The dryads came suddenly through Mrs. Noxon's imported shrubs, puncturing them with rhythmic attitudes. These lost something of their poetry from being held so long that equilibria were lost foolishly. Finally, the water-sprites came forth from cleverly managed concealment in a bower and stood mid-thigh in the water about the fountain.
Sir Walter Scott also endowed the White Lady of Avenel with many of the attributes of the undines, or water-sprites. German romance and lyrical poetry teem with allusions to sylphs, gnomes, undines, and salamanders; and the French have not been behind in substituting them, in works of fiction, for the more cumbrous mythology of Greece and Rome.
Now several centuries ago, before the time of railways and steamboats, a mighty king of the water-sprites lived in this lake with his three beautiful daughters, the famed nixies of the lake. The King was a majestic old man with long white beard and hair; his eyes were black and sinister, and when he drew his eyebrows together in a straight line over his eyes, his frown was terrible to behold.
Walker, cavorting, garlanded, on a Greek slope, with the nymphs and water-sprites for familiar company. Lady Engleton had risen laughing, and proposed a stroll to Hadria. Henriette, who did not like the tone the conversation was taking, desired to join them. "I never quite know how far you are serious, and how far you are just amusing yourself, Hadria," said Lady Engleton.
Duval's sufferings and the eventful reward of that good lady's constancy and truth; her companion reflecting, not on the charms of the actress he has lately been applauding, but on another face which haunts him now, as the wilis and water-sprites haunted their doomed votaries, and which must ever be as far out of reach as if it belonged indeed to some such being of another nature; thinking how a man might well risk imprisonment, transportation, hanging, for one kind glance of those bright eyes, one smile of those haughty, scornful lips; and comparing in bitter impatience that exotic beauty with the humble, homely creature at his side.
We used to lie on the sofa in the hall, and look into the court, and fancy we saw some scene of fairy-land, and water-sprites coming up from the fountain. Suddenly a new-comer presented himself, no other than an immense bull-frog, that had hopped up from the neighbouring river, apparently with a view to making a permanent settlement in and about our fountain.
An American who has utilized a water-power feels, I take it, two distinct and separate pleasures: first, in that dollars and cents drip off his water-wheel, and, secondly, in that he has inveigled the water-sprites into doing his work.
Dante would have less charm, if he had less power. Have the fleshly naiads, the muscular Tritons, the wanton Zephyrs, the diaphanous transparency of our water-sprites and sylphs?
Human interest of course there is none, but the supernatural machinery is complete. The denizens of the world are grouped in four divisions the gods in heaven, the giants on the earth, the dwarfs beneath, and the water-sprites in the bosom of the Rhine.
Only one halt in our journey, and that to dine. Just above this point we pass the swiftest rapids on the route, where the river widens, and each side of the bank is beautiful in its wooded picturesqueness, while the waters rush, in foaming, surging, tumbling confusion, over the rugged rocks, or dart between them like a merry band of water-sprites chasing each other in gleesome frolic.