The White Maiden
It is now centuries since a young noble of the neighbourhood was hunting in the valleys which lie behind the hills that skirt the Rhine opposite the ancient town of St. Goar. In the heat of the pursuit he followed the game to the foot of the acclivity on which are seated the ruins of Thurnberg, and there it disappeared all at once from his view. It was the noon of a midsummer day, and the sun shone down on him with all its strength. Despairing of being able to find the object of his pursuit, he determined to clamber up the steep hillside, and seek shelter and repose in the shadow of the old castle, or, mayhap, in one of its many crumbling chambers. With much labour he succeeded in reaching the summit, and there, fatigued with his toil, and parched with a burning thirst, he flung himself on the ground beneath one of the huge towers, some of whose remains still rear their heads on high, and stretched out his tired limbs in the full enjoyment of rest.
"Now," said he, as he wiped the perspiration from his brow,—"now could I be happy indeed, if some kind being would bring me a beaker of the cool wine, which, they say, is ages old, down there in the cellars of this castle."
He had scarce spoken the words when a most beautiful maiden stepped forth from a cleft in the ivy-covered ruin, bearing in one hand a huge silver beaker of an antique form, full to the very brim of foaming wine. In her other hand she held a large bunch of keys of all sizes. She was clad in white from head to foot, her hair was flaxen, her skin was like a lily, and she had such loving eyes that they at once won the heart of the young noble.
"Here," said she, handing him the beaker, "thy wish is granted. Drink and be satisfied."
His heart leaped within him with joy at her condescension, and he emptied the contents of the goblet at a single draught. All the while she looked at him in such a manner as to intoxicate his very soul, so kindly and confidential were her glances. The wine coursed through his veins like liquid fire, his heart soon burned with love for the maiden, and the fever of his blood was by no means appeased by the furtive looks which ever and anon she cast upon him.