Undine - George Upton

Knight Huldbrand's Burial

When he learned of the death of the master of Ringstettin, Father Heilmann returned to the castle and appeared just as the monk who had married the ill-fated pair was rushing out of the gateway, overcome with terror and dismay.

"All is well," said the holy man to him. "Now my work begins, and I shall need no helper."

His attempts to console the bride, so suddenly widowed, were of little avail—she was too worldly by nature. The fisherman, though sorrowing in his very heart, was more reconciled to the fate that had overtaken Huldbrand; and when Bertalda persisted in calling Undine a murderess, he calmly said to her: "It could not have been otherwise. It was the judgment of God, and no one could have suffered more over Huldbrand's sentence than she who was forced to execute it, our poor, deserted Undine!"

The fisherman did all he could in arranging the funeral ceremonies which were to be conducted in a manner befitting the rank of the dead knight. It was decided to bury the knight beside his ancestors, in a neighboring churchyard which he, like themselves, had endowed with many gifts and privileges. His shield and helmet rested upon the bier to be buried with him, for Huldbrand of Ringstettin was the last of his family.

The mourners began their sad procession, and the wail of their burial chants rose to the clear blue sky. The priest headed them, bearing a tall crucifix, and was followed by Bertalda leaning upon the arm of her old father. As they moved along, a closely veiled white figure, with hands raised and clasped as if in deepest grief, took her place among the black-robed mourners. Those nearest her were terrified and started away from her, and the confusion spread as others found the white figure next to them. Some of the attendants plucked up courage to accost her and order her away, but she always managed to elude them and regain her place, moving along with mournful, measured tread. At last all the mourners had withdrawn from her vicinity, so that she found herself immediately behind Bertalda; whereupon she moved still more slowly, so that the widow might not observe her presence. After this there was no further confusion.

Thus they advanced until they came to the churchyard, when the mourners formed in a circle about the open grave. Now for the first time Bertalda noticed the stranger, and partly in anger, partly in fear, she ordered her to leave. The veiled figure gently shook her head and extended her hands beseechingly toward Bertalda. It reminded her so strongly of the day when Undine offered her the coral necklace on the Danube river that she was moved to tears.

Father Heilmann now bowed his head, and all knelt in silent prayer about the grave. When they arose the white figure had vanished; but on the spot where she had knelt, a crystal brook suddenly leaped out from the greensward. It rippled joyously along until it had almost encircled Huldbrand's grave, then flowed more quietly on until it lost itself in a quiet pool by the side of the churchyard. In these later days the villagers point out this spring to travellers, which they still believe is the poor, rejected Undine, who thus forever holds her beloved in her embrace.