, how infinitely much, you have done for me, you dear, dear friends of my childhood ! »
At first she was wholly unable to tear herself away from their affectionate caresses; but the moment she saw the good old