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The Foot on the Wall
In the good old times when fairies abounded in the land, rendering mankind so many happy services, a handsome young count lived in his castle, which was called Staufenberg. He was a stately young knight, and his courage and beauty had become proverbial in the neighbourhood. Being passionately fond of the chase, he was one day wandering along the Rhine in pursuit of game, when he saw a most beautiful maiden walking near the water's edge. He fell deeply in love with this entrancing creature, and forgetting his former pleasures, he now spent all his time by her side. When this wonderful being, who told him she was a nymph of the Rhine, demanded an oath of eternal fidelity from him, he willingly assured her that it would be impossible for him ever to love another, and that he belonged to her for eternity.
This fairy-like maiden smiled sadly, saying very earnestly to him. "Remember, we the daughters of the river can only love once and never again, so that if you are unfaithful to me I must spend the rest of my days weeping and mourning, and you will hear my plaintive cries wherever you may be. Even if I am invisible to you, my foot will appear as a sign that before three days are over you will become a prey to death as a punishment for your broken vow."
The knight threw himself at her feet which were resting at the water's edge, and repeated over and over again his oath of eternal true love and that he would belong to her for ever.
For weeks and even months our hero remained faithful. The charm of the fascinating water-nymph rewarded all his undertakings, helping him in his fights: and tournaments, and crowning him with success everywhere he went. His fame spread throughout the country. No wonder therefore that many a great noble lady would willingly have granted her favour to the handsome count, but still he remained faithful to his water-nymph.
It happened that about this time the emperor determined to journey along the Rhine, and a great tournament was arranged in his honour. The noblest knights of the whole country were invited to take part in this entertainment, and among them the young Count of Staufenberg. The youth's stately figure, noble manners, and great bravery soon attracted all eyes. Great ladies cast wistful glances at this striking youth, and even the emperor's daughter could not resist his charms. She soon fell deeply in love with the young knight. Her father, however, by no means considered this a suitable match for a royal princess. But after a time when the maiden's cheeks became pale and her eyes hollow, and her only wish was to enter a convent, the stern father's heart was no longer able to withstand her wishes. He began to consider that his child would be better off as wife of the brave Count of Staufenberg, than abbess of a convent in years to come.
His astonishment was very great however when, having informed the young knight of his intentions with regard to the royal princess, the youth implored him not to bestow this great dignity on him, his heart being already bound to another for eternity. The emperor in great wonder enquired about the name and position of his betrothed. The knight acknowledged With hesitation that he was bound by an oath to a nymph of the Rhine whose future weal or woe depended on him.
The emperor said that he could be released from such an unholy love-union by the bishop.
Allured by the tempting promise of the king the youth consented to this plan, and soon he had forgotten all about his water-nymph, and only thought of the beautiful royal princess who was to become his wife.
A great and mighty feast was given to celebrate the wedding. As the youth was sitting among the great guests at the banquet, his heart light and free from cares, a small, slender, snow-white foot suddenly appeared on the wall, and a low wailing sound rang through the halls; all the gay voices and merry laughter were at once silenced. With face pale as death, the youth stared at the foot on the wall. Then, seized with horror, he rushed out into the night.
Three days later he was found dead in the forest. The broken-hearted emperor's daughter took the veil, and spent the rest of her days in a convent.