Herman and Thusnelda - George Upton

The Return

When Thusnelda had finished her story, the wild-looking guest came out of the house and seated himself opposite her.

"Noble maiden," said he, "do you not think Euria should have gone to Rome with the youth?"

"If brief and perishable happiness is more to be desired than blessed and eternal life, then it would have been better," replied Thusnelda. "But do you not know Euria's good fortune? She died in the service of her people, and Hertha rewarded her by making her a demi-goddess."

"Maiden, would you have done as Euria did?"

"How could I have done otherwise than she whose glorious deeds I envy?" replied Thusnelda.

"Oh, that all the youth of our people thought thus!" said the stranger. "But I am told that even a prince's son may forget his people. Have you heard aught of the sons of Sigmar?"

The maiden's face grew pale and she lowered her eyes.

"What troubles you?" said the stranger gently. "Am I not at Segest's house, and art thou not his daughter Thusnelda, who is betrothed to Herman? The people say their parents chose them for each other and consecrated their betrothal even when they were children."

"It is true," said the maiden, as the tears rolled down her cheeks.

"Tell me," said the stranger with much earnestness, "what know you of Herman? I fear you have bad tidings. I implore you to tell me what you have heard."

The maiden folded her hands and said with deep emotion: "I will not curse him though he has forsaken his gods, his people, and me. He has become a Roman and taken a Roman lady for his wife."

Then up sprang the stranger, his eyes blazing with fury. In angry tones he asked: "Who has said this? May Thor crush him with his great hammer!"

"Man," said Thusnelda, with great dignity, "do not insult me. He who said it is my father."

"Ha!" cried the stranger, clenching his fist, "now I understand all."

An armed attendant appeared at the door and the stranger went to meet him. Alarmed at the latter's violent outburst, the attendant barred his way, but after the stranger had whispered a few words to him, he lowered his spear, and his manner changed to one of joyful surprise. Thereupon both went in.

A great dread seized Thusnelda. She feared the stranger was seeking her father for the purpose of killing him. It was a great consolation to her therefore that he was away and would not be back for two days.

The maiden was absorbed in thought for some time, but was suddenly aroused when she beheld the stranger at the door again. How different he appeared! It seemed to her that it was one of the gods come down to mortal abodes.

"Thusnelda," he exclaimed, as he advanced with outspread arms. "Thusnelda, do you not know your Herman?"

Thusnelda wept for joy as he held her in his em brace.

"Look," said he, "I have not become a Roman. Loki sent the evil spirit disguised in divine form, who sought to turn me from my people by their seductive allurements. But Odin saved me from their wiles, and blinded those who tried to arrest me, because I had remained faithful. What dangers I had to overcome on my long and secret flight through the enemy's country you shall learn later. But I forgot all troubles when my feet once more touched the soil of the fatherland. 0 Thusnelda, it is an augury of victory that you have remained faithful to our people!"

"What! is war so near? Are you going to consign our fate to the hands of the battle-gods?"

Yes, dear one. As soon as the people hear my call, the flames of a holy war will be kindled which will either free us or consume us. I ask you in the presence of the gods, whose blessing our parents once invoked upon our union, will you be mine in life and in death?"

"I will," replied Thusnelda, with radiant eyes and glowing cheeks. They raised their hands together and promised the gods to be faithful to each other.

"But you must promise me one more thing in this sacred hour," said Thusnelda. "Spare my father."

"So, what I inferred from your words is true, then," said Herman. "He is friendly to the enemy, as I suspected before my departure."

Thusnelda made no reply to this, but raising her hands once more, said: "Whatever may happen, spare my father."

"I promise you to do so because of your loyalty," said Herman.

Then the maiden's face brightened, and she joyously cried, "Now all is well, let come what will."

"Now leave me," she continued. "Go away lest my father should unexpectedly return to-day and find you here. A quarrel might ensue, and I could not bear to see my father and my future husband quarrelling, either with word or sword. I implore you to go."

"Let us first make a thank-offering to the gods," said Herman, "and implore their aid in the great work."

Thusnelda gathered fruits and flowers, and they went to the altar in the sacred grove.