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Main > German folktales > Fairy tale "The White Maiden"

The White Maiden

She apparently read his state of mind, and when his passion was at its highest pitch, and all restraint seemed put an end to by the potent effects of love and wine, she disappeared in a moment by the way she came. The noble rushed after her in the hope of detaining the fugitive, or, at least, of catching a parting glimpse of her retreating form, but the ivy-encircled cleft, through which she seemed to have flitted, looked as though it had not been disturbed for centuries, and as he tried to force his way to the gloomy cavern below, a crowd of bats and owls and other foul birds of evil omen, aroused from their repose, rose upwards, and, amidst dismal hootings and fearful cries, almost flung him backward with the violence of their flight. He spent the remainder of the afternoon in search of the lost one, but without success. At the coming of night he wended his way homeward, weary, heart-sick, and overwhelmed with an indefinable sensation of sadness.

From that day forth he was an altered man—altered in appearance as well as in mind and in manners. Pleasure was a stranger to his soul, and he knew no longer what it was to enjoy peace. Wherever he went, whatever pursuit he was engaged in, whether in the chase, in the hall, in lady's bower, or in chapel, his eye only saw one object—the White Maiden. At the board she stood in imagination always before him, offering to his fevered lips the cool, brimming beaker; and in the long-drawn aisles of the chapel she was ever present, beckoning him from his devotions to partake of the generous beverage which she still bore in her right hand. Every matron or maiden he met seemed by some wondrous process to take her shape, and even the very trees of the forest all looked to his thought like her.

Thenceforward he commenced to haunt the ruins in which she had appeared to him, still hoping to see, once again, her for whom he felt he was dying, and living alone in that hope. The sun scorched him, but it was nothing to the fever that burned within him.

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